Hit-Worthy Parade – Matthew de Heus Unveils Hidden Gems on ‘Greatest Misses’ Album

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Matthew de Heus shares his multi-genre gems on “Greatest Misses.” Photo – Avram Golden

Matthew de Heus prefers to acknowledge life’s under-the-radar moments.

The Bay City Americana singer-songwriter and bassist thoughtfully unveils those hidden milestones on his new hit-worthy anthology, Greatest Misses, out today.

“I had planned on having two releases. One was gonna be a new EP, but then I was gonna do what I initially called a Greatest Hits album, and it was almost self-deprecating,” said de Heus.

“I wanted to take some of the songs we had already done and put them on one album, so that people who wanted those could get them. I don’t reprint any of the old albums, they’re just gone … because that way if I ever do get famous, they’ll be worth a fortune.”

With Greatest Misses, de Heus assembles a priceless 15-track collection of multi-genre gems, including old favorites from prior releases and three new songs. Filled with melodic hooks, memorable lyrics and clever instrumentation, the album glides through country, power pop, jazz, blues and indie rock terrain.

“Traditionally, in pop music, and in the early days of rock and roll, you might put the same song on more than one album. That was part of it. Though I did want to throw those three new ones up front, I tried to still sequence it like an album, so it was a decent listen,” de Heus said.

“In way, this is almost like a second version of Silk Purses. Andy Reed called that my Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or White Album in the fact that every song is a different genre. Making the songs individually is one thing, but mixing and mastering them so they can sit next to each other on an album is another.”

Continue reading “Hit-Worthy Parade – Matthew de Heus Unveils Hidden Gems on ‘Greatest Misses’ Album”

Transition Period – Dan Hazlett Crafts Life-Changing Stories on ‘Turning Stone’ Album

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Dan Hazlett shares compelling characters and narratives on his latest album, “Turning Stone.” Photo – Robin Scully

As a gifted storyteller, Dan Hazlett eloquently crafts life-changing tales.

The Waterford folk-jazz singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares insightful stories steeped in transition and growth on his latest anecdotal album, Turning Stone.

“Every person in every song is a character, even if you’re the person, because you’re not that person anymore. Even if you were when you wrote it, you’re someone else now. Every song, in its own way, is a tiny piece of musical theater. That’s now my approach. This is a world … this is a little novel or a little painting all unto itself,” Hazlett said.

“At some point, you just have to let the characters speak for themselves, and they will say surprising things. And that is really fun, and you end up with material you would never have written if you focused on ‘What would I say?’ It’s more interesting to learn ‘What would this person say?’”

With Turning Stone, Hazlett examines life through the lens of an inquisitive mathematician, a courageous child, a lost soul, a lonely housewife and other people facing life-changing circumstances. The album’s tracks convey the thoughts, feelings and actions of intriguing characters who tackle their own challenges within a jazzy, acoustic-pop landscape.

“This project turned out to be the one that’s fully produced, like a band and sort of poppy and just a different kind of record. The songs ended up being in there because musically they kind of wanted to be together. It was more like, ‘How do these songs sound together?’” he said.

Continue reading “Transition Period – Dan Hazlett Crafts Life-Changing Stories on ‘Turning Stone’ Album”

One Love Symposium – This Week’s Events Aim to Unite Washtenaw County Communities and Public Service Providers

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This week’s One Love Symposium includes a series of public conversations, music events and expert panels focused on eliminating discriminatory behavior and racial inequities in the community.

A Washtenaw County symposium aims to forge stronger connections between local communities and public service providers this week.

Known as the One Love Symposium, the three-day event is geared to educate local residents and public service providers who make high-impact decisions for the community, including doctors, teachers and police officers.

Taking place Thursday through Saturday, it includes a series of public conversations, music events and expert panels dedicated to developing solutions for eliminating discriminatory behavior and racial inequities in the community.

