Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dispatches from Planet Comicon: Author Angela Roquet

Whenever I saw "novelist" in the Planet Comicon program guide, I made a mental note to visit the author at the show, supplemented by finding their table on the guide map and highlighting it in yellow.  Organized, that's me.  And, authors became a main quest during my day at PC.

Angela Roquet, author, consequently caught my attention in the guide.  There was a little stumble when I couldn't find her on the guide map, but a quick message via Facebook to the cooperative and quick-to-respond author let me uncap my highlighter and mark the location of Ms. Roquet.

I found her table fairly early in the day, and we had a very pleasant discussion.  She is local to the state of Missouri, though not a Kansas City resident.  Still, only being a couple of hours drive from KC, she's close enough to consider a local author.

Angela has a multi-book series called "Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc.", with the first book in the series titled "Graveyard Shift", followed by "Pocket Full of Posies", "For the Birds", and three others.  I had already downloaded "Graveyard Shift" to my Kindle, so I bought the next two in the series.  


Angela has also written short stories (including "Season's Reapings", a Christmas-themed story!!!), and other novels outside of her series.  One, "Blood Moon", is more in the paranormal romance genre, and led to an interesting turn in the conversation.  I asked Angela if she knew Lisa Kessler, an author with several paranormal romance publications.  She said yes, she had been acquainted with Lisa for several years.  She asked if I knew Lisa through her books or her opera singing.  Neither, I answered, and explained that I met Lisa and her husband Ken a few years ago in San Diego.  Yes, friends, that would be Ken Kessler of "Sounds of Christmas" internet radio!  And, astute readers may recall that Ken's first CD release "Sounds of Christmas" featured Lisa singing "Christmas Vacation". Just goes to show that everything comes around to Christmas music :-)


I haven't read Angela's work yet, so I can't give a book review.  I can tell you that it was a great pleasure spending a good bit of time at the Con talking to Angela.  She was exuberant about her work, friendly, and excited to be there meeting friends and fans.

Angela can be found at AngelaRoquet.com, and her books are also available on Amazon.

The Mysterious Angela Roquet
I'll definitely be getting a copy of "Season's Reapings" for my Christmas library, and can't wait to dive into "Graveyard Shift" for one of my summertime reads.

And Hey!  If you've read this far, here's the best part: as of this writing, you can download the "Graveyard Shift" ebook for free!  Go to Angela's website, click on the book cover, and download away!  I love free stuff.  Especially books and music.

Please visit Angela's website and treat yourself to a free book!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dispatches from Planet Comicon: KC Comic Artist Megan Fitts

This past weekend (May 20-22) Planet Comicon took over downtown Kansas City.  A few years ago, when I went to my first Planet Comicon, it was in a venue about the size of a high school gym and Billy Dee Williams was the star attraction.  Three years ago, the second time I went, it took up half of Bartle Hall, Kansas City's convention center.  George Takei, Wil Wheaton, and Peter Mayhew were the 'A' list guests then.  I got an autograph from Mr. Takei, and a pro photo op as well.  However, a visit with Lee Meriwether was a highlight of the Con.  She was talkative, totally delightful, and having a ball!

This year I went back again.  Planet Comicon is huge.  It takes up the entire convention center for its three day run.  George Takei was back, along with Jenna Coleman, Barbara Eden, one special guest I'll be blogging about later, Kevin Smith, and even The Great One, Stan Lee.  It don't get no better than Stan Lee.  I opted not to pay the $100 autograph fee for Mr. Lee, however I did get to visit with many fine artists, several of them local.  I'd like to take the opportunity with a few posts to introduce Merry & Bright readers to some of these wonderful artists.

At the top of the list is Megan Fitts, a Kansas City artist who recently received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute.  As her thesis, Megan created and (with the help of a Kickstarter campaign) self-published a comic book called "I Am Nora", the story of "a clone working in a hospital (who) discovers a taste of humanity and individuality."


Much to my embarrassment, I forgot to become a backer for her project before it ended.  Fortunately for Megan, her campaign was fully funded and she was able to publish her work.  Fortunately for me, I saw that she was in "Artist Alley" at PC, so I was able to stop by, meet and chat with Megan, and buy myself a copy of "I Am Nora".

