Posts Tagged ‘piano-based’

Welsh AvenueAustin, Texas-based singer-songwriter Mark DiLillo was once on his way to having a degree as a biology major. That was before his college roommate showed him the ways of Ableton computer software. With the help of that software, DiLillo’s path changed. Soon, instead of helping animals in need, DiLillo was creating music on the computer.

Earlier in life, Mark DiLillo had taken music lessons that helped to instill a love for Classical music. When he started creating his own music with the help of the Ableton computer software, it was only natural that he began creating music with that Classical influence to it. Soon, however, a shift in his musical direction meant incorporating more pop-based influences. The resulting musical style created by DiLillo finds him creating a hybrid style that is part Classical and part Electronica.

Mark DiLillo’s part Classical/part Electronica music is matched up with lyrics that have a realistic feel to them as DiLillo incorporates elements from life into them. The “natural” side of life is included on songs like “Germ Theory” and “Time to Fly”. These and other tracks have been assembled to create Mark DiLillo’s debut release entitled The Great Exchange, and album released under the moniker of Welsh Avenue, the name of the street where DiLillo grew up.

The Great Exchange from Welsh Avenue begins with the aforementioned track “Germ Theory”. The track begins the unmistakable sounds of a scratchy record that helps to add to the ambiance of the music. The song itself features a sound that is part Indie Rock, part New Age because of the easy nature of the music. The light, easy pace of the song matches up well with the very infectious sound of the piano. With the piano comes a gentle quality that makes up the majority of the music. The lyrics about a man who claims to know what’s best for someone else feel very familiar as most of us know that type of person. “Germ Theory” is an easy track that helps get the listener in the mood for the rest of the release.

The second track off of The Great Exchange from Welsh Avenue is called “Blue Eyes”. The first verse to the song consists of just DiLillo and a piano as he sings about being in love. The music of the track then segues to a much fuller sound as the track takes on a more Indie Rock feel. Like the first track of “Germ Theory,” “Blue Eyes” has a gentle feel to the music but contains a slightly heavier feel to the music as DiLillo adds many levels of complexity to the music. Those musical levels create a track that features a strong pop/rock beat while still remaining rather light in nature. Of the first two tracks from the EP, “Blue Eyes” seems to be the more commercial track.

The third track off of the new EP from Welsh Avenue is the title track. Unlike the first two tracks, “The Great Exchange” finds Mark DiLillo creating a track with some real backbone to it. The track features a sound that combines New Wave elements with a few Techno elements to create a song that picks up the energy level quite a bit. The resulting track would easily have been welcome on college radio stations back in the late seventies/early eighties when New Wave was at its peak. At the same time, the track would also have been just as welcome on those same college radio stations about ten years later during the early days of Alternative Rock. “The Great Exchange” from Welsh Avenue is easily the strongest, and best, track on the EP.

Mark DiLillo brings his debut EP to a close with the track “Time to Fly”. As with the track “Germ Theory” from earlier in the release, DiLillo uses real life as a basis for the lyrics to this track about knowing when to let go and say goodbye. The heartbreaking lyrics contained within the song and the rather somber music that goes along with them add an element of sorrow to the otherwise upbeat EP.

While only four songs long, The Great Exchange EP features songs that are rather different from one song to the next. The variety in the tracks showcases the talents of a singer-songwriter Mark DiLillo. The EP also suggests that there is much more to the singer-songwriter than what is found on the release. Future releases should be just as interesting. Keep your eyes and ears open for Mark DiLillo and his musical project called Welsh Avenue.

To hear music from Mark DiLillo, check out The Great Exchange from Welsh Avenue HERE on Bandcamp.

Check out the video to the song “The Great Exchange” HERE.


