A Synergy Of Expansive Opposites

Sarah Jane Mary Hills – EP Child of Ancestors

cover image - Child of Ancestors

A short Review and an Interview with Sarah Jane Mary Hills by Helge Janssen

All Artwork featured by SJMH ©

Another Review of this album can be found here

 

There is a quote on Sarah Jane Mary Hills’ FB page by Georgia O’Keeffe:

“I’m frightened all the time. But I never let it stop me. Never!”

flower -  photography SJMH

 

Born in England but spending most of her life in South Africa, Sarah Jane Mary Hills has been an active songwriter for fourteen years having begun her musical career as a bass player and backing vocalist in South African band Sunways. After performing, writing and winning Best Rock album at the South African Music Awards with the band and touring extensively between 2003/6 in Ireland and England, Sarah returned to Durban where she is currently based. Aryan Kaganof (artist, author, film and documentary maker) made an exquisite video (The Portrait of a Lady) of her first solo song “Dirty Slut” (2007).

 

Child of Ancestors is Sarah’s debut solo EP and bristles with inventiveness and originality. Its like something I have never heard before…it slides and slips between rhythms, levels, depths; illusively, trying to escape detection – like an extremely rare creature (an alien combination of animal, fish, plant and human) that has a finely attuned radar that only allows it to have brief moments in moon shadow to forage for food and water at specific depths of the night. And, should it linger a moment too long, its fragility would be the cause of its demise like Cinderella at midnight.

Conversely, it is this same appreciation of lingering, hovering, floating that forms the backbone and strength of Child of Ancestors. This solid mix of extraordinary opposites has resulted in an artistic gravitas which makes the album such a wonderous achievement. Its as if Sarah has taken her detailed close up images of flowers (a photographic passion she has pursued for many years) capturing an ethereal translucent beauty, a world of intricate detail, and transformed them into sound!

petals - photography SJMH

 

This discernment of artistic consciousness permeates the poetic and lyrical phrasing of the rhythms. The sense of time lapse and free form in the musical structure has an expansive impressive and expressive effect. Sarah’s guitar work swirls, strums and provokes through the aural landscape. The lyrics stretch the poetic import underpinning the metre in a dreamlike, meditative and layered (Sarah also on backing vocals and harmonies) exploration of ‘eternal time’. The guitars are crisp and warm. Additional instrumentation, mixing and mastering is by Warrick Sony at Milestone Studios, Cape Town.

“Only Love” is undoubtedly my favourite:

I can hear the sound

music’s all around

the wind is singing

that there is only love

there is only love

it is in the breezes bringing

and if you don’t know

then you will

if you just let it flow

then it will

so find a way to look within

the grace of love is everything

the clouds are just like angels wings

and if you listen you can hear the wind

singing

that there is only love

there is only love

 

I was privileged to be granted an exclusive Sarah Jane Mary Hills interview:

 

H.J.: When were these songs penned?

 

I began writing my own material in 2005. My mother had just passed away and it was a way of dealing with the pain of that event. At the same time I decided I didn’t have the energy required to continue with being an active live member of Sunways. We were making headway in the UK but were also having to do full time day jobs. After the struggle of being a professional musician in South Africa, especially with the constant touring, and then emigrating and attempting the same frenetic pace overseas I was just plain exhausted.

Robbie Boake and I maintained the songwriting side of things and worked on demos for a future Sunways album for a number of years as well as working on our side-project called Ambient Anarchy which was more instrumentally based (guitar and bass) and free-form.

SUNWAYS1

I started thinking seriously about making an album of my own in about 2007 after I released the song Dirty Slut and got a lovely response from it. Previously I had never considered myself as a singer even though I had done backing vocals in the band but I guess it gave me the confidence to believe that perhaps I could be a songwriter in my own right.

About a year after that Robbie and I split up permanently and this had a profound effect on me. I started working on journals, writing in order to make some sense of everything that had happened over the previous few years. The therapeutic writing became something I did so regularly that it wasn’t long before lyric writing became something I did automatically.

Some of the songs on Child Of Ancestors were written a number of years back and some are more recently penned. And all were recorded over the last couple of years in my makeshift studio at home.

 

H.J.: How and when did you connect up with Warrick? (Warrick Sony of Kalahari Surfers fame)

 

I have known Warrick Sony for many years and worked with him for a time at Shifty Records in Johannesburg. I have always been a great admirer of his musical work and he’s a wonderful person. When Warrick heard some of the songs I had on my Myspace page he got in contact with me and asked me whether I would be prepared to do a vocal track for one of his songs on his album, One Party State. It worked out really well and I ended up doing some more singing on his recently released album, Agitprop.

Earlier this year Warrick suggested that I start sending him some of my own songs and suggested that he mix them for me. I had been worrying about how to approach the album because I didn’t feel that what I’d been recording was good enough. In the end I decided to try and relax with it and started sending him some of my tracking and he began the mixing process.

I love what he’s done to the tracks. He’s left them sparse and pared down but at the same time has added some very subtle instrumentation into some of them that adds to the dreamy quality of the music and that’s exactly what I wanted.

 

HJ: What was the easiest part and the most difficult part about this project?

 

I suppose the most difficult part of the project has been my set-up at home. I have a dodgy interface that only allows me to mic up instruments and I have no soundproofing, so there was a lot of background noise and hiss that Warrick had to deal with. I think the best part was putting the discs with my tracking on into envelopes and posting them to Cape Town and knowing that the process was underway.

 

H.J.: Are there any performance plans?

 

I’m considering doing some performing. I’m also doing a lot of writing at the moment, finishing some songs that I hadn’t had a chance to complete before, and working on new material. Child Of Ancestors is really just the beginning for me and I would dearly love to put out another album next year. I am also keen to continue collaborating with other artists and have plans to do an album of South African cover versions at some point.

SUNWAYS3

 

Sunways – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1ipx0ndkVA

Dirty Slut – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Bc2XdDMrO8

http://www.sarahjanemaryhills.bandcamp.com

http://www.myspace.com/sarahjanemaryhills

“Child of Ancestors” is being distributed by Sjambok Music, Cape Town.

