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CD Review: Diana Chittester “Paradox”

Diana Chittester is a singer-songwriter that makes her home in Northeastern Ohio. It is in this location that she is free to be herself and express herself the way she wants. You can hear some of her struggles in the lyrics that are found in the music that she creates.  And while her personal struggles find a place in her music, it is the music itself that is created by Diana Chittester that sets her apart from the crowd.

One thing that is rather obvious about the singer-songwriter Diana Chittester is just how strong she is as a musician. To help flavor her playing, Chittester calls upon influences from artists such as Ani DeFranco, Joni Mitchell, Lindsay Buckingham, Jewel and plenty of others including Ann Wilson of the band Heart, whose playing on tracks like “Crazy On You” truly helped flavor Chittester’s own style of playing.

That being said, just listening to the music from Diana Chittester doesn’t really do her justice. You must see the musician in concert to truly appreciate just how talented she truly is. Very few musicians can fill up a room with just their voice and one guitar but Chittester is one musician who is able to do just that. The multi-layering effect that happens when she is in concert is a wonder to behold. And it’s done without the use of a looper, which just adds to the amazing playing ability of the singer-songwriter.  

The multi-layering from Diana Chittester can be found on the various releases that have been produced by the artist over the years, with the most obvious of that layering appearing on her previous album of Find My Way Home which features only the artist with her guitar. The sparse feel of the music on that album truly helps the layering effect to shine through.

Diana Chittester’s playing and the multi-layering feel to her music led to her being included in the Top 10 list of the publication Guitar Gods Magazine. Her video for the track “Paradox” was even included in the 43rd Cleveland International Film Festival to be included in an entire program of music videos. And just recently, Chittester was featured in the RiffJournal.com’s list of 50 Gifted Singer-Songwriters

As far as her music is concerned, Diana Chittester released a new six-song EP entitled Paradox not that long ago. Where the album Find My Way Home contained a sparse feel to the music on that release, Paradox comes complete with a much fuller feel to the music. The music contained within this EP is much different compared to the artist’s previous album because of that stronger production value. This six-song release shows off just what Chittester’s music can sound like when it comes with a completely full production value to it.

Paradox from Diana Chittester begins with the track “Freedom”. The track begins with the sound of the ukulele that she uses in much of her music. That ukulele is soon joined by the drums, guitar, bass and organ to create a Rock and Roll track with the ukulele in the forefront of the track. The track about needing to make one’s own choices in life feels both unusual because of the choice of the ukulele as the centerpiece of the track and familiar as the music contains a full amount of pop-rock flavor to it. You can even imagine yourself starting to sing along with the lyrics making the track a perfect anthem for those looking for inspiration.

Diana Chittester’s newest release continues with the track “In the Middle”. Where the track of “Freedom” ha a slightly unique flavor to it, “In the Middle” is much more mainstream in comparison. With the electric guitar and the rest of the instrumentation, the track of “In the Middle” brings to mind a style of Rock and Roll that was present in the mid-nineties. More specifically, the song contains a musical quality that brings to mind the song “All I Wanna Do” from Sheryl Crow. The Rock and Roll contained within the track creates one of the strongest moments on the release.

On the title track of the EP, Diana Chittester brings back a good deal of the simplicity that had been found on the artist’s album of Find My Way Home as the track begins with only the sound of the ukulele her vocals. The song of “Paradox” finds Chittester reflecting on years gone by as a relationship comes to an end. The singer-songwriter questions what happened and why it happened. She even wonders if it was all just a bad dream. As she follows her own thoughts, the music of the track gains momentum and becomes a lot fuller. To help fill out the music of the track, strings are added to the music. The strings add beauty as well as sadness to reinforce the meaning of the lyrics on the track. What results is a track where the lyrics are full of emotion and the music adds to that sorrow. The track of “Paradox” is easily the most personal song of the six tracks included on the EP.

The Paradox release from Diana Chittester continues with the track “On My Own”. With the lyrics of the track being what they are as they spell out a woman pushing herself to keep going after something bad has happened, the track feels much like a continuation of the EP’s title track. This is mostly likely just coincidence as the two tracks of “Paradox” and “On My Own” are right next to each other.  However, the two tracks with their similar lyrical approaches create a passage on the EP that is easily the most emotional.

Diana Chittester finishes off her release of Paradox with the song “Cry”. Like “Paradox” and “On My Own” earlier in the EP, “Cry” explores personal parts of Chittester’s life as she explains how her own path in life led her to lose friends and family for simply being who she is. The soft quality of the music and the strings that are contained within it combine to create a track that will definite tug at your heart as you experience just a taste of the pain that Chittester has experienced throughout her life. Musically speaking, the quiet delivery of the music on the track makes “Cry” the perfect track to help bring Chittester’s Paradox to a close.  

