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Bright Box Lit Up with Fish Pond Greats

When I first heard that Gallows Bound and Mike Frazier & the Dying Wild – both early members of our Fish Pond musicians family – were playing their hometown, sharing a stage, I couldn’t have been happier. Two totally different yet complementary styles, Gallows Bound describe themselves as “a six piece Appalachian folk-punk/bluegrass outfit”, while Mike is the classic pop-punk kid from down the street made good. Hosted by the Bright Box Theater in Winchester, Virginia, they couldn’t have used a better venue, designed for local bands, for the best possible sound quality, and perfect for the 300 or so die-hard fans who showed up.

Harpers Ferry, WV, based 5-piece “Somewhere Mels” kicked the party off, relaxed-fit in their “slacker country” genre; they were a creditable warmup act, all three frontmen having a go at vocals capably. Their set was tight, the bass player impressing the most, handling vocals while performing ridiculous neck-long runs, finishing off their 40 minute set with a characteristically humble “I’m sure you haven’t come here to see us”.

Mike & the Dying Wild take to the stage looking every bit the seasoned rockers they have become, by flogging the east coast touring circuit for the last couple of years. I’ll declare an interest here, because I love the pop-punk genre, and I have fond memories of Mike blowing my mind with Random Holiday back in the days (2011) when the guitar tuning was questionable, but he obviously had something special to contribute to the pop-punk world. I have very high expectations tonight. A little reminiscent of the early-days Manic Street Preachers, they are all Les Paul and Orange amps, brash and loud, and (after a little experimentation) tuned and mixed to perfection.

‘War on Love’ is a raucous and wonderful experience, especially for anyone familiar with their EP ‘Virginia Son‘, the sound recovering with a much better mix after the first track is vocally drowned by the mad guitars. Finishing up with a loud “fuck you” (or perhaps a more sociable “fuck yeah!”), he’s straight into EP lead track ‘Bones’, and a timely rendition of ‘Parrot King’, Mikey having just attended the Women’s March post-inauguration in D.C.

My two favorite moments from a well put together set are his now staple cover of Woody Guthrie’s ‘All You Fascists Bound to Lose’; a song which so fits the pop-punk rock genre that Mike is pushing the boundaries of, and as appropriate and crowd-rallying now as the 1930’s when it was first wheeled out – and the stellar ‘Big Sky’. I had only ever heard a 7-minute long studio version, but hearing this well-written rock ballad in the flesh, all piano solos, epic multi-part harmonies, acoustic guitar gold, and meaningful lyrics, was one of THOSE moments of the night.

Humble musicians to the core, Mike and his troupe will continue to deliver a brilliant product while they insist on taking the job so seriously. Well done, lads, a lively and worthy performance from a true bunch of road-hardened pros.  As the drum kit said so well, “Love One Another”; Mike and the guys leave us with a sense of togetherness, brotherhood, and family, having thanked the crowd for their support after almost every song.  Now it’s time for the main course.

I’ve known Gallows Bound since the early days, since which they have toured the country from coast to coast several times.  It’s especially a privilege that they don’t forget the local crowd and come on to an adoring and cheering crowd.  Aaron’s stand up bass and a Johnny Cash-style beat accompany their entrance, as Jordan (guitar and lead vocal), Jesse (guitar and lead vocal), Justin (banjo), Rob (drums), and Forrest (mandolin and vocals) settle comfortably into their domain.

‘Del Fuego’, their opener, is a fantastic pick, with Jordan and Jesse’s vocals mixing as well as ever I’ve heard them.  From the days of Jordan being a shy vocalist, often positioned a little out of sight, she has come into her own as a brilliant front woman.

With an ask of “ever been drunk” and a reply of “let’s get fucked up”, the mosh pit explodes and the beer starts flying.  The professional mix at Bright Box starts to give up a bit now under the strain of a balls to the wall six instrument melee; the band is a little thrown initially and it’s distracting, but credit to Jordan that she deals with it in stride, and soon the feedback is manageable level and a comfortable 7th member of the band.  ‘Empty Flask Empty Heart’ is a tip of the hat to the early days.  It’s meant to sound angry and hammered, a furious drunk, and that’s exactly how it comes across.  Jesse brings it to a close spitting whisky and venom, and it’s clearly time to slow it down before place explodes.

