8th annual forever shining

BMOREDILLA (final)

#bmoredilla

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7 minutes with bilal + ‘a love surreal’ cd release concert

[photo by kelly connelly]

[photo by kelly connelly]

Between sound check and the Bilal: A Love Surreal CD Release Concert later that evening at Baltimore Soundstage, I sat down for a brief conversation with singer/songwriter Bilal. (Thanks to Gypsy Soul and Soulcial Grind PR.) The Philly-born musician released his debut album in 2001 and is often pegged as a “neo-soul” artist, but as is often the case with categorizing music, the label is way too narrow to encompass the rock, funk, soul, jazz, and other elements in his music. This was all on display during the performance (more on this later) and in the new music.

On a recent review that compared the sound of his new music to Yes and David Bowie:

“I recently started playing guitar for, like, three years. My guitar teacher is the biggest Yes fan ever, so he’s gotten me into Yes heavy. I guess for the last few years, I’ve been writing my songs from guitar, when before, I would write from the keyboard. I think that has been a change in [my] sound.”

On writing on the guitar:

“[Writing on guitar] is just easier,” he says. “It’s easier to find melodies and it’s easier to travel with.”

On learning guitar:

“I felt like I was finding the same kinds of sounds on the piano,” he explains. “I just wanted to stretch my mind a little more.”

On his writing process:

“I usually have a bunch of different sketches in my head, and I just walk around all day and sharpen them up in my mind. And then when they get good enough, I’ll either show them to the band, or I’ll put it down on my little Logic contraption I got on my computer. On this album, I did it that way, and also some stuff just happened through jam sessions, just jamming with the band.”

On recording A Love Surreal:

“This album, everything really went smoothly. On my last album, I learned a lot, so I sort of came in with a certain game plan on how to simplify everything and make it better.”

On his quest to recreate the sound he hears in his head:

“I’ve always been searching for this certain lo-fi sound that I hear in my head. Every album, we get closer and closer.”

“Not there yet?” I ask.

“No, no,” he says.

“Think you’ll get there one day?”

“Yeah, yeah—that’s the whole challenge. We got really close—closer than I’ve ever been.”

On performing live:

“I’ve been singing in front of people [in church] since I was four years old, so I’m used to it.” Through the years, performing professionally, he says his style has gone through changes. “It’s a mixture of everything I’ve kind of experienced in my life. I guess it changes every time I do a record, almost, but still keeps with the old. It’s a progression, sort of.”

On the title of his new album:

Love Surreal is a homage to an album I did that never came out, and I was going to name that A Love for Sale. And now that this album is coming out, it’s kind of surreal. It’s about finding passion and reigniting the fire that once was there and reaffirming love. The surrealism thing, I took from Salvador Dali. I was really trying to make music that you could visualize, as well as listen to.”

On the album cover artwork:

“Initially, we wanted to remake a Salvador Dali—of Dali and the skull. I worked with eOne’s art department and I worked with [photographer] Marc Baptiste, who took the photos.”

As was to be expected from a release event, the show was heavy on new material, all of which was enthusiastically received by the crowd. (Earlier songs were included, as well, though.) Bilal is the type of artist with fans in the truest sense of the word—fanatics who hang on his every note, applaud his every move. On stage, he seemed devoid of any trace of self-consciousness, but some of the more over-the-top vocals and antics that marked performances I had seen by him many years back were replaced with a more refined—but still fully dedicated—presence. Simply put, he is a phenomenal performer.

And the band? The band—keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, drummer, percussionist, and two background singers—was tight, rocking, and having what looked like a lot of fun. Bilal was clearly enjoying himself, as well, getting back on stage for an encore that seemed almost as long as the main show itself.

A Love Surreal will be released on February 26.

Click on photo above or here for a photo gallery from the show. 

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Gypsy Soul & Infiniti Entertainment Present The Fourth Anniversary Ear Candy feat. Dwele & Nicholas Ryan Gant

[photo by kelly connelly]

 To celebrate four years of bringing beautiful musical events to Baltimore, Gypsy Soul presented a show at Teavolve featuring Detroit singer/multi-instrumentalist Dwele, along with Nicholas Ryan Gant, and Green Tea. Before the show, Dwele sat down to answer some questions and talk about his music.

