dee anderson

Ireland Invades Eugene in the Name of Shioban O’Brien!

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With four generations of musicians in the family, music has to be in your genes. Having a great grandfather that traveled with an opera company playing violin in the orchestra at age 15, and having a mother who sings plus many other musicians in the family; Shioban O’Brien did not have a choice weather or not to play and write music. It’s in the genes.

Photo by Dee Anderson
Shioban O’Brien

At age 16 Shioban started playing guitar and at age 18 her boyfriend pushed her into actually playing in public.  Soon after that she started writing her own tunes and the work began.

Shioban considers herself a folksinger, pulling together music and lyrics to tell her stories and share her feelings.  Silence is her friend when it comes to writing music. Inspirations comes from her intense ability to observe and process everything touching her life.

Photo by Dee Anderson
Shioban at Sam Bond’s Brewery

Like many of us, she has had difficult times in her personal life as well as her professional life.  One of the things she deals with in the states when people find out she is Irish is “Can you play Danny Boy?” She says she loves traditional Irish music, but that is not her thing. Most of the time she can be gracious, but sometimes it is hard to believe how limited people can be in there perceptions of visitors from other countries.

Most recently she took a gig aboard a cruise ship in Alaska. It brought home one of the things that is happening in live music right now. “Music is not a number one priority.  No one is interested enough in the smaller scale performer.  If you are big in the industry everyone wants to know you, but the less famous players do not get the support needed.”

photo by dee anderson

One of the things she is working on right now is finding an audience.  It seems this is only possible through the online world even if you tour frequently.

Shioban has been touring the U.S. from Philadelphia, to Nashville, up and down the east coast and the west coast.  Another lass from Ireland, Philomena, is a cousin of Siobhan’s and has Nana’s Irish Pub in Newport, Oregon.  Of course Shioban had to stop in and play for the folks there.

Photo by Dee Anderson
Shioban O’Brien

Through our conversations we talked about writing music and how it relates to life in general and a very profound thought came to Shioban. “Intimacy can be scary!”.  We stopped and looked at each other and realized the truth in this statement.  Many songs are written about love and it’s loss.

Shioban performed at the Axe and Fiddle recently and listening to her beautiful, soulful voice the audience was mesmerized. A favorite of mine is “My Man” where she talks about a very strong person that meant a lot to her.  She visited with an Indian tribe in South Dakota and her song “Spirit” is filled with the strong emotions she took away from time spent with those proud and caring people. Skillfully she plays guitar giving you a sense of the rhythm of the Indian drums. Performing her songs she pulls you into her world with the haunting high notes and the skillful way she has of making you feel what she felt when she wrote the song.

photo by dee anderson

Her music is available at http://www.siobhanobrien.com/. Listen; you will not be sorry.

 

Gentlemen Are Not Just Men!

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“You don’t have to be a man to be a Gentlemen” says Lucas Biespiel of his Lucas Biespiel and his Dangerous Gentlemen.  This talented group is composed of two men and two women.

At three years old Lucas’ mom took him to the Oregon Symphony.  The music moved him so much by the age of five he had picked up the violin.  Playing classical music until his high school years, he found the joy in playing blues and folk music and writing his own music.

Berkley School of Music in Boston was his next stop in the learning process. That brought him to playing not only fiddle, but guitar and keyboard.  Being immersed in music, he found it easy to find players to put his music to the test.  If you needed a bass player there was one down the hall in the other practice room. Whatever you needed to add a sound to your music it was easily found.  He stayed at Berkley for a couple of years, then decided to return to the northwest. Now making his living playing music he is connected to nine different bands, playing with each project when he has the time.

Photo by Dee Anderson
Lucas Biespiel

Lucas Biespiel and his Dangerous Gentlemen have been together in this configuration for about three months.  However, it sounds like they have been playing music together for years. Guitar is his instrument of choice for this band.  He plays a very old “Harmony” which has the exact sound he was looking for his band.

Not only was Lucas’s mother important to his developing musical abilities by exposing him to music at an early age but, his father is a poet.  There is something to be said about heredity when songwriting comes easily to a person.

