Brooklyn Comes Alive: ‘My Life Before, Then Forever After’ with Karina Rykman



Multi-instrumentalist Marco Benevento entrust his iconic top-hat upon Karina Rykman, a fill-in bassist in her early 20’s at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Rykman’s mouth agape; Marco’s stare tracked dead in her eyes, sealed shut in the moment. She was in disbelief, but this three-day stint would soon end. It didn’t.

Benevento, in addition to Ween bassist, Dave Dreiwitz, played instrumental roles in shaping Rykman-on-the-rise. She dove head first into a towering repertoire of Benevento tunes,  learning them backwards and forwards, day-in and day-out, Rykman recalls.

“That first run with Marco was one of the most spectacular moments of my life. I thought that was my last show with them ever,” said Rykman, increasing with excitement. “It was the best time, then scaling the walls (of the Music Hall Of Williamsburg green room post set) throwing ice, tequila and limes.” The room was packed with Karina’s friends, family and teachers. Karina was home.

“Marco is committed to the vibe and always goes the extra mile,” said Rykman, as she reminisced about the pop-up record player and miles of christmas lights that decorate their oasis backstage. Night after night the ‘Green Room Road Case,’ lives on as Karina’s enthusiasm parallels her sheer musical talent.

The New York Native has a pure starvation and aestheticism for all things music. It predates her Benevento/Dreiwitz days. It is infectious – inspiring all those around her. In eighth grade, two years after quitting piano lessons in sixth grade, a friend placed a guitar in her lap and taught her The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army.”

“I remember my life before [that moment], then, forever after,” said Rykman. “I was fixated on playing all the time. That was my vibe.”

Two years after joining Benevento’s band full time, Rykman comes full circle, hosting the second set of The Jam Room at Brooklyn Comes Alive on Saturday, September 29th, at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Rykman will host alongside Turkuaz guitarist, Craig Brodhead, to an undisclosed list of phenomenal musicians and guests. The set will start at 1:45 am, merely 15-minutes after Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner and The Meters’ bassist, George Porter Jr.  ends the first installment of this unique collaboration.

The Jam will consist of 100-percent improvised music. “How do you prepare for that?,” asked Rykman. “Simply put, you don’t.” Take all the music you’ve learned, scales you’ve studied or harmonies you’ve practiced and “throw them all out the window! It is a crazy exercise of staying focused and in the moment,” added Rykman.

“I’ve played with people 20-plus years older than me; musicians who have committed themselves longer than I have been alive. It’s really humbling. I’m always absorbing because they have been there. I am just delighted to be accepted.”


The female bassist will also be playing with her new project, The Karina Rykman Experiment, at BCA at Rough Trade from 5 to 6 pm. Rykman’s Trio consist of NYU friends, Chris Corsico on drums and Adam November on guitar. “The guys in my band are slaying. Crushing it onstage and off. November is a loop-master and creates a whole world of soundscapes, so there is a lot going on.”

Three is the magic number. Karina first performed in a trio with Benevento and has taken matters into her own hands. “Harmonically it’s just me and Marco, which makes me deeply, deeply focused on what he is doing. I play a lot of lead and fuzz bass too, which almost acts like a guitar sonically.” Expect no less when The Karina Rykman Experiment takes the stage.

New-Yorkers beware, Rykman deems Brooklyn Comes Alive is not for the weak of heart. Whether she is proving-ground with her own ensemble, backing Marco in pure biss, or sneaking off to see as much new music as she can, BCA will be another one for the books.

“There’s this scene where people come out to see great improvisers improvise. It’s not for everyone, but there is something to be said to observe those who have toured their asses off and have played music for so many years.” Especially, in the Jam Room. “A collaboration brews with people that don’t perform together often, or ever!,” explains Karina. “To see someone who has put in their 10,000 hours create on the spot, is something to behold.”

Nobody knows what to expect. As the Jam Room takes flight, the motion will be from “recreational to medical, if you know what I’m saying,” said Rykman [laughs].


“Three north-Brooklyn venues…become shapeshifting artistic petri dishes during the annual improv-oriented rock/jazz/other festival known as Brooklyn Comes Alive.” – Village Voice

Inspired by the vibrant musical communities of Brooklyn and New Orleans, the event brings together more than 50 artists, allowing them to carry out passion projects, play with their musical heroes and collaborate in never-before-seen formations. Each attendee will receive a wristband that grants access to every venue and makes hopping from set to set a breeze, recreating and paying homage to the atmosphere of Jazz Fest by night, which initially inspired the festival’s concept.

