Luanne Hunt – ‘Bluer Than the Bluegrass’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Luanne Hunt, an independent singer songwriter who’s made her mark in the folk and country scenes. She’s scored numerous hits throughout her career, and the industry veteran was recently lauded for her Christmas tune, ‘Christmas Without You.’ Hunt has weathered the ups and downs of the music scene for over twenty years. One of her newer endeavors, ‘Bluer Than the Bluegrass,’ is an exhibition of that talent at its finest. Let’s delve into it.

I want to make one thing clear right out of the gate – I get hundreds of singer songwriters submitting content to the Independent Spotlight. Last year in 2015, we showcased as many of them as we could. The problem, though, is that they’re often far too similar, blending into a collective stereotype devoid of new creativity. Luanne Hunt is a breath of fresh air in this regard. ‘Bluer Than the Bluegrass’ is superb in more ways than one, showcasing that she’s not only one of the best singer songwriters in the indie scene right now, she may be one of the most compelling artists in the entirety of it.

‘Bluer Than the Bluegrass’ is splendidly produced. Everything in the mix is elegantly orchestrated and the instrumentation is excellent. Hunt’s vocals are perfect, wholly reminiscent of the best country folk artists of the twentieth century. The track also boasts a soundscape of brevity; it doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t. It’s traditional, it’s light hearted, and it’s authentic. No dramatic bluegrass soloing or excessively showboat vocalism is necessary. It is what it is – nothing more, nothing less.

There isn’t a whole lot of music like this right now, either. Contemporary country has become oversaturated and particularly poppy – as many say, modern country is just pop music with a twang. This, however, is so genuine. You don’t see new artists performing new music like this; they’re either playing covers or they’re legacy acts touring a family’s catalog. (Rosanne Cash, Holly Williams, Amy Helm, etc.)

Check out the track below and support Luanne Hunt. She’s quite the talent, and this track is just absolutely lovely.

Suits Boulevard – ‘Oblivious’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Suits Boulevard, (Stylized ‘SuitsBLVD’) a Danish outfit that has a particularly international appeal. Their debut album, ‘Oblivious,’ has been making the rounds with grandeur, landing high on Canadian and European radio charts. The band’s music has also been showcased on an array of television shows and networks. On top of all that, they played more than sixty concerts last year, more than a third of which were charity benefits for the Danish Cancer Society. How is their music, though? Does it stack up to its independent counterparts?

For the purposes of this Spotlight article, I’m delving into half a dozen tracks from ‘Oblivious.’ It is, however, twice as long as that. The band lays claim to quite a variety of genres: rap, rock, metal, pop, R&B, and others. From the opening notes of ‘Treehouse,’ it’s made clear that these influences have melded into an anthemic pop rock style. The production is quite good, but the electronic tuning on the lead vocals goes completely awry; it’s excessive. The lyrics aren’t anything to write home about, but I will concede that it is an infectious pop rock tune that’ll likely get audiences going at live shows.

The titular track, ‘Oblivious,’ offers a much deeper insight into Suits Boulevard. The imagery in the lyricism is far stronger, and the atmospheric pastures of the track are far more compelling, too. Again, I’ll contend that the band should have left their lead vocals alone in the studio. The Phil Spector-esque rise and fall of the aural landscape makes for a wonderful listening experience on a quality sound system – the searing electric guitar and pounding percussion build in a cacophony of sound.

‘The Fallen’ has potential, but falls flat for a few reasons. Firstly, that awkward vocal mix boasts the most noticeable (and flawed) tinkering. I’m not sure I fully understand the stylistic decision to mix the album this way; they’re strong vocalists. This is totally unnecessary. To be entirely blunt, the creative direction of the mix makes Suits Boulevard enter frightening territory – at times, they feel like a Nickelback sound-alike. They exhibit a whole bunch of talent; it would be worth applying to more intricate lyricism and better studio execution.

The instrumentation of ‘Blue Jeans’ showcases some elegantly good guitar chops, as does ‘Ocean of Lights,’ especially around the 1:20 mark. That prowess is extended to ‘Chasing Butterflies,’ too. They’re good musicians. I also can’t laud them too much, though, because I think the album is inherently flawed. The lyricism feels a bit superficial, the vocal mixes aren’t attractive at all, and the sound is far too overproduced at most points in the songs. Again, I think Suits Boulevard is chock-full of potential. They need to put down the commercialistic auto-tune and predictable instrumental tropes and go back to the drawing board. I suspect they could make something that is worth writing home about.


