Posts Tagged ‘folk-based’

Folk duo of Maria Quiles and Rory Cloud are two singer/songwriters that create a folk music sound in the songs they create.Those songs are rather simplistic in nature as they draw upon only the guitars and vocals from Quiles and Cloud. That simplistic writing approach is more than apparent on the duo’s 2012 release entitled Long Time Coming.

Having already released Long Time Coming, Maria Quiles and Rory Cloud (now known simply as Quiles and Cloud) went about adding other musical components to their music to expand their sound. To bring their current musical vision to life, the duo called upon upright bassist Oscar Westesson, vocalist/pianist Julian Muller and Irene Sazer on violin. While the duo’s current sound is richer and fuller, it still has a simplistic approach and still makes use of their folk background. That expanded sound is found on the recently released 2014 Quiles and Cloud album called Seminole Star.

To help bring Seminole Star to life, the participating musicians gathered in the OTR Studios. That “live” feeling is definitely present as you listen to the release.

Seminole Star from Quiles and Cloud begins with the track “All My Trouble Gone”. No place on the album is it more apparent that this release is a “live in the studio” release than on this track as the beginning of the track starts with a beat being established only to be quickly replaced by a faster beat once Maria Quiles begins to sing the lyrics to the song. While that beginning seems a tad awkward, the track soon becomes one of the strongest tracks on the release as the guitars; bass and violin all combine to create a track that is unmistakably folk-like. One of the fun elements of the track is violinist Irene Sazer’s use of her violin to create bird sounds to go along with the lyrics of being able to fly. While the track has a relatively slow tempo that tempo increases about halfway in and the resulting faster pace of the song gives the track a nice amount of energy and it is that fast pace that brings the song to its end.

The quick pace established during “All My Trouble Gone” helps to lead into the next track of “Fool to Run”. Like the song before, “Fool to Run” has a strong pace to it. Like the song before it, “Fool to Run” has a strong pace to it. The track features both Maria Quiles and Rory Cloud on vocals. While Maria handles the majority of the lyrics, Rory joins her on the refrains and the two create a duet-like feel to the lyrics. While “All My Troubles Gone” contained music from Maria, Rory, bassist Oscar Westesson and violin Irene Sazer, it was in an ensemble setting. With “Fool to Run,” the musicians get a little opportunity to show off as both Westesson and Sazer help to create some very strong moments on the track.

If any one song on Seminole Star could be released as a single, it would easily be “Pass”. The song features music that feels as much like the Blues as it does like Folk. The lyrics to the song incorporate such as “baby, it’s cold outside” and “stop and stay a while”. The vocals delivered by Maria Quiles bring to mind artists such as Shawn Colvin and Paula Cole. The track feels very commercial and ready-made for the radio.

On Seminole Star’s title track, Quiles and Cloud revert backto a simple folk approach to their music. The music on the track is createdmainly by the guitars from the two. In fact, while the song does containbassist Oscar Westesson and violinist Irene Sazer, the two are part of the songto more or less just add a little texture to the track. As you listen to MariaQuiles sing the lyrics, the melody in the part of the main body of the song hasa hauntingly-familiar sound to it (Neil Young’s “Ohio,” anyone?).

One of the prettiest moments on the Seminole Star release belongs to the song “Empty Handed”. The trio of Maria Quiles, Rory Cloud and bassist Oscar Westesson create a track with an easy feel to the music. One of the elements that give the track such a beautiful sound is Westesson’s bowing technique on the standup bass. That bowing technique adds both beauty and depth to the feeling of the song.

With Quiles and Cloud having released Seminole Star only mere days before the end of 2014, the album helped the year come to an end on a very strong note. But since many fans of the duo will actually discover the release in 2015, it can also be said that it will help start the year off with a bang.

Check out the full-band version of “Pass,” a track off of Seminole Star from Quiles and Cloud.

Also check out the duo’s YouTubeChannel for downloads of all of the tracks on the release.

(Post script: What you are reading is a re-post of a review that had originally been published back in 2015. Because of a few problems (which started with a simple trying to redo the album cover which had somehow disappeared from the review), the review needed to be redone. 
Since the original publication of this review, the project of Quiles & Cloud disbanded. But they left behind three good albums that are still worth checking out.) 

no damn goodThe Good Morning Nags is a six-piece NYC based ensemble. The band dates back almost a decade as they formed back in 2010. Today’s version of the band consists of Tim Hassler (fiddle, vocals), Ben Quinn (mandolin, guitar, harmonium, and vocals), Titus Tompkins (percussion, mandolin, vocals) and Britt Reagan (guitar, dulcimer, vocals) as well as Mark Spitznagel (banjo, vocals) and Pete O’Neill (bass, vocals). This ensemble of musicians takes their various musical influences and creates a style that revolves around a Folk-Rock/Country-Rock style of music. Having put out a self-titled release not that long ago, they have returned with a new two-song release they have called No Damn Good.

