Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Ocean Blue

Hershey, Pennsylvania's most famous export is chocolate. How about their most famous musical export?

Described as refined, mellow new wave, I can't recall exactly how I heard of The Ocean Blue. It was probably from MTV's 120 Minutes after I just got out of college. Whatever you call it, please, don't call it soft rock. On the other hand, it's not harsh, not pop -- it's really just right with a great flow.

The CD you want is Cerulean and it was released in 1991. The entire CD just has a great feel to it.

The Ocean Blue goes well for any occasion. Whether you have company over for dinner, are traveling, going on a first date, or just fixing yourself a grilled cheese sandwich.

The Ocean Blue - Music You Need To Hear

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


When I have time, I enjoy browsing CD Baby and finding new music.

I was looking at the top selling folk CD's and I noticed that Girlyman was the Winner of the 2004 Independent Music Award for Folk/Singer-Songwriter for their debut CD, Remember Who I Am.

Remember Who I AmSo, I gave it a listen and I was blown away. Self-described as delicious acoustic harmony-driven gender pop, Girlyman has great harmonies, strong writing, and some of the catchiest hooks you'll ever hear. There's some seriously good music making going on here. Winners include the wildly addictive Even If (wait for the chorus and the harmonies). Amaze Me is one of those songs that would go great on a cross-country road trip.

It gets even better. Their second effort Little Star is just as good. Winners include: the gender-challenging Young James Dean (those harmonies!) and the introspective Speechless. The song Kittery Tide alone will make you feel that you should play bluegrass as they make it sound so easy and are clearly having fun.

Does it get better still? Actually, they have a third CD, Joyful Sign
and while I like parts of it, I haven't heard it enough to make that judgment yet.

Still, you'll be pleasantly surprised and very fulfilled with the first two CDs. These are the kind of CDs which everyone will like but everyone will have a different favorite song.

Girlyman - Music You Need To Hear

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Clare Burson

I first heard of Clare Burson when her EP was given to me as I was leaving a CD store in the Spring of 2006. Her hauntingly beautiful voice and intimate song-writing drew me in right away. There's also something about her voice that just blends perfectly with a burning (but not overpowering) electric guitar. In short, you can "feel" her music.

One of the nice parts of my job is that I get to interview artists who come through Birmingham to play shows. Once I knew who Clare Burson was, and found out she was coming through town, I was able to arrange an interview ahead of time in support of her concert. I've done many of these kinds of interviews over the years, but this one was different for two reasons.

First, there was great rapport between us. We were having a conversation NOT an interview. Everything just clicked and in the end, very little editing was needed.

Second, Clare brought her guitar with her. And I have to admit, it was pretty cool to say during the interview, "What would you like to play for us?" She played two songs, but here's the best part: she allowed the music to be downloaded for free.

Check out both the regular and extended interview, and download the music. More....

Other specific recommendations? Angels from her new CD, Thieves was written after 9/11 and is hauntingly beautiful. The Idaho EP is dark, breathy, intimate and an all-around great listen. The mandolin provides just the right touch as well.

The In-Between from the self-titled CD, is a bit more acoustic, but nice for those times when you just need to create some space for yourself.

Clare Burson - Music You Need to Hear

Friday, October 12, 2007

Great Lake Swimmers

How this for a description? Minimalist banjo with touches of folk and electric guitar on top of heartfelt lyrics.

Minimalist banjo? Well...yeah.

Welcome to the sound of Great Lake Swimmers.

Go to the Discography section of their website and download tracks from Ongiara. Also, right on the front page is a link to a free 5-song live EP from a recent concert. Pretty cool that they offer all this for free. Ongiara is a good listen for sure, but really goes down well when you're stuck in traffic on your commute home or just running the daily grind of everyday errands. I should know, it's the current CD in my car player.

Great Lakes Swimmers - Music You Need to Hear.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Quick, who was first to play at Woodstock in 1969?

Easy, right? Richie Havens.

Who was supposed to be the first to go on, ended up playing fifth, and instead, became the first band to play?