Events will occur online and in-person in Ypsilanti and Detroit. They feature police administrators, public school officials, jazz musicians, local business owners, public policy experts and other participants.

Eastern Michigan University researcher Anna Gersh launched a survey and symposium in response to increasing racial, social and political tensions between public service providers and the public after George Floyd’s death in May 2020. She’s enlisted a team of youth data collectors and critical adult thought partners to assist with the survey and symposium.

The symposium also focuses on developing anti-bias training and creating a work certificate for public service providers, or “Human Services Professionals.” The ultimate goal is to create a “Human Services Professional Conference” for “the development of a common scholarship toward improved practices.”

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Gersh about the symposium, the work that’s been accomplished, this week’s events and what’s up next.

Continue reading “One Love Symposium – This Week’s Events Aim to Unite Washtenaw County Communities and Public Service Providers”

Creative Conscience – Chirp Follows Funky Musical Instincts on ‘Solo’

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Chirp pauses during a recording session at Willis Sound. Photo – Joe Sleep

Chirp proudly follows their funky musical instincts.

The Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet of Jay Frydenlund (guitar, vocals), Brian Long (bass, vocals), Sam Naples (guitar, vocals) and Gastón Reggio (drums) listens to their collective creative conscience on their fervent new single, “Solo.”

“Vulfpeck and Cory Wong were a massive influence on the approach to this tune and the rest of the upcoming record. The old school, funky vibe they bring to their songwriting and playing has been a big influence on all of us,” Frydenlund said. “I’m not sure this song would have happened without a steady amount of Vulf in my listening diet. Or at least it would have come out through a very different lens.”

By peering through that groovy “Solo” lens, Chirp fans will encounter a group of lively musicians entrenched in jubilant electric guitars, shimmering keys and synths, pulsating bass, confident drums and ticking cymbals.

In tandem, Frydenlund soulfully sings, “And we all know you can shred the 32nds/But I wanna hear something from your soul/So take your time to find the truth inside you/And let it go.”

“Sam’s melodic lead guitar through the song adds a lot of texture and warms up the tune quite a bit, and he also complements Kevin (Gastonguay’s) solo toward the end of the song really nicely. Brian’s self-written bassline is really catchy throughout, to the point of being singable.” Frydenlund said.

“Both of them killed it on the smooth backup vocals. The different feels Gastón moves throughout are seamless, which is easier said than done on a tune like ‘Solo,’ where we’ve got a lot of dramatic change from section to section feel-wise and tempo-wise.”

Continue reading “Creative Conscience – Chirp Follows Funky Musical Instincts on ‘Solo’”

Imagine That – Becky Crosby Trades Reality for Fantasy on ‘Can We Pretend?’

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Becky Crosby’s “Can We Pretend?” addresses her frustration and forlornness during the pandemic. Artwork – Joey Affatato

For Becky Crosby, quarantine life provides the ultimate escape from reality.

The Purchase, New York pop-rock singer-songwriter openly shares her personal struggles with pandemic lockdown and emotional isolation on her latest jazz-funk ballad, “Can We Pretend?

“I wrote it in quarantine right after we got evacuated from school … when I think everyone was feeling especially lonely and confused at what was going on in the world,” said Crosby, who’s a jazz senior at State University of New York (SUNY) in Purchase. “I had a crush on a friend of mine at the time, and I think the feelings about quarantine just heightened everything about it.”

A lush “Can We Pretend?” ensemble of thumping drums, tingly cymbals, pensive bass, gleaming electric guitar, delicate piano, melancholic trumpet and earnest baritone sax echo Crosby’s growing frustration and forlornness.

She thoughtfully sings, “How did this happen to me?/I was oh so happy living life lonely/But when you come near/I smile ear to ear/Cause you made me different/Than the girl who used to share my mirror.”

