Category Archives: Notable Review

Leona, unusually beautiful poetry in song

Leona announced her full length solo album, 2:11, on Feb 11, 2017 with this post “please talk to me about these songs, they were all made in the last 2 months and 11 days and in response to the situation of the world”.

The 11 songs on this album are spare of instrumentation, with only a minimal bass or piano as a backdrop for her delicate airy voice. Ghost-like falsetto backing vocals are distorted and distant, evoking nostalgia for an era gone by, like an old transistor radio. The lyrics might be the inner voices echoing in her head, exposed and provocative.

In the first track, Blood, Leona sings “I am a story wrapped up in skin. I’m ready… to begin.” My favorite song might be kingbabybrave (listen below), whose words “I want to be brave like a white boy” trigger questions about social forces and insecurities. The album leads the listener along an engaging path towards the uplifting harmonies in destiny beckons where the lyrics “if you take me I won’t pretend I don’t want to go” are characteristically bare and honest. The closing song, night thoughts, neatly wraps up this masterpiece with the words “you say tomorrow like it’s a guarantee”.

There are some open questions-for example, recording and production credits are missing, and the third track ends with a 90 second silence that isn’t obviously deliberate. Even so, 2:11, unusual in its raw beauty, is what art is to me.

Floating Above the Clouds with Airport (Album Review)

The one-word band name “Airport” immediately begs the question, “what are they going to sound like?” The name Airport alludes to Jet, and to other one-word band names like Television- but I am so off the mark. What Airport sounds like is floating in the sky, stretched out in comfort above the clouds.

This band plays songs with a relaxed tempo, an occasional pedal steel guitar, and dreamy vocals that you could fall asleep to. In fact, track six is entitled “Sleeping”. Their vibe might be called country music shoe gaze (they cite MBV as an influence). It is understated hypnotic sweetness. Their strength is a consistency where one song sounds like another, creating a unified feel that you quickly get used to and fall in love with.

Airport released a full length album entitled Slow Decline of an Evening Herald on July 21. Catch them live at Kelly’s Olympian on Aug 12.

The Toads, working hard and playing hard

In all, The Toads have had four releases, totaling 27 songs, in 19 months since January 2016.  This, along with a busy gig schedule, makes the Toads the most prolific and hardworking band in Portland right now.  The thing about the Toads is that they are not only talented and hardworking, but I can honestly say that they are the friendliest guys in Portland’s somewhat clique-ish music community.  Bass player, Matt Dinaro, goes above and beyond the call of duty by supporting the scene with his music blog and editing an online poetry journal that he co-founded, Pom Pom.

Their fourth album, Time, is the second that was recorded by James Collette and Kevin Hoffman, and is the best production yet.  I prefer to hear the Toads live, but this album does a nice job of capturing the energy and enthusiasm of their live show while still retaining the crispness and clarity that makes listening to studio recordings a pleasure. The album kicks off with killer riffs that show off Matt Kane’s tasty guitar wizardry and closes with an anthem of positive vibes, Keep On Keepin’ On.  This country-pop-rock album pretty much captures the essence of Portland Summer 2017 and begs the question that so many people are asking “why aren’t these guys huge yet?”  Thanks guys! Keep on keepin’ on!  You are making people happy!

Laney Jones – new album 3/11, White Eagle Saloon show 4/28


Ah, the voice is strong with this one! Laney Jones released her self-titled album last month, with strong reviews from Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists you need to know” and Elmore Magazine’s Savannah Davanzo: “Though her accolades tell us she is talented, her music tells us she is special.” The album was released March 11, and is available for listening on her website or on Spotify. The album can be purchased on ITunes. Here is a video from Laney called “Dance Around” – which of course, will make you want to dance around…

Laney-Jones-White-Eagle-Saloon-show-02This was an unusual one for me – I rarely feel the absolute need to purchase an artist’s music after listening to an album for review, but I cannot get enough of Laney’s voice! She conveys complex emotion with every breath, and I’m happy to go along for the ride! As a vocalist, I appreciate the melodic and on-point pitch – I also recognize that her use of breathing and inflection are downright amazing. The control that it takes to create some of the techniques is very impressive.

