Music Friday Blog

  • Leyla McCalla pulls the audience close with history and joy at McCabe’s in Santa Monica

    close_up_sitting_down.300.jpgLeyla McCalla brings her audiences close with smiles and stories and songs that cross the borders of time and culture.  On a cello, a banjo a guitar, in French, in Creole or in English – it doesn’t matter;   her songs lift us, pierce us, love us.  She is one of a kind, and that musical singularity was on full display last night at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica California for a jam-packed full auditorium. 

     We listened, we clapped, we sang with her, we cried and  we feel thankful that we had managed to get tickets to a one-of-a-kind evening at the historic venue that for 80 years has brought  LA the talent of the Americas. With a star like Leyla and a venue like McCabe’s, it pays to be early.

     Leyla McCalla is a New York-born Haitian-American living in New Orleans, a city whose jazz has powerfully influenced her music, which incorporates blues, Haitian ballads, and American folk.   She once dreamed of becoming a classical musician playing chamber music – hence the chops with the cello, in which she has a degree from New York University. But when she moved to New Orleans in 2010 she found herself  not in elegant suites playing Bach, but on the street busking – although still playing Bach. But the musical temptations of New Orleans proved too much for the discipline of the chamber and soon she was blending genres from folk to jazz.  The result was her acclaimed first album, Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute To Langston Hughes and the artist that mesmerized us from the stage at McCabe’s Friday night.

     Leyla sings in French, Haitian Creole and English;  she plays cello, tenor banjo and guitar, all with a delicacy and an energy that is something to behold. In live performance she is approachable, humble and funny, telling stories about herself and the music that pulls the audience close to her, making us friends for the night. Formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, she has no artifice – she is what she is, and what she is beautifully talented.  Her music is at once earthy, elegant, soulful and witty. It vibrates with history, but Leyla brings that history alive, engaging the audience with sing-alongs and jokes and just her very being, sitting on the stage with a cello between her legs or a banjo in her hand.  You truly fall in love for the evening.

     Her set was short -- four or five songs, mostly from her new album, A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey.  She does tip her hat to Langston Hughes with a song or two from Vari-Colored Songs, which was named 2013’s Album of the Year by the London Sunday Times and Songlines magazine. Each song was a gem, carried by her cane-sugar sweet voice, her astonishingly nimble fingers and her creativity on the cello and other instruments, all perfectly blended and supported by the other members of her trio, her husband guitarist Daniel Tremblay and violist Free Feral.

     Leyla and her trio are on a tour with the irrepressible Dom Lemon that will take her from the West Coast of the USA to Europe, with a final stop in Antwerp.  The tour stops this weekend  in San Diego and Santa Barbara and then heads on up the coast  before crossing the Atlantic.  It is not to be missed.

    (Photo courtesty of McCabe's Guitar Shop)

  • The Day of the Dead Music extravaganza













    It is October so it must be time for Diá de Los Muertos, the unique Los Angeles event that celebrates the Mexican holiday held on November 2 and celebrating the souls of past loved ones. For 17 years at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery has hosted a music and art extravaganza teaming with the grinning skeletons of the Dia de Los Muertos of Mexico. This year the fiesta will be the largest in the history of the event   Tijuana-based international pop star Julieta Vanegas headlines four stages of music featuring Buyepongo, Alejandro y Maria Laura, Mitré with Irene Diaz, and Mariachi Flor de Toloache, among others in 35 performances interspersed with altars, folk dancing, painting and the food and drink of Mexico. 

     This year’s co-sponsor, Estrella Jalisco, has partnered with Jeni Rivera Enterprises for a special tribute to celebrate the legacy of the late internationally- beloved singer songwriter Jenni Rivera at the Day of the Dead in Hollywood.  Estrella Jalisco is brewing a special beer to commemorate her a. General Mills and Ford Motor Company are also co-sponsors.

     The all-day celebration on October 29 in Hollywood is expected to attract thousands of fans.  This year’s theme is The Tree of Life El  - Ábol de la Vida -  the iconic Mexican clay candelabra sculpture from Metepec covered with bird and flowers. A life-sized commemorative tree, commissioned for this year’s Day of the Dead,  took over a month to complete and will be on display on the main stage in Lodge at the Cemetery.

