Music Review: Wes Kirkpatrick – Naps & Nightmares

Hi again!

Discovering new artists is part of what makes my life interesting. And discovering new folk/rock artists like Wes Kirkpatrick with a Colorado connection just adds icing to the cake. I find it amusing however that it was an album he’s released after leaving Colorado that caught my attention.

Though he performed with his brother Ryan and their band The Kirkpatrick Project for several years in Colorado, Wes just released his solo debut – Naps and Nightmares – and evidently it’s true that change can be a good thing sometimes. The album explores the emotional ups and downs of leaving everything behind and starting fresh, but even with a few slower tracks it’s not all doom and gloom.

You can tell he’s been performing for a while and is comfortable with his own styles of voice and guitar. The music effortlessly drifts between blues, folk, and rock while giving it his own spin. It doesn’t hurt that backing him up is a great set of performers – Dustin Christensen (keyboards/melodic kalimba/celeste/backing vocals), Eric Ellsworth (electric guitar), Chris Hepola (drums/percussion/melodica/piano), Josh Granowski (stand-up & electric bass), Ross Nueske (electric bass), Cory Mon (backing vocals/wooden frog), Stephanie Mabey (backing vocals), Chris Becknell (violin), and Mark Smith (cello).

The album starts strong with “Vertigo,” blending some amazing bass lines behind a driving guitar melody. Nothing like the U2 song of the same name, this one talks about the feelings left after loss and the after-effects. Talking about the past and not wanting to let things go… “It’s been 9 years since I called again / now I’m still trying just to stomach it / it’s a long long ride / no end in sight…” The song builds and builds and then fades away like there’s a fight brewing and then they just walk away.

“Away From You” offers a very different feel. Less about loss and more about a romantic notion of love. This one seems like narrating a movie scene about two people on opposite schedules trying to make things work. Each time they’re together they’re learning how to love each other again ending in the same place… “I don’t want to wake up again / away from you…” Hopefully it’s less “two ships passing in the night” and more “coming together” however!

Later in the album you hear “Better Than Today,” about a relationship at the end. It’s time to move on. “I don’t care if you like what I say… / ’cause when I leave, you’re still here / the same old place year after year / I want to see the smiles of different faces / I want to see the stars from different places / and it will do no good to stay / it’ll never be better than today…” That need for change when one person doesn’t want to is tough. And living in the past gets old fast. It’s an emotional goodbye, but goodbye nonetheless.

And “Karma” ends the album with a blues song talking about a cheating woman. It’s a simple blues beat, but damn if it doesn’t work well. I absolutely love the groove, right down to slapping the keys like a wagging finger in the background behind the guitar and drums… “The crying starts and the pleading begins / how could you have done this again? / sure you were just friends…”

If you’re looking for some new music and like your folk blended with rock and blues, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Naps and Nightmares from Wes Kirkpatrick. I’m sorry he’s left Colorado, but our loss is Chicago‘s gain and I’m sure he’ll be back this way again. Check it out at Amazon and iTunes as MP3s. For more details about Wes, the album, and his tour, be sure to check out his website WesKirkpatrick.com!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Review: Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn

Hey there…

There’s nothing like the feeling I get when I discover a new writer. It’s like opening a door to a brave new world. Sometimes I have to admit I don’t like what I find on the other side. But then there are those rare moments when I get there and don’t want to leave. Discord’s Apple from Carrie Vaughn drew me in from the opening chapter and didn’t let me go until I finished the book just a few hours later.

This is the story of Evie Walker, a successful comic book writer from Los Angeles, and her trip home to Hope’s Fort, Colorado, to help her father Frank face his own mortality. It’s also the story of Alex, a stranger who has truly seen it all who is looking for something he can’t seem to find. Together, Evie, Frank, and Alex face new challenges as the mysteries around them deepen and things really hit the fan.

Let me start by saying that, though I love Colorado authors, I’d never read anything by Vaughn. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, which is only a couple of hours away from me in Colorado Springs. And evidently she’s been writing about a werewolf named Kitty for a while now in a series of urban fantasy novels – the latest of which is called Kitty Goes to War. So how have I managed to miss her?

Discord’s Apple was paced amazingly well. From the subtle beginnings of Evie’s drive into the tiny town of Hope’s Fort to the way she slides characters from myth and legend into play alongside the heroes of the comic book Eagle Eye Commandos, the plot builds and beckons the reader ever forward and back from present to past and back again.

But not since reading Dan Simmons‘ books Illium and Olympos, which managed to weave the Trojan War and Greek gods together with a far flung science fiction, have I seen those stories made relevant. Vaugn masterfully tangles the tale of Sinon, the liar who encouraged Troy to open its gates, with a different spin on the Greek gods that grants Sinon the curse of immortality.

Somehow she also manages to mix in the tales of Longinus, Arthur, and the glass slippers of Cinderella while bringing in elements of the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where a nameless government employee stashed the Ark of the Covenant. Add to that a sprinkle of a world where the balance of power has tipped enough to make everyone paranoid…

However, at no time in the novel did I feel that any of these elements was ever out of control. Somehow she tames these tornadoes, each of which has their own Oz attached, and pulls them into a coherent tapestry of plot, character, and story. I don’t know how she did it. I only know that I really enjoyed it and want to know what happens next!

So if you’re looking for a book for summer reading, be sure to add Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn to your list. It’s a fun ride. Now I have to go back and see what all the fuss is about this werewolf named Kitty…

For more information about Vaughn, be sure to check out her website at CarrieVaugn.com and look for her books published by TOR/FORGE!

This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other Carrie Vaughn books below!

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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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