“I wrote ‘Can We Pretend?’ as a way to not only work out my feelings, but to get out some of the anger that I had about my life changing so much overnight,” Crosby said. “I do think that it’s always a good idea to go with your gut. So if your gut says to tell them you like them, then do it. Life is short!”

Crosby brought “Can We Pretend?” to life with several collaborators, including Simon Ribas (drums), Sameer Shankar (bass), Ethan Johnson (guitar), Harry Graser (piano), Noah Mattison (trumpet) and Lee Altsher-Wood (baritone sax).

“This song automatically just had a funky feel to it. Being a jazz major, I am surrounded by horn players, and I was so happy to be able to feature them on this track,” she said. “Sameer Shankar shaped this horn arrangement, and Lee Altsher-Wood and Noah Mattison did a great job bringing it to life.”

Continue reading “Imagine That – Becky Crosby Trades Reality for Fantasy on ‘Can We Pretend?’”

Wave of Reassurance – Hannah Baiardi Shares Sense of Purpose on ‘Reason’ Single

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Hannah Baiardi’s “Reason” single inspires listeners to embrace their authentic voice and rediscover a sense of purpose. Artwork – Abby Clemens

Immersed in sophisticated jazzy soul-pop sensibilities and refreshing, colorful sonic textures, Hannah Baiardi beautifully steps outside her comfort zone.

The Ann Arbor vocalist-composer and pianist provides a calm, soulful reassurance to embrace our authentic voice and rediscover our true calling on her latest hopeful single, “Reason.” It’s her first new material since releasing her genre-bending album, Straight from the Soul, in March.

“There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders right now, but it’s also a very inspiring time. Lightworkers are individuals who come with a purpose and are very driven to make social change and be their true selves and not hide their identities out of fear or shame,” Baiardi said.

“I was blown away when I got responses from other musicians saying, ‘Hey, that really resonated with me and made me feel like you’re standing up for the underdog.’ That’s totally my whole MO, even from being in high school and resonating with clique-busting and trying to be a friend to the friendless.”

Throughout “Reason,” shimmering piano, spirited drums, luminous slide guitar, fervent finger snaps, smooth electric bass and Baiardi’s confident vocals drench listeners in a sultry, protective dreamscape while inspiring a renewed, united social consciousness.

Once inside her encouraging, hypnotic sonic realm, Baiardi thoughtfully sings, “You never fit in/Stood out from the crowd/You waited you turn/Took courage to speak out loud/But now’s your time/You have to see/Your worth.”

“If someone feels alone or thinks it’s a really tough period of time … know there are others out there who see them and want to champion them. We’re all in this mess together while riding the waves. Water and waves are a theme in the song, and I’m trying to incorporate more sounds with nature and more sounds that evoke a feeling of tranquility,” Baiardi said.

Baiardi magically creates a peaceful “Reason” atmosphere with producer Marty Gray and bassist Ryan King of Stormy Chromer. Together, Baiardi and Gray spent two to three months recording the track in the studio for a late summer release.

“The rough melody and rough sketch of the lyrics came over a couple of weeks. The magic really happened when I brought it to Marty, and I was introduced to him through a mutual friend, David Magumba,” Baiardi said.

“We knew each other from the University of Michigan, where we were both students. Our paths didn’t really cross because he was a vocal major and I was a jazz major. We got together to work on this track, and instantaneously there was this sense of creative synergy. I came with the bones and left with a wonderful song, thanks to Marty.”

Baiardi also translates “Reason” into a gray-tinged lyric video filled with placid, flowing waters. While watching the video, viewers float above and reflect on their personal challenges as snippers of white light permeate the screen.

“The grayness of it conveys the uncertainty of the murky waters that we’re in right now. My social media manager Melissa (Zhuang) played a huge role in helping me craft that, and she’s very adept with Adobe,” said Baiardi, who’s also working on a new video for “How Do You Want Your Love.”

“I was like, ‘Hey, we just need water and some gray, so run with it.’ I think lyric videos are powerful so that someone can contemplate as they’re watching the visual element.”

