Music Friday Blog

  • Kris Gruen folk and story- a perfect combination

    kris_gruen300_300pg.jpgI first saw Kris Gruen at the Sanctuary in Santa Monica.  He immediately commanded my attention, but in a gentle way.  He started out with a story, a soft story about childhood that sort of flowed into a song.  Over the next hour or so, Kris told several stories, painted pictures of childhoods - his and others, some imaginary - and demonstrated a seasoned skill with the guitar, with poetic lyrics and most importantly, with his connection to the emotions of his audience.

     Gruen writes songs about grown up life and childhood, infused with mystic wonder, that soften the world’s sharp edges.  Growing up steeped in classic records and  influenced by  great narrative songwriters like Cat Stevens and Paul Simon, Gruen’s voice is reminiscent of 60's folk but completely current. A New York City native who’s put down roots in Vermont, Gruen effortlessly blends witty lyrics and emotional depth.  His sound has been compared to Iron And Wine, Andrew Bird, Ryan Adams, and The Decemberists.  Building off of the success his critically acclaimed albums, Lullaby School and Part Of It All, last year he released New Comics From The Wooded World  and is now on tour.  

    Gruen's father is the famed rock photographer Bob Gruen, so he had plenty of opportunities to see the great ones close up, but his fascination with the musicality of poetry attracted him to songwriting rather than rock. Playing percussion for a New Orleans rhythm and blues band that formed out of a class he was taking at Goddard College in 1996, Gruen reluctantly but successfully took on vocals. After college in 2000, Gruen began recording on a four track, which led him to pursue the guitar. His cousin gave him a cheap Ovation and taught him how to tune a standard E tuning. Starting off with using only the E string to create melodies on the four track,  and teh rest is history.  We get to hear that history this Friday at 2:30 pm ET.

  • Maggie is determined to be a singing star- and seems to be doing it.

    MAGGIE_BLACK_LACE_303.jpgMaggie, who goes only by her first name, has been determined to be a singing star since she was a child.  She ang for family and locala events in grammar school, and at 13 started writing songs.  By that time she had had several years of experience - not something you find in your usual 13 year old.  Maggie spent her middle and high school years  performing whenever possible and attending songwriting seminars. She wrote and recorded her own EP while she played in her school bands. As high school began winding down, and most students begin to feel pressures about what schools to apply to, and what to “be when they grow up”, Maggie was getting ready for the next step in her musical career - Nashville.

    Maggie packed  the contents of her life into her car and headed to Nashville, Tennessee, a place she had never been before, and a place she knew little about except that Nashville was where you  learned to write songs professionally and, if things worked out, became a star. It took two years of learning, writing and gigging to be ready to go back home and record her first album, Now Hear Me Out , produced b y Justin Gray Joss,  The single, "Lovesick" hit the charts and heavy rotation and she was chosen by Perez Hilton as his 2012 "Can YOU Sing?" contest winner hailing Maggie as the next big superstar of 2013. 

    Now in the musical capital of the world, Los Angeles, Maggie has a fan base of many thousands, Maggie is headed for the top and we are proud to have her on Music FridayLive! this week.

  • Terese Taylor. thinking woman's rock

    chair_600.jpgYou really, really have to listen to Terese Taylor's lyrics.  it's not that they are hard to hear - just the opposite.  She is clear, direct and too the point.  And enchanting. With a spirit evocative of Kathleen Hana, but a style 180 degrees different from Hana's Bikini Kill band, Terese makes you think about the world as other people see it.  That is powerful music.

    The funny thing is that her  music is not powerful in the sense of blasting speakers and shrieking guitars;  it is ethereal, sometimes astral, interior and inward, and all the more powerful for it. It is more like The Velvet Underground or Nick Cave in music style.  The New York Times critic called it "deliciously miserable music", an apt description, but it should by no means imply that her audiences are miserable.  Just the opposite is the case, as they revel in the truth of her message and quality of her sound.

