Thursday, October 27, 2022

Review: Roger Brainard does “RING of FIRE.”

I’ve worked with Roger Brainard. I’ve found him to be his own. I think that is what an older, wiser artist should be. Not only has he found his way of doing things, he has found time to help a few find theirs. To me, this song epitomizes that and I’ll explain why. But first, listen to the tune, here

Working with Roger a few years ago now on “Fear,” (from a collaborative album we made that was released in June), I remember short conversations about deep topics. No Frills, meat and potatoes, we are on the clock. Roger doesn’t come off vulnerable or desperate for you to listen, he simply seems to be very busy amusing himself. There was great concern in working with him to provide the listener with a place and atmosphere. Roger’s focus, to me, what I go to him for, is helping the listener escape. I don’t even think he’d let it leave the door unless it worked on him first. That is a work ethic. And “RING of FIRE” is all about it. 

‘Ring of fire” is a special song to me. It was played at my second wedding by friends as almost a warning. I always thought it was a happy tune about loving and merrymaking and frolicking. But Roger took it differently. He paints a vision of uncontrollable desire. It works, and works well. It is as if it has dawned on me, after all these years, that I was mislead. This song isn’t happy, it is brewing with passion and regret. Funny, after my divorce, the song played to celebrate, now takes me back to sleeplessness and anger. Same song. That is the power of Roger, the swamp, and minor chords.

Instrument-wise, you’ll find he has a lot of tricks, and production quality is top notch, but it is the atmosphere that keeps me hitting the repeat button. I love this mood. Roger’s gift lies somewhere between a swamp and a dobro and a dark Faulkner scene. It is one of my favorite places to be, from a distance, as there’s always a hint of danger. But thankfully, we get to observe and be immersed in this world Roger creates from the comfort of our own home.

What I meant about teaching other artists from the beginning is that if you listen to him, nothing Roger does here or anywhere is extraordinarily hard, his licks aren’t the most dextrous, his instrumentation isn’t blowing you up. Roger is teaching us how to get by. There’s settling for nothing in his sound, but using just about anything. He shows us vivid tapestries made from tambourines. Wild and dark scenes with a dobro. And he’s grasping painful words with a voice. This is not hard to do, but impossible to replicate. To me it says I don’t need much, I just need to feel it, then time it. The timing and emotion of this song are pure Roger Brainard. But, when it is over, it almost feels like he’s saying, “your turn.” Roger has found his swamp, even in a cover song. And the Shadows are there for it. 5 paw paws out of 5. 

Here’s Roger’s Social Media:



Local Artist Spotlight

 Local artist, Anthony Spencer playing at “Our Place.”

Cynthia presents Anthony Spencer in this little video here where he’s gracious enough to play us a song called, “Bible and The Bottle.”

It’s on all streamers and it’s been played on the radio and he’s going to play it tonight. 

Here’s everywhere you can stream his music. 

Sunday, October 16, 2022


Mikey J’s Release Radar 10.14.22 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Things I have learned from “Collaborations” (so far).

Hi, I’m Kelly. I’ve done a lot of collaborating. I have done it all wrong, and gotten a few things right. It is my hope with this that I can save you from some of the wrong roads I’ve been down on. Sometimes it’s very tough to turn around on a road with a heavy load. Sometimes you even have to back up and start over. 

The first thing about Collaborating is discussing terms and money. Now, a lot of indie music folks shy away from this first step. I can tell because of reactions I get when I bring this up first thing. It has been my experience that the terms of release, distribution, and splits need to be determined off the bat. Otherwise, someone could be wasting their time. And we want to avoid that at all costs. 
One of the hard things about collaborating is getting what you want out of the collab. This is why I encourage communicating as best as you can at all times. You may have wanted a guitar solo, and someone spent their whole night on the rhythm, it’s happened. It was my fault, I just said, “electric guitar.” I wasn’t specific. These things can be avoided by clear communication skills. Again, wasting time is the ultimate frustration. We want to avoid that. 

