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Posts tagged ‘music’

Americana Artist Amy Black Celebrates Her Roots with New Music

by Holley Dey          ©2014 On Tap Blog  All rights reserved

At her February release show for sophomore album This Is Home, Amy Black fronted a band that included Spooner Oldham and David Hood.

This is the same Spooner Oldham who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, the same musician who supported Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, and Percy Sledge on piano and organ.  This is the same Spooner Oldham who recorded instrumentals on “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and who wrote Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman.”  Bass player David Hood was a member of the famed rhythm section that recorded first at FAME, and then at his own Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in the late 1960s.  He played bass or trombone on several early hits, including Percy Sledge’s “Warm and Tender Love,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man,” and Etta James’ “Tell Mama.”  Both Hood and Oldham are members of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Amy Black’s Alabama roots also run deep.  Now Boston based, she grew up in Missouri and Alabama, attending high school in Birmingham.  Both sets of grandparents hail from The Shoals.  In addition to her new full-length CD, Amy recalls her Muscle Shoals roots with recent four song EP The Muscle Shoals Session, recorded last summer with Spooner Oldham at FAME studio.  “I’d driven past FAME my whole life, but had no idea that Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and many others had recorded within those walls,” says Amy.  Included on the EP are covers of songs previously recorded in Muscle Shoals by Wilson Pickett, Arthur Alexander, Tim and Mel and The Black Keys.  Track “You Left the Water Running” is a standout, featuring Amy’s warm vibrato and keen sense of rhythm.

Her southern heritage is clear on new album This Is Home as well.  Track “Alabama” was written with memories of her grandfather who called Waterloo, Alabama home, and never strayed far from The Shoals.  “I’m Home” describes the warm feeling associated with returning to the place and people we each call home, the same feeling that moves Amy in Muscle Shoals.  The official music video for “I’m Home” confirms Amy’s rock solid bond with home and family; her husband, parents and sister are featured.  The only actor is the dog!

While her sophomore album was recorded in Nashville, Amy went home to celebrate the release of the disc.  It was standing room only at The Mayfair in Tuscumbia, Alabama for the February show.  In addition to Oldham on keys and David Hood on bass, she was backed by Kelvin Holly on guitar and Mike Dillon on percussion.  Originally from Alabama, Holly is the longtime guitarist for artists including Little Richard, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, The Decoys and Pegi Young and The Survivors.  Mike Dillon has a long list of credits as well, having played with Les Claypool, Ani DiFranco, Galactic, Marco Benevento, among many others.

Amy’s joy at sharing her new music with an appreciative hometown crowd is clear in the following recently released videos from the event.  The first two songs. “I’m Home” and “Cat’s in the Kitchen” are Amy Black originals from This Is Home.  The third. “Bring It on Home to Me”, is a Sam Cooke cover that features a deliciously simple introduction that serves to showcase Amy’s soulful voice nicely.

For more on Amy Black, visit her official website.  Song samples and purchase links for both The Muscle Shoals Session and This Is Home are available here.


Jeff Grady Presents “Pixel Perfect”: Original, iPod Inspired Art

jeff grady pixel artThis won’t be some stuffy, highbrow art event.  No siree!  Jeff Grady’s first exhibit will be a true reflection of the man himself – smart, creative, just a little bit quirky, and above all,  fun.

Pixel Perfect is a one night exhibition of original art to be held at San Francisco’s 111 Minna Gallery on Friday, April 25.  The show draws upon Grady’s entrepreneurial business background as well as his passion for music and video games to present a collection that is a little bit history, and a lot more rock n’ roll.

The fifteen or sixteen pieces that comprise the collection have all been painstakingly crafted from discarded, non-functional iPods that are mounted on glass, many in iconic mosaic patterns.  Thousands of iPods were collected over a period of several years.  The Pixel Perfect exhibit was a full year in the making, inspired by Grady’s admiration for the often eccentric works and collections of artist Dale Chihuly.  Some of Jeff’s designs use hundreds of iPods to fashion representations of  digital icons, or of characters from vintage video arcade games, including the classic Mario Bros. and the iconic ghost from Pac-Man.  Do you remember that ghost, the one that stalked your game and gobbled your player?

Exhibit curator Kelly Coty remembers.  She remembers spending hours in the old neighborhood store where a ten dollar bill was traded for a roll of quarters, and play wouldn’t end until that roll was gone.  There’d be a queue waiting behind her; the next player would simply put his quarters on the game console and say, “I’m next.”

Really, explains Kelly, this exhibit is a small piece of our generational history.  Just as each square of a handmade quilt carries a memory, so do the tiled iPods in Grady’s artwork.  Many of those audio players were engraved at purchase.  Some are etched with “Happy Birthday” or “I love you.”  Some rode in the car every day to work and back, playing the popular music of the day.  Others spent hours at the treadmill or pounding the pavement, making those workouts easier to complete.  Most were loaded with music that had meaning and importance to the owner.  Memories, there are memories embedded in each of Grady’s designs.

