Tag Archives: music

A Quest for Vision!

Visionary.

It’s a word that we’ve all heard bandied about from time to time, usually attached to some famous figure in history known for inventing something important that has changed the nation—or the world—in ways modern generations could not contemplate living without. Take Steve Jobs for example. Mr. Jobs is considered a true visionary. He’s the father of the modern personal computer, a device with which a life without would seem unimaginable in this modern world. Or consider Henry Ford, automotive tycoon. Mr. Ford certainly didn’t invent the automobile, but he did perfect the assembly line, bringing costs down, allowing for the common people to afford their very own car—and through employment in Ford’s factories, a stronger middle class arose.

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The Oxford American College Dictionary contains multiple definitions for this complex yet simple word. The definition I like best reads as stated: a person with original ideas about what the future will or could be like.

The Oxford could be very well be describing a writer. Writers, by nature, are visionaries. Writers, in the name of creativity, must envision worlds that do not exist, populated with people that are not real. But the above definition mentions only the future. What about the past? Can a writer be a visionary in regards to a time that has already faded? The answer is most certainly yes. We construct alternate accounts of real events—like making Abraham Lincoln into a vampire hunter. A program on an internet site’s streaming service poses a world in the 21 century seen through the lens of a Nazi victory in World War Two.

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But being a visionary, it runs deeper than merely being a creative writer—or musician or artist. In a sense, everybody is a writer. If you write emails or texts, you are a writer. Here’s where the differences come into play. Not everybody is an author. Writers are not all authors. There are those who write down their personal thoughts and experiences in the pages of diaries or journals, never intending any other living soul to pry. Authors, they have to be bold and brave. They write to be read. If the words we seek to share with others are not visionary, you can bet you’ll hear from those who invested the time in sentences we’ve strung together.

Diaries, texts, personal correspondences; these are not meant to entertain the reader.  These are merely there to convey a message or to act as reminder to the future self that, on this particular day, so-and-so made me angry or happy or sad.

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Authors, writing to be read, must envision their story from beginning to end—before the writing process begins. We must see what does not, at this juncture, exist anywhere in this world. This will almost certainly require research of some sort—unless you’re creating your own Middle Earth setting. Research itself requires vision.

In beginning my work on Jazz Baby, I needed a road map through the 1920s. I am just past the half-century mark, having drawn my first breath of life in 1967. I had nothing by way of personal experience to shade my notions of the America of 1925. And we can’t just assume, either. Assumption is an enemy of the visionary.

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As I started to dig into my research, scenes from my story began to construct themselves behind my eyes. Scraps of paper quickly filled with ideas found within the pages of an old U.S. history book; situations came to life while watching documentaries on PBS or The History Channel. They didn’t have radio in their cars until 1932—so scrap the scene where the characters are driving to New Orleans singing along to jazz tunes on the radio. So how do we fill that void? Dialogue! These characters are now forced to speak to one another, sharing hopes and fears, and in the process, introducing their deeper selves to those who would come to read the finished product. A visionary finds ways to stay on point when something like reality cuts in and says, um, that can’t be. We make it work. And we don’t just make it work; we use it for the profound or the poignant. Statements are made in those quiet moments between Emily Ann and Tanyon—statements that wouldn’t exist had I stuck a radio in that car.

Being visionary is about seeing what’s not there, seeing it in multiple views, and possessing the ability to determine the best view. It doesn’t work very well to write about characters of which we know little or nothing. Vision allows us to see these characters, to meet them, to discover the personalities behind mere words on a page. To the visionary writer, his or her characters truly come alive before they ever occupy space on the page.

The fact is anybody can write a story. But the visionary writes the sort of stories people will want to read. The really good ones build a following of readers just waiting for the next story to unfold. The best storytellers throughout history possessed vision. And it’s that vision that gives both the writer and the story life eternal. Those without vision, well, nobody recalls the stories they’ve told. Nobody remembers their names.