A review of Dwele’s just-released album (his fifth), Greater Than One described the album as having an ‘80s vibe. I asked Dwele if he agreed with this characterization, and if so, if it was deliberate:

“I definitely would agree. But, it wasn’t deliberate. I had no idea it was happening until I got like four songs in and I listened to them back to back, and that’s when I noticed it kind of had a skinny-tie feel to it. There’s a lot of synths—a lot more synths than in past albums [of mine]. One song, ‘Going, Leaving’, when I was making the joint, I kind of felt the ‘80s feel to it. So, when I started writing to it, I deliberately put the guitar solo after the second verse. I feel like nobody does that anymore—nobody puts solos in music anymore. That’s ‘80s.”

Detroit, Dwele’s hometown, has birthed a remarkable number of musical talents in all types of sounds and styles. I asked if being Detroit has informed his music at all, and this is what he had to say:

“It definitely affects it. Being that Detroit is the home of Motown—even though Motown isn’t even in Detroit anymore—I feel like our parents, aunts, uncles you know they all grew up with that Motown sound and with that Motown legacy kind of like moving at that time. So that influenced them to get into music, which, in turn we came up under that—there was a lot of music in the city. So, because of that, soul is really big, the gospel scene is huge, there’s a huge techno scene, house scene. There’s a lot of different musical genres in Detroit, so when it comes time to look for inspiration, it’s not hard to find in the city. It’s a very rich musical culture.”

Teavolve was packed to the gills for the performance. DJ Harvey Dent and DJ Phaze took turns on the tables before and after live sets from Green Tea (who also served as host for the evening), Nicholas Ryan Gant, and Dwele. Gant’s performance followed a storyline in which he meets a girl, falls for her, questions her taste due to her lack of knowledge of a blaxploitation character, then ultimately leaves and attempts to get over her. His cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Makings of You” was nothing short of inspired–he certainly did the classic justice.

Dwele’s set was short and sweet–emphasis on both short and on sweet. He sang a new song and “Find a Way” while walking through the center of Teavolve singing to a variety of women in the crowd. The atmosphere in the place was kind of like a refined bachelorette party. There were a lot of ladies in the crowd visibly swooning over Dwele, but it somehow managed to stay fun and playful without crossing over into the corny zone. Dwele’s voice sounded impeccable live and although he didn’t need to do anything to win over the already adoring crowd, his charming presence ensured their approval.

(Click the photo above or here for more photos from the show.)

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al great: summer nights + greenspan “str8 up”


I know I’m not alone in ascribing seasons to music. There are some albums that sound distinctly made for cooler climates, while others are best enjoyed in the heat and haze of the summer months. Al Great makes it perfectly clear by title alone–Summer Nights– that this project is for the summer. Like past releases, you’ll find clever rhymes and a cohesiveness that often alludes rap albums of today. Unlike Al’s past projects, here you’ll find him with a new musical partner, Street Scott, whose production is excellent. Great match! Click on cover to download.

Bonus summer song: Greenspan’s “Str8 Up”. This is the type of song best enjoyed in the car, windows open. (Greenspan has one of my favorite voices ever.)

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rhymes by kane: thievery corporation edition


If you can say one thing about Kane Mayfield, it’s that he always keeps people guessing. Sometimes, it’s guessing what potentially inappropriate comment he’ll make in person or online, but more often (and more importantly), it’s with the music. Enter Rhymes by Kane: Thievery Corporation Edition. Here, Kane rhymes–as the title clearly suggests–over Thievery Corporation tracks. “New Jack City” is a perfect fit for the tone of Kane’s voice and the picture he paints is at the same time vivid and subdued. On “Beautiful Drug”, Kane uses a syncopated flow that makes it sound like the track was made for him.

Click on the cover to download.

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gregory porter: “be good”

This is so beautiful.

For more on this artist, check out gregoryporter.com.

(Lots of this was shot within a block of my home, office, and my parent’s home. Smalltimore.)

 

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mark your calendars…

Three upcoming events in Baltimore of interest…

  

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