Alexa Wilding recommends Nico

Alexa Wilding and Nico

Alexa Wilding and Nico

Alexa Wilding’s recommendation: “Like most art damaged New York kids, I was exposed to The Velvet Underground and everything Andy Warhol at an early age. I was pretty obsessed with my mom’s well-worn copy of George Plimpton’s Edie, and we would dance around our loft in black tights to Heroin before I even knew what the song was about. While I loved Lou Reed, I really carried a torch for the songs sung by the lady with the weird low voice. So when I was fourteen my mom took me to Film Forum to see the documentary, Nico: Icon and I got to learn everything about her. I was transfixed by the sparse, spooky songs she went on to write with John Cale. Nico, alone and cool at the harmonium, completely changed my idea about what a singer and a song could be. She just did whatever she wanted. The music was pure, chilly, timeless, and it scared the living daylights out of me!”

New to Nico? Alexa suggests you start here: “Nico’s records, Marble Index, Desertshore and End are definitely an acquired taste, but I think they are required listening. While the songs are sad, they are spacious and peaceful, like the sound of a big empty cathedral. Nico’s otherworldly voice soars over instrumentation that is at once futuristic and ancient. Who would have thought that such a stylish icon would go on to become a mystic and write songs that belonged to no place or time? Start with Marble Index and just let yourself go on the trip. I myself have yet to return.”

Alexa Wilding title=About our guest author, Alexa Wilding: Alexa is one of the few artists these days that can back her style with substance. Yes, her career got a huge bump by snagging Ivana Helsinki founder/designer Paola Suhonen to direct her Black Diamond Day video from her self titled debut album (clip below), but music heavy hitters have continued to line up to assist on her upcoming follow up album, Coral Dust. How’s this all-star lineup sound: Tim Foljahn (who worked with Cat Power and Thurston Moore) produces, Television’s Fred Smith mixes and Fred Kevorkian (Regina Spektor) masters. Enough cred for ya? Her style is completely unique, combining a splash of folk and tons of atmospheric wonder. The NY Times calls her “the neo-Stevie Nicks.” We hear that, but labels are sure to to slide off of Alexa. She’s truly unique and her sound will continue to shape-shift. Get hip to everything Alexa at her site http://alexawilding.com/.

Alison Scott recommends Lissie

Alison Scott and Lissie

Alison Scott and Lissie

Alison Scott’s recommendation: “The first time I heard about Lissie I was slated to open for her at The Triple Rock in Minneapolis. Like you do, I did a bunch of research on her and decided ahead of time that she was legit, the real deal. I’m not going to lie, I’m a hard sell. I’m a snob, I’m picky, and I’m proud of it. Lissie has won the hipsters over, but there are a whole lot more people out there who need to hear her. I’m telling everyone I can about her whenever I get the chance.

Being a trained vocalist myself, her voice got my attention right away. She’s got range. When she sings, I believe her. Her voice is so pure and welcoming and most importantly, it doesn’t sound like anyone else. Then on top of that, the songs are really good. You can listen to her with her guitar, and nothing else. No fluffy nonsense, no glitter or effects to cover up an inferior product.”

New to Lissie? Allison suggests you start here: “The night we played together, Lissie wasn’t feeling very well. If you could’ve seen her perform, you never would’ve known. She and her band put on a fantastic show. I bought her EP, Why You Runnin’ and it remained in my car on repeat for weeks. She then released a full length album Catching a Tiger. It has a few songs from her first EP with lots of new songs and a little bit more of an edge. All of her records rock some amazing background vocals and sound really open and airy. You kind of feel like they were recorded down the street in your local church with a bunch of neighborhood folks banging on glass bottles and pots and pans. Totally authentic, totally great.”

Alison Scott title=About our guest author, Alison Scott: The music biz is a wild, wacky place! The story goes that Alison Scott entered a contest on the Twin City radio station KQRS to open for Bon Jovi. The station announced that Scott had won and alerted listeners and Jon Bon Jovi alike. However, a recount showed that Scott didn’t win, but that didn’t stop Jon Bon Jovi from insisting that she play the show anyway. The road to stardom is never a straight path, but you better believe that Minneapolis based Alison Scott is on it. In less dramatic style, Alison has earned opening gigs for Chris Isaak, Marc Cohn, Boz Scaggs, and Nanci Griffith and has won praise from the likes of the UK music mag, Maverick (“…devilishly appealing, sultry and sexy”) and local papers such as the MN StarTribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press. This woman is all voice and style and effortlessly fuses Dusty Springfield soulful delivery with a Carole Kingish personal writing style. Her latest album is a wonderful collection of covers, appropriately titled Hiding Under the Covers Vo1. 2 and she is set to bless the Minnesota region with a bunch of upcoming tour dates. Be sure to visit the Alison Scott web site for the latest info.

Kevin Bowe recommends The Replacements

Kevin Bowe and The Replacements

Kevin Bowe and The Replacements

Kevin Bowe’s recommendation: “If you held a gun to my head and made me name just ONE band or artist that has influenced the way I hear, play, record and write music I would have to say The Replacements. If you listen to my stuff, this would come as no surprise! I wear my love of their music on my sleeve.

