Review: Libby DeCamp’s Cross Sections

Multi-instrumentalist folk singer Libby DeCamp (@LibbyDecamp) lays all her cards on the table with her 2016 debut solo EP Cross Sections. Not only displaying talent, DeCamp expressed full creative control in that she wrote all six songs herself. In an industry big on hip-hop, country, and Top 40 pop rock right now, DeCamp’s contribution stands out as it is a dialed back, slower paced record for a country drive or relaxation after a stressful day. Listeners will learn quickly DeCamp poured her heart and soul into the EP as well as notice the craftsmanship and authenticity.

The lead-off track ‘Elroy’ starts off with some amazing bluesy guitar work along with DeCamp’s seductive vocals. It is noticeable right away the Detroit singer-songwriter is inspired by Norah Jones and perhaps Jewel. Although the song sounds peaceful, as evidenced from the lyrics the tune is violent in nature as DeCamp sings, I spit out my teeth, now the blood in the sink is boiling back at me.

On ‘Black Suit Man’, DeCamp provides a song which fits right in with the 1920 and 1930s. It is arranged and performed in such a manner that if one closes their eyes, it will be like being transported back in time to that era hearing this on an old school radio or live at Radio City Music Hall.

Cross Sections’ third song ‘Old Witch’ is the record’s most modern sounding track, worthy of radio play on Alternative and Hot AC stations and will have people hitting the repeat button for sure. It is also tied with ‘Charlie’ for the shortest tune on the album. Speaking of which, ‘Charlie’ is a sad song about a man grieving over the loss of a loved one. The organ and accordion work brilliantly as listeners empathize with the man and try to picture the tragic scene.

‘Put the Kettle On’ slows the pace down a couple of notches and is notable for its drum work and, of course, DeCamp’s sultry voice. It would be right a home on the Soundtrack from George Clooney’s hit film ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’. It could work on modern Country stations as a single with some Patsy Cline influence heard within in. The fifth tune ‘Seattle’ is the EP’s longest and would fit a modern-day romantic drama’s soundtrack like a glove. DeCamp has written and performed songs that cross genres, but Cross Sections does not veer all over the place as she elected to travel in just a couple of lanes on the album.

DeCamp got the chance to perform in Ohio recently with Jack and The Bear and has a couple of shows in her native Michigan coming up this month in Detroit on January 12 and Ann Arbor exactly two weeks later. Starting this past November, physical copies of Cross Sections’ proceeds go toward Sacred Stone Camp which fights against the DAPL. Thus, the EP’s buyers can support two causes: clean drinking water for citizens and pure, unadulterated independent music. DeCamp has created a CD gung-ho folk aficionados will want to add to their collection.

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Critique: Kerchief’s Machine’s and Animals

Kerchief (@KerchiefMusic) is the moniker of ex-Vanity Theft guitarist/vocalist Brittany Hill. Given the blood, sweat, and tears put into her sophomore solo effort Machines and Animals, it is a safe bet Hill is going to be just fine on her own. Released earlier this summer and available at online retailers and live events, the 10-track album includes something for everyone who is a fan of the alternative music genre. Although it might be Hill’s second record and first full-length under this identity, given the output of this album it is clear she is no novice and will have a future in the music scene for years to come.

Machines and Animals from start to finish is a breath of fresh air and a throwback to an alternative scene longed for by fans of Luscious Jackson, Ani DiFranco, and Peter Searcy. The vast majority of tunes are radio-friendly in terms of their length, arrangements and catchy hooks. ‘Milk & Honey’ is the first single and gives off a Brandi Carlisle-ish vibe upon repeated listening of it. It is a song about the hustle to become successful, which is something that any working class member can relate to. The track has a video for it, which has nearly 13,000 views on YouTube alone. There are plans to shoot a video for the equally impressive ‘Jack London’, a track that will surely satisfy Vanity Theft fans.

Signed to non-major label 825 Records, Kerchief managed to show how talented she is without a huge budget behind her. She penned every single tune on the album and outside of minimal input from Matty Amendola (who co-directed the ‘Milk & Honey’ video), Hill played all of the instruments heard on Machines and Animals. This effort is fairly close to D.I.Y. as one can get keeping the costs low, but maintaining high quality. Unlike some one-person acts like The Saturday Giant and Happy Chichester, on tour Kerchief is a stripped down trio which again keeps expenses at a minimum but still allows Hill to rock out at live events.

