The Calm Cafe

October 10, 2008

Singer/songwriter Barrie Hart distinguished by ‘edgy style of worship’

Filed under: Adult Contemporary, Christian, singer/songwriter — Tags: , , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 9:09 pm

By Lucinda Coyne

As a musician, it is clear that singer/songwriter Barrie Hart stands out from the crowd. With her edgy style of worship, and calm aura in her slow songs, anyone can lay down on their feet and pray. “You Alone” and “As I Am” captures Hart’s musical style. Her extensive experience in blues and Christian songs shows in her newest album. It is refreshing to listen to a voice that can capture a heart of worship with a down-to-earth feel into her searching soul. The answer lies in Hart’s songs and lyrics. “Lover Of My Soul” is one song that can allow a listener to reflect upon their spirituality and connection to a higher being.

Lucinda Coyne: Who was your spiritual influence in terms of your music writing?

Barrie Hart: Songwriters like Ashley Cleveland, Rita Springer, and Jennifer Knapp have definitely inspired me. They all write with such honesty, and I love that. So much of what I write comes out of my own times of prayer and worship; dare I say the biggest spiritual influence is God himself?

Coyne: In you song “Crowned In Glory,” one can see your calling for God; did you write this during a tough time in your life?

Hart: When I wrote “Crowned in Glory” I was sitting on my bed with my guitar just playing worship. I was kinda free singing and the lines just came out for the verse. I kept singing them over and over.  The chorus is out of Psalm 86, and I honestly don’t remember how I chose that, but I spend a lot of time in the Psalms. David was another honest writer.

Coyne: If you were to choose one place in the world to be musically inspired, where would it be?

Hart: No doubt my cousin’s beach house in Bodega Bay, California. I go there by myself to write and commune. It is the most inspiring place I know.

Coyne: Do you remember teaching anyone how to sing or play an instrument? If so, which song or composition did you teach them?

Hart: Other than teaching my kids a few chords, no. I am forever the student.

Coyne: Your songs have a very mellow tone to it; what inspired you to
write “Who Am I?”

Hart: How much time do you have? I wrote that song literally on my knees.  It was actually a journal entry. I was in the midst of the end of a 14-year marriage; I had stepped down from leading worship, and my band was essentially broken up. Nothing was the way I thought He said it would be. “Here I Am”  was written the same week. I think they say it all.


July 14, 2008

Tonia Tecce’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ is ‘breathtaking, emotionally enveloping’

Filed under: Adult Contemporary, Easy Listening, Jazz — Tags: , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 2:08 am

By Lucinda Coyne

Artist: Tonia Tecce

Title: What a Wonderful World

Grade: A+


Tonia Tecce’s What a Wonderful World is among the year’s most impressive releases, a breathtaking, emotionally enveloping melange of classical, jazz, blue-eyed crooning, and Adult Contemporary. It is nothing less than a work of art that once represented the pinnacle of quality in pop. With
so much contemporary music being tossed-together nonsense manufactured on machines, what a shocker it is to hear a record that is so incredibly human, brimming with a burst of blinding sunlight. Often backed by an orchestral score, Tecce commands each of these standards with the power of a soaring individual voice.

Tecce’s singing on the title track is awe-inspiring. There have probably been millions of covers of this immortal song yet Tecce is able to make it her own. The undefended rush of emotion in her vocals will leave you in stunned silence. There is genuine love in that voice, that performance. Tecce simply isn’t trying to be soulful; she is soulful. That, too, helps to separate her remakes from that of others. Not only does she inject these tracks with an operatic push, she sings them with palpable passion; it’s as if these were still new compositions.

May 31, 2008

‘Bold self-confidence’ boosts ‘wildly mood-spinning’ EP from singer Mary Fakhoury

Filed under: Adult Contemporary, Easy Listening, Hot Adult Contemporary, Jazz — Tags: , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 1:47 am

By Lucinda Coyne

Artist: Mary Fakhoury

Title: Universal Worlds

Grade: A-


Singer Mary Fakhoury delights in the endless possibilities of her artistry, producing a wildly mood-spinning five-cut EP that could also serve as a demo of her versatility. In fact, I wouldn’t be searching for a unifying theme or consistency here; Fakhoury is truly all over the map, looking into the heart of American jazz on her version of “Someone to Watch Over Me,” journeying to France for the romanticism of “La Vie En Rose,” and then flying to the Middle East for the transcendent Arabic flavors of “El-Donia,” the most colorful and thrilling cut on this CD.

