Monday, August 5, 2013

Music Review: ‘Mosaic’ by Jann Klose


There are not many positive things you can say about an, eight month now, battle with cancer. But there are a few. For one, I renewed dormant relationships with distant family members. Another was the overwhelming support from the creative community of authors, musicians, publishers and record companies. It seemed like a day didn’t pass without boxes or stacks of envelopes containing books and CDs wasn’t delivered to my various hospital rooms and always accompanied with a note telling me that written reviews weren’t expected and that they only wanted wanted me to be surrounded by the things I loved. Well, reviews may not have been expected, but damn it, I’m a writer and now that I am convalescing at the VA Hospital in Vancouver, WA. and have a very quiet and comfortable place to write from – and the doctors and nurses aren’t poking me with something every hour – I have started going through those boxes and envelopes and making note of the treasures inside and writing about them.

One such envelope came from my doppelganger-in-musical-tastes friend, Anne Leighton, and out of it came the photo of an artist I hadn’t heard of, but the one-sheet fell out and there was a paragraph staring at me with a familiar name. Gary Lucas. For the uninitiated, Gary Lucas was probably the original “guitar shredder”. A guitar prodigy who cut his teeth in the early ‘80s transposing Captain Beefheart’s music to the guitar prompting one critic to opine, "Gary Lucas apparently grew extra fingers in order to negotiate his way through it". Having had a thirty plus year friendship with a couple of Magic Band members and heard Lucas play innumerable times, my interest in Mosaic by Jann Klose rose by about 1000%.

Greetings From Tim Buckley

So, I unfolded the one-sheet and read from the beginning. But before I could do that, there was another photo that poked me in the eye. Greetings from Tim Buckley is a film I had read about that is due for release this summer in select theaters with the DVD scheduled for release sometime in the near future. In my teenage years (and still to this day for that matter) I was a huge folk music fan starting with Bob Dylan, of course, and working my way through Dave Van Ronk, Bob Gibson, Pete Seeger and eventually to Tim Buckley who before his untimely death seemed poised on taking folk music to new realms incorporating psychedelia, funk, soul, avant-garde and jazz in his repertoire. But over the years, the Tim Buckley albums seemed to get pushed to the back shelves to gather dust. Until just recently.

I was sent a book called, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" which is a book about a Leonard Cohen song which was made popular by Tim Buckley’s son, Jeff. I reviewed the book here back on July 4th, if you’d care to look it up. So, naturally, I drug out the Tim Buckley albums and dusted them off and since I had run across the notice of the movie being made in my research for the Cohen review, I re-familiarized myself with his music. I was starting to feel like I was an actor in Six Degrees of Separation. Needless to say, I put the CD in the music system and sat back to give it a listen.

The first thing that hits you is Jann Klose vocal talent. There are certain voices you’ll run across in pop-rock music over the years that just reach out and grab you. Burton Cummings of The Guess Who, David Clayton-Thomas of Blood Sweat,  And Tears, Adam Lambert are a few that come immediately to mind. Voices that contain the ability to convey raw emotion and possess a vocal beauty that isn’t usually associated with rock singers. Jann Klose has such a voice. In range, in tone, in inflexion it is an instrument that delivers musical hues as well as verbal communication.

“Still” by Jann Klose song featured on the album “Mosaic” June 2013
It’s obvious from the first track, “Make It Better” , why Klose was chosen to lend his voice to the soundtrack for Greetings from Tim Buckley. Buckley had a voice like that and it was obvious you had to have someone with vocal mastery to cover his songs. But on exploring deeper into the album you’ll also discover that the songs aren’t just vehicles for a great voice, a voice that “could sing the telephone book” as Public Radio’s Barb Heller put it. These songs are filled with soul, with emotion, both personal and in delivering stories on  topical subjects. They also run the gambit from some tasty reggae styling's to street, calypso, classic rock, punk rock and folk, just to mention a few. The album is well named, being a Mosaic of popular-rock styles and paying tribute to Klose’ influences. As the tracks played, I heard shades of Paul Simon, was reminded of Bruce Hornsby, Dan Folgelberg,  the prog-rock bands Asia and Renaissance (which isn’t surprising since he has collaborated with members of the group and has a professional relationship with Annie Haslam), there’s even some Pink Floyd – minus the bombast and the flying pig - but there is no single ‘pigeon hole’ he fits in, no defining genre or era that rules them all, so to speak. Instead, it’s his style, his experiences, views,thoughts and emotions that come through to the listener in his songwriting, guitar work, gorgeous vocals and over all performance. And he wrote all but one song on the album (“Know What’s Right” was co-written with producer David Bendeth). That one song is the hauntingly beautiful Tim Buckley song delivered in a near Benedictine chant-like a cappella rendition of “Song To The Siren”.