Machines and Animals is a solid ride from top to bottom with the kind of variety that will keep listeners debating their personal favorites among each other. This could very well lead to word of mouth regarding the record, which is another way indie artists are being discovered every day. Some may embrace the storytelling behind the personal song ‘Weekend’ while others might prefer the perfect-for-radio ‘Out of Focus’.  For an independent musician, the more listeners the merrier and the more one listens to this LP, the more one will admire and respect what Kerchief has to offer the music consumer.

*Photo courtesy of Kerchief’s Facebook Page

Artist Showcase: Corina Corina

Oakland, California native Corina Corina (@CorinaCorina_) has demonstrated she’s a fierce player in today’s independent music scene. Having resided on the other coast in Brooklyn, NY, Corina is well on her way to garnering attention from the mainstream with her angelic, soulful voice and genuine songwriting. Having two full-length solo records under her belt in under half a decade along with an acoustic blues side project demonstrates Corina’s strong work ethic and dedication to building her brand with her musical talent being the driving force.

Corina Corina’s 2012 debut The Eargasm is a melting pot of pop, hip-hop, and R&B goodness mixed into an LP worthy of the paying public’s attention. A video was made for the first track ‘The Familiar’, which would fit right in on the I Heart Radio’s Top 40 playlists alongside offerings from the Iggy Azaleas and Demi Lovatos of the world. Corina Corina’s main focus musically is providing beautiful vocals on the album’s bevy of upbeat tracks that match the instrumentals like a glove. In addition to The Eargasm’s up tempo songs, she carries herself quite well on the record’s ballad ‘Royalty’. It is crystal clear Corina can write, produce, and perform across multiple genres and with this record in the right hands and heard by the right ears, she should have a career in the industry in some capacity for decades to come.

Co-produced by the highly regarded Willie Green, the album is riddled with tunes worthy of airplay on Top 40, hip-hop, and R&B stations. The key is these tunes have substance behind them, which cannot always be said for the major label offerings of today. ‘The Wrong Direction’ is a warning to females to avoid the pratfalls of the mainstream media’s images of women. ‘Baby Don’t Sell Yourself Short’ are words of wisdom as advised by Corina’s father, but the lesson is one that everyone can relate to. These two tracks along with the album’s first and last songs have the greatest potential of taking Corina over the hump from underground to the next breakout star. On the other hand, much like other underground artists, without major label support Corina has the creative control that other artists sometimes lose. Writing, producing, and recording the record sans corporate backing led to a fantastic debut effort that indie music lovers need an earshot of.

Corina Corina’s sophomore effort, The Free Way, dropped last year and was bankrolled by the public through an Indiegogo campaign. Much like her debut album, Corina and Willie Green served as Executive Producers maintaining that creative control and authenticity that can be lost with major label involvement. Although many of the record’s tracks have potential for airplay at Top 40 and R&B stations, The Free Way’s standouts are ‘When I Say’, ‘Time’, and ‘Last Night’. There is something for everyone on this album and casual fans of pop and R&B will not be disappointed.

Consumers can expect smooth collaborations, tight hip-hop beats combined with on-point raps, upbeat tunes to get dancers in the mood to move, and lyrics from the heart and mind that have a purpose. Combine these elements with Corina’s angelic vocals and pop music lovers will get something that holds up to the mainstream offerings of Taylor Swift and Charli XCX. Give independent music lovers credit as their support in making this record a reality contributed to the ability of Corina and Green to create the kind of record they wanted to. This cohesive duo gave it the basics to make it professional, yet not overproduce it nor include soulless, hollow songs just to fill quotas.

Corina Corina continues to tour all over the country in support of her two brilliant works, however, she is also involved in the two-piece act Max Caddy. In fact, the final tune on The Eargasm titled ‘Me and Those Dreaming Eyes of Mine’ is a Max Caddy song included as a bonus track. Do not let this artist’s pierced and tattooed exterior fool you. Corina has come to play as a pop, hip-hop, and R&B artist and with the ability to write and produce material it makes her a valuable asset in an industry that is not always known as female-friendly. Being multifaceted and having the results to back it up gives Corina leverage to do things on her terms, which is a win for music, artists, and fans alike.