No Damn Good from The Good Morning Nags begins with the first of two tracks called “Birmingham”. The track begins with the sound of a vehicle turning over and coming to life. The sound of starting a motor actually works as the song is about traveling as the lyrics deal with getting behind the wheel and going on a road trip. In this instance, the song is about going down to Birmingham, just as the song title suggests.  “Birmingham” from The Good Morning Nags is a track that does a fine job of blending together the Old Timey feel of Bluegrass music with a driving feel to the tempo that comes from a more Rock and Roll-type musical approach. The track would fit right in on any radio format that features modern-day Country music and/or Folk-based music. While the energy level for the music of the track would be great for today’s Pop-Rock radio, there is just a little too much of a Country flavor to the song. That being said, fans of modern-day Folk-Rock/Country-Rock musical blends will instantly fall in love with the feel of the song. And with the inclusion of the clapping near the middle of the track and the rather funky feel to the ending, “Birmingham” has a lot of different elements to combine for a song that is fun to listen to.

After the first of two songs comes to an end, the No Damn Good EP from The Good Morning Nags continues with the title track “No Damn Good”. While the first track on the two-song EP blends together Bluegrass with a blend of Country, Rock and Folk, the title track of the EP features a sound that is rather different in sound but is just as varied in its musical makeup. The Bluegrass base that was found on “Birmingham” is joined on “No Damn Good” by a Creole style of music. The result is a track that contains a strong accordion presence to go along with a Country-style approach. The track brings to mind the style of someone like the “Louisiana Man” himself, Doug Kershaw.   “No Damn Good” features a lyrical content that is rather self-deprecating but the strong, driving feel of the track’s pace allows the listener to enjoy the song without truly feeling sorry for the singer. The more Creole approach on this track is a nice contrast to the Folk-Rock/Country-Rock style of music found on “Birmingham”.

Having experienced the sound and style of The Good Morning Nags from their earlier self-titled album, it’s nice to see that the band doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The two tracks on the band’s No Damn Good EP add to the music The Good Morning Nags had already produced and let the listener know that there’s more to come from this talented musical ensemble.


To hear some of the music from The Good Morning Nags, check out the title track from the band’s No Damn Good EP. 

Find the band’s No Damn Good EP  on SPOTIFY.  

For more information, check out The Good Morning Nags’ PR firm of Whiplash PR & Management by clicking on the logo for the company.



YOUWhile Dallas-based singer-songwriter Ezra Vancil has explored several different styles of music over his time in the music industry, his album of You finds the singer-songwriter exploring the Folk music aspect of his personality as well as other styles to help bring the tracks on the new album to life. Recently, Vancil took a deeper look within his own life and started writing songs with a very personal connection. But instead of writing the collection of songs from a first-person perspective, the resulting tracks on the release deal with his relationship with his wife and other aspects of love as his various relationships have seen ups, downs, highs and lows. With the eleven tracks that make up the release, Vancil makes use of his personal influences such as Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, even women such as Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell, as well as several other artists. Together, those artists helped to influence the music of Ezra Vancil that appears on his new release called You.

The album You from Ezra Vancil begins with the track “Galveston”. While the track deals with Vincil’s divorce from his first wife, the music and feel of the track brings to mind another artist: Although known for the track “Convoy,” the songwriter C.W. McCall created tracks with this feel with the help of producer and owner of the record label American Gramophone, Chip Davis. Together, the duo of Davis and McCall would have created a track with this very feel, including the story-like approach to the lyrics of the song. That feeling of familiarity makes Vancil’s “Galveston” feel both fresh and retro at the same time and that gives the listener a good reason to continue on the musical journey set forth by Vancil.

Ezra Vancil’s new release continues with the track “Complicated Man”. The track starts off with a rather strong acoustic guitar approach that helps create a sound that will remind listeners of early recordings of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkle, especially those days when the duo went by the moniker of Tom and Jerry. The easy pace of the solo acoustic guitar at the beginning of the track starts the song off with a simple sound. Soon, more guitars and some percussion are added to the track to add a lot of texture to the music. Although texture is added to the track, Vancil keeps the song low-key rather than building up the energy level. The low-key approach of the song allows the songwriting of Vancil to come through without being buried with a ton of other musical elements.

You from Ezra Vancil continues with the album’s title track “Wild Girl”. While the previous tracks feature a slightly light feel to the music, the title track finds Vancil adds a lot of energy to the album while still keeping a light approach. The Folk-Rock track of “Wild Girl” features an acoustic guitar as the focal point of the music and other instrumentation to create an “unplugged” feeling to the song. The song even features strings in the background to add an orchestrated feel to the music. Even though it’s a little late, “Wild Girl” is the type of song that would have fit in with all of the electric-made-acoustic songs in the nineties that made up the “Unplugged” fad back then.