For the artist, the iPod carries both his past and present.  Grady was one of the first to purchase the original iPod following its 2001 commercial release.  The audio player came without a case, and so Jeff made his own.  He soon discovered that others wanted a carrying case and much more, accessories that the entrepreneur was more than happy to supply through his new company, Digital Lifestyle Outfitters.  Sales of cases, docking stations, boom boxes and other peripherals escalated at a rapid rate; in 2006 DLO realized sales of approximately $100 million.  When the company was acquired by Philips Electronics in 2007, Grady earned the financial freedom that would allow him to focus on other interests, including his passion for the music stored on his iPod.

At about that same time, soul singer Taylor Hicks found that his circumstances had also changed for the better.  The recent American Idol winner and DLO founder were introduced by mutual friends in New York; the two found common ground as each man slowly adjusted to the challenges and rewards of unexpected fame and good fortune.  For his part, Grady decided to leave some of that fortune in the City.  His newly purchased New York penthouse was decorated and furnished in a stunning rock and roll motif by Nashville interior designer Kelly Coty.

At home in Nashville, Coty occasionally worked with local area realtors to furnish houses that would then be offered for rent or sale.  One of the homes was leased to musician Taylor Hicks, temporarily in town to work with Music City songwriters.  Anxious to have his new home ready for a weekend visit from friends, Taylor enlisted Kelly’s help.  No problem, said the designer, and she arranged for his records and extensive memorabilia to be hung on the walls, even delivering a missing shower curtain to his front door.  “Thank you,” said the Idol winner as he shared with the surprised designer, “My friends the Gradys will be here this weekend!”

Taylor Hicks will rock some soul at the April 25 Pixel Perfect art exhibit, accepting an invitation extended by new friend and curator Coty, and promptly seconded by Grady.  Local area musician Peter Chung will also perform; Chung’s band includes techies who compute by day and rock by night.  Once each year the band rocks hard in support of Music in Schools Today (MUST), a non-profit organization that funds music/arts programs in San Francisco area schools.

jeff grady heart pixel art

Jeff Grady is also firmly committed to music education in the schools.  Says Jeff, “When I was young, I was fortunate to have attended public schools that had very strong music curriculums.  Music transcends the physical world and enables children to collaborate in ways that are blind to their differences and unifies them on a higher plane.  Music in Schools Today plays an invaluable role in facilitating, supporting and establishing music programs in schools, and this is something that can change lives.”  At Pixel Perfect, one of Grady’s artworks will be auctioned with the proceeds to support MUST.  That piece is a beautiful pink heart with a single red iPod at its center.

Admission to the Pixel Perfect exhibit is free of charge, and limited to adults ages 21 and over.  Register for the April 25 event at the link.  It promises to be a very special night:  iPods on glass, musical memories to be shared and made.  If you are passionate about music, design, 8-bit technology or video games, you’ve surely come to the right place, baby.








Cecile McLorin Salvant: Jazz Reimagined in West Hartford

by Holley Dey cecile rev-016

She began with the Porgy and Bess classic “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and ended with “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story.  In between she covered Shirley Horn and Billie Holiday, lent a sympathetic voice to the “Stepsisters’ Lament” from Cinderella and gave precise phrasing to Abbey Lincoln’s “Laugh, Clown, Laugh”.  She also growled.

Yes, growled…..simply because she could, in tune and in rhythm.  At twenty-four Cecile McLorin Salvant has a confidence that is both certain and unassuming, a talent that is full-voiced yet fully in control.  She has a wide tonal range, but even more impressive are the dynamics of her performance, the light and tender touch applied to the highest notes, the deliciously warm vibrato that defines her powerful lower register.

Whatever she sings, Salvant finds the syncopation and rhythm that drive the melody, revealing the backbone of songs both new and old.  She brings a fresh style and theatrical flair to the performance of jazz standards, and on Saturday evening at West Hartford’s Town Hall those songs came alive in a way that was suddenly relevant and relatable.

Cecile performed to a full room.  Many in the audience had delayed their arrival, then anxiously checked cellphones as the UConn Huskies competed in the NCAA final four.  Happily, the hometown team prevailed during the dinner hour so that when the 2014 Grammy nominee took the stage she found a receptive audience, warmed up and ready with their own husky growl.

Blanche Calloway originally performed “Growlin’ Dan,”  a story that includes Minnie the Moocher and the “ho de ho de ho” that was later offered as a call and response in live performances.  Cab’s sister was an exceptional singer whose dramatic style was popular in the 1920s/1930s.  She was the first woman to lead an all male jazz orchestra.  Salvant herself fronted a three piece all male band on Saturday including talents on piano, bass and drums.  Her growlin’ and her story tellin’ would have made Blanche proud.