    Her new album, At your Mercy Circuit,  is a collaboration with Kalus Flouride of the Dead Kennedy's and is backed by a group of  talented  musicians including James Whiton (Double Bass – Tom Waits), Will Hendricks (bass – Eleni Mandell, Califone), Garrin Benfield (lead guitars – Andrew Bird), and Teddy Rankin-Parker & Kristina Dutton ( Violin/Cello – Glen Hansard, Iron & Wine) .  We will play cuts from it and talk with Terese at 2:30 pm ET this Friday. 

  • American Beauties. 60's folk with a modern twist.

    band-600.jpgI was raised on 60's and 70's folk.  The Kinston Trio, early Dylan, Joan Baez, The Weavers, Phil Ochs, Judy Collins - all of the artists who should have been in the film "Inside Llewyn Davis" but were mysteriously left out.    We would listen live in coffee houses from San Francisco and Berkeley to Cambridge and Washington Square, and on vinyl (there were mo CD's or MP3's in a purple haze.  So I was really happy when a package arrived in the mail with a CD and a handwritten letter from Michael A. Gray of the American Beauties band. It was like the purple haze was back and I am not even in Colorado.

    American Beauties is an original indie folk rock band from Boston, Massachusetts.  Their music is reminiscent of the LA, San Francisco and East Coast folkrock bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s that I grew up with.  But they are modern - mixing both contemporary and roots influences into a unique sound that is both comfortable and exciting.  The band performs live at local clubs and festivals in the Boston area and  indie festivals in  New England.  Their debut album Too Worn To Mend was released in October 2012.  The indie release was recorded at the famous Ice Station Zebra studios in Medford, Massachusetts by Grammy award winning engineer Ducky Carlisle who played drums and co-produced the album with songwriter Michael Gray. 

    The band’s indie folk rock  reminds me of  CSNY and The Jayhawks and conveys radio-friendly qualities from folk, rock, and pop in a mix all its own.  Too Worn to Mend is getting extensive airplay on college and independent radio in the US, Canada, and the UK and  local stations around Boston so I decided its time for my national audience to her them on blogtalkradio and Cyberstationusa. This Friday, 2:05 pm ET.

  • Rory Partin comes to town and he is ours on 1.24.14

    partin_tie300.jpgGet ready to take off and fly because Rory Partin is bringing his big band sound to the airport, the Santa Monica Airport to be exact.  On Monday 1.27.14 Rory and his wife and music partner, Alexa James, set up the 18-piece Rory Partin band at Typhoon, the entertainment center/restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport.  Music FridayLive!, whose studios are less than a mile from the airport, will be there, eating, drinking and dancing, and writing a concert review for The Hollywood Progressive and Vents Magazine. However, you can hear and talk to Rory this Friday, 1/24/14 on Music FridayLive! and 11:30 am PT.

    For those of you who don't know Rory, he is a multi-instrumentalist  who does vocals and plays piano, guitar, trumpet, harmonica, and Irish Tin Whistle.  Partin had his first taste of the big time singing back-up for five-time Grammy winner Larnelle Harris and never stopped. After over three years touring internationally with Harris, Partin returned to the states and settled in Nashville, eventually leading Rory Partin & His All-Star Big Band at events such as George W. Bush’s Inaugural Ball and The National Symphony Ball at The Kennedy Center. Relocating to Los Angeles, Partin has redefined himself as a solo artist, a powerhouse of blue-eyed soul, poised to take his place among artists like Michael Bublé and Harry Connick, Jr. Backed by an 18 piece big band, Partin has gained a reputation as a heartfelt and emotional performer, “singing from a place deep inside that screams to be heard.” This is evidenced in his live shows and recordings, such as “Georgia On My Mind” (originally made famous by Ray Charles, one of Partin’s major inspirations.)

