Sona Jobarteh is the first professional female Kora virtuoso to come from any of the West African Griot dynasties. Her lineage carries a formidable reputation for renowned Kora masters, most notable amongst these are her grandfather Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and her cousin, the legendary Toumani Diabaté. Sona is reputed for her skill as an instrumentalist, her distinctive voice, infectious melodies and her grace onstage, and she has rapidly achieved international success as a top class performer. The demand for her live performances has rocket in recent years, and 2019 saw her perform at some of the world’s most renowned festivals & venues such as the Hollywood Bowl in LA, WOMAD in Australia & New Zealand and Symphony Space in New York City. Sona has the unique ability to touch audiences globally and from all backgrounds & cultures, while also commanding the attention of sitting presidents & royalty alike. Her captivating stage show has proved to be popular everywhere, and with a repertoire that exudes accessible sophistication, her audience demographic is constantly expanding. Sona’s dedication to spreading powerful humanitarian messages through her songs and her stage performances makes her much more than a regular musician; she is in fact a compelling social activist, speaker, & change-maker who believes in leading by example. Her achievements in setting up a pioneering Academy in The Gambia, alongside her dedication to social change has gained her invitations to deliver speeches at high profile events around the world, including summits for the UN & the World Trade Organization. Sona founded the Gambia Academy in 2015. This pioneering institution is dedicated to achieving her mission of educational reform across the continent Africa. According to Sona, Africa faces the crucial & urgent challenge of addressing its education systems. Children who are fortunate enough to be able to attend school spend most of their waking hours in school, however in most cases the environment, culture, approach & curricula content within these schools are invariably oriented around a post-colonial value system and subsequently a foreign perspective. For Sona, it is detrimental for future generations of the continent whose values and concepts are shaped during their school years, to continue to be trained within a system where African culture, African history, African traditions and their intrinsic values are either non-existent, or at best relegated to the position of extra-curricular ‘activities’. This Academy is therefore the first of its kind in The Gambia to deliver a mainstream academic curriculum at a high level, while also bringing the culture, traditions and history that belong to students, to the front and center of their everyday education.
I had the honor of catching up with Sona ahead of her March 21st event in Madison at the Garver Atrium. Fresh off her 60 Minutes interview that certainly opened more doors and windows to what she has been doing and where she is heading, Sona and I discuss a little about what a newer person to her music can expect at a live event such as the one here in Madison. We learn about some of the music we may here from here latest release, “Badenyaa Kumoo” and how she feels while presenting the music live – the conversation. I could not spend time with Sona without touching on the powerful work she has dedicated as her purpose in life, The Gambia Acadamy. We touch briefly on a few aspects of the what that is happening to help achieve a new model of education in Africa and try and find the middle points in her life’s Venn diagram to see how/where/if/when the two marry. I am honored to have had this opportunity to discuss only a few aspects of what makes Sona go…and go she does, as you can tell by her answer to the final question about where she Goes to find a little ‘Sona time”. Do yourself a favor and find a way to start a conversation of your own by listening to her music, supporting her missions and or both, as forward is the way she is heading.
There is no place on earth that Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams feel more comfortable than onstage at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY. For almost 10 years, Larry & Teresa were staples of Helm’s Midnight Ramble band, playing countless shows at “The Barn.” So when it came time to record their own live album, it was a no brainer as to where to set up shop for 2 nights to record. Recorded on September 20 & 21, 2019 after returning to Woodstock from months of touring, Live At Levon’s! [out now on Royal Potato Family] gathers the best performances from those 2 shows on a sonically pristine live collection that crackles with both energy & spirit. The album gives us Larry & Teresa delivering originals like “Angel Of Darkness,” “Surrender To Love,” & “It Ain’t Gonna Be A Good Night,” along with their renditions of songs like “Darling Be Home Soon” (The Lovin’ Spoonful), “Caravan” (Duke Ellington) & “Big River” (Johnny Cash).
Of course, Larry was a member of Bob Dylan‘s “Never Ending Tour” band from March 31, 1997, until November 21, 2004. Through his association with Dylan’s bass player Tony Garnier, Campbell joined the band, replacing John Jackson as a guitarist, and expanded the role to multi-instrumentalist, playing instruments such as cittern, violin/fiddle, pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin, banjo, and slide guitar. We don’t have enough room to discuss all the great folks he, and they have worked with or produced, but in our conversation this time around, we do talk about our mutual friend, Mr. Jorma Kaukonen – as one of the new tunes has a story behind it, of course it does and we also discuss Larry & Teresa’s participation on the new tribute album to the great Eric Andersen. We spend a bunch of time discussing the new album, as a live album with these two really shows off all you get when they are in a room sharing music. That’s part of this chat as well. Being toGether. Folks here near the Madison, WI area will get to hang with Larry and Teresa March 21 at the Stoughton Opera House with Shawn Mullins. WOW., so we paint a tiny picture of what that could look and feel like. We have talked many times over the years, but this time on the heels of this live record makes me feel complete. The true experience is out there to go get SUM of.
