For fans of Kaki King, if you are like me, then you probably miss hearing her lyric-less ambient acoustic guitar playing. Understandably so, since this is originally how the songwriter-singer”because her vocals really are secondary to her songwriting”got her start and why so many people were drawn to her in the first place. Over the years, she has gradually incorporated a few more instruments and some soft singing into her music here and there, which was actually quite a nice for a change. But on her last album, Junior, King almost left the whole solo instrumental guitarist act behind, introducing a full rock band sound and an unmistakably Tegan And Sara influenced full singing voice. Many fans, while welcoming the new style, still felt a bit like something was missing. If you are one of those fans, then slip on your mittens, warm woolen hat, and scarf because the original Kaki King we know and love is back with an autumnal instrumental album called Glow. (more…)
The headliners at this year’s FloydFest”including Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Ricky Skaggs, Brandi Carlile, and the Drive-By Truckers”were as amazing as you’d expect from internationally known and much-lauded musicians. But the real treat at the 11th Annual FloydFest, a four-day world music festival in Floyd, Virg., was arguably the array of up-and-coming artists certain to burst into prominence not too far into the future.
Amber Rubarth was clearly at the front of that line. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider she’s a fixture on New York’s indie scene and has won such accolades as the Grand Prize in NPR’s Mountain Stage New Song Contest. Her recent album A Common Case of Disappearing, which features duets with Jason Reeves and Jason Mraz, debuted at No. 13 on iTunes. Watching her spin her musical web of alt-country, folk tunes on various stages at FloydFest, one couldn’t help but be struck by her poise and warmth, which translated into her music.
“I was really shy growing up,” said Amberth when discussing her set. “Music gave me the outlet to be able to get out my feelings and get out things I wanted to say that were more personal, even if I couldn’t say it in a conversation. It’s really powerful for me. It’s a way of healing, releasing, really.”
Those feelings translated to the audience, too, when Rubarth joined the Ivy League Hillbillies set that had nine up-and-coming musicians on stage and when she played her own sets”including a brand new song “The Maiden and the Ram,” that got the audience dancing.
Stephanie White was one of the Top 21 female vocalists on American Idol season five, and though the New Jersey native didn’t make it as far as Taylor Hicks, it wasn’t for a lack of talent. White’s got the limber croon of a jazz chanteuse combined with a pop sensibility that makes her music appealing to the masses. With her band of merry musicians, the Philth Harmonics, the singer creates a gumbo of jazz, funk, ska, and even a little Caribbean. Cheat On My BFFL is a cautionary tale for jerk wads wrapped up in a party. The bass bubbles, the guitars strut, the horns bleat, and the girl sings a warning to men who mean her friends harm. Keep the party going with the sultry Prove It or the creeping jazz funk of Trying To Dream For You. Hey, Taylor Hicks”eat your heart out.
Time and time again, listeners shy away from instrumental music simply because it usually lacks an immediately relatable trait. It doesn’t have the traditional lyrical hooks and memorable vocal lines that popular music is known for and our modern ears are accustomed to. And, while the proficient composition and performance of instrumental music usually requires a certain level of musical skill, listening to it does not. The genre only asks for open ears and an open mind. Now, there are many ways in which we can approach instrumental music”as a pure, unadulterated representation of emotion, as a chance to fuse musical influences without the restrictions of convention, as background music for a film, slideshow or life, and so forth. The beauty of instrumental music is how open it is to interpretation by the listener. Much like in visual art, instrumental artists can channel a message without telling the audience explicitly what they were trying to convey.
“Somehwere” – Jeff Cochell: First off, something familiar to the ears. Rock and folk musicians have flown the instrumental flag for a while now, and this style of acoustic guitar work has been explored by bands all the way from Pearl Jam to your local singer-songwriter playing at a coffee shop’s open mic night.
“Spirit Of India” – Meir Shitrit: Fusing traditional Indian instruments and scales with western songwriting, a style was popularized in the ’60s by pioneers like John Coltrane and George Harrison, this track shouldn’t feel too far away from home.
“Russian Concertino” – Giancarlo Angioni: The beauty of well-performed flamenco is lost on no one. The passion that goes into the playing and the sensual vibe that surrounds it has been captivating listeners for decades.
“Salsalito” – Level 10 Band: Latin jazz always brings rhythmic energy to any playlist. The danceable power of the clave is undeniable, and rightly so; these ensembles usually feature a large rhythm section with multiple percussion players.
“Mediterranean” – Fahir Atakoglu: Atakoglu is a personal favorite here in Press Shuffle. It’s easy to see why: this level of talent and skill isn’t something you come by too often, and we’re not ones to let it slip through unnoticed.
“Snizzle” – Justin Hellman: Small combo jazz is simply timeless. It’s the right music for so many occasions; from rainy day music while you read a book in your favorite living room nook to a night out to a bar with the guys, they’ve got you covered. The versatility of this music is unmatched.
“Temporarily Destabilized” – CHON: Instrumental metal tends to focus on complex songwriting and technical playing, and this is a perfect example of the outcome when those two. Not only do the gentlemen from CHON knock it out of the park with their musicianship, but they do so time after mind-blowing time. Prepare to have your brain melt out your ears.
Have any tunes in particular that you care to share? Disagree with any of the picks? Want a theme in particular to be Shuffled? Let us know by dropping a comment!
Listen to previous Press Shuffle playlists over at 8tracks.com.