EACH WEEK I POST A FULL REVIEW OR A "Quik Take" - a summary of my review of Music FridayLive! artists.  Follow the link to the full review.  And check out my sponsor, Vents Magazine, featuring interviews with new bands and emerging TV and Movie talents. Subscribe to Vents at

You can also read my reviews of concerts and CDs in the Hollywood Progressive, Music Junkie, California Rocker, Shutter16, PEOPLE THAT MATTER, Artistic Echoes and other online publications.
Interview and the full review of VEGA concert at the Hotel Cafe, 3/8/18

Vega at the Hotel Café: comfortable in her own tattooed skin.

Vega pulls back her red and black plaid jacket to show her trademark tattoos.   “That’s my life”, she says pointing to the flowers and lines and words on her shoulders and arms.  ”These are the things that are important to me. My mother doesn’t like it, but I like it.” She is relaxing Wednesday afternoon in the offices of the Criteria Agency in Hollywood after taping an interview with a Mexican TV crew.  She pointed to the tattoos in response to a question about being a woman building a career in the very masculine world of music in Spain – and now in the United States.

“Women like me who want to have their way, to do their own music, to reach other people, to show the people who we really are – we have many obstacles,” she continues., “but I am the kind of woman who wants to be a pole – successful – because I deserve it, because I work for it.”

vegan300_singout_3.jpgVega, the stage name of  Mercedes Mígel Carpio,  has been working on it for a long time.  Now 39 years old with new 8-month old daughter at home, she has collected two Latin Grammy nominations in a career that went into high gear 15 years ago when her first studio album,  India sold 150,000 copies.  Two more successful albums followed, along with hit singles, and a Spanish Music Awards nomination as she quickly became one of the leading pop-rock artists in Spain. She started her own independent label, La Madriguera Records, and used it to release her hit album ‘Wolverines’, co-produced in L.A. with the multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy awarded audio engineer and record producer Sebastian Krys. 

Thursday night she took  another step in that career, showcasing her forthcoming album, La Reina Pez, to an American audience at Hollywood’s legendary Hotel Café. The room was packed with fans who  had fallen in love with her through her records but had never seen her live as her tours have largely missed the US. The following night she would also open for the Guatemalan singer Ricardo Arjona at the Microsoft Theater.

The Hotel Café was so full Thursday night at 10:30 pm that the usual cocktail tables in the main room had been replaced with lines of chairs that stretched back to the bar. The standing room was also bursting with devotees,  engulfing the sound booth and blocking the green room doors.  Excited conversations in Spanish and English echoed around the walls as instruments were moved onstage and connected, mics checked, monitors tested and adjusted. When things were perfect, the lights came on and there she was, holding an acoustic guitar, clad in black pants and a simple black off-the shoulder top that displayed the life story tattoos.

A wave of welcome rose up – both from the fans to Vega and from Vega to the room.  She greeted everyone with her shy, honest but mischievous smile, speaking in labored English before asking forgiveness for shifting to Spanish to introduce her guitarist and keyboardist and tell us about the emotion of being here for us.  Language didn’t matter; the only possible response to her and the music that followed was unconditional love.

“My goal is for people to like my stories, that people feel that my music is really about them”, she said at the conversation the day before.  And that is what she delivered Thursday night…songs for us.

 Seven songs -- previews of what is coming on the new album, La Reina Pez.  Personal stories flowed with the music as she interspersed conversation about her life with her songs. At one point she put aside her beautiful acoustic guitar and picked up a ukulele, and – surprisingly – got very serious as if playing the four-string instrument was more difficult than the six stringer that she had just put in its cradle.

Regardless of the instrument or the song, she was radiant, comfortable in her own tattooed skin, doing what she loved, telling her songstories to an audience that heard them as their stories. The lyrics were penetrating at times, as with the unanswered questions in ”Sally”, and painful at times, as in the sadness of “Despues De Ti”.  This from a woman who at twenty-two was told by her record label that her face was too pretty for her to be seen as intelligent or  a serious song writer so she should smile and swing her long hair on stage.  She responded by shaving her head and eventually starting her own successful record label.

The hair has been back for years and the songwriting on display Thursday night at the Hotel Café was not only intelligent but magical. Her voice progressed smoothly from gentle seduction to high intensity passion in “Despues De Ti”,  filling the room with the nostalgic heartache anyone who has loved and lost has felt. Vega’s cinematic range is remarkable.  She can create the sonic landscapes of winter emotions -  cold, aloneness, nostalgia --  in a song like “Despues De Ti”, then shift the mood to high fashion, high style, high passion pain in “Haneke”,  and then fast forward in the final song “Sally” to the summer emotions of anthemic rock.  She had previewed her flexible range of feelings and styles in her last album,  Wolverines, and brought it home at the Hotel Café showcase.  

Vega’s words, her performance, her mind and her core are right for the times, especially in the United States.  She has lived -- and is living -- a full life, but is energized, not fatigued,  by it.  She has seen joy and sadness and can express both for us in the powerful shelter of a lyric. She is not a distraction from life’s fears and tedium, but a priority for its joy and triumph; she entertains from the heart at a time when this country needs to heal its heart. She is honest and genuine – what you see is what you hear.  She has no need for artifice; her songstories are más que sufficiente – even if her mother doesn’t like them in tattoos.

La Reina Pez available April 13 on iTunes and; Vega’s music can be streamed on Spotify and Deezer.


Full review of Beam of Light by The Simpkin Project

Simpkin Project’s new Beam of Light album: pure joyful brilliance.

simkin_p._hustling.300sq.jpgIf you love reggae – and who doesn’t – there needs to be a beam of light in your near future, specifically the Simpkin Project’s new album, Beam of Light.  Formed in the early 2000’s by Phil Simpkin and Shawn Taylor to indulge their love of reggae, this Southern California band plays a blend of reggae, blues, rock, and Americana that, well…it has soul.  That is the only way to describe a sound blends authentic roots reggae rhythms with a wall-of-sound production style and Americana/R&b/rock harmonies and feel.  Beam of Light pulls all of that together in one joyful, over the top you-must-dance-to-this album.

With a satisfying 12 songs, Beam of Light moves from pure rockon reggae to plaintive bluesy songs Bob Marley would give the nod to.  Starting with “Hustling”, Simpkin, Taylor and the band – Sean Kennedy on drums, Nick Zermino on bass, Jules Luna vocals/rhythm guitar, and Sergio Sandoval on percussion – lay down a solid reggae marker colored with the B2 sound of old fashioned rock. You are hooked. The hook is set deeper withPassion, which keeps the beat but slides back a little more into early rock with harmonics and electric guitar accents. But before the thrill of “Passion” wears off the album moves you back into a pure reggae groove with the love song,  “Never Forget”.

“Somethings Don’t Change”  pulls a sly joke on you because it is a changeup - a rock ballad with a reggae beat instead of a reggae song with a rock feel. The highlight of the album for me comes next, “Pure Harmony”, a shake-your-shoulders reggae tune with Phil’s voice unfurling the lyrics:

Walk with me and be a friend./Back together once again./On each other we depend./Better times are up ahead….the two of us in unison make perfect harmony.

This is the essence of the album, the message of Beam of Light – harmony,  something it has lots of.

“Harmony” is followed by the more rock and B2-inflected “Coming Home”  which flows nicely into the title song in which  the band nails down the rhythm and message.  Reverting back to pure reggae beat in “Beam of Light”,  Simpkin tells us that in everyone and everywhere there is a beam of light.  That beam shines through the album and through the joyful live performances packed with the Simpkin’s rabid followers.

But Phil and the band are not going to let you forget their other musical chops.  They shift the mood and the beat in “I’ll Be There”, which launches like a classic R&B love song that lets the reggae rhythm creep in as the song builds. They move on to a gospel theme in “Many Rivers to Cross” – still with a dance beat – and then on to a pop-infused  “The World’s On Our Shoulders” with deep, plaintive harmonies and subtle guitar riffs accenting the reggae bass and percussion. 

The album takes a kind of dreamy mystical turn with “It’s Only Nothing”.  Chime-like notes,   ethereal guitar chords , and B2 accents laid over the Caribbean percussion support Phil’s voice as he soothes:

 It’s only nothing, it’s only nothing, lingering on until you hurt./It’s only nothing, it’s only nothing, lingering on until you burst

Danceable, emotional, thoughtful, addictive.

The album wraps with an Americana-infusedTry to Understand”, a plaintive call for help introduced by a simple guitar strum overtaken but not eclipsed by subtle background bongo and brush-drum  hits.  It could be 50’s R&B except for the polyrhythms . That is the genius of Beam of Light and of the band, the Simpkin Project.  They blend beloved music forms with reggae so both maintain their essence.  It is why their shows are packed and why this album is pure joyful brilliance.