Lily, the fiddle player, came to the northwest after meeting Lucas at Berkley. Studying classical violin from the age of fourteen, she started playing with her father who is a guitar player. Playing music with her Dad as a kid in Florida brought her to playing and loving the bluegrass sound.  Deciding studying music at Berkley was the direction she wanted to go, off she went to Boston.  She received her degree and moved out to the Northwest at Lucas’s invitation.  When  she  plays her solos the sound goes from delicate flavor to the haunting sound that only come from the player’s feelings being expressed through their music.

Photo by Dee Anderson
Lily

Zach Steiner met Lucas at an open mic at Good Foot in Portland, Or. He picked up the bass guitar at age 12.  Songwriting became another passion.  Raised in Milwaukee, Wis. he moved to Oregon about 2 years ago.  Listening to Zach play, jazz influences can be heard throughout a song.  Accompanying the guitar he lays back and plays a simple percussive beat, but when given the nod he lets loose with a solo that can blow your mind.

Photo by Dee Anderson
Zach

Singing backup to Lucas’s powerful vocal is Blake Austin.  She is a singer/songwriter/percussionist who has recently moved here from Pennsylvania.  Traveling quite extensively, she decided on the Northwest for a home away from home.  Coming from a musical family, most of her life has been music.  She says she has to have a day job now, but her passion is music and it will always be her first love.  Portland’s music community is strong and supportive according to Blake, which makes it easy to meet good musicians to work on projects together.

Photo by Dee Anderson
Blake

It was a pleasure listening to this band of young, but seasoned musicians.  I can’t wait to see them again.  they will be back at the Growler Underground in September.

Jay Alm – Bringing Jackson to Eugene

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Fifteen years ago a young man picked up a guitar and started playing and putting music to the lyrics he had been writing.  Having been influence by the NW bands like Nirvanna, his style of rock and roll comes from those heartfelt lyrics and heavy guitar licks.

Jay moved from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to Jackson, Wyoming seven years ago.  His love of hiking and camping brought him to the inspirational mountains in that part of Wyoming.

At age 22 he started singing out and about to share his music and work on his performance style. Possibly his mother’s influence as a writer had something to do with his love of word crafting.

Jay Alm - photo by Dee Anderson
Jay Alm – photo by Dee Anderson

When he is not playing music he is a teacher at a children’s museum.  Two years ago he was given a Native American Flute which has become a small part of his show.  The haunting whistle coming from the wooden instrument is captivating. I wanted more, more, more.

Summer for the last two years he has taken off on a tour.  Last summer his extensive tour took him  to Alaska, Canada, east coast.  While traveling his guitars were stolen.  He had to replace his favorite 12 string Ovation and a six string Ibanez that he wanted to replace anyway.  Searching through the numerous types of guitars, he settled on two Breedlove’s. It was worth  every penny spent.  The sound created by the guitars adds greatly to his unique music. Filling the Growler Underground in Springfield, with his music, between the great sound system and the mood lighting and an enthusiastic audience, the show was definitely appreciated.

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Play it Jay! – photo by Dee Anderson

Loading up his Tahoe and getting ready to move to the next town, his enthusiasm for his music is contagious.  He is three weeks into a two month tour and looks forward to each and every show. Through Montana and down the west coast, this tour supports his newest recordings. Check him out on Facebook to hear some of his tunes.

 

Bearcoon – A New Breed?

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Ask Andrea where they got their name and she’ll tell you she looked out her apartment window and saw a huge animal in a tree.  First she thought “bear”, then realized it was an enormous raccoon. Hence the name “Bearcoon”. Not a bad way to come up with a band name.

Musically this duo is new and exciting.  Solange’s vocals are full of emotion, making the listener pay attention from the first note. Surprising everyone with her guitar skills, you can’t take your eye off Andrea.

Being raised in Virginia, Andrea still has remnants of her upbringing in her slight accent. Speaking with her she exudes and excitement about music that is contagious.  Obviously playing guitar was in her blood and she plays the guitar with an expertise not often seen I hate to say this, but with a female player. You all know what I mean. It is important to her to make their original songs sound just right and the dedication to her craft is apparent.

photo by Dee Anderson
Andrea Walker and Solange Igoa ll Photo by Dee Anderson

After getting a degree in Music Therapy, Andrea worked at a state hospital as an intern. She then continued practicing for a few more years while playing her own music. The desire to make music of her own never decreased.