The set is crafted with all the right dynamics, which gives the crowd enough of a break between frenetic speed-punk-metal-bluegrass, to deliver some beautiful ballads which make the best of the vocals and instrumentation.  Justin’s banjo solos are frequent and noteworthy, a reminder of how practiced and workmanlike these guys truly are.  With Aaron keeping such a solid beat, he’s the lovable roadie and crowd-pleaser of the band, Jordan’s constant joyful grin, Jesse and his insane vocals ripping through the crowd, and Forrest with the biggest non-miked shouting vocal I’ve ever seen; they are a phenomenon.

The gig is a audience pleaser, we feel included as part of the family, we are the home crowd for these guys, and they reward us by mixing the old greats (‘Love Fury’ being a good example) with some excellent new material, including my personal favorite which didn’t even make it to the EP (‘Rotting Oak’).  As a long-time fan of various hardcore genres, I thought this song bore so much resemblance to classic speed metal, with stops, double bass, and unexpected pauses.  It’s a unique bluegrass twist on the style which brings the crowd to a frenzy.

‘Dominion Flowers’, just before the guys wrap it up, is a reminder once again of how accomplished the 6-piece are, with a beautifully bowed double bass supporting soaring harmonies again from Jesse and Jordan.  Without skipping a beat, their final number, ‘Dogs a-Howlin’, was a return to the frantic, played as fast as they possibly could, as Jesse showers the crowd with water to “keep them hydrated” (and the beer flies back).  With a sincere invitation to join them at the pub after, they end a brilliant night with well-deserved grins.  Gallows Bound is home again, having conquered the States, and have lit up Bright Box like a firework.

You can find out more about Gallows Bound at their website here.  Mike Frazier & the Dying Wild can be found at their home label, Geneva Records.  Somewhere Mels can be found at their Facebook Page.

Photos provided by and credited to Pranam Bai Rose Smith
Review by David Mark Smith, Founder, www.globalmusiciansfishpond.com
globalmusiciansfishpond.com

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Associations – Associations II

Associations is the debut musical brainchild of Shane Conard.  My introduction to Shane was by way of Fish Pond original Mike Frazier, my long time buddy and compadre pop punk musician, and so it immediately holds some cred for me. Mike has seen it, played it, done it, thrashed the tour circuit over the last few years, and through his latest project, Geneva Records, is producing some excellent music out of the East Coast. So when he calls me and asks if I’d take a listen, I’m excited for what I’m going to get. Welcome to Associations II.

Associations 2

Revolver, at only just over a minute long, is a really interesting start; vocally, Shane is obviously of decent pop-punk pedigree much sought after by the Geneva label, although the pace is slower, rocky, and has a massive guitar-driven sound underneath it. Serving as a short intro for the more meaty “What the Cops Gave Greg”, it gives you something to think about lyrically;

“I swore I felt a calming when I knew you felt this too,
a polished weapon finely furnished, but never been put to use”

Without time to think to much about it, he’s charging into song number 2, “…Greg”. A solid effort with licks that are capable but unsurprising, it reinforces the feeling that the instrumentals have been written and well-produced to support the vocal on this fledgling effort. There’s a throat-rending harshness to the closing bars.

Quite in contrast, “Coyote” starts out very melodically, before hitting a more pop-rocky vibe about a minute in.  The harmonies are great, I can even hear (at least I imagine) a West Coast accent in there (think Jimmy Marino). More dynamic than its predecessors, it keeps the feel light and bouncy.  By now, I’m starting to imagine Associations as a decent support act at a major rock event.

