Annika Fehling by Hakan Lyttkens hi res

            Annika Fehling in concert photo by Håkan Lyttkens Foto, protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved

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Karen Wyman Is Back!

Karen Wyman front page photoKaren Wyman, a teenage sensation appeared on almost every television show of note that featured singers in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Dean Martin Show when she made her television debut at age sixteen, the Ed Sullivan Show on several occasions and the Johnny Carson show when she received standing ovations, while still in her teens. In October of 2013 Karen Wyman began to make her way back to the stage and once again she is shining under the spotlight with vocals that are incredibly pretty, still powerful and due to a twenty-five year hiatus from her music career, so she could raise her two children, as a single parent, her voice does not show the same wear and tear as some other artists.

Karen Wyman, who grew up in the Bronx of New York City, had what she describes as “an ordinary life,” the daughter of a father who was a TV repair man and her mother worked in a hospital. Her parents paid for her to take singing lessons and she says she had one brother and a lot of cousins, who she thought of as more like brothers and sisters to her. She describes it as a “very warm upbringing.”

She recalls, “My mother and father never really sang, they just always had music in the house. My father loved music, so he was always playing music, Sinatra, Perry Como or show tunes or whatever. He really loved music. My brother loved music. My mother’s father played piano by ear and my grandfather played the mandolin by ear. My great-grandmother supposedly had a good voice. There was music in the family. All my aunts and uncles would throw the dishes down and sing. (she laughs) My family (her ancestors) who were Sephardic Jews went from Spain to Greece (editor’s note: when the Jews were forced by royal edict in Spain and Portugal to convert to Catholicism, leave the country or be subjected to death without trial). Then my grandmother loved belly dancing. I had all kinds of cultural and musical influences.  Read More

Dan Navarro An Animated Songwriter

Dan Navarro front page photoLife has come full circle for California singer-songwriter-musician and voice actor Dan Navarro. He is once again enjoying a solo career in music after two decades as part of the duo Lowen and Navarro, with the late Eric Lowen who passed away two years ago from ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Songs that Dan Navarro has written and / or co-written have been recorded by artists such as, Pat Benatar, Jackson Browne, Keb’ Mo’, Dave Edmunds, Dionne Warwick, The Temptations and The Bangles. Navarro has also added a new dimension to his entertainment career in recent years, doing voice over work for animated feature films and animated television shows. The affable and very articulate Dan Navarro took time out from his busy schedule recently to sit down with Riveting Riffs Magazine to discuss his new, still to be released album, his voice acting career and to look back at his career in general.

Dan Navarro’s new album is called Shed My Skin and he says it is really a continuation of changes that have been occurring in his life since his former music and business partner Eric Lowen was diagnosed with ALS in 2006, the same year that Navarro was going through a divorce and he says even some changes that began in 1998 when he was approaching middle age.

“Here I am now from 1998, about sixteen years later and I am still dealing with change. The changes were being on my own, deciding to continue being a musician instead of folding up the tent, deciding to make it about a process and not about the outcome. It is hard not to be cynical about the fate of my (new) record; I don’t think that there are people out there champing at the bit for it.  It is an uphill battle, even though there is wonderful music being made, by all of my friends, many of my friends. Sometimes there really isn’t an audience waiting for it. Sometimes there is a larger mechanism that can take it and maneuver it to greater fruition. In my case, I am really just trying to get the damn thing made and say Read More


Rock Singer Cherie Currie In Concert

Cherie Currie Photo by John Hancock copyright 2014

 Cherie Currie in concert Photo by John Hancock Photography
Photo protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved

Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis

Bruce Robison Photo for front pageWhen Riveting Riffs Magazine spoke to Austin, Texas singer-songwriter-musician Bruce Robison at the beginning of July (2014) he and his wife singer-songwriter Kelly Willis had just returned from a tour of the mid-west United States in support of their new duo album Our Year, which was released on May 27 th. It is the second album they have released together, the followup to Cheater’s Game which hit the airwaves in 2013.

“We have been going to some of these cities for a long, long time and we have a real background with these cities. We don’t travel all of the time, we just travel selectively and so we try and make it to good spots, to good clubs and with good people. We were definitely able to do that on the last couple of trips. It has been a great summer so far.