 

Tracks from the Album can be heard all over the 24 Hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio

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The NBT Essence Of The Song Hour

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Along with our normal cool selection of Independent men and women skilled in the fine art of creating the perfect song we also have:

In November/December Featured Artists brought to you by the wonderful folks at Hemifran

An independent A&R, promotion and marketing company, based in the heart of Sweden,

The Artists they represent range from the USA’s finest Americana/Country/Rock outfits, to Europe’s most talented singer/songwriters, and EVERYTHING in between.

We asked some of the Artists featured a few questions about their craft and the creation of their music.

The Artists:

Marshall Lawrence

http://www.doctorblues.com/

NBT:  Why the Blues in 2011? What can a youngster discovering your album or indeed hearing Robert Johnson for the first time get out of that experience in this all too cynical age?

Marshall: I would hope that they would discover that the Blues is a “healing” music. It allows you to express what you feel any way you want. Some people say that the blues is a down music; you know it’s sad and depressing, but it’s not. The blues is actually a happy music. You may be singing about some bad patches in your life but through the singing you are working through it and passing on a lesson to whoever is listening. Through the telling you feel good and so does the listener. Everyone can identify with the blues. Blues helps us laugh at our troubles, helps us put them in perspective and helps us move on. It lets us know that we are not the only ones that have experienced bad patches in life and have got through them and moved on. I’d also like the listener to discover that when playing/singing the Blues you need to be real and you need to be able to tell a good story. If you’re singing about a break-up in a relationship, well, you really need to know what a relationship is all about. You need to have had life experience to really put the emotion, to put the feeling, to put the healing aspects in your song and into the Blues.

 NBT: Your band on the album is extremely stripped down, minimal, what was the motivation for that?

I’ve labeled my style of music “Neo-Delta Acid Blues & Roots” – Delta-style Blues & Roots with a Raw Edge and an Acid Twist – to describe the combination of all the various styles of music that I’ve played and now infuse into the blues and also for my fiery and adrenaline driven approach to playing blues & roots. Ultimately, it is important to me to respect the tradition but also make each song my own. Originality is very important to me!!

When I write and record my general rule of thumb is “less is more”. My approach to writing and playing music is simply to have fun and let the music flow. I like to picture the listener sitting and listening to my music at 3 a.m., closing their eyes, and feeling as though they were in the room with me. I want it to be a very intimate musical experience for the listener. Ultimately I would like my fans to say and remember that my style of blues was original and that I brought something new to blues and roots. I want them to say that I had a unique sound and that my music made them feel good and less alone in this world – that my music made them feel connected to others, to me, to my music, and to the Blues.

Marshall can ALSO be heard during the NBT JazzNBlues Hour which goes out every day at 9 PM Berlin Time (3 PM New York Time)

Happy Endings

http://www.thehappyendings.com.au/

NBT:  Virtually every song on the album sounds like a potential single, is that something that you strive for, from the writing thru to the studio, or is it something that just ‘happens’?

Happy Endings:  Kind of, we did write 40 songs for this album, which we made demos of. We played those demos to our friends and family and a select few fans and these were the 14 songs of those 40 that got the most thumbs up. There were some which I love which we didn’t record; maybe down the track we’ll do something with them.

NBT:  I get the sense that the band would be great live, a party band as it were, yet the lyrics are somewhat darker than expected, how do you juggle those elements so well?

Happy Endings:  It’s funny you say that. I wasn’t aware til all of the songs were all finished and we were listening to the album together and I thought ‘jeez, there are some dark lyrics here’. We are not dark, sad, morbid people. We are always having a laugh and in good spirits, perhaps by writing darker lyrics we get rid of any negativity in our lives and can just be happy all the time. Music is our therapy I guess
The Happy endings will ALSO be going out during the hours of 5 pm/6 pm Melbourne Time (8 am / 9 am Europe time)

 Gerry Griffin

http://www.gerrygriffinmusic.com

NBT:  The songs date back as far as ten years ago, why did it take so long for them to get onto an album, and why now?

Gerry: It has taken this long because we decided to gradually build our own recording studio for our CD projects rather than to use commercial studios. I have a large number of songs to record and it costs a great deal more to pay someone else for studio time than to use our own facility.

In fact, we are presently finishing a new CD, tentatively called ‘Not Noticing’. It has drums and bass on all the songs with the intention of making it a more “radio friendly” CD than ‘Moment to Moment’. It too has material written some years back as well as more recent compositions.

NBT:  Chasing The Dragon tho written some time ago, could have been written right now about the tragic circumstances of Amy Winehouse, does it sadden you that this story never seems to get old.

Gerry: ‘Chasing the Dragon’ was composed many years ago when I was imprisoned in North Africa as a memorial to my dear friend and fellow inmate Ketami Mohamed whom we lost to a heroin overdose. Heroin addiction was and is a most pitiful and powerful sickness that continues to rob many people, young and old alike, of their otherwise useful and productive lives. It is indeed a human tragedy.

Dan Krikorian

http://www.dankrikorian.com/

NBT:  as I listen to the album, it seems to me to perfectly fit the autumn weather outside, was this ‘mood’ that runs thru the album intentional?

Dan:  There was definitely a “mood” that we were going for, and I think that the Autumn weather is a good way to describe it. I wrote most of the album during the season of Autumn a year ago and somehow that may have crept into the overall feel of it. Autumn is my favorite time of year

NBT:  for those of us that don’t know :) what exactly is a ‘Quincy Girl’?

Dan: A “Quincy Girl” was a term I used to describe a girl from the town of Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.A., which is where my Grandparents met and fell in love. The song is about their 50 years together and their journey through love’s ups and downs. A girl from “Quincy” at that time, like my Grandma, was from the upper-middle class and lived more of a comfortable lifestyle, while my Grandpa came from a rougher neighborhood…hence the line…”I’m a poor boy, you’re a Quincy girl.”