I was lucky enough to get in on their stuff right from the beginning and they caught me at just the right time; I was 19, it was 1980 and since corporate rock had taken over the radio since about 1976 or so, I was feeling very disenfranchised from music in general. Also, I had just quit smoking pot so a lot of the bands I had been listening to just didn’t sound as good to me any more. When I saw these guys play, it was not exactly a breath of fresh air, more like sucking on a big belch from a dirty diesel burning train. I knew they weren’t the “best” band in the world but I also knew they were my favorite band in the world. Still are probably.

Kevin Bowe with Paul Westerberg

Kevin Bowe with Paul Westerberg

Not unlike pizza or sex, when they were good, they were VERY, VERY good and even when they were bad they were kinda good. After being subjected to years of slick corporate rock that was always perfect, this band was SUCH A FUCKING RELIEF!!!! Why did I like them so much? First is because of Paul Westerberg’s songwriting. He was the first American punk rock (or whatever you wanna call it) guy to instill classic songwriting values a la Hank Williams Sr. or Bob Dylan into this trashy style of music. Most early punk was more based on style than songwriting and he was the one to open my eyes into that world of great songwriting. Second was his voice – a mixture of sweet and sour that I just found instantly familiar and believable. So it was a combination of his stories and the voice he told them in. Third was the dynamic of the whole band, each one so idiosyncratic, kind of like The Who, Zeppelin or The Band, they were each so weird and unique that they were (ironically) irreplaceable. Even without the original members, Paul’s stuff was compelling enough to keep me riveted but the original line up did have a thing to it that will never be replicated.”

New to The Replacements? Kevin suggests you start here: “If a Martian came down here to earth and asked me “what’s all this about The Replacements?” I would probably say that Mr. Spaceman should listen to Pleased To Meet Me. Many people have very strong opinions on what record was the best and I truly love them all, every single one, but it’s pretty hard to beat songs like Alex Chilton and IOU. I was lucky enough to tour with Paul as his guitarist and I think and I pretty much lost my mind every time we would light into one of those songs. They really haven’t lost any of their meaning or feeling to me over the years.”

Kevin BoweAbout our guest author, Kevin Bowe: If you’re not hip to Kevin Bowe, now is the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon. Kevin started playing in local Minneapolis punk and rock bands in the ’80s, but he really found his niche as a songwriter, penning hits with and for Etta James (who loved his writing so much, she cooed, “These songs are so bad, you bring it on back home like the Rolling Stones. Are you a white boy?” Full story on Minnpost.com), Jonny Lang, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Richie Sambora, Three Dog Night and Delbert McClinton. In 2005, he landed the gig of his dreams backing Paul Westerberg on his US tour. Bowe also fronts The Okemah Prophets, which has released two records that snagged plenty of critical praise. Here in 2012, Bowe and the band gift us with Natchez Trace, Bowe’s first full-length offering of new material in over 10 years. On the collection, Kevin hosts an all-star party in the form of collaborations with the best-of-the-best in the biz, including a co-written song with Paul Westerberg himself (Everybody Lies, below, which also features a scorching guitar solo from Wilco’s guitar maestro, Nels Cline) and various contributions from the Jayhawks’ Tim O’Reagan, Freedy Johnston, Chuck Prophet and Scarlet Rivera (Dylan’s violin player, Rolling Thunder Revue era). The album is the perfect entry point for new listeners, so jump over to http://kevinbowe.com/, pick up the record and be sure to check his upcoming gigs while you’re there.

Adam Levy recommends Sam Phillips

Adam Levy and Sam Phillips

Adam Levy and Sam Phillips

Adam Levy’s recommendation: “One artist who moves me consistently is Sam Phillips. Her songs are smartly written, yet she always keeps them from sounding fussy or fussed over. Her melodies get stuck in my head and I never mind them sticking there. Some of her lyrics race along with the pace of taut short stories (imagine Tobias Wolff as a singer/songwriter), while others are more dreamlike. She’s a strummer — not a fingerpicker — and I love the way her guitar lopes and swaggers through her songs.”

New to Sam Phillips? Adam suggests you start here: My favorite Sam record is A Boot & A Shoe. Song for song, I think it’s her most consistent batch, and the production is seductively gritty. My other fave is Fan Dance — released a few years prior to A Boot and a Shoe To me, these two feel like companions. (I’ve no idea if Phillips thinks of them that way.) Both records were produced by T-Bone Burnett, and the cast of session players is similar — including drummer Carla Azar and guitarist Marc Ribot.

MP3: I Don’t Know Why by Sam Phillips

Adam LevyAbout our guest author, Adam Levy: We at Rocktorch.com recently found out about Adam Levy on a WFUV segment and we really liked what we heard: skillful guitar work perfectly laid under intimate, well crafted lyrics. We dug around the Web for his bio info and found out that his grandfather wrote “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and the theme from the TV series Gilligan’s Island (how cool is that?!) and that he has backed the likes of Norah Jones, Ani DiFranco and Tracey Chapman. But the interesting thing is that there is not a ton of bio info on his own site. Instead the music and reviews of his work speaks for itself. Of his most recent record, The Heart Collector, No Depression says, “A great album overflowing with warm and soulful songs that enchant the ears and captivate the heart,” and Minor 7th writes, “It’s his guitar virtuosity, melancholy melodies, vocals — multiple musical personalities — that will surely mesmerize you.” Levy gets a lot of jazz coverage, but there is definite crossover potential here; we see him as a gifted singer-songwriter. Be sure to check http://www.adamlevy.com to check Adam’s concert schedule, join his mailing list and more.