Archive by Author

Fish Pond Gold Series: Christian Lopez Band – Onward

The first time I experienced Christian Lopez live in the fall of 2012 in Winchester, Virginia, I realized that my musical bar would be forever raised. Let’s get specific. Christian leaves absolutely everything on the stage; he’s a brilliant performer who clearly adores the process, the stage, and his audience; and he’s been working hard touring solidly for the last couple of years to show it.

With a firm set of family values, and seeming constant support from his parents (his dad Jamie, I note, has driven “100,000+ miles” with the band), he’s been honing his skill and his sound for a long time, despite his relatively few years on this earth. He’s now surrounded by a tight and capable group of musicians under the moniker of “The Christian Lopez Band” – that is, Michael Silver on drums and percussion, Chelsea McBee on banjo and vocals, and Joshua LeBreton on bass.

Christian Lopez

I’ve reviewed Christian’s work before so was excited to hear the next step. True that I was expecting the standard to be very high. “Onward” surprised me; it is a quality listen, and a worthy album, but didn’t play out in the raw and rough-cut diamond shape that I’d assumed. It’s altogether a different listening experience to “Pilot”, or his previous “Masters” series of singles. The tracks below were the stand out items for me from this latest work.

Kicking off with a ballad, “Take You Away” illustrates my point. To all intents and purposes it’s country; but not the kind of balls-to-the-wall, Johnny Cash fast-paced railroad country rock which I’ve grown used to. A beautiful pairing of piano and guitar leads the melody along:

“Took my photo this morning,
Pushed off my hair in the way;
Prohibited smile, wasting a while
Plotting my getaway”

His soaring voice, paired with Chelsea in harmony throughout, is everything I hoped for through the chorus, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t grab you in this first number.

Crowd-pleaser “Will I See You Again” is at Track 5. This is at the apex of what I find interesting about this album effort. The song has appeared before, twice actually, pre-“Pilot” in the Masters series of singles, and on “Pilot” itself. There are numerous versions on YouTube that have that super-fast stripped down live “edge” to them.  They are what I’d come to consider Christian and his band to be all about. However this version gave me a new perspective of their offering.

It’s a paradox, as I read that Dave Cobb’s production of the album has brought much more of a raw and “real” feel to his sound. It’s becoming obvious to me that this rawness is achieved with more instrumentation and more emphasis on Christian’s unfiltered vocal, and perhaps fewer (or no) effects. Slowed-down, with Hammond-thrown in, some well-placed piano, it’s altogether a different song. Yes, it’s lost some of the magic of the trimmed-down hillbilly stomp, but it’s honed for a much, much bigger audience, and I can appreciate it for these very different qualities. I still find myself singing along to every word. Let’s face it, it’s always going to be the one to beat from Christian’s early career, like it or not.  “The Man I Was Before” (Track 9) is the second track from “Pilot” with a pretty serious production makeover which keeps that vibe of continuous improvement.

Picking up on that classic Americana-country feel with “Seven Years”, there are gems of harmonies, the guitar-picking and strumming in the background (by the way something which Christian is absolutely flawless at).  The solo section (2:17-2:42) is first rate, showing off the strength of the plucked string section of this band.  The following “Pick Me Up” is a solid track, it’s rocky, it’s edgy, it leaves me stomping my foot and nodding my head. It also stands out as the first time I have heard Christian curse; albeit “f*ck it up” is surely the most excellent rhyme to the title he could possible have come up with – nice one.

Closing out with “Goodbye”, a wispy and thoughtful track, the song brings the pace of the album down well;

“Who you are, what you’ll be,
Is all the same damn thing to me,
So go and make it right,

I hope you’ll have picked up that I consider “Onward” to be a very appropriately titled album. The man from Martinsburg hasn’t risked producing a completely different sound, nor has he given us a set of songs in his classic genre. He’s developed and crafted and transitioned and diversified, learning from his multi-state audiences over the months and years, and has created a work which makes he and his band more than ready for the mainstream. It’s highly listenable, commercial, and I can identify with it. He might not want to produce pop music as such, but there’s no denying that this will serve the masses in the heartland.

Ever onward, and perhaps his next effort will be titled “Upward”. I believe, and have always believed since that first live performance at a pub somewhere in Virginia, that Christian Lopez and his band are on a path to greatness. This effort did everything to prove that he’s on the right track.

You can buy the album on iTunes, and check out Christian’s profile  with former band Joe Taxi on the Fish Pond, as well as finding more information at his website.  If you liked this, have a read of my review of his four singles released prior to the “Pilot” EP here.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond

Christian Lopez ONward Trailer

Comments Off on Fish Pond Gold Series: Christian Lopez Band – Onward

Alec Chambers – Whole Again

The music industry – our industry – is undeniably cluttered; almost anyone with access to a Mac and the Internet can produce music, and as a result there’s so much “stuff” to choose from, that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to scour it all for favorites.