With the next track, Ezra Vancil takes the music of his release to the next level. While the track “Broken King” still contains a definite acoustic approach, the track contains a complete listing of instruments. Gone is the lone guitar as “Broken King” contains a complete band playing behind Vancil. The track’s instrumentation creates a Folk-Rock sound that is heavy on the Folk influence but still heavier on the Rock influence than the previous tracks on the release. And with the addition of female vocals, the track becomes a duet of sorts. Even though the song “Wild Girl” is easily the focal point of the release, “Broken King” is yet another track on the album that could (and should) receive a lot of airplay.

One of the most emotional tracks on the You release is the song “Don’t Push Me Away”. With the overarching theme of relationships running through the album, this track’s connection to that theme is more apparent than most of the other songs. The Lite Rock feel of the song and the use of the theme in the lyrics makes “Don’t Push Me Away” one of the most emotional songs on the You release.

Throughout the various tracks on the You album, Ezra Vancil explores many different styles of music. With the track “Polka Girl From Tennessee,” Vancil brings a little more Folk influence into his music. In fact, with the inclusion of the fiddle on the track, you can even say he added a little Country flavor to the release. The resulting track gives the listener a song that feels a lot more like Country music and nothing like Polka music as you might expect with the track’s title.

Speaking of Country music, with the track of “Settle Down Good,” Ezra Vancil and the rest of the musicians on the release create a track that contains a strong Country influence, creating a track that would easily be categorized as Alt-Country. With the musical mix on this track, Vancil and the band bring to mind the music of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, with more of as modern spin on the music.

The album You from Ezra Vancil finds the singer-songwriter creating the prefect singer-songwriter release as each track feels different from the others. And with each track, Vancil and band show off their versatility because of that variety in the tracks. Having come from a much different musical background than what is contained within the release, You from Ezra Vancil truly shows off his songwriting ability. And the emotional feeling that is contained within the tracks that make up the release add to that singer-songwriter feeling of the album.

The You release from Ezra Vancil has yet to be released. However, the album is currently up for pre-order on Vancil’s website. Click on the link for more information.

While the You release is still not available, check out an earlier version of the track “Galveston” which will be on the album when it comes out.

For more information, check out Ezra Vancil’s PR Firm, Whiplash PR

stephencovell3For the last dozen years or so, Stephen Covell has been creating music. The Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter has been creating music that is deeply influenced by Folk-Rock. The Folk-Rock style goes well with the writer’s storyteller side of his personality. Because of that, the songs that Covell writes seem very close to stories set to music.

Some of the songs that Stephen Covell includes on his releases have a slight reference to the military in them. That is because Stephen Covell spends part of his time as a musician performing his own material and at other times, Covell is one of the active members of an organization called Operation: Encore, A Veteran Music Project. Operation: Encore is very close to Covell’s heart as the organization helps to support current or ex-military members who are looking for something to do outside of the military world that so many are part of.

As a part of the military, Stephen Covell was a U.S. Army combat medic. As a musician, some of Covell’s songs are very deeply steeped in the civilian mindset; the mindset of enjoying time while back on American soil.

As part of Operation: Encore, Stephen Covell has written several songs that have made their way onto the two current releases that help to promote the music of the artists that are part of the organization. In fact, one of Covell’s tracks ended up becoming the title track of the group’s newest release called Monuments. And along with “Monuments,” one other track from those two compilations is now included in Covell’s newest CD, a five-song EP called Longing for the Hills.

Longing for the Hills by Stephen Covell begins with the track “Ruled by You”. A Rock and Roll track that features an easy, Folk-like pace to the music, “Ruled By You” is a track that finds Covell creating a song that comes across as a love song. The easy pace to the music and the emotional feel of the lyrics helps create a track that feels ready-made for the radio. In fact, “Ruled by You” has enough of a Folk feel to the music that the song seems to have a slight twang to it, making it perfect for “crossover” potential for both Country and Pop-rock radio formats.

The new EP from Stephen Covell continues with the song “We Guards Stood Our Watch”. One of the more personal tracks on the release, “We Guards Stood Our Watch” finds Covell asking why others get to enjoy themselves when those on duty choose to keep watch? The music to the track features a much softer feel to the music. In fact, the almost orchestral feel to the music adds both a slight gentleness to the track and an emotional tug at the heart, as well.

Stephen Covell includes the first of the two Operation: Encore compilation tracks next. Having been included on the organization’s first release, the track “Sand Hills to Sandals” is the perfect track, lyrically, to follow “We Guards Stood Our Watch”. Like the track before it, “Sand Hills to Sandals” deals with military life. However, with this track, Covell focuses on the more upbeat and positive side of life as he sings about being home from overseas and being able to enjoy the things he could not enjoy while on duty; things like going to the beach. While the track does offer a happier side to life than “We Guards Stood Our Watch,” Covell also mentions more sober things like dedicating a toast to those who never made it home. The music to “Sand Hills to Sandals” is once again rather laidback in its nature. The folk music seems to have the best choice for accompanying the semi-sweet lyrics to the track. While “Sand Hills to Sandals” is one of the more laidback tracks on Longing for the Hills, it’s also one of the strongest tracks on the release.

