Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of albums or artists.

Miel de Botton – Magnetic

Miel de Botton - MagneticMiel de Botton – Magnetic
(Miel Creations)
Released – March 9, 2015

Quite a woman, this Miel de Botton. Google the name, and you find that she’s a Swiss contemporary art collector and philanthropist; the daughter of a pioneer in contemporary asset management, and the sister of Alain de Botton, a philosopher and TV presenter. Dig deeper, and you find that she’s the former wife of banker turned film producer Angus Aynsley. From an article in the UK’s Evening Standard: “She studied law at Oxford, worked as a clinical psychologist and focused on bringing up her two children. But last year, at the age of 44, she began to make an album.”

The album drops in the US this week, with a sixties vibe, which Ms. de Botton acknowledges, “From the 60s, I adore Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Albert Hammond, Françoise Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg, the Beatles…These were some of the artists that my parents played to me, I feel that they have infiltrated my being.”

The eight tracks are lush and strikingly shiny in their execution – Ms. de Botton weaves her angelic alto through the entrancing arrangements – all originals, all big-girl stuff. She writes, “I write about emotions that I’ve had, difficult and joyful situations that I’ve been in. In my songs I often call for things I’m wishing for in my life. A true love, communion with others, an end to violence, joy…”


Bad Men” is the first single released from this set, a personal story, she says – telling that same Standard interviewer that it’s, “…a cry of having enough of people who seem to be close to you and then suddenly walk away. I wanted the song cathartically to make things change.” The other English single released is “Dazzle Me Diamond,” the story of a disillusioned bride: “After the party’s over | the wedding bed is cold.”

Rare is the first outing as polished as this. Ms. de Botton credits producer Andy Wright, who has worked with acts like Simply Red and the Eurythmics: “I feel I have entered a new world where I can fully express myself in exciting ways…”

Handcrafted songs, polished by the team she describes as “…wonderful people and so talented. It is often a really steep learning curve but I want to keep on learning and giving as much as I can.”

Very highly recommended.


(Tracks in bold have been added to the playlist at

Here’s the “Bad Men” video, a witty mini-movie in itself.

Amy Steinberg – Broken Open

Amy Steinberg - Broken OpenAmy Steinberg – Broken Open
Released – February 2015

Performers are quick to tell you if they’re a “triple threat” – can sing, dance and act. A triple threat of a different bent, Amy Steinberg is a singer/songwriter, performer, choir director, and artist who works with acrylics.

A vocal artist who can channel Joni Mitchell one moment, Natalie Merchant the next, and Melissa Etheridge after that, although she names Bette Midler, Ani DiFranco, Christy Snow and George Carlin as influences. Blending spirituality and humor, or as she puts it, “…marrying the sacred and profane – fusing the dreamlike nature of spirit with the rooted realness of sexuality and humor.”

If every song tells a story, these are handcrafted and intense stories told by a gifted storyteller, who has been to dark places and back, lived to tell that story and find the positive things from the experience. Or as she puts it, “There is always a spark that the dark can’t deny.”

Favorites here include the opener, “Burning Into The High,” along with “Sawyer’s Song,” and “Letting Go,” and I’ll be adding these three at

That said, the stories are so personal, that’s it’s more than likely you’ll find your own favorites among this set, which is highly recommended.


Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet – Vocal Madness

Uptown Vocal Jazz QuartetUptown Vocal Jazz Quartet –
Vocal Madness
Released – November 7, 2014

Dedicated to the late Tim Hauser, who founded the Manhattan Transfer – this east-coast based foursome joins with saxophonist Richie Cole (Lionel Hampton, Doc Severinsen, Eddie Jefferson) for a dozen cool tracks.

Ginny Carr leads the group. Her alto is joined by Andre Enceneat on Bass, soprano Holly Shockley, and tenor Robert McBride.

I’ve added Mr. Cole’s original “Bossa Nova Eyes,” along with “I Love Lucy” (yes, that Lucy), and Ms. Carr’s tribute to Eddie Jefferson, “He Was The Cat” to the playlist at But buy the album, and spring for the whole dozen. And forget the old standards. These tight harmonies and hand-crafted lyrics will have you believing they’ve been around for forever.

Highly recommended.

Lissy Walker – Wonderland

Lissy Walker - WonderlandLissy Walker – Wonderland
Released – September 23, 2014

As intimate as a whisper in your ear, Lissy Walker’s “Wonderland” is a sweetly swinging charmer, delivering on the early 20th century mood the publicist’s pen promises.

Admittedly a muddler of genres, Ms. Walker manages to sound country one moment, modern alt-something the next. But hard to put into a box also means unique, right down to the choice of tunes on this disc – from 1918’s melancholy “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” to 1970s folk-rock “I Wish I Was A Fool For You,” written by Richard Thompson, a restrained arrangement that fits the lyric much better than the over-produced version Sandy Denny delivered in 1977.

Photo by Anne Hamersky

Alternately, there’s nothing at all restrained about Ms. Walker’s cover of Billie Holiday’s “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?),” which reveals Ms. Walker’s theatrical background through a display of longing that could leave you wanting a cigarette when it’s over.

That’s one of my favorites from this set – along with “Isn’t It Romantic?” the Rodgers and Hart classic, once called “…the perfect song,” which opens with just the backing of Scott Nygaard on guitar, and then builds with strings to a bigger finish. Backing musicians are all first rate – in addition to Mr. Nygaard, Jon Evans on bass, Steven Bernstein on trumpet and John R. Burr on piano.

They’re joined by guest artists Carla Kihlstedt on violin and Ben Goldberg on clarinet. At times, as good as they all are, the recording mix can nearly overpower Ms. Walker’s delicate voice. I would have turned ‘em down a little.

But that’s a small quibble with this hand-crafted work of art, a fine addition to any collection of jazz vocalists, and is very highly recommended.