Full review of Tunnel Vision by ARI

ari_poster_300_sq.jpgThe past doesn’t define you, nor does it make you who you are. These are the words and the definitive core of the musician/artist/provocateur ARI, whose past is complex and painful but also exultant. Regardless of bygone fears and refuges, she will not let her past tunnel vision either her life or her music. Instead, she uses it to inform it. The result is not just music, but a music/artform that  makes her one of the most interesting performers on the music scene today.

With a voice that ranges from childlike to ancient crone, a music structure that elides format boundaries and yet stays engrossing and entertaining, and a visual presentation both on stage and in video that is a performance art in itself,  ARI is at once alien and comfortably familiar as she emerges with the promise of being a game changer.

Toronto-born LA-based ARI (a stage name she took as part of her public career) studied psychology in college and was a competitive figure skater.  She  had no interest in music – actually, in her own words, she was running away from music. She decided to study psychology to understand why her family was “messed up” and why she had such an anxiety-filled childhood.  She even considered sport psychology as a window into herself. But the answers to her questions were more often in front of a microphone than in a book.

“I became a psych major so I could figure out what the hell was wrong with me,” she says. “I actively avoided music because of previous experiences I’ve had.  But, I ended up in the music building.”

The sound, video and art that she incubated in the music building was healing, unapologetic, unbound by genres, and sonically and visually unique while completely relevant to virtually any audience. Emerging with that sound and art was a new persona, ARI, that she calls a “fresh tableau…more me than I’ve ever been…the musical identity that I’ve been working towards my whole life.”

That identity, the one ARI presents on stage and on camera and in the recording studio is a duality of the familiar and the alien.  Her debut album,  appropriately called (or perhaps ironically called)  Tunnel Vision, unfurls a dual identity in a voice and a form that defies categorization but delivers messages that can be simultaneously healing and uncomfortable.  This is ARI’s  skill – the ability to transform herself into an ethereal being that is nothing like the rest of us and yet resonates closely with all of us.  ARI’s music, art, writing, and performance is familiar while strange, putting us at ease while provoking us to think, Yoko Ono-like,  beyond our boxes.

“I feel fierce” she explains when asked where the duality of alien and familiar comes from, “ but I feel playful and free.  I feel like an outcast, but I’m part of bigger group. I want my art to convey that duality.”

The name “ARI” signals her ferocity and playfulness.  In Nordic, it means “eagle”;  in Hebrew, it means “lion”.   On stage she is both, playing with costume, lights, smoke and sound to create an atmosphere that takes us out of the venue, away from the clinking bar and the buzzing doorway.   We hear ferocious music from a beautiful alien creature who makes us think about things we were not prepared for, like human trafficking and cancer.  But it is OK because as we enter this otherworld she has created on the stage we discover that she is us. We came for the music; if we pay attention, we will leave with an epiphany.

ARI’s first major release of her creative duality is the album Tunnel Vision, which  opens with “Teachers”, a stiletto-sharp song that impales the sexual double standard with her urgent catch-in-your throat voice. “Boys brag about how many sexual encounters they have, while girls – well, if they are asked how many they have had, “ she notes, “ they are criticized for too many or not enough.  There should be only one standard.  Stop slamming women for doing what we do.”  According to ARI, ” being sexual is not dirty. It’s an expression of love.”

The video for “Teachers” is a potent statement of what girls have to go through just to be themselves.  Every man, every boyfriend, every father should watch it.   ARI’s message, expressed in a style that is both feminine and tough, makes you think about everyday events you never noticed before.  She sings, “I’m stronger, I’m wiser” over the images of  a young girl shedding her innocent guise and becoming herself, ”a dirty girl downtown”, who, in the end, is just a girl being herself.

ARI  goes deeper with “Pretty Little Villains”, pointing us to the human trafficking in girls in our cities, even in our neighborhoods. Inspired by a news report of a young girl captured and sold for sex in a hotel near her in Toronto, ARI could not help but feel her pain. “ I cannot understand how someone could do that for 10 minutes of weird pleasure,”  she says of the  story that drove her to write “Pretty Little Villains”. The video is unforgettable performance art, shot in one take in her bathtub.

The determination she shows in “Pretty Little Villains” runs through the title track, “Tunnel Vision”, especially in the not-for-radio-lyrics version, in which she proclaims her independence while she tells us she just wants to fall in love again – another duality.  Set to electronic drum beats that scaffold her eerie voice, it showcases her skill with music, electronics, production and ability to erase genre lines. It is a perfect prelude to the urgent message she delivers later in “Spit Me Out”,  introduced  by a heart beat and set off with drum pads as her seductive voice turned childlike by keyboard chimes drives the message home .

“Tunnel Vision is a personal diary of mine, my repression vomited on a record,” ARI explains of the deeply personal nature of the album’s songs like “Time Machine”, which chronicles the cancer developing in a close friend. The “Time Machine” video takes her to the edge of a building, holds us breathless as she contemplates a jump to end it all and then steps back. She sings that she “wants to turn back time for you” to a time before the cancer, and then she jumps, plunging feet first in heavy boots into water, and then disappears, putting a final period on another arresting piece of performance art.

When we talked she had recently returned from Istanbul, having gone through the Ataturk Airport only days before it was attacked by terrorists. She was also in Cyprus during another bombing, very close to her.  The thought of her proximity to terror was unsettling.  “I am a bit of a utopian”, she says, “but a realist too.”  However, the intrusion of reality did not dampen her enthusiasm for the next album, now in the final stages of production, which she promised will be  much lighter. “In Tunnel Vision I got my dark matter out,” she says.  The next album went much faster and is more fun.”

Fun is good. But even in a fun party dance song like “Tiny Bubbles” on Tunnel Vision, ARI is tuned to the human condition.“ I want to add something to the world”, she says about her “pop with a message.”  She knows her music can be healing because it helped heal her.  “The most rewarding thing I do is make music that is relevant to people,” she says.  “After ‘Time Machine’  I received a flood of letters and posts and emails from people telling me they felt I understood them. I want my music to help, to make a difference in people’s lives.”

 Still early in her career ARI is demonstrating the prolific output that often marks a genius.  She produced the emotionally exhausting Tunnel Vision in a fairly rapid nine months,  is about ready to release album number 2,  and is already thinking about a darker album number 3- all while she travels and performs.  But most important, she is succeeding in her drive to create music and art that makes a difference, that is relevant to people’s lives.  As she expands her footprint in live music, video and perhaps into art spaces like LACMA,  I think ARI will  continue to ignite and energize thoughtful, healing conversations – the kind we need right now to  remind us that our past does not define who we are. 

Full review of A Sweetish Tune  by Noctambule: a must-have for fans of Irish music – traditional and experimental.

bruce_and_marla_playing.jpg(Chapala, Mexico) For fans of traditional Irish music, "A Sweetish Tune" by the duo Noctambule is a must have.  This long-awaited second album by Marla Fibush and Bruce Victor, who produce and record under the nomme de music Noctambule,  builds on their previous releases, The Waking and Travel In Shadows,  but goes far beyond them with heavenly mandolin and mandola finger picking by Fibish that perfectly blends and harmonizes with Victor's 6- and 12-string guitar melodies.  They create  not just music, but a visual adventure through the Irish countryside and the people who have lived there over the centuries

At nine songs, the album seems diminutive on the surface, but Victor and Fibush have slipped a little Irish humor in the arrangement, as most of the album's songs are combinations of two or even three tunes, giving the album a  richness that overflows with emotion, imagery and sparkling cleverness.  The album opens with "Patty Canny' Toast", a Charlie Lennon composition from County Leitrim, that swirls hypnotically with mandolin and 6-string threads interweaving almost invisibly. They drop the invisibility cloak for "Bold Doerty/Bill Hart's Jig", ostentatiously traversing two genres in a mashup that is altogether more than the sum of its two parts. Ostentatiousness continues with "The Creel/The Sweetheart Reel", a familiar Irish story of illicit love, but with a 33-foot ladder thrown in for fun, as sung by Marla in this version of Ballad #281 from Francis James Child's 19th century collection.

Fibush continues her musical tale-telling with "Trip to Skye" by J. Whelan and "The Good Doctor", her own creation that ingeniously changes keys throughout. "Blind Mary" combines with "Cold Missouri Waters" in a tale we have heard in many variations, this one with the mandolin, 6-string and tenor guitar with Victor laying downs the lyrics in a ghostly voice.   "Blind Mary" is my personal favorite, with a refrain – some would call it a hook – that sticks with you.