Continue reading “Wave of Reassurance – Hannah Baiardi Shares Sense of Purpose on ‘Reason’ Single”

Day Tripper – Adam Kennedy Circles Globe to Conduct Artist Virtual Photo Shoots

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Adam Kennedy continues to conduct virtual photo shoots with artists throughout the pandemic. Photo – Adam Kennedy

Adam Kennedy unexpectedly became a globetrotter during the pandemic.

The Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K. music photojournalist ventured to Finland, the U.S., Australia, Russia, Israel, Italy, Japan and other far-flung locations to shoot established and emerging artists – all from the comfort of his own home.

In fact, Kennedy’s international photographic jaunts have occurred online as part of a successful virtual photo shoot project he launched in April 2020. To date, he’s conducted more than 570 virtual photo shoots with rock, metal, jazz and blues artists over Facebook, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and other online platforms.

“It’s just to create a feel of coming together online and being in the moment. After an hour, you usually have something cool. Every session has been completely different, and every artist brings something different to the table,” he said.

“Every environment is different because I’m not working in a studio. I’m predominantly working out of someone’s home, or a person takes me out on location. I’ve been in Los Angeles on the strip, in Sochi overlooking the Black Sea, in Jerusalem at a park and in Victoria near the Great Ocean Road.”

Continue reading “Day Tripper – Adam Kennedy Circles Globe to Conduct Artist Virtual Photo Shoots”

Lunar Magic – Desmond Jones Casts Appalachian Country Twang on ‘Pink Moon’

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Desmond Jones takes a refreshing vintage country detour on “Pink Moon.” Artwork – Daniel Benayun

Desmond Jones elegantly casts twangy lunar magic throughout West Virginia’s sprawling Appalachian Mountains.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), Taylor Watson (bass) and George Falk (sax, vocals) takes a refreshing vintage country detour on their latest jamboree-filled, celestial single, “Pink Moon.”

“The song is actually named after a music festival that used to be held in West Virginia called ‘The Pink Moon Music Festival.’ The festival was named after the lunar phenomenon we call The Pink Moon, which is a unique yearly full moon that occurred last week,” Bota said.

“I guess you could say it’s a love song I wrote to the moon. It’s meant to be sung while I’m hanging out in the Appalachian Mountains on the outskirts of a small West Virginia mountain town dancing to some wonderful live music under the moon and the stars.”

As a timeless, torchy ode to our favorite pastel-tinged satellite, “Pink Moon” awakens the youthful, nocturnal spirit as swift drums, rich pedal steel, propulsive bass, soulful sax, jubilant mandolin and vigorous violin gallop into a bright summer night.

Bota nostalgically sings, “Once a year, my dear, I’ll spend a night with you/Lookin’ at sunlight through your view/Whistlin’ a tune until the sun’s had enough of you/As you drift into the sky.”

“I wrote the song very late at night five years ago after the second Pink Moon Music Festival that we played and attended. I touched it up over a week or two of playing and singing it solo on my acoustic guitar. We recorded the drums, bass, two guitars and saxophone live at our manager Kevin McKay’s studio in the fall of 2019 three years later,” Bota said.

“The vocals, pedal steel and instrument solos were recorded at everyone’s own homes during the winter of 2020-2021. We have one guest on this track who happens to be one of our favorite Michigan musicians, Don Julin. We had the pleasure to play with Don during two of our sets at the Cowpie Music Festival in 2019, and he agreed to lend his musical talents on this album.”

Continue reading “Lunar Magic – Desmond Jones Casts Appalachian Country Twang on ‘Pink Moon’”

New Chapter – Blank Tape Tax Shares Mental Health Struggles on ‘My Book’ Single

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Blank Tape Tax raises mental health awareness on “My Book.” Photo – Colleen Rose

Editor’s Note: According to John Hopkins Medicine, 26 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from mental illness. That means for every 100 people you meet, 26 of them are struggling with mental illness. NAMI research also shows roughly 5 percent of adults in the U.S. struggle with serious mental illness, and 1 percent of Americans suffer from psychotic disorders.