Following the first of the Operation: Encore compilation tracks on Stephen Covell’s new release is the second one entitled “Monuments”. This is the track that was chosen as the title track for the 2017 release from the organization. “Monuments” from Stephen Covell is the hardest rocking track on the singer-songwriter’s new album. Like the other tracks on the five-song release, “Monuments” contains a strong folk influence to the music by way of things like the addition of the mandolin. However, this track finds Covell and the other musicians who helped create the EP adding a lot of Rock and Roll feel to the music. The track comes across as something that may have recorded by The Eagles. The Pop-Rock style of the music on the track makes the song one of the most commercial moments on the release. “Monuments” could easily be the single off of the release. Stephen Covell changes directions completely for the final track on the five-song EP.

The final track of Monuments, “Winter of My Soul,” is an Eric Clapton-inspired track that features a slow-paced Blues-flavored approach. The track includes some very Bluesy guitar playing that would make Clapton proud. While “Winter of My Soul” comes out of nowhere when compared to the rest of the release, the track proves that Stephen Covell has a wide array of influences to draw from. And those helped Covell to create a very strong release from the first note to the last.

His impressive background notwithstanding, Stephen Covell’s new five-song release, Longing for the Hills, is a testimony to the talent that is sometimes hidden within the most unlikely people. And with the five tracks on the new release being different from one song to the next, that talent really shines in this release. Having already released several other albums thus far, this five-song EP would be a great place to discover the talented singer-songwriter named Stephen Covell.

To hear the music of Stephen Covell, check out the song “Monuments“. For more reading about Operation Encore, check out the review for the first album, the second release of Monuments, the review for Rachel Harvey Hill, the review for Andrew Wiscombe and the review of Steve D. Wilson

C.K. FlachWhen listening to the music of New York State-based singer-songwriter C.K. Flach’s music, you can definitely hear the inner poet in him come out in his songs. The songs he writes have a very strong poetic feel to them as if they were simply poems set to music. As a matter of fact, to prove just how much of a poetic feel his writing style truly has, the artist even recorded one actual spoken piece and included it on his newly released album.

Along with the poetic style of C.K. Flach’s lyrics, he also creates his songs performing the majority of the musical parts himself, with only a few instances where friends and family help to flesh out the sound of the songs. The resulting poetic Americana musical style of C.K. Flach’s songs has made its way onto the musician’s 2017 album entitled Empty Mansions.

Empty Mansions from C.K. Flach begins with the track “Lazarus”. Proving that Flach’s poetic lyrical style can encompass any subject matter, “Lazarus” finds Flach making reference to a biblical character. The song about the character Lazarus being called forward in a church setting is set to a musical style that mixes some Folk elements with a few Rock and Roll ones. These elements create a track that features a slow, yet steady pace to match up with the somber lyrics. The acoustic guitar-driven track shows off some of Flach’s ability as a guitar player. The song’s slightly laidback approach allows the listener to ease their way into the new release from Flach.

The new release from C.K. Flach continues with the song “Boxcar Dreaming”. While the previous track was guitar-based, C.K. Flach creates this track with keyboards. With this track, Flach slows things down as he lightens the feel of the music. While “Lazarus” was an equal amount of Rock and Roll as well as Folk, “Boxcar Dreaming” features a lot more Folk influence. The resulting track would be perfect for a Soft Rock radio format.

One of the strongest tracks on the Empty Mansions album from C.K. Flach is the song “Tranquilized”. Ironically, with this song, Flach increases the energy level of the music ever so slightly instead of bringing it down as you would expect with a title like that. Although the track is still pretty laidback to the music, “Tranquilized” contains a driving feel to the guitar on the track. About halfway through, the track picks up the energy of the music.

The poetic side of C.K. Flach comes out on the track “The Officer”. In a nation where those who are hired to protect are sometimes just as dangerous as the ones we want to be protected from, some people have an unfavorable opinion of the police. The song of “The Officer” is a track that deals with a scenario of a person being pulled over and not treated well by the officer doing the pulling over. The sing-song delivery of the lyrics and the slightly bluesy music make the song feel like a beatnik poem.

The album continues with the title track. Throughout the release, C.K. Flach creates tracks that have a definite spiritual overtones to them. Along with the earlier track of “Lazarus,” “Empty Mansions” is one that features that approach. “Empty Mansions” finds Flach contemplating many things in life that make him question which direction to take in life. The piano and the strings in the background of the track combine to create a beautiful melody. As he sings, C.K. Flach sings about some of the sadder things that are happening in the world today. With this track, the lyrics contain one of the most somber moments on the albums.

Much like “Empty Mansions” before it, the track “Machine Gun” finds Flach a very political track. The guitar and harmonica that appear on the track bring to mind the spirit of Bob Dylan, although the style of the music on the track is very much C.K. Flach. The track finds Flach speaking to those who carry guns and bring harm to men, women and children alike. Like many of the Folk songs from the sixties, “Machine Gun” is a song that speaks to those who want to bring an end to the senseless violence both here and abroad.