Jann Klose3As much as the album features many different genres, it never feels like a “sampler” or a resume or a search for Klose’ musical identity. Instead it feels like a fully formed amalgamation, the forming of a artist from the many rhythmic, lyrical and musical tools that he has been exposed to and then melding them into a brand new whole with that torch of a voice. It didn’t hurt that in support of this ‘mosaic’ is Jann’s band, The Edukators. The Edukator’s are Chris Marolf on bass and banjo, Rob Mitzner and Patrick Carmichaelmon the skins, Lars Potteiger on various keyboards and accordion and Leah Potteiger on violin. Florian Opahle, who has played with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and Greg Lake of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, contributes some sweet guitar parts as does David Bendeth. Tia Roper adds some chamber pop/ Baroque Rock flavored flute work on “The Kite” accompanied by Megan Marolf (Roger Waters, Phillip Glass) on oboe. The production work was left to the ever capable Grammy Winner James Frazee who has produced Esperanza Spalding, Blondie, and My Morning Jacket. David Bendeth coproduced and besides the lyrics written with Klose on “Know What’s Right” his production resume sports the names Paramore, Bruce Hornsby and Elvis Presley. Along with mastering by double Grammy-winner Warren Russell-Smith, they made of Mosaic an intelligent, soulful, melodic and stunning piece of ear candy.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2013 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 4, 2013

EP Review: ‘13’ by Paige Shannon

FolderI can’t help but remember back to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when artists like Judy Collins, Laura Nyro, Carol King and especially Joni Mitchell brought a whole different look and set of songs to rock and pop music. Until that point in the ‘60s female artists were of the Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) and Janis Joplin mode. They were about talent but they were also in your face. They were flash. Then came the singer-songwriters. They let their talent, and the song speak for them. They didn’t dress provocatively, they didn’t jump around the stage or molest the mic. Instead they sang a song from the heart and captured audiences through their art.

When it was suggested I give Paige Shannon’s  13 - EP a listen, and when I finally did, those marvelous singer/songwriters immediately came to mind. A time when substance won out over image. When songs were delivered with emotion. With heart and with soul. With an honesty that transcended mini skirts and whatever passes for glamour at the moment.

It was also a music that ignored fads and that’s what impressed me about Paige Shannon who, by the way, lists Joni Mitchell among her favorite musicians, she’s young but her appeal has nothing to do with fads. She also lists among her interests Martin Guitars, Urban Outfitters, good poetry, and cats.

The EP is Paige’s first professional recording and it opens with an original; “Memory Is The Enemy”. Right away you hear the range in her voice. Musically and emotionally. She harnesses both to deliver a signature tune whose poetic verses speak to her depth and future as a songwriter. The other songs on the EP are penned by Paige as well. She also plays twelve and six string guitar, a little uke and in one or two places the banjo. Besides that expressive voice, she has a future as a musician. The album is all that is lovable about the singer-songwriter era, but it is also thoroughly modern. On YouTube you can find her doing covers of Nina Nesbitt's "Noserings and Shoestrings", so besides that Joni Mitchell influence, she also has more modern muses hiding in her MP3 player.

For a refreshing little bit of ear candy that has nothing to do with the MTV glamour shots and a whole lot to do with a talented songstress delivering honest and appealing music, pick this one up. And you’ll want to bookmark her web site and watch the news papers around L.A. where she lives and has already performed at Hard Rock and other venues to enthusiastic crowds.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2013 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved "First published on Blogcritics."