After moving to the west coast, Long Beach, Ca., and singing in open mics to keep up her skills she met Solange. Solange would play her guitar and sing at these same open mics.  They found each other and the chemistry could not be denied.

Solange came from a musical Basque/French family in Bakersfield, California.  Music is very important in the Basque community and having been surrounded by it she began singing as a small child.  She studied musical theater in collage and that is apparent in her dramatic singing style. Moving from her home in Bakersfield, she set up her new home in Long Beach.

The two have been together for four years.  Asked how they write their music and what inspires the songs, Andrea says it is related to how she is feeling.  Sad songs come from being sad, and vice versa.  That may sound simplistic, but that relates to having beautifully crafted songs that speak to everyone’s emotions.

Photo by Dee Anderson
Photo by Dee Anderson for EDN

Watching Bearcoon perform is a pleasure. Individually their voices are unique and very different from each other. Combined in harmony it adds another layer to their already enjoyable music.  “Would You Like to Walk With Me” settles in to a comfortable rhythm then changes building the volume and surprising the audience delighting them as well. Solange’s strong vocals and her ability to put her feelings into the lyrics is explosive. Mixed in with their original songs they sang ‘Rhiannon’ from Fleetwood Mac and ‘House of the Rising Sun’ both brilliantly arranged.

Photo by Dee Anderson for EDN
Photo by Dee Anderson for EDN

These two have been receiving accolades and awards for their song writing and performances.  Making the decision to give up day jobs and go on the road is a testament to their commitment to the music.  So far they have been traveling for the last eleven months.  The fact that they are still together after living in cramped quarters, traveling, performing for all that time says a lot about their relationship. When on stage their casual banter and easy relationship with their audience makes the people watching  feel as if they are good friends with these energetic performers.

Photo by Dee Anderson for EDN
Photo by Dee Anderson for EDN

If you have a chance to see Bearcoon, GO!  It is a great show with terrific women.

Their music is available at BEARCOONMUSIC.COM.  This tour is supporting their last album “El Guapo”.  Andrea and Solange are working on a new album and hope to complete it by the end of the year.

Evie Ladin-Appalachia Meets Contemporary Ideas

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Five years with her band has produced three cds and miles on the road.  Evie Ladin was raised on the east coast with a family who participated in the folk revival in New York, New Jersey and Baltimore. Music and dance was the norm for her childhood. Musicians and dancers were at her home visiting with her Dad who was a dance teacher and musician. All these people were involved in music festivals on the weekends and small Evie was at the party listening and watching everything. Being surrounded with folk music and finding Appalachia roots in so much of that music Evie could not help but let that influence her own music as she grew up.

Attending Brown University, her interests were in African Studies with anthropology. Finding through her studies how much African music was intertwined in the music of Appalachia, this was filed away and accessed when she started playing more and more.

Moving on to performing music and focusing on banjo, playing  the “claw hammer style” she was entrenched in traditional southern Appalachian repertoire with her first band “Stairwell Sisters String Band”.  After ten years and international exposure she found it was fun to find interesting takes on the old songs which led her to develop her own band.

The Evie Ladin band has taken those ideas and run with them. Neo-trad-kinetic-folk is the term used to describe her style of music.There is a bluesy element to the music with focus on the banjo with unusual percussive body slapping and percussive dance mixed in. A fan told Evie “I hated banjo until I heard you”.

Moving to the west coast, the bay area, in 2000, the input and perspective is different from the east coast which adds more layers to her music.

Discussing her songwriting process, Evie says she tries to use contemporary ideas that are based in universal experiences in all of our lives. A life altering accident provided fuel for some of her music and the joy of life shown in her live performances.  Keith and Terry,her band mates, add ideas and arrange the sounds making every performance unique.  Recording is necessary to get her music out, but is quite obvious performing live is her passion.

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This tour is in support of their new album “Jump the Fire” which was released May 6th.  The music is a new take on old time banjo with unexpected  twists and turns.  Evie wants everyone to know the live show mixes music and dance so it is energetic and fun for her and the lucky audience. Her band is out on the road in their big van about six months out of the year. They have taking this tour back east as well as the west coast.