Yes, it’s been 14 years since their last release, 11i, but Supreme Beings of Leisure is back with a brand new story to take us through toGether. The band—consisting of original members Geri Soriano, Ramin Sakurai, and Rick Torres—had to live life. A whole lot of it. There were marriages, kids, a divorce, the death of parents, a flooded recording studio, the pandemic, even a near-death experience. With their 4th studio album, those experiences have been transformed into music. And so 22 years after their critically-acclaimed, self-titled debut (and two decades since this trio has played together), Supreme Beings of Leisure is back, with an impressive array of guests to boot on ’22’. Stay in the game long enough and you collect enough friends to make a fantastic team effort—which is exactly what22 is. Beyond the core trio, the album features keyboardist Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters), guitarist Marty Friedman (Megadeth), violinist Lili Haydn (Paige/Plant, Funkadelic), drummer Satnam Ramgotra (Hans Zimmer), percussionist Duke Mushroom (Masters at Work, Janet Jackson, Gloria Estefan), bassist Adam Dorn (Mocean Worker), pianist Scott Tibbs (Beyonce), and vocalists Durga McBroom (Pink Floyd, David Gilmore), Frank Navin (The Aluminum Group), and Monica Reed (Sting, James Brown, Deep Purple). Longtime SBoL fans will be thrilled to be back inside of the sonic bubble known as ’22’. There’s so much richness and depth, all packaged in the incredible storytelling and songwriting you’ve come to expect.
I had the fortune of catching with with Geri and Ramim ahead of the new album’s official drop. We actually go back a bunch of years as this music, their music, is one that paints my landscapes and allows a personal walk or run or hopscotchin’ thru and so I am so thrilled there’s some new places to visit. We got into the seed to flowers way this record came to become and form, how the pieces fell into place and the process by which they work. The music has lives attached to it, with individual heartbeats of what was and has been happening immersed within. We got into a few of the tracks and their tales, their importance and yes, their grooves. As noted above, what a list of stars from many skies that became a part of these stores – so of course there were moments shared about collaborating, and a fun chat about that time Ramin got Marty Friedman’s autograph [and vice-versa]. Worth the wait is all I can advise and keep ’22’ on repeat as you go through some of these new normal type days. EXCITING.
The 6th album by DA CRUZ (Bern/São Paulo) is called “Baladas da Luta” (“Ballads for the Fight”), and that’s exactly what it sounds like. Profound, Brazilian urban music in an attack position against hatred, delusion & political short-sightedness. There are guests on this album like the British-Nigerian pidgin rap guru Magugu or Arnaldo Antunes, who was chosen by “Rolling Stone” as one of the hundred best artists in Brazilian music. There is heavy-blooded Afrobeat, angry Hip-Hop or a Brazilian disco flair. There are touches of Krautrock, Baile Funk or Soul – all held together by the warm voice of Afro-Brazilian singer Mariana Da Cruz. Mariana Da Cruz grew up as the seventh child of a cotton picker and a cook in Paranapanema, a small provincial town in the state of São Paulo. Recordings, concerts, music lessons; all that was unaffordable. Music, however, was an escape point even then – Mariana absorbed it through a small transistor radio in her nursery. She was already singing as a teenager in a club in the nearest big city, Campinas, where she studied to become a teacher: Bossa Nova, MPB, Elis Regina, Jorge Ben – all the classics – it was her basic research. But curiosity drove her first to Lisbon in the early noughties, later to Bern, where she lives today. It stands to reason that she would reflect on the world’s dislocations through her first home, Brazil. A country that anticipated all the developments we see everywhere today. “There is a fundamental alienation between politics and the people, there is burgeoning racism, social divisions, there is an ever greater injustice in the distribution of wealth, and there is this inexplicable yearning for authoritarianism”, she says. And she sings against all this. For more than 15 years. A key driver of her music is her engagement with her African roots. Whereby the situation here – as for all Afro-Brazilians – is somewhat complicated: “We know that our ancestors come from Africa, but we don’t know from where. You can’t do any research on that,” explains Mariana Da Cruz. “We’ve travelled a lot in the last few years for this search for traces, been to Burkina Faso, Bahia, Rio – and all these experiences and impressions flow into my music. Da Cruz is a radical independent project. All of their albums so far have been recorded, mixed & produced in their own studio. They have been released on their own label Boom Jah Records, except for two albums released with the American label Six Degrees Records. The core of the band besides Mariana includes Ane H., former singer and programmer of the industrial band Swamp Terrorists, Bernese guitarist Oliver Husmann and drummer Pit Lee.
I had the honor of chatting with Mariana and Ane H. of DA CRUZ about the new release, “Baladas da Luta”. We get deep into the need and reasons behind this album and how the music stands with Brazil as times get very unrecognizable. The power of the songs are clearly explained by Ane and Mariana and if you wonder if music does have the power to make a stand against or stand with a group who is in need of a shouting voice, this album will take you by the ear and show you. Not only do we talk about the music, the situations on a global level that do affect us all, there are questions asked on how we find one language to speak…to SHOUT…to unite. For me, these people making this music always opened my body to the grooves of the sound, but this record has my eyes and mind in concert with my heart and sense of equality and justice. There is power in these songs. Check for yourself.