Past editions of Brooklyn Comes Alive have seen unforgettable cross-collaborations amongst legends and favorites like George Porter Jr., John Scofield, Johnny Vidacovich, John Medeski, Bernard Purdie, Henry Butler, Oteil Burbridge, Cyril Neville, Eric Krasno, Jon Cleary, Joe Russo, Skerik, and Marco Benevento, plus members of Umphrey’s McGee, moe., The Disco Biscuits, The String Cheese Incident, Trey Anastasio Band, Lotus, Snarky Puppy, Lettuce, Soulive, The Motet, The New Mastersounds, Break Science and more. Tributes to Herbie Hancock, Earth Wind & Fire, The Allman Brothers, Jamiroquai, and Green Day comprise just a few of the many highlights over the last three years. Some groups, like [Br]eaking [Bi]scuits (members of the Disco Biscuits and Break Science), have even gone on to become nationally touring projects after their Brooklyn Comes Alive debut.


Jeff LeBlanc’s ‘Vision’ Is the Story of a Matured Songwriter

jeff1Independent singer/songwriter Jeff LeBlanc has matured into a new chapter, pushing his musical limits with his latest effort, Vision. The 7-track album is concise and effective sucking you into the heart of LeBlanc’s story.

The 29 year-old Long Island native is no stranger to success after being named The Sirius XM Singer/Songwriter Discovery of the Year. Likewise, LeBlanc earned a spot on the iTunes Top 200 Singer/Songwriter Charts and received praise from MTV, Pulse Magazine and countless media outlets across New England.

After launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, LeBlanc surpassed his $12,000 goal which led him to Nashville’s Sound Emporium. This was a defining moment for LeBlanc – to record in the same studio as artists like Jack ClementJohnny CashWillie NelsonTaylor Swift and Kenny Chesney.

“I do a lot of heavy lifting on acoustic guitar and play about half of the electric guitar on the record,” said LeBlanc. “I had a clear picture of the album’s landscape,” but LeBlanc couldn’t have done it without a talented group of musicians. Some of Nashville’s best helped bring LeBlanc’ vision to light including, Tony Lucido (bass), Jeremy Lutito (drums, programing), Ken Lewis (percussion), Mike Payne (electric guitar) and Stephen Gause. LeBlanc also had the pleasure to work with Matt Stanfield (keys), Liz Longley (vocals) and Paul Nelson on cello

The opening track “Lost Tonight” begins with LeBlanc’s confident picking and a heavy quarter-note pulse from the bass drum which builds naturally into the rest of the album. “I front loaded the album with three upbeat songs,” said LeBlanc, which draws you in effortlessly.

“Stumbled”, the album’s second track is full of creativity and musicality. The lighthearted groove sits back in the pocket and is fused with drum loops and post production that makes you sway. “This track wouldn’t be the same without the programing, 1980’s drum machine and Lutito playing over it,” said LeBlanc. “There’s purposely a lot of push and pull with ‘Stumbled’ and the overall album,” added LeBlanc.

“Occupy” is like taking deep breaths. LeBlanc’s energy is redirected into the melodic guitar backing, organs and sentimental vocals that open the door into the soul of a evolved musician. Other tracks like “Love is Gone” and “Always You” are no different in their approach to captivate the listener.

“I spent a lot of time listening to the album while driving around in the car,” said LeBlanc. “I wanted there to be a story.” Evident in “Almost You,”  the feeling of driving down the open road becomes synonymous with love, heartbreak and solitude. The upbeat groove keeps driving like the wheels of a car while LeBlanc recounts “Gotta drive til’ I can’t drive no more / And I’m standing here outside your door / Holding one last chance that you’ll be there alone.”

Despite the album’s length, LeBlanc does not leave his story unfinished. The closing track “Why Do I Worry” features a clear acoustic guitar and piano that fills your body and mind. There’s a evident motion in the chorus as LeBlanc sings to himself “Why do I worry, Why do I care…I got to let go.”

“Right now I am really into piano and ‘Why Do I Worry” is kind of upbeat, yet very emotional,” said LeBlanc. “It’s weird how you can create emotion through an instrument and Matt Stanfield did exactly that on the piano.

Overall the response of the album has been strong. LeBlanc has touring plans in the works and has lots of things in limbo with Sirius XM. “Fans are connecting on a deeper level, which is what I was going for,” said LeBlanc. “I am trying to embrace the way things are changing in the music industry” added LeBlanc.