Canadian-born musician and singer-songwriter Frederic Casimir took a step towards his dream of being part of the music industry and enrolled in Berklee College of music where he earned two music degrees. With an additional two degrees to go along with them, Casimir decided he needed a stage name. Today, Frederic Casimir is known as Freddie Atlas. Freddie Atlas divides his time between creating music that follows along with the education he received at Berklee and more pop-influenced music. Recently after releasing songs like “Vain” and “Visions” that are more orchestral in nature, Freddie Atlas went in a more pop-influenced direction and created the single called “Wicked Game”. “Wicked Game” is a song originally written and released by Chris Isaak. And while the original version released by Isaak is a fully fleshed-out pop-rock track that was created using the guitar as the main instrument, the newly recorded version of the song by Freddie Atlas breaks the song down into a very subtle, yet lush arrangement of just the piano and his vocals. Taking the track and arranging it to include the piano instead of the guitar was a great decision as it takes the song in a completely different direction than the original version. The new version of the song features vocals from Freddie Atlas. Atlas is one singer who can actually handle the vocals of this song as his voice and Chris Isaak’s vocals are very similar to each other. That similarity helps Atlas to create a version of “Wicked Game” that seems to have the same musical beauty as Chris Issak’s version. And while the two versions of the song are very similar in nature, Freddie Atlas’ vocal and the beautiful piano combine to create an arrangement that does more to bring out the beauty in the lyrics from Isaak than Isaak’s own version of the track. I can truly say that I really like this version of “Wicked Game” from Freddie Atlas as it keeps much of the original concept of the song from Chris Isaak while Freddie Atlas takes the song in a much different direction because of the use of a different instrument as the basis for the music of the song. A great arrangement and great vocal add up to a cover version that is as good as or better than the original.

Reviewer: Matheson Kamin

Rating: ***** (five stars)

(Click HERE to see the video to “Wicked Game” from Freddie Atlas.)


Take one frontman who sings and plays keyboards and match him up with another musician who used to play jazz guitar, match them up with a drummer to add the backbone to the music and you have the core to the Portland-based band Ravishers. Frontman Dominic Castillo and guitarist Jonathan Barker are joined by drummer Nathan Szytel and several others to complete the music for the band.

Together, the resulting group known as Ravishers is a musical outfit that features a sound that alternates between guitar-driven and piano-driven. That guitar/piano mix from the band is found on their various releases. Having already put out one EP entitled Singles for Singles, the band has returned with a new self-titled release.

The self-titled release from Ravishers begins with the track “I’m Him”. The track begins with just a light piano and drums before the guitar joins in. The track finally builds to include the bass about a minute in and from then on, the band creates a pop-driven feel to the music that features both guitar and piano equally. The classic line-up of piano, guitar, bass and drums of the track gives the album a great rock feel.

While “I’m Him” has a pop-rock feel using the combination of piano, bass and drums, the band’s second track of “You Have It” has more of a sparse feel to the music as the same piano, bass and drums are used to create a much more simplistic feel to the music. In fact, at times, the music consists of only piano and drums. At other times, the entire combination of piano, bass and drums as well as guitar come together to create the music in the track. And even though Castillo, Barker and Szytel create a much looser feel to the music on this track there is definitely no energy loss to the rock music. In fact, “You Have It” seems to have a much more commercial feel to it than the previous track.

With the next track of “The Chase,” the band creates a song that features an alternating feel to the energy level of the music. At times, the song has a pop-like feel to the music while at other times; the band lets the music’s energy take control of the pace of the song. The resulting track allows the piano, guitar and bass shine as Castillo sings about enjoying the give and take of a relationship. With this song, you can almost imagine the song being released as a single to be played on your local Alternative Rock radio station.

Perhaps the most commercial track on the self-titled album from Ravishers is the song “Cruel Love”. The lyrics of the track seem to be perfect to follow the previous track of “The Chase”. With a musical combination that finds the piano, guitar, bass and drums of the band coming together in almost equal parts, “Cruel Love” features a much stronger rock feel to the music than the previous song while still having the same lyrical connection. “Cruel Love” is probably the first time on the album where you will find yourself singing along with the song.

Another track on the self-titled release from Ravishers that has a strong rock feel is the song “Underachievers”. This is a track that seems to have Castillo and Barker working together to create a song that doesn’t feature the piano or the guitar more than the other. The seemingly flawless blending of the two instruments helps to give the track a lot of depth. The track features one of the best lines in rock to come along in years: “It’s nowhere or bust.” That little hint of humor give the track even more character.

Probably the best-known track off of the self-titled album from Ravishers is the song “Keep You Around”. In fact, the song was actually created at the time that the band was known as Dominic Castillo and the Rock Savants. “Keep You Around” has one of the best beats of any track off the release and could easily become a fan favorite. Although the rest of the album features the band sticking strictly to creating their songs using the members of the band, this track finds stepping outside of the usual quartet setting by bringing in an additional singer. It is Kelly Mesigat who lends her voice to the track as she and Dominic Castillo create a duet of sorts as the two sing of being lonely if they ever said goodbye to each other. Not really the most romantic of concepts, “Keep You Around” could be considered an Anti-love song.

The track “Nobody Falls in Love Anymore” is one track that really brings the piano to the forefront of the music. The piano-based song features a slightly different feeling than the rest of the tracks on the album as it features a horn section. The sad feeling of the music and lyrics also separate the track from the rest of the music on the album as the rest of the release is much more upbeat.