 Steve Mednick

http://www.stevemednick.com/

 NBT:  The album, from the title on, runs counter to a lot of political thinking and posturing going on , not only in the USA but the world in general, has the album sparked debate? and how important is it for musicians to speak about issues such as this and Have you had any similar on tour experiences, like CSNand Y had in that recent film of theirs

Steve: The album started out as homage to the USA as a “melting pot”….my forebears are from Odessa and Warsaw. For them the American Revolution and Civil War were stories from the past. Yet immigration has become a hot ticket item and, in my view, a betrayal of our heritage, culture and notions of civility. It has never been easy for immigrants and the streets are not paved with gold but each successive wave of immigrants overcame discrimination and fought for the opportunity to break out and become an American. I am ashamed of the elements of the tea party and the Republicans who churn out rage and revulsion in the guise of public policy. So an album that was meant solely as a story of that history has polemical elements that take on BP and big oil, the tea party, Wall Street hooligans, the American right-wing and the menacing voices of Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly and Fox News.

Ultimately art has to be a reflection of society…if could be of past triumphs of the nation, the status quo or the aspirations of greater society. It is hard for me to detach from the real world I live in just because I am writing a song. I don’t know about other musicians because as a former elected official I am in a small class (although I didn’t make it to Congress like John Hall of Orleans) where political discourse was and is a big part of my life. People who know me understand where I am coming from and people who meet me or listen to my music certainly will very quickly. While my music is not dominated by political diatribes I do admire artists, writers and musicians who wear their convictions on their sleeves and still do not compromise their art. I was at shows by CSN&Y, C&N and Stills and I admire their willingness to stand up (and take them on)…maybe that is what my song is all about. If I have occasion to sing on a mass level I would like to have their courage.

 NBT:  ”The Flood’ in particular oozes with the blue collar anger and mystic that Springsteen has made his own over the years, is he an inspiration?

Steve: Of course he is. I greatly admire Springsteen’s energy and commitment. He is not that much older than I am so I would say that he probably has built on the tradition of his forebears: Stephen Stills (a former delegate to Democratic Party conventions), Graham Nash, David Crosby, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Bonnie Raitt, Harry Belafonte and Paul Robeson. Tom Morelo is one of the great followers of that tradition today.

I also want to thank you for picking on “The Flood”. The song is all about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the widening gap between rich and poor and the resultant concentration of power and wealth in America. While I have aspired and grabbed on to a piece of the American dream I don’t see that as an end unto itself. I see the real dream as a continual struggle not just for self actualization and success for your family…but for the community and nation as a whole. While some embrace the constitution as a sacred document…I view it as an imperfect yet remarkable legal foundation for rights….that must continually be read, interpreted and implemented. It is not static and it is not a religious tract. Moreover, the dream does not come from the words of the constitution but the living of the principles that are found within

Marcus Eaton

http://www.marcuseaton.com/fr_home.cfm

 NBT:  A lot of the songs on the album have a very 70s/early 80s Blue eyed soul kinda feel, (early Hall and Oates for example came to mind) can you share some of the artists that inspire you musically?

Marcus: I am inspired by a number of different artists and styles of music beginning with my father Steve, who is an amazing songwriter. (He could be compared to James Taylor and is also heavily influenced by Ray Charles.) Perhaps this is where some of my soul sound comes from.
By default, I am influenced by his original music and the artists he loves (The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Ray Charles, etc.) Having this background gave me an appreciation for great songwriting and once I started playing guitar I began listening to many diverse musicians.
To name a few; Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Billy McLaughlin, Tim Reynolds, Sting/The Police, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Pat Metheny, Dave Matthews, Al Di Meola, Vicente Amigo, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bonnie Raitt, Derek Trucks, David Crosby, Brad Mehldau, Bob Marley…
There are so many great musicians and I pick out different things that I appreciate about each one of them. My sound comes from combining eclectic influences and techniques to create something new, original and innovative.

NBT:  Eleven is a gentle revolution song, a subtle call to arms yet also intimate, tell us more about its creation and writing.

Marcus: Eleven was written when I lived in Seattle. I was up late writing a song and I had reached dead end…I began playing something totally different to take a break and that is what became Eleven. It was an almost instantaneous guitar part and the lyrics also came to me very quickly. I had the chorus done before I went to bed. For me, this song represents something I have always wanted to say. It is a subtle call to arms in the sense that is asking people to unify to change the world in a positive way. It is also recognizing the infinite possibilities of the future. Even the title Eleven comes from the numerology 11:11 meaning we are all one.

Janni Littlepage

http://jannilittlepage.com/

NBT:  Does an ‘alternate version of a ‘Delicate Dance’ with the lyrics sung exist, perhaps to be included on a retrospective box set in a few years time! :)

Janni: It exists only in my mind at this time! Yet, it is something I would love to see happen further on. The lyric is still in poem form, so it would need to be altered significantly in order to accompany the existing melody … or the melody altered to accommodate the lyric. So, now you’ve inspired me to revisit this sooner than later! ;)

‘A Delicate Dance’ is actually a reprise of a melody of another song on my album, ‘The Buckeye Tree’, which was written several years prior. In 2008, when I met Johan Seige of Vasteras, Sweden, we were attending a week-long Listening Room International songwriters retreat in Big Sur, California, and Johan was to become my co-writer on both of these songs.

At our first writing session, I brought along the poem, ‘A Delicate Dance’, that had come to me in a dream a few hours earlier (which rarely happens…let me just point that out!) and I also brought a verse and a chorus melody. I intended only to ‘show’ Johan the poem, and perhaps work with the melody, but he was very emphatic that he felt they belonged together!