The pace again picks up with "The Cloone/ March Reel/The Abby Reel" which brings in the resonance of the 12-string, and the baroque  "Mister O'Conner " combined with the singular "The Broken Pledge", played delicately but fiercely on the mandolin, mandola, and cittern.

The pair wrap up the album with two of their own creations, " Song of the Wave" drawn from Khalil Gibran's poetry sung by Fibush with harmony by Victor, and the title song, "A Sweetish Tune" featuring Aryeh Frankfurter on the nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish musical instrument played with a bow with keys attached to tangents that serve as frets to change the pitch of the string.

"A Sweetish Tune" will delight the legions of traditional Irish music and excite those who like to see boundaries pushed. Noctambule's world-class musical artistry on modern and traditional instruments combined with their willingness to experiment with an ear for what sounds right, make this a must-have album from a must-follow musical couple.

Heartbreak_EP_cover.jpgReview of Heartbreak is Contagious by Kris Angelis is printed in full on the blog page.

MV_ISOSCELES_COVER300sq.jpgMilitia Vox's Isosceles EP. Grab your headphones. (full review)

 I enjoyed the EP so much, I decided to post the full review here, although it has been published in several other places.

Militia Vox is one of those rare artists who comes along every decade or so and breaks molds and opens new creative doors, which is exactly what her new EP

Militia Vox is one of those rare artists who comes along every decade or so and breaks molds and opens new creative doors, which is exactly what her new EP Isosceles does. Vox packs more music, more meaning, more power into the  three songs on Isosceles than many musicians do in a lifetime of albums.

 Formally trained in classical piano and voice, Vox embraced heavy metal, founded one of the most successful metal cover bands of our time, The Judith Priestess.  She also served as the central figure in bands like Disciples of Astaroth and Swear on Your Life.  She has performed with Twisted Sister, Living Colour, Nancy Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper – a musical range few can even imagine.  And all of that comes together in exploration of birth, life and death on her own terms that Vox takes you through in Isosceles, the second release of her trilogy story, Villainess.

 The songs on Isosceles have been “festering in my mind for years” Vox says, explaining the deep attention to details and the intricate layering of her four-octave voice to convey unshakable images through words and musical texture. This “festering” has produced songs that are dense with meaning and  embedded in music that is geologically striated like lava flows pressured into diamonds over millennia. 

 The EP opens with “Vow”, solidly rooted in the screaming guitars, jackhammer drums and howling synths of heavy metal, but with a message of determination that, for a woman in a largely male music form, transcends metal’s usual themes of the underworld. Instead of referencing the underworld, she stands astride it, like a black Queen radiating fire and lightning.  Her operatic voice flies defiantly above the musical smoke and fire, proclaiming Yeah I made a VOW/I will not be tamed/I won’t back down/This is my VOW.  But, having delivered the message, she moves on, with distant guitar strings receding against a wind sound from an endless plain.  Put on your headphones and let it orbit you around this nether world somewhere beyond the Kuyper Belt.

 But the orbit is short-lived as she pulls you back down to earth with the clean, synth percussion of Born Out of Darkness. The simplicity of the downbeat here belies the complexity of the percussion, bassline and snare hit details.  And all it  supports her controlled, flat voice – no howls, no screams, just the monotone facts, mam:

 Queen without an empire/Will take her throne/Just off the grid enough

An outlaw of life/No choice but to embrace it/Now I’m addicted to the fight

 Rising with guitar riffs and accelerating drums and bass, the flat voice remains throughout, like Charon guiding you across the river Stix to Hades. Then as you think you can make out the other side in the mist, she hits you with the final taunt, Born to be bad/You can’t control me/Does that make you mad?

 Leave your headphones on for the third song, This is She. You will know why as a demonic/angelic choir prepares you  briefly for the measured pounding of the toms and kick drum, like an overseer’s work drum on a Roman Galley.  You are sailing into the heart of the supreme feminine, an image constructed by Vox singing from a distant, full moon sky,  A woman’s design is ripe with secrets/So don’t deny what you can’t refuse.  As the drums gather anger and Vox’s voice reaches one operatic pinnacle after another the dark image turns bright and painful:

Drunk with power intoxicating/Speak the words for she is waiting

Close your eyes ‘cause she is lying/In the dark for you she’s dying small


 I suspect that at some point Ph.D. thesis and scholarly articles will be written about Vox’s poetry, its musical frame and her increasingly sophisticated talent for blending genres.  While Vox is rooted in metal, it can’t contain her.  This album clearly shows that Vox skillfully reassembles heavy metal with storytelling, electronic rock and even opera into a sound that stirs the gut, the muscles and mind. 

Vox supplements her voice with acting ability (yes, you have seen her on TV and on stage) and a genius for event and music production to deliver her message of personal power, confidence and rebellion through events ranging from motorcycle rallies to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Named one of  the nation’s “Ten Fiercest Black Female Rockers,” Militia Vox’s album, BAIT and single  “Vow” have garnered high praise from critics and fans alike. Isosceles promises to continue her momentum and thrill her fans.


The album was released Sept. 3  and available for download or streaming on all online platforms. Video at


Irene Diaz premiers “This Cannot Be”:  a new standard for songs from our most desired and dangerous emotion.

SAM_0105._irene_facing_audience.jpgThe line stretched out long before 7:30 pm, starting at the locked door of a non-descript office building on a ready-to-gentrify section of South Broadway in Los Angeles.  They came from all over the sprawling city and far beyond:  downtown, EastLos, Mt. Washington, the Valley, Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Boyle Heights, Pacific Palisades, Koreatown, Orange Country, Long Beach.  One woman drove the 130-mile round trip from Santa Paula with her 6-year-old daughter; another came up from San Diego. They were for one thing:  love.  And the object and the source of that love was Irene Diaz.

Read the full review at
 Athena lets the sunshine in for her first USA album, Ready for the Sun, Part 1
album_cover_300sq.jpgIf you were fortunate enough to be at one of Athena’s performances in Hollywood over the past year where she road-tested the songs for her first US-produced EP, Ready for the Sun, Part 1, cherish those memories because it will be a blockbuster and you were a witness to history. She has been working on it, road testing it, trying it out for a year and the hard work paid off.
Read the full review at
kris_at_mic_lights_.300sq.jpgKris Angelis: acting, music and making the world a better place.
Kris Angelis is a high energy, hard working,  super talented phenomenon. Her very first album, The Left Atrium, won the 2013 LA Music Critics Best Female Album Award – no mean feat.  She also acts in film and TV, raises money to rescue child soldiers, brings music to at-risk teens, and performs in venues on both coasts.  She has toured with major bands, headlined in clubs House of Blues, played at NAMM and is looking forward to new songs and a new film.
Read the full review at
Buenventura by La Santa Cecelia: confidence, message and sheer joy.

10300_10153747590586866_3182076164821131742_n.jpgI have been listening to the new album, Buenaventura, by the Latin Grammy-winning band La Santa Cecelia’s since it was first sent to me a month ago. LSC is a hometown LA band and I wanted to hear them do the songs live before writing about them. LSC is more than a band, it is a community and an inspiration and a performance delight; seeing them live gives wider context to the recording. I saw them recently and was blown away - the album - live and in your speakers - is a milestone of confidence, message, and sheer joy.

Read the full review at
I Can Swing Forever: a magical gift to children and parents from Tracy Newman

tracy_smiling_and_singing300sq.jpgKids just wanna have fun -- or at least that’s what I remember from my childhood.  But they also want to explore and dance and sing and have friends  and sleep and dream. All of that is magically encased in a CD and sing-a-long coloring book produced by the mother-daughter team of Tracy Newman and Charlotte Dean, I Can Swing Forever...

Read the full review at

A red hot Maggie Szabo releases “Forgive and Forget” and road tests a new album

MAGGIE_ARM_UP._EDIT300.jpgI love going to release parties, especially parties to celebrate the release of a new single or a video because you know you are going to get more than just the release.  “More” is exactly what Maggie Szabo delivered Friday night at The Loft on the 12th floor of the W Hollywood Hotel.  Billed as a BalconyTV party to celebrate the release of her new single and video, “Forgive and Forget”, she gave us a set list of new, never- heard-before songs. Why new songs?  Because she was road testing them - that’s how Maggie operates: she is patient, she road tests her music with her fans and she gets it right.