Blank Tape Tax openly shares a personal chapter of past struggles.

The Detroit experimental group and rotating collective boldly recounts the internal anguish associated with lingering mental illness battles on “My Book,” which is now available on all streaming platforms.

“It’s a story about living with bipolar 1 disorder and what recovering from a psychotic break and subsequent hospitalization has been like in a recovery process that has lasted four years. Only recently has mental illness become something that is seen as less stigmatized to talk about in certain circles,” said Ben Yost, Blank Tape Tax’s drummer-vocalist.

“However, in most places, there is still a misunderstanding surrounding mental illness, especially with a disorder like bipolar psychosis, which affects 1 percent of all Americans. Although it was not written with this intention, ‘My Book’ has come to start a dialogue about mental illness and remind people that feelings are mentionable and manageable. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength.”

Throughout “My Book’s” lo-fi home demo, Blank Tape Tax beautifully reveals that inner strength with Emily Parrish (vocals) and Kavon Williams (piano). Surrounded by somber piano, Parrish poignantly sings, “The words for me are hard to say/I suffer through them every day/And I just want you to hear my pain and to relate/I want to say some old cliché/But oh what the fuck/Here it goes anyway.”

“That being said, I feel conflicted about the lyrics of ‘My Book’ because I felt initially when I wrote them that they were too negative and self-pitying, but after hearing Emily perform it, I’ve come to think that the song is ultimately a positive thing,” Yost said.

“‘My Book’ was written in a few minutes as a stream-of-consciousness poem. I often write this way using free association. I recorded Logan Gaval’s first full-length, Number One, on Flesh and Bone Records, and I was listening to that at the time. I liked the way he sounded like Elliott Smith, and I wanted to write a song in that style (sort of like ‘Needle in the Hay’).”

Yost initially wrote “My Book” as a waltz on his guitar and recorded a demo. The track later blossomed once Parrish added her thoughtful vocals and Williams performed his haunting piano part in Wayne State University’s Old Main Guitar Room.

“I had always planned on re-releasing ‘My Book’ as a single. It took this long primarily because we were still forming a lineup while it was recorded, and then the pandemic hit. When Emily first sang it for us, it was awesome. It reminded me of Janis Ian, but more emotive. Emily really made the song her own while Kavon’s piano was perfect for the song,” Yost said.

Blank Tape Tax also filmed a VHS camcorder-inspired video for “My Book,” which features warm snippets of home movie style footage interspersed with a live performance of Yost, Parrish and Williams. Yost developed the raw, vintage concept for the video after watching two seminal early ‘90s skateboard videos, Blind Skateboards’ “Video Days” and Alien Workshop’s “Memory Screen.”

“The Blind video was a major influence on me as a young kid, and later in life when I saw ‘Memory Screen,’ my imagination had totally been captured by that style of filmmaking. I had also been a fan of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, and the first two Blank Tape Tax videos for ‘Baby’ and ‘Peachy’ had been done in a similar style by visual artist Genevieve Kuzak,” said Yost, who worked with Ethan Long and Nathan Wilkey to edit the “My Book” video.

“I actually ended up being the one behind the camera while filming ‘My Book’ just out of necessity. The footage fits the audio nicely because they were both captured on tape, which gives it a warm home movie quality. All but the editing and mastering were done using analog technology and magnetic tape.”

My Book” serves as Blank Tape Tax’s latest compelling single after releasing the pithy hardcore punk-bebop jazz track, “Hey Donnie” and the jazzy hip-hop B-side, “Positive Force and the Discipline of Non-Violence pt. 2” earlier this year. They also dropped a refreshing modal jazz-based cover of Minor Threat’s “Filler” in October.