Like the track “The Officer” from earlier in the album, the track “Firmament” once again finds C.K. Flach bringing out the poet in him. But unlike “The Officer” that features both spoken poetry and music, “Firmament” is strictly Flach as he reads his written words. The simple “voice only” track finds Flach closing out his new release with a powerful poem with a very strong message against oppression.

Throughout the ten tracks that make up Empty Mansions from C.K. Flach, the listener gets to experience a poet at work as he creates song-length vignettes that deal with all sorts of things from religion to politics to everything in between. And since the album changes musical directions throughout those ten tracks, there is plenty of variety to help form a truly unique release that stands out against most of today’s commercial albums.

To hear a little bit of the music from C.K. Flach, check out the title track for Empty Mansions.



Sweet picFolk band Sweet Sweet formed in 2014 in South Carolina. Jeremy Dunham’s vocals and guitars and Kerrine Gifford’s vocals and cello place the sound of the duo into the Folk category. The duo’s sound has plenty of that folk quality to it while still somehow pushing the envelope. There is more to the duo’s music than just the familiar feel of folk music. Together, Dunham and Gifford create a unique sound that should appeal to not only folk lovers but maybe even Indie Rock lovers, as well. As a way of getting their name out there, Sweet Sweet recently participated in NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. For that contest, they performed their song “Remind Me”. That track and others appear on Sweet Sweet’s newest release entitled In Tandem.

In Tandem from Sweet Sweet begins with the track “To the Stars”. The beginning features a light feel to the music but with a quick pace. That lightness to the music is quickly swallowed by a more complex feel. The music swells as the cello and guitar seem to be built up in order to create a sound that is much larger than just two instruments. The resulting sound contains plenty of folk-like quality to it, but it also has a little roots rock influence as well. The folk/rock feel of the music seems perfect for radio formats such as Top 40 and/or Hot A/C (Adult Contemporary). “To the Stars” is such a strong track that it could garner the duo plenty of airplay on radio.

Sweet Sweet continues their newest release of In Tandem with the song “Daylight”. “Daylight” finds the duo of Jeremy Dunham and Kerrine Gifford creating a track that is closer to folk-rock than the previous track. Dunham and Gifford blend their guitar and cello together to create a sound that is perfect for folk music. The lightness in the music lends itself well to Dunham’s lyrics about spending time with the one he loves. “Daylight” is a wonderfully light track with an easy pace to it.

The next track on the In Tandem release from Sweet Sweet is the song the duo chose to do for their Tiny Desk Contest submission, “Remind Me”. The track begins with a strong passage that features both Jeremy Dunham and Kerrine Gifford creating a duet of sorts with the acoustic guitar and cello along with a strong beat. The blending of the two instruments into one creates a nice harmonic sound. Dunham and Gifford develop the track further and the duo make good use of their folk influences to make a track with a duet style to the lyrics. The addition of the glockenspiel and the production values on this song make the song one of the strongest moments on the release.

In Tandem continues with the song “Cellars and Closets”. The vocal sound of Jeremy Dunham and his delivery of the lyrics on this track bring to mind the style and sound of Colin Hay from Men at Work. Dunham brings the same type of delivery as Hay’s style to this song. Just like the previous song on the release, Sweet Sweet adds many different layers to the music to give the track plenty of body. The light addition of the electric guitar on the track adds a very subtle but beautiful touch to the music. The resulting track brings to mind not only Colin Hay, but also Jack Johnson. The track’s various aspects combine to create yet another moment on the release that needs to be heard.

The In Tandem release from Sweet Sweet comes to a close with the track “Lost Kids”. The light cello from Kerrine Gifford and acoustic guitar from Jeremy Dunham at the beginning of the track along with the poetic lyrics plus vocal quality from Dunham all combine to create a track that brings to mind something from Simon and Garfunkle. In fact, “Lost Kids” sounds like it easily could have been a lost track Simon and Garfunkle’s classic album of Sounds of Silence. The track’s beautiful quality brings the release from Sweet Sweet to an end on a strong note.

Jeremy Dunham and Kerrine Gifford seem to complement each other well as both musicians and singers. Together, they make for a very strong writing and performing duo as Sweet Sweet. The duo’s In Tandem release is extremely strong throughout the EP’s five tracks. And with no low points, In Tandem is the type of release that makes the listener beg for more once the final note plays out.

To hear some of Sweet Sweet‘s music, check out their video for “Remind Me,” the video they made for NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest.

Click on the album cover for
In Tandem by Sweet Sweet to purchase a copy of the release.

