Sonny Hess and Lisa Mann at Grand Lodge

Sonny “Smokin'” Hess has been playing guitar since the age of 8 and it wasn’t long after she started gigging. These days, she plays mostly as a trio with a drummer and bass. Lisa Mann is an award-winning bass guitarist originally from West Virginia who comes armed with several vocal styles.

I’ve been to several of their shows over the years and even though they have been gigging together for almost 20 years, this week was my first chance to see them share a stage. I was not disappointed. They got their Blues on, and shelled it out like crazy. If you missed it, don’t fret. (Pun intended.) They currently own the 4th Wednesday slot at McMenamin’s Grand Lodge in Forest Grove.

Groovy Wallpaper at Grand Lodge

A subset of the Will West band is Groovy Wallpaper. This duo describes themselves as “the deep juggernaut of thunder that is Don Henson (Typewriter, glockenspeil, xylophone, djembe, various iphone apps) and the looping mastery of Skip vonKuske (cello, guitar, mandolin, iphone, and loopstation)”. During their show last night at McMenamin’s Grand Lodge, they played everything from Bach to Hendrix, plus some engaging, original groove-pieces. If you’re looking for a show that lacks predictability (not even *they* know what’s going to happen!) then get out and see these guys. They are on the McMenamin’s train, with frequent stops at Edgefield Winery.

Rebecca McDade at Primrose and Tumbleweeds

From her bio, we learn this about Rebecca McDade: This twenty-one year old Scottish singer-songwriter has been making music on both sides of the Atlantic for as long as anyone who knows her can remember. Her childhood was spent jumping back and forward between Scotland, Ireland, and Oregon, and with music always as a constant, this young musician has been able to craft songs which reflect all the corners of the globe where she has called home.

She was kind enough to swing by Primrose and Tumbleweeds over the weekend with her guitar. I enjoyed as she took the time to talk about the origins of the songs she played, including those she didn’t write. In addition to be a gifted songwriter and talented musician, she has a wonderful sense of humor. I manager to capture a little of that, along with some music, in this video (shot in a very dark room!). Enjoy!

 

Joel Swensen – Changes, Transitions, and the Responsibility of an Artist

Joel Swensen says, “I like the way words sound…” He uses words to paint a scene or a picture for the listener. The intent is not literal, but Swensen’s songs come from a place of deep emotion and allow his audience to get lost in the entire experience rather than a particular phrase or poetic structure. Using descriptive visuals and referencing specific people in his life, he invites us to feel, rather than listen to the music.

Swensen states that he is most often connected to his writing by the heaviness of darkness, pain, and empathy. He stands out as an artist because his music reflects not only his feelings, but the needs, challenges and fears of the people in his life. We were honored to have him play live in the Portland Notes Studio, sharing the stories of the friends who inspire him. Listening to him speak, we can see that Swensen’s tone is brightening.

From a song that discusses death and hot anger to a tune called “Moonbeam Kitties”, Joel Swensen is exploring his responsibility as an artist. Understanding that ,in this current climate, we might need encouragement, he has been carefully considering his live show song selections to be on the lighter side. Swensen is not necessarily feeling more positive about the world – he is just feeling like he needs to identify and propose some alternatives to simply giving up.

Please enjoy these live recordings, and the interview with Joel Swensen. He’s also looking forward to a show to introduce some of these new songs. He’ll be playing February 26 at the White Eagle Saloon with House of Angels at their album release show. Until the show, you can take a listen to Joel Swensen at http://joel-swensen.com

Death By Thumb – Students who Rock!

The band name brings to mind an epic cage fight, where two steroid-enhanced caped and masked wrestlers shove their way into a small metal box, locking their meaty fingers together before gritting their teeth and having an epic thumb war! However, the band is not about hand violence, or any such silliness…they play real rock and roll music, they have a dedicated fan base and they are all under 18 years old! Death By Thumb specializes in playing the songs you love to hear, covering rock classics with energy, and sharing their excitement and gratitude for the music that guides their lives.

The band formed from relationships created at Ethos Music Center, where front person Cada has repeatedly displayed her courage and willingness to step up and represent the band. It’s been a journey for her to adjust to playing with a band that was already established before she joined. As the band grows, the members are all learning how to communicate. Henry, Mike, Rick and Adrien shared how they have all grown with the addition of Cada as the game-changer. They are now beginning to write original music, with a solid base of classical musical training and a genuine love of a wide range of music.

Death By Thumb has been a fantastic group of ambassadors for Ethos Music Center, often headlining fundraiser events, and always speaking about their thankfulness for being offered the opportunity to make music together. You can catch them at an all ages youth showcase this weekend at the White Eagle Saloon, as well as at the Mogo Music Festival – where they’ll be featured on March 4, along with Boxing Day Band and Niamh.

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