 

 

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Michigan Rockers Widetrack Return With A Brand New Album

Rating: ★★★★★

Widetrack is an alterna-prog band based in my home state of Michigan. One description tags them as: “Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling holds a group therapy session with members of Pink Floyd and Soundgarden.” The band has recently completed their third album, entitled Widetrack III. This latest offering is filled with great hooks, catchy jams, and some incredible musical moods and addictive vibes.

Widetrack’s lineup consists of Ron Tippin on drums, vocals, and guitar, Ron’s son Zach Tippin handling bass duties, and Brian Burleson on lead guitar.

Long-time band producer Andy Patalan twisted the knobs once again on this latest effort. Patalan, known for his stellar work with 90’s Detroit alt rockers Sponge, offers a great ear in helping the band capture its incredible sound in the studio.

The album kicks off with an infectious rhythm weaving its way through a track called “Burning the Sun.” Solid all the way around, this tune calls to mind a time when music was fresh and exciting. The lyrics draw the listener into soul-searching mode:

The last run
Before the darkness descends

Seasons cycling
Through one constant frame
Only vices left
To relieve your wait

Demons on your back
Feeding off your faith
Knowing not for certain
If its real or feigned

Feeling all the while
Nothing’s bound to change
Knowing something more
is somewhere

There’s no let-up as the band segues into a mesmerizing number entitled “Zero Hour.” The vocals on this one modulate between pleading and demanding, pulling the listener along for a trippy ride.

“Gift” is the third track on the album. The bassline drives an incredible vibe through the center of the song, painting a mood that feels both new and yet still familiar.

“Unknown” kicks into high gear with a frantic chase going on between drums and guitar. The vocals conjure a dreamy state of mind floating above the fray, watching it all unfold.

A nice Queens of the Stone Age-influenced jam called “The Other” follows. The guitar work on this number is stellar, verging on shredder-mode. There are even elements of classic Pink Floyd sprinkled into moments.

“Loveless” is a haunting melody drenched in flourishes of darkness. The vocals are incredible in their delivery of emotion, anguish, and, in brief moments, they even carry a hint of menace.

Bouncing along on a pulsing rhythm, “Desolate” recalls a time when bands had the talent and the skill to flex their musical muscles without even needing to add words. This instrumental tethers Widetrack to some of the great bands of the past while teaching those coming up today that musicianship should always take precedence over image or attitude.

Tracks like “Ghosts” and “Hindsight” and “Life Force” add their own flavor to the stew that makes up this incredible album. But it’s the song called “Transcend” that is the true standout here. The elements that make up this song mesh so well. It transports the listener to another plateau in some far away universe—the way really good music will do. This is currently my favorite track on Widetrack III.

“Still Here” closes out the set. There’s something subtle going on here, underneath the tone of this track. It’s a tension and a volatility that threatens to snap and take over. But it never loses control. The vocals of Ron Tippin keep the mood on an even keel—even as the music itself works up to an almost manic pace toward the end. This is another excellent track on an album loaded with great music.

Widetrack is a band fueled by many contributing influences. These all coalesce into a sound that is both familiar and uniquely their own. The best songwriters in the world are those who, when crafting their music, are able to interlace differing moods within each song. This is what the Beatles and Rush and Pink Floyd did so well. It is refreshing to know that this skill is very much still in use. You won’t find any computer-generated beats on this album. Neither will you find filler material. For those who appreciate the talents of real musicians playing real instruments, Widetrack has an album just for you.

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Check out WIDETRACK’S cover of the Pink Floyd classic “Welcome to the Machine”

Grace VanderWaal Concert – Cambridge, MA – February 5, 2018

Here’s a pleasant surprise from the FANderWaal News YouTube channel. They were kind enough to share a live video recording of Grace VanderWaal’s Cambridge, MA, show from February 5, 2018. So, I’m sharing the video here, simply because the more I see and hear from this gentle old soul, the more in awe I become! Have a look and a listen.

Young Girl, Old Soul: Grace VanderWaal Shines on Debut Album

Rating: ★★★★★

Every so often, when the stars line up just right, and the angels find themselves all in agreement, there comes to Earth a talent so unique, so otherworldly, that even the staunchest of skeptics begin to consider the notion of reincarnation.

