ARTIST INTERVIEW: Vanlalchhanhima Ralte

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Vanlalchhanhima Ralte is an independent singer, musician and songwriter. Along with this, Vanlalchhanhima Ralte is a Director of Vanlalchhanhima Ralte (OPC) Private Limited, which is an Independent Record Company, an Independent Record Label & an Independent Publisher. He has released both cover versions and original material, accruing a very large fanbase in the process. His latest release is a cover version of the well known song Achy Breaky Heart, watch the video below:

 

 

I got to ask him a few questions about his music:

Your latest single release is a cover of the well known country pop classic Achy Breaky Heart, originally recorded by Billy Ray Cyrus. What made you want to cover this particular song?

“Yes, that’s right. It’s a well known song, even to my childhood, I know and listen to that song. It make me want to cover because for the sake of the love of a classical music in it time. And I do interested to build it into this modern influences…”

You’re an independent singer, musician and songwriter as well as owning your own record company, do you find it difficult to balance your role as an artist along with dealing with the business side of the music industry?

“Yes, of course. A very good question in here. Too much, let me just say the role is too much to think from an artist level to an executive level. All so much for one person. One in a performance, and one in a none performance streamline of doing it all independently. Sometime, I think I need a balanced diet.”

Who are a few of your favourite artists or groups and do you have one all time musical hero?

“Yes, although I haven’t met in real life. One to mentioned the one whose era has been changing from country music to a kinda pop appeal, the one and only Taylor Swift. Whom I’ve been trending her through an internet, mostly Facebook, YouTube and on an Instagram. In that sense, she kinda well known for more than a decade.”

How do you feel about the modern music industry, do you think streaming music helps an artist reach people or is it unfair for the artist to allow people to listen and enjoy their music without paying for a single or album as it used to be?

“Into this modern digital world of consideration, an internet plays and transform the way the music industry used to be as comparing from the classical 70’s 80’s 90’s. I don’t see any unfairness for the people on the music to stream and listen them freely, if they want to make benefit for an artist, they will, if not, they wouldn’t.

What are your future plans for your music? Let people know about upcoming releases after this one and how they can keep informed about any new music you decide to release.

Well, good question. I’m currently working under one Christmas project. That I haven’t had any set for it releases date, but it will be in the month of December 2019. This will be for the love of the Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ, the sweet born baby, sent on earth by thy Heavenly Father God. The writes of the lyrics has already been completed, which I completed last month October 2019. It will be in an English & Mizo. As this is not yet a release or published, I will not mentioned the title of the EP or the songs name yet. So, stay tune for my upcoming Christmas song release. It will be available on my website, Official Artist Channel (YouTube), etc. Website: https://www.vanlalchhanhimaralte.com OAC: https://www.youtube.com/VanlalchhanhimaRalte

Thank you, Vanlalchhanhima, for the great interview!

 

 

Visit Vanlalchhanhima Ralte’s official website HERE

 

 

 

 

SINGLE REVIEW: 2nd Chances by Happy Curmudgeons

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Happy Curmudgeons are a rock/pop band with shades of folk, blues and country hailing from Bloomfield Hills in Michigan. Their  musical journey  has had a lengthy gestation period.

In the 1980’s singer/songwriter and guitarist Dave Hamilton was in a band called the Angel-Headed Hipsters and met none other than Velvet Underground legend Lou Reed who told him he was a great songwriter and to stick at it.

Many years later the band were formed with Jeff Warner on guitar and Amy Dixon-Lavery on additional vocals. Recently, I gave a stellar review to their album, Meant To Be, as well as the single released from it Soulsville, which you can read here and here.

This latest single, 2nd Chances, is taken from their second album and was written by Amy Dixon-Lavery (lyrics) and Dave Hamilton. It’s a languid and emotive country rock ballad featuring lead vocals from Amy Dixon-Lavery, acoustic guitars courtesy of Dave Hamilton, Takashi Iio on standup bass, Jeff Warner on lead electric guitar and Rick Beamon on drums.

It also features a stellar supporting cast of musicians including Jim “Moose” Brown and Mark Byerly of the Bob Seger Band on Hammond B3 organ and keyboards respectively (Byerly also contributes the string arrangement to this track). Other contributors include David Patton on cello, Chaz Owsley on cello plus Barbara Peyton, Laura Creamer and Cathleen Wiley on backing vocals.