*Photo by Gubi Chiriboga and courtesy of corina-corina.com.

Artist To Watch: Caleb Hawley

Caleb Hawley (@iamcalebhawley) is an American singer-songwriter currently calling Harlem, NY home. He is college educated with a degree in Jazz Composition, but his musical skills go well beyond the average person’s perception of jazz. He is a hybrid musician crossing barriers and winning audiences over with his arrangements of popular covers and his brilliant blend of genres in his original tracks. He definitely has the credentials to back up his works, having won two songwriting awards in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Hawley plays the music game well in that he is active in social media and the Internet in general. On YouTube, several lyric videos are posted as well as raw live performances. One of those gigs is posted above for one’s listening and viewing pleasure. Several of his tunes are available to check out via ReverbNation and NoiseTrade. Some of his stronger tracks include “Bada Boom Bada Bling”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, and “Would You Even Try”. All three of these tunes could easily light up the Hot AC and Top 40 charts with the proper backing. This shall come in due time as Hawley deserves a chance to be heard by the masses. From what has been displayed thus far, he has something of substance to contribute to the current music scene.

For those who like what they have heard in digital format, Caleb Hawley is listed as having a live performance on Friday, May 30 with Julia Haltigan at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. Hawley fans who can not make that show should not fret because if they continue to support this prolific performer, his fan base and resources will increase leading to more touring opportunities. Hawley is the real deal and has more than proven himself as a rising star in 2014 and years to come.

Review of Mary Lynn’s “Familiar Things & Places”

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Columbus, OH-based singer-songwriter Mary Lynn Gloeckle (@songsbymarylynn) wrote, co-performed on, and co-produced her latest full-length Familiar Things & Places. Mary Lynn put her heart and soul into each of the ten tracks on the record. The types of songs featured on the album should be required listening on a gloomy, rainy day. The music remains positive, even if the subject matter is not. If one is ever in a bad mood, this is the album to turn a frown upside down.

 

“Often” is a brilliant selection as an introduction to the album. It is the shortest song on the record, however, it is the sweetest and would make for a great theme song for a quirky TV series. Another standout track is “Only Human”, perhaps one of the more up-tempo tunes on Familiar Things & Places. If there was a track to make headway on alternative or adult rock radio, this is the one.

 

Mary Lynn is a very unique songwriter and the two artists she might be compared to the most are Ingrid Michaelson and Zooey Deschanel. “Time To Spare” sounds like it could have been written by either one of those established stars, but Mary Lynn beat them to it. This song and “Isn’t It Pretty?” have indie romcom soundtrack written all over them, and that is a good thing. Whether Mary Lynn wants her music to be licensed for such use is up to her as she is clearly making the kind of music she wants to make and it sounds like she is having a good time doing it.

 

Several of the albums tracks might be ballads and that is perfectly fine. That is the beauty of indie music in that an artist can write, perform, and record music on their terms.  For the dancers out there, there is another tune that is a bit more upbeat and has a toe-tapping vibe to it.  “Charlotte & Bob” is a personal favorite and is a must-listen as it bridges the gap between the slower, stripped down tracks and the songs on caffeine.  “Happy” is another sped up song that lives up to its title for sure.  Another point to make about the record as a whole is that it is family-friendly music.  These are the kinds of tracks that can be played during family road trips and youngsters can enjoy the sweet, uplifting sounds of Mary Lynn. There is not much cool music out there that is suitable for minors, but Mary Lynn’s masterpiece is an exception to this.

 

Indie music aficionados need to keep a look out for Mary Lynn and take a chance on “Familiar Things & Places”. She is already gaining a lot of steam this year. She was the winner of a battle of the bands competition for the privilege to perform in front of thousands at a concert headlined by highly regarded major label artists. Remember the name because this is going to be a breakout year. She already has a tremendous LP working in her favor.