VOLK – ‘Boutique Western Swing Compositions’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on VOLK, an independent duo that describes their genre as one of ‘heartbreaking and shaking.’ Their newest release, a four track maxi-single entitled ‘Boutique Western Swing Compositions,’ is one of the the most compelling independent efforts I’ve heard in the last several months. Let’s face it, they had me at “recorded directly to analog tape.”

VOLK consists of Eleot Reich on vocals and drums and Christopher Lowe on vocals and guitar.

VOLK’s new release is best listened to via a vinyl press, but for the purposes of this review, I delved into it via the Sound Cloud stream that can be found below. The small collection is broken into two sides, which makes sense – again, it’s meant to be listened on vinyl. Side A opens with ‘Simple Western Song,’ a searing romp through electric distortion, powerhouse female lead vocals, and thunderous percussion. It’s a very raw sound; the simplicity of the production method is accented by the performance. No frills, no unnecessary production. It’s rock and roll in a pure, unadulterated form.

One could definitely draw some parallels through music of the last decade to bring oneself to VOLK. I’m sure they get the ‘White Stripes’ comparison a whole lot, and they’re certainly akin to acts like Shakey Graves, the Alabama Shakes, or perhaps Honey Honey. In its simplicity, ‘Simple Western Song’ sets up the rest of the EP elegantly, tying directly into ‘Just Anybody’ in a superb fashion.

Aside from the riff’s eerie similarity to that ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ riff from a few years back, ‘Just Anybody’ is firmly the stronger track of the first side. It fleshes out the duo’s lyrical chops a bit more, and tones down the instrumentation to let the fined tuned elements of the act shine. Once the percussion does explode, it’s a cacophony of indie rock lead primarily by the prowess of the lead vocalist. Her voice is exceptional and her personality in the tracks is an irreplaceable mainstay.

‘Revelator’s Bottleneck’ offers a tonal shift once you snap into the B side of the record. Now, the male vocals join in amidst a firm blues influence. That thick slide guitar sound is splendid, and the two performers accent each other well when both at the mic. I love VOLK’s attempts to infuse some fresh musings into Americana blues rock. The atmospheric finale, ‘Like A Fool,’ concretes their talent with an excellent culmination of their collaboration on one track.

They’re worth checking out; the EP is superb.

Kiri Etzkorn – ‘Anything At All’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Kiri Etzkorn, a Canadian artist currently based out of Toronto. Her latest single, distributed in partnership with the Dashney Music Group, is the atmospheric, emotional ‘Anything At All.’ Etzkorn’s top priority is songwriting, something she particularly takes to heart, perhaps more so than her pop music counterparts in the independent scene. That’s refreshing; pop music still has to be well penned. Let’s dig into the tune and discover whether or not Etzkorn’s new tune is worth picking up.

‘Anything At All’ doesn’t tackle anything that’s particularly foreign to pop music. Its anthemic nature is something we hear from that side of the scene on a regular basis, as is the production and instrumentation. I do, however, think that Etzkorn does a fine job leading the listener through familiar territory in a fresh way. Even though I’ve heard songs like ‘Anything At All’ many times before, Etzkorn’s delivery and presence allow the track to remain interesting and enjoyable.

Lyrically, the track is one of those tunes that delves into the emotions of a relationship that wasn’t reciprocated properly. Etzkorn gave all her love to someone, and they didn’t return it and ended up leaving. It’s heartbreaking subject matter, and it doesn’t have any real conclusive end or resolution. As Etzkorn sings, did she mean anything at all? The song doesn’t offer a fix to its emotions, but it does offer a voice and reassurance to any listener who has been put in the same position. That’s very good.

Instrumentally, as I mentioned, the track is pretty standard. It’s atmospheric, she’s soaked in reverb, and it rises and falls as her vocals peak. At times, I think Etzkorn may be mixed a tad high; the timbre of her voice on the high notes of the choruses is quite sharp. Some better EQ probably could have solved this problem.

In any case, ‘Anything At All’ is a wonderfully lovely little statement of humanity, one very much worth checking, and one that’s well written, too. Etzkorn’s got a music video for the piece that’s very well shot as well, which you can find below. If the track is any indication of her work to come, she’s got some real promise as a pop artist.

Curly Tonic & Bob Spring – Press Release – January 27, 2016



Curly Tonic To Release New Single, ‘I Do Remember’

On Feb. 5, the alternative singer songwriter and downtempo deep house producer, Curly Tonic, will be releasing his latest studio endeavor, ‘I Do Remember.’ The melancholy lyricism and atmospheric soundscapes craft new sonic territory for the Swiss DJ. Collaborating with the talented singer songwriter Bob Spring, Curly Tonic’s new track brings a fresh take on his style to the independent scene, a take that’s particularly foreign and exciting to American audiences.