Then again, sometimes an absolute gem drops right into your lap. Alec Chambers is a noticeable newcomer who I immediately paid attention to. Simply put, this guy has it; the “look”, the proven songwriting team, and a delivery that is immediately catchy.  Follow along by playing the EP below through as you read.

The EP has an attractive cover, a perspective on the artist in the archway; an often-ignored detail, that well thought through and relevant album artwork can show you at a glance how serious the artist is.

The opening single, ‘Whole Again’, starts carefully, a guitar riff that reminds me of the Hollywood MI or Berklee sound. It’s just guy and his guitar, and very soon, it becomes obvious why the concept of Alec Chambers will do so well;

“I wanted someone like you
Someone that always comes through,
I guess my life needs a soundtrack”

Song writing like this is an art that requires study, hard work, and perfection. The collaboration with Sarah Nagourney makes this obvious to the listener; the piece is a perfect 3 minutes (and one second) long, and has something in each stanza to engage the listener. The chorus is anthemic and crashes in before 30 seconds are up. With syncopated rhythms on the vocal, dynamics, and well-designed transitions between the simple acoustic guitar and enough treats to appreciate and digest, it’s a pleasing opener. You can find the supporting video right here.

Alec Chambers 2

At this point, there’s a surprise, and a clever one. Track 2, “Lost In Translation”, is the killer single on the EP. Brilliant, guys. It’s not the title track, you will come into it expecting a little less, and you’ll be punched out with one of the most bouncy, catchy rock/pop numbers I’ve heard in 2015 so far.

The crowd handclap reminds me of the catchy crowd-pleaser “That Thing You Do” by movie-band The Wonders, which I’ve always loved. The formula works and Alec sticks to it, delivering in less than 3 minutes; quiet intro, build, catchy chorus, dynamics in the bridge, layered vocals, and just long enough to leave you wanting more. I had the pleasure of listening to this song at 34,000 feet on the way to Vegas, and I can’t help but smile, sing, and finger-drum along to it, whatever my neighbor in seat 8E thinks of me by now.

“Are we lost in translation? So frustrating,
Words always get in the way;
I can’t fake it, no complication,
Trying to get on the same page;
I’ll try anything I do
To keep me next to you;
Lost in translation,
Words always get in the way”

All that’s missing for me is a nice wailing guitar solo after the bridge. Before we know it, after a lovely little bridge (“are you even listening”), and massive last chorus, the song is out with a bang. Good lord, it’s euphoric.

‘Bleecker Street’ is the third and longest track on the EP, and is what I’d call the more thoughtful number; it’s the musician’s track, laced with harmonica throughout. It’s a quieter chorus, with emotive lyrics that can pull you into the song’s meaning, should you choose to go there.

“Seemed like she was everywhere
Found her socks under a chair;
I found her shirt under the couch,
Oh get me out, out of this house”

Alec Chambers 3

I’d like to think that we’re seeing more of Alec’s emotional side as a musician in this song; he expresses it with feeling, and it’s appreciated. This will be the song that I’m sure I’ll end up replaying in months from now as I remember the release of this EP. By comparison, Jimmy Marino’s excellent track “Moving Day” gave me a similar musical slow-burning buzz.

“I hit a river coming in,
yeah I can feel it on my skin;
and now I remember why I came
to Bleecker Street”

The EP is capped off with ‘Heart of Gold’. It’s another strong work, with a little more synth this time making the listen refreshing. There’s another single in this track, I’m sure of it; this one would be the “sweet” song of the four. It’s a very nice wrap.

Alec Chambers is a breath of fresh air. This EP has reminded me what you can achieve with a great team; musical talent, coupled with proven songwriters who can deliver 12 minutes and 52 seconds of entertainment. Heck, you could listen to this entire EP twice in your lunch break, which with today’s short audience attention span is a bonus. I can sincerely say that Alec joins my list of “most listenable work” alongside fellow Fish Pond family Hadley Kennary (In Fall), Jimmy Marino (A Change of Scene) and Christian Lopez (Pilot). I’m predicting that Alec Chambers, with the right breaks, publicity, and follow up work, will do very well indeed. I encourage you to buy it as I did, and contribute to the continued work of this great team.

You can find out more about Alec Chambers at his profile on the Fish Pond, and you can purchase his EP here on iTunes.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David M Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond

Comments Off on Alec Chambers – Whole Again

Natania – Box You Up

Natania - Box You Up 3

Natania has always been a strong supporter of our musicians family. A truly international artist, with roots in India and an education at Hollywood’s Musicians’ Institute on the West Coast of the USA, she has spent her early career carving out a distinct pop niche for herself. After her success with EP “Hope and Heartbreak” in 2012 featuring single “Cherry Love”, and more recently “The Letter”, she’s following up with a cleverly written punchy little pop number “Box You Up”, planting her musician’s hands firmly on two continents as she releases it simultaneously in India and the USA.