“Happening” brings the album to a close. The track is one song that really allows former jazz guitarist Jonathan Barker to show off his skills as a rock guitarist. The guitar from Barker makes the track feel like an all-out rock song….while the song still keeps enough pop feeling to it to not feel out of place with the rest of the release.

From the first track of the self-titled album from Ravishers, the listener gets to experience a band that has a lot of depth to their writing. Because of the piano/guitar base for the band’s sound, the album transitions nicely from one style of music to the next. And with the two different approaches to the band’s songwriting being blended into one album, Ravishers has a sound that many will find to be appealing.

Click HERE for the video to “Keep You Around”.

The previous review is for an album that came out in 2010. Another writer for The Rock and Roll Report, Katherine Miller-Rowan, had created an article for the band at the same time I was going to and I didn’t want to end up with another article on the website. However, I recently discovered the article by Katherine Miller-Rowan was actually an interview of the band and not a review of their album. This review is to make good on my promise to review the album.

As both Dominic Castillo and Jonathan Barker are professional musicians, they have other projects they are currently working on. Both Castillo and Barker have since moved on from Ravishers.

Click HERE for the band’s PR Firm, In Music We Trust PR.

Julia Wade is a singer that has spent time singing both classical and popular songs. Taking time to learn the two different musical mindsets allows Wade’s music to reach a wider audience. Having already created a library of CDs, Julia Wade has just created a new album to expand that library. The newest CD from Julia Wade is entitled Solos; Solos features 12 songs that were written around prose from Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy.

When creating an album, the first thing that needs to happen is choosing the right person or people to help you make the album the way you want it. For Julia Wade, the person who helped create the album of Solos is Peter Link. Peter link has long list of releases that include Broadway compositions as well as inspirational albums. When partnered up with Julia Wade for the Solos, the two artists create a beautiful and moving release that is also inspirational.

The Solos album begins with the song “Beauty”. The first song of the album is a quiet and comforting song about the beauty of all things in life. Julia Wade’s voice blends well with the soft organ music from Peter Link.

For the second track of the release entitled “Today,” the song begins with Link taking a jazzier approach to the music on this piece. The lyrics from Mary Baker Eddy about taking the chance that today gives you to start over are sung by Julia Wade with the same type of jazzy feel that Link’s music has. The music, lyrics and vocals on this song seem to have the effect to make you feel the positive vibe the lyrics contain.

With the song of “Mind’s Camera,” Mary Baker Eddy’s words of accepting what is real in both reality and in religious ideas are sung by Julia Wade with conviction and the same can be said about the playing of Peter Link on the piano. The resulting track is once again full of beauty as the singer and pianist intertwine as if they are one.

While the lyrics of the new album from Julia Wade come from Christian Science Mary Baker Eddy, the song “One” takes on a more educational feel. In fact, the prose that makes up “One” makes the song feel as odd as the songs that used to be played in elementary school science classes. Moreover, “One” may even bring to mind other “educational” takes on science such as the remake of the song “Why Does the Sun Shine?” that was made popular by the band They Might be Giants.

With the next song of “Divine Love,” Julia Wade sings a song that feels more like a Contemporary Christian song. And while there is the ever-present Christian Science thought process running through the song, the listener can truly enjoy a beautiful song about love.

One of the coolest tracks on the release is the song “The Sculptor”. The words about being the ones to “shape” what you see around you are matched well with music by Peter Link that has a slight funky feel to it. While most of the songs on Solos are “easy listening” songs, “The Sculptor” has more of a groove to it than most of the album.

The song “Creation” takes the listener through just a short trip through some of the main ideas that make up the basis of the Christian Science faith. The ideas of “creation” and “The Creator” are well-represented in this beautifully sung track.

The prose from Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy fills the tracks that make up the album Solos from Julia Wade. Even though many may find the lyrics a bit unusual at times, the songs themselves are strong and beautiful. And while the religious views of the Christian Science religion fill the album, it is the voice of Julia Wade and the piano playing of Peter link that really shine through. With each track of the album, the listener understands why Julia Wade and Peter link came together to create this album of beautiful vocals, well-composed music and thought-provoking words. Religious concepts aside, the easy listening, relaxing feel of the songs contained within the Solos album from Julia Wade make for a release that many will enjoy.

Click HERE for the video to “Beauty” by Julia Wade

ImageAdam Gilbert’s A Generation of Forgotten Kings is one of those rare finds- an alternative pop/rock album created using the piano as the main instrument that all of the songs are based around. The piano helps make the album different from the vast majority of the alternative rock albums out there….and that difference is what makes A Generation of Forgotten Kings so refreshing.