In Tandem

long-road-aheadSinger-songwriter Thor Platter is currently making a name for himself. Having been named to many different lists in various publications in and around the Cleveland area, many people are becoming aware of the Cleveland-based singer-songwriter. But just like singer-songwriter Mike Farley before him who moved to Cleveland from Long Island, Platter didn’t start out as a Clevelander; Platter moved here from Buffalo, New York. Since moving here, Thor Platter began creating music. Aside from making his own music, Platter had also been part of a band called The Whiskey Lock, a Bluegrass/Americana band that also included Josh Haney and Tricia Zook. But since that time, Platter is now more focused on making his own music. Currently, Platter has released one album of music called Looking for Sunshine. Having already released that one album, Thor Platter is about to add to his musical library with a new five-song release called Long Road Ahead.

To bring this new album to life, Platter called upon some of Cleveland’s most talented Country/Folk musicians. The musical line-up for this release consists of: Thor Platter – Acoustic guitar & Vocals; Matt Charboneau – Upright Bass; Tommy Hannum – Dobro on “Ride” & “Long Road Ahead”; Paul Kovac – Banjo, Mandolin on “Long Road Ahead” and Bill Lestock – Mandolin & Fiddle. Together, the players create a very strong musical ensemble that handles the music flawlessly.

Long Road Ahead from Thor Platter is a mixed bag of music as it contains both original tunes and tracks written or co-written by friends of his. The release begins with the track “Lake Erie Shore,” a track penned by Platter’s former Whiskey Lock bandmate Tricia Zook. “Lake Erie Shore” features lyrics written by Zook after she left the Cleveland area for a job that took her to North Carolina. The track features the talents of Platter on guitar and vocals, Matt Charboneau on Upright Bass, Paul Kovac on Banjo and Bill Lestock and mandolin. The heartbreaking lyrics about being away from one’s love feel very appropriate for Bluegrass music and the performance of the song by Thor Platter and the rest of the musicians on the track create one of the best modern Bluegrass tracks.

The new release from Thor Platter continues with the track “Josh’s Manifesto,” a track co-written by Thor Platter and Josh Stevens. Like the first track of “Lake Erie Shore,” “Josh’s Manifesto” features lyrics about love but from the other direction as the singer sings of being free of the spell of his “ex”. The lyrics of the song deal with the touchy subject of separation with as much humor as one can. The track has already become a staple of Thor Platter’s live set.

With the next track of “Ride,” Thor Platter and the rest of the band create possibly the most creative song on the relatively short release. While much of the new release find the musicians creating songs that fit into the Bluegrass genre, “Ride” also includes some musical elements that make the listener classify the song as more like “Americana” than straight Bluegrass. Along with the interesting playing from the band that set the track apart from the rest of the EP, the production value on the track adds a lot of character to the track. The track makes the listener feel as if they are part of some sort of film noir movie set to music. “Ride” ends up taking the music of Platter in a much “darker” (and much more interesting) direction. One of the older songs to be included on the release, “Ride” ends up being one of the strongest moments on the new EP.

After one track that breaks the mold for straight-forward Bluegrass music, Platter and the musicians return to a more straight-forward Bluegrass style. In fact, the resulting track brings a lot of “Old Timey” feel to the music. The banjo, acoustic guitar and fiddle all bring the listener back to the early days of the 20th Century. For those who are fans of Bluegrass music, this is easily the track to hear.

Long Road Ahead from Thor Platter comes to a close with the title track of the release. Like “Ride” before it, “Long Road Ahead” finds the band creating a track that feels very fresh. Along with the omnipresent Bluegrass sound, the track also features a little folk thrown in. The combination in the music works as the song feels as if it could fit onto several different radio formats. While the EP is not very long, Long Road Ahead from Thor Platter is a strong EP. The five tracks included are different enough from one track to the next that the playing time seems too short. For a musician who has previously released only one album, Platter has created a very solid EP in Long Road Ahead.

To hear just a little of Thor Platter’s music, check out the song “Ride” off of the new release of Long Road Ahead.

Eugenia Elliot, Hannah Hill and Rob Newhouse are a Chicago-based trio of singers that came together after meeting at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Once they found they had more in common than just their love for the style of music, the three musicians created a group and called themselves Charming Axe. Recently, the group got together with several other musicians to bring the music of the group to life. In turn, they created and released their first album entitled Gathering Days.

The new release of Gathering Days from Charming Axe begins with the James Taylor-penned song “Close your Eyes”. The track begins with Eugenia Elliot, Hannah Hill and Rob Newhouse singing the opening lyrics to the song a’capella. The three-part harmony from the three singers brings to mind the two-part harmony of the James Taylor and Carly Simon arrangement of the song. The song transitions when the keyboards from Rich Rankin are brought in to add just a little accompaniment to the voices. The sparse feel to the song brings out the folk flavor to the music from Charming Axe.

Gathering Days continues with the Rob Newhouse track “Beyond the Blue”. The track exists somewhere between folk music and bluegrass as the track seems to really allow the Old Timey feel to the band’s music to come out. Along with Newhouse’s guitar, the track features mandolin from Rich Rankin, dobro from John Rice and bass from Ben Wright. While the song features mainly Rob Newhouse on vocals, both Hannah Hill and Eugenia Elliot add that signature sound that the listener discovered in the first track on the album. The track works well as the music on the track brings to mind songs from long ago. The original track fits in well with the other tracks on the release.