Honestly it has been a process (working out tour arrangements when you have four children) which encapsulates these two records. Maybe three years ago when we were just starting to think about working together, we decided the way that we needed to travel, mostly for finanical sake was just Kelly and me and just a standup base and a steel guitar (as the only other musicians). That was really out of necessity.  Then this odd thing happened when we were playing those shows it took the music back so much and our vocals so much to the forefront that it brought the crowd way more into the show, because the band wasn’t loud. The whole thing really set the tone and we were like man this is fun. When we were going out there we were, we can’t afford to bring the drummer and the keys, but it was amazing. It brought the music and the songs back right to this harmonizing  Read More

Sonny Under The Assumption

Sonny under the assumption photo front pageSonny Under The Assumption, a new play written by Edward Allan Baker, directed by Ron Stetson and co-produced by actresses Nicole Cardoni and Eden Brolin under the name of Old Norman Productions, was presented recently at Toronto’s The Aki Sudio Theatre, Dainel Spectrum in Toronto, Canada, is a fabulous play that everyone should see. This is a play with a master storyline that is comprised of a collection of very emotive stories, stories shared with us by each of the characters.

The central characters are Eden Brolin who portrays Kat Hellman, a writer with a small newspaper in Providence, Rhode Island and Toronto born actress Nicole Cardoni as Sonny Montecalvo who operates a food bank and support center for those in need. The center is located under the long since closed down Assumption Church. Both Brolin and Cardoni took time to talk about the play.

Nicole Cardoni says,As a person who grew up in Toronto and who is native to the city, I thought the subject matter would be really interesting and it is very relevant regardless of the city that you would place the play in. The subject matter I thought was really relevant to have it come to Toronto and have it performed at Regent Park and in a space that is similar to what the play is about. I thought if Sonny got her way at the end of the play and was able to keep this community center running, eventually the area that she is trying to have influence over, a really rundown part of Providence, Rhode Island would eventually have the storybook ending that Regent Park has in Toronto. It is a really mixed space where there are still a lot of social services outlets available, but it is really  Read More

Margie Balter Interview

Margie Balter Front Page PhotoMargie Balter is a pianist, a composer, an actress, a playwright and she is the piano teacher that some of Hollywood’s biggest stars turn to, whether to learn piano for simple enjoyment or because their role in a film requires them to play a song or two. What should not be overlooked however, is how much of an inspiration Margie Balter is to so many, including this writer in the short time that he has been acquainted with her and how others look to her as a personal mentor. Margie Balter’s current album Music From My Heart was released a few years ago, about the time when the music business seriously hit the wall and since it is a timeless album comprised of original treasures you should buy it now. Yes you!

Ms. Balter’s foray into the entertainment world was, one might say almost predestined. A couple of members of her extended family were entertainers, including the actress Aline MacMahon who was nominated in 1944 for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film Dragon Seed.

 Remembering Aline MacMahon, Margie Balter says, “She had this very big voice and this very large personality (Margie imitates her). There was something about her life and she had all of these pictures of herself, headshots and even as a little girl I was like, that is what I am doing. Right now kids don’t really know what they want to do in their lives and that was not me. I don’t know what drove me, but I was so driven as a child at a very, very young age I knew I was going to be   Read More

Kelley Mickwee Debuts Solo Album

Kelley Mickwee cover art front pageKelley Mickwee’s solo debut album You Used To Live Here, may only have seven songs, but all of them are gems, as the singer-songwriter-musician, who until now was better known as one of the Americana trio The Trishas a Texas based all female band, leans to R&B and Soul influenced tunes, while retaining an Americana feel on this album.

When late in 2013 The Trishas decided to take a break from recording and performing without any end date in sight to reunite, Mickwee confessed to panic setting in and, “I realized I was basically going to be out of a job, so I needed to start getting self sufficient!” To say that she has done a good job of proving that she can stand on her own would be a big understatement, as You Used To Live Here showcases her fabulous vocals, excellent phrasing, solid songwriting with the ability to paint a lyrical videoscape against the canvas of some great melodies, rhythms and beats and she surrounded herself with some good musicians.

