Daniel “Freebo” Friedberg is a decorated singer/songwriter with an impressive session/sideman history, including a ten-year stint playing bass and touring with Bonnie Raitt. Other collaborators include John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, CSN, Maria Muldaur, Ringo Starr, Michelle Shocked, Neil Young, Loudon Wainwright III, and Dr. John. He’s also a formidable tuba player.
The last few years have seen Freebo launching into a successful solo career, having released four solo albums since 1999. There’s no quick-and-easy way to pin down a singular “Freebo sound,” as his diverse solo material is suitably colored by his work with all of the above A-list names. As such, his work boasts a seasoned blend of blues, rock and folk—but closer listening reveals undertones of dixieland, reggae, and Broadway musicals.
His Nimbit store offerings include a multitude of sponsorship opportunities (you can even buy “Executive Producer” credit on his next record!) two singles, and four full-lengths, including the canine tribute album, Dog People.
It only took a few listens to Buffalo, New York’s The Reign Of Kindo to make me realize I was a jazz-rock fan. It’s important to distinguish them from what a lot of folks call fusion, which seems to err a little more heavily on the jazz side of things—and often the smoooooth jazz side of things.
Not these guys. The Reign of Kindo’s potent formula begins with a distinctly jazz-fueled approach to arrangement, rhythm and chord structure, delivered with urgency and song structures typically associated with rock. As such, they are a must-listen for both rock and jazz fans looking for a refreshing groove that isn’t too far off the beaten path.
Fleet, often busy drumming drives the bulk of the Kindo repertoire—frequently mixed right up in your face, where it belongs. Lead singer Joe Secchiaroli commands a voice that is simultaneously assertive and approachable, and the bulk of their recordings are bathed in wall-to-wall piano. While the bulk of the sonic structure here is vocals, bass, drums, and piano, guest instrumentation livens things up via sax, cello, and… hey, was that a singing saw? Cool.
And they give us a lot to choose from. Musically speaking, The Reign of Kindo’s Nimbit Store offers a couple of full-lengths includingThis is What Happens and Live YouTube Sessions, a couple yuletide EPs and a single. There’s also a ton of apparel options available, and it’s nice to see them breaking out of the “band name on a T-shirt” mold with hoodies, kids’ shirts, and even a classic mesh trucker cap—call it a utility/fashion fusion.
Boston’s Livingston Taylor began his career as a performing songsmith nearly straight out of high school, having first picked up the guitar at a spry 13 years of age. His songwriting (seemingly seasoned straight out of the gate) and personable, relatable stage presence garnered notice from live music fans and critics alike. 1970 saw him land his first record deal, releasing his eponymous debut on the esteemed Capricorn Records. Last year—that’s 44 years later—he released Blue Sky, his 18th.
Having performed around 80 shows per year in that timespan, he’s really played any type of gig you can imagine, from coffee shops to large festivals to opera houses, landing a couple of Billboard charting-hits along the way: “I Will Be in Love with You,” and “First Time Love.” And it’s that breadth of experience (well, okay, and also his songs) that landed him the coolest gig he’s ever had: that of Professor at Berklee College of Music—a post he’s held since 1989.
His discography, most of which is available via his Nimbit store, is peppered with a couple best-of collections, a covers record, and also a sort of self-cover record. Good Friends finds Livingston taking some of his more familiar tunes into decidedly jazzier territory—great for established fans that enjoy a new spin on the familiar. Furthermore—and we don’t see this too often at Nimbit—he has distilled his Berklee teachings down into a good ol’-fashioned book, “Stage Performance,” which is also available for sale.
You know—for kids!
Steve Roslonek of SteveSongs has been writing and performing his award-winning music for kids and families for fifteen years, as both a touring and recording balladeer and children’s TV host. In that time, Steve has won numerous prestigious awards including two Parents’ Choice Gold Awards, a NAPPA Honor, two iParenting Media Awards, and a Kidscreen nomination for Best Children’s TV Host. He’s also released a ton of kids-first recordings that are silly and educational in equal parts.
Like much kid-targeted media, there’s a heavy leaning toward funny animal themes here—lots of bugs, rabbits, ducks, dogs, and even a rock’n’roll werewolf—all trumpeting 101-level life lessons on the merits of vegetables and tooth-brushing. For a music-purchasing grown-up who normally might feel like they are merely enduring a children’s record, there are occasional nods to popular songs that in-the-know adults will enjoy a knowing laugh from. A smart move on Steve’s part, and it’s what establishes him as a purveyor of family entertainment as opposed to children’s entertainment. Add to that his sincerely inspired wordplay, (rhyming “Canteloupe” with “can of soap,” never would have occurred to me) and there really is something for everyone.