She got “Forgive and Forget” right.  I first heard her perform it in a road test gig at the Hotel Café almost a year ago, I realized that she had moved to a whole new level, as I said in my review .  But the performance Friday night was also a new level for the Canadian-born LA-transplant soul pop singer, even with her history of 13 million YouTube views.  Maggie’s entire performance was red hot, from her red mini-skirted dress, to the red light that bathed the stage, to the intricate gold necklace on her chest that bounced red beans around the room as she shook, shimmed and radiated energy like a red dwarf star.

Maggie has always been able to get people moving and shaking with high-energy soul pop drenched in hooks.  But the diminutive, 113-pound cross-fit athlete controlled the stage with energy of 10 women. Moving on the stage, working with her band and backup singer, shifting from microphone to keyboard and back again, Maggie packed more punch into her act than I have seen before without losing the heart and the personal touch that makes her so attractive.

The ten songs she laid down at The Loft were all new, with the exception of the opening number, her hit “Tidal Waves and Hurricanes. Those of us at The Loft who have watched Maggie’s career since she came to LA two years ago knew that she was road testing the new songs for a forthcoming album. Except for “Forgive and Forget”,  none of the new songs have been released and will likely be tweaked before she lets them into the wild, which is why  I won't post video of them here. (Subscribe to her Youtube channel or follow her on Facebook  to know when the album is ready).

 In the meantime, Maggie fans, and fans of pop and soul and fun nights in clubs,  should catch her gigs until she releases the album to see how she tightens each tune until it’s exactly what she wants.  The final product will be awesome and watching the trip there will be a musical experience not to be missed.


Latinos rock. EastLos rules. Las Cafeteras homecoming concert at the El Rey in Los Angeles.

rap_1.JPGThe power and joy of the fusion of Latin music, rock and rap, and social justice activism was on full display Saturday night at LA’s venerable El Rey Theater as the native East LA band, Las Cafeteras, took the stage, accompanied by an international mix of musicians and dancers who rocked, sang, danced and delivered political messages for over four hours. 

Read the interview at

Gaby Moreno gives LA an early Christmas gift.

happy_gaby_300_sq.jpgA Gaby Moreno concert is like a family celebration with music – stunning, soaring, shining joyful music. All of that was on display at the auditorium of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery when Gaby Moreno sang Christmas songs for standing room only crowd of very, very happy fans


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HBO’ The Latin Explosion:  a celebration of todos somos Americanos,  but we need more

the-latin-explosion-1024c.jpgTwo unforgettable  images flowed across American television screens this week: on Monday the HBO documentary The Latin Explosion: A New America  reprised 1980 news footage showing sign-waving white crowds  in Miami protesting Cuban immigrants fleeing Castro;  on Thursday night at the Latin Grammys, rockers Maná and Los Tigres del Norte unfurled the now famous banner, “Latinos Unidos no Voten Por Los Racistas!”.


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The Walcotts rock the El Rey: nowhere to go but up.

Band_up_close._filtered.jpgThere is a reason why people were lined up Monday night on the sidewalk outside the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles at 5 o’clock. As one girl who was hanging over the barrier separating the photo pit from the stage said, “We wanted to be right here when The Walcott come on”. Of course she – and the hundreds of people pressing her and her friends into the rail – were also there for the headliner, Christ Stapleton. But LA’s high-octane, countrified, California Americana rock band was more than enough reason to stand in the cold for 2 hours. Being within touching distance of Tom Cusimano, Laura Marion, Devin Shea and the other half dozen indefatigable musicians that make up The Walcotts' was a special magic.

Read the full interview at


Athena mesmerizes  us at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. Now in LA to produce her first USA album.

Athena.-arms-out-600_sq.jpgAthena took the stage and delivered a stunning  11-song set – all new songs likely destined to her first US-produced album now in process. She performed with a new all-star band comprising Adam Levy on guitar (Norah Jones), Deron Johnson on piano (Miles Davis), Michael Jerome (Richard Thompson) on drums and Jonathan Flaugher(Ryan Adams) on bass. Every song was jewel, from the pop rock happiness flowing from the opening song “You Bring Me Luck” to the equally pop but more introspective closing tune “Everybody Knows My Face.” .....

Read the full review at


OWL blows away fans at Whiskey A Go Go

Chris_Wyse._standing_300sq.jpgA three-quarter full house was well-warmed up by pounding beats and screaming guitar licks of the journeyman band Chemical Burn when OWL began to set up. By the time Chris Wyse turned his flashing grin on the crowd and hit his the first chord, the room was jam-packed full – a sea of upturned faces of all genders and a wide range of ages inhabiting a forest of raised cellphones and cameras. They were on! and so was OWL. The music flowed like a torrent of high voltage lava with barely a pause for 45 heart-stopping minutes.

Read the full interview at


jessica_300sq_music-singel-cover.jpgYouTube star Jessica Domingo releases EP “Masterpiece” with more to come

YouTube has been a pathway for success for growing numbers of artists, especially musical artists. New bands and singer/songwriters can build fan bases of thousands without recording a single album or EP or even appearing live anywhere but in their bedrooms. Word of mouth and viral social media do the work of  radio spins and PR agents and magazines. Some artists pursue this option very deliberately, executing a video strategy with planned precision. This is not the case for the YouTube phenomenon, Jessica Domingo,, but even so , the outcome has been remarkable.....

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Gaby Moreno pioneers American Latin Music at Gypset’s Los Globos concert.

moreno_clapping22.jpgAs an early crowd streamed in and filled up the VIP chairs and the standing room floor at Los Globos while the Gypset MC team of Julie Isela and impresario JC Barrios set the tone for the evening with a bilingual introduction  that explicitly welcomed the English speakers in the audience to what was a heavy Spanish language program. This bi-lingual welcome was continued through the evening by Gypset and the musicians who embraced everyone from the Caucasian hipsters on the floor to the Guatemalan-American grandmothers in the chairs. After all, this was Grammy winner Gaby Moreno they came to see.

Read the full interview at

The Promise from Corinne West: Pulling you inter her orbit.

corinne_300_sq.jpgTurn off your devices, put on your headphones, close your eyes and let yourself be drawn into a new orbit by Corinne West’s gravitational pull in her new album, The Promise.Listening to the nine songs of The Promisefeels like experiencing two galaxiesmerging with each other, slowly, beautifully, sparkling with a billion solar flares. Corinne’s voice is terrifyingly beautiful and her lyrics areurgently luxurious, creating music is that is addictive. The Promise is all of these things, and it is the best thing she has ever done.

Read the full interview at


Toby Lightman: a Supernova of ivory and anger at the Hotel Café.

2015-03-24_20.25.17.jpgQuintessential New York singer-songwriter Toby Lightman held a packed and adoring LA audience in the palm of her hand last  night at  Hollywood’s venerable Hotel Café with the ivory-sheened sophistication of her voice blended mystically with the anger and grit of the street.  Lighthouse’s 11-song set clearly demonstrated why she is loved by both fans and critics across the country. She thrilled a standing-room-only crowd with songs ranging from her earliest releases to the title song from her new album, Every Kind of People. The audience knew the words to many of them and were ecstatic at the opportunity to sing along as they watched a supernova move toward critical mass.

Read the full interview 


Cylvia: best new LA band of 2015?

cover.jpgCylvia is a seven member alt rock/funk/blues/pop band created by actor and musician Zach Villa after a move across the country from New York City to LA – a move prompted by getting tired of dragging his amps and guitar through the subway to gigs.  The rest is history.....

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We Are Twin:  earns XTRA LOVE in new release

WE_ARE_TWIN_2_heads_cropped_300.jpegThere are probably enough alt rock bands on the scene in LA that,  if you laid them end to end, they would reach at least to Austin and maybe even to Nashville.  Which is why it is so hard for a new band to get noticed. I noticed We Are Twin. Wow!

Read the full interview at:

MITRE. Music that transcends language

download.jpgThere is a world of south-of-the-border Spanish-language music that many English speaking fans are unaware of.  Along with the traditional cumbia, and mariachi and banda, Latin popular music includes  rock,  rap, Mexican ska, pop and electronic, among other forms.  A generation of  Latin artists is emerging who  are creating endless combinations of traditional and  modern, singing in both English and Spanish, blending old-country and contemporary music forms into a new genre, Latin-Gringo rock.

Read the full interview at

Silver Flyer by Victoria Blythe soars, glides and settles gently in your mind

SilverFlyerC300sq.jpgThe title song, "Silver Flyer" leads off the debut song collection by Victoria Blythe, Silver Flyer, co-written with husband Greg. Blythe carries you up to touch the sky and then gently circles you down closer to earth, modulating her warm honey voice so you feel and see every note. She was a silver flyer/over a sea of darkness in his heart... Down in a lover's spiral/pulled to the ground by his desire. You don't know whether to cry or just submerge into her voice or both.

