Introducing: Tim Totani...

Tim Totani is a singer and songwriter from McAlester, Oklahoma. His style is in the country/rock tradition of Bob Seger and John Mellencamp, and his new EP Back Home was released just last month. We’d like to thank Mr. Totani for taking a few minutes to answer some questions for us here at Musebreak. Musebreak: First of all, tell us a little about yourself. What is your musical background? How did you get started? Tim Totani: I grew up around music from my mom singing to me as a little boy to watching the band play at church. But I didn’t get started playing until junior high school where my music director John Wilcox influenced my passion for playing the most. MB: I’m assuming you play guitar. Do you play any other instruments? What models do you use, and what’s your favorite? TT: I do play guitar, and I’ve played many instruments such as violin, cello, mandolin, bass, drums, and piano. Recently, piano is probably my favorite. I play a Taylor acoustic guitar. MB: What is your process for writing a song? What comes first, the lyrics or the music? TT: When writing a song the process varies. Some days I have lyrics that pop in my head first that I write music for, and other time the music comes first. MB: I mentioned Seger and Mellencamp in the intro, which to my ear are the most stylistically similar acts to your work. What do you consider the most similar? What musicians do you go to for inspiration? TT: I have been compared to Brantley Gilbert on many occasions, and I could see that. And I listen to a lot of artist for inspiration such as Brantley, Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Eli Young...

Album Review: The Buachaills’ At Your Call...

It’s a St. Patrick’s Day miracle: A second album of Celtic music for your enjoyment! It certainly was for mine. This week we’re looking at the debut release from the Celtic folk/rock band The Buachaills (pronounced bo’-quels, approximately). Their debut single is due out tomorrow, with the rest of the album due out in May. You can pre-order it on Amazon, and probably a few other places. The album is called At Your Call, and is an enjoyable collection of Irish influenced music. If the High Kings’ album we looked at last week was a little light on the Celtic influences for your tastes, this one should be right up your alley. Still using the electric bass (James Fleming) and drum set (Chris Carey), The Buachaills also have Eoin Murphy on guitar and mandolin and Aaron Dolan on whistles and Uillean pipes. Carey, Dolan, and Murphy all take turns on the vocals. The album starts with a short instrumental introduction, beginning with Dolan’s pipes and immediately moving into a lively reel. This is followed by the title track “At Your Call” which is catchy alternative rock style with a solid Irish feel to the accompaniment. Next is the song that is to be tomorrow’s debut single, a cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”. The famous sax solo is replaced very capably with Dolan’s pipes. It works much better than you might imagine. Following this is “You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time”. This is a lively Irish reel style pop song. It’s an infectious tune with a strong hook. Next is the instrumental “King of the Fairies”. It starts slowly and mournfully, and then moves into a nice minor key jig that highlights Dolan’s pipes and a fine, restrained drum performance by Carey....

Album Review: The High Kings’ Friends for Life...

A week from Monday, we see the return of St. Patrick’s Day, the day that everyone gets to either celebrate their Irish heritage, or pretend they have one. What St. Pat’s Day celebration would be complete without some rousing Irish music to go along with it? Sure, the Celtic Woman recordings have been popular, but let’s be honest. Their music just doesn’t have that Irish pub feel that the occasion calls for. So as an alternative, we bring you The High Kings, and their latest album Friends for Life. The High Kings is a talented quartet of Irish musicians with a healthy dose of contemporary influences added. Their stated motto: “Folk ’n Roll”. Friends for Life is their fourth album since their 2008 inception; and their third studio album. Released last September, it is a collection of original music combined with a few traditional songs spiced with their special arrangement skills. The opening track is “Oh Maggie”, an original song about a man on hard times and trying to do better so he can return to the woman he loves. It’s traditional sounding, but with electric guitars and a drum set added to update the sound. Following is a strong departure; “Gucci”. This is a borderline stream of conscience song with Paul Simon-esque metaphors. “All Around the World” takes us back to more familiar territory, with an upbeat feel-good dance song. It is, admittedly, the least Irish sounding song on the album; it almost sounds Cajun. It’s not surprising, then, that they follow it up with the first traditional Irish song on the album, “Johnny Leave Her”. This is an a capella arrangement, with each of the quartet featured on the verses, and harmony on the chorus. “Health to the Company” is another traditional...

Album Review: Marissa Nadler’s July...

Singer/Songwriter Marissa Nadler released July, her sixth studio album last week, and it looks to be a cold month. Nadler’s style is often categorized as “dream pop”, a sub-genre of alternative rock that features atmospheric music and ethereal vocals. Her mezzo-soprano voice is reminiscent of Norah Jones, and she frequently overdubs herself for harmonization. The music is almost totally percussion-less, relying on her acoustic guitar skills to provide the rhythm with flowing arpeggios. Layered on this is a bed of synthesizer chords and sometimes slow electric guitar notes. The effect is almost the acoustic equivalent to a Rothko painting, with large blocks of dark colors evoking a moody, hazy atmosphere. Musically, it’s actually quite challenging. Miss Nadler has no fear of dissonance; the layers of sound sometimes clashing and resolving in waves of anticipation of resolutions that almost arrives, but not never quite completely. Its effect is intentionally unsettling. Unfortunately, the lyrics do not quite deliver on the evocation that the music promises. Apparently this album is about a painful breakup she had; that much is apparent from the tales she spins in this collection of songs. The lyrics are very, very personal; perhaps too personal. We are offered images and ideas that obviously mean a lot to her, but we’re left a bit in the dark. It’s like someone posted on Facebook, “Well it looks like I’m single again. I should have made that paper airplane after all. I don’t want to talk about it,” and we’re thinking, “Paper airplane? What’s that about?” In effect, she’s wearing her heart on her sleeve, but she’s got her shirt turned inside-out and we can’t quite figure out what that stitching is supposed to be. July is a masterful and unusual album musically. It stretches the...