This album holds a special place in the heart of LeBlanc’s fans. Recently, LeBlanc performed two private events for families that funded a large part of the Kickstarter. “It was a super cool experience because these people have really invested a  lot of time and energy into your music – they are here for you,” said LeBlanc.
Read More – Published on Live For Live Music :

‘Here Come The Girls’ by The London Souls

tls  Also Published with Live For Live Music: READ HERE –

The secret is out – New York trio The London Souls released their latest effort Here Come the Girls on Tuesday, April 7 on Feel Records. The Rock and Roll outfit draws upon British influences of Cream and Led Zeppelin, combined with funk, soul, lyrical hooks and rocking instrumental breaks – the new album serves up 13 reasons to jump on the Souls’ bandwagon. The London Souls are a fusion of past and present, mixing The Beatles and The Hollies with the psychedelia of contemporaries like My Morning Jacket.

Together Tash Neal, guitar and vocals, Chris St. Hilaire, drums and vocals, and Stu Mahan, bass, are The London Souls. Since 2008, the trio has redefined Rock and Roll, praised by music critic Maura Johnston as “amazingly tight… swampy rock music that should make any lazy rock radio programmer rethink the word ‘grunge’…an absolute must-see.”

Although the album trumps Johnston’s words, it fails to capture their energetic live performances. The Souls have appeared at Austin’s SXSW, Telluride Blues, Brooklyn’s Afro-Punk Festival, moe.down, and held the opening spot for Rolling Stone editor Austin Scaggs’ PETTY FEST at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom. The group just finished their stint with Virginia based Americana band Sons of Bill and have shared the stage with The Roots, Janelle Monae, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, The Cool Kids, Soulive, Big Boi, Shooter Jennings and Steel Train.


The opening track “When I’m With You” is melodic and lyric driven, with loud fills around the toms and a driving chorus reminiscent of an energetic, hard-rock Beatles tune. “Steady,” the second song, sits back in the pocket – Hilare clearly taking notice to John Bonham’s precision on “Kashmir.” Not only do The London Souls sound the part, but they look it too. As we delve deeper into the album we discover new interpretations paired seamlessly with musical innovation and feeling. It is clear where The London Souls came from and, with striking confidence, Here Come the Girls sets a new tempo for the up-and-coming Rock duo.

But The London Souls reveal a soft side – “Hercules” and  “Isabell” are soothing, from Neal’s fingerstyle guitar to the hypnotising lyrics. It is all about peaks and valleys – keeping us guessing if the songs will coax us into a deep sleep or startle with pronounced electric guitar riffs. Other tracks like “How Can I Get Through” are upbeat and frantic while “Bobby James” becomes soulful and relaxed. What can’t The London Souls do? Lyric hooks, smooth harmonies and syncopated rhythms fuse with the shuffle on drums and stride piano that is “Bobby James.” Latter tracks like “Run Zombie Run” are spooky – a mix of dissonant chords, slide guitar and almost-falsetto voice – now, cue the abrupt double-time doo-wop frenzy.

This is a band that has found their sound and knows how to flaunt it. Listen to “Here Come the Girls” HERE!

 Also Published with Live For Live Music: READ HERE –

Related: Show Review: The London Souls Show No Sign of Slowing Down With Album Release Party by Sara Furer

Dana Fuchs hailed as the new Janis Joplin

DANAfuchsFuchs will be kicking off her tour at Fairfield Theatre Company’s StageOne on March 6 at 7:45 p.m.

New York City-based vocalist Dana Fuchs is a powerhouse behind the microphone, full of charisma and Memphis soul. Fuchs has achieved success on and off the stage including her performance in the Broadway play “Love, Janis” and for her outstanding efforts as Sadie in The Beatles film “Across the Universe” (2007). Not only did Fuchs star in the film, but also sang on the platinum-selling soundtrack, including tracks like “Dear Prudence,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” “Helter Skelter” and “Oh! Darling.”

Fuchs portrayed acclaimed vocalist Janis Joplin five to six nights a week on Broadway which stretched her vocal limits. Ironically, Fuchs had been compared to Joplin many times before, but had never heard of Joplin’s music because it was not played in her childhood home.

“I had to learn 19 songs in eight days for the play and I remember thinking, ‘Wow! Janis is 25 years old with such a wide vocabulary’ [of musical talent],” said Fuchs. “I couldn’t be Dana when I was on stage, so that would be the end of my inhibitions. If I had the feeling of Janis, why couldn’t I do that with my own music?” said Fuchs.