I like knowing what my job is and being called to do it. I don’t like doing things I stink at and trying to convince folks it’s a pro job. I never have been able to do it in the first place, and it’s a very awkward position to be in. If I can’t do something, I say it straight away. I really appreciate when people tell me “no,” too. It means they thought about it and really can’t or don’t want to do it. Chances are they get asked again sometime. But if they say yes and never show, I’m left holding the bag. I don’t bother returning to them. I’ve done this too, and left others holding the bag. Like I said, I have done everything wrong so you don’t have to. 

You’re partners, not friends. Some folks don’t get this. It’s wonderful to be friends, that’s all well in good. But you’re really two people who have had nothing to with each other your entire lives and have come together to build a backyard spaceship, pretty much. Sometimes you will be friends, sometimes you won’t. What matters is the spaceship making orbit. Project failure sucks. Sometimes it is because you don’t talk to friends the same way you have to talk to partners. Avoid that situation at all costs. Or else you are strapping yourself to a firecracker,  not a spaceship. 

No one wants to redo parts except me for some reason. If you anticipate redos, start bringing them up sooner rather than later. Get your partners comfortable with the idea. Don’t just hand them a do over out of the blue as a reception to their hard work. Remember, they probably like audiences too. 

Some folks won’t collab without a contract. This is not a sign to run away, it’s a sign to read a contract. The world runs on contractual negotiations. Remember we’re building a spaceship, might need a contractor or two. That’s all it is. Nothing to worry about. Most contracts I’ve run into protect me as much as them. Just read the damn thing and enjoy working with a professional.

These are some of the things I have learned in collaborating with folks. I hope you got as much a kick out of reading as I did writing it. 

Monday, October 10, 2022

New Logo!

 Thanks to our friend, Chris, for making us a sweet logo!

The Friendly Shadows will change the next few months because we have found some partners who share our vision. We are very excited. Coming soon. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Lurking in the Shadows, Bandcamp favorites

I heard many good songs this week for the Bandcamp Friday mayhem that just passed. Many folks out there have a good sense of humor, some are taking things rather differently, and some are even celebrating Halloween in a very theatrical and musical way. Might we say in the shadows, the way it should be. I’ll waste no time bloviating and postulating significances, there’s too much to cover. However, I do feel like I should give quick impressions. Some of these songs paint very vivid pictures and I don’t feel a music fan or blogger worth his salt if I just leave links with nothing to read next to them. 

I have to start off with Tim Arnold

Tim Arnold is my new favorite. 

Musically we are talking talent. Lyrics were felt. And the feet wanted to dance. I’ll try anything Tim does from now on. Pretty simple, just listen to this one. 

Sofa City Sweethearts  plays you some power pop. They like great lyrics, catchy melodies, good guitars and pop arrangements. What’s not to like?

The Future Us plays classic rock here. Not like classic alternative, we’re talking like Dad’s washing the muscle car getting ready to play in the cover band Friday night classic rock. I swear if this came on any classic rock station across any metro area in the belt, I’d have thought it was some band I grew up with playing a deep track segment. Talent, guitars, rock and roll.

At last we have Helen McCookerybook who teaches how to write a song that is catchy, unique, and insightful. She is able to do all that using very little. Remarkably little. Everything works here. The arrangement is delicious in sparsity in that everything serves a purpose. And what she’s doing isn’t easy, either. Her melodies are full of dramatic dips and dextrous highs. Must buy this record. 

These artists are just a few so far that have submitted. I’m still finding interviews and reviews. Keep those submissions coming. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

It feels like 1959 again. The ground has broken, the stars aligned….

I am not a Jazz musician. I haven’t spent the years studying and improvising. I haven’t paid my dues, so to speak. But I listen to Jazz. I savor it. I actively participate with it in my mind. It keeps me going. So when one of my favorite Jazz musicians comes out with a new record, I get excited. Really excited. And here, it’s fully merited. 

(Full disclaimer, I know Charu Suri. I have performed with her in New York City. Having said that it was her music that drew me to her. This was before “Ragas and Waltzes.”) 