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Mallory Trunnell Knows How to Party

trunnell_earphones_246.jpgMallory Trunnell knows how to party and she threw an heck of one at the Hotel Café Sunday night to release her new album, Words. Dramatic in a puffy pink prom dress with a blue silk sash marvelously clashing with her red hair, brilliant red lipstick and plastic flower necklace, she set the scene and then made it happen.

Read the full interview at

Aubrey Logan knocks them out in LA

aubrey_mic_600.jpgAubrey Logan calls herself a pop singer, but she quickly adds, “you can’t take the jazz out of this girl”.  A graduate of the famed Berklee School of Music and an  American Idol alum (8th season) the jazz-influenced pop singer and trombone player – or pop-influenced jazz singer and trombone player depending on her mood  and set list – has accumulated valuable lessons and skills in both jazz and pop as she has  travelled through the varied  pathways  of music.  

Read the full review here

Kat McDowell: Japan’s loss is LA’s gain

Kat_Promo.jpgThe thing about Kat McDowell is that she is just plain fun to listen to. And remarkably, she is fun to listen to in two languages, English and Japanese.  And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish, given the difference between the two languages. But  Kat McDowell does it so well that in any language her music can make you sit up and take notice, or just let you happily tap your feet. Either way, she is a musical force on a fast track.

Read the full interview at

Maggie Szabo ups her game at the Hotel Cafe

maggie_stganding_rocks_HC_11.14_300.jpgWith her brilliant smile, athletic body and mischievous eyes, the diminutive Maggie Szabo put on a show Friday night at LA’s premier showcase club this Friday that topped even her high-energy performance  record.  Nobody sat still as she rocked  through  11 songs – mostly new material including the new, soon-to-be-a-hit “Paralyze”,  along with favorites like “Sweetest  Heartache” and the solid pop-anthem, “Slow Fire”.


Read the full review here

Dopamine by Lorelei Carlson: intoxicating emotions,  hallucinogenic voice

loreli_sibw_head_300.jpgThe pharmacological definition of dopamine is “a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system that acts on the brain to control movement, emotion, pain and pleasure. It  also forces the contraction of the heart in the treatment of shock.”  The musical definition of  dopamine is Lorelei Carlson and her new album named after the chemical. Dopamine arouses movement and intoxicating and sometimes painful emotions while it grips your heart and heats your blood until it steams in your veins.  The effect is mystical, magical, disturbing and addictive.

Read the full interview here

We Are the West: EP series. Wondrous when recorded. Unforgettable when live

WATW_300.jpgMany people don’t know what to make of the band We Are the West. WAW is three people – John Kibler on vocals and bass, Brett Hool vocals and guitar, and Elizabeth Goodfellow on drums and backup harmonies. They add other people for their shows and recordings and somehow manage to sound like an entire orchestra. The music they play is unclassifiable;  for lack of a better term, I call it gentle rock. It is laden with harmonies, intricate solos – including drum solos – bell-like guitar riffs, and swirling sounds from a bass, flute, keyboard and out of this world voices...

 Read the full review at

 Kat McDowell’s USA debut Rise Above is a winner from the first note

kat_ukelele.jpegThe thing about Kat McDowell is that she is just plain fun to listen to. And remarkably, she is fun to listen to in two languages, English and Japanese.  And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish, given the difference between the two languages. But  Kat McDowell does it so well that in any language her music can make you sit up and take notice, or just let you happily tap your feet.  Either way, she is a musical force on a fast track...

 Read the full review at

Through the Universe: Ben Jaimen takes us on an E-ticket ride

blue_coat_Jaimen300_sq.jpgBen Jaimen is very, very good and his US debut EP, Through the Universe, demonstrates that in spades. A native of Germany with family in Israel and Argentina, Jaimen moves easily among those and other countries, picking up musical influences while retaining a certain humble cosmopolitan air. Music training in Israel and London, summers teaching to disabled barrio children in Cordoba, recording in Germany and LA, he has seen and given a lot. He has sung to a million people at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany, written and recorded hundreds of songs, and played gigs from Berlin to Tel Aviv....

Read the full review at

Juliette Ashby: The Beginning of a Love Affair with America

Juliette-Ashby-350.jpgJuliette Ashby was in constant motion. Her hands, her arms, her body all swayed and circled and pointed and touched as she sang, hypnotizing us, drawing us in, capturing us in the heart inside her bare chest. Tall, beautiful and confident, yet down-to-earth, Ashby took the stage Friday night at the Hotel Café in Hollywood and looked over the packed room with a smile of satisfaction and greeting.. ...


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War Poets rock, pop and social change

wrpoets_active_mic.jpgWar Poets latest album American Police State is a social change tool that rocks with hooks and beats. Regardless of your political persuasion, you will enjoy the music they play and think about what they say. The five songs on this EP touch on gun violence (the title refers to citizens killing each other, not the police), income inequality, abuse of Native Americans, the loss of trust in our society, the Newtown massacre and schizophrenia. But it is all done within highly listenable pop and rock. Rex and Jenny know how to entice people to listen beyond the hooks while they listen to the hooks.

Red the full review here

Jessie Payo brings her high level blues talent to country and it works

“arguably the best country EP by a woman available today”

jessi._mike_hand_jeans300sq.pngDown the Mountain Is the solid country Jessie is comfortable with, but because of her huge talent in blues, rock, soul and even rap, she makes it her own and  the result is infectiously unique.  Every song on Down the Mountain is a gem – addictive, commanding, honest – and in some cases painful because to some extent they come from her life.

Read the full review at or

Lena Fayre hushes the Hotel Café with an ethereal, mesmerizing performance

LENA_FLARE.jpgLena Fayre’s live performance adds a critical element to her work, her visual body language and ethereal delivery above and beyond her audience.  The effect is greater than the usual live performance excitement – it is truly an extra dimension.  There is a reason Rolling Stone tapped Fayre as one of the “10 new artists you need to know”  in its February edition.  Although she is only 17,  the maturity of her command of lyrics, sound and audiences is that of a woman with a decade of stardom. That maturity was in full display at the Hotel Café, hushing an adorning audience.  

 Read the full review at

Ìvar Pàll Jònsson's Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter best musical soundtrack of the year.

 headshot_theater.jpgÌvar Pàll Jònsson is the composer of the best musical soundtrack of the year. That is not an easy judgment for me to make, but after listening to the 18 songs on the soundtrack album Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter by Ìvar Pàll Jònsson, I think we have a winner.  Just listening to the music has me thinking about cashing in my miles and going to New York to see the play.

 Read the full review at

Mary Scholz’s The Girl You Thought You Knew: you will fall in love.

couch.jpgMary Scholz's new album, The Girl You Thought You Knew is a stary Milky Way of music that tightens your stomach, speeds up your pulse and captures your heart.  The fifteen songs on this album are each crafted and polished and presented as a love offering in a carefully sequenced order that defines her heart and pierces yours.  This is not an album to play on shuffle;  it s a romance  ready to ripen.....

Read the full review at

Too Worn To Mend by American Beauties‏

band-600.jpgAmerican Beauties is an indie folk rock band that emerged from the Cambridge, Massachusetts music scene a few years ago and has been playing regional clubs and festivals as its music gets college and online radio airplay and TV licensing, giving them a larger audience. The music has elements of the folk rock bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s but brings in modern sounds and themes....

Read the full review at

Rory Partin: big bands are back!

head_200x200.jpgEverybody's Got Somebody But Me' is the first single from Rory Partin's new fan-funded album, featuring his all star 18-piece big band as well as Opry/Cajun music legend Jimmy C Newman. We caught up with Partin to get the high notes form this dashing crooner....

Check out the interview  here

Eliza Rickman 's O You Sinners is  dangerous and lovely, just like she is.

 O You Sinners, is a magical mystical tour through your own mind guided by her otherworldly voice, spare music and luminescent, ambiguous lyrics. Imagery abounds - dragging yourself over broken glass, dirty mind, dirty mouth, cutting my bones - raw, disturbing images that are open to question, but not to beat. Eliza Rickman has said much of her material comes from her life, especially from men who cause her angst, and angst and pain run through her songs like glittering scorpions.

Read the full review here


Dark Beauty’s world premier of Fall From Grace: interview with Liz Tapia and Bryan Zeigler 

The five supremely talented musicians of Dark Beauty have come together in a classically influenced, gothic alternative progressive rock band to tell a tale of the Fallen Angel in its debut concept album, “Fall From Grace”. I interviewed band leader Liz Tapia and her lead guitarist, co-writer and husband, Brian Zeigler about the album and broadcast “Wicked Doll House”, the latest master tape for the final album to arrive from the lab.