Florida born Fuchs was the youngest of six and would absorb the musical influences of both her older brother and parents. Everything from Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles to The Beatles, Grateful Dead and Queen would shape Fuchs’ career. Fuchs attributes most of her musical influence to her Florida roots, growing up in a predominantly African-American school and being exposed to funk and soul, in addition to her first grade teacher who would play Donna Summers during class. When Fuchs moved to New York, blues music pushed her voice to new limits.

“At that time all of the blues clubs had the great reputation, not me,” said Fuchs. “I began performing at these clubs three nights a week which forced me to raise the bar. In this style, it is not enough to just look the part. The music has to be raw and authentic. You have to love the music and always think on your toes.”

As a musician, Fuchs is always reinventing her craft and evolving. She recalls a favorite writer who once said “a good song is never written; it is rewritten, rewritten and rewritten.”

“The best way to progress as a musician is to play live. That is where you cut your teeth and interact with fans,” said Fuchs. “Don’t give up! This is not an easy road, but what job doesn’t have its troubles.”

[Check out an Dana Fuchs LIVE CD/DVD “Songs From The Road” on Ruf Records, released November 11, 2014]

Fuch’s success also includes sharing the stage with blues guitarist Taj Mahal and James Cotton, a blues singer, songwriter and harmonica player. “I remember I was really nervous before playing with Taj when I was just starting out. He grabbed and hugged me back stage, then said, ‘You just got to do it.’”

Fuchs will be kicking off her tour at Fairfield Theatre Company’s StageOne on March 6 at 7:45 p.m. She’s excited to return to “rock out with a listening audience” and describes her music as a “non-religious rock ‘n’ roll church” that will make the audience rowdier than Fuchs first experience in a black church, where people were jumping around singing. Fuchs immediately felt the music extend beyond religion.

“Music celebrates life and that is what I try to do,” said Fuchs. Each performance is “a revival, a place where we can forget about life’s hardships, or embrace them in a beautiful way on stage.”

Fuchs’ tour will travel to Mexicali Live (Teaneck, N.J.) on March 7 and Iridium NYC on March 10, before the band heads west and through Europe in April.  At the end of the year, Fuchs plans to record a “deeper and darker sounding record.” [see the rest of Dana’s tour dates here]

“My music is about life’s trials and tribulations, but this time I want to focus on what made me want to be a singer,” said Fuchs. “The record will feature an Otis Redding tune [which I have played live before] and similar influences. I have to grind it up a bit because I’m a rock ‘n’ roll child,” added Fuchs.

Aaron Carter meet and greet at Fairfield Theatre Co.

Wed. Feb. 11 / StageOne / Doors @ 7 , Show @ 7:45p / Tickets $28 or $55 VIP
Wed. Feb. 11 / StageOne / Doors @ 7 , Show @ 7:45p / Tickets $28 or $55 VIP

At a young age, pop singer Aaron Carter was surrounded by music which quickly turned into a fruitful career.

Carter made his first solo appearance in 1997, opening for his big brother’s band the Backstreet Boys. Months later, Carter was signed to a label and released his first single, “Crush On You.” The single would follow with a self-titled debut album that quickly achieved gold record status in multiple countries.

Three years later, Carter went on to release “Aaron’s Party,” which went triple platinum and sold more than three million copies yet, this would make up only a small portion of Carter’s success.

Carter’s next release “Oh Aaron” (2001) went platinum and was followed by the double platinum “Another Earthquake” released in 2002.

For my generation and for many college students Carter was the big pop star of the time. I vividly remember sitting front row to see Carter perform at The Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. and hearing all of his hit singles: “Aaron’s Party,” “That’s How I Beat Shaq” and “I’m All About You” in the early 2000’s. And let’s not forget everyone’s all-time favorite, “I Want Candy,” where Carter sings of a girl who “sets the summer sun on fire.”

Originally, “I Want Candy” started out as a cover song of “Bo Diddley,” recorded by The Strangeloves in 1965. The Strangeloves found inspiration for these creative lyrics in the 1958 novel Candy by Terry Southern, which explores the life of  a luscious all-American girl and her encounters as she sets out to experience the world.

The track has been reinterpreted by numerous bands from Bow Wow Wow to Good Charlotte who performed the song in the film Not Another Teen Movie. All groups, including Carter keep the syncopated Bo Diddley rhythm heard at the songs introduction consistent.

