RIOT ON SUNSET: Mark Bryson’s New Album Offers a Striking Mix Of Words and Music

One of the things I love about artists is their indefatigable drive to create art—no matter what age, how many setbacks, who and what got in the way, or which well-meaning professional tried to steer them differently. They are simply compelled to continue. And they do. They create. Over decades, through family dramas, health catastrophes, catering gigs, broken relationships, and all manner of distractions life throws onto the long and winding road.

One such artist is my pal, Mark Bryson.

I met Mark back in the late 70s, when he worked at one of those very trendy “waiters-sing-&-play” kind of places in Los Angeles called Hi-Pockets: The Great American Food & Beverage Company. The name was too long, parking could be a bitch, but the food was good, there were amazing ice cream concoctions, and many of the servers were extraordinary singers and songwriters. In fact, the fabulous Lowen & Navarro (whose “We Belong” became a mega-hit for Pat Benatar) originated there too. It was that kind of place. Mark fit right in.

But over time, Hi-Pockets closed, people moved on, and in the ensuing years I lost track of Mark. We’d occasionally see each other at Lowen & Navarro gigs or certain gatherings, and though I knew he was wrangling his own version of “life’s distractions,” I also knew he was still writing. Every once in a while he’d send something for me to listen to, to offer perspective; sometimes he’d get back to Los Angeles to perform, and what clearly stood out, despite the time and distance, was that “indefatigable drive” I mentioned up top: he never stopped dreaming that dream of his—to put together an album that honored his style and sensibilities as a songwriter, a lyricist, singer and interpreter of his own music. And he finally has. Strikingly, artfully, gorgeously.

Riot On Sunset, a 12-song (+coda) collection of lyrical story-oriented tunes, is not only the culmination of that long-held dream, it is a spectacular album, one dedicated to “the City of Angeles, the Creative & Imaginative, and to all of us with Hopes, Dreams, and the occasional nightmare.” Which certainly struck a chord for me…. but what artist who’s ever found themselves in the great city of Los Angeles pursuing a dream wouldn’t identify with that?

Beautifully arranged and produced by Bryson (along with the very talented team of Gregg Olson and Allison VonBuelow, who both play and sing on the tracks), the songs unfold in a variety of styles, with lush harmonies, gorgeous instrumentation, and the eclectic, passionate voice of the man in the middle. There are glimmers of influence—Springsteen, Coldplay, Dave Matthews, even the Beach Boys—but Bryson is solidly original, not only in what he says, but how he says it.

The title track, “Riot on Sunset,” is an evocative tale of yearning, one that locates us immediately in Bryson’s universe on the infamous Sunset Strip (the CD’s photos are shot there). And while “Abbot Kinney” takes us west to Santa Monica, it’s “Girls On the Run” that sprinkles a little Beatles/Beach Boys playfulness into the mix. “Shady Side” spins a dark, urban mood with cinematic imagery, “Into the Light” pulls us in the opposite direction with almost Peter & Gordonesque swing, and “Brave New World” evokes a Coldplay edge of earnestness. “Stranger In a Strange Land” blends a western vibe with what struck me as Jefferson Airplane backups—a mash-up that, oddly, works. “Easy To Fall” (“easy to fall, hard to land”), “End of the World” (“all my Facebook friends are fighting, I’m just not in the mood”), and “Dream Works” (“make our footprint smaller, fit it in a shoebox”), all blend clever, lyrical imagery with messages wherever Bryson can squeeze them in without losing the beat.

The standouts for me are “Johannesburg,” a touching, powerful narrative Bryson delivers with gritty, dramatic vocals, the story of a man whose life touches his own, and “Best I Can Tell,” a simply gorgeous track of deeply personal lyrics (“This is my life, I am the keeper of my dreams… there are no angels watching over me. Best I can tell, I’m still the boss of me.”). Its anthemic chorus (“there’s more we can do when we all pull together”) not only had me singing along, I could picture iPhones held high as audiences sway and sing that evocative line over and over.

Bryson describes his work as “New Age Space Cowboy Surf Poet”—clever, but don’t let his tongue-in-cheek description distract you from the depth of this work: artful, human, literary, with stories and musicality that reach deep to strike chords and touch hearts. It may have taken him a while to get here, but my friend has honored both his journey and lifelong dream with a defining piece of creativity, one whose timelessness will have me listening for years to come.

You can pick up Riot On Sunset (in either CD or digital formats) at markbryson.hearnow.com, which will get you to his CDBaby page. To follow his musical adventures with the album (and whatever else he stirs up!), head on over and “like” his page on Facebook: Mark Bryson Music.

Photo by permission of Mark Bryson

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

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Singing with Sixth & Third

It’s been an interesting summer since The Geeze and Me closed.

