Michael Henchman – 40 Miles From Midnight

internet-radio-michael-henchmanMichael Henchman
40 Miles From Midnight (2013)
URL: http://michaelhenchman.com/
Score – 9/10 Stars
This CD “40 Miles from Midnight” by Portland, Oregon’s own Michael Henchman is sure to one day be remembered as one of the classic good timing Americana CD’s of recent time. Its pure rocking Americana-Country magic the way it used to be, full of cautionary tales, and a passion for life and life on the road. All of this describes Henchman to a “T”, So who is Michael Henchman?


Well in my own words: He’s a songwriter who draws on life experiences from both the interior and exterior vantage point.” His narrative lyrics and sincere performances offer an unobstructed view into the heart of an artist who embraces each moment. In his own words: “I unearthed these stories as songwriters often do, witnessing clues along the byways of our own lives… a woman walking her heart for miles upon miles to find an answer; a man wondering on the irony of a hearse pulling a U-Haul; another tearing a dusty streak across desert towards midnight. These tales are endlessly unfolding; our place as songwriters is to bring light to them, render them, translate their emotion.”


Track 1 ”Circle Back” to the final moments of “Isn’t It Time?” 40 Miles From Midnight hits on all cylinders with a fun musical landscape full of power and happy go luck overtones. One thing that impressed me the most about this album/band is the sheer impassioned folk vibe one gets. There’s an Americana ambience that really sucks in the listener. The CD is professional grade any way you look at it – very professional sounding. The instrumentation and tones give you that genuine feel of good music and writing from a generation ago. It also has a solid feel reminiscent of Country music popular in the early nineties as well.


Henchman reminds me of Jesse Malin, Justin Townes Earle, Wilco, Neal Casal, and Jason Isbell. Despite this I can also hear more modern John Schmitt, The Sweet Remains, slower Jimmy Buffett and Howie Day. All members in his band are solid musically. Kudos goes out to the amazing playing – the proof is in the picking. I also always said you can sell what you don’t truly believe, in this aspect Henchman seals the deal and captures some Lighting in a Bottle that will ring true not only for older more experienced listeners but new ones as well.


My favorite tracks: “Straight On”, “Circle Back”, “Canyon Bones” and the title track.


“40 Miles From Midnight” wraps up a well rounded 11 track line-up that delivers an interesting cross section of classic Americana Folk-Rock, and Classic Country. Once again – Despite this it is accessible to modern day listeners as well. How is this possible? Only an experienced artist armed with an honest, genuine, sincere approach can pull it off. I know I said it before but Henchman is backed up by some solid players, with solid production instincts, a sincere writer’s touch and an acoustic guitar he proves where there is smoke there is fire. Need I say more?


Posted by Scottie Carlito edited by Markus Druery
Comments: jannezawa@gmail.coml

Tuval Cain releases “Forging the Future”

tuval cainTuval Cain releases “Forging the Future”

Rating – 7/10


URL: http://tuvalcain.com/


Tuval Cain is her with their 2013 release “Forging the Future” Overall Internet presence is slowly taking shape as I learned a lot about them even before I hit play. Band members include: David Lawrence Kuhn: primary composer, lyrics, and keyboards, Dor Nagar: Lead vocals, Avi Singolda: Guitars, Ido Maimon: Drums and percussion, Noam Hartman and Adam ben Ezra: Electric bass, Shaul Barkan: Alto and tenor sax, Udi Perlman: Flute, Produced, Arranged, Recorded and Mixed by Noam Hartmann and Avi Chen.


Right from the start I can hear influeces from of course Jethro Tull, Santana. Rare Earth, Uriah Heep, Premiata Forneria Marconi and Rainbow. “Forgingt he Future” marks the band’s debut release and follows the same format as most Progressive Rock albums from the 70’s especially from UK bands. The big difference her is Tuval Cain is actually from Isreal. How fascinating. The CD hits the deck running and doesn’t look back with a series of strong powerhouse songs “Nomad_, “Wandering” and Spiral Down” All three pieces are also somewhat  reminiscent of White Lies, The Wombats, Blur, Peter Murphy. The guitar/ beat/voice combo are well paired with the songwriting skills of Kuhn makes for a rather strong culmination of skill sets. The feel of these 3 openers are dreamy yet thick nonetheless.