By outward appearances, Grace VanderWaal is a mere child. The world first glimpsed her as a contestant on the hit NBC television program America’s Got Talent. With her distinctive voice and skillful ability on ukulele, this girl dazzled viewers with an original song during audition week. She impressed the judges, who then sent her into the next round with the Golden Buzzer—an honor reserved only for the very best perfomers. With each subsequent week, Grace, like an onion, peeled back the layers and showed the world what lies beneath.

What we saw is a very old soul masquerading as a young girl. Grace VanderWaal, at the tender age of twelve, won season eleven of America’s Got Talent. And now, as if gifting the world, she’s released her debut album entitled Just the Beginning.

So, what does an album from a now-13-year-old sound like?

Pure heaven. Joy. Bliss. A sweet addiction that stirs up all those pleasure receptors in the brain.

I kid you not.

This 12-song full-length album is chock full of catchy tunes and sparkling gems that will still be relevant enough for airplay decades from now. On the album, she works with some award-winning producers that really capture the pure essence of the voice that first got America to take notice. And the fact that young Grace wrote or co-wrote every tune in this package boggles the mind.

The album opens with the ukulele-fueled “Moonlight,” a track that has listeners conjuring summer evenings under the night sky, when holding hands felt like the greatest thing in the world. “Sick of Being Told” moves us quickly into those teenage years of rebellion, when we felt old enough to make our own way, only to be reminded (by every adult) we still had a long road ahead of us.

Beneath lush piano, there’s a torment in Grace’s vocals on the darkly tinged “Burned,” a warning against continuing to do those things you know will only hurt you. “Just A Crush” dares listeners to sit still while hearing the honesty of a person who knows what she wants—and it isn’t the one she’s singing about. “So Much More Than This” is a bouncy number capable of painting even the grayest of winter skies with the lemon-yellow of summer sunshine.

“Talk Good” is a reminder of those moments when the mind wants to say the right thing but the tongue refuses to cooperate.

“Florets” is dreamy and gorgeous, filled with little bits of heaven. This one had been my favorite for the first few listens of Just the Beginning. But then I found myself entangled in the dark poetic beauty of the album’s closing track, “Darkness Keeps Chasing Me.” Anybody who has ever fallen under the blackness of depression can connect with this number. The maturity in her lyrics contradicts Grace’s age:

Opening my eyes
Seems like it gets harder sometimes
Look at the skylight
Would you mad at me if I tried running away to it in the night?
I tried to fight
But I’m not strong enough
I just want you here but I also wanna be alone
I don’t know what I want anymore

This is not a child singing here; this is a wise old sage taking refuge inside a young girl.

Have a listen to “Darkness Keeps Chasing Me” and find out what I’m talking about. If this song doesn’t touch you on some level, you just might want to check your pulse.

“Darkness Keeps Chasing Me” (with lyrics) 

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Click Here to Buy Just the Beginning

Also Available at TargetWalmart, and iTunes

 

The Baby Teegarten Interview (#RRBC Book & Blog Block Party)

 

Hi and WELCOME to Rave Reviews Book Club’s BOOK & BLOG BLOCK PARTY at THE INDIE SPOT!  Location: MICHIGAN.

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Here’s What I’m Giving Away Today:

GIVEAWAYS ARE CLOSED!

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS: Mae Clair, Rob Kimbrell, Mary Schmidt, and Jerry Marquardt.

***

Number of Winners for this stop: 4

I decided to have a little fun with this Book & Blog Block Party stop. In the years since Jazz Baby first saw publication, some readers have been curious as to what happened to Emily Ann “Baby” Teegarten. Did she ever make it to New York? Were her dreams of singing jazz professionally ever realized? Did she find success? Well, presented here, is an interview with Baby Teegarten, which takes place ten years after the novel ends. This is meant to be a glimpse into the life our protagonist may have created for herself.

The Baby Teegarten Interview!