Read the full interview at

Grace: the Golden Girl is exactly that

goldengirl.300.jpgI first saw  Grayce at a Los Angeles music club.  I had come to see another band, but fortunately came early for dinner to witness a dark-eyed beauty with the self- confidence of King Kong who stepped onto the stage holding a guitar, told us her name was Grayce with a “y” and proceeded to lay down incredibly sharp, razor-edged, stripped down blues and soul songs. Grayce’s voice can ache, belt, croon, seduce, mesmerize – sometimes all in the same song. And she does it with lyrics and arrangements that are so sophisticated that if you close your eyes you think you are hearing a seasoned star with years of platinum records. No wonder she was invited perform with Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder at the Gibson Auditorium.

Read the full review


Cold Blood Club brings the party from New York to LA 

cbc_rockin_out_cropped.jpgThe Brooklyn alt. dance-rock band Cold Blood Club brought their infectious upbeat beats to Hollywood last night at the literary-themed Hemmingway’s, rattling the books off the shelves and turning the nightclub’s library setting into a flashing, smoking dance hall. And it was soooo much fun. If this is what bands do in Brooklyn, we need to import a few here permanently.

Read the full review at

Roses and Revolutions California tour.

eview: Roses and Revolutions, aka Alyssa Coco and Matt Merritt, a New York - based duo, has released a new self - titled EP that debuted at #1 on iTunes bestselling singer/songwriter EPs. The duo of known as Roses and Revolutions played the 9pm set at LA's famed showcase club Hotel Café and proved they are even more fun live than on their superb recordings. 

Read the full review at

Jill Jack is the top of her game with Sunflower Girl.

The title of Jill Jack's most recent album, Sunflower Girlcame from her husband, who greeted her one morning with "Hello sunflower girl" and an attempted kiss. Instead of kissing him back, she jotted "sunflower girl" and developed a song, and then an album around it. (he did get the kiss).  The title track is high energy, driven by Ron Pangborn's primitive kick drum beat and Mark Iannace's accordion and the sound is almost Celtic. Guitar solos punctuate the country-metered storyline of an every woman Sunflower Girl carried by Jill's incomparable voice. You could put this one on "repeat" have gotten your money's worth all by itself.

Read the full interview at

Kenji Williams, creator and director of Bella Gaia music, dance, space video performance.

Kenji Williams is a genius. That is all there is to it.  The idea of combining NASA photography and video from space with music and dance is sheer genius. That’s exactly what he did in creating the live performance known as Bella Gaia – “Beautiful Earth” now on its world tour.  

Read the full interview at


 “Bellmore” EP by Billy Kay.  (Wynonna was right)

billy_kay500.jpgThis 9-song EP ranges from classic somebody-done somebody-wrong songs in solid country mode, to modern blues and even a brush with 50’s style rock and roll. But at its heart, Bellmore is Billy Kay doing what he does superbly, honest country music. In this case, he was having so much fun, and his lifestyle keeps the costs down enough, that he decided to give it away – you can stream or download it from his website, or get a copy when you donate to the RockCANRoll charity link in his website. 

 You can see the full review at


 Gina Chavez: the Joan Baez of her generation

download.jpgThe title, Up.Rooted, reflects this album’s search for Gina Chavez’s heritage, an explicit exploration of the South American roots of this “Latina by nature, Gringa by nurture”.  But, intentionally or not, it is the descriptor of the search by a new generation of Hispanics in America for who they are, and for the rest of the country for what it really means to be an American, a resident of the nation where most of us are immigrants. Each of the ten songs in this album, whether love songs or movement songs, stands on its own as a triumph. But altogether, with Up.Rooted Gina Chavez has established herself as the Joan Baez of her generation.

See the full review at


Michael Addison: A new direction.

michael_cityscape.jpgListening to Michael Addison’s soon to be released album,  Resisting Fate,  is like laying in the grass on a summer day and watching the clouds slide by while you think of childhood and ice cream and former lovers.  And  then, there is lightening. The guitar wails, the tempo accelerates and you are hooked.

See full interview and album review at

A Bell Locks In by Blake Collins: fresh talent with potential.

standing_300jpg.jpgEven at his young age, Blake Collins is a renaissance man:  painting, collage, drawing, poetry, and of course,  music.  A young, multi-talented artist with boyish good looks and a degree in fine art from UCLA,  he is very busy.  He has released his first EP, A Bell Locks In, and is working on a second EP and a full length album while he produces for others and plays bass, keyboard  and guitar for three other bands.

See full interview at

Memoirs: interview from SXSW.

memoir_cover.jpgYou cannot look away from Memoir’s music video, “Look Away”. And you cannot get the music of that video, or any of Memoir’s music, out of your head. Dena Deadly, Zed Kelly and Remington Garner produce sound and images that are visually commanding, thematically stunning and totally addictive. When they released their first EP last year they put the music world on notice that a new force was now present and it cannot be ignored. There is nothing like this Los Angeles based indie-soul band.

see full interview at

Hana Kim: soaring lyrics and Saving Innocents at Hotel Cafe.

SAhana600sq.jpgUsually as the night progresses on Sundays at a showcase venue, the audience egresses – the later you sing, the fewer people you sing to.  The opposite was true for Hana Kim this past Sunday at the Hotel Café in Hollywood.  As she and her band began setting up a little before 10 pm, the double doors in the back started swinging as fans poured in.  The small crowd with  some empty tables became a full room of buzzing, talking, camera-flashing fans there to see one of their stars.

And Hana did not disappoint.  She had her full band – Ed Maxwell on bass, Adam Zimmon on lead guitar and Matt Mayhall on the drums – backing up her piano and keyboard and luxurious voice.  Together they transported the room to a concert hall filled with music and heart. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that Sunday night was the best live concert I have heard Hana Kim deliver.

See the full review in Music Junkie Press at

The ROAMies in Hollywood: pure fun

trio.jpgMusic lovers at the Hotel Café discovered that the way you spell fun is R-O-A-M-i-e-s, as in the ROAMies, the delightful married duo of Alexa James and Rory Partin.  They had the audience rocking, clapping, laughing and singing for almost an hour with a 9-song set that ran the gamut from original songs to early Beatles to Cajun classics. Alexa James is a talent to be reckoned with and hubby Rory brings New Orleans to Hollywood.

See the full review in Music Junkie Press at

Interviewing Global rocker Eric Zayne:  it’s a wild ride 

zayne_512sqjpg.jpgUnbridled, unleashed and almost uncontrolled enthusiastic talent -that is Eric Zayne and his electronica-influenced, soul and blues-infused, pop-inflected and sometimes just plain over the top creative funk/pop/rock. I first saw him live at a pre-Grammy Party in LA and knew this was a talent going places fast.  We talked afterwards about his gig at Sundance and his upcoming gigs and recordings.  Eric and his band can turn on a dime from infectious alt. pop to ballads with a twist. He is always trailblazing, always out of the box and into your pleasure centers. Put on your headphones, clear out the dance floor, forget everything you think  you know about rock and pop. Whether he is live onstage or erupting from a EP,  Eric Zayne’s music mainlines a pure dose of the most unique sound  coming out of the LA rock scene today directly into your brain. 

See the full interview with Eric Zayne in Music Junkie Press at

Lily Elise surprise show blows away Molly Malone’s Saturday night.

Review of Lily Elise show at Molly Malone's 2/22/14

lily_hold_mic_978.jpgPatrons at Molly Malone’s Saturday night got a nice bonus, thanks to a cancellation and some rescheduling: the nationally recognized R&B singer Lily Elise rocked them out at the coveted 10:45 pm slot.  Lily Elise, best known for being coached by pop icon Christina Aguilera on NBC’s The Voice, is a powerful R&B vocalist who can hit the high notes with ease and belt the blues with best of the blues queens of any era. And she did both to the delight of a house full of dancing fans.

See the full review at MusicJunkie

“Love You Anyway”: Karen Dezelle’s Valentine Gift

Review of Karen's Dezelle's new single

guitar_smile.jpgLike the EP Lost and Found,  Karen Dezelle’s new single, “Love You Anyway”,  is a jewel glowing with soft, internal fire – a gift  to her fans and her soon- to- be fans everywhere. I can only hope that she presents us with many, many more such gifts. The lyrics are personal, honest and intense as they unfold  a story of the last day of a love, of learning to love from a distance, of forgiveness and acceptance, of self-reflection and determination.