Track 4 blew me away “Power” and is my favorite track on the whole CD. Vocals from Nagar are perfect. He’s got all the tenacity and passion required of an effective front man and his timber reminds me of Ian Gilliam (Deep Purple),.Lyrics (also available on the site) are very well thought out and put together. I was instantly hooked to keep listening. Subject matter is equally tied to musical setting and delivers well-crafted vocals and emotional tranquility. Equal parts heartfelt emotion and soaring guitars. Kuhn paints images in creative, yet relatable ways. It’s evident to the ear that much time has been invested in crafting each song to stand on its own, separate from the next. The overall mix dynamics offer everything you would expect. Track 10/11 seem to go in series “Jonah’s Doubt” and Jonah” are both amazing tracks.


All of these 13 songs refuse to sound like a bare-bones PC recording, or even a vintage live performance. This contributes to the overall impact of the song. As I made my way from start to finish, there is a near-perfect tonality that was definitely palpable and full of soul stirring passion. The voice of Nagar is brilliantly unique in this regard. God broke the mold when they made his vocal cords. All songs moved well – constant and similar in consonance. Most certainly Kuhn and company have a knack for crafting imagery and exotic instrumentation to complement Nagar’s vocal style, Which made it so surprising there was such little use of minor and dissonance. Vocally I don’t think he’s for everyone – however if you can appreciate older music art for older music art’s sake he’s well suited for this style of music.


Though not overly distracting, his voice  was indeed likeable but will fail to completely fit in within a mainstream audience. Because of the older sounding format of the music I believe many will fail to identify with Tuval Cain. If this CD would have been released 40 years ago these guys would no doubt be millionaires. Having said that this CD barely makes a SEVEN of TEN. Overall, this is a very fascinating “shapshot” of a colossal musical project based out of Israel. I give everyone an “A” for effort but a C+ For execution in part to the “old format.”


It was an absolute pleasure to get into the mindset of Kuhn, and listen to what he was trying to tell the world. He is armed with great writing, a brilliant creative mindset, and powerful message no doubt many rocking old timers will love. Tuval Cain is highly contagious project and a welcomed advent to this cut-and-paste industry.


Purchase Link: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/TuvalCain

Rick Bruton, approved by Joshua Beach. Posted by Michael Morrison (UK)

Review comments: joshuabeach9@gmail.com


Luna Achiary – More Human Than God

luna achiaryArtist: Luna Achiary

CD: More Human than God

URL: http://www.lunachiary.com/


This is such a complex, amazing and dramatic album what else can I say? More Human than God by Luna Achiary is more than amazing and dramatic, it’s also extremely suspenseful and somewhat theatrically. It has a very quirky-dark quality to it as well.

The intro track “Mistress” gives you the impression as if you were in some noir, Hitchcockian themed movie. The really dark, yet emotional charged vocal/guitar/synth combination in the middle of the song almost leaves you breathless. The music is also reminiscent of acts such as Patty Griffin, Patty Larkin, Mindy Smith and even Nanci Griffith. Luna Achiary has a strong tonality foundation combining mesmerizing peak and valley rhythms, hypnotic piano/guitar and spaced out goodness.

The vocals from Achiary are interesting and beyond impressive. If these tracks were more rocked out I could hear maybe Evanescence, Amy Lee, Within Temptation and even We are the Fallen especially on track like “Guilty” and Under the Leaf”. How crazy is that? What’s more, without a doubt, it’s impossible to deny the superiority of this band backing her up. It’s epically, quirky and wildly unpredictable. At times you almost get this feeling as if you are in a funny nightmare. The drums and the bass lines just help push the album forward, and the vibe, if you pay attention carefully, has a really odd, mysterious, X-File sort of vibe to it.

As the CD evolves it showcases some dramatic combination like rock, goth rock and some slight Electonica overtones. On many these tracks there is a distinct mood assigned to each piece that will take you on a whirlwind musical adventure. In conclusion, here’s a CD release I’ve been dying to get my hands on. I was unable to stumble across her until today. Did I mention it’s also very subliminal, and a grand concept that’s sure to get many peoples attention.