    We ae going hear cuts and conversation from his relaxed, traditional side on Friday.  Rory will team up  with his musical partner and wife Alexa James (also known collectively as The ROAMies) to bring us their signature harmonies to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”  , "Come Runnin' to me", and "Georgia on My Mind". 

  • Western Avenue is "hot country" and I like'em

    westavesquare_300.jpgThose of you who have noticed a lot of country on the show lately are right.  I have been interviewing more country bands - Billy Kay last week and Amy Rose before that.  No, Music FridayLive! is not becoming a country program, but I do like the way that country, like rap and hip hop, talk about real people and areal problems and real life. And I like the music. So don't worry, we are not becoming Country Music FridayLive!, but do listen to the words while you tap your feet.  It's good stuff.

    Which brings me to Western Avenue, a confusing band name for my LA listeners who think of the famous Western Avenue in mid-town.  Nope, this trio hails from Canada. (Yes, Canadians do country music - remember Amy Rose a few weeks a go).  Western Avenue is Niki English on vocals, Keith Robertson and Matt Williams on guitar and bass. Nikki English, Keith Robertson and Matt Williams have been  together since 2000 as Western Avenue. The band was nominated in 2013 for the Ontario Country Music Association and twice-nominated International Music and Entertainment Association Award. Western Ave is winning over audiences with its “hot country” sound, including the catchy first single, “Highway Headin’ Out of Town,” which was picked up by Canadian country radio in the summer of 2012.    With the release of their new single, “Wherever You Are,” from their February 2013 self-titled debut EP, Western Avenue is taking their melody-driven blend of country and pop music to radio in the US and around the globe.  Already they are #1 on the Roots Music Report Pop Country chart and #26 on New Music Weekly.

    English and Robertson, who are married, live in Peterborough, Ontario, while Williams is from neighboring Cobourg. The three musicians met through Canadian country artist Tara Lyn Hart, who lived in Port Hope at the time and had a music program in Cobourg. Robertson and Williams were hired as back-up musicians for English, for one of her performances. 

    Growing up, English fondly remembers her father Frank always playing guitar and singing around their house. He died in 2001 after a battle with cancer. While her father always encouraged her to perform, English had shied away from the spotlight.   However, her father’s passing was motivation to give it a shot: “That’s what he always wanted me to do, and I wanted to, but I was a wimp,” she says. “It gave me confidence to do it in his memory. It’s been a challenge because I’ve always been shy.  It’s been a lot easier with the band, having people beside you.”

    There was always music around Robertson’s household. The Colborne native began playing instruments at an early age and has been playing in bands since he was 12. He couldn’t imagine having another job. “The only thing I can do is play guitar,” he quips. Robertson taught guitar for 16 years, and still does occasionally. He also plays fiddle and “pretty much anything with a string on it." Keith has played professionally with country musicians Tara Lyn Hart and John Landry.

     Matt Williams remembers when he knew music was a path for him. He was 10 years old and received tickets from his parents to see Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in concert: 

     “As soon as the lights went down, that was it,” Williams said. Two weeks after the Tom Petty show, he took up the guitar. “I had to work really hard at it, but it’s something I persisted at.”    That’s a sentiment that the entire band can relate to…hard work and persistence. A line from their debut single, “Highway Headin’ Out of Town” says, “I wanna feel those wheels under our dreams keep rolling.”  And apt metaphor for this group - they are rolling.  


  • Diane Cameron brings us African ecobeats this Friday

    edlan.flowerchile.jpgDiane Cameron is a singer/songwriter, actress, playwright, and teacher.  Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Diane Cameron had now made her home from Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia. Diane has appeared all across the United States in performances and theater presentations.  Her music is soft but beat-heavy, jazz-infused Afro-Caribbean, with her haunting voice giving it a texture all its own.

    She is also a strong believer in youth mentorship through the arts. She travels nationally and internationally establishing performing arts and sports programs for youth. She also organizes yearly Summer Camps for the Performing Arts for youth and teens. Ms. Cameron is on the roster at Georgia Tech University teaching acting to faculty and students. S Her youth environmental play, “Trash Tawkin” was recently debuted at the 2011 Hilton Head Island, SC., Earth Day Celebration.