See the full review at


Interview with Terese Taylor

Terese Taylor’s music describes a personal world – or maybe series of worlds – that is dark, stark and cynical.  Or perhaps, she is simply laying reality out in front of us as she sees it and letting us interpret her images through our own lens.  Or maybe both at once.  That is the genius of Terese Taylor, a song writer and musical artist who uses her lyrics to paint sharp, steel cut images of life that upon closer inspection can be  ambiguous. The same goes for her music.  Is it rock, folk, country, or punk…or something that is simply Terese Taylor, best enjoyed without analysis?  Music FridayLive!  interviewed Terese Taylor on 1/31/14.

See full interview at and at 

Review: Too Worn to Mend by American Beauties: indie folk rock with a modern feel.

Having been raised with the lush harmonies of Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, and even working with Stephen Stills for a little while, I resonate with bands that understand how to construct layered harmony vocals in earworm arrangements - songs that make you hum and sing . American Beauties is a band that does that.  They happily insinuate their music into the soundtrack of your life.  They’re not quite folk, not quite pop, not quite rock and not quite country;  they skillfully blend all these genre’s into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Rich guitars, gentle bass, steel pedal hints, subtle drum beats and great background vocals enable American Beauties to  paint their lyrical vignettes with skill and grace. It is the kind of music you can put in your playlist to cushion the day.   

 American Beauties is an indie folkrock band that emerged from the Cambridge, Massachusetts music scene a few years ago and has been playing regional clubs and festivals as its music gets college and online radio airplay and TV licensing, giving them a larger audience.  The music has elements of the folkrock bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s  but brings in modern sounds and themes.  check them out at

 - See more at Vents Magazine

Reveiw:  Kris Gruen at the Sanctuary

This past Saturday night, The Sanctuary saw the usual audience mix of  locals, music fans and artists’ friends settle into the folding chairs to see the usual mix of neighborhood wanna-be’s, sketchy singers and interesting acts.  And Kris Gruen.

 Kris came to the stage, lite by a lone spot, carrying his well-worn and beloved acoustic guitar and hushed the room.  A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and poetic lyricist Kris Gruen has soaked in the sounds of celebrated artists throughout his young years and uses that history to bring to life scenes and memories and stories we all feel as our own.  Gruen’s music is a pointillist landscape of emotions and memories we recognize as our own, even when they are fantasy woven out of pure guitar and a balladeer’s voice.

See the full review at MusicJunkie.

Interview:  Niki English, lead singer and songwriter for Western Avenue country band.

Country music was once described in the famous B.J. Thomas 1975 recording, as  “somebody done -somebody-wrong songs”.  the genre’s stock in trade got expanded to include trucks, beer and unemployment. Not  Western Avenue. they are a whole different ballgame. 

The Canadian-based trio of Niki English,  Keith Robertson and Matt Williams have developed country into a powerful vehicle for deep feeling and expressive writing without sacrificing an inch of country vitality. They combine the ethos of country with the warmth of love songs and the heat of rock.  The lyrics they write and play are about loss and joy and nostalgia,  and most of all, about hope.  And they do it with great hooks,  earworm melodies and  classic country arrangements .  They call it “hot country”, and it’s a long way from somebody-done-somebody- wrong songs.

 It is no wonder Western Avenue has been nominated for the Nashville Universe Award for best country vocal group. Niki English, songwriter and lead singer of Western Avenue joined us on Music Friday Live! You can read a edited version of the interview in Vents Magazine or hear it on Blogtalk Radio.

LA-transplant Rory Partin learns the “LA-Way” of songwriting and brings his big band dance music to Typhoon in Santa Monica.

In an interview today on LA-based radio show Music Friday Live, Big Band Leader and “blue-eyed soul singer” Rory Partin agreed that LA is the most creative and competitive music market in the country, but said he was glad to be here. He is bringing his big band – 18 to 21 musicians – to the Typhoon at the Santa Monica Airport this Monday, 1/27/14.  Partin will do two shows, one at 8 pm and one at 9:30 pm to meet the demand for dinner and dancing to full orchestra standards like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Georgia On My Mind”.  In March, he and wife/music partner Alexa james, will appear at the Hotel Cafe in their pop band, The Roamies.

See more at The Hollywood Progressive.

Interview: Xander Demos, Prince of Guitar Shredding.

 Listening to Xander Demoss is an experience like none other. At first you say to yourself, “how is it possible that anyone can move that fast on a guitar?”   Then you realize that what your are listening to involves much more than speed.   It is musical magic  that creates a smoothly flowing landscape of epic legend and dark poetry.  Yes , it is at its core heavy and fast-ripped gunslinger guitar, but it is also melody that rises out of the speed.  What Xander does is not just metal or thrash or shred or  rock – it is its own thing, and a thing of beauty.  It takes a special skill to play with speed;  it takes a special talent to turn that speed into melody and it takes a special artistry to combine them both into a musical landscape.  Xander Demoss does it all. Xander generously took some time out of his incredibly busy schedule to talk with me and my listeners to fill us in on, among other things, how he does as much as he does.

See the full interview at Vents Magazine

Hana Kim Mezmerized LA's Witzend Live. 1/11/14

 The Witzend is an L.A. gem, a listening room designed with a beyond the state-of-the-art sound system for music lovers and emerging musicians with big futures.  A gig at the Witzend is a recognition of a musicians talent and potential. Hana Kim’s growing popularity and bountiful talent was on full display there tonight.  The club was packed and she held the audience in the palm of her hand - even the bar was quiet. Her deep soulful voice took full advantage of the club’s acoustics and her deeply personal songs went over very well with the discerning crowd that comes for only the best in live music.

Although she has been playing almost constantly in the LA area for two years, this was the first time I had seen her live and I didn’t know how her sophisticated studio sounds and haunting voice would translate to the stage.  I need not have worried.  Not only did they translate, but she raised the bar a notch for herself, tweaking the arrangements and adding a depth and power beyond that of  the album. She gave us ten songs, eight from her album Exodo, and two new ones. A fitting end to her tour and a joy for those of us in the seats

-See more at Music Junkie

Tell Me How You Died by Handsome as Sin: breakout debut album 

Tell Me How You Died is poetry and pain delivered with a six-string hyperdermic. Max Waller and Chuck Riviera play rock and roll as it should be played. The band calls itself bad-ass Southern California Rock. I think that description just scratches the surface. This is head banging head music. Intricate, powerful, hypnotic and thoughtful. It is so good that it is habit forming, but you can’t OD on it. Tell Me How you Died reminds you that rock is rebel music, dark music, music about real life and real feelings, real pain and real ecstasy. Their music is all of those things – powerfully so – but much more. Maxton Waller and Chuck Riviera have joined their talents into something far greater than the sum of its parts. Their music is totally male, stripped down and sharply pointed, it takes no prisoners and no excuses. And it is good, very, very good. 

 This album will wrench you out of your comfort zone like the band did me at a club in Hollywood. I was hooked.

 - See more at Vents Magazine

Polaris Rose Rocks the Virgil in LA's Silverlake.

11.24.13. Peter Anthony and Madelynn Elyse, aka Polaris Rose, were on the venue floor greeting friends and admirers.  Madelynn’s high tinkling bell of a laugh could be heard over the general beer bar buzz as she hugged Polaris Rose followers, embracing them with the kind of charm normally associated with Bill Clinton.  The loyalty of their fans was obvious…people love them. When the duo mounted the stage at 8:30 pm, it was easy to tell why. Polaris Rose filled the room with seven songs altogether, impossibly well- crafted on the fly with Kyle Feher’s  drumming, Peter’s enormous guitar chops and lyrical delivery, and Maddy’s room-filling voice and bass playing.  As a live act, they top their studio album in sound quality as well as excitement.  Peter has developed a guitar style that is high energy, almost violent, and then soft and gentle – resulting in not just guitar, but in textured, layered melodies that you are not aware of until you can watch his hands move. Maddy has mastered the bass in just 6 months and pushes it out at the same volume as the drums, literally harmonizing the percussion while she harmonizes the singing and carries the lyrics herself in an angelic voice.    The audience was looking for the secrets of the moon and they got much, much more. 

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The Punk Singer documentary on Kathleen Hanna, opens 11.29.13

The Punk Singer is an intensely intimate and  culturally powerful portrait of Kathleen Hanna – it will reverberate through  our culture as one of best music documentaries ever as Kathleen Hanna still reverberates through our culture with her new band, The Julie Ruin.  Sini Anderson captures the context of the second and  third wave feminism and riot grrl movements in The Punk Singer,  her extraordinary documentary on Kathleen Hanna.  Using music, archive footage, up-close and personal conversations with Kathleen, her husband, contemporaries and band members, Anderson has taken us into and along with the life of one of the most  significant women in American music, and one of the most  important influences on today’s women and American culture.