     Doors open at noon and the celebration will begin at 2:30 pm with an Aztec Blessing.  This year’s newest stage, named Mosaico, will feature 150 Aztec Dancers.  Over 100 altars will be on display, all vying for  the Best Traditional and Contemporary Altar Prizes. The Hollywood Forever grounds will offer children’s play areas, arts and crafts, food, Mexican Ice Cream by Icy Rush, and traditional Diá de Los Muertos face painting.  Fans are urged to come in costume and get their faces painted to match their clothes by the Hollywood make up artists with Drop Dead Gorgeous.

     Tickets are $20 and are available at

  • Red hot guitarist coming out of East Texas: Ally Venable

    ally_with_guitar300sq.jpgAlly Venable is not yet old enough to vote, but she is old enough to have won the coveted  Best East Texas Female Guitarist award twice. When you hear her play, you will know why.  This girl could be the future of Texas guitar blues. We have her new album, No Glass Shoes and will be the first to play it on national radio, where it belongs.  And we certainly don't think it is too much too soon- it sounds just right to us.


  • Salvador Santana: new solo career

    sal_at_keybd.300sq.jpgThe last time Salvador Santana was on Music FridayLive, he led his band and was accompanied by singer Alex Nester.  He has gone solo with his message-driven, keyboard-heavy rap rock and we have the new songs.  He joins us Friday from the #ThisIsMyHome tour telling the stories of immigrants and registering voters in the immigrant communities. Always accenting the positive, his new video "Fantasy Reality" is a feel good rap that looks at the best of us. He is joined on the tour by an all star lineup and we look forward to hearing about from the man himself.


  • Latin Grammy Nominations revealed

    download.jpgThe Latin Recording Academy announced nominations for the 17th Annual Latin Grammy Awards, selected from over 10,500 entries, a record that demonstrates  the growing diversity and popularity of Latin and Latino music in the United states and worldwide. The Latin Grammy Awards  are the nation’s only award for excellence in Latin music that is peer-based, voted on by a membership body.  This year, awards will be given in 48 categories.

    Julio Reyes Copello, Djavan, Fonseca, Jesse & Joy, and Ricardo López Lalinde top the nominations list with 4 each.   LA’s own La Santa Cecelia was nominated for a possible second Latin Grammy this year, for Buena Ventura in the Best Rock Album category. El Dusty, based oi the growing Corpus Christi, Texas, music scene but who often produces in LA, was nominated in Best Urban-Fusion Performance for Cumbia Anthem. Among other nominees this year are Pablo Alborán, Pepe Aguilar, Andrea Bocelli, the late Juan Gabriel, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Los Tigres Del Norte, Diego Torres, Julieta Venegas, Carlos Vives, Wisin, and Yandel.

    For the first time The Latin Recording Academy  has offered digital voting to its membership of creators across all disciplines of music — recording artists, songwriters, producers, and engineers. The final round of voting for the 17th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards opens Sept. 27 and closes Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. PST.  The winners will be revealed Nov. 17, 2016, live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and broadcast on the Univision Network from 8–11 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. Central). The Las Vegas awards ceremony is a must –attend for anyone in the Latin and Latino music world, who mingle and network at the dozens of parties, mixers and other events surround the Latin Grammy Awards.

    A complete list  of all nominees can be found at The Latin Recording Academy's  website along with details on the ceremony and ticket availability.




  • Jackie Bristow. A Shot of Gold to be released Oct 7.

    shot_of_gold_cover300.pngI love to see Jackie Bristow perform live and was reminded of why when I recently saw her do a short set at the Piano Bar in Hollywood.  An imposing, six-foot tall redhead with a mile-wide smile and a New Zealand accent, she combines the essence of both feminine and strength. The six songs she belted and crooned from the stage  brought those two qualities together in a captivating musical synergy melding beautiful love and exquisite pain with hooks that stick around like a true friend. Her powerhouse song "Freedom" brought the house down as it always does. So I was delighted when she handed me a freshly minted demo copy of her new album,  Shot of Gold. The album will be released Oct 7, but it is ready for pre-order now.