The newest release from Adam Gilbert starts with the title track,“A Generation of Forgotten Kings”. The 10-second a’capella chant that begins the track gives the listener some indication that this release may be just a little different. And when Jonathan Lamb’s electric guitar leads the instruments for the next few seconds, you get the impression of a straight-out alternative release. It isn’t until Gilbert’s piano shows up 40 seconds into the track that you get a real sense of what to expect. In fact, with the addition of Gilbert’s piano, the track feels like an alternative rock song with a large orchestral influence. The rock band, Gilbert’s piano and the return of the chant from the beginning of the track all combine to create a track that captures the listener and refuses to let them go. The decision to make “A Generation of Forgotten Kings” the lead-off track to the album (and consequently, the title track of the release, as well) was a very bold move that pays off in a large way.

“How Do We Respond,” the second track off the release, also begins with a’capella: The first couple of seconds of the track start with just Adam Gilbert’s strong tenor voice and gradually transitions into something that might remind you of a song by Marc Cohn. The pop/rock feel of the song alternates between Gilbert’s piano and the guitar playing of Jonathan Lamb, creating a tune that goes well with the lyrics written by Gilbert about not knowing exactly what to say when things happen.

With the track “On a Hill,” you really get a chance to hear the talent of Adam Gilbert as a piano player: For most of the five minutes of the track, it is just Gilbert on the piano being backed up by bassist Jason Fraticelli and Mark Guiliana on the drums. The three musicians create a track that sounds a lot like something that Billy Joel might have written. When the rest of the musicians come in to fill out the sound of the song, the band once again creates a track that has an orchestral feel, kind of like seeing Gilbert live on stage in concert.

One of the most powerful tracks on the latest release from Adam Gilbert is the song “A Little Emotion”. Along with the strong lyrics from Gilbert on this track, the rest of the musicians help Adam create a song that contains the right amount of feeling to pull at the heart. This track features Nathan Goehen on bass as well as Leena Gilbert on violin. In fact, it is Leena Gilbert’s playing that truly brings the “emotion” in this song.

You can tell that an album is very strong when a song as strong as Adam Gilbert’s “Better” comes late in the album’s playlist. “Better” is a song about looking forward to times that aren’t so hopeless and trying. The music is very upbeat and helps to boost the positive message of the lyrics. And when the song finally builds to the big crescendo, the listener gets to experience some of the best playing from all of the musicians involved with the song. This could easily be the best track on the album.

While Adam Gilbert is the writer/singer/piano player and the main point of interest on his release, his album of A Generation of Forgotten Kings was created in such a way to allow all musicians involved the chance to shine as much as Gilbert himself, and the musicians that helped are a major reason why the album is so strong. Guitarists Jonathan Lamb, Matt Jaworski and Steve Berstein all help shape the music, while bassists Jason Fraticelli and Nathan Goehen along with drummers Mark Guiliana (who also helped produce the album) and Shawn Baltazor give the song their strength to help make the release so solid.

Taking Adam Gilbert’s talent as a piano player, his strong yet charming voice, his talent as a songwriter and the talented musicians who helped create this release, you end up with an album that is strong from the first note until it ends one hour later. A Generation of Forgotten Kings leaves you wanting more, a sure sign of how solid an album can be.

ImageConnecticut native Lauren Edman is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter that has taken her abilities as a singer and started creating her own songs that would make use of her strong yet soft voice. Musically, you could compare Edman to writer/pianists like Fiona Apple and Tori Amos while vocally, her voice may remind you of a combination of Fiona Apple and Kate Bush; musical approach that seems like a combination of pop, indie and folk with a little opera thrown in. This unique vocal/musical style can be heard on Lauren Edman’s new release entitled It’s Always the Quiet One.

Lauren Edman’s It’s Always the Quiet One begins with the track “Wasting”. The song features a light musical feel while Edman’s vocals are strong and light at the same time. The soft approach of the music on the track makes for the perfect beginning track to the release, as the listener gets just a hint of what Edman’s music is about.

The piano takes center stage on the beginning of the album’s second track “Slate”. The piano is later mixed with other orchestral sounds along with a light percussive effect that all come together to create a beautiful track that gives Edman’s voice a chance to shine in the gentle feeling of the music.

