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Music Reviews

Silver Bell - Patty Griffin

Folk singer Patty Griffin, it seems, has long missed out on the fame she deserves. The struggles in the release of her new album, Silver Bell, are characteristic of her undeservedly taxing career. Ready for release in 2000, Silver Bell was shelved due to corporate takeover of the record label she was working with.


Thirteen years and some months later, the album was released, a bittersweet yet triumphant end to Griffin’s 16-year run with A&M Records. Her frustration with the industry is tastefully channeled through her song One More Girl, where she croons, “Do you know what it means to be one more girl on the stage?”


Griffin’s emotions continue to be on display throughout the rest of the 14-track album. Her candid lyrics, accentuated by electric guitar and rapid drum atypical of her traditionally acoustic albums, are striking. Notably, Griffin also sings what are, arguably, her most popular songs, Top of the World and Truth #2. Previously covered by the Dixie Chicks in their 2002 Home album, these songs were made famous before Griffin was able to release her album.


Although the record hasn’t received the radio time it deserves, it is worthy of a close listen. Silver Bell is a welcome addition to any Griffin fan’s collection.


by Ashley Bruce

 

Lily & Madeleine Self Titled Album

Read more: Lily & Madeleine Self Titled AlbumEnchanting. That is the best word I can use to describe the lovely harmonizing of sisters, Lily and Madeline Jurkinewicz. At just 16 and 19 years old, these Indiana natives leapt into popularity with their YouTube video In the Middle in 2012. They released a five-track EP, The Weight of the Globe in early 2013 and their first full-length self titled album, Lily & Madeleine, in October to huge accolades.


While both girls sang growing up, encouraged by their music-loving parents, they never performed together until recently. Madeleine, soprano, has a smooth and light singing style, and Lily’s earthy alto voice blends in with natural ease.

 

“Both have preternaturally mature control as singers,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “When they come together vocally, as they do throughout Lily & Madeleine, they achieve that effortless, dazzlingly intuitive and familial blend known as ‘blood harmony.’”


The duo’s sound soars with their sweet harmonies and light and folky lyrics. By far my favorite song on their self-titled album is Devil We Know. In their most intoxicating ballad, the sisters weave a haunting story of Spring on the plains.

 
The simplicity of the music, voices and lyrics works. Lily & Madeleine is an enchanting album. Look for them in Portland this June at the Doug Fir Lounge.

 

by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor

I Love You by The Neighbourhood

Read more: I Love You by The NeighbourhoodThe Neighbourhood’s release of I Love You in April 2013 didn’t cause a typhoon or even a wave in the music industry. Rather, back in December their song Sweater Weather reached number 17 on the Hot 100 Billboard.


I Love You was the band’s debut album, with top tracks like Sweater Weather and Afraid. The song Sweater Weather is my personal favorite song because of its catchy lyrics and consistent drumbeat. With near rap lyrics it gives me a personal reminder that I could never become famous, but also gives any listener a happy go lucky feeling.


Another one of my favorite songs on the album is Female Robbery, but the name doesn’t give it any credit. In the opening of the song, The Neighbourhood uses a siren, but they make it work so incredibly well. The siren does scare me every time I listen to it, but doesn’t seem out of place the more times I hit play.


The set of songs on I Love You each include a unique rat-a-tat beat that is sure to get you clapping or tapping your foot. All the songs on their CD keep me wanting more and more. The album is full of memorable lyrics, as well as beats that play in my head all day long.


So I encourage you to buy or download the album and start falling in love with The Neighbourhood just like I have.


By Ally Hand

Happy Holidays from Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison

Read more: Happy Holidays from Kelly Willis & Bruce RobisonA friend and I were trying to find the best rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas when I first encountered Kelly Willis on this CD.


Willis, critically acclaimed as a roots music singer, is recognized as a new country and Americana pioneer. She appeared in the Tim Robbins film Bob Roberts and was heard singing the Dave Alvin/John Doe song Little Honey in the hit movie Thelma and Louise.
Bruce Robison has made his mark as both a singer and songwriter of number one hits like Wrapped (George Strait), Angry All The Time (Tim McGraw and Faith Hill) and Travelin’ Soldier (Dixie Chicks).


After releasing a holiday EP together in 2003 their annual Christmas season concerts have become a Texas Yuletide tradition. Married for 15 years and the parents of four children and following their own singular successes, they are now collaborating as a duo and developing a musical quantity that is entirely new and utterly its own.


Meanwhile from Santa Baby to Baby, It’s Cold Outside you’ll find this very appealing holiday album charming and endearing.


Robison’s rendition of A Winter’s Tale by R. B. Morris is simply fabulous. Kelly and Bruce share the vocals on Baby, It’s Cold Outside….perfect harmonization and very personal. You can just see the two of them discussing the options of staying or going out in the winter cold. “Kelly you’ll freeze out there.” “I really can’t stay,” she responds.


The Christmas Waltz, performed by Robison with sentimental bravado and then Please Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk, somewhat humorously shared by both Willis and Robison is delightful. “Don’t cry mama, everything’s going to be alright.”


But the very best song on the cd is Have Yourself a Merry, Little Christmas sung by Willis. This is one of the best renditions ever (and just about any well known singer has performed this lovely song written by H. Martin and R. Blane in the ‘40s). It was first introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis. Frank Sinatra later recorded a version with modified lyrics, which has become more common than the original.


By Pamela Hulse Andrews

 

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas

I’m a child of the ‘80s, and it wasn’t Christmas until my mom put on her Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD while we decorated the tree and made our annual gingerbread house.


I grew up listening to that album every year, and even today while I’m going about my day and any of the tracks from that album come on, I’m instantly transported to memories of hanging tinsel and sifting powdered sugar over the gingerbread house.


Christmas was Mannheim Steamroller’s first holiday album, released in 1984, and was the seventh best-selling Christmas album in the U.S. as of last year. Oddly enough Christmas was a hard sell at first, but that only fueled founder Chip Davis’s determination to market his music. Nine million sales later, the group is still around and has since produced 16 other holiday albums and compilations.


The name Mannheim Steamroller derives from an 18th-century German musical technique, Mannheim roller, which is a crescendo passage which has a rising melodic line over an ostinato bass line. The result? A very soothing melodic take on some holiday favorites such as Deck the Halls, We Three Kings and my favorite, Silent Night.


Founders Davis and Jackson Berkey started Mannheim Steamroller as an alias for Davis, a record producer and composer. With contemporary interpretations of holiday favorites, the synthesized instruments showcase creative approaches to the traditional tunes.


Mannheim Steamroller has had guest appearances by Johnny Mathis, Olivia Newton-John and jazz legend Paul Winter, and produces a very popular annual Christmas tour, now in it’s 25th year.


So this year when you are baking cookies or wrapping presents, put on Christmas for a little more holiday cheer.


By Renee Patrick