As with Natania’s other work, the animated video – which in 2012 I wasn’t particularly used to or sure of – has become a lovable element of her art.  I always preferred seeing an artist performing in a supporting video, but I’ve become a convert to this holistic approach to presenting a product.

“Box You Up” is a strong pop song through and through.  It’s sweet, it’s short at 2:29, and delivers everything that a catchy commercial number should. The lyric is simple, listenable, fun, makes me smile with pretty much every line;

“I’m gonna box you up, I’m gonna box you up;
Make sure they remember if undelivered, don’t return to sender,
I’m gonna box you up, Im gonna box you up;
Maybe you will ship across the sea, maybe you will find someone you will meet”

Buried inside this little box of treats are some really clever hooks; the vocal is solid, well produced, with some nice harmonies thrown in. Natania can sing, and despite the simplicity of the track, her sweet voice shines through. There’s a little bridge buried in there at just the right moment which is dreamy and slows the pace down until I’m dying to hear that chorus again. There are hand claps, other little effects to listen to (many of which she just produces with her voice), and that lovely simple animation to guide you through the lyric. With Natania, it’s a style, a genre, all of her own.

“And yes, you give me feelings they write about,
The movies, the stories we read about;
But if I don’t tell you, you’ll never know,
and if you never know, I’ll never get hurt,
And if I never get hurt, it’ll be easy to let you go”

Check out that funky guitar backing up the vocal as she comes out of the bridge. Rockin’.

And there you have it. It’s clever, catchy, and perhaps because of the number being so short, it’s made me want to listen to it over and over again. I hear this being played as the theme to an HBO series, perhaps a commercial for a “fun” product like a sporty little car. The beautiful thing is, despite the utterly commercial nature of it which many purists might shy away from, it’s completely listenable as a song in its’ own right.

This is a great example of very educated writing and execution, it’s a product that should get a lot of recognition, and also could set Natania up as a ground-breaker in this particular genre. Highly recommended, and I look forward to hearing it across VH1 worldwide very soon.

To hear more about Natania’s work, check out her profile page here, or read a review of Hope and Heartbreak, and The Letter.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond
Singer/Songwriter, My Lucky Fish

Comments Off on Natania – Box You Up

Blackmore – Law of Time

I first came across Blackmore’s guitar maven Vahan Aslanyan being interviewed by Fish Pond family Dan and Anna Zerin on Entertainment Drive Thru. Coming across as a decent and unassuming stand-up guy, he explained the challenge of moving to the musicians melting pot of Los Angeles, and of flirting with producing and recording in addition to his burgeoning guitar career. Joining LA-based band Blackmore in November 2013, described as “Alternative Metal, Hard Rock, and Progressive Rock all rolled into one”, he added his skills to those of original members Adrian Barrios (vocals), Shaunt Sulahian (guitars), David Dadoyan (bass), and Vinny Mezian (drums).

2014 is an exciting year for the lads of Blackmore, joining the Fish Pond family in April, and with the summer heralding the release on July 22nd of new EP “Law of Time”. As a big rock and metal fan, it’s my privilege to get this early listen to the whole EP and to review it for you.

Blackmore EP 2

The brief 30 second teaser that Blackmore offered back in April (which you can find on their Fish Pond profile) was an exciting one. Limited to a short blast of crisp and harmonic metal music without vocals, it promised something new and energetic, with a guitar-filled theme. What they will release on 22nd July 2014 is a well-crafted work which balances very tight harmonic vocals and guitars with a precise rhythm section. It’s a joy to listen to as a guitarist, with vocal melodies that are catchy as hell. Enjoy it with me.

Beginning with the punchy “Animalistic”, we have lift off; it’s a good choice of song to start the EP, using the best of their dual-guitar harmony style to lead things out. The sound is gritty, dirty, yet with metal-precise timing and execution. The verse is menacing and in your face, like a crazy guy wielding a broken bottle, with Adrian’s snarling vocals promising to belt out a worthy refrain. When they open up the throttle, into the pre-chorus and chorus, this band gets really interesting. It’s all-to-the-wall, you can close your eyes and love on the details of any instrument you choose.

“Lead us home, take control,
All alone;
So animalistic”

I love the guitars, especially around 2:32, speeding the pace, and taking us into a fitting solo. It’s clear that all these guys have mastered their instruments through and through, and are determined to scatter it all across this initial EP.

“Battlefield” is a decent offset as a second track; with a heavy guitar and slower start, however similar to “Animalistic”, the verse is heavily driven by Adrian’s vocals and Vahan and Shaunt’s guitar work, rhythmic and a little funky to prepare for the much heavier and more technical pre-chorus and chorus. For me, it’s noteworthy that they have mixed a very technical and speedy guitar sound with some beautiful open chord distortion to excellent effect. The “wah” throughout the second half of the song is really appreciated too, it adds a new dimension to their sound.