This song starts with plaintive and shows the band expressing a more emotive and reflective side to their music, leaning more towards folk and country, genre wise. Starting with a melodic acoustic guitar line it breaks out into a strummed three-chord pattern soon joined by a solemn cello melody over a stately beat.

It features a superb lead vocal performance from Amy Lavery-Dixon whose voice conveys a great deal of poignancy and feeling, bringing to mind some of the great female country singers of the past.

The lauguid pace and melancholy feel to the music allows the listener to absorb the words and subject matter of the song. Lyrically, it is about wanting to leave the past behind, wipe the slate clean and focus on the future.

The first verse captures the feeling of wanting to put unhappy experiences to rest and not dwell on them any longer: “Well, I don’t know where I’m going but I know where I’ve been…and I can promise you one thing, I ain’t ever going back again….”. It leads to the understated but memorable title hook and chorus: “I believe in second chances, I’ve got in faith in me and you, looking forward to tomorrow, time can heal all wounds…”.

The second verse gradually builds up the arrangement in a very effective way, with a more intricate beat, rich Hammond organ and a warm cluster of female backing vocals filling out the sonic spectrum. After the second chorus is an excellent, carefully crafted lead guitar solo from Jeff Warner before one final chorus and a partial repeat of the first verse brings the song to a satisfying close.

Overall, this is a very well written and performed country rock ballad by a versatile and deeply musical group. 2nd Chances allows Amy Lavery-Dixon to take centre stage on lead vocals but every band member brings something to the table musically along with some fine contributions from guest musicians. If you’re a discerning music lover searching for authentic yet modern Americana, look no further than 2nd Chances by Happy Curmudgeons.

 

VERDICT: 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Journey Home by Monica Ortiz

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https://www.facebook.com/monicaortizmusic/

Monica Ortiz is a country/pop/adult contemporary singer and songwriter. Ever since she was a child she’s had a very strong relationship with music and felt the desire to express herself creatively from an early age. This debut album Journey Home, which consists of nine songs, is the end result of her musical journey so far and features a number of collaborators and guest performances. She has co-written several songs with Charlie Lowell from Jars of Clay and there’s vocal contributions from Matthew Koziol and the McCrary sisters.

The album starts with the poignant piano ballad The Woman I Became. It acts as a fine showcase for Monica’s crystalline vocals and emotive, inspiring songwriting approach. It’s a style that was known in the 1970’s as “confessional”, where full and open expression of feelings was paramount. The opening lines paint a touching picture of parental love: “When I was little you said it would be hard, you sat me down and warned me of future scars….”.

Monica’s delicate and sensitive vocal performance in a high register perfectly expresses the lyrics that depict the difficult process of growing up, of a girl growing into a woman and standing on her own two feet. Aside from a fine piano arrangement, the song features strings which add to the emotional effect, especially on the moving and memorable chorus. A very strong opening song and one co-written with Charlie Lowell.

The second track Burn Out is a mid-paced country-tinged pop song written by Matt Odmark from Jars of Clay and Heather Bond. Monica very much makes it her own, delivering another fine performance that brought to mind Shania Twain’s country ballads. The musicianship and production is absolutely flawless with slick backing harmonies augmenting Monica’s lead vocal.

The following Pigtails, which is similar style musically and lyrically, is a plea to a partner to allow her to fully be herself and not try to control her, (“Just let me dance to my music, let me drum to my song”) a subject that many will be able to relate to. It features some lovely instrumental touches from the strummed acoustic guitar to some tasteful, creamy sounding slide guitar interspersed throughout. Once again, the backing harmonies enrich the vocals at various points to great effect.

On My Side is altogether different, an upbeat pop track with a reggae-tinged rhythm and a vocal from Monica in the highest part of her considerable range, bringing to mind Cyndi Lauper or Kate Bush circa Wuthering Heights. The melody is instantly infectious with the funky guitar adding to the catchiness. The beat is mostly in half time but cleverly switches to straight 4/4 and the whole arrangement is full of rhythmic invention. That’s something the discerning listener will enjoy, but this song’s huge commercial appeal is in its addictive lead melody. A definite contender as a single release.

Bring Me Home is a return to the emotive piano ballad style of the opening song. It’s on this kind of song that Monica gets to excel as a singer, and here she gives an enchanting performance. Lyrically, it’s about needing someone to show emotional support.