The centerpiece of Kelley Mickwee’s new album You Used To Live Here is the sixth of seven tracks, the sultry “Hotel Jackson,” co-written with Jonny Burke.  The retro sounding song has lyrics that are steamy to say the least, as the singer sets her sights on someone, “You talk with lips, I wanna’ kiss / You think it’s okay I’m saying all this /You look like something I wanna’ eat / You look like something that puts off some heat / I’m gonna’ treat you like you never seen / Come by later, you’ll see what I mean…” The song is introduced by Mickwee’s accoustic guitar that serves as her main accompaniment, as this story of seduction unfolds. Read More 

Janey Street - Nashville Interview

Janey Street front page photo Janey Street is one of those unbelievable music stories for all of the right reasons and for all the reasons that are difficult to fathom. She grew up in Queens, New York City listening to her parents’ Billie Holiday and Muddy Waters records, had her first gigging band, Operation Blues, by the sixth grade and she signed her first record deal with Warner Bros. when she was only sixteen years old. A few years later she would sign a one million dollar deal with a record label, have a top twenty single, a hot music video and then was dropped by the label, because of philosphical differences among the label’s brass that had nothing to do with Janey Street, other than the fact the disagreements were over which songs of hers to release. Welcome to the world of music!

During her career, Janey Street has lived in New York City, Hermosa Beach, California and Nashville, Tennessee, where she now resides and often travels conducting songwriting workshops for the Nashville Songwriters Asscociation. Her songs have appeared in feature films and she performs regularly as a Blues / R&B artist.

“I grew up in a small family, just an older brother, mom and dad. My father was a graphic designer and artist and my brother was a Jazz musician and graphic designer and artist. We had a very artistic upbringing and we were encouraged creatively. I was really lucky that way and I had a really great, great family.

“My brother started playing Greenwich Village when I was eleven or something. My band Operation Blues was already doing gigs on the weekend, by the sixth grade. I (also) had a duet with my brother and we played down in Greenwich Village. I started extremely young at this. My band Read More

Jane Bach - Nashville Songwriter

Jane Bach Photo for front page“I obviously was not raised on Country music, but in the late seventies, I guess it was during the urban cowboy days when Country music became a little bit more Popish in its orientation and I was listening to the radio and I thought I can do that. I had been writing songs since I was a child and I knew I could do that.  One thing led to another and I went to a NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) workshop in New York. I went to a few of those and then I decided that I needed to go down to Nashville to check it out. I went down for a NSAI weekend and the rest just kind of followed. I moved to Nashville in 1982 and I just started writing. I knew how to write, but I thought the best thing for me to do was to learn the craft. I needed to learn how to write commercially and I was very fortunate to meet some wonderful people. My dearest and oldest friend is Becky Hobbs. Becky and I began writing together and it just kind of worked from there.

I got a publishing deal very quickly within three months after moving here.  Three months after that I got my first cut and it was by Tammy Wynette. It was a song called “After Dark,” and it was just one of those where do I go from here moments? It was wonderful and it was great. It was a process and not only is the writing a process, but the building of a career is a process as well.  It has been a wonderful journey and I have been very, very fortunate and the key to it is to do it constantly and keep doing it almost to the exclusion of everything else.  It can be difficult at times. That’s it. It is one hundred and fifty percent effort  Read More

Think Twice About Nina Storey

Nina Storey front page photoLos Angeles singer-songwriter, Nina Storey, who is originally from Boulder, Colorado, has a brand new and spectacular album called Think Twice and it is chock full of delicious R&B influenced songs that reflect what the redheaded singer refers to as Future Retro. There is a tasteful sensuality to her vocals and the beat and melody get the listener’s hips moving, the head nodding and the feet dancing.

The title song “Think Twice,” paints a playful picture of a wild child and comes with the warning “Think twice before you call my name,” and “be careful what you wish for.” Her vocals are backed by a kick drum, crash cymbals and the song is introduced by keys. One should not be surprised that the song was inspired by Storey’s reading of the Chuck Palahniuk book Damned, a quirky 2011 novel about a thirteen year old girl, “Maddy” Spencer who wakes up in hell and after being given a tour of hell by some interesting characters, she goes about reforming and beautifying that domain. Nina Storey’s vocals recall the prime days of Soul and R&B in cities like Memphis, Detroit and Philadelphia and on some of her songs she reminds this writer of the U.K.’s Corrine Bailey Rae. 

Standing in stark contrast to songs like “Think Twice,” and the danceable “Gimmie Some,” is the tender, romantically longing “This Naked Woman.”

