With a voice as sharp as a razor, John Bee, better known as American Opera, is the epitome of a folk rocker. All his songs are constructed with the usual folk sounds of acoustic guitars and banjos, but his vocals are plucked straight from the alternative rock airwaves. It makes for a combination similar to The Avett Brothers. American Opera’s intensity, though, comes from diction and tone as opposed to the Avett’s energy driven sound. I was lucky enough to see him perform a few weeks ago and he is every bit as impressive live as he is recorded. Pure talent, just his voice and a guitar, silenced a talkative venue. He was also incredibly personable, willing to talk with anyone that approached him, and grateful to the countless that gave him kind words. American Opera currently has two recordings, Demo/Listen and Live! @ GBS Detroit, both of which are available as pay-what-you-want downloads. They are well worth your time and bandwidth.
Recommended Songs: “Bright Lights and Amplifiers,” “Spoon and Knives,” “The Only Things That Matter To Me,” “Sand & Seed,” “Sing Along”
For more on American Opera, check out the songs and video below. Also, be sure to visit his website, Facebook, and follow him on Twitter!
American Opera performs “Songs I Used To Sing” for GBS Detroit
Opening acts won’t make or break a show, that’s the headliners job. But they can certainly amplify the experience. I was lucky enough to see Rocky Votolato live last week, with Michigan and MFH favorite Jeff Pianki. The show opened with Kevin Long, a indie/folk musician from that musical haven in the northwest, Seattle. Flanked on the stage by his brother, Long performed a modest set that blew me away. I hadn’t heard of the Washington folkie before, and whenever there is a name on the bill I don’t recognize, I generally don’t look them up before the show. I like to be pleasantly surprised. Kevin Long was more than a pleasant surprise. Poetic lyrics, wonderful harmonies, and genuine stage presence, which was incredibly impressive being that this was his first ever tour, Long set the tone for a great night of music. His rendition of “In The Nick of Time,” was absolutely stunning and silenced a chatty bar. Small Town Talk, his debut album, is available as a pay-what-you-want download, and is a collection of beautiful folk numbers that are more than worth your time. In fact, I haven’t stopped listening since Friday night. After his tour with Votolato concludes, Long will begin work on his second studio album, which has been funded by numerous donations. Kevin Long found a lifelong fan in me Friday night, hopefully he will in you too.
Recommended Songs: “Until I Heard The Sound,” “Dance,” “In The Nick of Time,” “Make The Scene,” “Green To Grey,” “Tic Tac Toe,” “Going for the Gold”
For more on Kevin Long, check out the songs and video below. Also, be sure to visit his website, Facebook, and follow him on Twitter!
Long performs “Exactly What To Say” for Ballard Sessions
Michigan is a great place to be for folk lovers. The Great Lake State is thriving with quality folk acts such as Frontier Ruckus, Chris Bathgate, Red Tail Ring, American Opera, Nathan Alan, The Soil & The Sun, and more. One of the best is a quiet guy from Milford. Jeff Pianki possesses a soft and sweet voice that sounds like feigned strength, what a person would do when they don’t want anyone to know how cracked they are. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking. On Paper Window, Pianki’s most successful release, he sings of memories. Some his own, some others’. The record is simply gorgeous, as emotionally evocative as anything I’ve come across in the past few years. Pianki admitted to a period of frustration with music in the years since Paper Window’s release. He is one of the best songwriters in Michigan, losing him to a bout of frustration would have been a travesty. Luckily for us, he is writing again, and excited about music again. Now, all there is left to do is wait patiently until he is ready to share his new record with the world.
Recommended Songs: “Missing You,” “Paper Window Dreams,” “On Forgetting,” “This Town,” “Old Habits”
For more on Jeff Pianki, check out the songs below. Also, be sure to visit his website, Facebook, and follow him on Twitter!
The Oh Hello’s are a brother/sister duo from Texas. Their self-titled debut EP was released in December 2011 and is a collection of three upbeat foot-stompers, and one relaxed broken love ballad. A sound reminiscent of Mumford and Sons, The Oh Hello’s will grab you from the opening moments of “Hello My Old Heart.” Every song on their record is wonderful, built on strong vocals, harmonies, and unique arrangements that make for an extremely varied and enjoyable listen. I’ve spent many sleepless nights listening to those four songs over and over again to calm my worried mind. The duo is currently writing their debut full-length album, and I cannot wait to hear it.
Recommended Songs: “Hello My Old Heart,” “Lay Me Down,” “Cold Is The Night,” “Trees”
For more on The Oh Hello’s check out the songs below. Also, be sure to visit their website (where you can download their EP for FREE), Facebook, and follow them on Twitter!