Paradox from Diana Chittester is quite different from the singer-songwriter’s previous release of Find My Way Home. This album contains a stronger production value. It contains a much fuller feel to the music. And most importantly, it comes across as much more personal. In many ways, this release shows the listener just how much Diana Chittester has matured as far as her music is concerned from one release to the next. One can only imagine where she will take us with the next release.

 

To discover for yourself the music of Diana Chittester, check out “Paradox,” the very video that was included in this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival. 

To hear the entire Paradox release from Diana Chittester on spotify, click on the  album cover below: 


 
 

 

 

 

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CD Review: Branik “Why Not?”

Singer-songwriter Hillary Branyik had a dream of completing her studies at Berklee School of Music where she was studying Voice. However, that dream was put on hold when she needed to have surgery on her vocal cords. Eventually, she would change directions but not her goals and she began writing her own music that was largely influenced by the likes of Third Eye Blind, Stevie Nicks, Michelle Branch, Mazzy Star. Today, Hillary Branyik (who performs under just her last name of Branik) is acknowledging what she has accomplished despite some setbacks as she celebrates the release of her first EP, a four-song release entitled Why Not?

Along with her talents as a singer, Hillary Branyik also plays the guitar. That instrument gives her music some shape, but it is only part of what gives her music life.

To help bring out the full potential of what her music could be Hillary Branyik is joined by several other musicians. To fill out the sound of Branyik’s music, the rest of the instrumentation was provided by: Electric Guitar by Marton Bisits, Drums by Matt Musty, Bass & Acoustic Guitars by Benjamin Kopf, with Piano by Hillary Reynolds and Cello by Trevor Jarvis. Along with providing Piano and Cello to the release, Hillary Reynolds and Trevor Jarvis of the band Peridot (which also contains electric guitarist Marton Bisits) also helped to produce the release. Together, Branik and the rest of the musicians have combined their talents to create the Why Not? EP. 

Why Not? by Branik begins with the track “Still”. The track features a Pop/Rock feel to the music with more of a stressing on the Rock part of the style. In fact, the track seems to bring to mind some influence from Michelle Branch as both the music and the lyrical content recalls that artist’s style. But no matter what, the track would fit right in on today’s Top 40, Hot A/C radio formats. With the electric guitars on the track even give the song a musical approach that would also have been right at home on Pop/Rock or Top 40 radio back in the eighties. The lead-off track of “Still” is just the thing to begin the EP as it will give fans of commercial Rock music just what they’re looking for.

The underlying eighties influence on the track “Still” returns even stronger on the second track of the release. The second track on the EP is called “Nine Nineteen” and the song brings the influence from the eighties out even more. In fact, the track would be right at home among such eighties staples such as Heart, Cyndi Lauper, Belinda Carlisle even Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles. “Nine Nineteen” has slower and easier pace to the music. The extremely commercial feel to the music of the track mixed with the slower pace to the song brings to mind a love ballad from the eighties that would have been featured in the background of a movie such as “Pretty In Pink” “Sixteen Candles” or any other movie that had a light-hearted feel to the comedy. The track’s playtime of less than three minutes makes it perfect for inclusion on any Rock-based radio format.

For the next track, Hillary Branyik and the rest of the musicians who help to bring her music to life slow things down. The track “Pray For You” contains the same type of passionate feel to the music as was found on the previous track of “Nine Nineteen” but with a little less of the romantic feel to the lyrics. Where “Still” shows a romantic side to the singer-songwriter, the song contains more of a caring side to her as she states that she will pray for the person in question. The slow, easy feel to the music also contains a slight orchestral feel because of the inclusion of the cello in the background as well as the electric guitar which add to that orchestral approach.

Why Not? by Branik comes to a close with the track “Nightmare”. For this track, Hillary Branyik and the rest of the musicians bring the energy level of the music up just a little. The result is a track with a Folk-Rock feel to the music that brings to mind the music of Avril Lavigne. Much like “Pray for You” before it, the track contains a rather laidback approach to the music, but at the same time has a more energetic delivery than “Pray for You”. The track’s easy feel makes for the perfect musical approach to bring the four-song release to a close.

For a first release, the four-song release of Why Not? release by Branik finds the singer-songwriter creating a very commercial release and it shows off the singer-songwriter’s various influences rather well. It also gives the listener a strong indication that future releases from the artist should be just as entertaining.  