     Bristow doubles down on her feminine strength in  Shot of Gold. Every song leans forward, every song has a round, flowing-knowing, seductive woman wisdom, propelled by the restless moving ahead that is Bristow. And like its creator, Shot of Gold is the essence of feminine and strength, some of it written at a dark time in her life and all of it written close to the bone.  Shot of Gold is simply stunning,  surpassing even the exuberance and depth of her anthemic “Freedom” album.  Shot of Gold gets into your head, your heart and your muscles and leaves you like gentle love making on a hot night -- drained, sweaty and very, very happy.

      The ten songs in Shot of Gold – two of which she previewed for us at the Piano Bar – range from the train-whistle pathos of “Whistle Blowin” to the heartbreak of “Kiss you Goodbye”  and the heart-stabbing country blues of the title song.  And while Shot of Gold is firmly country-folk, much like Kacey Musgrave spins out in Pageant Material, Bristow brings a female confidence to the bro-world that reaches far beyond a country and folk audience.

     In many ways, Shot of Gold is a maturing of Bristow, a settling into herself and an understanding of how she affects her listeners.  At its core is song writing firmly grounded in emotional concepts, whether it is the joy of “Freedom” (which was about her release from a bad recording contract) or the pain of leaving in “Kiss You Goodbye”, or  the death of a young man in “Fallen Youth”.  Like most artists, she has had her share of heartbreak to draw upon, and also the joy of  her satisfied love – chronicled in “ I See Your Beauty”. She distills all of them into Shot of Gold, managing to keep the impact of her live performances while adding the depth that a studio can provide.

     Bristow opens the album with high energy in “Whistle Blowin”, a classic country-framed railroad blues song. Accented by banjo notes and light cymbal brushes and driven by rhythm guitar and strong baseline, she tells a familiar story - but with a twist with  a woman’s perspective with a voice so powerful and so melodic that is borders on the ghostly.

     Having set the mood, she shifts us to a sad story, “Cry”, opening with song-talking over simple guitar strums and then soars as muted Celtic drum notes and shimmering cymbals underscore the story. The color pallet changes from the deep indigo of “Whistle Blowin” and “Crying” to a pastel in “I Don’t Want to Come Down”. With the rounded, deeply feminine writing  that characterizes her music, she spins out a gentle tale of the happiness of love and a life partner ...she doesn’t want to come down and neither do we.

    But feminine doesn’t mean retiring: for Bristow it means leaning forward, moving ahead and she reminds us of that in “Rollin Stone”.  She may “dance to the tune and dance the night away” but she is in control -- “can’t stop me…hear my call”.    She lays down the lyrics with the banjo stressing her words and the bassline and rhythm guitar pouring energy and power into the movement

     “Kiss You Goodbye”  showcases Bristow’s voice like no other song on the album.  It opens with just her and a simple guitar strum, the lyrics glowing as they move across the backs of your eyelids. She sings with a slight southern accent curling the words into a country feel  very good  for a Kiwi), as she tells you “if you loved me you would be here with me, if you loved me I wouldn’t be questioning…..I kiss you goodbye” as she leaves on her journey.  Deeply feminine, but strong and in control and always moving forward.

     She continues the introspection in “Broken Record”,  her voice simply set off with a single guitar and later with  percussion touches and evocative violin or keyboard, a perfect set up for “Shot of Gold”. “Broken Record” empowers her most urgent and poignant cinematic melody as she reels out her story to a poignant resonator guitar.  “Take me as a I am…it’s a loaded gun” she sings.  We are happy to do it and understand the taking is on her terms.  

     “You walk right into my life when I needed you most/it doesn’t mean it’s gonna come easy” she opens in “Gotta Let Love Find You”, softening her voice, molding it into the vortex of a lover’s smiling eyes as she counsels patience in a romance. She addresses you directly, as if you both were  facing each other at her kitchen table, mugs of tea growing cold at your elbow, your hands wrapped in hers,  her face glowing but her words drawing on memories of times when patience and romance both lost.