Shockingly, Fakhoury is able to find enough range in her voice to meet the expectations of these various genres. She does it all with bold self-confidence, not missing a beat at all. In the end, we’re a bit shaken and stirred by the experience but also curious as to what Fakhoury is capable of future releases, especially on a full-length.

May 14, 2008

Australia’s Kinderjazz redefines children’s music with Big Band colors

Filed under: Jazz — Tags: , , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 5:58 am

Written by Lucinda Coyne

The name, the look, the sound: It is marketing genius. Australia’s Kinderjazz is probably one of the most ambitious children’s music acts in the world. This is a real band, a Big Band, in fact. There are more than 10 members in this unit playing real and really invigorating swing and Latin music for kids. With their colorful clothes and cartoonish numbers, Kinderjazz are able to woo the preteen set but also their moms, dads, and grandparents as well. Christobel Llewellyn of Kinderjazz reveals the goofy madness behind the group.

Lucinda Coyne: Children’s music in a real Big Band jazz setting is pure genius. Who thought of it?

Christobel Llewellyn: I had a vision. I realised that there was a real lack of live music around for children. Most children’s shows had a fluffy character costume and a poor quality backing tape. There were no musical instruments for the kids to look at or listen to and everything seemed to be fake, i.e., a drum machine or synthesizer. I knew as a professional musician I had the means to address this imbalance. I noticed that all the highest quality children’s films and cartoons included swing music and Big Band jazz tracks recorded with some of the best musicians in the industry. Children loved the beat and variety of rhythms and styles. It seemed the perfect vehicle to introduce them to live music while having fun.  

Coyne: What is a Kinderjazz live performance like? Do you interact with the children?

Llewellyn: Yes! The whole show is interactive. Children get to come up on stage and get up close and personal with the instruments and virtuoso musicians. I’ve rarely seen anyone sit down. The Kinderjazz band have two presenters who sing and fool around with the kids. A live performance always includes a lot of dance moves which the children can learn.   Musicians don’t just solo on their instruments to show them off; they clown around, i.e., a feather from our female vocalist’s boa floated up just when our trombone player was about to do his solo so he followed it and manipulated his slide to keep this feather up in the air. It was the best solo he’d ever played keeping children in the moment. It was pure magic. By the end of the show the young audience is not just entertained but educated and yelling for more. You never know what’s going to happen next.

Coyne: Who are the creative forces behind the group?

Llewellyn: David Llewellyn has written the majority of the music and lyrics. David, a graduate of London University and the Royal College of Music, gets his inspiration from his own children. Legendary BBC arranger Arthur Greenslade (musical director for Shirley Bassey) did a huge slice of the arranging which really raised the bar for quality in a children’s product. Costumes, management and choreography have been taken care of in house by myself.  

Coyne: When did Kinderjazz get together?

Llewellyn: We did our first gig back in 1997 and you just can’t stop the music.

Coyne: How has the band evolved through the years?

Llewellyn: We started off as a 10-piece then quickly added a second trumpet, a Latin percussionist, and most recently a baritone sax. From 1997 to 2008, the band has recorded six albums and played extensively at clubs, festivals, corporate family days, the Zoo, the Sydney Opera House, the Olympics and parties. The Kinderjazz repertoire tends to explore all different styles of the 20th Century from blues to hip hop. In a time when “processed” music rules and children are marketed as adult pop, Kinderjazz (as many parents have stated) is “water in the desert.” For everyone involved it’s unstoppable fun.

May 4, 2008

Singer/songwriter Steve Pichan delivers political anthem of the year with “The Line (Voter’s Lament)”

Filed under: Acoustic, Folk Profiles — Tags: , , , , , , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 10:35 pm

Written by Lucinda Coyne

Singer/songwriter Steve Pichan may have inadvertently given us the theme song for the upcoming presidential election – and current campaign within the Democratic Party – with “The Line (Voter’s Lament)” from his terrific album, Am I Here Already? Like much of the record, “The Line (Voter’s Lament)” is written and sung with a thoughtful, provocative edge, definitely in the spirit of late ’60s-early ’70s folk. Oddly enough, this is the 55-year-old artist’s debut even though his mastery of words and sharp vocal craft more than suggest a recording veteran at the helm.

