Music Friday Blog

  • Hollywood Hills music magic with Moira Smiley

    Unzip-the-Horizon-COVER-500px-OPT.jpgMusic Magic in the Hollywood Hills. Moira Smiley releases "Unzip The Horizon"

    LA is the only county in America cut in half by a mountain range, the Santa Monica Mountains, which separate the almost 2  million people in the San Fernando Valley from the 8 million or so people in the LA Basin. Located on the south side of this mountain range are the Hollywood Hills, a set of low rise peaks and valleys that overlook the city of Hollywood and greater La.  They are the home of the Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Bowl, and homes of Hollywood stars and workhorses – actors, producers, directors, and writers.  This past weekend one of those homes was the site of undoubtedly the best album release party I have ever been to.  It was the celebration of stellar Unzip the Horizon by folk/Americana/world singer and concert mistress Moira Smiley, and it was magic.

    The home belonged to Peter Hastings, six-time Emmy-winning television writer, producer, director, and actor.  Hastings, who was involved in series like  Kung Foo Panda: Legend of Awesomeness, The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants, and Animaniacs among others, is also a very accomplished musician, collector of rare musical instruments and supporter of the musical arts.  Part of that support is the “Music Room”,  a music venue built into his home above Hollywood.  The Room, as configured for the release concert, featured a stage area with a baby grand piano, small backline, mics and music stands for  6 people, a sound engineer (David Weber, Moira’s producer), PA,  lights and seating for 70 people in chairs, benches and pews, plus another dozen or so in the balcony. 

    Every chair, pew, bench, and corner was full.  Some of those in the audience were professional singers taking a night off from their own recording and performing to support Moira and enjoy what we all knew was going to be a unique and exhilarating evening.  And it was.

    MOIRA_AND_CREW_ARMS_UPcompressed.jpgMoira gave us two full sets of songs, stories and love, performing both solo and with guest harmony singers. And,  being a consummate music educator and concert mistress, she led the audience in call-and-response and choruses in many of the songs.  Given the voices in the audience, the effect was amazing. A roomful of beautiful voices led by one of the nation’s most beautiful voices.  The term “raise the roof would have applied if it wasn’t for the fact that the “Music Room” was already two stories high.  Moira sang A Capella and accompanied herself on guitar, accordion, piano and various body parts she slapped for rhythm.  When not singing solo, she was accompanied by Hastings on the standup bass and mandolin, and percussionist Chris Wabish.

    Over the two hours that Moira entertained us there were many, many highlights.  Each song was preceded by a story of its background, how or why she created it, and its mirroring of deeper meanings  -- or not – and many laughs.  The evening combined a tale-telling assembly with singing around the campfire, although my campfires never sounded this good.  Moira set the tone from the very beginning by starting not on the stage, but far out in lawn, singing haunting, melodious calls as she strolled in through the garden doors and threaded her way to the stage.

    the_music_room_at_Peter_Hastings_home._compressed.jpgThe setlist for the night ranged from the heart-wrenching ballad  “Refugee” to the banjo-led folk song “Wiseman”,  to the tongue-in-cheek joke about technology, “Rotary Phone”. Every song was a moving work of art, framed in a beautiful home and lit by a roomful of powerful voices. When you compare what I saw at Peter Hasting's home with Moira’s YouTube videos from Disney Concert Hall (1 million views and climbing!) there is little difference emotionally.  She went right to your heart with every note.

    But by far, the most moving moment of the night for me was the final song when Moira brought up her singers and pulled others out of the audience for an A Capella version of Lead Belly’s “Bring Me Little Water, Silvy”.  I had seen the video of her performing it in 2016 in the Disney Concert Hall with 1000 singers for the Los Angeles Master Chorale's 28th Annual High School Choir Festival so I knew what to expect.  What I didn’t expect was how she created the same level of joy and emotion in the Music Room as she did in a 2000-seat concert hall. The room disappeared and we were transported to a place of pure, loving sound.

    Four days later, I am still vibrating from that song and from all of Moira’s music.  I am also vibrating from the people I met in the kitchen sampling wine and beer and chips and salsa, swapping stories of concerts, record production stints, and music festivals. It was a natural music high that we were all on.  But most of all I am vibrating from Moira’s ability to bring people into music – to follow the wish “when we are divided, make art”. Peter Hasting’s generosity in not only turning his house over to art, but to design and build it so it can be a place where music flourishes and heals amplified that.  The Hollywood Hills have been called magic by many for their celebrities. But the magic I found there was not in the celebrities, it was in the music and the music maker.