However, I had nearly lost my voice with laryngitis and could barely whisper, so singing was completely out of the question for me! And though he has a brilliant memory, Johan happens to be blind, so it was not possible within the time we had together, for him to memorize the poem and sing it back to me in order for us to develop it, so we simply decided to let it be an instrumental piece inspired by a poem. Johan then wrote a beautiful bridge which tied all the elements together, and it became the song form that appears now on my album. And as for the future … “a retrospective box set” sounds like a brilliant idea! ;)

NBT: So much care was taken with the stories behind the songs, the booklet with the CD was a pleasure to read as the music played, does this filter through into your live performances, do you see yourself as a storyteller ?

Janni: Thank you, Martin! … Yes absolutely, I do consider myself a storyteller! In fact, a storyteller even before a vocalist, musician or performer. In live performances, I do attempt to keep the pre-song-ramble to a minimum, as my songs hopefully speak for themselves … but I will tell the ‘occasional anecdote’ or some randomly related storyline with a tidbit of mirth… ;) And I have been told on a number of occasions over the years,that people come to my shows for the between-song stories and humor, almost as much as for the music. This seems to be a good balance “live”, because I tend to write ratherweighty, poignant material.

Inspiration for my songs have come in many ways … more often than not … I am daydreaming at the piano and some musical phrase surfaces on it’s own. Once in a while, the words will come at this time, but usually there are only emotional ‘images’ that present themselves in the form of melodies, and the story must be developed from that point … translated from an interior dialogue of image and emotion, to a language that is more tangible and understandable to others.

And when I am inspired by an idea … whether it be from an image in a film, a passage in a book, drifts of conversations overheard in the clatter of a cafe, or even an encounter while waiting for a light to change at an intersection … whatever the circumstance, I still eventually go to the piano, my primary instrument, to “translate” these things for me.

Since we are on the subject of storytelling, I must mention that three of the songs on my album are co-written with my friend and longtime lyrical collaborator, Vivien Kooper of Los Angeles. (A Train In the Distance, 1989; This Road Of Your Own Making, 2009; andAll My Days, 2010). We have been writing together since 1988, and it has always been a total joy and an inspiration to work with her. There is a kindred spirit in our creativity, and the way we work together has always been the same. When I receive a lyric or a poem from Vivien, in the first moment that I read her words, the melodies arise unbidden! I’ve never had this experience before with any other writer. It is absolute magic!

I have tremendous respect and admiration for her talent and sensitivity, so when I approach her lyrics, I do so with the utmost care not to change a single word. On occasion, this is not possible and I must change a few lyrics or write a few lines to balance the composition, but generally, the melodic structure is built completely around the framework of her perfectly beautiful lyrics. She is one of the finest storytellers Ihave known, and through working with her, I have deepened my own lyric writing.

When I’ve been asked what ‘kind’ of music I write, I often say that I write “story songs” …which I realize is a fairly baffling term … but I continue to use it because it means something to me. As I have always traversed a number of musical genres in my writing, I still cannot say for certain whether I am a Folk, Pop, Country, Roots or Americana writer … but instead, an amalgam of all these. What I can say is, a common thread that runs through my music and through each of my songs regardless of genre … is that at the heart of each song … is a unique story.

Simone Stevens

http://www.simonestevensmusic.com/

NBT:  ”Just Because” from the windswept lonely intro through to the lyrics, could very well be sung by an elder statesman of music, ( it would fit oh so comfortably on the last few Johnny Cash albums for example) can you tell us a bit more about its creation?

Simone: I think how you describe the intro is pretty fitting since the song is really about the kind of choices only you alone can make. The journey that leads to those desicions can feel a bit lonely at times, a little hazy while wandering around and groping for answers to the big life stuff and the little stuff too. There are so many ways to go about trying to live your life right, and figuring it out can become pretty comical, so I think there is some humor in the song. I’m poking fun at myself a little bit

NBT:  Time, and the way it can be lost, or misused is a theme that runs through the album, so there is a hint of regret spicing up the set, though there is also a lot of hope filtering though, as a songwriter how do you balance regret and hope so well?

Simone: For me, they have been tightly linked. Regret, and I mean really steeping in it (like a cheap tea bag), has lead to hope, a kind of evolution. As for the concept of time, I don’t know anyone who isn’t fascinated by it in some way. It’s a beautiful puzzle, and a slippery sucker.

Ghost Trains

http://ghosttrains.net/

NBT: tho acoustic, the songs all have an extremly modern feel to them, is this balance tween the old fashioned and the new daring and dark difficult to maintain?

GT: I think that because our influences are all pretty retro, from the 60’s and 70’s, the songs come from a certain place in time, but because we record them in quite a modern way, and especially with Tim’s lyrics having modern references – he mentions You Tube in one song – those things combine to make the songs sound the way they do,

NBT: Death crops up quite a lot on the songs, tell us more about the songwriting and where does all this darkness come from! ha ha

GT: I guess that Death, or the spooky images we have played on in the past, is quite evocotive. It’s also metaphorical. The death of something, an ideal, a relationship, and then sometimes a life itself. We’re also pretty deep thinkers on our better days haha! Maybe thats why we are more partial to those subjects.

NBT:  I have been told that the new album will be very different to the ones proceeding it, tell us more.

GT: Well, it wont be free form jazz or anything but yes, it is certainly sounding more polished, with some new instruments being used. Full drums for example, as opposed to hand percussion…bass guitar too. We have also done away with the more complex guitar tunings used – as they are a nightmare on stage when we are constantly having to retune. It still sounds like Ghost Trains, but with a richer, fuller sound.

Poor Billy

http://www.poorbilly.dk/

NBT:  ‘Electric Fields’ is a haunting song with a tightly wound sense of anger thrumming through it, can you tell us a bit about the creation of this song?

PB: It all began with the chorus . We found the hook and the melody to build around.
Then the verses was like building a house brick by brick .
It ended up with a story about modern journalism.
The contrast and choise between being a jounalist, who is honest having a vision or being commercial and selling out for the succes itself.
And it`s in a kind of philosophical lyric, where the singer is a little bit of a sensitive professor (I think)
The arrangement of the song is very much Poor Billy.
On other songs of the album producer Thomas has been in with some good ideas to the arrangement. But this one , he just took it as it was.