Laney is an expert at communication, and she has lived life with intent. She began studying international business, but found that her interest and talent led her to songwriting and composing. At the age of 24, Laney Jones has already achieved a great deal of success in her chosen field. According to Maria Drummond of the Press House, Laney’s moved up from rural Florida clubs to performing on PBS alongside (such greats as) Alison Krauss in a few short years — her music is in steady rotation on more than 50 CMJ indie radio stations. She’s won many prestigious songwriting contests including the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and has played at both New York’s Lincoln Center and Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center for the Arts.

Laney-Jones-White-Eagle-Saloon-show-01I was so overwhelmed by the honesty and purity in Laney’s vocals, that I really can not get much farther. I am lost in the lyrics and the tone of her voice. Normally, I hear all the instrumentals first – but her voice stands out with its pure organic quality. For such a young woman, she certainly has remarkable self-awareness. The Press House describes the newly released album as a “mixture of timeless sounds with modern textures and grooves, produced by Grammy-nominated David Plakon (Wild Child, Young Rapids and Roadkill Ghost Choir). More rock and roll than folk, Laney’s sound on the 10-song collection is reminiscent of 1960s and 70s singer-songwriters, while she discusses relatable themes of self-discovery, growing up and finding a personal identity.”

Laney arrives in Portland for a show at one of my favorite local venues – McMemamin’s White Eagle Saloon on April 28. Keep watching – I plan to ask her some questions about her musical influences and the experiences that have shaped her songwriting. I look forward to meeting this talented young musician in person, and am so happy to have been introduced to her music! Follow Laney on social media as she approaches Portland on her current tour!

Stageworks Ink Presents: Three Amigos! “We Ride! We fight! We love!”


If you’re anything like me, you have a deep and profound respect for classic comedy. Whether that be a cult-classic film like The Big Lebowski or hearing Carlin on Campus for the hundredth time- watching and listening to those comedic roots can be an incredibly uplifting experience. These days, in 2016, we see time and time again comedians and filmmakers attempting to pay their respects to these geniuses of comedy. Unfortunately, in the cinematic world littered with classic remakes, franchise reboots and formulaic rehashes, these attempts to refresh old ideas churn out utter failures the likes of which ruin characters that we have grown so fond of over the past decades.

Stageworks-Ink-Presents-Three-Amigos-02Thankfully, a fantastic new idea to present a classic has found its way to The Clinton Street Theater. From Stageworks Ink comes Three Amigos Live, a musical adaptation of the 1986 cult-classic comedy Three Amigos. While ultimately placing itself amongst other remakes or adaptations simply by nature, the production finds its way to authenticity by delivering new songs that coincide seamlessly with the original script as well as wonderful casting choices that, in some instances, rival the original film.

Stageworks-Ink-Presents-Three-Amigos-01From the very beginning, we see that Steve Coker, the co-star, producer and director of the production, has upheld his respect and love for not only the film but the time of which it came from. Steve does a fantastic job taking on Chevy Chase’s role as Dusty Bottoms, effortlessly portraying the classic character alongside Sean Ryan Lamb as Steve Martin’s Lucky Day. Lamb has clearly done his research on this performance, as his cadence and tone of the character echoes Martin’s original performance very closely. The most unique casting decision was in regards to Kylie Jenifer Rose who had the challenge of taking on the role of Martin Short’s Ned Nedelander, referred to as “Neddie” throughout the production. Rose was able to take on Short’s silly and nonsensical character as well as deliver breath-taking performances when it came time to sing “Blue Shadows” and “My Little Buttercup”, two songs from the original film.

Stageworks-Ink-Presents-Three-Amigos-03On the flip side of protagonist cast sits Tim Giugni who had the task of taking on Alfonso Arau’s “in-famous” El Guapo. Giugni’s performance was first-rate when it came to not only the tone of El Guapo but also the look and movements of the character. From discussing a plethora of piñatas with his #1 henchman Jefe to wearing his birthday sweater around his neck, Giugni does a great job of paying homage to the original character.

Stageworks-Ink-Presents-Three-Amigos-04Even with some opening night wrinkles, the cast and crew smooths out those issues with well-timed jokes, making for a very promising run in the future. It’s clear that Coker and company have banded together to ride, fight and love on stage in what is sure to be one of the very few refreshing and original adaptations of an existing classic. 3 Amigos Live is currently running every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through April 9th. Be sure to check out this performance in Stageworks Ink’s last show for this season!

For an interview with Steve Coker, check out Portland Notes article on the making of Three Amigos!