Music Review: Fifty Miles to Chicago – Andrew Ripp

Hi there!

You know those moments where you listen to a song and immediately start to get chills down your spine? That’s my cue that an artist or a particular song resonates somewhere deep within me. Andrew Ripp‘s song “Dresden Wine” gave me chills. And based on the video of him playing the song live in the studio, I was introduced to his souful, unique voice and led by the nose to the rest of his album…

Fifty Miles to Chicago has an honest spirit about it that’s hard to describe. Ripp is a storyteller. And like all great storytellers, he focuses on relationships. Some romantic, some friendly, and some about the relationship with yourself, which is often the hardest one to keep.

The music on this album moves from rock to rock ballad and back again with little effort. And Ripp seems as comfortable at the piano as he is with a guitar, which proes he’s got some serious music chops.

“This record really portrays who I am not only as an artist but as a person,” says Ripp of writing the album. “Honesty goes a long way because you can see right through it when somebody is slopping words on a page. And I feel like we took the time that was necessary to really work through every word.”

Ripp worked with songwriter Randy Coleman and recevied help from bass player Randy Coleman (formerly a member of Tonic) as producer. But this is all Ripp. He funded the album himself and recorded it in Lavery’s home studio in Los Angeles. He definitely was a part of every step of the production and you can hear that in the album. Ripp brought in Pete Maloney (Dishwala, Tonic), Will Hollis (Eagles’ keyboard player), and steel guitar player Eric Heywood (Ray LaMontagne). This crew can play.

As I mentioned at the beginning, my favorite song on the album is definitely “Dresden Wine”, but I’m a sucker for powerful piano-driven ballads.

But that’s far from my only favorite on Fifty Miles to Chicago. It opens with a groove that made it difficult not to get up and dance. “Get Your Smile On” has almost a Jason Mraz-feel to it with the rhythmic cadence of the lyrics along with the guitar and drums. He doesn’t stop there though, instead building into a more organic fusion of rock riffs that spill back into the lyrical flow…

“Miracle of You” feels almost like a collaboration between Sting and Jason Mraz. The music has a sweet Caribbean beat and light guitar that blends seamlessly with his unique voice and some great harmonies in places.

And “But You Saved My Life” has a sweet acoustic riff that leads into a blues/rock riff reminiscent of the classics from the 70s, right down to the organ and the groovy back-beats.

Ripp has an amazing sound on Fifty Miles to ChicagoL that will be tough to top. He’s been playing with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Fiction Family (Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek), Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, and others.

And as if touring and working on the album didn’t keep him busy, he recently did an overseas tour playing for the troops and spends time volunteering for a group called the Art of Elysium, who uses time donated by artists (musicians, actors, and so on) to spend time with kids in hospitals to give them a boost.

If you like great rock music, Andrew Ripp should be in your collection. Be sure to check him out and pick up a copy of Fifty Miles to Chicago.

–Fitz

p.s. Look for Fifty Miles to Chicago at your local movie store or online.

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Music Review: Here and Now by Taxi Doll

Hey there…

Every so often I find some new artist (or artist new to me) who happens to infect me with a guitar-synth-pop (though they call it “rocktronica”) groove. Taxi Doll not only did that but has embedded itself deep in my psyche with their album Here and Now. I just can’t get “Strange Rush” out of my mind…

As someone who grew up in an age of Depeche Mode, Erasure, and Cause & Effect, I have a soft spot for synth-pop, whether it’s dark and moody like ‘Peche, cheerful and upbeat like Erasure, or a mixture of the two like Cause & Effect. Now I have to add a fourth group to that list – Taxi Doll. And unlike the other three, Taxi Doll is fronted by a female — like Blondie, No Doubt, and Garbage. They have bridged that gap and somehow created something new, fun, and funky.

From the opening strains of “Come to Me” with its infectious dance beat to the syncronous smooth of “Strange Rush”, Taxi Doll runs the gamut. For a new group, I found the tracks extremely well engineered. All too often new groups fall into the trap of what I call “playing with the knobs and buttons” in the studio. Taxi Doll sounds like they worked out any kinks with their sound long before the album was recorded, tinkering to get things just right for their fans and the world to fall in love with.

It’s obvious as you listen to the album that they produced it so that it ebbs and flows between dance-heavy tunes and slower tunes, and back again. I respect any band that can do that on an album (I think that the art of assembling an album is rapidly disappearing in an age where people can download individual tracks on a whim). And to find a relatively new band that has that kind of maturity is amazing.

So if this Los Angeles-based band has been creating their own brand of music since 2004 and why haven’t I heard of them before?

Back in 2004, Dhana (vocals) and Gregg “G-Dub” Allen (production/keyboards) met through a mutual friend, Joy (artist/producer of D:fuse & Perfecto). Dhana then met Jason Graham (drums) when he toured with the Supreme Beings of Leisure. And then Matt Emmer (guitar) and Brian Hendrix (bass) had met previously but were recruited separately. Kismet? Fate? Whatever it was, it started a fusion of styles and music to create Taxi Doll’s unique sound.

As they gained momentum, they gained notice of fans and labels alike. Universal got on board as their single “Waiting” climbed to #3 on billboard’s Hot Dance Airplay Charts and #1 in Music Week (Europe). Their new single “Be With You” reached the top 10 on the Billboard Dance Club chart and was #5 on the UK pop charts. Obviously the world was taken with Dhana’s sweet vocals merged with guitar grooves.

Television and movie music moguls aren’t deaf to their sound either. You may have heard some of their music on television in such shows as The Hills, Laguna Beach, and Veronica Mars or in movies like John Tucker Must Die and Firewall. I expect that since their album Here and Now‘s release in February that dance clubs across the world are going to be hearing much more of Taxi Doll in the future.

If you like bands like Goldfrapp, Depeche Mode, Republica, and Garbage, you should definitely give Taxi Doll a listen. While you do that, I’m going to go back to listening to “Strange Rush” again…

–Fitz

p.s. They seem to be out of stock at Amazon at the moment, but be sure to check them out here.

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Farewell Kim Manners: May you find the Supernatural beyond.

Hey all…

Sad news to report for all you Supernatural fans.

Dean's 1967 Chevrolet Impala features heavily ...
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Supernatural executive producer and director Kim Manners lost his fight to cancer Sunday night in Los Angeles.

A statement from Eric Kripke, fellow Supernatural creator and executive producer:

Everyone at ‘Supernatural’ is walking around in a daze, shocked and absolutely devastated.  Kim was a brilliant director; more than that, he was a mentor and friend.  He was one of the patriarchs of the family, and we miss him desperately.  He gave so much to ‘Supernatural,’ and everything we do on the show, now and forever, is in memory of him.”

This is a huge blow to television fans everywhere. He was also involved in the X-Files as an executive producer and director — directing 50 episodes of the X-Files before the series bowed.

Kim, you’ll be missed. I hope you find the choir of angels waiting and not the war of heaven and hell shown in Supernatural!

–Fitz

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