JOVM celebrates what would have been Sam Cooke’s 90th birthday.
Live concert photography of Jaguar Jonze performing at Au Review’s New Colossus Festival party last March.
Throughout the course of last year, I wrote a bit about the rising Toulouse, France-based singer/songwriter Laure Briard. Briard has had an uncommon path to professional music: the French singer/songwriter bounced around several different interests and passions, including studying literature and criminology, and even doing a bit of acting before concentrating on music full-time on music back in 2013.
The Toulouse-based singer/songwriter initially signed with Tricatel Records, who released her debut EP. After the EP’s release, Briard met with Juilen Gasc and Eddy Cramps and began working on what would become her attention grabbing full-length debut, 2015’s Révélation, an effort inspired by Françoise Hardy, Margo Guryan and Vashti Bunyan that featured a very modern and poetic lyricism. She then signed with Midnight Special Records, who released her sophomore album, 2016’s Sur la Piste de Danse.
Since Sur la Pisa de Danse, Briard’s work has increasingly been influenced by Bossa nova: 2018’s Coração Louco, featured lyrics written and sung in Portuguese — and a guest spot from acclaimed Brazilian JOVM mainstays and Latin Grammy Award nominated act Boogarins. 2019’s Un peu plus d’amour s’il vous plâit, which was released through Michel Records in Canada, Midnight Special Records in Europe and Burger Records here in the States continued Briard’s ongoing love affair with Bossa nova and Brazilian music.
Slated for a February 19, 2021 through Michel Records in North America, Dinosaur City Records in Australia and Midnight Special Records in Europe, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter’s forthcoming EP En Voo sees Briard continuing her successful collaboration with Boogarins, as well as with her longtime collaborators Vincent Guyot, a.k.a. Octopus and Marius Duflot. If you were frequenting this site over the course of last year, you may recall that I wrote about En VOO’s first single, EP title track “En Voo,” 60s Scott Walker-like orchestral psych pop meets 70s AM radio rock-like take on Bossa nova, featuring Briard’s ethereal vocals cooing in Portuguese, twinkling Rhodes, shimmering guitars and jazz-fusion that evokes the swooning euphoria of reuniting with a long-lost love.
“Supertrama,” En Voo’s second and latest single continues in a similar vein as its predecessor: 60s Scott Walker-like orchestral psych pop meets 70s AM rock featuring twinkling piano, shuffling jazz-like drumming, a sinuous bass line, a regal horn arrangement, angular bursts of guitar and a soaring hook within an expansive yet breezy song arrangement. But just underneath the breezy surface, the song evokes a familiar bittersweet ache. The track can trace its origins to a piano melody that Briard wrote in France. She then took the track too Brazilian musician and composer Giovanni Cidreira, who helped write the song’s lyrics. The track, along with the rest of the EP was recorded in São Paulo-based Dissenso Studio with Boogarins as her backing band.
“I met Giovani through the Boogarins, who he both collaborates and shares a friendship with,” Briard says of her collaboration with Cidreira. “I admire Giovani’s voice, his words, his stories, and the possibility of working with him one day quickly became a reality. Once I’d written the melody of ‘Supertrama,’ I took the plunge and asked Giovani if he would write the lyrics with me. He took the melody and wrote lyrics which don’t quite tell a story, but rather feelings, impressions, and memories. Just like the rest of the EP, the arrangements were made in real time in the studio. Pieuvre Convex was responsible for the final modulation of the track – he’s a king in that area!”
JOVM celebrates Dolly Parton’s 75th birthday.
JOVM celebrates what would have been Aaliyah’s 42nd birthday — belatedly.
Claudia Ferme is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter and the creative mastermind behind the existential dream pop, solo recording project Claude. Ferme began crafting songs inspired by Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Angel Olsen and Weyes Blood during her senior year of college in Bloomington, IN as a way to deal with the dread and fear she felt with being finished with school and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life.
The project became fully realized when she returned to Chicago during the spring of 2018. After meeting other musicians, Ferme decided to form a backing band for the project and started playing shows locally. And since 2018, Ferme’s music has landed on a number of Spotify and YouTube playlists, including Spotify’s Fresh Finds, The LazyLazyMe, BIRP, My Old Kentucky Blog, and Hype Machine.
Ferme’s Claude debut, Enactor EP is slated for a February 12, 2021 release through Side Hustle Records/The Orchard. The EP’s second and latest single “Everything’s Great” coincides with the most recent impeachment hearings dominating the media landscape again — and it manages to tie back to the song’s origin: “I wrote this song after Trump got elected,” Ferme says in press notes. “It felt like the world was ending and I wanted to somehow poke fun at his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.” Centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, gorgeous yet brooding strings and Ferme’s plaintive and ethereal vocals, “Everything’s Great” manages to tap into the deep in the soul exhaustion of the Trump Administration. The song is a gentle call for escapism as a form of self-preservation when everything is on fire — with the song’s narrator essentially saying “turn off your phone, so you can stop doom scrolling — and take a moment to daydream.” Maybe we should all take that advice every now and then.