 April 15, 1935

She chose the meeting place. I could lie and tell you readers that I arrived thirty minutes early just to get a feel for the room. But the truth of the matter is, I get a little nervous with this one. Most of you have been reading my column for the better part of 15 years. You know the names that have graced my page: Babe Ruth, Harry Houdini, Clara Bow, Harold Lloyd—even Charlie Chaplin agreed to a sit-down chat back in 1924.

Still, this one is different.

The she I’m referring to is popular jazz vocalist Baby Teegarten. They don’t come any bigger than Baby these days. Three consecutive years as the country’s highest-paid entertainer proves this fact.

I lock down a table at the rear of McSorley’s Tavern on East 7th Street—which also happens to hold a strict policy for not allowing women inside.

But Baby Teegarten, well, she’s not just any woman.

“This is her neighborhood,” the fellow tending bar tells me. “She has a swanky place overlooking Central Park. Bought it from Babe Ruth himself.”

It’s the Babe who introduced Baby to McSorley’s.

“Nobody bothers her in here,” the barkeep explains. “Besides, if she’s pals with the Babe, she’s all right by us.”

I knock back a Scotch and soda. It’s what steadies my nerves. Only Mae West ever had me taking a nip before an interview.

I’ve seen Baby perform a dozen times easily—this going back to those first shows she did at Swelby’s Joint. Two thousand patrons lined up every night just to witness the Baby. She’d been just shy of her fourteenth birthday back in those early shows. But any fool with eyes and ears could tell she was special.

Oh, sure, we all recall the backlash at allowing a mere child up on those club stages. But nobody could—or would—stand in that girl’s way. No, sir. She’d have busted any full-grown man in the chops, should one be so bold as to try.

Prompt, this one. She arrives at 3 o’clock sharp, with her entourage in tow. By entourage I mean her manager, Abe Horowitz, and Job Pritchett, husband of Baby.

Mr. Pritchett, he’s a large fellow, to be sure. Tall and wide; real sturdy; the sort of man who likely spent his youth throwing bales of hay around the farm, maybe even punching cows—literally. Hollywood handsome: blond hair worn messy, pale blue eyes, an easy laugh. He’s more threatening than threatened. Famous in his own right, he’s known the world over for his paintings and sculptures.

Baby is a true vision, greeting patrons by name up by the front door. She’s resplendent in a violet-colored summer dress that falls just below her knees. Diamonds sparkle on her fingers and wrists, her ears, at her delicate throat. There’s even a gold bracelet on her right ankle.

Eyes as green as emeralds track me down in my corner.

There’s a subtle sweetness in her scent.

Lilacs.

“Hey, there,” she says. “I’m supposed to talk with you today?”

I’m lost for words in this moment, so I just nod like a mute fool.

“You don’t mind it here, do you?” Her accent is rich, wrapping her every word in a southern twang thicker than molasses—and just as sweet.

My voice carries a slight tremble, but I manage a quick, “No, ma’am.”

Baby Teegarten settles on a bar stool next to mine. “This is Mister Pritchett, my husband,” she says.

Job Pritchett’s massive hand takes mine with a gentle squeeze. “Good to meet you,” he tells me in a boyish tone. A lucky fellow, this one.

Abe Horowitz needs no introduction: Club owner, manager of a handful of singers and musicians. Connected. He mined gold when he discovered Baby Teegarten.

Job’s lips brush Baby’s lips. His voice comes soft, almost a soothing thing. “Me and Abe will be up at the bar—if you need us.”

It passes there in the space between them: his subtle caress of her cheek, her gentle squeeze of his hand. These two are infatuated with one another.

“Lord a-mercy, I love that boy,” she says, once we’re alone. “We got our tenth anniversary coming this summer.” She waves her right hand in my face. “He just got me this one right here.”

She means the full carat diamond set in white gold on her ring finger.

“What does it feel like to make more money than the president of the United States?” I ask, leading us into the interview.

Her petite shoulders give up a shrug. “Just means I can buy whatever I want—’Cept Jobie’s the one buys my jewelry. That boy makes nearly as much as me.”