From the production level, to the musicianship involved, “More Human Than God” delivers in grand fashion.  Let’s also give credit to the real talent behind all this shall? Luna Achiary’s superlative signature sound via her trademark look and persona work terrifically well. “More Human than God “ will keep you in a state of wonder from start to finish.

Rating 8/10 Stars


Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/More-Human-Than-Luna-Achiary/dp/B00F45QFAK

by Tabitha Black. Edited by Heather Savage

Review comments: heathersavage5@gmail.com


Review – Make Rocket Go

make rocket goBand: Make Rocket Go
CD: Make Rocket Go
URL: http://make-rocket-go.com/


Score: 4/5 stars


There’s a real sense of cathartic musical independence here via this latest work from Springfield, Missouri musical four-some Make Rocket Go. While everything here on this their latest self-release: Make Rocket Go is shall I say exceptionally entertaining it also manages to cover a pretty wide range of musical styles as well.


When you listen to the music of MRG you know the future of melodic alt-rock shines blindingly bright. It’s easy to hear possible influences of Joseph Arthur, Beach House, MGMT Wilco and Gram Parsons in their music, but the real magic is how they blend all these ingredients into a musical recipe that is the vintage Make Rocket Go signature sound. Make Rocket Go  encompasses the rich history of Americana Blues Roots, then broadens and reshapes it into something Youthful, reckless and out of control. All this and more make MRG  refreshing and uniquely brilliant.


A few tracks notably stand out for me in particular. “Ain’t Love Grand” and Tennyson Walk” are 2 very strong tracks that deliver pure grooved magic and impressive writers touch. These two movements are also polarizing to each other and show a lot of depth. Much of the 13 track CD present straight forward Alternative rock that is like I said before – a bit out of control. Despite this somehow the music has a more of an organic bluesy feel as the album hits the deck running. These cats are definitely a modern example of classic psychedelic-alternative folk rock popular in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I can hear acts like B52’s, X, No Doubt, and even Modest Mouse. But I can also hear an underlying love passion theme.  As a result this style of music was not so easy to pigeonhole for me, however I suspect many of the previously mentioned bands have had an influence.


The musicianship from Band Members: Michelle Sewell, Rick Guistolise, Scott Jones, Chris Lewis.is how shall I say, off the chain. The vocal front from both Sewell and Guistolise is equally as gravitating. Both  really draw you in, especially together as they are clearly the primary focal point of this band. Another highlight for me is “Everything You Do’ which exemplifies the MRG sound to a T. It’s got plenty of cool guitar riffing, bass playing that sits deep in the pocket but above all it shows just how far these cats masterfully navigate with sheer precision through this simplistic yet amazing writing style. All members demonstrate their individual musical talents and abilities as well without being to over the top about it. This is hard to do then it sounds. Some bands come across as being to simplistic – not these guys. I get the impression MRG is a lot of fun to see live.


So are you thinking what I’m thinking? Somehow all the above is not compatible with the superficial musical times we live in? Make Rocket Go is well-suited for a wide audiences that enjoys frenzious Alternative Rock with a poetic flair, amazing writing and a grand slam live show. There are even elements of Rock and Indie College Rock here as well. Expect great things from MRG as their fanbase explodes past Missouri. I believe there’s a detached and disgruntled audience just waiting for them to arrive.


Joanna Crag edited by Janne Zawa.
Review comments: jannezawa@gmail.com


Review: The Black Moods

the black moods

Band: The Black Moods

CD: Self Titled

Musical Genera: Alternative Rock, Rock, Blues

URL – http://theblackmoods.com/


Overall Rating: 5/5


“The Black Moods” is the latest release from 3 piece band The Black Moods based out of Phoenix, AZ. CD was released in 2012. I would describe The Black moods as one of the more bluesy, darker, denser, straight forward Alt-Rock band out there right now. They have a rocked out vibe and hooky songs, and from what I’ve read an amazing live presentation. The result is pounding drums, guitar riffs that light up the dark night sky, and vocals/songs that will rip a hole through your chest. The Black Moods tell a story that you will understand and enjoy to the fullest. Band members include: Joshua Kennedy (Guitars, vocals), Chico Diaz (Drums), Ryan Prier (Bass).