I used to let trucking miles roll forever to albums like this. It almost gave the sensation of floating. Waltzes do that to me. There’s an anti-gravity bounce to a good waltz this is usually visualized by two people dancing in my head. It’s strange a music with no words can make the synapses in my brain go to that, but that’s what happens. Waltzes; two people floaty dancing. It’s inherently intimate in that respect. Always two people, not crowds. Always dancing gracefully, not locked in publicly safe embraces, rocking back and fourth to a very heavy 4/4 time. 

When “Vienna Waltz” comes on, I’m instantly taken to ice skating rinks and cotton candy. To me, this tune is what you’d put on for the soundtrack to quiet, nostalgic fun. Charu wastes no time introducing us to many styles with the subtleties and bravado of her playing. Here, we have a cocktail of classical, blues, and jazz. It comes out on a jazz record, and that’s how it should be. It sets a great tone in so much as it features the great band, which we’ll get to. And, also like all songs on the record, the playing is quietly confident. Haven’t seen Charu play like this before. She’s saying “gather ‘round” instead of “listen.” It’s a welcoming and enticing jazz, not complicated and daunting.

“Verona Waltz” is going to be the next “Ice Cream Truck Standard.” This song is a black and white or sepia pastime of sundries and sunny days. I can hear it playing on a great visit with family and friends. I can also, seriously, hear it in Ice Cream Trucks, commercials, movies, etc. If you happen to be looking for music for a good day scene, look no further. We got catchy, we got short, and we got repeatable.

Let’s come back to “Waltz for my Father.” It’s my blog and I can do what I want. 

I should talk a little bit about arrangements here. Charu’s playing and composition is expert, so she had to get expert players. It’s very hard, as a musician, to play quietly and confidently. On any instrument, we have a tendency to increase in volume, the faster we play. That’s what I mean by quietly and confidently. Charu’s band here makes playing quietly sound effortless and natural. Nothing takes the listener out of a much desired musical trance. This music not only helps me escape, it helps me settle down. I don’t know if it gets more important than that in today’s world. It’s truly a missionary piece, saying, “be calm.” It takes amazing playing to jam on that message quietly. Amazing experience. Amazing teamwork. Featured on this record are some “lightning in a bottle” moments. But they aren’t flashy and in your face, they’re cleverly woven in relaxing tunes by professional musicians. 

There’s two quiet Ragas; “Floating (Raga Kalyani),” and “Nature (Raga Hemant).” Anyone new to Charu’s music is probably slightly delighted and a lot puzzled by Raga Jazz, here’s what I know; these two songs are accessible in melody and tone. They have catchy phrases and beautiful arrangement. They convey intended mood, I’m assuming from the titles in that they nourish appreciating the surroundings and maybe a walk. They are suitable for quiet alone time or quiet dinners. Charu is a teacher, in my opinion. Here, she’s teaching us a little bit about herself. Almost like the first day of class. These songs are quite lovely, and very calm introductions. 

“Farewell Waltz” caps off the listening experience with a violin melody that will have you whistling all day if you are like me. It’s like dessert that never goes away. Ultimately, this tune serves a wonder of a purpose in that it makes me start the whole album experience over again. I think great song placement does that. 

“Waltz for my Father” is my favorite track. I didn’t talk to my dad for about 20 years. We are best friends now. I have adopted this song to show him as a token of my affection. My father loves Randy Newman and New Orleans, he loves travel, he loves diverse cultures and languages and food, he loves excitement. This song makes me think about him. It’s the most selfless act I can think of, turning your grief into a message to appreciate time with people. But Charu does that as gracefully as ever, with just a title and a melody, here. It’s brilliant in its empathy, and movements. And it’s uncanny in its nostalgia. All-time favorite track from Charu on an all-time favorite Jazz record from anyone, right here. It’s more than special, it’s a once in a lifetime moment. 

Besides showing us how to do it, as great teachers like Charu do, they are also adept at showing us how to enjoy it. Everything from the art, to the beautiful mixing, to the arrangements, to the names of the songs all seem to convey a message; “be still.” I’m grateful for messages like this from great teachers. It improves life and conversations. What more could you ask of music?