A broad majority of Steve’s SteveSongs songs feature Steve on lead vocals and guitar, surrounded not only by a bang-up world-class band, but also a shout-along gaggle of enthusiastic rugrats. Mostly folky-acoustic and always squeaky clean, there’s a diverse array of instrumentation and musical themes here that dally with rock territory while never getting any heavier than, say, Paul Simon’s Graceland.
Steve’s Nimbit profile offers no fewer than eight full-length albums available in both MP3 and CD, as well as softcover and hardcover editions of Shape Song Swingalong, a DVD, and t-shirts available in various flavors of small. Steve’s pretty good about keeping his tour schedule up-to-date as well. Check it out so you and the cubs can contribute to The Shape Song in person sometime, and maybe hitch a ride home in Dan’s Orangutan Van.
Except that hitchhiking is never safe, kids, so don’t.
Chicago’s Don Conoscenti is a musician’s musician through-and-through who enjoyed a supportive musical upbringing. While now best known as a decorated singer/songwriter in acoustic circles—he’s a winner of the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriting Competition and was a National Academy of Songwriters’ Acoustic Artist of the Year finalist—fact is the guy cut his teeth by learning drums before learning guitar, and established his acoustic claim after many years spent as a “die-hard rocker.” Never one to be bound by the limits of genre loyalty, Don is also an accomplished flautist and vocalist.
His “few rules” mentality also applies to his approach to the guitar—he’s the only guitarist I’ve ever seen use multiple capos on a guitar, including partial capos. If you’re a guitar player, good luck trying to figure out how to play his songs just by listening to them. For you he released the hilariously titled Capo Abuse and Guitar Techniques video.
Don’s rock’n’roll beginnings have proven a major asset in his ability to stand apart in an ocean of acoustic-driven songwriters. The rockin’ influences in Don’s work aren’t worn on his sleeve, but instead bubble up through the cracks in a much more subtle manner than is typically associated with rock music. So far, he’s nine self-released albums into his career.
On his latest release. High Desert Sessions, Don turned to PreSonus Studio One to make the entire record on his own. Of the experience, he says, “Thanks to recording software like PreSonus’ Studio One Professional, I can now produce, track, orchestrate, mix, master and immediately upload the finished product to Soundcloud and my Nimbit Store, which then allows me to sell it through my website and social media pages within minutes of mastering. It wasn’t easy to learn how to do all that, but there’s a lot to love about the end result of that process. Thanks for listening and look for a summer 2015 release featuring some heavy hitting guest artists including Ellis Paul and Grammy-winning artists Paul Buckmaster, Bill Miller and Lloyd Maines.”
Demo versions of the High Desert Sessions are available now on his Nimbit store.
New Hampshire folkster Tom Rush has been in the game since 1961, and having recently celebrated his 50th year of music-making, it’s not hard to see why the guy has endured so well. He delivers everything a listener could want from an acoustic singer/songwriter—adroit, restrained guitar playing, a voice that quietly compels your attention, sincere, relatable lyrics, and—most importantly—great songs.
Really great songs. An adept humorist with a Harvard English Literature degree, Tom understands critical components that escape lesser songwriters: humor and a great story. Add to that a little bit of melancholy and some surprisingly earthy blues romps, and you’ve got a little something for everybody.
Tom is probably best known for 1968’s “No Regrets,” which has become something of a standard in acoustic circles. This is, of course, only fitting—Tom had a major hand in popularizing the likes of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and others, by performing their songs early in his career. Both James Taylor and Garth Brooks cite Tom as a major influence. Furthermore, Rolling Stone went so far as to credit Tom with “ushering in the era of the singer/songwriter. Call it full-circle.
A video of his performance of Steven Walter’s “The Remember Song” went viral in June 2012, causing Tom to comment “I’ve been waiting 45 years to be an overnight sensation, and it’s finally happened!” It’s accrued over six million views at the time of this writing.
Tom Rush’s Nimbit Store has a lot to offer, including a whopping 13 albums, a Blu-Ray, and four DVDs—including a documentary and a guitar instruction course, How I Play (Some of) my Favorite Songs. If you’re new to Tom Rush, start with What I Know. It was voted Folk Album of the Year by The International Folk Alliance.
There’s a paradox inherent in the very notion of country music in an internet age. Country has always been directly influenced by whatever the devil pop music is doing at the time, and crossover hits between the two genres are subsequently commonplace. For better or for worse, this has made for some interesting sonic innovations, and a music writer can’t help but notice that the very things that made country appealing in the first place—earnestness, humanity, and real people playing together in the same room—tend to get a little lost in the digital dustup.