Her created sounds have been described as ‘lively, energetic music that makes your feet move & heart think’. With over 2 decade of experience in the literary & music industry, UGOCHI has gained quite a notable reputation for her solo career & collaborations. Not content to rest on her gnash, UGOCHI are always laying foundations for the next release, adding more classics to their repertoire. She has shared the stage with several established artists such as Common, Eric Benet, John Legend, Femi Kuti, Edwin McCain, Seun Kuti, Maxi Priest, Malik Yusef, Umphrey’s McGee, Richie Stephens, Blitz the Ambassador, Yellowman, J. Ivy, Queen Ifrika, Luciano, Wayna, Femi Kuti, Shaggy, Richie Stephens, Queen Ifrika, Vieux Farka Toure, Tony Allen, Bushman, Fatoumata Diawara, Wayne Wonder and Stephen Marley, King Sunny Ade, Me’Schell Ndegeocello. Ugochi & A.S.E.’s music is not just a unique flavor of soul music cooked up in her cosmic kitchen of sounds, styles & accents; it is also an introduction to world affairs for Africa enthusiasts all over the world. Her music honors her musical influences thru the expression of heart felt lyrical poise & soul swept instrumentation, giving birth to an incredible sound that fills a need that may have been previously unknown.
I had the complete pleasure of catching up once aGain with family to the show, UGOCHI as she and A.S.E. are heading back to Cafe Coda on November 17th as part of CODAFEST 2022. We discuss how a live experience like this is an opportunity to leave all that other stuff somewhere else and make this shared moment an opening to joy and healing. The band always finds this togetherness on a stage, with a community to be healing. Some of the styles of sounds/rhythms are discussed – hint – very similar to the way greenarrowradio flows and the love of how a place like Madison come with open ears, open hearts and especially open minds really is not lost on Ugochi or A.S.E., so, if anyone round here has a couch that is just right for that stage……
Miguel Espinoza Fusion twists jazz, flamenco, Cuban and classical Indian musical forms into intoxicating journeys that thrill audiences! Described by Guitar Player Magazine as “mesmerizing”, Miguel Espinoza has recorded and performed with Bela Fleck, Kai Eckhardt, Kitaro, Tuck and Patti, Rita Moreno and Ben Vareen. April 2022 saw the release of their third CD – Living in a Daydream – featuring Grammy-winning pianist and Hamonicist Howard Levy. Miguel Espinoza Fusion performs to sold out audiences across Colorado, and were the honored winners of Denver’s Westword Magazine 2019 “Best of World Music.” Their first CD, Turtle Dreams, is the winner of Indie Acoustic’s Best Instrumental Album of 2019 – full of original music that has been described as “colorful and vibrant”, “emotional”, a “stunning combination of jazz, flamenco, and subtle world music”, and ”sophisticated rhythmic elements…emotional, natural and organic”. Their second CD, Veneta, was released in August 2020. Visually and aurally stunning, with flamenco/jazz guitar, fiery cello, riveting salsa and Indian tabla, a Miguel Espinoza Fusion show is like nothing else!
I had the pleasure of chatting with Dianne Betkowski and Miguel Espinoza ahead of the November 4th Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Fusion W/Dave Hagedorn event at the North Street Cabaret in Madison. Special guest, Grammy-nominated vibraphonist Dave Hagedorn, will join Flamenco Fusion for a limited series of Midwest showsand this is one of them. Dave is a world-class performer who has recorded with the George Russell Living Time Orchestra on Blue Note Recordings (nominated for a Grammy award), Brian Setzer Big Band, Pete Whitman X-tet, Phil Hey Quartet, the Out to Lunch Quintet, and also with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra on Teldec Recordings. Dianne/Miguel and I talk a bit about what working with Dave adds to this already unique sound and stylings. They share an idea of the who and what’s making this group go and what to expect in a live setting. We also talk about their latest release ‘Living In A Daydream’ featuring Howard Levy of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. [sounds like he and others will be on an upcoming release as well – stay tuned]. We close out the chat with a little discussion of the give back with the work they are doing through Urban Arts Music. Yep, complete package.
Anteloper is a duo of psychedelic sonic compatriots starring a pair of raggedy celestial sound warriors: trumpeter jaimie branch and drummer Jason Nazary. These longtime friends/collaborators met as young explorers and consider this electrified duo a continuous experiment into an unknown sonic abyss. Improvised organisms, abstract bangers, and mind-bending head boppers are guided by a unique desire to hear what has not been heard before. This here is music made of and for the moment, tipping towards the future, moving feet to the new-new beat. When prompted about the duo’s name, branch comes back rhyming: “An Anteloper, is an antelope, interloper,” adding in a jovial manner, “an antelope walks up to a party, but you know, people don’t want him around.” Turns out, she had the name before the band was formed, and once the duo started rehearsing, it was apparent that THIS was what an Anteloper sounds like. Another creature pops up in the title of the duo’s new album: Pink Dolphins. branch explains that the name is in part a nod to her Colombian heritage (from her Mother). “There’s these amazing pink river dolphins that live in the Amazon – they can swim in salt water, they can chill in fresh water, or they can rock in mixed up brackish waters. They are uniquely ‘aquadelic’ in that way. Aquadelic and super endangered.” In many ways branch & Nazary are like those dolphins – adaptable to varied terrain and moving in many directions through sound. What makes this album special is the way that the duo bravely abandons the known as they leap forward into a path less-travelled. There’s no pre-made template here, only sound. Only a starting point, the destruction of that point, and the telepathic creation of a new way out. The electronics incorporated by both players are navigational devices, transportation sound-crafts. The resulting output is freewheeling, other-worldly, improvisational music, inspired by the unknown and at home in the astro-world. But the driving force behind Anteloper’s psychedelic space-music is not escapism, rather a complete immersion in the hyperreality of the present. Their music is made for destroying concepts of a past & a future, for confronting and embracing the moment, for the betterment of the here and now. It’s music that is as rare and bewilderingly beautiful as that aquadelic pink dolphins surfing through the Amazon River.
