Mandolin Orange performs at the Lincoln Theatre on Nov. 14, 2019. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Heartbreak and joy. The words kept running through my mind. For to experience Mandolin Orange’s music is to feel those two emotions simultaneously. Their melodies and words conjure longing and loss yet, somehow, always feel hopeful and bold. Andrew Marlin writes songs that express the universality of emotion we all feel. Their delivery, though, is what makes Mandolin Orange so irresistible. The quality of their intertwining harmony vocals; pure, melancholy and perfectly attuned, creating a contrast of tension and synchronicity.
Mikaela Davis performs at Songbyrd Music House on Nov. 11, 2019. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
A true professional is one who approaches her or his craft with singleness of purpose, the ability to ignore the surrounding noise, and the will to power through when roadblocks and obstacles are blaring “stop, go back, give up!”
Life on the road for a working musician is tough enough without the unexpected breakdowns, illnesses, and logistical headaches. Thus when harpist/singer-songwriter extraordinaire Mikaela Davis and Southern Star stopped into the Songbyrd Music House and Record Café recently, they had already overcome several hurdles, including Mikaela losing her voice prior to the previous night’s gig that forced her first ever cancellation.
Russian Circles performs at Union Stage on Oct. 29, 2019. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Russian Circles, the Chicago-based and internationally known post-metal power trio, brought its muscular brand of “multi-dimensional dramatic instrumental narratives” (as noted on the band’s website) to Union Stage recenlty. The band is now back on the road supporting its most recent release, Blood Year (Sargent House Records).
Bruce Cockburn performs at The Birchmere on Oct. 27, 2019. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
“The thumb drone or an alternating bass. You sort of have one or the other and Mississippi John Hurt was a great source of direction, I guess would be the way to put it, because of the beautiful and simple way he used to put the melody over the alternating bass. I mean he just played the melody of the song, and that was like nobody else I had heard, it wasn’t just licks, it was the actual melody. That sort of opened up a whole new thing and because of my interest in Jazz and other types of music that all got added in so when you take that same sort of right hand technique and apply it to a more complex musical approach you end up with something like what I do.” — Bruce Cockburn
Todd Rundgren performs at the Warner Theatre on Oct. 20, 2019. (Photo by Marc Caicedo)
For over two hours this past Sunday night, if you closed your eyes and imagined, the Warner Theatre became a Beatles concert. Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross, Mickey Dolenz, Jason Scheff and Joey Molland pulled off a stunning recreation of the Beatles classic, The Beatles (otherwise known as The White Album), to a wildly enthusiastic and near sellout crowd.
Montree and Lisa J of November Morning at The Wharf on Sept. 28, 2019. (Photos by Mark Caicedo)
I’m regularly reminded of the perseverance, determination, and drive that musicians possess — the hours on the road, the uncertainty of audience acceptance, and even when it may all seem pointless, the energy to keep going. It’s not just new, young artists hungry for success who may harbor doubts; that insecurity can afflict anyone at any time. And although talent is indispensable, hard work, a creative spark, and the urge to share are key to overcoming those doubts.
But it sure doesn’t show if local DC duo Lisa J and Montree, together known as November Morning, possess any hesitancy.
Rick Wakeman performs at The Birchmere on Sept. 25, 2019. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Rick Wakeman’s Grumpy Old Rock Star tour featured a man who is anything but. Rather, we got a wonderfully intimate, hilarious, and jaw-dropping performance from the former Strawbs, on-again off-again YES, and unparalleled session keyboardist recently at The Birchmere. Not a grumpy soul in the room, least of all Mr. Wakeman himself.