NBT:  The album is steeped in americana root rock n rll, how do 4 guys from Denmark latch onto that sound in particular, and what kind of audiences do they find they get for their music in Europe?

PB: I think it is like in Asterix, you know with Obelix…. We fell in the pot , when we were small ….. no just kidding.But we have a natural love and instinct for the style I guess and that makes it.
Our audience is for sure grown-up people in the age from 25 -55, but sometime also younger people love the music.

Simon Elvnäs

http://www.simonelvnas.com/

NBT:  There are several duets on the album, what is it about the female addition to the songs that works so well within the songs?

Simon: I think mainly there are two obvious purposes that give the extra flavor on this album. First of all, I think the dynamics between two people is more interesting than hearing the story of one. The album is not a “one person story” about me, it’s about us, people in general and I’ve tried hard to write songs that people can relate to. Second, my focus, in most of the songs, is to describe the relationship between a man and a woman so it wouldn’t feel right to leave one of them out of the song. All my songs describe the context around us and the relationship between us, just the way it was made from the start.

NBT:  I haven’t heard a Seeger cover for ages (since the Springsteen I would guess) what made you choose this song to cover?

Simon: It was a suggestion from my producer Glen. It was a way to place the album on the international map of storytelling, to blend in with my songs and to hook up with history. The themes I write about are timeless and have been the same for all time. The Seeger song is beautiful and I felt I could deliver it in a sincere and honest way- a tribute to him, to music and to our emotions throughout history.

The Good Intentions

http://www.thegoodintentions.co.uk/

NBT:  Congratulations on winning the ‘Best Americana Band’ award at this years British Country Music Awards, for bands playing this kind of music, what is the scene like in the UK at present and who apart from the Intentions should a fan look out for?

GI:  Thanks for your congratulations. The Americana/alt-country scene in the UK is quite healthy at the moment, in so far as there are some good singers and bands coming through, a small but devoted fanbase, and a great website: Americana UK. The problems are the same as elsewhere, I think, mainly that we get very little mainstream radio play and that it’s getting harder to find good venues to play – people aren’t going out as much because of the economic downturn. Other UK acts to watch out for are Redlands Palomino Co, Two Fingers Of Firewater, Southern Tenant Folk Union and The Travelling Band.

NBT:  The Cover art for the new album is full of old pictures, are all those pictured related to the band members in some way?

GI: Yes, the photos are all from our families’ archives, and mostly of people who are no longer with us. If there’s a theme to the record, it’s of the passing of time, so we thought this worked well.

NBT:  This all suggests a journey into the past, did the band at times find this to be a bittersweet experience, as they created the songs and continued on this adventure?

GI: You are quite right when you talk about many of the songs connecting with the past. As the writer of those songs, I would say that this was never a conscious plan. A lot of my songs are rooted in old time styles, musically and lyrically, and it’s just what I do, it’s the territory in which I work. As the record came together, that theme of recalling the past and of times gone became clearer to us all. Rick Shea, the producer, felt there was overall a melancholy feel to the record, and I think that’s true. I think for each of us in the band there are particular songs on the record which strike an emotional chord, so yes, you could say that it was something of a bittersweet experience, but I think the best country/folk music should make you feel like that sometimes.

Kevin Jones

http://www.taxim.com/

NBT:  ‘Bow Down to the Master’, shares some lyrical themes with Harry Chapin’s ‘Cats in the Cradle’ what caused you to write this song?

Kevin: For Bow Down to The Master I remember that I was just sitting on my couch realizing how quickly my kids were growing up, and thinking about how at family gatherings, things were rotating. Where I used to be one of the young kids I then became an older kid, then I became one of the parents. Now I’m at the stage of life where I could easily be the parent of a parent                         . Anyway, it just made me realize how quickly time goes, how many folks pass on, and how precious time is, and in that times to realize what is important and sound that out.

NBT: Your writing is very, for want of a better term, conversational, almost like old fashioned letters, rather than over big ”statements” can you share some thoughts on writers that inspire you.

Kevin:  thank you for your observation.. If my writing sounds conversational, it’s probably because most of my subject matter comes from journaling first, and that being a conversation with myself, I suppose one thing begets the next thing.. Observational prose condensed into song lyric. I hadn’t thought of that before. I appreciate how you got me to do that.

Tori Sparks

http://www.torisparks.com/

NBT:  The New Album seems (specially the ‘Come out of the Dark’ half) to be much more internalized than ”The Scorpion in the Story” would you agree with that?

Tori: Yep! I don’t think I could have said it better myself. The ‘Scorpion’ record reflected personal experiences to a point, but generally-speaking, I was telling someone else’s (or many someone else’s’) story(s). ‘Until Morning/Come Out of the Dark’ is definitely the most personal collections of songs to date. The ‘Until Morning’ side is actually in chronological order – ‘Come Out of the Dark’ is a different story entirely.
NBT:  having said that, Mama is  feisty cinematic and a perfect choice for a single, was it one of those songs that you knew would be a ‘showstopper’ or was that something that became apparent in the studio?

Tori: Thanks very much – that was a song that was fun to play live from the very first, and I was happy that the live energy came through in the recording. It was one of the first songs we recorded, just always a personal and fan favorite. As an artist, you’re lucky when those two
things come together, ha.

Emily Yanek

http://emilyyanek.com/

NBT: The song, ‘Spaceman’, links itself thematically (style wise and subject matter) to Elton John’s Rocket Man and Bowie’s Space Oddity, but has a stripped down haunted feel all of its own, what inspired you to write this song?

Emily: I’m very happy to hear people mention the correlation between Spaceman and Rocket Man..Though it was unintentional! I actually was inspired to write this song during a dark winter night when our lights had gone out, I lit some candles and lined my piano with them and wrote that song! Oh, and the ascending guitar chord at the end, played by Jeff Pevar was tribute to Rocket Man.