Listen below to a live recording of “Body and Soul”; the elegant phrasing and expression are representative of Cecile’s body of work.  That work includes not only classic jazz, but reinterpretation of newer blues/jazz tunes as well as her own original songs.  To learn more about Cecile McLorin Salvant, visit her website here.   To sample 2014 Grammy nominated album WomanChild, click here.


Cecile McLorin Salvant in West Hartford, Saturday, April 5

On Leyla McCalla, Musical Art and the Venn Diagram

by Holley Dey               ©2014 On Tap Blog  all rights reserved

Have been thinking about the relationship between art and mathematics recently; on Saturday night it all came together.  I think that there are likely as many definitions of “art” as there are artists, as many definitions of “artist” as there are critics.  Most will agree that artistic expression is powerful and powered – powered by creativity and originality.  Not all artists are musicians; not all musicians are artists.  Most musicians and many artists are accomplished entertainers, but not all.  It’s when music is given artistic expression by a talented live performer that the audience finds the sweet spot.  I lived happily in that spot on Saturday evening when Leyla McCalla took the stage at New Haven’s Cafe Nine, featuring several selections from her debut solo album Vari-Colored Songs. Read more

Amy Black Shines on “This Is Home” (Album Review)


by Holley Dey     ©2014 On Tap Blog all rights reserved

Amy Black opened for Rodney Crowell at several of his northeast tour dates last fall, then joined the Grammy winner on stage.  There she charmed the audience by performing one of his original songs, backed by Crowell on harmony vocals.  The two kept in touch after the run of shows ended, and Amy gratefully accepted Rodney’s input and advice on some of her own new music.  He was among those to receive an early listen to the freshly recorded tracks and had a reaction that did not strictly follow the King’s English. Paraphrased and slightly less colorful, it was something like, “Girl, you sang your heart out!” Read more

Musician Leyla McCalla Sets February Release for Langston Hughes Tribute

by Holley Dey                     ©2013 OnTapBlog All rights reserved


Mesi Bondye

Thank you God, look how misery has ended for us.
Thank you God, look what nature has brought for us.
Rain has fallen, corn has grown.
All the hungry children are going to eat.
Lets do the ibo dance, lets do the petwo dance.
Father God in heaven the misery has ended for us.
The misery has ended for us.
The misery has ended for us.* Read more

Taylor Hicks: Singin’ Those New Orleans Blues

Photography by Louise Uznanski; Video by Margaret Reilly         ©2013 OnTapBlog All rights reserved

nawlins taylor 1-

After Friday night’s show at Harrah’s, some of the audience found their way to the gambling floor, others looked to the restaurants and nightlife of Bourbon Street to round out the night. Headliner Taylor Hicks found another stage, joining Anders Osborne to “Rock My Nola Soul” at the latter’s 2nd Annual Holiday Spectacular at Tipitina’s. “Who dat?” he called to the crowd, and they responded in kind, “Who dat?!” during a loose, joyful rendition of “Willie Brown Blues” (see video below). Read more

Blue Sky Riders: Rockin’ the Stage and the Social Network

by Holley Dey,  photography by Louise Uznanski    ©2013 OnTapBlog, all rights reserved

Georgia Middleman, Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr

Georgia Middleman, Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr

The discussion didn’t last long.  I insisted earnestly that permission had been given; the usher ultimately relented.  Photography was allowed for the band’s first few songs, then the cap covered the lens.  It was only after Kenny Loggins addressed the crowd that the camera came out to stay. “I don’t know what they told you here,” said Kenny to the audience, “but we want you to take pictures.” “Take lots of pictures,” he encouraged.   “Do you tweet?  Tweet one now!”  Hundreds of us did; held our cell phones in the air to share a digital, rock star memory of the Blue Sky Riders with our network of family and friends. Read more

SPAH 50th Anniversary Convention Celebrates the Harmonica and the Players

by Holley Dey;   Photographs of the 50th anniversary SPAH convention courtesy of and copyright 2013 by Keith Mitchell;   Video courtesy of Hohner USA

The 50th Anniversary SPAH convention (Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica) is now complete.  For five consecutive August days there was music in the airport, on the stage, in the hotel lobby, down the halls and behind every door.  Ben from England claims to have located the only place you couldn’t hear a harmonica – in the pool and under water! Read more

Shun Ng and Quincy Jones Get Cooking

by Holley Dey @2013 OnTapBlog all rights reserved

SHUN & Q Photo by Ralph Jaccodine

Twenty-three year old singer-songwriter and guitarist Shun Ng met the legendary Quincy Jones recently at the producer’s home in Los Angeles.  They exchanged recipes.  Ng shared his simple but flavorful approach to braised short ribs, while Jones emphasized the importance of slow cooking the gumbo and layering the ingredients.  The two foodies agreed that chefs are true musicians; they use seasoning rather than notes to spice the composition.  “When you eat,” said Ng, “it’s like music you can taste.” Read more


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