Beverly McClellan has been adding a little bit of magic to the bars and clubs of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for almost 20 years, so if it took a musical talent show to bring her ‘Voice’ out to a world audience then I humbly eat my (not so encouraging) past words on such programming matters.
She’s got soul, blues, rock and whole plethora of much more to come.
It is no wonder that Steve Vai, on hearing Beverly and watching her perform, signed her to his label, got her in to sing lead vocals on ‘John The Revelator’ on his 2012 album ‘The Story of Light’ (look up the video, it’s well worth it) and subsequently invited her on the European/UK Tour to promote both of their albums. (For personal reasons Beverly had to return home early from the tour).
‘Fear Nothing’ is the title of Beverly McClellan’s album. This Tour Edition, released on December 1st is only available in Europe and features three never released before bonus tracks.
Recorded at Los Angeles’ House of Blues Studio, Fear Nothing starts as it means to go on, punches straight in with a groove that is maintained throughout. Some tracks are slower towards the latter part of the album but the power of the lyrics and the way they are delivered carried by simply great composition won’t disappoint, perhaps more so after a couple of listens.
The whole thing is beautifully mixed. Produced by David Z (Prince, Buddy Guy, Billy Idol, Fine Young Cannibals) I can’t fault the levels or the warmth omitted from this recording.
Being able to compare or liken McClellan’s voice to any other iconic female vocalist is both easy and difficult at the same time. At some points there are traits of Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell and Eva Cassidy (to name a few), but ultimately her range, not only of tone and volume, emotion but also genre are so vast that I can only say that she has something of all my favourite singers in her style… and I think she has just that, her own style.
McClellan is, most importantly, a musician (she plays upwards of 10 instruments) which gleams through in the structure of her songs, the enjoyment that comes through the speakers, the communication with the band and her inability to refrain from jamming along vocally when it’s not her turn are, all things I love.
“Making ‘Fear Nothing’ was as smooth as melting butter on an oven-hot slice of bread”. She said, “I showed the songs to the guys and then we played some of them two or three times, but a lot of performances on the album are first takes, so they have that edgy, live feeling just like on stage”.
The first burst of vocal is fuelled with drive and passion in ‘I see Love’, so much that you believe she literally does see love, as do you by the end of the song, perhaps it’s the rumble of drums that make you fall!
'Lyin’ To' has got everything. I adore her change of intonation and natural rhythm. The interaction with the keys player and sense of her loving and meaning every word resonate, and soon you find you’re asking the same question of yourself. The communication with the audience, even though it’s a studio recording, makes you think you’re at her gig.
'It Ain’t Me' starts out like a late night driving song but drifts in to one of those hot lazy day songs when time seems to be going in slow motion. Lovely breaks, great licks on the guitar, brilliant instrumentals are all important, as music to me is a band not ‘an act’, - a package.
'Nobody’s Fault But Mine' begins with a tasty guitar. This fantastic little blues number is a kind of modern take on the Blind Willie Johnson or Nina Simone versions I grew up with. They play it quite clean, but with enough of the original to make it work well.
'I Can’t Hide Me'. To me, this is the type of music that comes to mind when I think of American bars, if you’ve seen the film Overboard with Jim Dandy to the Rescue, you’ll know where I’m coming from - the kind of place where as soon as you walk in your foot’s tapping, your shoulders slow shimmy and before you know it you’re smiling and dancing with your new best friends.
'Well Wondered' Bass! The warmth of her voice carries the momentum of the song and I love the vocal fills.
'Love Will Find A Way Out' this song features Keb Mo the blues guitarist, singer, songwriter who has won three American Grammys and in the past played with Bonnie Raitt, Big Joe Turner and Albert Collins. The little jibes of guitar featured are so addictive that you find yourself singing along to them.
'Come to Me' I’ve been to a lot of blues jams and this is the song I’d want to hear at the end of a rough day as I looked hard in to my whiskey and contemplated life. It begins bluesy, with a slight resemblance of Sam Cooke’s Bring it On Home, but then it rocks up a bit, which is alright in my book and then McClellan brings it all back down again. The line ‘you can come to me’ becomes both comforting and inspirational.