“That song was probably around the longest. I think I wrote it in 2005 or 2006 and it had never been released, but it has a huge cult following. I thought it needs to be on this record. It  Read More

Janiva Magness Is The Original

Janiva Magness cover art for front pagejust after returning from her Yoga class Blues singer-songwriter and musician Janiva Magness seemed relaxed and eager to talk about her new album Original and her memoir, which is also being written. It was eight years ago that this writer first met the multiple Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year award winner in Calgary, Alberta, Canada when she sat down before one of her concerts and she was gracious enough to consent to an interview. Fast forward to 2014 and Janiva Magness is just as accessible as she was then, although one senses that she has grown even more comfortable in her own skin and the album Original may be her best recording yet. Seven of the eleven songs that comprise Original, Magness had a hand in writing.

When it came time to write the songs for Original and to head into the studio to record them, she turned to longtime friend, writer/musician/producer Dave Darling, who has worked with Stray Cats, Brian Setzer, Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx and Glen Campbell. When it came to write her memoir Pulitzer Prize nominated author Gary Delsohn came onboard as a ghost writer.

The album opens with the beautiful Darling / Magness song “Let Me Breathe,” about a love now departed and the expression of the wish for a second chance. There is the scene of one final disagreement and watching the one you love walk right out the door. It is about when what just happened so overwhelms you that even to breathe hurts and you wish for one more chance, a chance that never comes. It is the fear that grips you when you realize that for the last time Read More

Meghan Krauss and Maragold In Concert

Meghan Krauss by J Hancock

Meghan Krauss in concert Photo by John Hancock Photography
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Billy Vera - Big Band Jazz Interview

Billy Vera Big Band Jazz album coverWith lush big band arrangements by Chris Walden (the bonus track “At This Moment,” was arranged by Darrell Leonard), some killer Jazz musicians, including a complete horn section and drawing upon some of the best African American songwriters from the first half of the 20 th century, Billy Vera and his business partner and friend Tamela D’Amico executive produced a stunningly beautiful album, Big Band Jazz, with Vera at its focal point as the singer. The recording was produced by Jimmy Hoyson at Capitol Studio A in Hollywood, California. Billy Vera has built a reputation as a superb music historian and he was recognized in 2013 with a Grammy Award for his work with liner notes and he talks about that experience during the course of our conversation. The album Big Band Jazz is one that you DO want to get the CD for rather than in digital form. The liner notes and the artwork alone make this a collector’s item. Vera takes time to provide historical tidbits about the writers who composed the songs on this album and some of the people who recorded the tunes.

“It’s an album that I have wanted to do for probably twenty years. I have always wanted to do a big band album and I have always procrastinated and I couldn’t get anybody to put up any money for it or any record companies. When Michael Bublé recorded “At This Moment,” and sold eight and one-half million records, I took one of the checks and I did it myself.

I had met this girl Tamela D’Amico and she friended me on Facebook. I checked her out on Youtube and all of that and I said wow she’s good, she’s likes the old stuff. I listened to the album and she invited me to one of her shows and I liked the way that she approached the audience, like the old school people did and she actually related to the audience. We became friendly and she said you ought to get off of your ass and do that big band Jazz, because you would be great at it. She is a real go getter. She pushed me and she got the arranger for me who did her album, a guy named Chris Walden. I hadn’t heard of him, because I don’t keep up with what is going on, but he is one of the top guys now. He wrote these great charts that you hear on the album.  We decided to do it at Capitol Studio A where Sinatra, Dino, Nancy Wilson, Peggy Lee and all of them did their classic albums. Chris knew all of the great Jazz players in L.A., so we got eighteen of the best Jazz guys in Read More

Billy Joe Shaver - Outlaw

Billy Joe Shaver Photo TwoCountry music singer-songwriter-guitarist Billy Joe Shaver, a native Texan called his new album Long In The Tooth, but we caution you do not suggest to this outlaw that he is past his prime or you just might get an ornery response from a fellow who believes he is singing better now than he ever has.  It is bad enough that his birthday which is on August 16th, has been widely circulated as sometime in September and that in some reports it has been suggested that there will be a big birthday concert, which Billy Joe Shaver knows nothing about.  There are a couple of lines in the title song that do however a tease at that what he used to spend all night doing, now it takes him all night to do.

Shaver has long been regarded as one of Country music’s top songwriters and he collaborates with another top writer, musician and singer, his lifelong friend Willie Nelson to form a duet on the song  “Hard To Be An Outlaw,” a song that talks as much about the changes that have occurred in Country music as it does about the character of…of these two characters.  Shaver and Nelson sing “It’s hard to be an outlaw who ain’t wanted anymore,” and then they take a shot at some of today’s Country music “superstars nowadays” who are “singing ‘bout the backroads they never have been down.”