On this song, particularly check out the last 10 seconds and the guitar run on it. Ridiculously decent talent.

Their third number, “Beautiful Hurricane”, reminds me in its outset of a Gary Moore number on speed. A little waltz beat starts the song off, soaring blues guitar, all to introduce a funky and beat-driven number with very light instrumentals to start.  At this point in the album, their work is giving me more than a little reminder of days listening to Yngwie Malmsteen back in the day; the songs are stronger in my opinion, they don’t rely as much on ultra fast guitar, but they have that same crisp and highly technical feel to their song writing and execution.  I particularly loved the segue from the chorus at 3:20 into a beautiful new guitar riff from Shaunt, a theme which carries the song out.  As a guitarist myself, I give this song two thumbs up for so many “inspirational” moments.

“Backdraft” continues on a theme, powerfully guitar-driven from the start, but this one deserves a shout out for the fabulous vocals from Adrian. He really does offset that guitar sound with a powerful set of lungs, and makes sure that Blackmore won’t only be remembered as technicians, but as a well-rounded progressive rock and metal band. This song is filled with changing tempos and beautiful runs. There’s also a skin-crawling evil vocal effect at 2:52 coupled with a creditable demonic laugh at the end, which feels like a tip of the hat to black metal (but only a passing reference).

They complete the EP with “Downfall”. I like that this song starts out so softly, with the introduction of violins, smooth clean electric guitar sounds (note NOT acoustic), and once again Adrian managing to show his mastery of pitch and tone. True to form, 46 seconds in, like a bullet from a rifle, the song is off, all pace and metal again, running at a million miles an hour; this time reminiscent of Paul Di’Anno’s Iron Maiden days. At 2:16 in, the song gets machine gun heavy, I love the progression; in keeping with the title, musically the song gets heavier and the vocal more despairing as it flails ever onwards.  Ending in great style, the last 16 seconds of the song is a resonating chord from the whole band; orchestral and very fitting, as expected from the work that these guys have clearly put into every note.

In my experience, there are many many bands littering history who have a single technical specialism, but fall short in supporting areas. Blackmore is blessed to have started their career with a very strong all around package; the vocals are varied and diverse, the guitars are super strong, the percussion and bass are creditable in keeping the pace together, and the songwriting is first rate for their genre. In short, “Law of Time” is a really solid start for these guys, and I really look forward to seeing them rolling this out in a live environment.  Strong recommend for those open to the genre

Find out more about Blackmore at their profile page here.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond
Singer/Songwriter, My Lucky Fish

Comments Off on Blackmore – Law of Time

How To Write Even Gooder

    How To Write Even Gooder
  1. Eliminate sentences containing acronyms ASAP.
  2. The use of foreign language in an English language document is generally considered to be a faux pas.
  3. Don’t never use a double negative.
  4. To split an infinitive is to quickly confuse the reader.
  5. “Always use your own words”, as my grandmother used to say.
  6. Always avoid any alliteration.
  7. A poorly used simile will be received like a clown at a funeral.
  8. Never make an exception unless it is really needed.
  9. Mixing prose and poetry is a no-go; It devalues your text, and ruins the flow.
  10. The use of biblical quotes may offend some readers, so don’t risk it. So let it be written, so let it be done.
  11. Lists should contain a maximum of ten points.
  12. Advertising has no place in serious writing. An excellent website with a no-advertising policy can be found at
Comments Off on How To Write Even Gooder

Burn the Ballroom – Melodies for the Outsiders

I first heard Alan Gant playing live as a solo artist in the Shenandoah Valley. My take – a super voice, great range of material, investing financially in a beautiful Taylor guitar, and an engaging personality.  Talking more, I found he’s one of that rare breed who is a full time musician.  I so much respect anyone who can live their passion with this much commitment, and starting digging into Alan’s previous work.  A native of Paris, France, I discovered a theme in the quality that this guy strives for, thoroughly enjoying his project “Like a Real Boy“.  His latest album from a project founded in 2008, is with three other excellent musicians; Alan on vocals and guitars, Jackson Harar on bass, Sterling Pearson also on guitar, and Jack Ivins on drums. Three EP’s and one full length album later, they have just released EP “Melodies for the Outsiders” in April 2014.

Burn the Ballroom Album Cover

With an eye on Alan’s other projects, I was pretty excited about what was to come.  I do admit to pre-conceptions and some expectations, and knowing that someone invests the vast majority of their time in their passion for music, has multiple projects, and invests financially in building the quality of his sound; well, I already wanted a punchy rock album that was going to draw me in.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s a breakout EP if ever I’ve heard one.  Have a listen and a read and see if you agree with me.