Artist on the Rise: Collette Andrea

Collette Andrea (@ColletteAndrea) is a Canadian singer-songwriter who should make a huge impact in 2014. Per ReverbNation, she is #6 artist of the Singer-Songwriter genre in her native land. Collette has several videos available via social media with thousands of viewers and no haters. Not only is Andrea a talented performer, she is an educated one. Once her musical career has wound down, she will have a career in social work to fall back on. Collette hopes to have a degree from Ryerson Univesity when it is all said and done. In the meantime, given her soothing voice and on-point guitar skills, the music thing should pan out for years and years to come.

Andrea got the itch to play instruments at the ripe age of 12 and started writing songs two years later dabbling with several genres. Collette lists some of her influences as Etta James, Cat Power, Jimi Hendrix, Feist, among others. After spending time in bands, she pulled a Peter Searcy and elected to fly solo. This led to a record deal with independent outfit HannahKin Studio. Will she have the same career that her famous influences had? Given how the industry works these days, who knows. These days, there are more opportunities for musicians to get noticed. It is up to the artists to take full advantage and push themselves to the moon. Collette Andrea is more than good enough to warrant success on the Adult Top 40 charts and millions of views online.

Luna is the latest EP from Collette Andrea and includes brilliant folk songs like “Hey Jack”, which is featured in the video above. This track is Collette at her finest showcasing her chops on the guitar along with her voice of gold. Luna is short and sweet, with five tracks of various lengths that are easy on the ears and overall the effort works for those of the new generation (short attention spans). “The Night You Packed Your Bags” is another recommended tune that demonstrates Andrea’s exploitation of the acoustic guitar with sheer brilliance. It is advised that cafe music admirers check these tunes out at various online retailers as a placeholder for the full-length record due out soon. This small town-raised performer might just have a very big career ahead of her.

Can-Am Connection 2.0 Should Have A Giant Year

Big Little Lions (@BigLittleLions) are a duo made up of a native Canadian and an Ohioan and expectations are high in 2014. Helen Austin and Paul Otten have displayed a mere taste of what is to come in the next several months and it is pure radio gold. If record companies and Music Directors know what is good for them, they will strongly consider giving this tandem the spotlight they have earned.

For instance, the song “This Road With You” demonstrates the group’s ability to pull off a Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros vibe with significantly less personnel. This twosome’s folksy pop tune would fit right in with other Adult Top 40 acts such as Boy, Walk Off The Earth, Rusted Root, among others. One ought to really take notice of the song featured in the above video as “The Way Home” is a brilliant track that, with the right kind of promotion, has the legs to breakthrough as a Hot AC smash.

Big Little Lions are off to a great start with over 16,000 Twitter followers and a #1 ranking in Canada on ReverbNation. Look for their record Paper Cage featuring both masterpieces and then some. This team of Otten and Austin is bound for some huge things and listeners will be grateful for being part of the ride.

Artist on the Rise: Andrew Ferris

Photo courtesy of the artist's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of the artist’s Facebook page.

Austria resident Andrew Ferris (@iamandrewferris), not to be confused with Australian Andrew Farriss of INXS, is a musician who takes pride in doing things the right way: his way. Disenchanted with what major labels have been churning out, Ferris’ uplifting-yet-grounded style of indie pop is a sigh of relief from overproduced fare clogging up the airwaves. He is making a name for himself for his covers, but Ferris’ original work is pretty superb and stands on its own legs.

For instance, off of his full-length debut release Yellow Lorry, the opening track “Smile” demonstrates its worth as an Adult Top 40 radio hit. Other standout tracks include the very upbeat “Little Bird” and the folksy tune “The Fall of Man”. Ferris shows a wonderful range on the record with a little bit of cafe folk, country, and pop rolled into nine neat and easy-listening songs.

Andrew Ferris has created brilliant soundtrack-esque music on Yellow Lorry. Who knows what excellence his next full-length record will bring.  Merely describing the mastery of the CD does not do it justice.  It is encouraged to check out the music for oneself and find out exactly how great this up-and-coming singer-songwriter is and will be for years to come.