Last May, Curly Tonic achieved notable internet fame through his remix of Lera Lynn’s ‘The Only Thing Worth Fighting For,’ a track popularized by the HBO show ‘True Detective.’ Tonic paired a sharply edited and produced music video with his six minute creation, and thus, clocked in over one million views and continual lauding for his creative style. One could argue that Curly Tonic’s remix of the show’s second season opening track fared better than the show itself!

Bob Spring, the featured artist on ‘I Do Remember,’ released his previous studio effort in May of 2014, entitled ‘Dust and Arrows.’ The record has been described as “summer with some dark rain clouds in the sky,” manifesting itself into a somber, melodic listening experience. The Swiss-Italo-American is currently on his album kick off tour in his home country, but will soon be embarking for the homeland of his heart, the United States.

As an independent songwriter, Spring boasts an impressive catalog of more than 600 songs since his solo career’s inception in 2007. Though he is very much at home in the studio and has worked both on solo and collaborative content, the songwriter is passionate about touring, and very much looks forward to touring the United States once again. Having performed at legendary venues such as the Whisky A Go-Go and Hotel Indigo, Spring has already planted significant roots in the states.

‘I Do Remember’ has the signature studio quality that both Curly Tonic and Bob Spring are known for. Elegantly and minimally produced by Tonic, the track explores themes of love and passion in intriguing new ways, marked poignantly by Spring’s soft, but infectiously lovely crooning delivery.

The track’s radio edit, featured in the 4:40 long music video, can be viewed right now on YouTube. The full track, however, is six minutes in length and that is the version that will be available on all major distribution platforms come Feb. 5. (Fans can expect the single on distribution platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and an array of other outlets.)

To keep up to date with both Curly Tonic and Bob Spring, one can follow their social networking presences which can be found below along with a direct link to the ‘I Do Remember’ music video.

Music Video:

Real Gutta Music – Press Release – January 26, 2016



Real Gutta Music To Release EP This Summer

Joseph Chatman, also known under the moniker of Real Gutta Music, is preparing to release a new EP in the summer of 2016. Entitled ‘Mr. Chatman,’ the five track endeavor will be available on all major digital distribution services, including platforms like iTunes and Spotify. (Set to drop at $7.99) Hosting an array of lyrically profound ideas and content the whole world can relate to, the EP is one to mark your calendar early for.

Real Gutta Music is set to have a bombastic year chock-full of exciting collaborations and music. For his new content, he’s partnered with his manager, the CEO of Mastermind Music, Chino Dollar. Furthermore, the lead single off the EP, ‘Madness,’ will feature the legendary Houston rapper and founder of the South Park Coalition, K-Rino. Gutta and K-Rino will be even further accented by production from Nagra Beats in the United Kingdom.

Born in Waco, Texas in a volatile area of disenfranchisement, crime, and gangs, Chatman escaped the hood by pursuing an education through the Gary Job Corps. Influenced by a lifelong admiration of artists like Tupac, Ice Cube, and Notorious BIG, Chatman decided to don the pseudonym of ‘Real Gutta Music’ to pursue his passion in music. In 2003, he dropped ‘Nawf 9th Hustler’ with AkkBad Entertainment, a release that lead to a slew of radio interviews, live gigs, and special features. The mixtape set forth a path that allowed Chatman to make his dream an actual career.

Having moved to Austin one year later, Gutta formed Monsta Entertainment with the local artists Gerald G and Ryno. The collaboration became so infectious that they were soon opening for the likes of Lil Jon, The Screwed Up Click, and a myriad of other upcoming stars. They toured as well, most notably on the famous ‘Texas Tour.’ Looking to expand his art even further, however, Gutta made the decision to move to Atlanta.

In 2009, Gutta formally kicked off his solo career with his eponymous debut, one that landed on MTV-3, eleven different radio stations, and lead to a strong tour throughout Georgia. Now six years later, having relocated himself back to Texas, this time in San Antonio, Gutta has continued to perform and open for national acts, including several Grammy winning artists.

Gutta remains grounded and realistic in his entertainment pursuits, frequently finding himself humbled by the support of his fans and collaborators. “I appreciate everything the big homies, Lil Keke and Roy Perkins, did for me in respect to the shows and performances,” he says. “I look forward to the continued support while I branch out to other markets.”