You can listen to “Chariot”, the opening number, here as you read:

“Chariot” begins by sliding into Alan’s vocal comfortably over a wailing keyboard. It’s a good resource to start the album out with, as his voice is a huge asset.  Building the vibe and the urgency, the drums are in, with some lovely rocking guitar sounds as the verse moves forward. I like the fact that the lyrics fit the mood so well, are clear:

“I never thought one tiny spark could set my world ablaze;
But lovers say there’s hell to pay when fire feeds the flame”

The song is quickly into a catchy and singable chorus. It’s big, powerful, the word that comes to mind is “anthemic”. It’s reminiscent, the whole mood, of the Manic Street Preachers back in the late 1980’s, and even somewhat of “Carter USM” in the same period. I dare you to stop yourself from singing it after a couple of listens:

“Oh chariot,
Come on and fix my broken wings,
Oh chariot, be the song a blackbird sings
Oh chariot, oh chariot
Oh my chariot, carry us away”

I can hear so many little gems mixed into the song. I really like that I can listen to it in its entirety and find something new in every one, and that all of these components simply add to the real “power” of this power-rock or power-pop number. The guitar solo is dripping with as much dirty rock as you could hope for from looking at the pictures of these guys in their bio. I’ve been listening to this EP over and over, and “Chariot” is most definitely my favorite song. I’m a sucker for a high quality popular rock number, and this one is a real hit to my ears.

The second track “Whisper”, has a topical beginning, given Alan’s roots. It’s a European melody accompanied on the accordion, throwing in a little Spanish guitar to the mix during the first verse. It’s a waltz beat with a twist; suddenly bringing in a huge guitar sound, it’s not quite thrash-metal, but its close to a couple of the heavier concept bands (like Cathedral) I’ve heard on the metal scene. Musically it works, as the song dances back and forth between this immense and weighty iron wrecking ball and the cleverly mixed “Euro” acoustic sound.

As if to underline this quirk, about two thirds of the way in, the song turns to a 4/4 beat, double times, Alan lets out a very metal yell, and the band lets loose with double bass and guitar which would have made Dave Mustaine of Megadeth proud. I really enjoyed the contrast through this track, as it blends so many styles that I like in their own right. In the last 30 seconds, they even throw in a little Electronica, which is an added bonus from a complex and very enjoyable song.

Here’s third track “Crazy” which so well reflects Alan’s multitude of writing and performing styles that he brings to the table:

I’ve included this one because it reminds me of watching Alan’s solo performance. From the first upbeat guitar rhythm, this song has me hooked. It’s got all of the power of the instrumentals and style of the whole band, but it’s a very radio-friendly pop song which brings in all of the best of the 1950’s for vocal harmonies, techniques, and hand-claps. It makes it a very danceable and attractive number:

“I’d say crazy doll, but you got something different,
I’d say complicated, that’s your kind of rhythm,
I’d say lost, and you’d say love,
But you’re crazy not to see,
That you’re crazy just like me”

I’m really liking the blend of styles at this mid way point in my afternoon listening. It feels well thought out, and has brought me from power pop, to metal, to the 1950’s already. It’s what makes the album exciting for me so far – it’s celebration of diversity. I also like the fact that the lyrics, while well-written and part of the art, are not too deep, so I can focus on the song as a whole. Sometimes it’s great just to rock out on a Sunday afternoon.

Next up is “Witch”. By far the heaviest number on the EP, the guitars sound solid and as crunchy as broken beer bottles from the outset. I have to confess to a love of this style, it’s power-metal at this point (and yes, I use the word “power” often and advisedly). A driving song, it’s very well constructed from a drum and bass perspective, with some awesome shredding throughout, and a beautiful guitar solo thrown in, highlighting the kind of skill that has gone into the creation of this EP. This is the loud and carefree song of the bunch, and it’s well-placed four tracks in. It leaves me ready for their final track.

“Believe” is a strong final number for the EP, interestingly re-mixed by Kyle Burns so that it appears twice. It’s another number which is hard to pin down to a genre; it has it’s fair share of rocking guitar, but it feels electronica-based even in the original version. Reminiscent of Ola Weel Skram and Leon Frick out of Norway, I have always liked clear guitar-driven tracks like this one. The fact that it is broader than more traditional rock simply gives the song more appeal for me. The remixed version initially baffled me, but in fact turns out to be such a different take on the song, that it’s a nice little end to my Sunday afternoon to listen to both next to each other to compare them.