I had the opportunity to catch up with jaimie and Jason ahead of the July 13th Anteloper event at The Bur Oak here in Madison. We created a mental mosaic for anyone unfamiliar with the scene that is created live by jaime and Jason. We spent time discussing the brand new release, ‘Pink Dolphins’ and how it pieced toGether, which is a whole lot like what we will experience in a live setting. The starting point, was in fact, also the whole point. I get that. We talk relationship and vibrational connection and how the two put aside each one, and become….Anteloper.
Photo by Tim Saccenti
Juana Molina is a singer/songwriter from Argentina whose atmospheric blend of folk, electronica, & experimental pop have brought her international acclaim. Her career trajectory has been a unique one with her initial success coming as a massively popular comedic actress in the early-1990s. The subsequent abandonment of her television career in 1996 flummoxed critics at home where her newly launched music career failed to take hold. Nevertheless, Molina’s inventive and original songwriting was widely accepted outside of Latin America where, over the next two decades, she has established herself as a critically-lauded recording & touring artist. The daughter of tango singer, Horacio Molina, & actress Elva “Chunchuna” Villafañe, Juana was immersed in the arts from a young age and began playing guitar at the age of five. She actually made her first recorded appearance as a child alongside her father in 1967, singing the song “Te regalo esta canción” as a Mother’s Day gift to her mother. Her father secretly released it as a single and it became a hit, selling 45,000 copies. Now, after many diverse experiences, her passion and commitment to music prevailed, and worldwide recognition began to grow. After the release of her second and 3rd album, she quickly became the darling of the international indie/electronic/folk scene, and praise began pouring in from admirers in all corners. As her catalog continues to grow, more open minds and ears keep following, and I look forward to more opportunities for the incomparable Juana Molina to say yes to new projects that will continue her expansion.
I had the honor of catching up with Juana ahead of the April 29th solo event at the Stoughton Opera House. We get into what someone who gets out to go experience this show will try and prepare themselves for. We get into an interesting discussion about lyrics vs. music and how and when one become the anchor and one is the ready to move vessel. I’ve been sharing a few tracks off the new CRAMMED DISCS album ‘Find The One’ to be released on the same day Juana is in WI, from Congotronics International. This part of the conversation just keeps opening my eyes to that abality she has to find where and how she fits in and being such a valued addition to the scene, the people…..the art. After this conversation, I know I am even more interested in the moments of Juan and how the act/react to and within me.
photo by Alejandro Ros
During her remarkable 22-year recording career, saxophonist/vocalist Mindi Abair has garnered 2 GRAMMY nominations, recorded with some of the biggest names in music, and built a substantial following among jazz and blues audiences with her soaring melodies and powerhouse style. In 2014, Mindi received her first GRAMMY nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for Summer Horns with Dave Koz, Richard Elliot and Gerald Albright, followed by a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for her solo LP Wild Heart featuring the late Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Trombone Shorty, Booker T. Jones, Keb’ Mo’, and Max Weinberg. You might know her as the featured saxophonist on American Idol, sitting in with Paul Shaffer on The Late Show with David Letterman and The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, or from moonlighting on tour with Aerosmith and Duran Duran. Since her debut album in 2000, she has consistently topped the Billboard Contemporary Jazz and Blues charts. In 2018, Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers won 8 Independent Blues Awards including Artist of the Year, and an Independent Music Award for Best Blues Song “Pretty Good For A Girl” featuring Joe Bonamassa. They won the 2019 LA Critics Award for Best Holiday Album for All I Got For Christmas Is The Blues. And in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 she was nominated by the Blues Music Awards as the Best Instrumentalist: Horn. As creator, designer and owner, she has successfully launched wineandjazz.com in 2019 as a lifestyle concept that brings together the worlds of wine and music through members-only exclusive wines paired with personally curated music playlists, label art and branded wine and music worldwide adventures and festivals. Phew…..But, I just proudly call her family to the proGram.
Mindi and I had a chance to play catch up while diggin’ into her new album, ‘Forever’, out now on her Pretty Good For A Girl label. We learn a bunch about the personal side of this music and how the pieces fall into place, as they sometimes cosmically do. We learn who just happens to be ‘hanging out’ in the recording process offering a little advice and eventually becomes a background Rainbow singer. There’s time spent talking about pairing wines and music – the give back and of course, Mind i is somehow always prepared to takeover my show and play one of her new tnes and have a plan for a great set of greenarrowradio music for the listeners. Family.