     The warmth of “Gotta Let Love Find You” evaporates like the tail of the Cheshire cat and the entire world of the album changes at the first note of  “Fallen Youth”,  setting to music a poem from Bristow’s hometown library, written in remembrance of the Gallipoli 100 year reunion by an unnamed soldier.  The sound quality becomes more open, as if it were recorded in a different studio.  Her voice solidifies, becomes less personal, more separate, although very much present.  The song of the death of a young man, sung over a guitar strum and violin or keyboard accents is not so much cold as metallic – caring but shielded, accusing those behind the scenes who order the death of young men.  ”He stared at me through faded eyes/this is how a young man dies…it leaves me empty to be alive”: this is not the liquid voice of a lover, present or jilted, but the armored voice of a friend or a mother holding it together.  As protected as this song it, you can’t listen without a lump in your throat.

     Wisely, the album ends with “Healing”, which we need after “Fallen Youth”.  The story is different – we are back to the personal, but the effect is the same.  The feminine strength is back -- gentle, relaxed but  in control. A perfect ending… drained, sweaty and very, very happy.

     Listening to Shot of Gold makes it easy to see why Jackie Bristow was personally chosen by Bonnie Raitt to tour her home country New Zealand as Bonnie Raitt's opening act on the 2013 Slipstream tour,  and why music from her third album, "Freedom," was programmed into rotation at 7,000 Starbucks locations nationwide in the US.  Shot or Gold will surpass the success of Freedom and her tours and firmly establish Jackie Bristow as an unstoppable female force in today’s country, folk and popular music.

    Shot of Gold. By Jackie Bristow

    Pre-order at or by email to







  • Latin Day this Friday. KC Porter. Eljuri

    300_sq.jpgIt is Latin Music Day at Music Friday Live! We talk with the go-to producer for global stars like Ricky Martin, Selena, Santana and m who is now producing the next generation of Latino musicians, like Ozomatli.  And we feature a surging Latina artist, the electric guitar wizard, singer songwriter, Eljuri, who blends Spain, Lebanon, New York rock and pop into wild rhythms and powerful songs in English and Spanish.  

  • Militia Vox releases ISOSCELES, a trifecta of aural assault

    mILITIA_VOX_SMOKE.jpgMilitia Vox's ISOSCELES is a 3 song pre-release to her upcoming full-length album THE VILLAINESS, boasting an array of her  styles and tremendous sonic palette which includes progressive metal, gothic/industrial and psychedelic rock.  ISOSCELES will be available via digital download and streaming, as well as on CDs- the first time that digital singles "VOW" and "BORN OUT OF DARKNESS" will be out on disc, remastered.  For fans of Nine Inch Nails, Type O Negative and Siouxsie and the Banshees, ISOSCELES is a trio of dark and dangerous delights.

    Each of the three songs is a unique adventure for your ears and for your mind. VOW  is a personal pledge for self-reliance with the lyrics "I promise to myself that I can stand alone and use every ounce of angst to rise above this, drown my sorrows and then part the sea, and if I crash and burn at least I am free."BORN OUT OF DARKNESS" is the story of an outsider embracing her edge. "Born Out of Darkness but I'll make it right, I'm the great American outcast with hell on my side. "THIS IS SHE" is the latest deep, dark anthem that Vox is so famous for.  She describes the song as "The personification of the complexities of female sexuality" with lyrics: "A woman's design, is ripe with secrets, so don't deny what you can't refuse."  I will leave that to the listener, but I do warn, if you listen to it on earphones with your eyes closed, you may not come back.


    ISOSCELES is available digitally and on cds via Bandcamp at,  and at CdBaby, Amazon, iTunes and everywhere music is sold online. You  can Stream ISOSCELES on Soundcloud now at Check out Vox at

  • Dessy Di Lauro and Ric'key Pageot as Parlor Social: best live show in LA, maybe the USA

    dessy_opening_number_2.300sq.jpgIn a world where both audiences and musicians think nothing of showing up at a club in ragged cutoffs and old t-shirts (I actually saw a major British pop singer introduce herself for the first time to LA a [ludiences wearing exactly that)  it was refreshing and exciting to experience Dessy Di Lauro and Ric'key Pageot as Parlor Social concert at Sayers Club Thursday night.  With an attention to detail in both music and style and an unwavering demand for quality, she and her team of band members, guest performers and dancers put on what is undeniably the best live performance in the Los Angeles club scene, if not the nation.