Lucinda Coyne: Your song, “The Line (Voter’s Lament),” really captures the confusion that
people are undergoing right now with their political choices, something which will probably get worse as we near the election. What is the story behind it, though?

Steve Pichan: Living in the Detroit area, we have lived through the scandal of Detroit’s
mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.  For me, he epitomizes the art of political spin and lies. His story certainly has influenced my refrain.  The verses, however, are inspired by the current presidential campaign. This is not a partisan song. It is intended to shine a light on the problem of dishonesty. Certainly, all political persuasions have a vested interested in being told the plain and simple truth. Voters are screaming, “Tell me no lie, tell me the truth.”

Coyne: How long have you been writing lyrics, and what inspires your words – current events or personal experiences? Or both?

Pichan: I started writing songs with lyrics more than 40 years ago.  A good storyline inspires my lyrics, hence, they can come from both.

Coyne: What artists have guided you creatively throughout the years?

Pichan: Steely Dan, Neil Young, Steve Winwood, John Hiatt, Jars of Clay, Lyle Lovett.

Coyne: What songs on Am I Here Already? are you most proud of and why?

Pichan: I particularly like “Mile” and “Iron Man.” Both are deep and meaningful stories with a musical style (rock ballad) that I enjoy most. “Mile” is about the tragic loss of a seven year old girl, and her father’s struggle to deal with the difficult emotions.  He strives to seek comfort in the hope of being reunited with her. “Iron Man” is a song that speaks to the spirit of Americans when faced with a national tragedy which, in this case, tells the story of an ironworker who is moved by the events of 9/11 and decides to head immediately for New York.  When he arrived, he was able to offer his professional skills to the task of disassembling steel structure.

Coyne: Am I Here Already? seems to be your debut album, but it has the craftsmanship of a longtime veteran. What made you finally decide to put out a CD?

Pichan: I have written songs and played guitar since the age of 10. I also performed professionally for many years while performing many originals. My recording experience, however, was limited to a handful of sessions. I was determined to build a studio which has taken many years to perfect, and I was aided in the process by recording engineer, Jim Kissling of Tempermill Studios in Detroit.  Jim now helps out on final mixes and ultimate mastering. The development of my studio and recording process has finally enabled me to record my songs at a professional level that I now have confidence in.  The release of the CD happens to coincide with my 55th birthday, hence, the title.

Coyne: Where you raised and how did your environment shape you as an artist?

Pichan: I was raised in a small town farming community that was very picturesque. I suppose that the area influenced me somewhat. My interest in politics and religion is really what has shaped me most.

March 31, 2008

Steve Madewell’s ‘Arrow Creek’ features ‘meticulous songcraft’

Filed under: Acoustic, Easy Listening, Folk — Tags: , , , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 12:37 am

By Lucinda Coyne

Artist: Steve Madewell

Title: Arrow Creek

Grade: A+


Music this quiet and peaceful doesn’t usually make you think. Singer/songwriter Steve Madewell is definitely rooted in the late ’60s-early ’70s generation of folk-pop crossover musicians such as Bob Dylan, James Taylor, and Don McLean. Madewell comes across as a born storyteller, but his tales are not necessarily his own. “Who Will Weep for Me,” for instance, is about Chief Logan of the Mingo tribe, whose entire family was slaughtered by white men in a vicious massacre and sought vengeance; he would later become a champion for peace and eventually died alone and virtually unmourned. Unfortunately, too many Americans are unware of this story, the sacrifices made by the Native Americans. If U2 covered this, it’d be all over the charts.

Madewell loves atmosphere; the songs here breathe real air, capturing the mood and the settings of each track. There is meticulous songcraft at work. The title cut is a lushly strummed portrait of scenic gorgeousness; through Madewell’s delicate playing we can see through his eyes, the images that inspire every sublime chord. “Wrapped Inside Your Love” and “Climb” are moving soundtracks for daydreaming; the guitar playing is as sweet as a fruit’s juices. Arrow Creek is what road trips are made for. I recently drove from Arizona to Oregon, and the songs here really caught the postcard pictures of spare deserts and high mountains.