Now getting to the album: “The Black Moods” 10 track CD has much to commend it. Admittedly, there is a whole lot of variety to these arrangements and performances. First: The impressive 3 piece band delivers rock solid playing like a well oiled machine. This is testament to hundreds of hours of rehearsal time no doubt.


Second: Vocalist/Guitarist Josh Kennedy hits the mark remarkably well within the context of this catalogue. He’s got great vocal and guitar playing skills. Third: their sound and amazing songwriting touch is action packed. In fact one could classify The Black Moods as a four genera artist: Progressive, Classic, Hard Rock and even a dash of Soul or Blues. All songs are a skillful combination of all the aforementioned genera’s. Music will remind you of Jon Foreman, Kutess, Hawk Nelson and Falling Up even Temple of the Dog. The Black Moods have the power and songwriting prowess to be extremely dangerous. Add in a killer live set makes this a deadly combination no doubt.


There’s also a unique quality to this catalogue that breaks the mold when compared to the overly predictable, forgetful rock that’s been filling the airwaves lately. What am I trying to say – well let me start by saying there is nothing predictable and forgetful about The Black Moods. Weather live or in the studio The Black Moods is one of the hottest vintage rock bands out there right now. Not every square inch is filled with musical ambience delivered under duress – but musical space this allows the music to breathe on its own with passion that cannot be faked.


Equally as impressive is how marketable this band is as they have effectively found the voice for all frustrated Hard-Rocker out there. It covers so much ground and despite this it manages to not spread itself to thin across to many lines – nicely done! This is harder to do than it sounds and can only be a by product of being ones self musically.


I’ve always said if you can play it a party, then it’s marketable. Depending on the party: The Black Moods is extremely marketable – with a raw sound that is passionate and entertaining very much like the band itself.


Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Black-Moods/dp/B00C7ZMRP2

By Elle Michaelson, edited by Heather Savage

Review comments: heathersavage5@gmail.com

The Bright Forever – Star of Wonder (Christmas CD)

star of wonderThe Bright Forever – Star of Wonder (Christmas CD)

Megan Hook URL – http://www.meganhook.com/Welcome.html


The Bright Forever is a Los Angeles Alterative Rock/Pop group led by lead vocalist Megan Hook who is originally from Canada. The Bright Forever has released several CD’s over that last few years and this is their official Christmas Offering Star of Wonder. To say the least the music on this CD is as infectious as the artists themselves.


Star of Wonder is a sensational Christmas release. I like the way things gently star off with Track 1 “The First Noel” it delivers a soothing Piano/Vocal combination with some conservative String accents and low end bass notes. Hook ha s gifted vocal ability as she glides with precision through the song. Right away I can hear singers like Maire Brennan, Azam Ali, Loreena McKennitt, Celtic Woman and Enya. Track 2 and 3 “Joy to the World” and What Child is This” really open thing s up. The musical flow of both tracks is melodic, bold and at times can push hard with thought provoking lyrical content peppered with Classic flavoring of the renaissance era.


I get the impression Hook could sing in Opera.  Despite this she manage to somehow stay within the fairway of marketability but definitely pushes boundaries towards the classic realm. These are compliments by the way. The musicianship follows down the same path offering up much in the way of Christmas Folk. The  harmonic notes that are plucked from the heavens as the passionate, spiritual narratives unfolds. Star of Wonder makes it’s mark by telling ordinary tales of extraordinary things. As a result Megan Hook connects us to the universal power and emotional goodness of love, favor and all things Christmas. All songs are above the bar and many vocal performances are mesmerizing.


The Bright Forever deliver cosmic goodness that is sure to induce an emotional response from any willing audience. From beginning to end “Star of Wonder” fills the air gracefully and unobtrusively. It keeps the same festive mood throughout while maintaining an Pop/Folk emotional feel. As for the vocals they deliver emotionally invigorating performances that will remind you of the singers I named previously. Top track are: Deck the Halls, Joy to the World, What Child is This, Angels We Have Heard on High. Criticism: CD tends to sound repetitive overall. If Hook had a producer and a 100k budget she could no doubt pull it off. I do like how Hook kept all track short but sweet on all tracks. Perhaps more traditional Celtic pieces are needed in addition adding 4 more tracks. This is Traditional Christmas carols with a “the Bright Forever” twist! Warm, intimate vocals, piano, cello, bass, harp and bells give these carols a fresh feel… Hope your holidays are Merry and Bright. Cheers!