‘Mr. Chatman,’ the five song EP slated for this upcoming summer, continues the collaboration between Gutta and the Mastermind Music CEO, Chino Dollar. A four week radio campaign in partnership with Trend City Radio in Los Angeles kicked off three days ago on Jan. 23 as well. Production on the album will include work from SuperStaar Beats, Nagra Beats, Jrum, and DJ Naydee of Beats Planet. The album will feature artists Ryno, K-Rino, and Fred Nice. ‘Madness,’ the first single anticipated to drop, delves into the governmental corruption and injustice of police brutality – a broken system and much-discussed topic last year moving into this year.

Real Gutta Music can be booked at the following information below and followed on major social networking.

Twitter: @RealGuttaMusic

Instagram: @RealGuttaMusic

Piff Loonez – ‘Medication’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Piff Loonez, an independent artist hailing from New Jersey. He’s got a new EP set to drop at the end of February, ‘No Fear,’ which should include five to six brand new tracks. In the meantime, he’s released a new single entitled ‘Medication.’ Let’s dig into the tune and figure out what it’s all about, and whether or not you’ll want to pick up ‘No Fear’ when it drops next month.

Biographical information on Piff Loonez is somewhat scarce. He does have a Twitter and YouTube, but it’s difficult to learn much about him. He does, however, have a nice little following on each platform he occupies, showcasing there is most certainly an audience for the music he’s making. ‘Medication’ is a strong statement for Loonez’s talent. Also, it’s surprisingly deep.

I’ll be entirely honest: when I saw the album art below paired with a song entitled ‘Medication,’ I was expecting yet another jaunt through pot-induced pseudo-introspective musings. I get that kind of music on a weekly basis, and it has yet to impress me. In reality, however, Piff Loonez’s new tune is intelligently penned, wonderfully and subtly profound, and nicely produced. He’s matched elegantly by an original beat that is as simplistic as it is effective. I dig it when an artist sheds any pretension of an overcompensating production and keeps it real.

Piff Loonez covers a lot of ground on ‘Medication.’ Loonez’s self-medicating seems to be a desire to remove himself from reality. He acknowledges economic and social turmoil, and more so, he argues that nobody can feel what he is feeling. He even takes a shot over the bow at people who argue certain Americans are just there for a “handout.” He isn’t, and he’s working his ass off in a continual struggle toward an unachievable perfection.

Toward the end of the track, though, Loonez also contemplates that it doesn’t really matter if he’s ever perfect – he’s himself, and as long as he loves himself, the rest is irrelevant. Thus, ‘Medication’ is a surprisingly deep and well-penned track that exhibits Piff Loonez as a talent with remarkable potential. ‘No Fear’ is definitely worth keeping an eye out for, and you can spin the new track below.

Vince Adams – His Three New Singles

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Vince Adams, an independent singer songwriter from Los Angeles. He’s got a new album entitled ‘Rain or Shine’ slated for worldwide release on Feb. 8. In the meantime, however, let’s spend some time with the tracks that he has released. He’s put out a handful of tunes that do a nice job showcasing the kind of artist listeners can expect on the full album. Let’s dig into that music.

Adams describes his music as a cross between country and rock; he’s not from the South, but he does have a southern flair from South California. I’d argue that while his music does align with both genres, it’s very pop oriented as well. Adams is making the music you’ll hear on Top 10 country radio, which in honesty, isn’t really country music. It’s just electrified Americana pop music with a twang. That isn’t necessarily bad, though, so how does his first single, ‘Red Brick Lipstick’ stand up against its industry counterparts?

‘Red Brick Lipstick’ exhibits a few intriguing things about Vince Adams. Namely, his production is quite exceptional. He’s got a very sharp band, they’re absolutely in step with him, and the entire mix is well organized. No instrumentation feels overpowering, the vocals are mixed at a proper level, and each performance is redeeming in itself. This is an impressive accomplishment worth lauding, because quite honestly, independent music has a penchant for shoddy production and sketchy mastering jobs. If Adams recorded in a studio, it sounds like it, and if he didn’t, it’s even more impressive.

Content wise, ‘Red Brick Lipstick’ is what you’d expect from my aforementioned ‘Top 40 country’ description. It’s infectiously catchy and great to blast at loud volumes and dance to, but it isn’t particularly deep or well written. That said, it doesn’t attempt to be, either. It’s feel-good country rock that understands its place and doesn’t over-extend its hand. Adams’ vocal performance is quite good; he’s got a great rock and roll vibe to him that could serve him well if he leans harder into rock and roll and away from the pop sensibilities.

‘Ain’t It Funny’ feels like a spiritual successor to ‘Red Brick Lipstick,’ aligning closely with that happy-go-lucky pop-ified country sound. I actually think ‘Ain’t It Funny’ is a much better track for a number of reasons. First of all, its chorus hook is absolutely fantastic. It’s still not exceptional writing, but it is good pop writing. There is an art to writing catchy, likable hooks. Seriously, it’s a very difficult thing to do. I’ll definitely give Adams credit where its due in that regard. He can write one hell of a pop song. It’s also very well performed and follows a more interesting structure.