In Carter’s version he overdubs a voice message to a friend named ‘Justin’ talking about his alleged crush. Carter’s version is probably the most well known version among modern listeners and was promoted via the TV show Lizzie McGuire. However, his cover fails to surpass the original, ranked 11 in the U.S. or the Bow Wow Wow version, which reached 8 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80’s and number 22 on Billboard’s Top Tracks.

In the years to come, Carter would develop a hearty laundry list of awards including Teen Choice Awards, Radio Disney Music Award and Kids Choice Awards. Likewise, Carter has performed in front of millions of fans at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and The Billboard Music Awards. In addition, Carter has earned a unique spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the youngest singer to have four consecutive top 10 singles in the U.K.

In 2013, Carter kicked off the “After Party Tour,” which grew from 80 shows across North America to over 150 performances, marking his first tour in eight years.

“Music is not stable like other types of jobs and it comes in waves,” said Carter.

“Low points” in this cycle are countered with the many achievements, hit-singles and tours in Carter’s career.

“You have got to find your inspiration because it allows you to feel good,” said Carter.

“Don’t let downs sidetrack you. Keep at it and pursue it really hard. I know I’m never going to stop,” added Carter.

On Wednesday, Feb. 11, Carter will be performing at Fairfield Theatre Company’s StageOne, located right across from the Fairfield train station.

Not only will Carter be performing older hits, but also will be performing new material from his upcoming release.

Following Carters performance there will be a VIP Meet and Greet for those who purchase VIP tickets which includes a picture with Aaron and a signed 8×10, just to name a few. For more info about Aaron’s Meet and Greet, call the FTC box office at 203-259-1036.

Blackberry Smoke FREE Stream of “Holding All The Roses”


Pandora pre-release stream feb. 2 - feb 9 **LISTEN NOW**
Pandora pre-release stream feb. 2 – feb 9 **LISTEN NOW**

Hello Everyone,

I am excited to say that Blackberry Smoke’s new album “Holding All The Roses” is available via Pandora Premieres and pre-orders will distribute on the release date, Tuesday, February 10th, 2015. I have written a review for L4LM – What do you think of my first graph?

Atlanta Georgia’s Blackberry Smoke has overwhelmed fans with their down-to-earth mix of country, bluegrass and driving rock. The band’s organic feel drags you deep into the heart of Atlanta’s Southern Rock scene.

Pandora pre-release stream feb. 2 – feb 9 **LISTEN NOW**

Guster’s ‘Evermotion’ redefines sonic sound

'Evermotion' was released   Jan. 6, 2015
‘Evermotion’ was released Jan. 6, 2015

Guster’s seventh studio album, “Evermotion,” is the result of unexpected perfection, hearty percussion and ambient keyboard textures that redefine sonic sound.

The album’s first single, “Simple Machine,” sweeps listeners into a dancing frenzy, opening with a pop-throwback drum beat and moving synthesiser leads, reminiscent of a 1980’s rave. It’s hard not to find yourself screaming the catchy lyrics, “I’ll never find my way back / I’ll never find my way back home” at the top of your lungs.

“Simple Machine” is exactly what I want to hear while my hands wave frantically in the air, on the verge of a break-out dance party. It features a driving blend of drums, keys and conga textures, which TIME Magazine has dubbed as “Frantic beats and crawling synthesisers.”

Soothing xylophones chime on tracks such as “Long Night,” with ambient guitars weeping in the background. The raw, profound drum mix brings me back to my high-school garage-band days. It’s an organic and simplistic approach that gives “Long Night” it honest sound. The band takes their time adding each instrument in layers, including steady shakers and fluid bass lines, underneath the motif of shimmering chimes.

Gusters’ minimalistic approach when it comes recording and editing transcends the studio. In result, a medley, texture and gigantic body of sound gives you an overwhelming presence; as if you were standing dead-center in their rehearsal space.

Tunes like “Doing It By Myself” reveal Guster’s alter-ego, a halftime island vibe with shimmering steel drums, as well as “Lazy Love,” an infectious symphony of vocal harmonies in an airy breath that reverberates throughout the track’s entirety.

“Never Coming Down” is another track that sets Guster apart from the rest. A straight ahead drum and tom-tom groove give hints of Latin origin with layered vocals and percussive ostinatos. The guitars, vocals and ambient effects float around the rooted rhythm section allowing the music to sway from ear to ear as the band seamlessly transitions the melody into a harmonious whistle.