She’s a tiny thing, maybe five foot two. I’m guessing it might take an extra big lunch to push her past a hundred pounds. And though she doesn’t mention it, this day is her twenty-third birthday.

I ask, “When did you first start singing?”

“Since I can recollect. Pastor Pritchett first had me up in front of the congregation when I was just five. That’s when I took to singing for other folks who ain’t just my kin.”

“Mississippi, right?”

Her head tips a short nod. “Down Rayford—up a piece from Biloxi.”

“A Delta girl, huh? You pick cotton down there?”

A silver cigarette case finds her hand. “Picked a bunch. Mister Kuiper used to pay me a dime for each sack I managed. I made a dollar a day most days.”

“Doesn’t sound like much.”

“It does to a little girl ain’t got much of nothin’.”

A Lucky Strike settles between her lips. Smoke rolls from her dainty nose.

Questions my editor suggested filter through the small talk. “You’re working a lot with George Gershwin. How’d that come about?”

“Georgie’s sweet,” she says, sending smoke rings chasing after her words. “His family knows Mister Horowitz’s family. He liked my voice and wrote some songs for me—’Cept I’m the one writes the words, since I’m the one has to sing ’em.”

Sales figures wedge their way into the conversation—nobody sells more phonograph records than Baby Teegarten.

“A million,” she offers. Says it as if she doesn’t really believe it herself. “I mean, a person can reach into his pocket, grab a hundred of something, and toss it on the floor and say, ‘Yep. That’s a hundred.’ But nobody can throw a million anything on the floor and count that.”

She’s had three of them reach that plateau in recent years.

“Where’s your favorite place to play?” I ask, scratching off another one from my editor.

“Paris is nice.” Her hand gives up an abbreviated wave, catching the barkeep’s attention. “What’s so amazing there is, those folks don’t speak no English, but they sure know all the words to my songs.”

A bottle arrives at our table. Not exactly what I expected.

“Co-cola,” she says, drawing a long pull. “Mister Horowitz don’t like for me to drink liquor while I’m gabbing with newspaper fellas. He says I just might talk too much.”

I feign shock. “Secrets?”

There’s an endearing sweetness in her giggle. “Oh, I got plenty of secrets.”

“Horowitz really looks after you, huh?”

“He’s the best. Like a second daddy. Doesn’t let anybody get close enough to take advantage.”

She spends a lot of time on the road, traveling by train, singing in places like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Kansas City. Big theaters, is where she sings these days. Gone are the smoke-filled clubs with dance floors and drunken revelers.

“I like the theaters,” she says. “And I really like seeing different places. But I do miss the New York clubs. I could do two shows a night and be at home with Mister Pritchett by one in the morning. Now, I do one show for five thousand people—nobody drinking or dancing—a night at a hotel, then up before the devil and off to the train station and the next city.”

There’s a weary tone creeping into her answers. Well, maybe weary isn’t the right word. Cautious, perhaps.

“Do you ever take time off? Maybe stay home for a while?”

She does—but only because the men in her life force her to do so.

“Once Mister Pritchett and Mister Horowitz get together, they’re worse than two fathers.”

Baby Teegarten will soon add actress to her resume. She just this week signed to play a role in a new James Cagney movie.

“It’s only a small part,” she explains. “I play a singer in a jazz club. I’ll sing two new songs they wrote just for the film.”

“Any lines?”

Just one. But that’s fine by her. “I ain’t no movie star.”

No, she’s not. But that doesn’t stop the real movie stars from turning out wherever Baby Teegarten treads a stage. It’s fashionable to be seen at her shows.

“Jean Harlow got my autograph last summer in Chicago.” She says it like it’s a normal thing that happens to most people.

“How’d you come to be friendly with Babe Ruth?”

That shrug raises her shoulders again. “He came to my shows most nights he was in town—back when I still played the clubs. Once he decided to buy a house in the country, I bought his apartment.”

“I guess that makes you a Yankees fan, huh?”

It’s a playful thing, that sideways glance she throws at me. “Ain’t no self-respecting Mississippi girl gonna ever cheer on no Yankees.”