In conclusion, this is one release that will bring back memories of a not so distant age where great renaissance style vocals ruled the world and possessed a striking spirit. All the while inspiring people with amazing artistic energy that get people thinking, singing, dancing and even preying.

Final Score: 7/10 Stars

CD BABY – http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thebrightforever4

by Erica Carr, edited by J.J. McCall. Approved by Drew Blackwell (UK)


Review: Edo Castro – Phoenix

edo castroEdo Castro – Phoenix (Passion Star Records)

Official URL: http://www.edocastro.com/



(SAN FRANCISCO) Edo Castro and slew of guest musicians released a magnificent CD called Phoenix (2006). It’s an incredible Jazz album that gleefully dances up and down the spectrum of modern jazz music with amazing Improvised performances and a breathtaking amount of sheer musical dynamics. Castro has earned some impressive musical accolades from critics and audiences alike for his work over the years.


Edo has put his signature on over 20 local CD projects and has performed/recorded with David Amram, Mark Walker, Hassan Kahn, Pete Cosey, Roy Haynes, Fareed Haque, David Onderdonk, Ed Thigpen, Johnny Griffin, Joel Harrison, Jim Trompeter, Ian Doogle, Deborah Winters, Jill Knight, Paul Van Wageningen, Caroline Aiken, Dan Zinn, Bethany Pickens, Michael La Macchia, Armando Peraza, Caren Armstrong, Percy Howard, Mike Molenda, Stu Hamm, Lorn Leber, George Brooks, Eric Doc Smith, Michael Manring, Mark Egan, Yves Carbonne, Todd Johnson and David Friesen. Opening with the invigorating “Beneath an Evening Sky” through the lingering musical fabric of “Rise” the album hits on all cylinders.


Some may recall Track 1 “Beneath an Evening Sky” is a Ralph Towner remake. Comparing the 2 tracks it’s mesmerizing how Castro has transformed this piece to his own musical interpretation. Phoenix” is an eclectic mixture of all the best modern jazz has to offer, but what even more amazing it sounds as if each selection on this recording is a first take whose beginning, middle and end was unknown at the outset. The music herein is perfect for just sitting back and jamming out to, or playing in the car for a long drive. Many songs are in extended play format as you would expect. While each track does have a unique feel and groove, every song on “Phoenix” delivers Top Tired Jazz syncopation that will satisfy any aficionado. Of particular on many tracks you will discover smooth, full, soothing bass-guitar work from Castro.


His playing is beautiful while retaining a masculine fullness that compliments the skillful array of sounds from the rest of members. My top 3 tracks are: ‘Song for the Electric Whales”, “Chance of Rain” and “Blue Asia.” 6 tracks were composed by Castro, 2 by Blue, and 1 by Towner. “Phoenix” has a high degree of X-Factor present between the notes. What is X-Factor? It’s the passion within. Though I could be wrong I suspect musical influences are as follows: Pat Metheny, Steve Smith (Vital Information) Wes Montgomery, Ralph Towner and Al Di Meola just to name a few.


Phoenix features the following: Edo Castro (Bass), Paul Van Wageningen (Drums), George Brooks (Saxophone), Ian Dogole (Percussion), Debopriyo Sarkar (Tabla), Lorn Leber (guitars) Tommy Kersecker (vibraphone), Rob Powell (10 String Pedal Steel) Mark Egan (8 String Bass), Robert Rich (Percussive loops) Jonathan Moe (Drums), Blue (Flutes).


Edo Castro lends an incredible playing touch and deserves a lot of credit for bringing this amazing CD to your ears. He’s one Jazz bassist with a lot of musical personality that shines like a priceless gem,  To sum it up: I give “Phoenix” by Edo Castro an enthusiastic nine out of eight of 10 stars and highly recommend this album to any fan of jazz or progressive jazz-funk-blues. Grab yourself a copy and kick up your heels to some solid jazz! It definitely sets the standard for this rather elitist outlier genre.