“Evermotion” is a special album because it is established as a piece of art, not just a set of music and lyric.

After the band sought out The Black Keys’ bassist, Richard Swift, there was an instant harmony. On the bands website, Guster’s bio quotes Swift as being the type of artist “that’s always standing back and taking in the whole canvas.”

Guster’s Ryan Miller had told Swift that the last two records both took a year to make, but laughed as Swift replied by stating that he had never spent more than nine days on an album (

During Guster’s three week retreat at Swift’s studio in Oregon the obsession and repetition of recording music was washed away by humble dedicated musicians who have unknowingly crossed over into a world of artistry.

With each stroke, the album takes on a different form and has projected the band into a new realm of sound.

Guster’s guitarist, Adam Gardner, attests to the album’s uncharted audio genius. “We had just one microphone over the drum kit, used whole takes and didn’t obsess over vocals or really editing things at all,” Gardner was quoted on

Both perfection and imperfection elevate the organic bliss of “Evermotion,” an album that can only be understood listening from start to finish. Study each note, lyric and rhythmic texture as if it were painted on a blank canvas, then step back and embrace its every detail. This is an audial experience you don’t want to miss.

Also Published @  L4LM.COM: Read Here

The Black Lillies: Tennessee’s roots blow north

 The Black Lillies (with Ian Thomas) on StageOne // Fairfield Theatre Company Sunday, Dec. 14 Doors @ 7:00 p.m. / Show @ 7:45 p.m. Tickets: $22 (members - $19) Genre: Americana
The Black Lillies (with Ian Thomas)
on StageOne // Fairfield Theatre Company
Sunday, Dec. 14
Doors @ 7:00 p.m. / Show @ 7:45 p.m.
Tickets: $22 (members – $19)
Genre: Americana

Roots in Tennessee’s music scene blow freely like the wind on an open road. Soothing and limitless, The Black Lillies mirror the journey ahead. The band exemplifies Americana at its finest, mixed with grass roots, country and a modern sentiment.

Frontman and founder Cruz Contreras is no stranger to the twist and turns of the open road.

After a 10-year stint with Robinella and the CCstringband, Contreras broke from the music scene and became a truck driver for a stone company.

Contreras acquired a Commercial Driver License (CDL), which he used to drive his tour bus from coast to coast. It allowed him to operate the bobcats, flatbeds and various machinery he used to work with as a truck driver. Life as a driver became something “different” for Contreras, allowing him to regroup personally and musically.

As each day passed, the music of the road resonated with Contreras and became his inspiration for The Black Lillies, which formed in 2008.

Music had never taken a backseat while driving the roads of east Tennessee, and, as it turns out, Contreras wouldn’t be surprised if he carried his guitar in the passenger seat of the 18-wheeler a few times.

“I write what is on my mind at any moment,” said Contreras.

Contreras and The Black Lillies keep on rolling with three studio albums, an extensive tour schedule of 200-odd performances and taking on the hectic life of independent musicians.

The Black Lillies’ authentic, down-to-earth tone has earned them a seat at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, allowing them to establish a hearty relationship that spans more than 30 performances. Notably, the band’s 2013 performance of “Smokestack Lady” (live at the Opry) has swept up a wide demographic of loyal fans and new listeners.

Furthermore, The Black Lillies’ self-acclaimed success has attracted the attention of Country Music Television (CMT); four of their tunes appeared on CMT’s top 12 requested videos and also secured spots on Billboard and American Music Association’s (AMA) charts.

In their latest effort, “Runaway Freeway Blues” (2013), The Black Lillies have continued restlessly to push forward along their musical highway. According to the band, the beauties of this album are heavily rooted in the “mud-rutted switchbacks of Appalachia” and allow listeners to travel the musical peaks and valleys or the road ahead with its creator.

“Runaway Freeway Blues” debuted at number 43 on Billboard’s Country chart and number 21 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums.

The album begins with an earnest sentiment in “The Fall,” as Contreras and female vocalist Trisha Gene Brady share an intimate conversation of love, sorrow and dreams.

Contreras sings “I am not a rich man, I have no fortune to bear” to Brady’s “I am not a rich girl, I have no diamond to share,” behind the locomotive, strumming acoustic guitar and somber motion of the kick drum.

When Brady and Contreras join in harmony singing, “I am but a dreamer and I’ve seen you in between /The shadows and the sunshine falling down on me,” a sense of beauty, imagery and the open air fills our hearts with sounds of The Black Lillies.


