Smooth Jazz and New Age music are genres that have always received the short end of the stick. Jazz purists and Rock critics have continually written the music off as ‘lifeless’ and/or ‘boring.’ However, both Smooth Jazz and New Age have survived decades of critical neglect thanks to a large – and continually growing – audience. And why has this music survived and prospered for so long? Because the music connects with the listener in a way that most musical styles don’t. These are not genres that have continually gone after the big bucks. This is music created from emotion – sadness, joy, desire, etc. – and because it comes from an honest place, listeners can easily absorb those feelings that went into creating the art. In turn, they bond with the music because of those emotions. It becomes a very personal experience. And isn’t that what helps us get through life? All of those very personal experiences, good or bad? Thankfully, music will always fall on the side of good.
If you go to Wikipedia and look up ‘Honky Tonk’, you’ll find the following description: “A Honky Tonk is both a bar that provides country music for the entertainment of its patrons and the style of music played in such establishments. In the 1950s, Honky Tonk entered its golden age, with the popularity of Webb Pierce, Hank Locklin, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Faron Young, George Jones, and Hank Williams.” So, given that description, it’s no wonder that singer/songwriter J.P. Harris is often referred to as one of the finest purveyors of Honky Tonk music in America today. As ‘modern’ Country takes up space on the charts, it is refreshing – and dare I say it, exhilarating – to experience an artist so in tune with the roots of the genre’s pioneering artists. Harris ain’t no Americana bandwagoneer – he is as Country as Country Music gets.
Amy Ray is best known as one-half of Indigo Girls, the Grammy-winning Folk duo she formed with Emily Saliers. Formed in 1985, the duo released an EP before signing with Epic Records and becoming one of the most popular Folk-Rock duos of all time. Although they have remained active for over three decades, Amy would use her downtime between projects to follow her own path. Beginning with her 2001 solo debut, STAG, Amy has pursued a slightly different path than that of Indigo Girls. Her voice may be instantly identifiable but her solo releases tend to travel down different musical paths that eventually converge onto the same road that she travels down with Indigo Girls. HOLLER, her 2018 album, is no exception…
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: AUTOBIOGRAPHY (MUSIC FROM WAYNE MCGREGOR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY) is about to be released. How are you feeling about the project and the reaction you’ve had so far?
JLIN: I am very pleased with the reaction so far. It’s truly an honor. Composing the score for AUTOBIOGRAPHY was a life changing experience for me.
Courtney Hartman and Taylor Ashton were already successful in their respective outfits before coming together as a duo. Hartman, the singer, songwriter and guitarist for Nashville-based Americana outfit Della Mae, met Canadian singer, songwriter and clawhammer banjo player Taylor Ashton when her band crossed paths with his band, Fish & Bird, while out on the road. The two began writing songs together and within four years, they decided that they had enough material for an album. Named after one of the first songs they wrote together, the duo is now releasing BEEN ON YOUR SIDE, their debut album as a duo. On paper, their collaboration may sound like a perfect match but, in reality, it is so much better than that.
SPAZ: When writing an album like SUN ON THE SQUARE, do you tend to let the compositions flow naturally and reveal the album’s direction over time? Or do you have a preconceived idea on where you want the album to head, musically?
KAREN PERIS: We don’t usually have a plan, especially in regards to writing songs. So many songs, for me, begin and then fall away. So, an album builds slowly out of the songs we remain close to after a period of time.
Even if you don’t instantly recognize Jesse Dayton’s name, you have probably heard his work over the years. He has created music for some of Rob Zombie’s films (including THE DEVIL’S REJECTS and HALLOWEEN II), played on recordings by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, the Supersuckers, and Willie Nelson, and even filled in for Billy Zoom during one of X’s U.S. tours. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There’s much more to Jesse Dayton’s career than his work with other artists…
While many musicians can wring emotion out of their instrumental weapon of choice, there’s no denying that the most emotional instrument of all is the human voice. The song’s melody and lyrics mean nothing if the voice does not connect with the listener. A notable example would be Gospel Music – the soaring voices of a church choir can melt the heart of the most hardened atheist. However, the best example belongs to The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices, a female choir that has mastered the art of the voice… and I don’t use the word ‘art’ lightly here. The sounds these voices make are soul-stirring and heartbreaking in equal measures.
Casey Abrams was born in Austin, Texas and eventually made his way to Idyllwild, California. This multi-instrumentalist initially made a name for himself on the 10th season of American Idol – he finished in sixth place – and judging by his 2018 album PUT A SPELL ON YOU, he’s certainly learned a lot during his long and exciting journey. Unlike many other artists who are content to find a niche or genre they feel comfortable in, Abrams mixes and matches genres as he sees fit. This is not a former American Idol contestant that is going to fall in line and churn out a variation on today’s Top 40. Nope. Casey Adams is going to do whatever he damn well pleases!