NBT:  You are quoted as saying that writing songs ‘takes you to a special place’ can you share with us the process a little, how much is the song developed before the studio and how much does it change once the musicians and producer chip in with their input?

Emily: My process is whatever it needs to be for that song. However the song wants to be written, I let it. I just let it come through- sometimes it starts with lyrics, sometimes with a melodic hook, or maybe just a feeling. My songs are always fully developed before I take them into the studio, otherwise, they’re too raw to finalize. After they are finished being recorded, it’s still the same song, but with more perspective- Perspective from the other singers and musicians, bits and pieces showing how others felt the song.

 Gordon Bonham

http://gordonbonham.com/

NBT:  There has been a large gap tween ‘Low Down and Blue’ and your latest, what are the reasons for that.

Gordon:  Yes, it has been well over ten years since my last recording and I have often been asked why am I not writing and recording. Well, I like to joke that I have been too busy playing music for a living to take the time to write and record music. There is some truth in this. Playing over 250 nights a year leaves little time for family and the business of living. I could have released one of several “live” recordings, during that period but chose not to. This would all change with prodding from my wife and some fellow musicians. I set aside time each day to work on new songs and eventually came up with enough material for a CD. Thanks to them for the push!

NBT:  When hearing the album, its obvious that the blues, soul and RnB is in your skin and second(perhaps even 1st!) nature to you. How intimidating is it when there is such a rich history of standards to write your own material? and do you believe MORE artists should do so these days to keep the music alive?

Gordon: Although there is a long and honorable tradition with covering blues and jazz standards I believe the only way to move the musical form forward is to write new, original songs. I had planned on covering a few of my favorite songs for the new CD but ended up writing 15 songs which were edited down to 11. There just wasn’t enough room for all of my songs plus covers! Perhaps my next project will have a few blues classics included. And yes, it is intimidating to put your own songs out there with the standards being so high, but I hope my songs can hold up next to those of my heroes.

Gordon can ALSO be heard during the NBT JazzNBlues Hour which goes out every day at 9 PM Berlin Time (3 PM New York Time)

Maria Rylander

NBT: Ventilation is an interesting song, as it changes from tension to calm several times, has a gentle swing yet is very personal and blues intimate, all at the same time, can you tell us a bit about the creation of this song?

Maria: First of all, thank you very much for the nice comment. This is a song that I wrote several years ago and it´s very close to my heart. You know how things from the past sometimes haunt you, still after so many years. The song is about that and how important it is to just stop, breathe and think rational. It all started with me finding that chord changes on the piano that you can hear in the beginning. I thought it sounded a bit like circus music and when I wrote the lyrics afterwards. I really liked the contrast between the happy sound and the depressing words. You can hear Simon Westman on piano, he always understand the messages of my songs and Im very happy for that. He´s amazing.

NBT: ”I Left My Town” reminds me of something i would hear perhaps sung by sailors at the very end of the evening, or even a chaingang of those 40s black and white movies, what were your inpirations for this track?

Maria: I wrote this song when I was an exchange student in Paris two years ago. Living in Paris was something that I had wanted to do for a long time but I never had the courage before. Once I was there it was much harder than I expected it to be. I didn’t speak any french and all the classes were in french. I left my boyfriend and all my friends just because I wanted to explore my dreams. So despite that I had a great life in Paris, living in a house next to Seine and having a grand piano in my apartment, I still weren’t satisfied. I was missing something. One of those lonely days I sat down at my grand piano and just sang, not bothering about anything except my feelings. And the only conclusion I came to was that I had left my town. While we recorded this song in the studio in Sweden I had my dear friend Vanessa Matthys living in my house. I met her in Paris, she was also an exchange student but from Belgium. So in the end we both sing the phrase in unison and you are right, it´s almost like we´re the two sailors singing the final song before we´re parted.

 Maria can ALSO be heard during the NBT JazzNBlues Hour which goes out every day at 9 PM Berlin Time (3 PM New York Time)

Mikael Perrson

http://www.paraplyrecords.se/

NBT: Is the single, Nice Weather’ a good indication of what will follow on the new album, or are parts of it going to be very different to that?

MP: Well, yes and no. The instrumentation and the over all sound will be recognizable from Nice Weather but I guess the new album will have a slightly different approach. Nice Weather was written almost 6 years ago, and frequently played live but never recorded. This summer we decided to finally get it “on tape” and we tried to catch the spirit of how things were back then. (Don´t know if we succeded). The songs for the upcoming album (so far under the name of “Marks and bleeds”) was written during this last year and the band and myself have grown older and become more introspective so to speak (probably as you tend to do when you get older) (and wiser?) and that will be reflected in both the music and lyrics. Musically the new album will have more of a mix between a folkish, country colour and ordinary rocksongs with a sound of the 70´s.

NBT: “Moving With Mrs Carter” will be your first solo effort, how different is it going into the studio to record a solo album, (even with many musicians behind you) to the dynamic that goes on when a band records?

MP; Well, “Moving With Mrs Carter” was kind of a semi-solo-project back in 2007 and and the upcoming album “Marks and Bleeds” will be an “even more” solo effort because most of the basic tracks (and some songs alltogether) will be recorded at home in my own studio by myself. One difference with a soloalbum compared with a bandrecording is that you actually have to stand for the music and lyrics and your personal performance all by yourself no matter how many musicians, producers and engineers that are involved. It´s kind of scary because you can´t blame anyone else if noone likes what you do. It´s like making yourself visible to the world from every imaginable angle and perspective totally naked. That is if you mean something with what you are doing, if you seriously want to touch someone out there with what you do you will also have to take the risk that you will be rejected but that I think is to really be alive, the tickle of it all…Another (obvious) difference (in my “aloneness”) is that you can´t get the same dynamic creative “take” (instant sensation – interaction) with the other musicians and you have to evolve your own (technical) methods to compensate that. There is also the lack of the “multicomposerinfluence”, that you get when you compose and record as a band. But at the moment I don´t really miss that part. It´s a thrill to be responsible for what you do and put on that tape, it’s like the feeling when you put a jigsaw puzzle together, sooner or later the bigger picture will appear in front of you… and you will be surprised! (and hopefully content….)