The band’s roots become present in tunes like “Ramblin’ Boy,” where the band turns up with twangy country guitar (Tom Pryor), driving drums (Jamie Cook) and a wholesome bass (Robert Richards), supporting the effortless melody and harmony of Contreras and Brady.

By the time you reach “Smokestack Lady,” it is apparent that The Black Lillies cannot be overly defined. The upbeat Americana and rockabilly-style guitar licks paired with tasteful harmonica licks (Ian Thomas) make “Smokestack Lady” an instant favorite among fans.

“Smokestack Lady” pumps through the veins of its listeners like the gasoline from Contreras’ 18-wheeler, “running these roads up and down, L.A. to New Orleans.” Furthermore, the tune serves as inspiration for the title of the album “Runaway Freeway Blues,” because it captures the diverse palate that the audiences of The Black Lillies crave.

“The Black Lillies are the type of band that prefers a 90-minute set, opposed to features, because the band is so dynamic,” said Contreras.

Pedal steel, harmonies, duets and all the potent flavors in the mix make The Black Lillies a must see for any live performance. They remain humble, whether they are playing a small hometown gig in Knoxville Tenn., or exciting festivals like Bonnaroo or South by Southwest.

“The music you perform becomes less familiar,” said Contreras and over time “lots of different cultures come through.”

On Dec. 14, The Black Lillies with guest artist Ian Thomas will bring the sounds of the open Tennessee road to Fairfield Theatre Company’s StageOne at 7:45 p.m.

Performing in New England is a special treat for The Black Lillies because of “its tie to Appalachian music,” said Contreras.

“The Mountain chain goes north,” said Contreras.

In Tennessee, Contreras explains how everyone is rooted in bluegrass and country: “My aunt, cousin and grandpa play that,” said Contreras, so people think it is not big deal.

Contreras’ need to have a hand in all musical outlets opened his mind to the vast genres of music, which in turn helped to shape The Black Lillies.

Music has been an integral part of Contreras’ life, going back to his childhood where he began playing classical piano, bluegrass banjo and then jazz piano in college. He vividly recalls playing everything from gypsy jazz to Civil War reenactments with his brother.

This sense of family and loyalty has kept The Black Lillies humble, and could explain why they have been so committed to their roots, family and fans. Likewise, The Black Lillies have trusted Scott Minor of Sparklehorse with the production of all three studio albums.

Working as an independent label, The Black Lillies plan on entering pre-production for a fourth album this month. According to the band’s “timeline,” “to keep us musicians on track,” laughed Contreras, The Black Lillies will enter the studio sometime in February.

Contreras hopes to incorporate more of The Black Lillies live sound into the new album; more keys, pedals, solo material and more brilliant male/female harmonies. But don’t worry – Contreras assures that each live performance, including FTC’s StageOne, will be a balance of new, old and unheard material.

[also published in The Fairfield Mirror]

– Not Enough? check out the PBS “Up Close” interview Trisha Gene Brade and Cruz Contreras –

Caravan Of Thieves Returns: The Funhouse


“There’s something about the band’s witty, spirited gypsy folk-jazz that is so new and yet so familiar all at once.” – Washington Post

Enter “The Funhouse”: where the Caravan comes screeching to a halt in a melodic symphony, and out pours heavenly harmonies and the gypsy sensation, Caravan of Thieves.

The Bridgeport natives are mysterious and spooky, creeping around the carnival ride after-hours where they will steal your heart and play it back to your ears tenfold.

The Thieves have established themselves as a family and their knitted relationship makes their music and live performances that much more enjoyable.

Ringleaders Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni began performing as a married-duo after they discovered their love singing and harmonizing together. Thus, a melodic melting pot of guitars, vocals and percussive instruments has woven as seamless as their marriage – proven and road tested.

After many years of performing alongside street performers, the Thieves welcomed violinist Ben Dean and double bass madman Brian Anderson. With their family now complete, the quartet has been on the road in growing popularity.

Fuzz felt that it is hard to measure the band’s growth at any given point in time. Since the Thieves duo-days, they have grown to include elaborate stage rigs, witty dress and 1930s feel in contemporary form.

“It is always different when building a band in your hometown,” said Fuzz. “We just wanting to play as much as we could as a band.”

The family’s “gypsy jazz and pop influence has redefined the meaning of Caravan of Thieves, because we are always expanding over time and developing our act and sound,” said Fuzz.