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Two of the three members of the band are supporting this tour.  Starting the set with body slapping and percussive dance along with Evie’s clear warm voice,  the audience was immediately caught up in the song, clapping along with the rhythm.  Picking up the banjo, she and Terry (who happens to be her husband) started singing with some tight harmony indicative of the Appalachian style that filters through her music. “Jump Up and Go” an up tempo tune got some audience members on their feet dancing. Terry moved between the  Cajon for rhythm and the stand up bass. “Coo-coo” an old folk tune was revitalized by the surprising sounds Evie gets from her banjo.

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“Jump the Fire” the title track from the new album, got the full attention of a rather loud audience and quieted them for the duration. “Ease on Down the Road” was a fun arrangement; a crowd pleaser.

The show closed with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” like no one has ever heard it before.

Watching her face and listening to her voice and the chatter that goes on between performers, joy was apparent in every part of Evie’s performance.  What a pleasure to watch this show.

Evie Ladin’s music is available on iTunes and on her website EvieLadin.com

 

Elephant Revival Invades Eugene

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From a small town in Colorado comes a big sound.  Watching the crowd roll in, there were young children to the let’s say over some fifty. “Mandolin Orange” started the show with their Bluegrass harmonies that were well practiced giving the crowd an enjoyable start to the evening.

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Elephant Revival took the stage and after a few squeaks and squawks from the sound system, they settled in to their set.  Their musicianship was obvious as the sound  from the stage grew in  clarity as the harmonies of Bonnie Paine on cello and Daniel Rodriguez on guitar pulled the audience in. Adding to the traditional sound was the fiddle played brilliantly by Bridget Law.  Dango Rose anchored the quintet with his capable bass and Charlie Rose’s banjo completed the dynamic sound.

Their music has been described  in so many ways it makes it hard to give anyone who has not heard  them a clear picture.  United Interests described them as containing elements of gypsy, Celtic, Americana, and folk.  Whenever there is harmony that is magic with voices that fit together like hand and glove, along with a sameness of purpose and sound you find a band called Elephant Revival.

Their name comes from a sad story of two long time elephant friends who were separated after many years, each dying on the same day.  If any thing can revive those departed souls and bring them back together it is “Elephant Revival”.

Meeting MAKANA (A Lesson in Tradition)

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What is  “Slack Key Guitar”? Hawaiian music is for hula dancing and luaus, right? Makana is so far from that analogy it is difficult  to describe.  Talking to Makana he told me that he has played traditional slack key guitar from childhood.  His first teacher was a true traditionalist, Bobbie Moderow, and he lead him to Sonny Chillington who was a master of slack key guitar. Unfortunately, Sonny died when Makana was only thirteen, but left him with a passion to play, write and perform.

Slack key guitar, in order to be consider traditional, it must accompany a vocal and sound as if three guitars are playing.

2016 Makana

When asked what type of guitar he likes to play he said his “Baby, ‘Evening Star”, a Takamine EN 10C. According to Makana no other guitar gives him the sound he requires to make his style of music complete. Leo Kottke with some John Fahey thrown in are some of the styles he mixes with his traditional teachings creating a beautiful haunting sound that comes from that worn, scratched guitar.

Currently Makana is working in the studio on a take off of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.  He is a political activist and has strong opinions when it comes to our systems in the U.S.  The song he is working on is titled “Super Delegates Bullshit Blues”.  Probably from the title one can gather his political leanings.

Carefully selected cover tunes are included in his live show as well as some of his recordings. Again looking back on his formative years he chooses older tunes that he heard as a child and puts his own spin on them.  If they turn out well, they get played.

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As we were talking it was apparent homesickness is setting in.  He talked about his favorite places to play and that would be on the island anywhere outside.  Being surrounded by nature inspires his playing, making it morph to new directions each time a piece is performed.

To rejuvenate and replenish his creativity, his love of gardening, reading, watching films helps rest his mind and allows the music to come more easily.  When he talks about his second love after his music, it is cooking.  He loves to make salads from the veggies he pulls from his garden.  Then there is Hawaiian taro.  I was completely unaware that chips can be made from the root along with oolu cakes and crackers.

What a interesting conversation with this complex man.  I say complex as his music lets you in on some of what goes on in his mind. To listen to his music is to hear generations of traditions from the islands which is an important component to “Slack Key” playing. The beauty of the composition and the skill of the player makes for a joyful listening experience.