Also Featured are : Sarah MacDougall, Freebo, Victoria Vox, Toby Beard

(to download right click on this link and ‘save as’ or simply stream by hitting the arrow ‘play’ button on the cassette above!)

15th June 2011 NBT

Or Click on the Picture Below to get to the NBT Player/Channel !

zoom skywards into our clouds of music

thunderstorms or winter grey, the added gentle to a summers day

HuDost

Little
Green

Jaspar
Lepak

Quiet
Rebellion

Max
Carmichael

Beverly
Jayne

Sheri
Miller

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The NBT Podcast Archives 1

due to the fact that the NBT Flagship Podcast has left its old home and made a place for itself right here on WordPress a gentle archive movement has begun. Downloads only for the time being. Starting with the last show hosted by Libsyn and the 2010 Wonderful Ones Broadcast.

The NBT Wonderful Ones 201o

(right click and save as)

NBT_Wonderful_Ones_2010

rare live recordings, cool covers, acoustic takes, specially recorded songs for the show

starring

Richard Kapp  Bill Price Dark Lily, Sarathan/Two Loons for Tea, Danika Holmes Tokyo Rosenthal,

Richie Lawrence 88 Kilos Of Sunshine, Marco Mahler Frequency Theatre, Pollyanna  Aaron English  Small City Calling

Ripple Music Mach Fox Tori Sparks Ruth Minnikin Peter Doran Adventure Spirit

Rebecca Turner Bird Eats Baby Merry Ellen Kirk Carta Marina Elika

Legendary Ten Seconds iCON Orange One Count To Fire.

Read about the artists HERE

SONGS LIKE THESE

(right click and save as)

11th_May_2011_NBT

featuring:

Small City Calling

Brian Lee

IAM:YOURHERO

Chainsaw Murphy

Tokyo Rosenthal

Pete Sinjin

Giula Millanta

HuDost

The NBT Review 109

  Severance – Vertical Blanking Interval (VBI) (Independent Release)

Perhaps this is the soundtrack for the landscape of the lost things that we enter here. Heavy regret for scenes never played out, words not spoken, archticture not constructed, except in the minds, the dreams, of those that wonder through these creations.

 Or this is fractured folk music, deceptively pastoral at times full of the kind of tension only city boys can thrive on, poetic chants layered dangerous upon mournful vibrations.

Where Accidents and years of thought, combine, hustle and play, humour sinks in dark grey and coats the bottom, and we listen to the bubbles float for the surface knowing that when they pop, up there in that clean air, it is the end for them.

So perhaps this is the sound of that journey, zoomed in upon,slowed down,exaggerated, illuminated.

Perhaps after all, this is just the place where Random flirts with Structure.

 Perhaps after all this is just the place where the Cold Hearted Cynic fucks with the Romantic who cannot die.

 I think this music is all these things, created by artists worlds apart then mixed moulded with energy and terror and then, ultimate calm.

It’s that different kind of strain that Pete Shelley was searching for, that elegant drift that Scott Walker dreamed all too quietly during one of his more pleasant nightmares.

The story though, does not forget to take in scientists and visionaries, history both pop cultural and ancient, and even asides on that thing called Love.

 Unlike a lot of experimental music these days, the words here are as important as the rhythms that embrace them.

 This album will be joining my collection of difficult music that is easy to love.

 But DO find out for yourselves

http://www.reverbnation.com/vbi

 Tracks from this album and other VBI releases will be played on the NBT Dark Electric Podcast this coming 31st January 2011, as well as the flagship cast and the 25 streaming NBTMusic radio show (details soon)

 http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com

 

 

 

 

The NBT Review 64

Melancholy Waltz – Richie Lawrence (Big Book Records)

This is what music is meant to do. I am transported from a weak summer day, still losing its battle with should be long gone winter, to standup flying through the shadows and the heat and sleepy heaviness of somewhere deep in old America.

This is stripped down dreamtime, breathing slow, deep and moody.

When the vocals start (accompanied by seductive accordion) they are laid back but almost flirtatious, in ‘Danielle’ one gets the impression that even if the woman in question is angry enough to THINK about leaving, she is also charmed by the gentle nostalgia of the playing.

Within the title track, Lawrence blends the sad dramatic with a sense of liberation, this and the other songs are flickering ancient images of battles fought and, again, one is taken back to the feel of dreams, the hopefulness perhaps of the weary optimist.

These are songs that soothe the savage self pity of the barroom late night, in awe of the days past, in love with the possibilities of the here and now.

Magically Lawrence creates secular hymns crossed with just the right hint of music hall bawdiness. When there is regret it is gentle and when there is love it is profound and utterly moving.

This collection is an escape, played pure, from the heart.

http://www.richielawrence.com

Hear tracks and thoughts from Richie Lawrence about the album on the NBT Podcast of the 13th May

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 62

Cheese People –Cheese People (Independent Release)

The Cheese People play squelchy messy oh so colourful bang-shang-a-lang party music for the soon to be Happycrazy.

They make dance music that giggles and pogos, a sort of sped up burlesque, noisy free melodic, their creations BOUNCE!

The vocals are quirky call and response things, strongly sexy, femme active, mischievous and sly all the boys in the room want to be led this dangerous shuffle, all the girls wanna learn the words and sing and strut along.

Even when slightly slower the tunes throb with disco bass and slinky twisted guitar lines, these people are fizz-pop naturals. Day-Glo Indie pop saviors from the greyest shadows.

Theirs is a cartoon funk, sometimes very 70s swirly ice-cream, often a NOW brash concoction shiver inducing bubblegum alternative. Their instrumentals leave you goofy wide eyed and breathless, their tunes demand you wake up and get ever so slightly warped.

The final track a remix of their feisty tune  ‘Ua-A-A!’ shows a path that could lead them into every daring nightclub in the world. And then we hear that their next collection will be acoustic! The adventure continues.