Then that moment comes, as I invariably hope it will; that fave “stick-it-on-repeat” song. Thanks, dude, for “Amber of the Moment”. It’s the Saves the Day, All American Rejects, culmination of all of the good stuff that’s been percolating through the first three songs on Associations II.

“It was a fast approaching winter,
and I’d hate to miss a moment,
of that autumn air,
So I took a walk outside”

Music to my ears, this one certainly should be the track that represents Shane and Associations from here on out. Ballsy, rocking, unafraid, vocally liberating, with all the guitar I could ever want in a commercially viable track like this.

Associations

For the finale, we slow down to what some might call the obligatory acoustic track; it’s lovely, a bit reminiscent of Josh Doyle back in the Dum Dums days, and something I would have expected from Random Holiday way back when. Scuppy is oddly named, quirky, and so raw and emotional vocally it has me closing my eyes and nodding my head throughout. Of the five, this is a strong second to “Amber…” and has strong single potential.

And there you have it. Geneva Records and Mike have a great ear when it comes to new artists, and it’s good to see them supporting this kind of talent. It’s a solid EP with some significant soaring highs in the last half, and leaves me really looking forward to hearing some live work and seeing what his first full album can do.

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

You can find out more about Associations here at his Facebook page.  You can also check out “Coyote” right here.

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Fish Pond Gold Series: Auguster – Rough Summer

Jimmy Marino has been a member of our Fish Pond family since 2012. I remember the first time I heard ‘Bridges’ by the young Berklee freshman back then, and I heard something new, something Southern California, something exciting about his voice and his writing. Simply put, he managed to hawk up and spit out years of experience from the relatively young head on his shoulders. His debut with Auguster, “A Change of Scene”, only solidified this image, and the work quickly became (alongside Hadley Kennary’s “In Fall”) my album of choice for 2013. Now, as we hit the middle of summer 2015, Jimmy and Auguster are back, this time with a change of direction; I give you the three songs which constitute new offering “Rough Summer”.

Auguster Rough Summre

Jimmy and Auguster might have a new direction, but the roots of the musical inventor are very much still there. Kicking off with lead track ‘Slow Down’, it breezes in with a lovely electric guitar and bass sound; the verse builds from Jimmy’s distinct vocal;

“You’ve been distant baby, I feel it too;
so just don’t look so surprised when I pull away from you”

I’m getting the mood immediately. This track has so many pieces to enjoy; solid, well-written, intelligently produced, complex, there are lots of nuances to hear in the details. Yet he produces such a singable chorus, the melody building and breaking like waves, complemented by a weird and wonderful bridge, tying the two halves of the song together. I really like that this song is built around a simple hook (I can already hear it unplugged), and yet is such powerful electronic music. A great and rarely heard blend.

I already have the volume cranked to the max in my headphones in anticipation of song 2. ‘Sinking Down’ is, if any of the three, the more classic “Jimmy” song. Traces of that rough vocal, leading us down a path to the second verse which, through ups and downs in dynamic, inserts a meandering piano hook in the middle, a lovely contrast. It’s reminiscent of the more forlorn songs in “Change of Scene” like ‘California Rainstorm’, but way more produced, and I really like it.

“I’m sinking down, down, down”

Jimmy Marino

The song and lyric builds and builds (or sinks and sinks, as it’s of course intending to take us down) on the theme, it’s like total musical immersion for a few short minutes. It’s a strong link back to his previous songwriting, and the EP is better for it.

Closing out with ‘Waste a Moment’, once again I’m comforted by the lyric and the mood change; Jimmy has a habit of running me through the emotional wringer, as great musical works and musicians absolutely should.

Try it out exclusively right here:


Waste A MomentAuguster

“I’ve watched my heroes growing older,
I’ve seen what we all must become;
I’ve held my love against my shoulder,
I’ve gone through nights to see the sun;
But it’s all going too fast, going too fast…
So don’t you waste a moment
Don’t you waste a moment”

This is Jimmy and Auguster at their very best. There is lyrical empathy (the song was “inspired by something my dad said” as Jimmy puts it), there are beautiful vocal runs, a swelling sound which rivals “Bridges” for growl and power, and what is rapidly becoming for me the Auguster sound; it’s mixed to perfection, it seems like they’ve thought of everything in this last song, and brought the EP to a massive climax.  My favorite without a doubt of the three.