“Charge” is one of the most commercial tracks on the release. The track begins with Lauren Edman’s synthesizer creating a light musical line that features one note at a time before it eventually builds with many other keyboard elements to make a song that would be a perfect fit on soft rock stations. One of the best parts of the track is the lyrics sung by Edman. Her voice is very lovely on this song and the layering harmonies give that voice a lot of depth on the song.

On the song “Be the Light,” it is truly Lauren Edman’s voice that takes center stage. While she does create a musical landscape for her vocals on this track, the music of this track is very minimal, adding only the slightest amount of melody under her voice. The minimalist nature of the track takes nothing away from the beauty that Edman has created in the music for the tune.

Another track that will catch the ear of the listener is the song “Silent”.With this track, Edman adds a slightly different feel to her music. The track features more than just the sound of her piano or keyboards. The addition of the clarinet on the track gives a more classical feel to the song, which might remind some of a song from a Broadway musical. This is one of the strongest tracks, though also one of the album’s shortest songs.

“This Is It” is a track that should find a place in the hearts of fans of music that can be heard on reality shows like American Idol. The song allows Edman to show off her ability to hit the high notes more than most of the other songs on the release. It’s also the type of song that many people could find themselves enjoying.

The album comes to a close with the song “She’s Not Here”. The light, slow pace of the song brings the album to a close in a very gentle way. The track once again allows Edman’s to shine through.

The new release from Lauren Edman is a piano-driven album that features a lot of great tracks from a talented singer-songwriter. From the beginning track of “Wasting” to the final track of “She’s Not Here,” the songs play out with an easy feel to their musical approach. And the minimalist approach to the production of the music allows the listener to enjoy the lyrics and vocals from Edman as she sings her way through the ten tracks that make up the release. The tracks “Slate,” “Sweet Girl,” and “Silent,” are just some of the best tracks on the release. If you are a fan of musicians like Tori Amos, Fiona Apple or even Kate Bush, you’ll find plenty to enjoy on the 2012 release It’s Always the Quiet One from Lauren Edman.

You may have heard of the fabulous singer named Markeisha Ensley, but if you haven’t you’re missing out. Like Alicia Keys before her, Markeisha is not only a fine singer, she can also play the piano. But as a teacher and an artist as well, this New York-based singer-songwriter has so much to offer. With the style of music that Markeisha creates, it’s only a matter of time before the whole world becomes familiar with this up-and-coming musical artist.
Markeisha Ensley is currently in the middle of her solid release entitled Talk to Me. This five-song release takes the talent of this siger-songwriter and gives the world just a sample of what she can do. Talk to Me from Markeisha Ensley begins with the track “Maybe”. “Maybe” is a mid-tempo R&B track with a lot of emothion as Markeisha sings about her feelings to her love. The horns in the background help create a song that has more depth than most of the R&B songs out there today. This track also features solo from Ensley that shows off her ability on the piano.
The second track on the Talk to Me release is the song “Still Yours”. The song begins with a sound that will immediately remind you of “You Can’t Hurry Love” from the Supremes. The R&B/pop song itself also sounds like something that would have been released on the Motown record label back during the mid-fifties and would have sounded right at home on the radio at that time. Markeisha’s voice on this track is very strong and the layering effect used during the recording process gives you the idea that Markeisha is singing with herself. That layering effect adds stength to the song.
For the third song of the EP, Markeisha performs the title track to the CD. “Talk to Me” is a song that has much to offer the listener: With all of the different parts to the song, each listener will find something that will grab their attention. Whether it’s the R&B base to the music, the jazz undertones, the french lyrics, or Ensley’s beautiful voice, the title track of her new CD is probably the strongest song. You’ll find yourself wanting to hear the song over and over again.
“Break Free,” the fourth song of the new release from Markeisha Ensley (and the title track), begins with a 17-second a’capella section. If you wanted to hear what Ensley could do with her voice, this is the perfect time to check her out. After that initial 17-second break, the song continues with a strong R&B feel to the music. “Break Free” features a slightly stronger beat than “Talk to Me” and like the album’s title track, “Break Free” is a strong enough to find its way onto the radio as a single.
Markeisha slows the pace down for the fifth and final track of her new release. That final track is titled “Someone to Love”. “Someone to Love” is a beautiful love song about looking for that special someone. The song is a simple track that features Markeisha on vocals and keys with strings in the background adding some flavor to the emotional song. The emotion in the lyrics as well as the beautiful music make for a beautiful pairing and really create a wonderfully emotional song.
With the release of her new CD entitled Talk to Me, this is the perfect time to check out the talent and music of Markeisha Ensley. There is much to enjoy with her new release, and the music on the new EP will give fans of R&B a reason to smile.