All in all, Alan and the lads of Burn the Ballroom have produced a very solid EP in ‘Melodies for the Outsiders’. I’d say it’s a good reflection of the ongoing quality of Alan’s work, and on the image that the band is striving to put out there. What strikes me particularly, in summary, as special about this work, is the following; the vocal is first rate, the genre mixes and changes are clever, diverse, and fit well together; and the quality of the production that has gone into the final output is admirable – I would almost say symphonic. I hope that EP sales reflect the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that have obviously gone into this EP’s creation. From my point of view, it’s a strong recommend to buy. If you’re on the East Coast, check them out live as well; to close on Alan’s words: “the guys are pretty wild”.

You can buy the EP at iTunes here.

You can read more about Burn the Ballroom at their Fish Pond profile here or at their website here.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond
Singer/Songwriter, My Lucky Fish

Comments Off on Burn the Ballroom – Melodies for the Outsiders

Margo Rey – Colours

I first discovered Margo Rey’s music after seeing her photo and website address covering most of the side of a massive tour bus in the cell phone parking lot at Dulles Airport, Washington D.C., in 2012. Little did I know at that time the rich international background, the industry know-how, and the warm person behind the image, that I would come to appreciate over this last year. Born in Acapulco, Mexico, and raised in Texas, her album “Habit” (inspired by the Rolling Stones’ song “Heaven”) charted in the top 20 in the Billboard AC, as have a couple of her singles to date. Margo is a passionate pioneer of her very own genre of music, Organica, advocating the power of natural songwriting and performance. Following up her 2013 single “Tempted”, and her happy wedding day with Ron White in October 2013, she gives us “Colours”.

I’ve reviewed Margo’s work before; both album “Habit” and single “Tempted” were noteworthy in their diversity of styles. Margo’s background is in rock, but she covers a much broader spectrum in these releases, her last single being a cover of the 80’s hit by Squeeze. I’ve come to look forward to very high quality in Margo’s singles with her husky and precise vocal technique and first rate backing musicians; her lyrical content really resonates. In “Colours” she has delivered something different from her previous work, and it’s a direction that I love; an absolute killer piano ballad.

Enjoy listening to “Colours” here as you read the review.

Starting out with a solid and heart-warming piano, her voice is in quickly, after only 3 seconds. Her vocal is so very strong, and the start of the verse is playful, leaving me with the early idea that there are some strong dynamics coming. I’m called to mind of Beverley Craven and “Promise Me” from the 80’s. As vocal and piano goes, it’s not like anything recent that I’ve heard, sweet and clear, yet with subtly accented gravel that she turns on so well;

“I close my eyes and tell myself
When I feel judged by someone else
That love, love, love begins with me”

Listen out for that last line; “love, love, love”, the repeat, and the tone behind it, is familiar Margo. She uses the same technique a couple more times in this song, and it’s a catchy hook to make certain words memorable, on the first word of each of these phrases; “Love begins with me”, “no lies or make believe”, “hard, so hard to breathe”, “when will I believe”. Powerful messages made more emotionally relevant with some clever writing, the memorable 3.

The pre-chorus is upon us quickly, a key change, and then on to a beautiful chorus. I must say that the chorus is what grabbed me on the first listen, and I am still loving its entwined wave of a melody line as I’m listening over and over to review this piece.

“I am not afraid
I know how to be brave
In the best and worst of days
My colours never fade”

It’s well arranged dynamically, the first line suppressed, quieter, and the second, a response, more positive, upbeat, and raised with a lovely lift in the chord progression to the final word of the line. I really like the end of the first chorus, a repeat of the tag phrase, however listen for the trademark Margo stretch on the word “fade”.

Dynamics are something which have been evident on all of Margo’s work to date; basically, she knows how to write a pleasing song. The pattern is established, the verse, pre-chorus, and chorus telling a story, but this second time out, backed with strings, more volume from the piano, and the vocals ever more impassioned. The song tells me a tale of insecurity – the irony of having great success yet  paying homage to the fact that the beauty of life is in the challenge. I think the pre-chorus, so easy to skip by because it is so short, lyrically sums up this struggle:

“So brick by brick,
I lay it thick,
and paint up my face for the world again;
and then I sing ‘I am not afraid'”

The bridge serves a purpose to bring the song to a head, it’s short and interesting, and lets Margo let fly with that higher vocal, “never fade” is desperately happy in the delivery; she drops the dynamic at this point to a lull to focus us on the last chorus lines. I like the effect that this has, it’s a song with a message which she has just summed up in these last two choruses.  It seems intended to be bold, and leaves me as a listener with empathy but no pity:

“Impossible they say,
The odds cannot be played,
But my dreams come true in spades,
when my colours never fade”

Margo has had major success, and has faced challenges in her life; I think it’s a great gift to be able to tell that story lyrically and musically to share with the world. With “Colours”, she has delivered a beautiful piece of music, with a lyrical message which I read as a “grab the world by the throat”, or maybe “gather up all of your insecurities and turn them to your advantage”, or perhaps most striking, “I cannot be beaten”. It’s a different approach to the rock-Margo, or the funk-Margo, or the pop-Margo; but it’s Margo that’s back with a beautiful vengeance, and a direction I’m very glad she’s shared with the world.