Three songs make for a short and perhaps risky EP; but it works. It’s almost like Jimmy disappeared for a couple of years, relocated and found himself comfortably back on his native West Coast, and stuck this work out as a polite but firm “f*ck you” to convention. Clearly the man doesn’t need constant exposure and output to inspire him to create; just a move all the way across the country, a change of scene, and finally a Rough Summer. A beautiful piece of work which I’ll be keeping on the travel playlist throughout 2015.

You can find out more about Auguster at their Fish Pond profile, Facebook Page, BandCamp, or keep up with them on Twitter.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David M Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond
david@globalmusiciansfishpond.com

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Fish Pond Gold Series: Vincent Corver – Why

We welcomed Qatar-based Vincent Corver to our Fish Pond family of musicians in March 2015. A talented composer with multiple awards to his name, he is highly qualified and respected in his field. His 2014 work “Why”, produced by Nyk Schmalz, is a study in what Vincent would call “Key-Precision Progressive Music”; it’s the art of making the complex simple, and by the close of precisely four minutes, should leave you with one simple word – “Wow”.

I love the almost 8 seconds visual of that beautiful silent keyboard just aching to be played, as the artist prepares his hands for the instrument. There’s something amazing about the reflections in a grand piano, and in this case, in its austere keyboard, it is breathtaking.

The initial melody is simple, chords and trickling streams of white and black, music perfectly reflecting the emotion, Vincent’s darkened form setting up the mood. I’m experiencing thoughtful, colored memories of a celebration, better and more romantic days with an ex, as the simple music pulls me ever forward.

The looped percussive vocal is short, intense, I particularly enjoy seeing our artist grooving to it at his keyboard, hands multi-tasking, and I already feel invested in the music and the short story. A beautiful sound, it makes your body instinctively move, traces of the best of Michael Jackson’s rhythm in this interesting technique. It precedes a more sinister note, as we’re introduced to the heroine’s other lover, and the dark overtones of an illicit affair.

The following theme is beautiful, I’m hearing all waterfalls and autumn leaves caught in a river’s ebb and flow, soaring and dipping in the piano’s melody. The visual is intense, as the cheating takes on a real form, our artist working the piano keys, the lover playing the game with both protagonists, in scenes of playful innocence and strained introspection. The complexity grows with the music, as memories of mutual friends are brought into the mix, the sad remnants of a party long-since over. The sound of the keys are delightful, playful, fully engaging me with the story.

Our opening theme returns, the emotion never more dark than this, although the music is so light and breezy; contrasting imagery and sounds of the fun-loving frivolity of the cheaters, red graffiti hearts and sports cars, and the heartbreak of discovery; the piano builds and builds with the mood, I’m feeling anxious, pulled into this short story like the victim of a kidnap. An empty bed, a confused kiss, a spray of water under an overpass, a heart halved, and the separation is complete, unresolved and yet somehow so final.

It’s a beautiful little story which yields so much emotion in it’s 4 minute form; it doesn’t have a happy ending, nor does it have a sad one. It’s honest, tragic. Why? Because sometimes the world just…well, it just is.

The true beauty in Vincent’s art is what it evokes in the eyes and ears of the beholder. The above is what I see and hear – not necessarily the artist’s intent. Take from it what you will, and I hope you enjoy the piece as much as I have.

You can find out more about Vincent Corver, artist and producer, including all of his media links, at his Fish Pond profile.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond
david@globalmusiciansfishpond.com

Vincent Corver 2

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Fish Pond Gold Series: Mikey Frazier – Virginia Son

I’ve known Mikey Frazier for years; when I first had the idea to form a community of musicians called the Fish Pond back in late 2010, it was while em-ceeing a battle of the bands at Sherando High School, Stephens City, Virginia. Mikey’s band, Random Holiday, together with Kyle Grim, Noah Mullinax, and Jake White, was one of the most memorable acts, producing an unpolished brand of pop punk which was brilliant in high-energy performance and content, but a bit less than in tune back in those days.