‘Drinking About You,’ the final track currently available from Adams online, is probably the most well-penned of the three. It catalogs the frustration we all deal with post-breakup. He does a surprisingly fine job putting those terrible emotions into music. It’s still poppy and jingly, but the subject matter is much more personable than the previous two songs. It’s a very… human song. We’ve all been there.

Vince Adams has incredible potential, and I love where he’s going. Here’s what I would love to see from him, however – some stripped down tracks. He sounds fantastic with that tight backing band. Next, he should take his vocals and some strong lyricism and match them with acoustic instrumentation, perhaps a piano. Every good rock artist should sound just as good, if not better, when stripped of the fanfare. I believe Adams would produce some really compelling content in a setting like that. That said, these three tracks do make a strong argument for checking out that record when it drops Feb 8.

Henwall – ‘Seven Weeks’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on an artist we showcased last November, Henrik Berntsson. Assuming the moniker of Henwall, the Swedish house producer released ‘Where R You,’ a single that I lauded for its creative design and enjoyable atmosphere. Now, Henwall is back with another single. Let’s dig into ‘Seven Weeks’ and see how it stacks up to the content of Henwall’s that we’ve previously discussed.

One of the better things about ‘Where R You’ was its blissful occupation of a space that fit it absolutely perfectly. It didn’t attempt to be overly deep, and as I remarked, it was perfect for pump-up workout jams and uplifting playlists. ‘Seven Weeks’ is very similar; it’s one of those “live life to the fullest” tracks. Guest vocalist Martin Carlén croons about living while young, because nothing can kill or hurt you in youth. More so, he just wants more time to be young and healthy, actively avoiding the old age tropes of wrinkles and wheelchairs.

Like its predecessor, ‘Seven Weeks’ is not deep. In fact, its lyrics aren’t even too well written, and actually fall into awkwardly grim areas at times – save the “knocking on heaven’s door” for Bob Dylan. This is a review, however, of a producer. So let’s talk about the instrumentation and production of ‘Seven Weeks.’ It’s incredibly good, and redeems the lackluster lyricism in nearly every way.

Henwall’s synthesizers are dynamic, upbeat, and chock-full of good vibes with a wide sonic palette. I love the usage of acoustic instrumentation throughout, pianos, acoustic guitars, and other sly, but noticeable composition elements make the track an enjoyable one to listen to. Thus, I think this is actually a good track that lends itself well to the same settings as ‘Where R You.’ While the lyricism isn’t terribly good, Henwall’s production is lovable in more ways than one.


Facebook artist page:

Maini Sorri & Magneto Dayo – ‘Second Chance’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we revisit an artist we’ve regularly delved into over the last year: Maini Sorri. The Swedish-Finnish singer, musician, and songwriter has been lauded several times here on the Spotlight for her refreshing tunes that span a variety of genres. She’s tackled pop, electronic dance music, love ballads, and so much more. Her latest endeavor is ‘Second Chance,’ a collaboration with the American rapper Magneto Dayo. Let’s dig right into it and figure out what it’s all about.

Magneto Dayo discovered Sorri online and reached out to record with her, and thus, the two crafted ‘Second Chance.’ The track aligns closely with Sorri’s previous dance music efforts, relying entirely on electronic instrumentation, thick, danceable beats, and intensity. One of the hallmarks of a Sorri recording is infectiously fun synthesizers; she’s particularly good at that. They’re in abundance on ‘Second Chance.’ Her signature crooning is in force again as well.

I love the induction of Magneto Dayo to Sorri’s style. She mixes perfectly with his strong, powerful hip hop delivery. One of the things about Sorri’s music that I’ve always found especially compelling is her ability to work with a myriad of artists and collaborators across great distances to significant success. It’s quite difficult to create a cohesive product when half of the work is being done in Sweden and the other half in America. ‘Second Chance’ pulls this off in spades, and you’ll forget entirely that the two weren’t actually in a studio together.

The lyricism is quite good, too, especially on Magneto Dayo’s end. It isn’t terribly deep, but it is well rhymed and executed. I will say this, though: I would like to hear Sorri release a stripped down track. She should shed the electronic instrumentation and drum machines and accent herself less intense orchestration. Her voice is wonderfully unique, and I think it would be so remarkable against a simplistic soundscape. That, however, is for another day. In the meantime, check out ‘Second Chance’ when it drops this Monday, January 25. It’s a great tune.