'I Never Will Forget' is a good exhibition of her vocal range with tones of an older Joni Mitchell and even a little bit of Annie Lennox? Anyway, I must stop making comparisons. The song progresses in to a powerful tale, the slow steady tempo finds you nodding along.
'Tender Of The Most' I can imagine this song on a film soundtrack.
'Precious times' is a pop/rock number. This is one for the mums I think.
'Do It' The first of the bonus tracks. This song actually stopped me in my tracks. Delicate juxtaposed with an assured lilting power and rambling piano.
'As I Walk' demonstrates an adaptability of voice that is ready for all genres.
'A Case of You' is Beverly McClellan’s version of the Joni Mitchell classic, this is a brave task she’s taken on and I think has succeeded in making it her own to suit the warmth and depth of her voice. She softens the often harsh moments of the original and in turn adds a new drama, subtly slower and I think (at the risk of alienating half my family) a more appropriate and touching version.
Lyrically, musically, amazingly this album whizzes you through the emotional gambit with ever present positivity. I am one step closer to fearing nothing.
Fear Nothing (Tour Edition) Track Listing:
1. I See Love
2. Lyin’ To
3. It Ain’t Me
4. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
5. I Can’t Hide Me
6. Well Wondered
7. Love Will Find A Way Out Feat Keb Mo
8. Come To Me
9. I Will Never Forget
10. Tender Of The Most
11. Precious Times
12. Do It
13. As I Walk
14. A Case of You
The Graveltones & StoneRider @ The Garage 20th November 2012 - (Ninelives UK Event)
As I step foot into The Garage on this chilly evening, my hopes are set high for tonight’s gig. The Graveltones and StoneRider playing together is a line-up that I made sure I wouldn’t miss. Both bands are entirely different from one another, yet similar in a way that makes sense that they should both find themselves here.
StoneRider, from Atlanta, are currently supporting Europe on their European tour, yet on a night off, managed to fit in this headline gig. Unfortunately the evil clutches of Laryngitis had hold of Matt (lead vox and guitar) which resulted in a much shorter set, which is a shame purely for my own selfish reasons. It was disappointing to see it cut short, but needs must and health is much more important.
So, let’s look at the gig shall we?
The Graveltones open up with ‘Lightning Bolt’ which straight away rips the shit outta the joint and gets everyone grooving. The Graveltones are a two piece with Jimmy O on vocals and guitar and Mikey Sorbello on drums. I can honestly say that I don’t think that I have ever seen two people make so much noise and by noise I mean really tasty music.
When you think of these guys, the closest comparison I can think of is White Stripes….. But you know, with an actual drummer! The relationship between both Jimmy O and Mikey can really be seen as they launch into ‘Blamin’ It On You’ which is a fabulous blues based song , filled with attitude and a crazy gleam in Jimmy O’s eyes as he strums that guitar for all its worth. The Graveltones project pure passion for the songs and it is completely infectious. As I look across the stage I can see Mikey pounding his high hat with a tambourine and one stick under arm as Jimmy O turns to him for a killer head banging moment.
As the gig goes on they play tracks from their EP ‘Take It From Me’, ‘Want Your Love’ and many more. The highlight of the set is ‘Sullen Blue’. Why? I hear you ask. Well, that is quite simple. I feel that this song captures the essence of this band perfectly. Jimmy O’s vocals are hungry and laced with raw power, the song itself is again blues driven and dirty. Just the way I like it. Mikey shines on this song, and I have no problem with declaring him to be every drummer’s wet dream. Playing for 16 years, he has skills that are rarely seen. I have never seen a drum solo like it. All in all I would highly suggest that you get yourself to see these guys, as they do need to be seen to be believed….
Next up was a certain 3 long haired men by the name of StoneRider. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, then I would describe them as a very 70’s esque, blues, stoner rock band. In a word, brilliant! And boy do these cats know how to rock your soul…
First song up was ‘Show Me The Light’. Jason’s drums come sauntering in with a light to heavy drum roll while Matt lays a great bluesy melody down, and as the song breaks, BAM! Adam gives a high kick and is already bouncing around the stage with so much life. Matt’s guitar solo is marvellous as his fingers glide effortlessly over the fret board.