“Willie felt a while back that way (about wanting to do a duet). Willie is hot and everybody comes to see him, maybe they think it is going to be his last show. It happens with me now (he laughs). Willie identified with this song. When I first pitched it to him, I pitched the title and he said, man you had better write that. I went and wrote it and once in a while he would say, that’s great. He was familiar with it and when I went over there and played it for him he recorded it before I did. He also recorded another song of mine “The Git Go.” To me the greatest compliment in the world is Willie Nelson doing your songs, because as far as I’m concerned he is the greatest writer. I don’t know how in the world you could beat “Crazy,” (the song) it’s just perfect,” says Shaver.  Read More

Katie Cole - Lay It All Down

Katie Cole 2014 front pageLay It All Down is the new album from Australian singer-songwriter-musician Katie Cole, who has made Los Angeles her home for the past three and one-half years. With Howard Willing (Smashing Pumpkins, Kris Kristofferson, Glen Campbell) at the helm as the producer and with an outstanding cast of musicians that includes drummer Aaron Sterling (John Mayer, Natasha Bendingfield), electric guitarist Time Pierce (Faith Hill, Alanis, Jason Mraz), pianist Roger Manning Jr. (Jellyfish), Gary Clark and Lenka’s keyboardist and pianist Zac Rae, and bassist Sean Hurley (John Mayer, Vertical Horizon), this is Katie Cole’s best album to date. Victor Indrizzo drummer for Sheryl Crow and guitarist Lyle Workman also appear on the recording. Katie Cole played the acoustic guitar parts and she played some electric guitar on the song “Crash Landing.” Oh and did we happen to mention that Kris Kristofferson stopped by to lend his vocals to the mid-tempo ballad “Penelope,” that chronicles the life of a performing artist. “Hearts Don’t Bend,” an outstanding light Rock tune whose chorus “Didn’t anybody tell you  / It’s more than I could take  / Didn’t anybody mention / Hearts Don’t bend, they break,” clearly defines the theme and the romantic “We Started A Fire,” are other stellar songs featured on this album.

Katie Cole says, “On the recording I have some incredible “A” list musicians that my producer managed to reach out to. That is one of the perks of having somebody that is really in the business.  It’s not just getting great players, it’s getting the right players for the right songs and that can make a huge difference as far as how a song translates. Sometimes when I am sent a list of musicians that my producer (Howard Willing) is thinking about hiring, I end up Google stalking people (she laughs) and I find out all of the credits and things that people have appeared on and it is so overwhelming. They are just incredible musicians and it is such an amazing thing to put the right player on the right song, because they really make a Read More

Craig Pilo In Concert

Craig Pilo 2014 drums

Photo of Craig Pilo by Sayre Joan Berman
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Steel Magnolias Revived

Steel Magnolias Front Page PhotoI am guessing that a lot of people who attended the performance of Steel Magnolias, a play by Robert Harling and directed by Marilyn Nicholas-Dahan, presented by Calliope Sound Productions’ Muses at the University of Toronto’s Erindale Studio Theater probably had some familiarity with either the play or the film and therefore they knew what to expect, but not so for this reviewer. When you are critiquing a play that is wholly dependent on the relationships that exist between six women and that is set entirely in a beauty salon, it is a good thing to have little prior knowledge of the story as it unfolds, because it allows one to approach the play objectively and to remain sensitive to the stories behind the story.

To be honest for the performance that I attended, the first half of scene one was emotionally flat, but then two things happened that injected life into this production and seemingly into the other actors. The most significant thing that happened was the appearance of Helen Conway in the role of Ouiser, a cantankerous, Louisiana woman who barely gave you time to recover from one bout of laughter when she would zing you with another comedic line or facial expression. What an absolute treat to watch this woman perform. In all of the years that we have reviewed theater from San Diego, to Los Angeles to Vancouver to New York and Toronto, it is very possible that Helen Conway’s performance was the funniest of any actor we have watched on stage. The dramatic tension between Ouiser and Clairee (played by Lori Koenen) was superb and what on the surface often appeared to be contempt for one another, merely disguised what was a deep friendship that spanned decades and two friends who simply go on one another’s nerves from time to time. Ouiser would be the crotchety one, while Clairee would be the exasperated individual who at times egged Ouiser on just for the pure enjoyment of winding up her up for another round of contemptuous and outlandish remarks. Read More

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