    Diane was selected U.S.A. Artist in Residence to the Republic of Benin, West Africa She was subsequently invited to Durban and Johannesburg in as a result of being nominated by the International Music Organization KORA. Her self-authored CD “The Reconciliation” was in competition with 50 Cent, Mariah Carey, Will Smith and Olivier.




  • Xander Demos. Prince of the Guitar. 1.17.14

    demosplaying301.jpgXander Demos is one of the best guitars, bar none, on the scene today.  He performs over 100 times a year, and he is active in recording collaborations with artists all over the world. Xander plays guitars from Suhr, McNaught and Conklin, with whom he has endorsement contracts.  His endorsement from these guitar companies is a testament to his impressive skills and his deep commitment to playing the best guitars in the world. 

    Recently, Xander has been making quite the name for himself and his solo band by appearing as support for acts like Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob, Buckethead, UFO, Lizzy Borden, Kip Winger, Neil Zaza and Dio Disciples.   He has had two #1 Metal and Progressive music videos on Myspace, with his videos “Right Angles” and “Chase The Sun.”  His last single, “White Knuckle Driving” received airplay all over the world!  The video received over 120,000 Youtube views. Xander has recently been featured on The Real Radio Show with AJ Pero of Twisted Sister, Steve Vai’s,, HairMetalMansion, Iron City Rocks, MetalTemple, Bravewords and many other top rock and metal shows and websites. 

    In August 2012, Xander was named Guitar Shop TV’s New Artist Showcase Winner.  Nominated for Best Guitarist, in the 2011 and 2012 Iron City Rocks Music Awards and 2013 Southern Star Network Independent Artist of the Year, Xander’s playing appears on several releases from other artists: Ged Rylands (Ten, Tygers of Pan Tang,) Derek Buddemeyer (Down Boys Records) Modern Superstar and Liberty ‘N’ Justice’s long awaited “Cigar Chronicles,” also featuring George Lynch (Dokken) Jeff Labar (Cinderella) and Jerry Dixon (Warrant.) He will also be included on two upcoming guitar compilations, “Guitar Feast” and “Guitar Wizards,” that will also include Lynch and Jake E Lee, among others.  Wow!


  • Handsome as Sin. 1.10.14

    HAS302.jpgI saw these guys at a club last year in Hollywood.  I had actually come for another band, but stayed and was glad I did.  Max and Chuck are very talented and together have created something greater than the sum of the parts.  I am still absorbing what they is rock, alt rock and its own thing.  Some of their music is not radio ready (i.,e., contains the 7 deadly words), but it is not the kind of heavy metal or rap where those words show up a lot.  Like I said, it is its own thing, a very good and listenable thing. After months in various studios, a lot of very late nights (and probably early mornings) they have released a debut album, which I will have the pleasure of playing this Friday and you will have the pleasure of hearing - and talking to them about it.

  • Billy Kay: country music with a cause

    billykayhat303.jpgBilly Kay is a rare find in music.  At the musical talent level, he is the most downloaded artist  in Las Vegas and  in South Carolina and is now turning heads in  Nashville with the breakout hit "Ready... Set... Gone!" .  But it is his personal story that grabbed me.  He is a homeless veteran, living in a shelter in Tennessee while he  travels America writing, recording and performing.  His now-famous "Abject Poverty Tour" featured top indie country stars and raised money for other homeless people, veterans and battered women.  On top of that, he donates a share of all royalties and merchandise sales to shelters and charities.  Obviously, he could live on his earnings , but he has chosen to give back instead.  As part of that, Billy organized 2011 "Country for a Cause" CD, which featured some of the most talented musicians in the indie country music scene.   I am really looking forward to our conversation this Friday at 2:05 pm ET.  I suspect it will be somewhat different from most interviews.