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Irene Diaz at The Sanctuary. Angelic voice+perfect acoustics=divine concert  

11.16.22. Irene Diaz came on stage at the nightclub-cum church at 8 pm after a 6-piece group finished their set and were smoozing with their friends around the room, creating a general buzz of happy gossip. After she and Carolyn Cardoza set up their equipment – a full keyboard for Irene and amplified ukulele for Carolyn - Irene tickled the piano keys and sang “check, check, check” to get the sound right.  The room went quiet and heads turned to the stage. Just those few notes of her concert-level piano and her celestial voice doing a sound check told everyone there that a remarkable talent was in the room. It was time for music.

And music we got. The two or three dozen people there that night were treated to a music experience for a $5 dollar donation that could have commanded a $50 ticked at the Hollywood Bowl.  If you were not one of the lucky few at The Sanctuary Friday night, you can see and hear Irene Diaz at the Troubadour Dec. 7 with Gabby Moreno and David Garza. She is also playing at Sims in San Francisco on December 5 with Gabby Moreno, David Garza and Cazadero, and in San Diego at the Griffin on Sunday December 8 with Gabby and David.

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Salvador Santana at the Hotel Cafe 11.7.13

Salvador Santana totally owned the Hotel Café listening Room Thursday night. He had the audience right where he wanted them – happy, positive, mesmerized and even at times, quiet, so intense was his music and so intent was everyone in the near full house on listening to it. Salvador has arrived, he is fully formed and he and his SSB band are transforming hip hop into something, bigger, wider, and much, much broader. He demonstrated Thursday night that he can rhyme with the best of them while he communicates with everyone.

Santana performed six songs; two new songs plus four from the albums Rise Up and Keyboard City. A pianist and keyboard artist – no, he did not follow in his father’s guitar footsteps – he has deftly combined salsa and hip hop into songs that go beyond either genre and take on a positive, uplifting life of their own. This who Salvador is: he always looks for the best in people, whether it be in his SSB band, who is the best at what they do, or the progressive charities he is personally involved in; the Daraja Academy for girls in rural Kenya, the Do A Little Foundation supporting health and education for women, and Amnesty International, National Center for Farm Worker Health, and Clinc Ole. 

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Above the Covers by Palter Ego

When I first saw Palter Ego on stage at an LA club, I could not get enough…I didn’t want them to stop.  Jesse Palter and Sam Barsh have created not just a musical group, but in some ways , a new musical form.  They are categorized as jazz-infused pop, and that works.  But there is so much more.  At first listen their music is expertly polished and so listenable.   On second listen – and there must be a second listen , you can’t play them just once -  you sense how  exquisitely crafted their music is and how close to perfect collaboration these two people are.  On third listen, the brilliance of the interplay between Jesse’s  euphonious crystalline voice and Sam’s subtly intense and bulls-eye precise instrumentation  emerges and  you realize your ears are in the presence of genius. I am reviewing two albums of theirs together because these two records showcase their talent in two totally different ways.  Id Ego comprises 10 songs they wrote themselves   Above the Covers,  has 8 songs by others that they have added their own unique twist to. Both are top of the playlist albums and each is unique.

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Metamorphoses by Eddie Grey

is Grey’s second major release, after the critically praised all-acoustic LP One Life and the subsequent first single “South Carolina”, which kicked off his following in the Los Angeles market. Eddie Grey and his band then released their first studio album The Love Thief, which expanded their following nationally as it became apparent that he and his band had grown to be national-level creative-juiced musicians in a short 3 years.

This album’s 8 songs plus bonus track do not disappoint – in fact, it is the best thing Grey has done.  Bluesy in places,  reggae in places and just plain melancholy, it utilizes his heartache-filled voice and masterful guitar to the upmost.  Metamorphoses shows that Eddie Grey and his band  are quite capable of producing an engaging, listenable journey that occasionally becomes an out-of- body experience. Eddie Grey has the talent and the skill to be a star and I expect to see much, much more from him.  

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  Rise Up by Salvador Santana

This is Grammy material. That is not an easy judgment to make, but you know it when you hear it and I hear it on this album.  Rise Up is transformative – it raises rap and hip hop to a new level. Rise Up is the best of rap and gives it a new melodic backbone, accessibility and inspiration. Salvador Santana has spent 7 years shaping some of these songs, perfecting them, assembling a incredibly talented group of band members, especially the singer Alix Nester. 

The EP consists of 7 tunes, 5 that he has written over the past 6 -7 years, and two new songs: “It’s On” which was co-written by Salvador Santana, Asdru Sierre and Robert Ryan Chisholm and produced by Barrett Yeretsian and  “Gimme Your Best”  written by Salvador Santana, Barrett Yeretsian and Jared Meeker and produced by Salvador Santana and Asdru Sierre.  

Listening to Sal Santana perform songs from the Rise Up EP  is like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon and flying off with it. This may be the best rap album of the year and I fully expect to see Sal at the Grammys.

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Freedom by Jackie Bristow

Freedom is a joy, just pure, uplifting joy, created by a major talent and gifted to us. Recorded in between trips between Austin and Sydney, it was co-produced by Jackie Bristow and Mark Punch. Musicians on the album include, J. J Johnson (John Mayer), Mark Punch (Kasey Chambers), Chris Maresh (Eric Johnson), Matt Fell (Josh Pyke), Jeff Young (Steely Dan), Clayton Doley, Rob Woolf (Jimmy Barnes). Mix by Philip Punch and mastered by Joe Gastwirt.

Its ten songs  begin with the exuberant title track that tells a moving story with a music that carries the tale and sticks with you. “Freedom’s” driving high-hat drum line scaffolds her intense and perfectly pitched voice, intersected by blues organ and gospel-inflected vocal backups. It is the perfect introduction the rest of the album and you will hum this one all day long. 

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  What are Dreams Made Of? by AOEDE

Lisa Sniderman, aka AOEDE,  gives given children and adults albums designed to let you lay back and follow the music.  She creates not just lyrics and notes, but magical worlds of music, tales, characters, excitement, concern, love and joy.  Her albums are ostensibly for children, but really, the music is so sophisticated and the artists she joins with and directs are so talented that adults get lost in them.

 What are Dreams Made Of? is her latest release, available this week.   A  magical music adventure delivered through your ear buds, it continues and tops  Sniderman’s prize winning career. If this album were any better it would be on Broadway.

 What are Dreams Made Of? continues the adventures of Lisa Sniderman’s alter ego, AOEDE, (pronounced A-E-D) and a cast of dreamworld friends and enemies in the magic kingdom of Wonderhaven as they discover where dreams, both good and bad, come from. Weaving dialog and rock, pop, film theme and  world music together, Sniderman masterfully illustrates a story with sound.  Many of the songs fit uniquely in the story being told, but some stand alone, iPod ready. 

Full interview at

 Fallen Angel by Dream Aria.

Very few bands can bring power with nuance, story, complexity and sheen. And the only band that I know of can do all that with beauty, a term not normally used for hard rock, is Dream Aria. In the process they combine metal, rock, techno, progressive, classical, New Age, Goth, and world music. To say that Dream Aria creates new genre is an understatement. They do it.

 Fallen Angel stretches over 10 songs, but is a unified whole.The Fallen Angel title track opens with a storm – literally in sound effects, and musically with high-pitched guitars and pounding drums backing Ann’s raw vocals. It is metal, but metal with sheen and color and beauty. From then on  you are on a roller coaster of a dream, following the Fallen Angel through the gates of Hades and the clouds of heaven. Hold on tight and enjoy. 

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OWL breaks the rules – as always – blowi ng away the Whiskey A Go Go

The 11-song set – all new songs likely destined to her first US-produced album now in process – were performed with a new all-star band comprising Adam Levy on guitar (Norah Jones), Deron Johnsonon piano (Miles Davis), Michael Jerome (Richard Thompson) on drums and Jonathan Flaugher(Ryan Adams) on bass. Every song was jewel, from the pop rock happiness flowing from the opening song “You Bring Me Luck” to the equally pop but more introspective closing tune “Everybody Knows My Face.”

HBO’ The Latin Explosion:  a celebration of todos somos Americanos,  but we need more

Read the full interview at

Kids just wanna have fun -- or at least that’s what I remember from my childhood.  But they also want to explore and dance and sing and have friends  and sleep and dream. All of that is magically encased in a CD and sing-a-long coloring book produced by the mother-daughter team of Tracy Newman and Charlotte Dean, I Can Swing Forever.

Read the full review at

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