Regardless of the venue, the Thieves always have the audience involved by singing, clapping rhythms or even luring fans from the crowd on stage.

“If they are doing it too, it’s more fun,” said Fuzz.

Fans usually have a “whoa” reaction, said Carrie, especially when the Thieves whip out their infamous rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” or spins on Talking Heads and Michael Jackson tunes.

You can find “Bohemian Rhapsody” on Caravan of Thieves second album “Mischief Night,” which was recorded live on Fairfield Theatre Company’s StageOne on May 1, 2010. The local response to the band’s music, as well as on-stage antics made this album a necessity.

In their most recent effort, “Funhouse,” the Caravan animates their music, making it ridiculous, like an amusement park ride. The 15-track album leads us in through “The Funhouse Entrance” and sends us on our way with the creepy ghouls of “The Funhouse Exit.”

Album favorites like “Rise the Dead” began to sway up and down like a melodic merry-go-round. The upbeat and percussive “Eat You” puts a literal twist on a love song stolen by the Thieves as you travel from the singing violin to freaky guitar solos.

“Funhouse” is more addictive than the tooth-craving sweets and cotton candy. The grit and twang of the stringed quartet make the album the prize at the end of the ride.

On Nov. 29, the Caravan will be coming full circle to the hometown stomping ground on StageOne.

“We want to make sure that every show is different and more exciting than the last time,” said Carrie.

“At a venue like FTC, we treat it with special care and it keeps us on our toes,” said Fuzz.

Not only has Caravan of Thieves performed countless times at FTC, but the intimate venue was Caravan’s first show (where Fuzz and Carrie played as a duo).

The fun doesn’t stop, as the Thieves plan on making a new record early in the new year.

Rumor has it, “If Django Reinhardt, the cast of Stomp and the Beatles all had a party at Tim Burton’s house, Caravan of Thieves would be the band they hired,” according to

Their ability to mirror a diverse audience proves the Thieves quite capable of sealing the hearts of jazz and folk to rock-goers alike. It is no wonder the band has shared the stage with artists such as Emmylou Harris, Dan Hicks, Glen Campbell, Nanci Griffith, Iron & Wine and John Hammond.

Now, step right up and get lost in the funhouse that is Caravan of Thieves as they take over FTC once again.

Also published at: The Mirror 

Golem remembers journalist Daniel Pearl

Golem – Free concert @ Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts – Monday, Oct. 27 @ 7:30 p.m.

Band Golem in New York

New York City-based Klezmer rock band Golem will perform a free concert at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Monday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.

The concert is a part of the Daniel Pearl World Music Days Concert series in memoriam of the slain journalist Daniel Pearl, which aims to “use the power of music to reaffirm our commitment to tolerance and humanity,” according to the Daniel Pearl World Music Days’ official website.

Founder and frontwoman Annette Ezekiel Kogan grew up playing piano and wanting to learn traditional Eastern European folk music. Her passion led to her discovery of the accordion because Kogan “wanted something to carry around.”

Golem has been fusing Klezmer, a musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews, with a modern edge and contemporary sound for over 10 years. Their punk rock gypsy twists and early jazz influences on these traditional tunes make the “music feel alive to the young,” said Kogan.

“Our philosophy is you don’t need to know anything about it. Jewish traditional music is accessible to all,” said Kogan.

The Washington Post stated that the band “produces the sort of music you’d expect if the shtetl were filled with punks instead of peasants.” This is apparent after their many years on the road, four studio albums and increase in popularity.

Their newest album release, “Tanz” (2014), meaning dance in Yiddish, “has gained a massive following in Mexico,” said Kogan.

On the title track, “Tanz”, upbeat drums and trombone melodies bring the lyrics to life as Kogan and vocalist Aaron Diskin, sing “Tanz, Tanz, Tanz, Dance.” The combination of English lyrics and Yiddish tradition are the perfect remedy to get you out of your seats.

As if this fusion of cultures and the band’s history were not enough to convince you to attend the concert thus far, they were also featured on the FX series “Louie.”

“It was in the episode ‘Into the Woods’ where there was a 90 minute flashback … when Louie remembers his childhood smoking pot,” said Kogan.

This is the band’s first time with the Daniel Pearl World Music Day Concert series. They are excited to perform at the Quick Center and will be “remembering and keeping Pearl’s memory alive,” said Kogan.

“We refuse to go away,” said Kogan “[Our music] is the one kicking, screaming and won’t back down”.