Purchase Link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/edocastro

Review by Trevor Gray (UK)

edited by Heather Savage
Review comments; heathersavage5@gmail.com


Review: Carmen Skyy – I Dream About You

philadelphia-carmen-skyyCarmen Skyy’s Dream is a Reality with New Single “I Dream About You”


Score 4/5 Stars


Every day new music comes out onto the market. It can either blow our minds or get cast aside. The creative juices of Miami, Florida based singer/songwriter, Carmen Skyy will make you stop in your tracks as you listen to her latest single “I Dream About You.” Her fierceness and attitude bring a new dimension where artists like Ke$ha and Nicki Minaj left off.


Going beneath the surface of the song, Carmen’s songwriting talent is stylish and inventive. Pop superstars like Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill and John Mayer have fuelled her passion for creating personal and meaningful music that inspires others day in and day out. Creating a blend of musical flavour with elements of Pop, Hip/Hop, and Electronica, the song is free-flowing and heart pumping all the way. It’s one of those songs that you would hear at any given nightclub and would bring people straight to the dance floor. The sensual rhythms heighten the pleasure of the track, bringing forth that pure sense of eargasm all over again. Adding another rich component, Carmen’s rap skill momentum is right on par and she proves that she can hold her own in clarity, pitch and tone.


Drifting into our unconscious, Carmen’s sultry vocals evoke feelings that make you want to smile and her ability to create a song that sticks in our minds so potently solidifies the one thought that Carmen Skyy is truly a dream come true.


Get the single “I Dream About You” at Itunes:



Visit Carmen Skyy’s website at: www.carmenskyy.com


Janne Zawa

Review comments: jannezawa@gmail.com

Review: Twisted Piglet – Eternity

Twisted PigletURL: http://www.twistedpiglet.com/

(NORWICH, ENGLAND) 3 piece rock band Twisted Piglet will be releasing their upcoming CD “Eternity” in the spring of 2014. Band members are:  Brodie Payne (Guitar, Vocals), Stacey Payne (Keys) and Paul Reeder (Drums).


Let me start by saying Twisted Piglet is an amazing band well on their way. They have already received critical acclaim from many prominent music critics from around the globe thus far. Reading from their bio  Twisted Piglet is a pulsating mix of Keyboard, Drums & Guitar mixed with verve and passion who’s songs and energetic performance are sure to leave the audience shouting for more!” They have gigged all over from Norwich to Serbia and along the way they’ve supported some amazing people/bands such as Scouting For Girls, The Hoosiers, Lulu, Rick Astley and Bruce Foxton with From The Jam! In recent times they even represented Norwich at Exitfest Serbia where there was an amazing 250,000 people in attendance.


Finally they recently signed to SPECTRA RECORDS. All of this looks like upward mobility to me. “Eternity” comes on like a fireball with “Walk on by” a great opener with an establish groove and stellar pop laden chorus. Track 2 “Brighter on the Other Side’ is my favorite track presents a power rock trio staple meets rock with a lot of power, confidence and defiance. Just when you thought you had this band pegged you are exposed to track 3 “Kings and Queens Heal Me” which has everything the title implies lyrically and just has a strong ring of truth to it. “God I Love You” is another fantastic number that will remind you of Radiohead and combines all past influences, and is by far a foundation love song for the album. Finally they reveals even more on “Run for your Life” and “Kids” Here the let it rip.


I like everything about Twisted Piglet. “Eternity” is a good CD. It has power, intrigue, sap, dance songs, rock anthems and emotional power. At the end of the day it shows a lot of depth and promise as these guys attempt to conquer a cult fanbase in the UK. One thing that impressed me is them is they have just enough Modern Alternative Rock exposure  to have an  impact on the (Modest Mouse, Muse, Radiohead) fans and enough pop exposure for the (Oasis, Blunt) fans. This is actually a brilliant move and an amazing balance.


Twisted Piglet doesn’t put all their cards on the table right away but perhaps just enough to lure your interest. As the CD moves forward you get more and more impressed with them . Whether it’s by design or by chance the approach is brilliant. “Eternity” can be regarded as a seed skillfully planted by Twisted Piglet” in the hearts of those who have been waiting patiently for them to arrive. .

