American Idol has been weird in Season 9

Hey all…

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As I sit here watching the broadcast of American Idol where they send home one of the 11 contestants left, I have to reflect a bit on the weirdness for me this season.

Live music is strange on TV. Even though I know it’s not really live by the time we see it in Colorado (I’m actually in California on a business trip now and it’s not live here either), it’s live enough you get to see the flaws and strengths of these young folks (some 20+ years my junior). And though I like them all as people, it’s been extremely hit and miss. You expect that. It’s part of the process. It’s a trial by fire.

But some of the acts they’ve had perform in the results shows have not been my favorites and really haven’t sounded all that great. I know it’s a shock that a 39 year old married guy with two kids isn’t a Miley Cyrus, or Joe Jonas fan… [gasp]

I just don’t get the direction this season has gone. Paige has left the building. Tim Urban and Katie Stevens seem like nice folks, but neither has blown me away in recent weeks. Even Andrew Garcia has managed to underwhelm me.

I really do like Michael Lynche, Casey James, and Crystal Bowersox. Crystal is the clear favorite to win according to a quick poll at my house. There’s just something about her that rocks. Casey plays a mean blues guitar and I want to hear more. And I don’t think Big Mike has to worry about singing for his supper any time soon – he’s got a career coming. But I think Crystal will win it all.

Next week’s mentor is Usher… Should be another interesting week for song choices.

Anyway… Any thoughts? Predictions? Gripes?

–Fitz

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Music Review: Melancholy Waltz – Richie Lawrence

Hi all…

Tickling the ivories. Slapping the keys. Playing the piano. Modern pianos have 88 keys covering seven octaves and three pedals. And though I myself never learned to play well, some of my fondest memories are of my mother sitting before our old upright piano whiling away the minutes into hours as she’d stretch chord and note to chord again… Even now, nothing quite can match the expressiveness of a well-played piano.

Enter Richie Lawrence and his family’s 1917 Model AIII Steinway Grand Piano. On his latest release, Melancholy Waltz, he proves my point with twelve amazing piano and accordion instrumentals and songs. And though his Americana-themed lyrics and vocals weren’t my favorite tracks on the CD, there’s something powerful and joyful about his piano compositions that’s hard to explain. Melancholy Waltz cuts across a majority of his influences – from Americana, blues, and folk – while showing off his talents as not only a performer, but a composer and songwriter.

Lawrence was born in Oklahoma, but lived in Colorado for a time and now calls California home. He’s played everything from blues to Polka and along the way met a literal Who’s Who of famous musicians – Bonnie Raitt, Steve Goodman, Crystal Gayle, America, and George Thorogood as well as the Neville Brothers, David Lindley, Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Little Richard, David Byrne, and more.

Of all the tunes on the album, my favorite is the “Bee’s Blues”, which weaves the classic melody of “Für Elise” with a series of lively ragtime blues riffs that I can listen to over and over again. The joy as Lawrence plays with these melodies comes through loud and clear.

In contrast with the blues, the soft and steady strains of “The Melancholy Waltz” brings to mind a couple dancing through time and space. This is a piano composition I would hope that dance choreographers, television and movie producers take note of for their own shows. It’s impossible for me not to see the waltzing couple as I listen to this gorgeous melody, which ends in a happier place than it begins with a more upbeat/ragtime feel.

And lastly, I’ll talk about “My Oklahoma Hills,” which shows his love for where he was born. He explains in the lyrics that “I left my home behind me / My dreams do travel there still / Through prairie ocean grasses / My Oklahoma hills…” This is for Lawrence what “Country Roads” was for John Denver – a call home through song.

Richie Lawrence’s three decades of experience playing music professionally truly come through in this great album. If you have a love for original piano compositions as I do, be sure to pick up Melancholy Hills. Check out his website – www.richielawrence.com – for more information about the man and his music.

–Fitz

p.s. Look for this and other great albums at Amazon!

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Going in circles…

Hey all…

This week and next, the posts will be slow in coming I’m afraid. Preparation for a conference in California next week is sucking up all of my time. So I apologize.

Courtesy of Clipart.com
Courtesy of Clipart.com

However… I hope you’ll dive into the archives and see if you find something cool.

I’d be very interested to hear what people think is my best article to date. Leave me a comment and share your views.

But for now, I’m running in circles as fast as I can… Getting nowhere fast, but dang I’m making good time!

–Fitz