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September 2014
Katy Guillen & the Girls
"Katy Guillen & the Girls
"
mp3
Normally when I discover a band for the first time, I listen to their album first, then go see them live. In the case of Katy Guillen & The Girls’ new release, the situation's been reversed. I saw them live a couple of times before the album was released, so I was interested to hear if the record was going to capture the ferocity of their live performances. I have to confess that my hearing is not in the best of shape, and, due to a poor sound mix at what shall be an unnamed Lawrence venue, I never got to hear the words or even the melodies properly live at the most recent concert I attended. But upon hearing the self-titled LP, it’s nice to hear that Guillen can write literate lyrics to these songs I've heard played out.
 
The album opener, "Don't Get Bitter," hearkens back to the sound and feel of the Beatles' "Taxman," with Claire Adams' bass introducing the song. It's short, catchy, and lasts exactly as long as it should. If there were a single release off this album, this would be it.
 
This record is no-frills. It's the band pretty much as you hear them live, with the mix capturing a live in-studio sound. What strikes me listening to this record is that Katy and the Girls are not strictly a blues band. There's certainly an infusion of the blues in what they do, but, to my ears, they hearken back to some of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s hard rock bands like Mountain and Free, but with better lyrics and songs. I also hear some White Stripes in there somewhere. The melodies and harmonies are accentuated and they help blend with the powerful playing.
 
Katy Guillen, Claire Adams, and Stephanie Williams fill up a lot of space in these songs. It's obvious they are all very well in sync and have that great intuitive blend that comes from playing lots of live gigs together. I also like the changes in some of the songs, which go in directions you don't expect, like "Woke Up In Spain," which switches tempo adroitly.
 
The absolute masterpiece of this album is the last song, “Earth Angel.” It's the longest tune on the album, but it doesn't feel long. It starts out with Guillen’s dirty-sounding guitar intro, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and builds in intensity as it moves along. Guillen takes one hell of a solo during this song. It's obvious from hearing this record that she is an excellent guitarist but never overplays during the songs. But when the song calls for a lengthy solo, like "Earth Angel," sparks fly. The rest of the band is equally as adept. Adams’ bass lines are nimble and fit right in place with Williams’ active drum work. It's a pleasure to hear a band that obviously loves to play together rolling through these songs. The album’s producer (Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab) captures the clarity of the music as well as the power of a live performance.
 

--Barry Lee

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Album review: The Blackbird Revue - Glow (EP)

Album review: The Blackbird Revue - Glow (EP)

2013 is shaping up to be another very fine vintage for local music, with several quality releases already available and a slew of eagerly-anticipated albums coming soon to fine retailers and Bandcamp pages near you. Add to this list Glow, the third EP (and first since 2010) from The Blackbird Revue. Husband-and-wife team Jacob and Danielle Prestidge have established themselves as purveyors of an ear-pleasing sound that combines Americana, folk, country, and indie pop in various layers, and their vocal harmonies continue to astonish and devastate. Glow shows the twosome, with the help of several skilled musicians, bringing these skills to the listener in fine form.

 
The lead track, “When You Are Mine,” shows The Blackbird Revue at the height of its harmonic powers. Those of you who have taken singing lessons or been involved in choral music for any number of years will understand this: both Jacob and Danielle show great ability at singing over the notes. Coming at the music from above gives the vocals an airy, lilting quality during the softer moments at the beginning of this song (and throughout the EP), but the second half sees the tempo change from a gentle breeze to a howling gale, lifting the listener up and carrying said listener on a Thelma and Louise-esque ride straight over the cliff …
 
… where the title track awaits to catch you and cradle you in its gentle comfort. Glow paints a lyrical landscape with such verses as “fade / our sunsoaked yesterdays / to sepias and grays,” with the intertwined voices alternating in the roles of both palette and canvas. “Winter Rest” is the most pop-sensible track of the four, with undeniable hooks that make toe-tapping a near certainty. The EP concludes with “Lone Swan,” a winsome ballad that offers an encouraging word and a shoulder to lean on for someone whose burden has grown heavy (“this world is cruel this world is kind / and sometimes love is hard to find / so if you need to clear your mind / take the keys and take your time”).
 
When you listen to Glow, you hear music that pleases with its honesty and directness, but the notes that spring from your speakers don’t tell the entire story. Listening to Danielle and Jacob work together, harmonize together, and just be together, you realize that they have … something … indefinable, yet unmistakable. This isn’t just a musical duo, and this isn’t just a married couple. This is a union of two spirits and souls that complement each other perfectly as no other could. The underlying intensity and obvious passion shine brightly throughout this 14-minute love letter from the Blackbird Revue.
 
I hope someday we all get to experience that same glow.
 
The group’s next performance will be next Friday, March 8 at River’s Bend Restaurant and Bar in Parkville with Jason Craig and The Wingmen at 8:00 pm (Facebook event here). The Blackbird Revue will also be a part of the HomeGuard Festival VIP party on Saturday, March 16 at The Midwestern Musical Co. at 7:00 pm.
 
 
 
--Michael Byars
 

Michael Byars may or may not be pickling things at this moment. It’s possible that he’s already had four or five bottles of Mountain Dew by now. There’s a chance that he is at a hookah bar somewhere. You may say he’s a dreamer. But most of all, he spells pretty well and he works for free, so we let him write stuff for us sometimes. 

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