Score: 9/10 Stars

By Janne Zawa

Review comments: jannezawa@gmail.com


Review: Merill Leffmann Christmas Classics

Merrill LeffmannArtist Merrill Leffmann releases New and Old Christmas Classics CD

SOUNDCLOUD: http://soundcloud.com/qawplo1056/

Merrill Leffmann is a vocal teacher who gives singing lessons in Scottsdale, Arizona. She’s also an accomplished singer/songwriter recording artist who plays cabaret and specialty shows around the Phoenix area. Her latest release is a delightful Christmas CD entitled “New and Old Christmas Classics.” This 12-song Christmas CD contains 7 original and 5 cover songs. In her own words:


So I selected 7 of my favorite originals – songs I think have staying power, not just for the season I release them, but through the decades.  Having seen who I am, you understand that they are, of course, in many styles.  There’s big band sexy, classic crooner, country, classical, funny bluegrass, and one – perhaps my best from a songwriter’s perspective – that I can’t classify.


Each style, each song, expresses something the others could not – a complete moment, like looking into and suddenly experiencing what it is to be inside a snapshot.  Some of the snapshots are silly or laugh-out-loud funny.  Others are of contentment, exuberance, sadness, reverence. It is a time capsule of the holidays.


The CD gently creates the classic Cabaret musical environment right away with Track 1 “I Love a Man in Uniform” with its jazzy groove, horns and vocal exuberance from Leffmann. This song benefits well from a powerful generation of musicians with similar interests in classic jazz but varying tastes still appealing to modern contemporary folks. With a sound ranging from Big Band, Saloon Jazz and classic Cabaret, Leffman delivers a unique yet inviting sound that translates well to the listener. Track 2 “Dumped Before Christmas” is another clever yet, alluring track with 50’s style rockabilly guitars and well placed harmonies from Leffmann and company. Leffmann clearly has an impressive vocal skillet extremely compatible to this style of music. Tack 3 “December” brings in Piano and eloquent string movements thus creating a timeless love song that will make you dance; getting you I the mood for Christmas.


The first 3 tracks offer the perfect background for a Holiday CD package. Each piece of the 12 set is impressive. While every track on “New and Old Christmas Classics” delivers quality worthy of many listens there are a few things about this CD that stand out. Each song is short and sweet, but Leffmann does a good job at combining classic Christmas covers with her own music. I have many Christmas CD’s where the artist just performs cover songs thus lacking any original material. Brave to Leffman for going the extra mile and writing her own music, and also putting the actual word Christmas on the album. The musicianship is amazing offering much in the way of musical variety and touches.


The CD also skillfully combines classic Cabaret Jazz with the Christmas theme. Also present are Rockabilly, Folk, Earthy acoustics and pop. Finally the amazing vocal touches from Leffman just brings the whole thing together via her fun and whimsical charm. CD ends on a impassioned note with an impressive acoustic remake of “Silent Night.”


Criticism: Track 6 “You’re a mean one Mr’ Grinch” contains a few awkward at best moments where Leffmann is narrating with an accent. Bringing in a male baritone for this vocal accompaniment. would have been perfect. Track 7 “ Every Year” is a winded track overall. CD cover art seems a bit off kilter to me.


Top Tracks: I’ve Got my Love to Keep me Warm, Dumped Before Christmas, I Love a Man in Uniform, Silent Night


“New and Old Christmas Classics” by Merrill Leffmann truly showcases a some incredible moments that portray true emotion and will evoke a strong reaction and cause you to feel something powerful this Christmas. The keys and notes fall smoothly with every second that passes by and it is as if these notes and words were meant for each other. The acoustic and slow rhythmic pace of all tracks really show of the softer side of Christmas as well.  Leffman possesses an immense amount of talent and creativity here. “New and Old Christmas Classics” by Merrill Leffmann is a melodic sultry CD with upbeat and festive undertones making for a great Christmas experience all around.

Score 4.5/5


Merrill Leffmann URL: www.mlvoice.com


Check out her KICKSTARTER video –



Gwen Waggoner edited by J.J. McCall

Review comments: johnmccall964@gmail.com