This Time is a little different, this one a country pop song that opens with a fine fiddle part. It’s a duet performed with Matthew Koziol and Matthew takes the lead on the opening verse. Monica joins in on the excellent chorus, their contrasting voices blending and complementing each other perfectly. She then takes the second verse giving a nice ‘yin yang’ vibe to the song, and lyrically it’s a positive affirmation about giving a relationship another go.

The Mirror is both a melancholy country ballad and an empowering, uplifting anthem. It’s about a woman who has reached the end of her tether while in an unhappy relationship and decides to leave, as captured succinctly in the superb singalong chorus: “She can’t take it anymore, her suitcase sitting by the door….she won’t back down”. Another potential single.

Let Me Be There is more emotionally straightforward and musically a toe-tapping country rock song that has an authentic, roots vibe. This song is actually a cover version of an Olivia Newton John which was originally released on an album in 1973. It’s traditional country at its finest, featuring a sweet lyric about wanting to be in someone’s life. The subtle low male vocals on the chorus are a nice touch as is the rich Hammond organ which adds to the instrumental texture.

The album closes aptly with one final piano ballad where Monica once again gets to shine, vocally. Backed by plaintive piano and evocative strings, she is eventually joined by the gospel-tinged vocals of the McCrary Sisters whose contribution lends the song an uplifting, highly spiritual quality. Lyrically, it’s particularly moving, about losing a loved one: “A forced goodbye when heaven can’t wait….”. It’s a fitting end to an album that, as the title implies, takes the listener on an emotional journey.

Overall, this is a very fine collection of country pop songs that allow Monica Ortiz to showcase her skills as both singer and songwriter. Her different collaborators bring variety yet there’s also a sense of cohesion and musical unity. With a flawlessly produced sound and several potential singles, Monica Ortiz has everything it takes to break through to the big time.

 

VERDICT= 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Come and Stay with Me by Phil Mitchell Band

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Phil Mitchell is a composer, author and musician hailing from Chicago and the members that comprise the Phil Mitchell Band are musicians native to that area. He started writing songs while still a child and has written music in an eclectic range of genres including jazz, classical, RnB, rock, blues and country. He has released several albums including Morning Star, Crossroads and America. The band formed back in 2004 and they have performed at a variety of venues whilst recording music in the studio.

This track, Come and Stay With Me, is an upbeat pop/rock song taken from their album Crossroads, with elements of 70’s rock such as musical virtuosity and an ambitious, epic arrangement. The sound is very musical with flamboyant, Rick Wakeman-style piano and equally florid guitars, providing the bedrock for Phil Mitchell’s assured vocal performance. The lilting verse melody latches quickly in the memory but its the surging passages of energetic musicianship that really set this apart from the pack.

The structure is unusual but highly effective and the longer the track goes on the more euphoric the instrumental sections become. Strident, octave-spanning piano duels with creamy electric lead guitar and synth strings driven by solid but inventive drumming, held in perfect balance by the vocal sections and the infectious title hook. This approach brought to mind the epic rock of the 70’s such as Queen and the operatic rock of Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf).

Overall, this is an immensely enjoyable rock/pop track that cleverly balances traditional verse and chorus songwriting with instrumental sections that allow the other members of the Phil Mitchell Band to shine. What is truly impressive is how the studio recording has effectively captured the energy of the musical performances and you can tell this is a band who have been playing a long time. It’s this kind of musical authenticity that is lacking from so much modern mainstream music, but fortunately Phil Mitchell and his gifted cohorts are here to help redress the balance.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Visit the official website here

SINGLE REVIEW: Cruisin’ by Josh Best

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Josh Best is an up and coming country singer and songwriter hailing from Forest City in North Carolina. He is currently in the Air Force stationed in Alaska and is now hoping to push forward with his music career. He has been playing the guitar and performing, having received tuition from his father and uncle, the latter a well known musician in the Gastonia, North Carolina area. He has recently released several songs including Rebecca’s Song, Half (Must See) and Country Grown And Country Strong.

This track, Cruisin’, is an upbeat mid-tempo country rock track and a good introduction to Josh Best’s music. Starting with a brief country-tinged guitar melody it breaks out into strummed acoustic guitar and a steady drumbeat. Josh’s vocals come across immediately as strong and authentic, easy on the ear and suited to the material.

Lyrically, it’s a light hearted and enjoyable ‘good time’ ode to the joys of a truck journey with someone you love and the radio blasting. The vocal melody is deceptively catchy on the verse melody which is magnified on the instantly memorable title hook: “Cruisin’ on down the road, I’m cruisin’ listening to the radio…cruisin’ and I’m crossing the lines, cruisin’ with you by my side.” The guitar solo after the second chorus adds a little flavour and musical authenticity.