A great high energy, opening track from their album ‘Fountains Left To Wake’, perfect to get the crowd in the mood for what is yet to come.
As ‘Say I Won’t’ started you could already hear the crowd wooing and the vibe was just brilliant. This is one of those songs that just sends you back in time. I could totally see myself driving down route 66 high as a kite, shootin’ the breeze with this song being the soundtrack. I love the bass line on this track as it complements the guitar perfectly which to me sounds very similar to the Hendrix era.
‘ElDorado’ up next and by far my favourite track… laced with charisma, this song is definitely a journey, best taken with your eyes closed as you glide over the music as if it were like waves under you. The crowd thought the same as they were screaming for more and dancing along in time. Not one person in the place was still and I find that testament to the music itself. This track can be quite reminiscent of The Doors in the jamming style as one eager crowd member shouts mid song “Excellent, build it up!” and boy did they…. Jason let rip a brilliant drum roll/beat that lead the song to a climax and left the crowd in awe.
The boys pick up the pace to the much faster and rockier ‘Undercover’. Adam jumped in to assist with vocals on what is just a great classic rock, bluesy tune, along with ‘Ramble Down’. Jason took on vocals for this one to help Matt out which was great to hear, and did not let up the drums once... brilliant!
Last track of the night, much to everyone’s dismay was ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ as Matt says to the crowd “This is our last song of the night, we appreciate it, we’ll be back” which is music to my ears. Jason leads in on drums and the boys kick off with yet another brilliant high energy track. At one point I was surprised Adam didn’t give himself whiplash he was that lost in the moment, which is always fantastic to see.
All in all I have to say this is definitely in my list of favourite gigs of all time (No I'm not being dramatic). It was one hell of a night for live music on all counts. Can’t fault it, and I am eagerly waiting the time when I can see and rock out to StoneRider and The Graveltones once again. Thanks for a great gig guys!
Video: StoneRider 'Say I Won't'
Cathy Richardson has just completed a successful tour with Jefferson Starship and now has her eyes on the next step. I chat to Cathy about the tour with Jefferson. Her role in 'Love, Janis' and singing with Big Brother and The Holding Company aswell as what comes next.
Hi Cathy, how are you? In which part of the world are you in today?
I am doing great thank you. I'm actually home outside Chicago on a little break.
How has the tour with Jefferson Starship been?
It has been amazing! We played so many shows this last leg in Europe for great crowds.
I missed your two London dates at The Borderline but I had some friends who went and they loved it. Have you had any particular moments of the recent tour stand out to you? If so what is your favourite?
The Borderline shows were both really fun and different. Both shows were sold out, we have a rabid fan base in London and we haven't played there in a few years so people were really fired up to hear us. We also had some new blood in the band on this tour, UK drummer Richard Newman and the great San Francisco Bay Area guitarist Jude Gold so that added a new dimension of excitement to the shows.
Two other shows that stand out were Paris and Worpswede in Germany. I have never played in either of those places but the fans are so appreciative, it makes for a fun night when the band is on fire and the crowds are into it.
You have had quite the career! Seven solo albums, a GRAMMY nomination, you’re the lead singer of Jefferson Starship and you also played Janis in the off Broadway show ‘Love, Janis’ as well as sung with Big Brother and The Holding Company. Of all these achievements, which would you say has been your most accomplished?
Oh I don't know, I tend to feel at times like I haven't achieved what I wanted to achieve in the music business and then I look back at everything I've done collectively and go, "Wow, I guess I have done a lot!" I've released all of my albums independently and I've been rejected by every major label over the years so the GRAMMY nomination felt really validating at the time, although in hindsight it didn't really change my life except that now I can have that word GRAMMY attached to my name forevermore, which is pretty cool.
Love, Janis changed my life in so many ways, it took me out of the local bar scene in Chicago and put me in a National spotlight. It also changed me in huge ways as a performer and singer. I had a huge growth period during that time. It took me to San Francisco where I ended up meeting Jefferson Starship, and that has obviously taken me all over the world and given me an amazing showcase for singing and performing.
What has been the biggest struggle that you have faced in your career?