While many of the tracks that make up Gathering Days from Charming Axe are traditional songs or cover songs, one of the best tracks on the release is the band’s version of the song made famous by Cyndi Lauper called “All Through the Night”. In place of the rock instruments that made Lauper’s version of the song so appealing, mandolins and acoustic guitars bring the song to life in a completely different way. While the hit version from Lauper features a pop-rock feel, Charming Axe takes the song and makes it feel like a folk standard. The track is easily one of the shining moments on Gathering Days.

Another track on the Gathering Days release that is a cover tune is the Bruce Cockburn-penned “One Day I Walk”. With the Cockburn version of the track, the guitar and mandolin give the track a simple folk-based feel with a very gentle pace to it. When Charming Axe went about doing their version, they added a lot of energy to it. The first major different is the addition of a bowed double bass that adds a lot of substance to the track. What once was a simple folk tune in the hands of Bruce Cockburn becomes something more substantial in the hands of Eugenia Elliot, Hannah Hill, Rob Newhouse and their friends.

Gathering Days comes to an end with the song “One Bright Star”. Like the Rob Newhouse-penned “Beyond the Blue” at the beginning of the album, “One Bright Star” is an original composition that was written by Eugenia Elliot. The track features an easy pace with a sound that is part folk and part country. The music features a very strong mandolin and guitar base while the three-part harmony from Eugenia Elliot, Hannah Hill and Rob Newhouse adds a lot of beauty to the song. The track brings the album to a close on a strong note as track ends up being one of the best songs on the album.

Charming Axe has created a very strong release in Gathering Days. The album’s fifteen tracks are a nice mix of known and not-so-known folk tunes with a few originals thrown in. That mix creates an album of folk music that begs to be heard.

Check out Charming Axe’s PR firm, Novo Management and Publicity.

One of the most prominent names that appear all over the Cleveland area when it comes to music is Jeff Varga. Jeff Varga is a singer-songwriter who has survived in the Cleveland music scene by becoming a regular at some of the area’s finest establishments. Whether it’s at a location such as Stamper’s or Houlihan’s or the now-closed Key West Café, you can always guarantee seeing Varga’s name somewhere at least once a week.

While Jeff Varga does have a “day job,” it’s the music side of his personality that makes his name very prominent. At each of these gigs, Varga presents his take on many well-known songs. Plus, he throws in his own musical compositions during those performances, as well. And with an ever-increasing library of original music, Varga has plenty of songs to choose from to keep the night interesting. In fact, Varga is currently promoting his latest album of original music that was released in 2014. That album is entitled Looking Out My Window.

For those unfamiliar with Varga’s musical style, the songs he creates are folk-rock based songs that are heavy on the folk side of things. In fact, you could easily compare what Varga does to the style of the late, great Jim Croce as the two singer-songwriters have very similar sounds and styles. Both writers have a very simple quality to their music. With the very simple feel to Varga’s music, the beauty of the music and the clarity in his voice are able to shine through in all of his songs. That simple feeling in his songs is very apparent on the songs that appear on Varga’s newest album called Looking Out My Window.

The 2014 release from Jeff Varga begins with the title track of the album. “Looking Out My Window” is classic Jeff Varga: The song features Varga on vocals and acoustic guitar as he sings about spending time just relaxing with that special someone. The romantic feel to the lyrics fit well with the folk music approach to the song. While Varga’s guitars are the main focus on the song musically, the soft addition of Mark Arlia’s bass helps to add just a little more depth to the song. The track turns out to be one of the album’s strongest moments.

With this release, Jeff Varga seems to draw from his personal life a little more than on other previous releases. Songs like “6 Pack and a 6 String” and “Cowboy in the City” both deal with Varga’s way of life as he enjoys living away from the high-paced world of the big city. Listening to Varga sing about the slower pace he enjoys, you get to know a little bit about the real Jeff Varga.

Unlike Jeff Varga’s last two releases of 2011’s Guitars and Horses and 2012’s Back Porch Songs where he created the releases all on his own, 2014’s Looking Out My Window finds Varga once again inviting musicians to join him in order to add a little more life to the songs. Two songs that benefit from the addition of another musical “voice” are the tracks “It’s Always Good” and “Say Grace”. Along with Varga’s guitar and voice, the tracks also feature the playing of violinist Samantha McNamara. On both songs, the violin helps give the music a definite boost and really helps to bring out the folk feeling in the songs.

While most of Looking Out My Window contains new compositions, Jeff Varga takes a page from his 2011 release of Guitars and Horses where he revisited some of his earlier songs. On Looking Out My Window, Varga revisits the track “I Can’t Believe” that had originally appeared on the 1996 release of Tangent. For the 2014 version of that classic track, Varga is joined by guitarist Steve Smith. Together, the two musicians take the track and add to the feeling of the original. The addition of Smith to the song makes the song feel fresh while still allowing the track to retain a lot of its original personality.