"I Am Nora" is a wonderful, beautifully conceived and executed graphic story.  It has minimal dialogue, instead allowing the art to tell the tale.  Color is used strategically to marvelous effect - color is indeed a major character in this story.  Megan's drawing is simple yet filled with subtlety that adds amazing depth.  The eyes of the characters bring them to life, their posture gives them their energy.  I'm not giving away any of the story apart from the quote above, as there is great joy in knowing little when you open the book and then experience the story as it unfolds.

Following the story are four pages of insight into the creation of "I Am Nora", with sketches and notes about Megan's creative process.

A bonus find at Megan's table was "Old Friend", an earlier comic book she published with a 9-page, wordless story about a graphic artist, with fantastic, surreal elements.  It's heartfelt and totally engaging.


I encourage you to check out Megan's Tumblr page, The Art of Megan Fitts where you can hey! read "Old Friend" for free!

Well done Megan!  Der Bingle wishes you continued success!

Hmmm.... I wonder what sort of Christmas artwork Megan could do...




Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Young Novelists at the KC Folk Fest

One of the performances I caught at the KC Folk Fest was by The Young Novelists.  They were new to me, so I decided to catch their set.

The Young Novelists are either a duo or a six piece full band (more on that later).  Traveling to Kansas City from their Toronto home, they were a duo, couple Graydon James and Laura Spink.  Graydon plays acoustic guitar, Laura plays various percussion and melodica (at least it looks like the melodicas I found on the Internet after Googling "wind instrument keyboard"), and they share vocals.



Their set was very entertaining, and they are an exceptionally talented young duo.  Graydon and Laura combine for very tight, beautiful harmonies, reminding me of the classic CSN sounds.  Many of the songs they performed were originals, showing a talent for heart-of-roots-music songwriting.  A show highlight, however, was a killer - Killer! - cover of "Jackson", the frenetic song made famous by June Carter and Johnny Cash.

Graydon and Laura had a great rapport with the audience, entertaining us between their songs with stories about their young son, and a recent performance at an elementary school where none of the children knew what a CD was.  It's an iPod world, folks.


The best thing about The Young Novelists, though, was the exuberance that shone from them during their set.  They play with a natural energy that wraps up an audience.  Combine this with their talent as musicians and songwriters, and you have a really great, enjoyable show.  They work hard, and they love what they do.

After the show, and after they had stowed their instruments away, I caught a moment with Laura and introduced myself, and welcomed them to Kansas City.  And, let me tell you, Laura was so nice!  We talked about their stay here in KC at the Folk Alliance conference, both this year and last.  Laura talked to me like I was an old friend - what a sweetheart!

So, I left them to finish packing up, and I wandered out to the central merch table, where Young Novelists CDs were for sale.  I picked up a copy of their most recent, "made us strangers", their 4th release.  Previously under the name "Graydon James and the Young Novelists" they had released an EP, a live album, and a studio album.  For "made us strangers", the band name changed to just "The Young Novelists".  I then took the CD back down the hall and saw Graydon and Laura signing CDs at the door, so I went back up, got autographs, and chatted with them some more.  Graydon wrote a short novel on the CD cover while I was talking to Laura about being traveling musicians while raising a child.  I finally left Laura and Graydon to tend to their Folk Alliance business, feeling great about having met such a fine, friendly musical couple.


Then, on to the CD.  Popping the CD in the player on my drive back home, I was greeted with a much fuller sound than I was expecting from the the duo that I had just seen.  It was when I got home and was able to research The Young Novelists that I found out that in addition to Graydon and Laura as the core duo, they also have an incarnation as a full six piece band.  The fuller sound on the album - drum kit, bass, electric guitar, etc. - extended and complemented the music I had heard from the duo earlier in the day.  The harmonies were still there, musically expanded with full roots-rock arrangements.  Best of all, that exuberance that made their performance so special still shines though on the studio album.


Highlights:  well, everything on the album is good.  My favorites were the opener "palindrome", "always make the mistake" with Laura singing lead, the harmonies on "hear your voice", the heavier, ear-catching "what lies ahead" featuring some great piano work by Alex Dodd, and the more melancholy-sounding "couldn't be any worse", which includes some beautiful accompanying strings.

So, now we can hope that we hear "Christmas with The Young Novelists" sometime in the near future :-)

The Young Novelists website
The Young Novelists on Facebook
The Young Novelists on Soundcloud
"made us strangers" on Amazon

And, Laura Spink says, The Young Novelists are everywhere on the internet - Twitter, Youtube, Instagram.... check them out and enjoy!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

What the Folk?