R&B Singer-Songwriter On The Rise And Breaking Hometown Stereotypes

Seattle native Tess Henley (@TessHenley) is a force to be reckoned with as a soulful artist with a pop side. This is fascinating as the Seattle area is best known as the hotbed for artists such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. It is refreshing to have an artist who has the ability to move the meter and break stereotypes. This is evident in her video “Who Are You”, which has Top 40 hit all over it. She has been part of shows that were headlined by R&B superstars Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton. Alicia Keys, Fiona Apple, and Vanessa Carlton better look over their shoulders. There’s another piano player on the scene and she plays for keeps.

Henley, no relation to Eagles member Don (as far as we know), is ready to blow up and should be confident heading into this new year. Three years ago was a big period in her career, as she won the 2011 Independent Music Award for Best R&B Song (“Boy In The Window”) and the soultracks.com International Songwriting Competition. This demonstrates Henley’s ability to perform and pen tracks. There are complaints from the general public about one-dimensional musical acts. Henley is a breath of fresh air, clearly capable of being able to write her own music, play an instrument, and have the vocal chops to pull off the total package.

Henley’s debut full-length record High Heels & Sneakers is available now at online retailers and features “From The Get Go” and the song featured here. She is doing well with Twitter followers considering she is an independent artist and is #2 R&B artist in Seattle on ReverbNation. 2014 should be a huge year, so be on the lookout for Tess Henley to take the music world by storm. She can write, sing, play, dance, and look good doing it.

Review of OneFortyThree, They’re Coming They’re Coming, and Jesse Wilkes at Scarlet & Grey Cafe (1/11)

This past Saturday night OneFortyThree (@OHonefortythree), They’re Coming, They’re Coming (@TCTCMusic), and acoustic soloist Jesse Wilkes put on a solid night of musical action. These artists could have easily phoned in their performances, given the fact that a fourth set from another band never materialized. It was quite pleasing everyone involved made an effort to put on their best shows to make up for the other group’s absence.

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As for ChilIicothe native Jesse Wilkes, he played as an acoustic soloist.  No beatbox, no computers, no synthesizers. It was just a man with a guitar and his natural voice.  Wilkes was the opener, designed to warm up the crowd for other acts, but he did more than just keep the stage warm.  After the performance Wilkes provided at S&G, one looks forward to what he has to offer in recorded material. He definitely earned his keep for the evening and people should keep a look out for his work in the future.  Wilkes is the #1 Folk artist in his region according to ReverbNation. Fans of singer-songwriters are best served looking up Wilkes to find out what he is all about. He is expected to have a big 2014.

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They’re Coming, They’re Coming is a four-piece Columbus outfit consisting of James Anderson, Louis Liphart, Griffin Brink, and Brad Guggenbiller. From beginning to end, these guys had the female-heavy crowd hanging onto every note. A stuffed ALF doll was present for the set as well and it could be considered an unofficial fifth member of the band. The doll did its job as a good luck charm for the group and the band even received a chant for “one more song”. They’re Coming, They’re Coming did a nice job with the BLACKStreet hit “No Diggity” and performed an alt-country song as their encore. The band has a small presence on the Internet and are ranked #22 at ReverbNation, where would-be Alternative Top 40 hit “The Tree” is available to hear. Here is hoping 2014 is a breakout year for this quartet.

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The third performance of the night was conducted by the #14-ranked alternative rockers in Columbus, OneFortyThree. This quintet was on point and is in the midst of working on a live album, which this past Saturday’s gig was part of.  Newcomer Kristian Wilson more than held her own with the charter members of the band. Boy, does keyboardist Randall Chafins know how to bring the energy or what? Everyone was on point and brought their A-game for one of their biggest performances.  This group should go places in the new year, especially after orchestrating the crowd’s participation in their live recording.  That is when a band knows they are on their way to new heights.  It was announced a new EP is in the works, so be on the lookout for it at online retailers.  OneFortyThree’s current material is available at their Bandcamp page and is downloadable to those who want to add it to their personal music players. Local music fans are best served going out and seeing this group before while they can.  It might not be too long before they are out on the road all over the place spreading their brand.

The music of the evening was all on the up and up and each artist brought something different to the stage, making for a diverse and fun night.  2014 is in its infancy and it will be a shock to no one if all three end up having a better year than 2013.  Music lovers are advised to do their research and learn more about these artists. Get to know them before they explode. Defeatists want to underestimate the central Ohio music scene, but it is not in their best interest to do that any longer.