For a taste of the music from Hillary Branyik and her onstage personality of Branik, check out the acoustic version of the song “Still” HERE  

The Why Not? release by Branik can be found on Soundcloud. She can also be found on Spotify

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CD Review: Roadcase Royale “First Things First”

Nancy Wilson & Liv WarfieldOne member of the late, great Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Prince’s band the New Power Generation, Liv Warfield has joined up with former Heart founder (and Rock Hall member herself) Nancy Wilson to create the base for a new musical project. The new project the two women are part of is called Roadcase Royale. What happens when you take singers from two of the most popular Rock and Roll bands from the past and create a band around them? You end up with nothing less than a powerhouse band that will give today’s musicians a run for their money.

Along with Warfield and Wilson, various members of both the New Power Generation and Heart help to bring this new Supergroup of Roadcase Royale to life. The complete list of musicians that make up Roadcase Royale includes: Ryan Waters (lead guitarist) along with Heart members Chris Joyner (keys), Dan Rothchild (bass), and Ben Smith (drums). With both of the former bands being as strong as they had been, it should come as no surprise that this new ensemble truly ROCKS!

Roadcase Royale is currently promoting their new album released on September 22, 2017. The new album from Roadcase Royale is entitled First Things First.

First Things First from Roadcase Royale begins with one of the strongest tracks, “Get Loud”. The track begins with a very strong guitar riff from Ryan Waters that leads into a Rock and Roll track that contains a Soul influence. Liv Warfield adds her vocals to the track and gives the song even more of a Soul feel. The track’s lyrics take the listener back in time as they contain a definite message about standing up and making your voice heard. The track has a driving feel to the music that is both retro with a seventies feel and modern at the same time. That strong musical combination will have the listener bopping along to the song. “Get Loud” is nothing less than an anthem waiting to be heard.

With today’s political scene being what it is and with the way many people are unhappy about the situation in the country, it should come as no surprise that the band Roadcase Royale included one song on their release that is more than just a little politically charged. On the track “Not Giving Up,” Liv Warfield, Nancy Wilson and the rest of the band create a song about the current sitting president and having to deal with decisions made by him and his regime. The Blues-influenced track once again finds the band creating a song with an unrelenting feel to the music. The strength in the driving music created by the band adds plenty of energy to the lyrics of the song.

Even though much of the album contains its own sound, the track “Hold On To My Hand” brings back the feel of the music from the band Heart. In fact, the Heart-inspired track feels as if it would have been right at home with any of the tracks that had made up the discography of the group. Of course, that would have a lot to do with the fact that most of Roadcase Royale is made up of members of that band. “Hold On To My Hand” begins with a keyboard sound that brings to mind something that could have come from the band Steppenwolf. Before long, the band launches into the Rock and Roll track that contains a gentle pace to the music but with a strong, rockin’ delivery. Like “Get Loud” earlier on, “Hold On To My Hand” is one track on First Things First that needs to be heard.

Most of the songs on First Things First have a modern feel to their music, the track of “The Dragon” sort of stands out when compared to the rest of the songs. The music on the track seems slightly dated as the song’s music contains a slightly psychedelic feel to the music. In fact, that psychedelic feel brings to mind the music of the band Jefferson Airplane; especially music of Jefferson Airplane from back in the seventies. Although there is that psychedelic flavor, the track would still feel right at home on today’s radio stations.

The new album from Roadcase Royale contains mainly original material. However, the band did include one cover on the album: “These Dreams”. But since most of the musicians in Roadcase Royale came from Heart and “These Dreams” was and still is a song from Heart, maybe it’s more of a reimagining than a cover. And while it is a reimagining of the song, one thing that does remain the same is that Nancy Wilson handles the vocals. And with this track, the listener can tell that she has not lost any magic in her vocal abilities. The track’s new arrangement stays true to the original recording, yet still feels very fresh. These Dreams is yet another track on the new First Things First release that will immediately catch your attention.

In every genre of music, you will end up losing talented musicians or bands or both. The thing is to find other talented individuals to fill that void. And while both Prince and the band known as Heart are no longer around, the void left behind from the loss of those entities has been filled rather nicely by the very same people who had a hand in creating the songs made famous by those artists. Nancy Wilson, Liv Warfield and their bandmates have created a new band in Roadcase Royale that is easily as solid as what the two musicians had come out of. Having already made musical history once, Wilson and Warfield are doing it again with Roadcase Royale and their new release entitled First Things First.

Check out the powerhouse band Roadcase Royale and their single “Get Loud” by clicking on the link.

For more information, check out band’s record label, Loud and Proud Records and their PR firm, 37-Media. A “Shout Out” also goes to Dreamscape Records who also suggested this particular release for review.

To purchase a copy of First Things First from Roadcase Royale, click on the album cover below:

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