Hello good readers, and happy Winter!  We have barely had a Winter here in Kansas City, with much higher than normal temperatures all season, and a measly 5 inches of snow, total.  I've only gotten to wear my favorite Winter coat, a kick-a** Montgomery Duffel Coat, for about 4 days.  Der Bingle loves temps in the teens, and we've had very few of those this season.

But enough about the weather.  I'm going to temporarily change directions here at the ol' blog, for a handful of posts over the next few weeks.  I went to the Folk Alliance International conference's Folk Fest last week, in it's 3rd year of (at least) a 5-year run here in KC, and got to see some extraordinary performers.  A $30 ticket bought 10AM-5PM access to music on 5 stages, with performers changing each hour.  I saw and talked to some great artists, and I'm going to take the next several posts and let you all know about them.

For tonight, as an into, here are some pictures from the Folk Fest.

 From the Sunday morning gospel brunch!



Sara Morgan, Arkansas-born, now Kansas City based, with dreams of performing at the Grand Ol' Opry.




The group known as Ayllu, with performers from Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, and midtown Kansas City.  They play South American-inspired music, and are all multi-instrumentalists, frequently within a single song.  Their set was absolutely smokin'!


Local musical extraordinaire Mikal Shapiro, playing with Ayllu.




The Young Novelists, a folk duo from Toronto.  More about them in a later post.



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Loose Ends 2015 Edition

Every year I end the season with a lot of things left undone.  All unintentional, all a factor of balancing time between work, family, all the other Christmas season activities, of which there are many, and this here little blog.  Each year I get many e-mails notifying me about new Christmas music, more than I can possibly do justice to.  Usually, the earlier I get notice the better, but even then sometimes the music can get lost in the shuffle.  If an artist or publicist sends me a physical CD, I do my best to critically and intently listen and write up s good thorough review.  I think I hit 100% on that mark this year.  It's the digital music and submissions that, sadly, sometimes don't make it to the blog.  So, here in the last official post of the season, I'm going to provide some info and links about some other fine Christmas music from 2015.

First up is "On a Christmas Night" by Found Wandering.  How on Earth did this one get by?  Seriously, how?  Thank Santa for Stubby, who did a great job covering this record with his full review.  This is a great, great record.  Starting with the album art, about the best thing I've ever seen, through all 11 tracks, this is a fantastic Christmas album.  I may return to this record and give it the justice it deserves when we kick off the 2016 season.  But for now, here are links to the record and to the band's site, and the fab album cover.


"On a Christmas Night"
Found Wandering site on Bandcamp

Next up is "Christmas Crackers" by Poke Music, a collection of 26(!) songs, originals and favorites, performed by many talented artists in various styles - crooner, Elvis, Madonna "Santa Baby" style, and more.  It is a most pleasing collection of songs sure to satisfy all the Christmas music lovers out there as well as the casual holiday-time listener.

"Christmas Crackers" on Bandcamp

And now, links, links, links...

"Christmas at the Piano" by Paul Tracy  Bandcamp link
"The Angel Gabriel feat. Dave Worm" by PC Munoz   Bandcamp link
"A Colorful Christmas" by Fetal Records Music  Soundcloud link
"Merry Christmas, with Love" by Lily Lambert  Soundcloud link
"Up All Night" by The Yule Logs   YouTube link
"Christmas Time Again" by SPiN  link
"Hark the Herald Angels Sing" by Claudia Hoyser  YouTube link
"Knights in Santa's Service" by Teflon Beast  Bandcamp link
Two tunes from Loop Line

Late Breaking:  Here are a couple more I found in the inbox:

"Christmas May Have To Be Postponed" - Carly Jamison  website
"Kidnap the Sandy Claws" - Fable Cry - Soundcloud link

Whew - I think that's it.  There is some mighty fine music in this list.  2015 was a down year for commercial releases but a banner year for downloadable, off-label, independent artist music.  Slick and commercial, or filled with heart and spirit, take your pick.

Please visit these sites, listen to the music samples, and support these artists if their music moves you.
Thanks to all who visited Merry and Bright this season - I hope you had a happy and joyous Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter, filled with new and old music for the season.  Have a prosperous 2016, and check back here from time to time!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Der Bingle's Best of 2015

What can be a better post on New Year's Eve than a 'best of 2015' Christmas records list?  Nothing, am I right?  Without further ado, as we bid adieu to 2015, here is my Top Christmas records of 2015:

1.  Greg Page "Here Comes Christmas!" 


You read my review - I absolutely loved this record, as enjoyable for us grown-ups as for the kids.  Full of heart and Christmas wonder.