Kendra Morris’ new LP Nine Lives, due to be released on Karma Chief Records in early 2022, marks not only the culmination of the decade since the release of her first LP Banshee, but also a turning point in Kendra’s life professionally/personally. This album heralds the beginning of a new chapter; a new label, and an evolution to the next level of adulthood. Nine Lives is a collection of her original songs encapsulating moments from what could be nine lifetimes lived over a chronological time period, or nine lives lived simultaneously in parallel and convergent realities. With zero plans of slowing down and an innate belief in only evolving, the question lies in what will be her next nine lives?
Nine Lives will be available February 18th on vinyl, CD and digital/streaming formats via Karma Chief Records
I had the pleasure of hanGin’ out a bit with Kendra to dive a little deeper into how this new album, Nine Lives got to where it is today. The stories of the songs, the title, the words and feelings are all felt when we talk about the process between the then of the last music, to the now of this one. It is very endearing to hear people, artist go a little back in time with the them of those days….and the now of Nine Lives is easily relatable as a gift for the here we are. We talk a little bit about events and NYC, what she would spin off the new records along with a couple other tracks to build a set and we just talk. Be refreshed with our chat and get a taste of the new album to see how you relate…I think it has a lot of somethin’ for everyone.
This fall brings the release of Ready Set Go!, the energetic debut family album from the internationally acclaimed, award-winning bassist and songwriter, Divinity Roxx, released November 5. Ready Set Go! is a celebration of self-love and positivity specifically designed for kids aged 8 and under. The upbeat and sunny collection features 8 original songs filled with powerful messages that encourage kids to become the best versions of themselves. Divinity made her entrance into the family music scene earlier this year and instantly gained attention with her infectious bass beats & unique approach to meaningful music for kids & families. The lyrics of two of the songs from the album, ‘Happy & Healthy’ (11/15/21) and ‘Me + You,’ (12/1/21) are being released and published as picture books by Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, as part of the Company’s ongoing commitment to provide authentic and inclusive books to support family and community engagement. The books are illustrated by NaShantá Fletcher. The mighty Divinity is a Grammy-nominated recording artist, composer, & musician, with three solo albums (Ain’t No Other Way – 2003, The Roxx Boxx Experience – 2012, ImPossible – 2016). In addition to her own work, she is well known for touring and performing with Beyoncé (2006–2011) as her bassist & Musical Director. Her career as a bass-player skyrocketed after attending a bass camp led by the legendary 5 time Grammy award winning bass virtuoso, (and friend of the program Mr. Victor Wooten where she was invited to join him out on tour.
I had the honor of chatting it up with Divinity about this brand new and first time family/kids album. We talked about the timeline of events that got it from seed to flower, the wonderful array of talent she surrounded herself with on the endeavor and most of all, we talked about the reasons why making music for this important demoGraphic, the kids was definitely in her plans for a long while. Divinity is the type of person who gets it, and wants to share it with all of us, but she isn’t about to forget the ones who matter the most. Not only will this music make the kid in all of us shake our parts all over, it will surely strengthen egos, guide others to think of others and mostly…thru it all….BE YOURSELF.
Smithsonian Folkways has officially welcomed “Let Love Be Your Guide”, the first duo album by internationally renowned family musicians and family to the proGram, Claudia & Dan Zanes. The collection is a welcoming, freewheeling musical conversation about anti-racism, racial justice, and the joys of community. Conceived during the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings and coronavirus pandemic, the songs describe the new terms of togetherness – how we understand it, how we build it, and how we strive for more. Claudia & Dan like to describe their style – rooted in many different traditions including gospel, country, R&B, and traditional Haitian music – as electric folk. At the core it’s two voices and an electric guitar. The eclectic, warm, and accessible music the duo makes reflects the kindness and openness that underpin their message: out of isolation and hardship we can learn how to accept and heal the wounds of the past, and how to change and face the future with grace and compassion, regardless of our age. In addition to the usual ways that music enhances our daily lives, Claudia & Dan imagine that families will use these songs as a starting point for important and uplifting conversations at home. “Let Love Be Your Guide” was written and recorded in Baltimore shortly after the couple moved to the city from Brooklyn at the end of 2019. They had been there just a few months when the pandemic hit and they were left, like all of us, at home. In an effort to connect with others, they decided to record and share a new song online every day, creating a Social Isolation Song Series. The popular series, which was later acquired by the Library of Congress, delivered inspiration and hope by bringing people together when we were forced apart, providing light when things were so dark for the artists and their virtual audience. The series ended after two hundred days. The experience changed the couple as they realized more clearly what folk singers have always known: songs are here to inspire and uplift, but they’re also here to tell the stories and reflect the times, and these were indeed unprecedented and unforgettable times.
I had the pleasure to sit down and chat with family to the proGram, Claudia + Dan about the new release, “Let Love Be Your Guide”. We dive into how it formed out of the Isolation Song Series and how a new place to call home helped build onto the existing possibilities. Stories are told, laughs are definitely had and the inspiration of a first time duo album, by a duo meant to be, are easily felt when check ing out our chat. As always, the best way to dive into a new album is to find a way to get it into your earholes and heart and see how it wraps itself around you. I have a feeling you’ll see how an album about some serious themes can still be inviting to all and a celebration of each of us.