The newest release from Jeff Varga finds the singer-songwriter creating an album that takes his sound back to earlier releases in his catalog. The musical approach that had appeared on albums such as Tangent and The Human Trail once again appears on 2014’s Looking Out My Window. While the album has a very familiar feel to it, sometimes familiarity can be a good thing. And it’s that familiarity that makes Looking Out My Window a welcome addition to any music collection.

Click HERE for the video to the track “Looking Out My Window”.

Cleveland-based singer-songwriter Maria Jacobs has one of the most beautiful voices in the Greater Cleveland music scene. It is easy to tell why she has been able to work with many different people in the area including the Cleveland Orchestra and the MLK Celebration Chorus for the Martin Luther King Jr. Maria Jacobs’ clear, melodic vocal delivery is just perfect for orchestral and jazz settings. Because of that, it’s easy to see why the music of choice for Maria Jacobs is jazz.
Having already created several albums of music that have been widely well-received by the Greater Cleveland area, Maria Jacobs has just returned with her latest offering; the new album is entitled Here Comes Winter. The 2014 release is split between Maria Jacobs’ original compositions and jazzy arrangements of songs that were made famous by other singers.
To bring Here Comes Winter to life, Maria Jacobs teamed up with several well-known Cleveland musicians to help create the songs. Guitarist Bob Fraser, keyboardist Cliff Habian, bassist Bob Curry, standup bassist Brian Wildman and keyboardist/organ player David Strieter all contributed to the music that is contained on the album.
Here Comes Winter from Maria Jacobs begins with the album’s title track. “Here Comes Winter” features Jacobs as both singer and keyboardist, plus Bob Fraser on guitar and standup bassist Brian Wildman. The resulting trio feeling that fills the track creates a solid jazz sound in the music as Jacobs sings about the changing of the seasons to something a lot colder. While the lyrics of the song speak of that approaching coldness, the vocals from Jacobs contain a nice amount of warmth. The song ends up having a nice balance between the cold and the warmth.
While the track of “Here Comes Winter” ultimately became the title track of the new release from Maria Jacobs because of the underlying theme of winter that is also included on the later track of Joni Mitchell’s “River,” it is the song “Till Forever Comes” that is truly the standout track on the album. “Till Forever Comes” features Jacobs, guitarist Bob Fraser, electric bassist Bob Curry and also includes string patches from Cliff Habian. The tune contains a nice Smooth Jazz feel to the music and the inclusion of the strings from Habian gives the track a nice orchestral feel. Maria Jacobs’ vocals delivery on the track feels jazzy but will also remind the listener of something that might have been produced back in the 1970s. The resulting musical feel of “Till Forever Comes” is very timeless and instantly comes across as a newly-minted jazz standard.
“Art of Saying Goodbye,” another Maria Jacobs original on her new release, also makes use of that same orchestral feeling that is featured on “Till Forever Comes”. And just like that song, “Art of Saying Goodbye” contains almost the same musical lineup with the exception of standup bassist Brian Wildman who replaces electric bassist Bob Curry. With the subject matter of saying goodbye being very universal, the track feels like something that would appear in a theatrical production on Broadway. Because of that theatrical feeling, you could easily imagine someone like Barbra Streisand or another well-known singer of standards incorporating the song into their musical repertoire.  
As Here Comes Winter is split between Maria Jacobs originals and arrangements of songs from other people, there are plenty of moments within those cover songs that are worth mentioning. Here are just a few of the highlights:
The classic song of “Time After Time” that was written by Sammy Cahn gets a very simple treatment as Maria Jacobs is joined by only one other musician. The single guitar on the track and Jacobs’ vocals create a track with a very timeless feel to go along with that timeless composition.
Another highlight that occurs on the album is the arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “Case of You”. Like “Time After Time,” the arrangement of the music on this track is rather simple with Bob Fraser once again backing Maria Jacobs up on guitar. The multiple-guitar sound creates a very nice texture to the music and also gives the song more body than “Time After Time”. Cliff Habian’s strings also help add a nice orchestral feel to the piece. The guitar and string arrangement gives new life to Joni Mitchell’s song while still keeping some of the folk flavor that Mitchell is known for.
The aforementioned song of “River” from Joni Mitchell once again finds Maria Jacobs and Bob Fraser teamed up to create yet another intimate track. The Christmas-inspired song begins with a simple guitar and vocalization arrangement of “Silent Night” before transitioning into Mitchell’s lyrics about the holiday season and longing to be where she can experience a White Christmas. The jazz/folk combination in the music helps to create one of the most beautiful moments on the new release from Maria Jacobs.
Maria Jacobs returns with a solid album with Here Comes Winter. If you’re a fan of jazz music or just want to listen to something a little more relaxing from time to time, this album is something that is definitely worth checking out.