March 30, 2008

Char Butler is a ‘soothing, otherworldly voice’

Filed under: Acoustic, Adult Contemporary, Easy Listening — Tags: , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 8:33 pm

By Lucinda Coyne

Artist: Char Butler

Title: “My Life”-“Tonight” [promo single]

Grade: A


I haven’t checked, but these songs are probably available on iTunes. Also included on her album Secrets of the Heart, “My Life (I Love You)” and “Tonight” embody exactly the kind of music that the Calm Cafe champions. Just because it’s Easy Listening doesn’t mean it isn’t hip or creative. We’re not about Barry Manilow here. Char Butler is a creative kin to Sarah McLachlan, that of the soothing, otherworldy voice, especially “My Life (I Love You)” with its transcendent vocal performance. “Tonight” is just as impressive but in a different way, opting for the rootsy acoustic pop of Sheryl Crow. Both are well-produced and engaging, and a positive sign that this artist is going places.  

March 28, 2008

Andre Bennett displays mastery of smooth-jazz guitar on ‘Rite of Way’

Filed under: Jazz — Tags: , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 8:51 am


By Lucinda Coyne

Artist: Andre Bennett

Title: Rite of Way

Grade: A-


In order for an album of smooth-jazz guitar instrumentals to work, there must be variety at play; the same meal cut after cut grows tiresome. And Andre Bennett’s Rite of Way accomplishes just that, offering different moods and styles that nevertheless achieve the same feelings of peace and relaxation. The opener “Smooth Tunin'” has a sleek, laid-back groove that creates a loveable atmosphere while “Bree Lynn’s Brazil” provides a sweaty nighttime backdrop. As with the best smooth jazz, there is romanticism and sensuality at play here, perhaps none more pronounced than in the sweaty, tropical rhythms of the title track.

Bennett is at ease with both slow and faster numbers; his mastery of the guitar never ceases to amaze. “Down Size” moves to a cool shuffling beat while “Niche” shimmers with the golden rays of Bennett’s strings. Lovely, intoxicating music from beginning to end is the most apt description to give Rite of Way. It pulls you in right away and refuses to let go of your senses. 

March 7, 2008

Americana meets God on new Vonnie Scott album

Filed under: Acoustic, Adult Contemporary, Folk — Tags: , , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 2:19 am


By Lucinda Coyne

Artist: Vonnie Scott

Title: Beckon Call

Grade: B+


Vonnie Scott has found God – and she wants to make sure that you know it. Blessed with a soulful, aching voice, Scott is almost doesn’t need any instruments; her singing alone could’ve carried this record. You will find essentially two kinds of songs on this CD: relaxing, introspective folk-ish numbers and energetic Americana, the best of which are “The Well” and “Another Rainy Day.” Neither approach is better than the other; Scott nails them both down with the skill of a seasoned veteran.

The title cut opens slowly, suggesting a midtempo number until Scott hits the chorus, and her passionate singing blows away any chance of this being anything less than vibrant soft rock. She reminds me of Janis Joplin here, but while Joplin would veer out of control and explode in histrionics, Scott is remarkably disciplined. The songs on Beckon Call deal with love, life, and God, all written with honesty and warmth. If you thought that “real” artists were rare in these days of corporate smack, perhaps they’re just buried treasure like Scott.   

March 4, 2008

David Hicken weaves instrumental magic on stylish ‘Goddess’

Filed under: New Age — Tags: , , , , , , , — hellhoundonmytrail @ 8:34 am

By Lucinda Coyne

Artist: David Hicken

Title: Goddess

Grade: A+


I will leave it up to you to properly identify the various goddesses that New Age artist David Hicken has named each cut after on this album. Their discovery will create more depth in your listening pleasure as you can match the qualities of every track with their namesakes. (You can actually read about them in the sleeve; however, I recommend surfing through the Internet to gain the most knowledge.) And it’s CDs like this that the Calm Cafe exists. You can call this collection of tuneful, stylishly played instrumentals Easy Listening if you wish, but that would be simplifying the dazzling artistry being showcased here. Hicken is a magnificent pianist; his fingers seem to be tracing awe-inspiring sights that we are unable to view ourselves.

Given that Hicken lives in Hawaii, perhaps it’s not surprising that much of Goddess has a tropical atmosphere, from the lush feelers of “Sekhmet” to the torrid glow of “Isis.” Much of the material here is slow and peaceful although there are upbeat moments such as “Aphrodite.” This is music that is best appreciated on a top-notch sound system, letting it surround and also color the room.  

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