Suddenly, not so easy.

That band was Sweetwater, and I first found out about them several years ago when VH1 made the movie: Sweetwater: A True Rock Story. The movie wasn't bad. In fact, it was kinda interesting. But one thing you couldn't deny, was that lead singer Nancy Nevins sure could sing. And it sounded so effortless.

They had a 70's rock/classical sound, and their songs, while showing their age a bit, are remarkably listenable and somewhat infectious even today. Check out the songs: Motherless Child, Here We Go Again, What's Wrong, In A Rainbow, Look Out, and Why Oh Why.

All from: Cycles: The Reprise Collection

It's worth noting that just as Sweetwater was poised to make it big, Nevins was injured in a car accident which effectively ended the band. To her credit, she practically had to learn how to sing all over again. Home Again from Cycles is especially poignant because it's the last cut an the CD, and you've already been treated to her voice before the injury.

Check out their webpage. (not current, but good info.) Nancy Nevins website (more current) and link to MySpace.

Sweetwater -- Music You Need to Hear

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Jethro Tull

My uncle Bob is 10 years older than me and, growing up, I remember him liking Jethro Tull. I had no idea why, but if my uncle liked Tull, then I liked them. Of course, I came to appreciate Tull very much, and to this day, I'm a big Tull fan. So what does it for me?

First, how cool is it to have flute in a rock band?? It's charming on the acoustic songs and hypnotically and oddly appropriate on the rockers.

Second, the ensemble playing is just tremendous. This is true both on songs where it appears everyone is doing their own thing as well as band members are all moving together.

Third, the varying musical styles. Jethro Tull started out as a blues band, and are categorized now as everything from classic rock, to folk-rock, to hard rock, and they also play the charming acoustic numbers that somehow manage to contain bits of all these other styles.

Some of my favorite songs are:

Witch's Promise from Benefit

Back Door Angels from War Child

Farm on the Freeway from Crest of a Knave

Wond'ring Again from Living in the Past

This list could go on for quite a while. As I type this, it strikes me you must hear "Mother Goose" and "My God" from Aqualung. As for entire CDs, Benefit, Songs from the Wood, and Thick as a Brick are all remarkably satisfying from end to end.

Although they don't play large arenas or stadiums anymore, their core fan base is intensely loyal. As of this entry, there are 565 Jethro Tull related items for bid on eBay. For deep minutiae on the band, check out the message boards at jethrotullchat.com. The rest of the website jethtotull.com is pretty good too except, surprisingly, the discography section is incomplete. For that, check out allmusic.com.

Thanks, Bob for making me those cassette tapes when I was growing up and in later years, right up to today, taking me to all those concerts.

Jethro Tull -- Music You Need to Hear.

Music You Need To Hear

The purpose of this blog is simple -- to make it's readers aware of great music.

While I can appreciate all genres of music, if I had to pigeon hole it, I suspect my focus will be mostly be singer-songwriters, contemporary folk/bluegrass, classic rock, alternative, and classical music. I'm sure, from time to time, other musical styles will drop in as well.

If you like one of my suggestions, I hope you'll tell me. If you don't, I hope you'll tell me also. If you choose to post a reply, I sincerely hope you'll go beyond "I loved it" or "I hated it".

In other words, please share the "why".

Why did you like it? What spoke to you? Was it the beat? The lyrics? The musicians? Did it make you drive off the road? Did the music change your life in some way? Do you just want to belt it out every time you hear it? Please share the details. Music is powerful enough to change lives. And I don't mean just going to the symphony when you were a kid and deciding to take up an instrument. Little did I know, one night a few years ago, one song was the building block for changing parts of my life.

Most importantly, what other music is out there? Who do you listen to and why? What songs are tagged as five stars in iTunes? And when the song comes around, do you stop everything your doing and take in the moment? I want to hear from you and tap into the collective brainpower that's out there. There's so much music being made these days and keeping up with it all is next to impossible. Please, let's separate the wheat from the chaff.