Joanna Connor is a Brooklyn-born, Worcester, MA-raised, Chicago, IL-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has publicly cited her mom (who I’ve actually met) and her mom’s record collection as being a major influence on her life and music. “She listed to blues, folk and rock as much as she could,” Connor recalls on her website. “So I heard Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal when I was kid, and got into the more obscure artists as I went on. And I saw all the Chicago bands, who came through town.” By the time, she was in her mid-teens, Connor was playing the Worcester and Boston club scene with her own band before relocating to Chicago in 1984.
Upon her arrival to Chicago, Connor was mentored by a number of blues legends, sitting in with James Cotton, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. After a stint in Dion Payton’s band, Connor went solo with her own band, releasing her full-length debut, 1989’s Believe It, which began a string of critically applauded albums released through Blind Pig Records. Connor’s 2002 effort The Joanna Connor Band found Connor displaying the full extent of her influences as it featured “Different Kind of War” and a funky cover of “Slippin’ Into Darkness.” But just as the buzz and accolades were growing, Connor began a touring hiatus. “There were several factors: 9/11 had just gone down, the economy was changing and clubs were closing. But most of all, my daughter was pretty young at the time. She wound up deciding that she wanted to become a big-time basketball player, so that required dedication on both of our parts,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist explains on her website. That dream has come true: Connor’s daughter was awarded a basketball scholarship at Indiana State University, and Connor has pursued her career with a renewed fervor.
Although Connor wasn’t touring, she discovered that audiences were coming out to see her play renowned Chicago blues club Kingston Mines, where she began playing a weekly three night residency most weekends, between gigs at larger clubs and festivals. “It’s become kind of an institution: You go to Chicago, you go to Wrigley Field and then you go see Joanna Connor,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist says. “The schedule is kind of brutal, but it’s great—Usually a packed house, with lots of adrenaling pumping. When it gets to be around midnight, the audience starts getting younger. And I love that—My son is 29, and he gets people looking at him and saying, ‘That’s your mom’?” (And the schedule is brutal indeed: we’re talking about 3 two hour sets between 7:00pm and 5:00pm Fridays and Saturdays — and until 4:00am on Sundays.)
The crowds increased after a video featuring a live version of “Walkin’ Blues” was posted by a Massachusetts-based fan on YouTube. “It was just a phenomenal thing that happened. I was getting calls from America’s Got Talent and movie people reaching out; I even had a Russian billionaire fly me to Spain to play a birthday party. I think people loved the combination: Here’s a woman who looks like somebody’s mom, and she’s playing like this. What I remember most was that it was 90 degrees that day, so I was wearing the coolest dress I had.”
Connor’s 14th album, the Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith co-produced 4801 South Indiana Avenue is slated for a February 26, 2021 release through Joe Bonamassa’s new blues label Keeping The Blues Alive. Recorded at Nashville’s Ocean Way Recording Studios, 4801 South Indiana Avenue derives its name from the actual address of hallowed, Chicago blues club Theresa’s Lounge — and the album reportedly finds Connor, Bonamassa, Smith and an impressive array of musicians digging deeply to conjure an authentic, ass kicking non-derivative set of good ol’ Chicago blues. “We want the listener to open that door, walk in, and feel to their core some of the magic that a place like that brought night after night. It was an honor to bring this to you, the listener,” Connor says in press notes. “This album is a homage to the blues school that I attended in Chicago,” Connor adds. “We attempted to capture the spirit of tradition and inject it with raw energy and passion.
“I Feel So Good,” 4801 South Indiana Avenue’s latest single is a boozy, breakneck boogie woogie centered around Connor’s blistering solos and dexterous guitar work and her powerhouse vocal while Lemar Carter (drums) holds his own with a rapid-fire hi-hat driven pattern reminiscent of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” For me the track not only captures a self-assured lady, who kicks ass and takes names and wants to have herself a good time, it captures a moment I miss dearly when you open the door to the club and see that it’s rocking. The booze is flowing copiously. People are sweating and dancing. The band is roaring. And everyone desperately wants it to never end.
“This is one heavy boogie tune,” Connor says. “The opening note I held was a fun challenge! This tune absolutely burns. Joe used some interesting microphone technique on the vocal and overdrove it purposely. The drummer (Lemar Carter) and I were flying by the seat of our pants so to speak and miraculously ended the fade out together. I particularly love the way the musicians come roaring back- all Joe’s idea!”
Shot in Kingston Mines, the recently released video features Connor in a white faux fur coat, green dress and silver “these-were-made-for-walking-all-over-you” boots rocking out all night. And it accurately captures her live stage presence. Simply put, Connor is can flat out play those blues.