Looking ahead, Yost and his current Blank Tape Tax lineup of Michael King (upright bass), William Marshall Bennett (piano), Mark Royzenblat (guitar), Isaac Burgess (guitar) and Parrish (vocals) will release additional new material soon.

“We have no previews of anything other than lo-fi home demos. We’re trying to do more stuff in high fidelity, and we plan on a single and an EP. We’re also debating doing a full-length since there’s no touring,” Yost said.

Funky Vibes – Grove Studios Hosts Saturday Livestream Show with Sabbatical Bob & The DayNites

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Sabbatical Bob will share groovy jazz-funk fusion during Saturday’s Grove Sessions livestream show. Photo – Kyla McGrath & Mural – Joanna Farben

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The DayNites will bring blues, neo-soul and psychedelic rock to Saturday’s livestream show. Photo courtesy of The DayNites

Two local bands will funkify the livestream universe from Grove Studios Saturday.

Sabbatical Bob and The DayNites will share soulful grooves throughout their energetic, danceable sets for Grove Sessions from the Ypsilanti rehearsal and recording space’s newly renovated Deluxe Studio.

“Sabbatical Bob comes from more of a jazz-funk fusion realm with some killer jazz-trained musicianship. The DayNites speak more of a blues, neo-soul and psychedelic language to get their vibe across. Regardless, we imagine our virtual audience will be bobbin’ their heads and shakin’ it a bit at home,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder/director of community engagement and drummer for The DayNites.

As Grove Studios’ second in-studio livestream performance, viewers will experience a jam-tastic show filled with bouncy wah-wah guitars, hypnotic bass, pulsating drums, upbeat horns and shiny keys.

Sabbatical Bob’s Ben Green (trumpet, vocals), Ian Eylanbekov (guitar), Ben Wood (bass) and David Ward (drums, vocals) will perform tracks from their dynamic, rhythmic 2019 debut EP, Sabbatical Bob: Live and in Person. (Keyboardist Jordan Anderson won’t be able to join the band for the show.)

“We plan on doing what we always do, bringing the exciting loud funk. We are playing some oldies from the EP, a cover or two, and some music that is soon to be released on our next record, On the Run,” Ward said. “We have never been able to share the stage with The DayNites, but they are friends, and we’ve all got to hear them play before.”

In December, Sabbatical Bob released a colorful, inspiring video for “Alright,” their peppy, spirited instrumental that defeats corporate drudgery with enthusiastic, bouncy funk. Created by Filmic Productions, it’s a much-needed cure from being trapped inside lifeless, institutional walls.

“‘Alright’ was super fun because we had a team work up the idea and present it to us. The people at Filmic are really dope and had it all ready to go. We kinda got to be super stars – even the idea for the video was intuited by the team just by listening to the music. They ran it by us once, and we were sold,” Ward said.

In tandem with Sabbatical Bob, The DayNites will bring moonlit melodies, gravitational grooves and rotational rhythms to a virtual audience. Kristianna Bell (vocals), Ryan Greene (keys, piano), Tim Blackman (bass), Shaun Maazza (guitar) and Friebel (drums) will share tracks from their R&B-rock flavored self-titled debut EP, which dropped in October.

“We’ll be playing the entire self-titled EP along with some of our own renditions of classic soul and R&B jams. We’ll also be debuting a new original written with Ryan Greene, the keyboardist from Violet Sol, who became an official DayNite last July,” Friebel said.

Viewers can purchase $10 tickets for Saturday’s livestream show via Grove Studios’ website and Facebook page. Grove Studios has flourished in the virtual music space since launching Grove Sessions, a regular livestream performance and interview series, in March 2020. The sessions spotlight a range of emerging and established artists in Washtenaw County and metro Detroit.

Show details:

Grove Sessions livestream with Sabbatical Bob & The DayNites

7 p.m. | Saturday, April 3

Tickets: $10