2.  The Snow Globes "Milk and Cookies" EP.  


The Snow Globes are a local (to me) Kansas City band that forms each November, plays the heck out of Christmas music for two months, then slips away until the next year.  Somehow, I didn't find out about them until this year.  They are soooooo good.  This year, their EP, which is their 4th CD release in 5 years, gets my #2 spot.  Look for a big story about The Snow Globes here next season.  Until then, visit their website and listen to their marvelous Christmas tunes.

3.  Elizabeth Chan "Red and Green"


Honestly, as long as Elizabeth Chan keeps putting out new music year after year, her albums will keep hitting my 'best of' list.  No one embodies the true musical spirit of the holiday as much as Elizabeth.  "Christmas in the City", her 2014 single, is a Christmas classic, and the rest of the world is starting to figure that out.  I'm going to write about why this really is a Christmas classic in a post next season - I have my reasons :-)

4.  Astrocolor "Lit Up"


One of the best original interpretation albums of Christmas music ever.  It's mesmerizing.

5.  Kylie Minogue "Kylie Christmas"


2015 was a definite down year for new "big" commercial Christmas releases, with Real Gone's re-masters taking the spotlight.  But Kylie Minogue's record was a standout.  Full of energy and fun, with a smattering of unexpected guest stars (Iggy Pop, need I say more), it was a very enjoyable record.  I really don't need to ever hear "Santa Baby" or "Baby It's Cold Outside" again, but Kylie's takes on "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "Christmas Wrapping" were excellent.  Get the bonus edition with the DVD, so you can look at Kylie as she sings :-)

6.  Jillaine and Jacob "Jazzy Duets for Christmas"


Sublime, reserved jazzy Christmas songs from our favorite chanteuse.

7.  India Arie "Christmas with Friends"


And what a group of friends!  Joe Sample.  Trombone Shorty.  Kirk Whalum.  A laid-back album, perfect for a relaxing evening by the fire.

8. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings "It's a Holiday Soul Party"


Lots of press for this, and well deserved.  Joyful, stompin', shakin', party-on-dude Christmas record.

Honorable Mention: Thisbe Vos "A Jazzy Christmas"


Thisbe Vos gets an honorable mention because she topped my list last year after I got her album pre-release as a crowd-funding contributor.  The official commercial release was this year, so I decided to add Thisbe's album to the list again because it is so wonderful.  Folks, it is in my top 10 in my whole collection.  Thisbe's vocals will make your heart melt.  Sigh...

So that's the list for this year.  If I have a panic attack when I realize an omission, I'll make it up with a later post.  Follow the links embedded in the text above to visit these artists' websites.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Final Share of 2015: Medleys Galore!

Good day all, here on the 23rd of December.  Today I have my final share of the season.  This year and last, the vinyl sharing has diminished in numbers, for several reasons.  First is the omnipresent battle against time to do sharing right.  I should start preparing in about July, but that never happens.  Second is the availability of vinyl.  The thrift stores in these parts don't seem to produce the gems that other sharers find, so supply is limited.  Last, and related to the second factor, is that more and more Christmas records from the past are now available as commercially re-released CDs or downloads.  Which is really a good thing - we all love it when a classic record is re-mastered and re-released.  Good for us, good for the artists (or copyright holders), and good for Christmas music.



But, I'll still keep looking and sharing as I can.  Which brings us to today's share, "Christmas Hymns and Carols" by Bob Ralston.  This is an organ/chimes/chorus record, of which there are many, but this is a very good one.  The record consists of 10 medleys of Christmas songs, mostly very familiar tunes, but there are a couple lesser known gems added into the medley mix, such as "Little Stranger in the Manger" and "Ding-a-Ling, Ding-a-Ling".  The arrangements are lively and pleasing.  I've labeled the tracks simply "Track 1", "Track 2", etc, instead of listing out the medley components on each one.



I love the album cover too - nothing like a Christmas morning to get up, put on a shirt, tie and sweater if you're Dad, and a smart dress with Christmas tree brooch if you're Mom, and then running down to the Christmas tree!

Please enjoy the last share of 2015 - Bob Ralston's "Christmas Hymns and Carols".

download link