Liv Warfield began building her legend, in of all places, Portland, Oregon. Despite having no formal background in singing, she gained the respect of local superstars and became an icon in her own right. While she takes cues from musical influences like Nina Simone, Etta James, Sade, Tina Turner, & Mary J. Blige, Liv has carved out a style all her own, which can best be described as “alternative soul with a lil’ bit of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” In 2006, she self-released her debut album “Embrace Me.” By 2009, she caught the eye of the one-and-only Prince and ultimately joined his group the “New Power Generation.”
imaGe used w/permission from LiV
After touring for several years & soaking up as much knowledge as she could from the ultimate music mentor, Liv made her big splash on the national scene in 2014, 1st as a featured artist for Vh1’s “You Oughta Know” campaign, and then with the release of her major label debut album “The Unexpected,” which was executive produced by Prince. What followed were show-stopping performances on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and “The Arsenio Hall Show;” a 2014 Soul Train Music Award & nominations for two others; a BET Best New Artist Award nomination; & high-profile cosigns from Lionel Richie, Cindy Lauper, & Nancy Wilson of HEART. That same year, Warfield’s performance closing out Essence Fest was hailed as one of the most memorable after shows at the New Orleans House of Blues. In 2015, the accolades only kept growing, w/Liv and the NPG Hornz being named one of the top 10 bands to see at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. It’s no wonder she has left celebrities like Letterman declaring it’s time to “cancel show business!”
Fast forward a little closer to this moment today and the release of Prince’s Welcome 2 America certainly reminded me of just how much Liv has been instrumental in bringing a special joy to my ear, my heart and my radio proGram. I had the true pleasure of catching up with Liv about the music of Welcome 2 America being released out to the world, working with Prince and the trust & education that comes with it. We spend some time talking about the great new and fresh-feeling music being released very very soon with Joon Moon and how yet another music page is being turned with this effort. I am a true believer that Liv can turn as many musical pages as as can be held in the library. There are stores we share, there is some poetic waxin’ and of course there is the “So…how did you come to the attention of Prince?” was definitely run through. Although, Liv Warfield may be synonymous with the work she has done with a true one-of-a-kind, there is a reason this visionary of life’s art chose her to be on the “team”. Because of this unique dubbing by a king, I am not one to keep this chat only abut the music. Liv and I talk about the person, not just the powerhouse of an artist that she is and I think when you are done getting to know her, you’ll see why I believe now is the time for all of us to Liv better!
Connect with Liv:
Wild rock & soul singer Bette Smith traces elements of her life-affirming new album “The Good, The Bad and The Bette” to her childhood in rough Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Musically, it connects to the gospel music she heard in church and the soul music on the corners. This injection of soul music and gospel into rock & roll powered a breakout in 2017’s “Jetlagger,” which received raves from NPR, Paste, American Songwriter, Billboard, MOJO, and a feature in the New York Times. Not just a critics’ darling, the album rose to #1 on the Roots Music Report chart and topped off a banner year with a celebrated appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival. For this latest release, out now on Ruf Records, the Brooklyn, NY native enlisted Drive-By Truckers’ Matt Patton and engineer/drummer Bronson Tew as producers at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, MS; Patton has previously helmed projects by Jimbo Mathus and the Dexateens as well as contributed to albums with Dom Flemons, Seratones, and Candi Staton. He played bass on “Jetlagger,” which was produced by Jimbo Mathus and the two found a kinship and shared vision. She says, “When I called on my producer Matthew Robert Patton, I told him that I wanted a southern rock soul/Aretha Franklin/’I once was lost but now I’m found’ theme.” He in turn enlisted guests North Mississippi Allstar Luther Dickinson (guitar on “Signs and Wonders”) and fellow DBT member Patterson Hood (vocals on “Everybody Needs Love”) to join him on the new album.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Bette about the upcoming event at the High Noon Saloon on August 15th. We really get into how the people at the reason Bette brings it out on the road. She hopes to get to know the folks who feel the music, feel the stories and just feels it. We spend time walking, almost dancing though some of the tracks on the album, where they came from and how they piece toGether that almost diary feel to this record. This album has many angels to it, the soulfulness one would come to expect, the bluesiness one needs and that rockin’ feel that one might have been hoping for. Seriously now, if you like to allow your body, mind AND soul to be moved, Bette is your guide. Bette also takes a little about the artists she might think round out a set along with her new music and to me, I am think an extended set of Bette Smith is just what the doctor ordered.
It is always nice to et introduced to a new artist. For me, the new album by blues/soul singer Patti Parks is my first ear meeting with her. She’s releasing a new album entitled Whole Nother World, which is produced by GRAMMY AWARD-nominated blues great Kenny Neal. Patti, a Buffalo, NY native and a Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inductee, is, as expected, really excited about the release of this collection of songs. Recorded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at Brookstown Recording Studios (Kenny Neal’s studio), Whole Nother World was released on May 28 on Mr. Neals’ Booga Music label. Along with producing the album, Mr. Neal arranged and also performs masterfully on it. A riveting live performer, Patti has a soulful, sensual voice that does immense justice to her uplifting blend of Chicago blues, Memphis soul and tasty funk.