However the lads worked hard, went through some lineup changes, improved their live sound, and wrote a couple of really solid recordings in debut EP “A New Hope”, and full length coming of age effort “Space to Grow”. The band perfected their live act and toured every chance they could get.

After parting amicably in early 2015, Mikey is now releasing his first solo effort, “Virginia Son”, on own-label, Geneva Records.

Hit play on the below video before you continue…

“Bones” is the lead-out single from the new EP. Having been a fan of his songwriting and vocal for years, it’s a crowd-pleaser from the first few bars, and I’m really happy about it. Mikey has a hell of a legacy to follow, with some extremely powerful pop-punk writing over the years. It’s fun, bouncy, the guitars are rockin’, and I’m already feeling a little evolution in his music; it’s almost Dropkick Murphys with it’s Irish-American punk feel. It takes nothing away from the pedal-to-the-metal energy he always had:

“I got so damn careless, I went and crashed my car
Distracted myself from my fragile heart;
I couldn’t stand my reflection, I cut my hair
and I swore I’d never go back there
Swore I’d never go back there;
I’ve been feeling so cold, shaking through my bones”

It sets up a high expectation for the rest of the album.  “Keep Us Free” maintains the bouncy pop-punk-rock theme, and is memorable for the excellent melodic chord progression in the chorus.

Mike Frazier Feature

“War on Love” is punchy and shows an interesting pattern in his writing; namely Mikey’s technique of writing these formulaic songs which allow for verse/ chorus/ verse/ chorus/ bridge and solo, and especially the vocal breakdown (i.e. few or no instruments) to introduce a massive last chorus; he does this in almost every song, and it shows educated and mature writing which delivers a very pleasing result to the listener. It works to make the tracks more dynamic, shows off his voice, and also gives you the raw melody of the chorus to cement it even further in your head.

“Never gonna go,
Never gonna go,
Bury me, leave me alone”

“Sunflower” starts acoustically, a tiny bit Mumford and Sons. The only song I’ve heard Mike record acoustically before was “Walk Before You Run” – which I love, by the way. This is altogether different use of acoustic guitar – nice stomping bass, crashing rock guitar brought in for another powerful number. The banjo solo makes this song unique, and makes me smile.

Mikey has chosen to cap the album off with the title track, “Virginia Son”, which at four minutes is the longest song on the album. It’s different, stands out, and I’m glad he left it until last. It’s the first of the five for which I memorized the tag line immediately. I guess it’s close to home as I consider myself something of a Virginia son despite my English origins.

“All we have are these open hearts,
and the beauty of Virginia, she’s been cold from the start;
So carry me back to where we stand,
and the shadow of the valley is the same across the land
And I can’t find home”

Without a doubt this is magnificent, the anthem of the five, and I can see arenas-full getting behind this one as a set closer.

I’ve been a fan of the genre, but also of Mike and Random Holiday from the start, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is my favorite pop-punk and rock album of 2015 so far. Five extremely strong songs, the only thing which will make this tough for Mikey is that he’s pretty much written five hits here, so how the heck is he going to pick the singles from it?

Head out to buy this effort on 8/11/2015, and make sure you support Mikey and Geneva Records. This guy has lived it from the ground up, and is about to reap some well deserved results from this debut solo effort.

You can find out more about Mike Frazier here at his Fish Pond profile, and historically Random Holiday here.

One world, one family, one musical heartbeat.

David Mark Smith
Founder, Global Musicians Fish Pond
david@globalmusiciansfishpond.com

Mike Frazier - Virginia Son

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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,
Goodbye”

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
david@globalmusiciansfishpond.com

Christian Lopez ONward Trailer

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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
david@globalmusiciansfishpond.com

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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

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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

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