I think the biggest struggle has been dealing with rejection. You have to believe in yourself 100% and along the way there are bad reviews, record company rejections, failed auditions, shows that don't sell well etc. There have been times when I thought about giving up because I just couldn't stand the thought of another asshole behind a desk telling me I wasn't good enough when I knew that I was… I think deep down I have always felt that by virtue of sheer endurance I would have success on my own terms and there was nothing that could stop me. Plus, the longer you do something, the better you get at it.
When you played Janis, how did you prepare for that role? Did you find it difficult?
It was a very challenging role; I had to really change my voice to try to sound like her. I listened to her recordings over and over, watched every piece of film I could get my hands on and just ensconced myself in her for the entire period I was doing the show. I talked to her and I asked her to come and work through me and I just really tried to have integrity in portraying her as realistically as I could, to give the audience the most authentic representation of her that was physically possible for me. Obviously we are two different people and I am not an impressionist, but like Janis I can do a lot of different things with my voice. It really pushed me beyond my limits and forced me to take risks and I grew tremendously as a singer from that experience.
What is the strangest/funniest/craziest thing that has ever happened to you on the road?
A lot of crazy stuff happens on the road but on this last tour, I had some supreme dingbat moments. First, I left ALL of my luggage in the lobby of a hotel in Southampton, we drove ALL the way to Wolverhampton before I realised and our manager had to turn around and go ALL the way back and get it. In my defence, I thought I saw one of the pieces in the parking lot when we were loading out and assumed the guys had grabbed it when I was next door in the restaurant. I was wrong!
The other really stupid thing I did involved going from London to Paris to be on French television. The band was scheduled to travel later that day but in order to be on time for my interview, I bought a new train ticket, got up super early and went by myself. When I arrived at Gare du Nord, there was no one there to pick me up, so after about an hour of dragging my luggage around the station, sweating and looking for my ride, trying to speak French and no one could understand a word I was saying, I took a cab to the TV station. I had no cell service and couldn't access the internet to check my email so I couldn't get in touch with anyone and I was just really concerned that I had missed the driver and was now running late. When I got to the TV station, announcing I was there for my interview, no one knew who I was or what I was talking about. As it turns out, I was a day early. That was fairly humiliating but now that it's over I can laugh about it.
I am a huge fan of Janis and Grace and think your singing is amazing. How have you found it singing with both Big Brother and Jefferson? Were you intimated at all by stepping in for two such amazing women?
After doing ‘Love, Janis’ for so long I was less intimidated singing with Big Brother and more in awe of how much it was like stepping into one of those old records I had listened to so much. They really sound remarkably similar to this day as they did back then. Of course Janis and Grace are both iconic female rock singers, very different stylistically but both very powerful singers and if I have one thing in common with both of them I think it's that. I was actually a much bigger Jefferson fan growing up so coming into that band, I felt like the Grace stuff was right in my bread basket where as I really had to work hard to get that Janis sound. Even still, people are going to be critical no matter how good you are. Some people will never be satisfied because you are not that person. Of course I'm not, I'm not trying to be Grace but I do try to honour her by being the best I can be every night and giving people a great show. For the most part, people are really appreciative and kind to me.
You have another project – The Macrodots. Can you tell me some more about that? How did it come about? What are your future plans?
Macrodots is basically a collaboration with Zack Smith and myself, I met him in San Francisco and we wrote and recorded a bunch of songs, put a band together and played a few gigs, made an album, put a different band together and played a few more gigs and it's just a really fun rock project that is getting a lot of good buzz and feedback from our fans and critics, too. I love the songs and I think we have a unique sound with a retro/modern edge. It has been a great creative outlet for me while I've been busy touring with Jefferson Starship and it's really different from my solo stuff which is much more rootsy. Zack is an extremely prolific and talented writer and producer and working with him has taken me places musically I wouldn't be able to go on my own but still compliments what I do perfectly. We're working on another record right now but are still in the writing phase. It's slow going because I live in Chicago now so we have to write over the internet. He sends me tracks and I write lyrics and melodies and send them back to him. We are both pretty busy with other stuff so we have to really focus to get it together.
If you could pin point the moment in your life that lead to all of this when would it be?
I think it would be the moment when I was in about 7th grade and trying to teach myself how to play guitar and my next-door neighbour told me to listen to Heart. I did and I knew instantly what I wanted to do with my life.