I had the opportunity to cacth up with both Patti and Mr. Neal to dive in a little deeper into this fantastic new release. We get into the history of some of the songs, including a story of loss and regain. We learn both how Patti worked differently on this album that work previous, with her being in a whole new element Mr. Neal’s hometown and in his revered studio. It was also really fascination to get an idea of how Mr. Neal goes about creating, using his ears to see what the story is and how it gets to the place he might have heard it in his mind….legends do! Of course, there’s the music and then there’s the give back. Patti has been a working nurse and is creator of the Nurs’n Blues education program, which she developed to help high risk children at drug rehab centers, so we made sure to give some shout outs to this great work.
In her first new recording in a decade, Joy Harjo – the first Native American named Poet Laureate of the United States – digs deep into the indigenous red earth and the shared languages of music to sing, speak and play a stunningly original musical meditation that seeks healing for a troubled world – “I Pray for My Enemies”, released on Sunyata Records March 5. Collaborating with producer/engineer Barrett Martin on this unique new album, Joy brings a fresh identity to the poetry & songs that have made her a renowned poet of the Muscogee Creek Nation & one of the most authentic and compelling voices of these times. “The concept for I Pray for My Enemies began” says Harjo, “with an urgent need to deal with discord, opposition. It could have been on a tribal, national or a personal level. I no longer remember. The urgency had a heartbeat and in any gathering of two or more, perhaps the whole planet, our hearts lean to entrainment – that is, to beat together.” Latin Grammy-winning producer, composer and founding father of the historic Seattle music scene, Barrett Martin brings a new dimension to Harjo’s unique sound-world – her words and music spoken, sung and explored in a vibrant mix of classic instrumental sounds. Harjo and Martin describe it as “funkified spoken word” inspiring “elegant jazz, urban soul, and inner city, reservation grit.” She sings and speaks her poetry, as well as playing saxophone and flute, on an album she describes as “very much of-the-moment.” Martin holds it all together with drums, upright bass, keyboards & production duties. He assembled an all-star band to explore Harjo’s work, featuring Peter Buck (R.E.M.) on electric guitar & feedback; Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) on electric guitar solos; Krist Novoselic (Nirvana) on acoustic guitar; and Rich Robinson (Black Crowes) on electric guitar solos. Additional players include renowned Iraqi oud master Rahim Alhaj; trumpeter Dave Carter & percussionist/backing vocalist Lisette Garcia. Joy’s stepdaughters sing harmony vocals, and her husband Owen Sapulpa plays surdo drum on the album. Joy defines songs and poems as distinctly different expressions, & both are featured in the 16 tracks that make up the album. Her words & music, older & newer, get a fresh new identity here. Some of Harjo’s defining poems appear here – “An American Sunrise,” “Fear,” “Running” & “Remember” – refracting her own experience as a Native American woman of her culturally defining generation. “Calling the Spirit Back,” from an early collection of Harjo’s poems, and the new song “How Love Blows Through the Trees” – written when COVID-19 reached her home in Tulsa, OK – echo the suffering of a world experiencing a pandemic.
Joy Harjo is the author of several books of poetry, plays, children’s books. In May, The Library of Congress will release Living Nations, Living Words: an Anthology of First Peoples Poetry: and in September a memoir Poet Warrior, A Call for Love and Justice, Oprah Winfrey recently picked her anthology of Native American poetry for her book club. Her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation; the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award; PEN USA Literary Award and many others. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.
I had the complete honor of catching up with Joy about this brand new release and we dive into the seed to flower tale. How she got to work with Mr. Martin and the key of the rhythm. All the words above speak the truth about Joy, but to get a true sense of this album and how it sounds and more importantly feels, is up to you. Go hear, go feel.
Heather the jerk is the solo project of Heather Sawyer based out of Madison, WI. She started the project around 2016 to challenge herself and see if she could play music “one man band” style using guitar, bass drum, and high hat. After playing a few shows HTJ released a 4 song ep titled “The Rick Shitty Sessions” recorded by Rick Freuhling of local bands Fire Heads and Dumb Vision. In between now and then Heather played in a couple touring bands and was pretty busy with that. Fast forward several years and a pandemic later, Heather wrote a bunch of songs and decided to record them all as a full band this time around. Cable Access TV is the result of the recording sessions. Recorded entirely by Graham Hunt at their practice space this last fall, CATV also features Graham, and friend Tyler Fassnacht on some guitar and bass help. Cable Access TV is the result of some breakups, a pandemic, and smoking up.
I had the opportunity to get a little time with Heather The Jerk to get her take of how the album creation went down. We talk some of the ins and outs of this album, some of those inspirations that inspired and a new video as well as some thinGs in the pipeline….who is this Dana and The I Don’t Need That’s?? Heather is one of those special people making that real feel to her sound and Madison is lucky to have her within the scene.
Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and bassist Mark Helias come together to create duets discovered in the moment in a way that is rarely heard today with “Some Kind of Tomorrow”. The long time bandmates, separated by space and time find a way to play in real time with one another and the results are magical. Two master improvisers and composers bring listeners up-close and personal to the first spark of their imaginations at work, recording eleven duet improvisations over the spring, summer, and fall of 2020. The music is raw, authentic, intimate, alive, and unapologetic in its passion. Their sound is deep wood and polished brass recorded with a depth that is hard to describe. They played the music, recorded it, mastered it firsthand and are now making it available to listeners for the first time as a digital download on Bandcamp. Don’t miss these fearless jazz explorers as they face the future.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Jane Ira Bloom about this project. We got into the creation of songs in a way, that up until now had probably not been considered as a way to go about one’s music…but…here we are. We talked about some challenges and the need to do this playing. Versatilityis one of those things I appreciate about Jane, so we touched briefly on the most recnt release she did with M’Lumbo on Ropeadope Records, released back at the end of October, 2020. And of course, as a true sound architect, Jane was able to point to the future a tad with what felt like assurance that there would be a volume 2 AND a new project on the winGs of exploration with a group of female improvisers called “Picturing The Invisible”…ahhh the future looks and sounds good…Listen in above to find out more.
Vanessa Williams is one of the most respected & multi-faceted performers in the entertainment industry today. Having sold millions of records worldwide, she has also achieved numerous #1 and Top 10 hits on various Billboard Album & Singles charts: Pop, Dance, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Holiday, Latin, Gospel & Jazz. Her critically acclaimed work in film, television, recordings and the Broadway stage has been recognized by every major industry award affiliate including four Emmy nominations, 11 Grammy nominations, a Tony nomination, three SAG award nominations, seven NAACP Image Awards & three Satellite Awards. Her platinum single “Colors of the Wind,” from Disney’s Pocahontas, won the Oscar, Grammy & Golden Globe for Best Original Song. A graduate of Syracuse University, Vanessa is a strong advocate for equal rights, especially concerning the LGBTQ+ community & minorities. She was honored with the Human Rights Campaign “Ally for Equality” Award for her humanitarian contributions. She also achieved a career pinnacle with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007. Vanessa’s autobiography, “You Have No Idea,” co-written with her mother Helen Williams, was a New York Times Best Seller in 2012. Her recent Broadway credits include co-starring with Cicely Tyson in The Trip to Bountiful, (the #1 play of the 2013 season), After Midnight (2014) and a special limited engagement in Hey, Look Me Over at New York City Center in 2018. Vanessa was recently in previews for Josie Rourke’s City of Angels in London’s West End, when production was suddenly forced to pause due to COVID-19. Her charitable endeavors are many & varied, embracing & supporting such organizations as Concerts for America, Special Olympics and several others as well as the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. Vanessa is one of the world’s most accomplished concert artists, appearing regularly with the most prestigious symphony orchestras in the world, most recently with the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center.
I had the absolute honor to be invited to attend a national Zoom press conference with the one and only Vanessa Williams in support of the LIVE FROM THE WEST SIDE: WOMEN OF BROADWAY: Vanessa Williams event on Dec. 5. This show is the final show in the Overture Center‘s Live from the West Side: Women of Broadway series. The show, transmitted live in HD with professional sound mixing, will feature a mix of Broadway showtunes, pop songs and personal stories from Vanessa’s celebrated career. The performance will take place at The Shubert Virtual Studios on Manhattan’s West Side. At-home audience members will be invited to email in questions to be answered during the livestream.
Here is the snippet of my time with Vanessa where we talk about music she has been getting into & how the band is doing ahead of this event on 12/5. Such a thrill!!
2020 Blues Hall Of Fame inductee Bettye LaVette is a native of Detroit. Her first recording in 1962, at the age of sixteen, was on Atlantic Records. She later charted with such singles as “He Made A Woman Out Of Me” and “Do Your Duty,” Since then she has recorded ten albums. Her most recent album Things Have Changed, also produced by Steve Jordan (John Mayer, Keith Richards), was released on Verve in 2018 and received two GRAMMY nominations, which brings her total Grammy nominations to five. Her latest release, “Blackbirds,” features songs primarily popularized by some of her peers, other iconic black women in music, who she personally respected and admired. Set for release August 28, the album finds Bettye in top form delivering powerful renditions of songs that touched her personally. It also re-unites her with legendary producer Steve Jordan and Verve Records. From Dinah Washington’s “Drinking Again,” Nina Simone’s “I Hold No Grudge,” Nancy Wilson’s “Save Your Love For Me” and more, all delivered in Bettye’s rich and raspy tone with a touch of the blues.
After having a chance to chat with Bettye a couple of years ago and hanging out with her backstage, we were like two peas in a soul sharing pod. Which made this time around even better. We talk about how this album came together, working with a producer that has the same ear and the tunes that make up this walk down music history lane. We spend a good amount of time talking about the timeliness of the song, “Strange Fruit” as social upheaval takes over the news cycles once again in the United States and beyond. This track says as much about the history of American racism and the state of the country today. The song was originally recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939 and written by Jewish teacher Abel Meeropol who wrote the song based on a photo of two black men who were lynched as a crowd of white people looked in the camera pointing and smiling. This album is one that can help bring a little focus on the way things were and still are in many ways, but I believe it also holds some of the keys to unlocking the new realities many want to see within the space of equality and justice…while honoring the people who helped build the bridge that led Bettye as a whole person to where she is today. The music joins the times of then to the times of now, and if you never knew…..just grab an earful.