    The performance at the Sayers Club was a perfect example of how good they are, and  how unique.  It was a short set, only five  songs.  But in those five songs, they got a packed elbow-to-elbow crowd on its feet cheering and singing as if it were an arena concert by a global star. I have seen Parlor Social three times and each time my response alternates between just movin’ and groovin’ to the great fun music and  appreciation of the talent, design and hard work the group puts into giving an audience a 1000% all around immersive performance.

    They started off with their trademark ‘Let me hear you say hep hep” designed to get the audience off their cell phones and paying attention to the what is going on on stage.  What was going on onstage were the dancers of Parlor Social, Assata Madisson and Anissa Lee,  sexily resplendent in glitter-enhanced black leotards who danced their way on stage  with DiLauro.  Once there, DiLauro  launched into “Hep   Hep”  and the call and response resounded through the room as people locked in on the stage.

    Without missing a beat, DiLauro introduced Parlor Social and  moved into the rap-driven “Bringing It Back” it back with Madisson and Lee gyrating around her and the band moving like a single living organism. She then slowed the tempo down and showcased her golden voice that ranged from ragtime to romance in “It’s Complicated”.  By then she had the audience transfixed -- mesmerized by her futuristic leather costume, her waist-length golden braids, the complex lighting ranging across the stage and the house, and the pure, emotion-laden  “bye-bye” lyrics and the  impossibly high notes she hit throughout the song.

    Without a doubt the high point of the evening, if it could possibly get higher, was the introduction of the night’s guest star, Teddy Riley -- new jack swing pioneer and producer to stars like Michael Jackson, Usher and Bobby Brown.  Appropriately, they played “Higher Place”  which is exactly where they took the audience for the next 5 and a half minutes. A historic event recorded on the forest of cell phones aimed at the stage.

    DiLauro finished up with a flourish, singing “No Diggity” and brought the house down.  My only regret was that there was not more time and that  the restricted stage space didn’t allow Madisson and Lee to tap dance.  Hopefully, Dessy Di Lauro and Ric'key Pageot as Parlor Social's next performance will include both the space and time they had at their Edison Club  performance last week, combined with the lighting, sound quality and ambiance of Thursday night’s show at Sayers.



    DiLauro’s ''Feathered Fro-hawk Futuristic Art Deco Centric Harlem Renaissance Hep Music'' – sometimes abbreviated to “Neo-Ragtime” from her 2013 album This is Neo-Ragtime --  has been incubating since before she launched her first EP in 2004, A Study of A Woman’s Soul. After touring with Cirque du Soleil’s Delirium as a featured singer in major arenas in North America and Europe from 2006 to 2008, Di Lauro moved to Los Angeles and began working on new music.

    Dessy Di Lauro and Ric'key Pageot as Parlor Social is backed by a band and horn section led by her musical director/pianist and husband  Ric’key Pageot, who has toured since 2008 with Madonna on her Sticky & Sweet and MDNA World Tours. In 2010, the Di Lauro/Pageot power-couple released their first neo-ragtime single and music video, “Why U Raggin” which won two Hollywood Music in Media Awards, including Best R&B/Soul Song of the Year. The following year, Di Lauro was nominated by respected Readers’ Choice Awards as Female Vocalist of the Year.

    Those awards, and the others that are sure to come, confirm that Dessy DiLauro and Parlor Social produce the best live performance in LA and perhaps nationwide.  Dessy Di Lauro and Ric'key Pageot as Parlor Social has it all – voice, moves, style and a connection with her audiences that borders on adoration.

  • As a cyclist I love this artist

    I can ride 40, maybe 50 miles if the hills are not too bad.  But across the country?  It took me 6 days to ride from SF to LA and it about killed me.  How Joanna Wallfisch does it carrying a ukelele and loop pedals and clothes and etc. I cannot imagine.  And play music at clubs along the way.  Wow!