     

     

  • back with Latin Fire

    ALEXANDRA_SPOTLIGHT_300SQ.jpgWe are back from Mexico with two great Latin music bands, Jenny and the Mexicats and Alexandra Jackson.  Jenny is Mexican Spanish (although she is an English girl who plays trumpet) and Alexandra was born and raised in Atlanta and now plays the Brazilian bossa nova.  Music knows no borders. No creo las fronterias, as Las Cafeteras says.

     

  • MUSIC FRIDAY ON VACATION

    clown_300.jpgThe broadcast team is in Mexico collecting music and meeting bands.  Our interns are in the studio, but are not broadcasting.  We will be back on the air July 27.

  • Two ends of the music spectrum, but I suspect they will mesh nicely.

    alezzandra_300sq_curled_up.jpgAlezzandra is coming into music from a new direction - determination, steel toughness, unashamedly and nakedly erotic, plus over-the-top talent in multiple fields. El Dusty has almost single-handedly turned my birthplace, Corpus Christi, Texas, into a music center - not quite Austin, but really cool. And he has created a new genre in the process, South Texas nu-cumbia,  These will be very very dent interviews but in a way, they are about the same things: power and change.

     

  • Alicia Blue lights up the Hotel Cafe

    alicia_blie_300sq.jpgSunday nights at LA's prestigious Hotel Cafe are often review nights - a promoter puts together a group of related acts, everyone brings their friends, the Second Stage room at the Hotel Cafe is crowded, the house makes money, the talent gets exposure (and a little money) and the audience has a great time and is introduced to artists they might never have known. This Sunday night Sound Collective produced a review with Alicia Blue, Lucy Clearwater, Nora Murray, and Daniel Blake...three women and a guy, but there were lots of men onstage with them. 

    alicia_blue_500.jpgThe evening's two highlights were Clearwater and Alicia, but Alicia delivered one of the best performances that I have seen yet. Backed up by a full band, she delivered a strong six-song set that ranged from her funny Christmas in LA to classic Joni Mitchell cover, Both Sides Now. Her voice was clearer than ever and her stage presence was so sunny and inviting that you just had to love her. I have only previously seen her as a solo;  the band added depth and texture, but it also seemed to pop the colors in her voice and expand her conversational contact with the audience.   

     

  • Halo Circus back home- with gold. This Friday

    halo_cuircus._headshot.300.jpegHalo Circus started out on tour several months ago as a four-piece al rock band with two good albums and a growing national following. They have returned a two-piece electro-rock duo with a sold-out 30-city tour behind them and a new album, Robots and Wranglers that is brilliant music and social commentary, been called Album of the Year by Vents magazine, has been nominated for 3 LA Music Critic Awards and landed them TV and radio shows nationwide.  And we get them this Friday.  Plus, Texas blues rocker Johnny Chopps is on tour with his band and The Randy Rogers Band and he has a new album out, Johnny Chops & The Razors, which we are going to play.

  • Rob Morrow, The Marias, Julia del Palacio

    We are back from the FIMPRO music convention in Mexico with a suitcase full of CD/s a briefcase full of business cards and more videos that we can possibly every post.  But the show must go on and this Friday what a show - film and TV star Rob Mosrrow, who is a crackerjack guitarist and fronts a stellar band, the RMB, releases a single on the show this Friday.  Julia del Palacio introduces us to son jarocho music New York style, and The Marias keep up the momentum with their smooth, romantic, hypnotic songs from the 70's with a 21st-century twist. Checks out the videos and tune in for the broadcast.

     

     

     

     

  • Patricia Vonne and Any Sydow, New Southwestern sounds

    Both artists are bringing us new albums. Patricia Vonne is a ninth-generation Tejana she embodies every indigenous musical style in Texas and is an excellent singer-songwriter as well as singer and multi-instrumentalist and band leader who will release her Top of the Mountain album next week. Coloradan Andy Sydow will bring us his fourth album, Reasons For Departure due out this month. Should be fun. 

     

     

     

     

  • NAKURY blends MusicFridayLive! with MusicaFusionLA

    nakury_head._300.pngWe are blending our two radio shows, Music FridayLive! and the bi-lingual MuscaFusionLA this Friday with our interview with Costa Rican hip-hop star NAKURY.  The interview will be in English, since mi espcanol es no sufficiente for entrevistas (not good enough for interviews) but we will talk with a pop star who sings in Spanish and talks in English so no problema.  

    We will also talk with a worldwide phenomenon, Mira Smiley, who does everything from play the banjo to lead choreses, harmonies and choirs for the BBC and TV shows.  Quite a show this week.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Blues from Norway this week

    eva_head_shot_300sq.jpgWho knew Norway produced blues bands? Well, they do, and damn good ones, like this week's guests, the NaveBlues. Combining blues, alt-rock and jazz, there is nothing like them. I am so looking forward to this show.  And, I get to talk with Eva Ross.  I met Eva at SOFAR concert and said this woman has got to be on the show...so she is.