You can read more about Margo at her Fish Pond profile here, or at her website here.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond
Singer/Songwriter, My Lucky Fish

Comments Off on Margo Rey – Colours

Dear Creek – So It Goes

Dear Creek is a home-grown Appalachian 2-piece founded by Kate Potrykus and Alex Salser.  They put together the band in 2009, on campus at the birthplace of many a musical phenomenon, Shenandoah University, in Winchester, Virginia, in between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the wild Alleghenies.  Since that time, the pair have taken this creation across the country as a five-piece, and produced two albums.  In a move to get back to their roots of Appalachian folk, 5 years on, they perform as a duo, and have produced this exciting 11-track work which highlights the very best of two accomplished hill-country musicians.  I’m delighted to review it in advance of their album launch in May 2014.

Dear Creek Cover

From the look and feel of the album cover, to the song titles, to the knowledge of their roots, “So It Goes” lives and breathes nature and country-folk music.  With a beautifully stylized cover, owlish and wise, I’m excited to hear how they are going to tell the story.  They’ve set an expectation, and I’m pretty sure – based on their previous work – that they won’t disappoint me.

The opening bars of “Would You Let Me” assure me; Kate’s voice, beautifully clear and raw over a simple brush snare, sets the tone for the song, with a flighty melody.  By the time that lovely national guitar sound comes in, I’m already drumming enthusiastically on my knees as I write this piece; with Alex’s voice in counterpoint, there are shades of slide guitar which make this song as powerful a lead-in as I could ask for.

“Would you let me lay you down?
Would you let me stay around?
Would you, would you, would you?

Wrapping the track with a beautifully mixed harmony of their two percussive vocals, it’s strong, happy music, and perfect for this sunny Sunday morning. It’s an introduction to the pair which makes me want to brew a strong cup of joe, sit on the stoop, and push this out to this suburban landscape  at some ungodly volume.

Picking up the pace a little with “Breathin’ Steady”, it’s nice to hear the start of a clear musical theme to the album. They are comfortable with their instrumental style, Kate’s voice is strong, and well complements Alex’s guitar. I’m starting to realize that this album is a lyric listener; one of those in which the backing is so neatly and professionally put-together, that it feels natural, organic, in some way. It simply lets you get on with enjoying the listen; and that’s what this song is, to me; a song of “getting on with it”. The octave removed melody between the two is noteworthy and I’m hoping to hear more of it as we journey through.

On to the title track, and I can see why it is; “So It Goes” has a heavy heart, but draws from the deep emotional well of Dear Creek, a stark cry to the lonely winter hills:

“He felt the tears run down his face,
Until they reached where he could taste the grief…
So it goes, so it goes, so it goes on, and so on
I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know where time’s gone”

It’s beautiful, and strangely reminds me of the feelings I had listening to Grace Pettis‘ “Abilene” (Grace and Kate are friends); a well-told story, which reaches right into your chest and grabs your heart with that voice from the very start.  There are some lovely variations on the melody in the chorus toward the end of the song as it builds to its mournful conclusion.  Wonderful.

“Turn to Dust” is the festival track of the bunch; I could see myself at a bluegrass event in West Virginia, with a crowd clapping and lapping up this anthem. They move this number on like a midnight express, with vocals to match its lonely wail. It’s indicative of their roots, and having lived many years in the Shenandoah Valley, it tells the story of the folks who truly call themselves “country”.  I was reminded of the freight trains blowing through Harpers Ferry on a cold but sunny spring evening.

At this point I’m loving the nuances of the turns they are taking with the musical direction. As before, it fits to a theme; “Radical” is very banjo, very uke, very guitar, yet stripped down once again to Kate’s voice leading out the mood. It’s a happy feeling song, the guitar part picked out carefully, artfully, and beautifully. I must say I loved hearing Alex’s vocal (finally) leading a verse in this song. His voice suits their sound, and from this single verse, I can see why he’s such a good foil to Kate as the lead.

“Coming Down” is an interesting choice top place after “Radical”, I find it musically sounding very similar, (although I’m sure Dear Creek themselves would string me up for saying so). It’s not a bad thing; it’s just a nice lead on, subtly different (to me), and keeps the rhythm moving. There’s a decent vocal push from Kate half way through the track:

“I’ve got a little bit of something,
and it’s growing deep inside of me,
I’ll take that little bit of something,
lift me up, get you down on your knees”

There’s also a surprise acoustic “floating” little bridge which was the high point of this song, followed by a sweet almost chime-like section of guitar picking which I was envious of as a guitar player, and eager to learn. They’ve done their homework, these two, and perfected and polished their playing. So, I realize, it’s a musicians album for their peer group, as well as for the down-home outdoor bluegrass shindig crowd.