Fortunately for you and I, JP Harris and the Tough Choices play the sort of country music that makes one realize that some things were done correctly the first time around. To both their credit and listenability, Harris and company’s sound is less new-school and more no-school. It shoots from the heart rather than for it, and there’s nary a digital artifact detectable on either of their wonderfully emotive full-length recordings. This isn’t to say the records don’t sound old-fashioned, it’s to say that they sound just right. Perhaps they should have called themselves JP Harris and the Right Choices.
A well-traveled troubadour despite being scarcely over thirty, JP left Alabama to travel the country via freight train at the age of 14, guitar in tow. Over his four vagabond years, JP wound up in California before moving through Louisiana, where he recorded I’ll Keep Calling before settling in Nashville, which is the closest he can call to a permanent home.
JP’s influences don’t seem to draw from any music that came out after 1974. The most overt influences echo Buck Owens, and particularly George Jones and two out of three Hank Williamses in woeful tracks like the titular “Home is Where the Hurt is.” The material isn’t tear-in-your-beer from start to finish, however, as there’s a bevy of boisterous fun in tracks like “Young Women and Old Guitars,” which contains a winking nod to low ends via a double-dose of baritone sax and baritone guitar on the same track.
Both Home Is Where The Hurt Is and I’ll Keep Calling are available from JP Harris’ Nimbit store on CD, digital download, and good ol’ vinyl, which was also done right the first time around.
While Boston’s Vance Gilbert is known largely to singer-songwriter circles, to say he draws strictly from the book of Guthrie would be something of a disservice. While his lengthy discography bears many acoustic affairs, there’s a lot of blues in here. Add the fact that Vance got his start as a jazz singer—you can REALLY hear it in his inimitable, vulnerable vocal tones—and you have a unique blend of influences that create something simultaneously familiar and new. While this would be enough for some artists to get by on,Vance also brings significant guitar and lyrical chops to the table. The Boston Globe puts it better than I could, however, when of 2000’s Somerville Live they espoused, “Young songwriters should study this disc the way law students cram for bar exams.”
Turned out that it wasn’t just young songwriters who took note—over the years, Arlo Guthrie and Anita Baker both chose Vance for their support slot on the road, and he spent a year and a half touring in support of the late George Carlin.
Vance’s Nimbit store is a credit to his prolific recording and release schedule—somehow on top of a busy touring schedule, the man has managed to release a dozen albums since kicking off his career as a humble open mic night regular. Well… as humble as one can be when blowing minds. Some are available as digital download, others as CDs, some as both. Noteworthy among them is Side of the Road, a collaboration with fellow Nimbit torchbearer and close friend Ellis Paul.
There was a time when the Jersey Shore represented the best in American entertainment. Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, the Rat Pack, Dick Clark, Chubby Checker… they all made stops on the Jersey Shore. Tony Mart’s was the club Levon Helm was playing when Dylan called. Of course, we all know what happened in Asbury Park. The town, ravaged by riots in the late 60s, became a melting pot of musical experimentation. Late-night jams that ended when the sun came up were the norm. Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny were the two acts that made their way to an international stage from these humble beginnings.
For decades musicians have come and gone, always hoping to make a living and pursue a dream. Billy Walton is no different. Billy’s proving ground was Long Beach Island. Too young to drive around and enter the clubs on his own, Billy was chaperoned from gig to gig by his mom, always up for a jam and looking to learn some tricks. For years Billy spent his time sharpening his skills, developing his stage act until he decided to step up to center stage with the Billy Walton Band.
Billy’s talent was noticed by NJ legend Southside Johnny and was he invited to join the band. This is when Billy began formulating his version of the Jersey Shore sound. On his latest release, Wish For What You Want, Billy brought award-winning producer Tony Braunagel (Eric Burdon, Trampled Under Foot, Phantom Blues Band) into the mix to turn his musical vision into reality. The resulting sound is straight-up bluesy rock, no chaser, that’s a perfect fit for a Saturday night or a long drive.
The Billy Walton Band’s Nimbit store offers four full-length albums and an EP, as well as a four-album combo pack for just $20.
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Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli:
One listen to Lori’s voice and you’ll understand why she’s an award-winner; she was recognized in 2010’s Great American Songwriting Contest, and received Pulse Magazine’s Best Female Vocalist award in 2011 and 2012. Evocative of renowned songbirds like Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell, Lori’s warm, emotive, and pitch-perfect voice conveys vulnerability and confidence in simultaneous and equal measure.