Album Review: Diane Birch’s Speak a Little Louder...

The sophomore album from singer/songwriter Diane Birch was released just last week, and presents an artist who is still defining herself. Her first album, Bible Belt, brought inevitable comparisons to Carole King. This time she downplays her keyboard chops and focuses on songwriting and arranging. She has mentioned that she incorporates many influences in her music, particularly in this new collection. That much is obvious from even a single listening. Her singing is edgier this time around, making her sound like the second coming of Stevie Nicks. As you would expect, there’s some Fleetwood Mac sounds here as well. Also, keep an ear open for Sinead O’Connor, The Cranberries, Alanis Morrisette, Heart, the Motels, and even a disco number ala Diana Ross. They’re not fully fledged style copies, but the influence is present. The version of this album you’ll find in the CD racks at your store is shorter than the full-length version available online by five songs. I’d recommend getting the 16 track version, since some of the best cuts are among those left off of the short version. The title track is a very moody number with heavy synthesizer beds. Lyrically it’s a little weak, but the hook is memorable. The two tracks that really highlight Diane’s Stevie styles are “Tell Me Tomorrow” and “Love & War”, the former being a solo Stevie style song and the latter one more in the Fleetwood Mac mold. “Pretty in Pain” is the disco number, and works well. If you enjoyed Diane’s earlier work, you’ll want to take note of “Superstars”, which is a solid hypnotic song, and “Truer than Blue”, which is the only track that is just her voice and piano. Although Diane is too young to remember it first hand, there is...

Musebreak: A Vision

When I contemplated the idea for Musebreak, I envisioned an online magazine dedicated to bringing the world information about The Arts. A place where everyday people could take a break from their everyday world and learn about the muse that inspires us all. What we deal with as artists, where we come up with our creative ideas, where our challenges lie. I believe that as creatives, we are obligated to explain our choices and talk about what drives us to do what we do, so we can break down the barriers holding us in an awe-inspired isolation; an enigma to the rest of the world. I envisioned Musebreak as an outlet for this purpose; a way to share creativity to those who have not found theirs. Most creatives tend to hang with other creatives, because they share a common bond and draw inspiration from the symbiotic relationship. They feel understood. There’s no need to explain behaviors that don’t necessarily conform to the norm. Unfortunately, that leaves the rest of the world shaking their heads and wondering why this type of person does what they do. My vision for Musebreak would enlighten those not privy to the artistic world—I had no idea what a challenge this would be. Being 100% volunteer, getting writers to volunteer their time has been a struggle. It is here that I have to sing the praises to the writers who have chosen to help me in this quest. Their weekly contributions are done without any type of feedback or pay. The only thing I can offer is to promote whatever artistic venture they are involved in and a space to write, free of strict deadlines or strict editorial constraints. I also feel the need to apologize for my attempts at...

Album Review: Kenny Rogers’ You Can’t Make Old Friends...

The new solo album from Kenny Rogers has just been released, and Kenny shows us that he is not someone to rest on his laurels. This is a diverse, sometimes challenging, collection of songs that has the potential of being a big hit. The title track, “You Can’t Make Old Friends”, is a duet with Dolly Parton. This song is the only concession that Rogers makes to his age and history, and he makes it with one of his most popular partners. Dolly sounds slightly huskier now than she did when they recorded “Islands in the Stream” thirty years ago, but both performers are still very capable. This is going to be the first single from this album, but that’s largely for marketing purposes. There are stronger tracks to come. “All I Need Is One” is a contemporary, up-beat love song with a good hook. It’s an easy song to remember, and an easy song to like. “You Had to Be There” is Kenny Rogers on familiar ground: the storyteller. It tells the tale of an estranged father meeting his imprisoned son, and touches on themes of parenthood and responsibility. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as compelling as earlier Rogers’ stories. The next track is “ ’Merica ”. This is a bluesy patriotic anthem in 6/8. Not really Rogers forte; it would be interesting to see what someone like Michael McDonald or Garth Brooks could do with a song like this. Perhaps as a complete about face, we are next given “Turn the World Around”. This is a chanted song with a lot of attitude. It’s rather dark, and addresses the ills of society. This may be the strongest song on the album, and if Warner Bros has enough guts this should be the next...

Introducing: The Dick Peddicord Band...

My first memories of Dick Peddicord are from 1967, when I fell in with his band of gypsies which became known as The American Television Theater Inc., or T.A.T.T.I.  It was a raggle-taggle band, with several drummers, several bass players, and a small army of guitar players.  We soon became known as the band that changed at every performance, since our lineup was constantly morphing, and the loudest bunch in normally quiet downtown Davis, California. Later, I played lap steel with Dr. Dick and his Yolo County Road Show, featuring the Whole Earth Angels, a miniature choir of pretty young ladies under Dick’s watchful eye, and the metaphorical baton of choir director Jack May.  That led to some demo tapes, recorded in San Francisco’s China Town at the Roy Chen Recording Studio, which I produced.  Dick was so pleased with the demos that he hired my band, Osgoode, to produce an entire album of his songs in the relatively new 24-track format.  One of the high points of that album was a completely new version of “Oh Pleasant Hope”, which had already been recorded once by Blue Cheer, and became the title song of the album on which it appeared. Together we played in several other short-lived bands, and after a longish hiatus, started making music together again in early 2011.  We’ve been keeping busy with several CDs of the Dick Peddicord Band since then: first, Change Of Heart, then Savannah, then Castaway, and finally another one which has no name as yet, but is over half finished. Dick currently lives in Ashland, Oregon, and works for the U.S. Census Bureau as a field representative. Having retired from college teaching years ago, his time now is spent on music and family. After receiving a...