Open the door and step into their perilous celebration, LET GO

Go wild.

It’s worth it.

http://www.myspace.com/cheesepeopleband

Cheese People is the featured album this month on the NBT Portal webpage

http://nbtmusic.de/page11.php

And are featured tooOn the Upcoming relaunch of the NBT Dark Electric Podcast on the 18th June 2010

http://nbtdarkelectric.podomatic.com

Before that tho, they will be played on our flagship Podcast on the 27th May 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 61

The Amplification Of Mr. Ballad

The Remix Of Mr. Ballad

The Bare Bones Of Mr. Ballad – All by Chapman (Creating Reality)

Songs have always been shape-shifters, play them in your child’s bedroom late evening and they are personal fragile things, a secret shared.  Play them out under the coloured lights, or in the pub or with a band and they are social creatures, sometimes playground madness, or sometimes a dinner party of thoughts.  Each instrument now adds a riddle to the secret, each drum beat or electric guitar melody or backing vocal agitates , reflects and deflects, the song seems warmer somehow, stronger, the fragile must now be listened for, the truth is now not just from one soul but many. Then play them stripped then clothed with coats of many colours, push them into electronica space, send them bouncing into the chaos of traffic and bodies bouncing in clubs, and the songs become puzzles, become tricksters become the sly one in a debate, become the dark one in a movie. The secret soul is still there it is just now a super hero leaving the mild mannered reporter back at the bar, no one knows who that masked man really is but oh they love the way he swoops, flies, shudders through the conflicted night. No one knows but many feel his goodness, danger, strangeness. Yes the soul is still there.

Space (and oh sadly; time) do not permit me to write about each song, each mutation, so at random I picked one and leave you dear curious listeners to go discover what lies beneath, within, around the others.

We first see ‘’Hum Along’’ as a pop country creature, the life affirming coda to a bittersweet saga, gentle, hopeful, the dark room illuminated by the warm glow of lamplight and restfulness. Then that bittersweet comes into sharper focus, the trials and the sadness and the mistakes now past but the wounds still sensitive, there is this hint that the singer will NOT contemplate his own destruction but now can finally understand why loved ones must fade from our reality, if not our dreams and love. The final version, takes that thought and changes it into a wicked grin of a thing, it’s a disco version of a relieved man’s  Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, of the youngster going ‘’Stuff Ya’’ and using his wild dance as a force against the end of things. Giddy and uplifting it is the sound of Fear being shot down with Joy.

There are ten more examples of this suburb creativity at play here and I highly recommend that all three albums be purchased and tracks played at random and let the shape-shifters work their magic.

Listen and buy here:

http://www.mrballad.com

Hear Chapman’s thoughts on his releases and tracks from all the sets this week on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th April.

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 49

Lunchbox  – Richard Kapp and the Gowns (Independent Release)

It is a delectable irony that the opening track “It’s Too Loud‘‘demands to be played rather loudly. It‘s the kind of thing that gets the listener swaying about in their room, or on the street even (if heard on an iPod or mp3 player) conducting an imaginary orchestra. A song about loneliness perhaps but a song that uplifts at the same time, eccentric pop then.

Let this be said straight away, this band suits Mr. Kapp.  And his style, his droll take on love, life and other potential disasters suit this band. It’s almost like, mmm, that with fellow musicians aiding and abetting his creations he can get even more personal than previously allowed.

The title track now sweetly sways with nostalgia drifting from images of peace to feelings of loss then back again, then flying through wonderful harmonies, it quirkily goes schizophrenic on us.

‘’Selling Them Your Love’’ invokes the spirit of Belle and Sebastian, even a chamber pop version of the Lightning Seeds while ‘’So Dirty’’ is a gently elegant smutty show tune with added restrained vocals dips and dots from Woodstock Taylor. The Broadway version of Stephen Merritt would be proud!

Sometimes there is lonely heartbreaking trumpet, sometimes a swoon of crystal clear female vocals, sometimes the piano playing comes into sharp focus, sometimes all this and more fades away lost willingly in the ambiguous emotional heart within the collection.

Then in, ‘’Another Town’’ Kapp along with guest Ina Simone capture exactly what makes a pop ballad work. No whine , no angst, no over emoting dramatics here, something simple, almost country, utterly captivating for now this is my favourite song in the set. A Dreamy companion to ‘Wake Up’ from Asterisk.

As always this is an album that will reveal more every time it gets played and is the perfect progression for Richard Kapp and his band the Gowns.

http://www.richardkapp.com/

Catch songs from this release on the NBT Podcast going out on the 23rd Feb 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 45

detroitrebellion

Detroit Rebellion – Deitroit Rebellion (Ramp Media Lab)

Stripped down straight into chug-a-lug modern blues, why modern? Its just bounce forward voice and guitar to start with sure (like passing a ragged old house and hearing the tail end of a CSN+Y acoustic jam), but the modern is in the heart, the atmosphere.

This is a soundtrack for long days of hard work and introspection, solitary journeys through the hours. A world of blurred roads and untrusting housewives peering from windows at you, trapped in the heat and your job and your thoughts.  And then..

 This music..

This simple strong stuff.

Saves you just a little.

These are stories that don’t always have a happy ending; sometimes the only redemption is in the telling, the sweet shrug and the moving on. Then again these are also stories that have a quirky wry sense of hope, a push, and a nudge, and a casual grin in the right direction.

Imagine the intricate moods and arrangements of the Violent Femmes early songs, condensed into this one guitar, this one singer, how strange it is that you find yourself wanting to dance silly crazy as if you are at some punk cowboy club.

There is subtle protest, more observation than angst, there is the slight take on the love song, detached but sincere and utterly captivating. There are possible confessions and there are secrets possibly revealed, but they are all wound tightly into the music.

For something so sparse, the rewards in listening to this are infinite.

A wonderful discovery.

http://detroitrebellion.com

Hear tracks and thoughts from this collection on the NBT podcast very soon

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=543216