Add capable multi-instrumentalist Fred Abatelli to the mix and you’ve got something of a quiet powerhouse on your hands. The instrumentation on the four CDs available on their Nimbit store is largely piano and acoustic guitar driven, making for a collection of songs that are absolutely perfect for unwinding after a hard days’ work.
Their recordings reward repeat listenings through judicious use of vocal harmony and divergent instrumentation—but never too much of either. Lori’s voice and lyrics are the real stars of the show, here, and the arrangements sensibly give them both plenty of space. Given the duo’s thematic focus on empathy, it seems just that a portion of all of their CD sales go to support NEADS—a nonprofit organization that provides independence to people who are deaf or have a disability through the use of canine assistance
Of particular note, Lori is maximizing the potential of Nimbit’s Calendar feature. Her show listings include not only the critical information of where and when, but even screen caps of the venue’s location on Google Maps to help attendees get their bearings.
A smart move. Also included is venue contact info, links to ticket purchases, and Lori’s own thoughts about the venues and festivals she’ll be performing in, which is a nice personal touch, likely appreciated by venue owners—a little goodwill can go a long way toward repeat bookings. Lori has clearly created some demand for her shows and is planning ahead, as her calendar has bookings well into October of 2015!
Telecaster elite Jim Weider has been in the game for a lifetime. He’s one of those incredible guitarists that has somehow flown under the radar of many—but I’ll put it to ya this way: When The Band reformed in 1985, Jim was the go-to first-call six-stringer to replace Robbie Robertson.
You don’t get that gig without knowing your way around a fretboard. Jim didn’t just get the gig, but kept it for 15 years.
The Weider collaborator name-drop roll call reads more or less like a who’s who of Woodstock-era wunderkinds: The Band, Dylan, Taj Mahal, Paul Butterfield, and more. Further luminary collaborators include other folks you may have heard of—including a guy who calls himself “Keith Richards,” and someone else called “Mavis Staples.”
Oh, and Jim was born in Woodstock, New York. Just sayin’.
Jim’s Nimbit store is largely focused on his most recent effort, PRoJECT PERCoLAToR, a notable diversion from his rootsy roots. PRoJECT PERCoLAToR is a little more on the experimental side of things, instead focusing on multi-layered guitar parts and looped drums and percussion. The result is a series of groove-driven efforts that offer a fresh direction for Jim—one that listeners familiar with Jim’s pedigree may be surprised by. Studio and live albums are both available.
Something we don’t see every day in the merch section of Nimbit stores is instructional resources. Jim’s got a bevy of guitar instructional DVDs covering blues, country blues, and rockabilly—all of which are available autographed! Also available is the exhaustively researched Get That Classic Fender Sound DVD, an exploration of vintage Fender guitars and amps from the 50s and 60s that gear geeks will flip a chrome tailpiece for.
Roomful of Blues:
Cards, meet table: Roomful of Blues formed in 1967, and are currently celebrating their 45–year anniversary. Think about that for a second—how many bands can you name that have been around for 45 years and are still kicking?
Hmm, let’s see. Motorhead? Nope, formed in ’75. Cock Sparrer? Close at 1972. The Rolling Stones? Well, they formed in 1962, so they check out OK… but that means when it comes to finding a contemporary for Roomful of Blues, The Stones are the only fair comparison?
Seriously. The Stones? The Stones? Yep. Wow.
While lineup changes are to be expected in an outfit of this vintage, Roomful of Blues is currently a horn-heavy octet fronted by powerhouse vocalist Phil Pemberton. They’ve been known to draw from blues of all shades, and as a result have developed a sound that incorporates swing, soul, and some New Orleans flavor that keeps even blues aficionados guessing as to what the band will do next. Critics have taken note as well, and to date the band has earned five Grammy Award nominations, seven Blues Music Awards noms—including a win.
45 Live was just released on July 30, 2013, in celebration of the aforementioned anniversary. The band packed a three-day party at Mantunuck, Rhode Islands’ The Ocean Mist, and played their hearts out evey night, recording every note. The best performances from the anniversary show make up the 45 Live disc—which sounds a lot better than most live records, BTW.
I understand that some might argue that it’s not about the years, it’s about the mileage—and if so, RoB is the blues’ equivalent of an unstoppable Mack truck that has steadily, reliably been shipping music lovers up and down Highway 95 for a lifetime. The Roomful of Blues Nimbit store boasts a handful of T-shirts, but the real star here is the discography—SEVENTEEN full-length albums available via CD or HD download! In the time I’ve been writing these Nimbit Artist of the Week Posts, that’s the most I’ve seen a band offer. It sets the record for number of records.