Up next is “New Orleans”; it has beat, it has heart, and it’s an unexpected favorite from the album for me. It’s a chance for Alex to lead out with the vocals again, but it’s the call-and-response with Kate which is so appealing:

“This old car, running through the night,
My only company, the flash of headlights;
My body aches, and I haven’t slept in days,
But the thought of you, is keeping me awake”
“One more drink, was as long as I stayed,
When you sat by me, and asked for my name;
You told me of how you came and how you went,
A stranger that night, a night well spent”

The instrumentation is lovely, and the verses continue in the same fashion as the above. From the initial verses, I couldn’t quite quite tell how it was going to go (love lost or love found), which adds to the intrigue. Unbelievably, unexpectedly, at 1:45, their complete change in tempo brings a warm smile, and also cements the positive light in which the song is written; just as “So It Goes” was desperately sad in its way, this song is happy romance, it’s belief in love, living, music, and the warmth of the right person being next to me always: “You’re here with me…down endless highways, a life well spent”. It’s an absolutely winner, simple, emotional, and happy enough to make me smile and cry out loud with joy. This…this is what music is about, in my world.

“Fit for Better Days” is a lovely showcase of Kate’s vocal more than anything, an intriguing melody which wouldn’t be out of place in an Irish pub. The next, “Songbird”, brings a memory of the late great Eva Cassidy with the title.  It’s a song not to skip over, in that interesting part of the album, the three-quarters mark, which needs to be strong to keep the momentum to the last.

“Every good songbird needs a ballad to sing,
This is mine;
And though I’ll be mourning,
Though I’ll be mourning the night,
Let it be morning, let it be morning my love”

The lyric is clever, thoughtful, and makes “Songbird” a captivating listen throughout.

The album is wrapped with two folky numbers, which would both very much at home in a live set with a full band. “Starvin’ Heart” is the kind of music I’ve grown used to in the Shenandoah Valley; yes, it’s unique to Dear Creek, but it’s got that “Valley sound” about it. I could equally hear Christal and Pete from Chatham Street singing this one at a winery in the North-Western part of Virginia. The highlight for me, funnily enough, was the quirky last 44 seconds, with beautifully picked strings – I can’t quite make out the instrument, it’s not quite a viola, and not quite a cello – but it’s lovely nevertheless. “Undone” is a strong finisher, with a couple of nice changes of pace again (now firmly a Dear Creek trademark for me), and story-wise, it’s an appropriate ending:

“He’s gonna love me,
Until I come undone…
I’m done, I’m done”

Sporting a beautiful guitar solo that wouldn’t be out of place on a rock number, it’s short at 3:11, and ties off “So It Goes” in a neat little bow made of Kentucky blue grass.

I’ve heard some well-respected musicians (notably Ricky Furr of Shenandoah University and Grace Pettis) say that Dear Creek are a great quality band. After hearing this, their latest work, I can only agree. They’ve stayed true to their valley style, they’ve written strong songs, with unique identifiers which establish something that’s theirs. Above all, Kate and Alex have super voices which they use to excellent effect, are well mixed, and are put to good use next to the capable instrumentation. In “So It Goes”, you have dynamics, feeling, and some very catchy songs indeed. The Shenandoah Valley should be proud.

The album will be released on Friday, May 2nd. Their release show will be at the Bright Box in Winchester. It will be for sale on their website and digitally on iTunes and Amazon, or on their Bandcamp page.

You can find out more about Dear Creek at their website here, or here at their Fish Pond profile;

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond
Singer/Songwriter, My Lucky Fish

Comments Off on Dear Creek – So It Goes

Josh Doyle – Until My UK Ship Comes In

Tour News for my UK & USA People / 03.25.14

Josh Doyle 5

Hey everyone —

Josh Doyle here, back from a long silence on the touring & releasing records front. I’ve been busy writing & recording demos for my next incarnation, which will be revealed in due course…

In the meantime, scroll down to see the upcoming tour dates i’ve thrown together for the good people of the UK! It will be just me and my guitar playing very small clubs packed only with people that know and dig my music. I can’t wait!

Tickets are selling quicker than I anticipated. The venues are small and there is limited availability so if you want to see me play, you need to get a ticket pretty much ASAP yikes :/. Get tickets here

RSVP here on the facebook event page –


Now I need you, people of the USA!!

On this UK tour I asked my social media fanbase where they wanted me to tour and I’m playing the places that had the highest demand. I’m not ready to announce a full US tour just yet, but I would like to find out where there are clusters of fans.

I would greatly appreciate it if US fans could use the “questions” feature on my page to request their city. If you have more solid leads for actual feasible gig scenarios, please email me back at

Ok – thats me over and out,


Comments Off on Josh Doyle – Until My UK Ship Comes In