Overall, this is an infectious country rock song by a talented songwriter who has a natural gift for writing accessible music that most will find easy to relate to. He has a voice suited to his chosen genre and while there is scope for polishing the production, his current recordings have a raw lo-fi appeal that gives his sound a little edge and an old school feel. Josh Best has the potential to find a large audience and I hope this fun song will help him get there.

 

VERDICT = 8.6 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here: 

 

SINGLE REVIEW: The Night He Came To Town by Luanne Hunt

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www.luannehunt.com

Luanne Hunt is an award-winning singer, songwriter and recording artist from Southern California. Her professional music career begin in the mid-nineties, finding rapid success with her critically-acclaimed single I Don’t Bother Counting. In 1996, she shared the bill with Billy Ray Cyrus, Tammy Wynette, Toby Keith and Martina McBride at Starfest Country Music Festival at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.

Along with several other successes along the way, her 2007 album Breaking Through produced two hit singles on the U.S. and European charts. The song Solace In The Wind made it into the Grammy ballot in two categories and several songs since have topped various charts around the world, including 2018’s hit single Lightning In A Bottle.

This track, The Night He Came To Town, is a country folk ballad written by Canadian songwriter Dave Ward. The song begins with a spoken word poetry excerpt, setting the tone for the poetic lyrics that follow. From the opening lines there is a Dylan-esque depth to the words which seem to depict Judgement Day, or at least a vision of it: “The clouds rolled in, the rain came down, thunder roared, it shook the ground, dead men rose from all around the night he came to town…“.

Luanne delivers these powerful lines with an authentic, charismatic voice backed by strummed acoustic guitar, interjected with  electric guitar courtesy of Joe Eiffert. It also features some fine fiddle playing throughout by Christian Ward (no relation to the songwriter) who is one of Nashville’s most sought after studio and touring musicians. The haunting lead vocal melody is what stands out most of all though, perfectly mirroring the moral gravity and apocalyptic style of the lyrics. Both Christian Ward and Joe Eiffert get to shine at certain points with succinct solos on their respective instruments.

Overall, this is a very well written country folk song performed beautifully by Luanne Hunt. The storytelling aspect of the finest country and folk music is brought back to the fore with this release and rightly so. Its grave and solemn lyrical message will particularly resonate with those of a Christian faith, but the appeal of this song is universal and should bring Luanne Hunt another deserved success in her long and distinguished career.

 

VERDICT= 8.7 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Time For Some Ink by Rob Georg

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Rob Georg is a country singer and songwriter originally hailing from Tuebingen in Germany. He became interested in music as a child, taking up the piano and then switching to guitar. He bought his first guitar at just 14 and this led to writing his own material. In 2018, he released his first official song Push That Horn and in December of that year came his first full band release, This Ain’t My First Rodeo. That song made it into the US National Radio Hits AC Charts Top Ten and since then he has released Ghost, which I reviewed highly favourably (read here).

This track, Time For Some Ink, is a distinct contrast to the emotionally troubled epic balladry of Ghost and shows a whole other side to his musical persona. It’s a very upbeat, tongue in cheek ode to the joys of getting a tattoo, a subject which so many will relate to but not one I’ve encountered in a rock song before.

The song starts out as laid back as you can get, with low-end guitar melding with a slow roll on the snare drum. From the opening lines you know that this is going to be a fun, light hearted song: “I need to catch a buzz from a tattoo pen, got to get some pictures on my skin”. The bridge is short but effective (“Tell me I’m addicted, I don’t care what you think”) before exploding into the anthemic title hook that you can imagine the crowd singing along to with ‘devil horns’ aloft.

The second verse gives a little more lyrical depth as it describes how tattoos tell the story of his life on his body. After the second chorus the rock ‘n roll factor is turned up to eleven with a Slash-style, wah-drenched guitar solo. Indeed, the whole song wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Guns ‘n Roses classic album Appetite For Destruction.

Overall, this is a highly enjoyable, hugely entertaining track which shows the rockier side to Rob Georg. He shows his voice is just as adept at rock as at country ballads and, again, his gift for writing epic, singalong choruses. This song is guaranteed to be popular with his current fan base and should win over plenty more, especially the fellow tattoo lovers out there!

 

VERDICT= 8.7 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here: