All posts by Kelly Jones

Luminous Heart – Musical Friends you’ll want to meet!

The snow has put a lovely glow on the city, but it has impeded many a personal appointment lately! Thanks to Jamie Corff and Val Blaha for being willing to do a remote interview to introduce us to the new duo Luminous Heart.and their debut album Possibility. You can catch Luminous Heart at the Next Local Roots live series show this coming Wednesday, January 11. I am loving how they answered these questions together. This duo is a solid pair of friends with a heart for connecting to the audience.

PN: How did you two meet?

Jamie: I signed up to take guitar lessons from Val. Eventually, as I became more comfortable with the guitar, I co-founded a different duo, Awaken Jane, and I began to bring the songs that we wrote or were working on to Val for my lessons. She apparently liked them and one day she asked if we wanted a bass player, as she wanted to have more opportunity to play bass. I was kind of a Val fan-girl at the time, and jumped at the chance to make music with her. It was fun, but before we got a chance to really get out there as a band, our friend had to drop out due to family commitments. So after awhile, we morphed into Luminous Heart.

Val: I was really impressed by Jamie as a student… she was a natural, and also just a great person to spend time with!

PN: You are both lifetime musicians – when do you first remember knowing this is what you would want to do?

Jamie: My dad was a musician. He played rhythm guitar and sang in several different hair metal bands when I was growing up. I loved watching them practice. I only got to see him perform every once in awhile because he usually played in bars. He was a very entertaining performer and I idolized him. Though performing made me nervous for a long time, I always wanted to be just like him.

Val: I’ve wanted to sing as long as I could remember. I was an only child, and would spend hours in my room singing along with records from at least 8 years old. And I performed as a classical pianist from a very young age. But it took until I was in my 30s before I really found my voice and my confidence to stand up and sing on a regular basis. And now that I’ve been writing songs for about 10 years, it’s my favorite thing to do… each new song feels like a new child!

PN: What’s the first song that connected with you as a child?

Jamie: My sister and I were obsessed with the album “Brigade” by Heart. We would parade around in our room and lip sync to every song.

Val: Probably “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar. Also, the entire Grease soundtrack.

Jamie: oh yeah! The Grease soundtrack, of course!!!

PN: What’s the first album you bought, or the first show you stood in line for?

Jamie: It’s too embarrassing to answer the first question, but the first concert I stood in line for was Staind, the summer of 2001 at the Salt Lake City Palace. I was 18 years old. I grew up in rural Wyoming, so I didn’t have many opportunities to go to concerts until after I graduated high school. Being there gave me an incredible sense of freedom…even though I felt like I was going to pass out from being in the middle of a huge, hot, sweaty pit!

Val: I grew up near Los Angeles, and my dad would take me to shows, or drop me off with friends. I remember being ridiculously excited to see Duran Duran in 1983 or so.

PN: Did your families expose you to music, lessons, etc?

Jamie: Both of my parents were into music. I never got any formal training, but I played flute in symphonic, concert and jazz bands, as well as sang in many choirs in school.

Val: I started piano lessons when I was 6, and was playing Mozart sonatas by age 11. I performed a lot as a child, although to tell the truth, I resented it somewhat. I had to get up early every morning and practice an hour before school started. And I missed out on some activities with my friends (like Outdoor School) because I had performances. Now I’m glad I put in all that time though! My dad also exposed me to a lot of 50’s music… he’d quiz me on recognition of singers like Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, etc.

PN: You seem very community oriented and purposeful in your writing – what, if any, is the message of your latest album?

Jamie: I think it’s safe to say that we’re very community oriented in our individual lives, and we both have many causes that we are devoted to and that have shaped us. “Possibility” has messages of hope, renewal, and recognition of the undeniable cycles of life.

Val: Yes, and also a message of hope and independence for women… not being bound to gender or societal roles. The lyrics for the title song were inspired by a wonderful children’s book called “Rooftoppers” by Katherine Rundell.

PN: You also seem to have a really devoted fan base – it’s not just the music – you seem very accessible as a duo, and you seem like actual friends – is that true? Would you be friends if you didn’t play together?

Jamie: We are dear friends, indeed. I’m super grateful for Val’s friendship and love making music with her. Even if we weren’t a duo, I’m certain we would be friends, because we have a lot of the same ideals and philosophies, and we run in the same circles in Yamhill County. However, I don’t think we’d be as good of friends as we are. There is something special about creating music with someone; it bonds you together in a very deep way.

Val: Aw! I’m so grateful also for Jamie’s friendship. This is my first time being in a musical collaboration with another woman (apart from my brief time with Awaken Jane), and I absolutely love it and adore working with Jamie in particular! We get along wonderfully, and when we’re working we are able to communicate very well, which is so important if you’re going to progress and move in the same direction musically.

It’s also nice to be making music in Yamhill county… we both feel very connected to so many people here, and we’re very thankful for the support that our friends and fans have given us.

PN: What are your goals in the next few years?

Jamie: We want to continue improving our performances. We want to bring more instruments into our songs and find different ways to be compelling for our audiences. We also want to write and record more music, and continue to play shows. Maybe it’s not that specific, but we are trying to keep ourselves open to opportunities. Who knows what may come?

Val: Writing more music (especially together!) and reaching a wider audience. It would be great to start playing some festivals as well. We’re definitely hoping to play new venues, both in Portland and beyond, around the northwest and California. We think our music is especially well-suited for house concerts, given the emphasis on the lyrics, so in the near term, we’d love to start doing more of those. We’d also love to get some of our songs into movies or tv, so we hope to make connections that help with that, and raise funds to do some more recording.

Jamie: Yep, Val sums it all up perfectly!

Now that you’ve gotten inside the hearts and minds of these creative women, check out their music at CD Baby, ReverbNation, Bandcamp or on their website. Corff and Blaha do a terrific job keeping current with their social media and gig updates as well. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and get current news about their activities on their website. To see them live, check out the gig schedule. I’m so excited to see them play next week, January 11, at Alberta Street Pub with the Local Roots Live Series. Hope to see you there too!

John Craigie’s No Rain, No Rose to be released January 27!!!

John Craigie’s new album No Rain, No Rose will be released January 27, 2017, but Portlanders got a very special treat on December 15 when he performed the new tunes in a once-in-a-lifetime concert at the Doug Fir Lounge with a bevy of local legends who were collaborators on the album. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and the advance vinyl was available for one night only. The show sold out, of course – a statement about how locals value local music done with love. No Rain, No Rose was conceived, written and recorded in Portland – a first and joyful experience for Craigie, who tends to roam continually, intentionally, and always find his way back here. Craigie and his family of musicians wanted to offer the album to our city first, and with great impact – out of gratitude and love for our supportive and inspiring community.

Photo by Maria Davey

The new album features such local power players such as Gregory Alan Isakov, Tyler Thompson and Jay Cobb Anderson from Fruition, Kat Fountain, The Shook Twins, Bevin Foley from Trout Steak Revival, Brad Parsons, Niko Daoussis, Justin Landis, Bart Budwig and John Nuhn. Craigie’s excellent partnerships have resulted in a decadent presentation of folk music, where every musical phrase complements the rest. Lyrically, Craigie’s message resonates and communicates universally. I had a chance to speak with him about his inspiration for writing, and what it feels like to be such a purposeful wanderer, sharing music with the world.

Photo by Maria Davey

Laughter is the best medicine – we all know that. Psychology Today tells us that music soothes the soul Craigie has combined these two elements in his live performance and recorded music for over a decade – practicing his medicine and sharing encouragement with audiences. His goal, with every step, is to connect with the audience and break down walls. He says that the purpose of music is not necessarily to heal, but to allow folks to feel community – to realize they are not alone in their struggles. It’s therapy for the musician as well. Realizing this early on has created a sense of responsibility for Craigie. Based on his experiences and the goal of sharing, Craigie has masterfully incorporated levity into his performance.