Abe Horowitz’s approach signals a wrap to our discussion. I’d been promised twenty minutes, Baby gave me thirty.

“Gotta get ready for the trip to Hollywood,” she says, gaining her feet.

She offers a handshake, which abruptly becomes a friendly hug.

Job Pritchett, arm around Baby’s waist, sweeps the girl away, following Abe Horowitz out the front door, into the crowd moving along 7th Street.

It takes a few moments for my head to clear itself of her scent, her voice, her very presence. It’s not a difficult thing to see why so many have fallen for this lovely young woman.

“She just has a way about her,” the barkeep says as I make my getaway.

She certainly does, I tell myself. She certainly does.

Grab a copy of Jazz Baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is Rip ‘N Time

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I started my Twitter account @voiceofindie with the idea of helping indie authors and their work reach potential readers. It quickly morphed into a platform that includes indie musicians, photographers, and artists. Basically, I’ll tweet links and retweets for just about anybody with a creative endeavor needing a little extra word-of-mouth promotion. Because that’s all Twitter really is: word of mouth.

Recently, an EP came into my possession. This recording contains three fantastic tracks from a metal band called Rip ’N Time. But this isn’t your average band with the standard formation story.

Rip ’N Time began as a class project at a West Los Angeles high school. The course, taught by seventh period instructor Gunther Parigaliy, is called Multimedia Studies. The students in this small class were encouraged to create separate projects that would come together as a single affair. What they’ve accomplished deserves an A+ and the opportunity to record a full-length album.

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Rip ’N Time consists of Riley Ripintyme on lead and rhythm guitar, Langston LaBelle handling vocals and rhythm guitar, and the strong rhythm section of Vincent Tarrega and Akemi Lee on drums and bass respectively. They cite bands as diverse at The Beatles, Queen, and Smithereens as influences. Toss the Bangles and the Byrds into the mix and you’ll get a pretty good feel for this band’s sound.

The EP, entitled Playing Her Guitar Suite, is just a sample of Rip ’N Time’s potential. It’s a taste of dreamy guitars and rock-steady rhythms. I hear hints of eighties rock mingled with classic sounds reaching further back through the seventies and dipping into the sixties. These two girls and two guys bring it all together into a cohesive sound that takes listeners on a journey into a faraway land—perhaps even to another world.

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“Playing Her Guitar” is the lead-off track, setting the mood with its haunting melody and layered textures. The guitar work here is stellar, playing loose and sassy against the lead vocals, calling to mind a conversation taking place somewhere in the ether.

The middle track, an instrumental called “Twisting Road,” marches in on a great 1980s vibe with a twist of the modern. It’s the longest of the three songs, clocking in at just over eight minutes—and still not long enough. This one is my favorite of the collection.

Another instrumental closes out the EP. Entitled “Suite Dream,” this song is big and thick with sound. The press release that arrived with the CD refers to this track as a guitarchestral symphony. I’d have to agree with that proclamation.

The instrumentation on this project is solid. Riley Ripintyme can hold her own as a guitarist. Her style draws me back to another great female axe slinger named Lita Ford. Girls can play. Period. Riley seems poised to carry the proverbial torch into the next generation of guitar heroes.

Akemi Lee on bass and Vincent Tarrega on drums provide the very foundation on which this band rests. Good rhythm sections often take years to jell. These two sound like seasoned professionals.

The art work for the EP incorporates a storyline into the music via a graphic novel included as liner notes with the CD. This is a wonderful example of the talent that flourishes within every aspect of this project.

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If you’re a music fan, this is one you’ll want to check out. If you just enjoy the creative process, here’s a fantastic example of the finished product.

I would like to thank Emily G. Woodbind, the band’s publicist, for alerting me to Rip ’N Time’s existence. This is a very cool endeavor. I only wish my high school had offered such a class way back in those long-ago days of the 1980s.

Show a little love and get this CD. You won’t be disappointed.

Get your copy here: http://playingherguitarsuite.com/store.html