Aside from Janis, Grace, who are/were your vocal influences? Is there anyone unusual that your fans wouldn’t expect?
I think everybody knows that my absolute hero is Ann Wilson. I also loved Mickey Thomas which might surprise some of the Jefferson fans. There is sort of a divided camp in the Jefferson world of those who resent him for taking the band in such a commercial direction but I think he is an amazing singer.
You have already played with some fantastic musicians, but if you could collaborate with anyone now, dead or alive, who would it be?
Oh wow, well, my favourite songwriter is Jill Sobule so I would love to write a song with her although I might just sit there and watch her write it to see what I could learn. I had a dream the other night that Nancy Wilson was putting a band together and needed a singer to do the Heart stuff and I was auditioning for that. That would be just a little fantastical!
If you could offer any advice to aspiring female singers and aspiring musicians, what would it be?
I really believe that, number one, you have to believe in yourself and love what you are doing. When I talk to Paul and David and the guys from Big Brother, none of them had aspirations of being famous, it just kind of happened to them. They were doing what they loved, and they were in the right place at this magical moment in time and they were kind of swept away with it. Then you hear about people like Madonna who were just driven by ambition and would stop at nothing. Of course she worked very hard at it but she got where she is today… the point is there is more than one way to get where you are going. I used to want to be famous but in my old age I have realized that fame for fame's sake is an empty pursuit, it's much more fulfilling to be recognized and appreciated for doing great work. So I just aim for greatness, and whether or not I achieve that is extremely subjective.
Of all the places you have toured, do you have a favourite and why?
We went to Tel Aviv this year and that was just incredible. Such a beautiful city. Warm, friendly people, great food, great beaches. I was really surprised, I don't know what I was expecting but it was just so mellow, I really loved it.
Is there anything that you haven’t yet achieved that you want to?
I would like to have at least one hit song, a song that I wrote that breaks through to a mass audience and I can bank on for the rest of my career.
Thanks so much for your time Cathy. I hope this finds you well. I hope to see you next time you’re in London.
Thank you, Chelle.
Black Country Communion strike again! Their third record ‘Afterglow’ is a pounding, groovy rock delight and most definitely has some treats in store for you. Despite the issues of recent times; Hughes, Bonamassa, Bonham and Sherinian have really created a simply outstanding rock record.
As ‘Big Train’ comes rollin’ in, I am instantly reminded of ‘She Builds Quick Machines’ by Velvet Revolver, the two are quite similar. I love the attitude of this song. Bonham is on fine form and really shines on this track, with his hard hitting beats, he is an absolute power house.
‘This Is Your Time’ starts with a delicious groove that instantly demands your focus. Written by Bonham on an iPhone whilst driving, it really displays the extent of his talent. It has a great rhythm and bass line at the intro. Glenn’s vocals really are undeniable as he sings with a really heart-warming tone “This is your time, it’s in your hands, this is your time to make your stand.” This is a close favourite of mine.
I love the way you can really hear how the band have come together. ‘Midnight Sun’ is the perfect example. Instantly you feel Glenn’s vocals completely dominate you, they don’t call him one of rock’s greatest vocalists for nothin’!! Bonamassa’s guitar solo is immense and the song as a whole has a wonderful and very radio friendly presence.
‘Confessor’ is a thunderous straight up rock ‘n’ roll tune. Bonham has a fabulous presence on this track and his drumming is such a pleasure to hear, so solid; and the fills used throughout have a great variety and really switch it up. Combined with the pure power of Joe Bonamassa and Derek Sherinian’s solos this song is a tad more powerful than originally intended as Glenn Hughes says “When Jason turbo-d it up it really came to life” which is no word of a lie.
Another stand out track to me is the very bluesy ‘Cry Freedom’ which has a great camaraderie between Hughes and Bonamassa as they share the vocals and sound fabulous together. It has a great groove to it and is one of my favourites.
‘Afterglow’ as an album is track after track of brilliant rock steady songs that are written and performed incredibly well. There is not one song that doesn’t deliver. Black Country Communion are in their element on this record and I really hope that there will be many more to come. Albums like this remind us why this band is so special.
All articles are © Michelle Nevill