Photo by Maria Davey

After only a few moments of speaking with Craigie, I had to ask…”John, were you ever voted Class Clown?” Not surprisingly, he had won the title in eighth grade – feeling very proud of the award. He quickly followed up by saying he lost to a “funnier fellow” in high school Craigie still remembers his name…this was perhaps the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard from a musician. With an uncanny mastery of lyrics and melody, and an ear for heavenly harmonies that are more than enough to capture the listener’s heart – he still wants more than anything for them to smile and feel comfortable. Rather than “creating a fan base”, Craigie travels around touching hearts and making friends. I’m grateful to be one!

You can get your hands on the album this coming January 27. Until then, check out Craigie’s music on his website. Craigie has always been a traveller, wanting to see the world even as a child. His home is the road, so you will be able to catch him on tour starting January 12 – dates and locations are on the website as well.

HOLIDAY HOEDOWN TO FIGHT HUNGER – BENEFIT CONCERT SATURDAY 12/17/2016

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With a heart for Portland and for every person living here, a trio of community-loving Country bands have joined forces to raise awareness about a basic need in our area and to support the Oregon Food Bank. The Fixin’ To hosts local favorites Jenny Don’t and the Spurs as the headlining band, along with The Stubborn Lovers and The Waysiders. Jenny Taylor from The Stubborn Lovers joined me at the dinner table to chat about this unique event, which was conceived out of a genuine desire to feed both the body and spirit. You can catch this benefit concert December 17 in the new St. Johns venue. Holiday Hoedown to Fight Hunger – say it out loud! It’s a clever mouthful, and you cannot help but smile at the images that come to mind.

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Waysiders

Three female fronted bands come together to represent a variety of interpretations of country music. The Waysiders open with some old school harmonies with Western swing and Cajun influences. The Stubborn Lovers are a true country rock band with their roots based in 70’s country, heartland style! Jenny Don’t and the Spurs represent western vintage, from head to toe. This intentional diversity reflects the heart of the organizers – though very different as individuals, we all come from common origins as humans, and we all have the same core needs. The hope is to do more than raise funds for the Oregon Food Bank. The ultimate dream is to unite all of us to recognize and value our entire community.

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Stubborn Lovers

Taylor and her band are active with more than one non-profit organization in our community, primarily trying to support groups that focus on equality. In March, The Stubborn Lovers partnered with Basic Rights Oregon, to write a song for them called “Love Wins”. Community involvement and the fight for all human rights are the heartbeat of The Stubborn Lovers. For this event, Taylor and her concert mates chose the Oregon Food Bank because…when you get down to it, hunger affects people at the most core level. We all can relate to the pain and hopelessness of hunger, even if we have not personally experienced it.

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Jenny Don’t and The Spurs

I think most of us can also relate to the nurturing and fulfilling power of music. The Holiday Hoedown to Fight Hunger will be a joyful event, allowing us both to celebrate and to give assistance to an organization dedicated to helping the needy in our community. The concert is Saturday, December 17, at The Fixin’ To on Lombard in St. Johns. $10, or $7 with a non-perishable food donation. For a list of the most-needed items, check out the Oregon Food Bank website.

Whim Grace presents: Black Holes and Unicorns – Anything is possible!

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With her seven year Portland anniversary coming up, Whim Grace officially releases her new album “Black Holes and Unicorns” on Halloween, a night where anything is possible! Once you listen, you will want to see this band rock it live on November 3 with friends Willow House at The LaurelThirst Public House, a historic venue for Grace and her band.

whim-grace-anything-is-possible-01At her pre-release show this past September at Secret Society and during the shoot of her album art video, Grace tangibly experienced the depth of love and support she has in this community. Extended family has proven to be so close and supportive. Her band has become as close as her family. Everywhere she looks, Grace finds herself surrounded by people who believe in her. It’s not coincidence -she believes in extending positive energy into the community. Of course it is returned – that’s the undeniable joy within our local music scene!

whim-grace-anything-is-possible-02This is Grace’s fifth album. Black Holes and Unicorns is the full realization of her vision, with all the details and embellishments she’s been wanting to bring out since the start of her creative process. The ideas behind her music have always been clear and well-presented, but the new quality of production has really taken her presentation to an absolutely stunning level! The story of her fund-raising for the album production is inspiring to me – this woman has fans who put their money where their ears are!

whim-grace-anything-is-possible-03Whim Grace fans know that their investment means something! Trying to be realistic and to ask for just what she thought she needed, Grace initiated a Kickstarter campaign asking for $1000.. By the end of week 1, she had been pledged $5000 – by the end of the campaign, over $8000 was pledged by local friends, international followers and die-hard fans from everywhere! This allowed her to take the time she needed to record in a professional studio with other musicians, and eventually led to her finding her current band mates. I am looking forward to chatting with the whole band, but I felt inspired to share the release of this impressive project.

Catch the music starting on Halloween! Check it out on whimgrace.bandcamp.com, and give her a like on Facebook. The release show with Willow House is Nov 3 at Laurelthirst 9:30 each Whim Grace band member plans to contribute one of their own original songs as well. A unique band, a unique album, and more than one unique perspective in the music!

Castletown – The AmeriCeltic Tradition

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A band so unique – they’re in a genre all their own! Castletown has appropriately coined the term “AmeriCeltic” – and that is exactly who they are. A band who combines classical skill with the ancient Celtic folk tradition of gifted storytelling…then takes their American rock and roll roots and creates a sound that is fresh, exciting, and completely danceable. The music creates an atmosphere of celebration and community – no wonder audiences all over the Northwest are asking Castletown back again and again!

castletown-at-portland-notes-2016-10-27-04I was so grateful to be able to meet the entire Castletown group right as they began to prepare to pack for their “Reelin’ Down the Coast” Tour.. Having just come back from gigs in Seattle and Tacoma, the band was moved and encouraged by the audience responses they had received – it looks like Celtic joy is spreading from their voices and hands to our hearts and minds! This band is all about relationships – within the band, with their audiences, the venues, and with the history of the stories they are portraying through songs.

castletown-at-portland-notes-2016-10-27-02I loved this audio interview – you can hear how much these band mates enjoy each other’s company. You can also tell how well they work together – politely recognizing who is the appropriate member to answer a question, and giving credit to each other where it is due. Each player is a vital part of the group, and also active in other ways within the Portland music community. Robert Richter plays guitar and sings, but he also professionally manages the band and is an active supporter and promoter of all local music. Fiddle player and vocalist Katie Lubiens is a violin instructor extraordinaire at Kennedy Violins . Bass player Willi Jaam and drummer Casey McBride have another amazing project of their own, an instrumental duo of epic precision – check out their band Anchors of Ascension.

castletown-at-portland-notes-2016-10-27-03This AmeriCeltic music is impossible to describe with mere words – there are elements of emotion and movement deeply embedded in the composition, brought to life with the instruments and vocals. I highly recommend seeing them live, as the visual aspects of their performance speak so strongly to the core and origins of the Celtic tradition. The lovely red-haired Katie Lubiens choreographs her fiddle playing and dancing, and has drastically evolved the band with her classical improvisation – two elements that you don’t normally find together in music. The band gives great credit to Katie for bringing the buzz!

castletown-at-portland-notes-2016-10-27-01Listen to the audio interview to learn the origins and development of the Castletown band, and as always – get an insight into their musical influences and writing style. Each member is a lovable character, and the combination of their personalities and skills has created a sound that is energetic, vibrant, and uniquely their own. Follow them on Facebook, and give them a like to send them off on their November tour! To listen to their recorded live music, you can check out their webpage or Reverbnation.