After four months of intense involvement, a month of back and forth to San Diego to complete recordings and tidy up post-production bits, I was back home to my writing space, with a summer wrapped around family trips and events, and a calendar alarmingly bereft of scheduled activity. Lovely, and though I appreciated the overall ease of each day, I couldn’t help but feel a bit adrift.

But as life is wont to do, over time I found my LA feet again. Knowing a transition needed to be made, I got back to shopping my latest novel to literary agents (there’s a Sisyphean task!), attempted a few journalistic pieces that weren’t about Donald Trump (uninspired at the moment… no one seems to be reading anything but); leapt into rebuilding my LA actor’s platform, which meant reactivating my SAG-AFTRA card, finally getting my Equity card, and getting out on auditions. I remember now how much fun that is, auditions…

But, seriously, it is fun to be approaching that beast of a medium from a very different age and time of my life. We’ll see what I’m able to make of it.

But the most joyful turn on the “what do I do next?” agenda involves the poster above. The tall, stately man behind me is my brother, Tom Amandes, who is an actor extraordinaire; director, brilliant editor (he edited two of my novels), and a wonderful, passionate pianist. He approached me with the idea of “putting together a set of tunes”—in the right keys, with some semblance of arrangement, and players who’d help flesh out the sound, something we’d never managed to pull off prior—and not only was I touched that he wanted to collaborate on such a project, I was thrilled.

Because there is nothing—I mean nothing—more creatively, emotionally, and viscerally exhilarating to me as an artist than singing. I love writing (love it); acting can be loads of fun; dancing (as long as the bar is low) is always a hoot, and photography is a personal passion, but singing…

From the moment I discovered musical sounds came out of my mouth in some kind of pleasing fashion, singing has been my singlemost cherished gift as a creative person, something to experience whether alone in my car, performing for a houseful of guests, or bounding across stage in a big concert hall. It is pure, channeled, emotive expression, and to once again, starting with The Geeze and Me, have opportunity to pull it into the sphere of my life is this year’s greatest gift.

So… Tom’s and my project: we’ve named it Sixth & Third (birth order… you can figure it out); we’ve got my dear old bandmate, Jeff Brown (from my original band, DEVON… yes, the one from the 80s!), on guitar, as well as Tom’s son, Ben (a talented, intuitive musician), on cello and guitar… for the time he has before heading back to the University of Chicago. I’m trying to convince him school is far less exciting than playing in a band with his aunt and father, but so far, though he smiles, he remains unconvinced. Either way, I’m delighted to have him for the time we do and what happens afterwards will be the next adventure.

For now, we’ve put together a select list of originals (mostly mine, but one of my hubby’s), and a few handpicked covers we love. We’re playing a private show at Tom’s house, a fabulous performing space, soon, and once we sort out where we might want to take it after that, we’ll explore other ideas.

All I know is this: singing is back in my life; I won’t let it go again. I may not have reached the rowdy pinnacles of fame and fabulousness I planned while lying on my floor listening to Janis Joplin—I had planned to be the next Janis Joplin!— but what I do have—the joyful collaboration of people I love, songs that mean something to me, and the opportunity to share both with welcoming audiences—is true elation.

More as we go.

Photos by Nancy Everhard-Amandes

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Doesn’t Every Novel Deserve Its Own Playlist?

EveryFreeChanceBooks

There has been many a book that involved a road trip of some kind, narrative replete with intriguing characters, startling plot twists, and myriad turns and detours along the way. Such books always seem ripe for a soundtrack, and HYSTERICAL LOVE is no different… particularly since all/most of the characters involved make a point of discussing their musical preferences!

So when Every Free Chance Books invited me to contribute a playlist to accompany the HYSTERICAL LOVE journey our protagonist embarks upon—both the internal and actual—I was more than happy to comply.

Posted on their site this morning is a “Spotlight” piece which not only includes the playlist I put together (and, oh, it’s a good one!), but a special option for readers to click to win a free copy of the book. The link to their page is HERE, but I’ll tease you with just a bit of the playlist…

1. The Ice Cream Truck song (perfect to get the trip started)
2. Bruno Mar’s “Locked Out of Heaven” (from “Bob’s” playlist… you’ll wanna know who “Bob” is…)
3. Kanye West’s “Power” (on “Bob’s” — him again— stereo): 
4. Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” (“Jane’s” favorite song) 
5. The Righteous Brothers’ “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (1965 hit… “Barbara” from Oakland): 
6. B.B. King’sI’ve Been Downhearted(all about “Dan”… yes, he’s the protagonist”)

And there’s twelve more! You know you want to find out why these particular songs were chosen, right….?

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Then Suddenly There’s Music Again… Women Of Substance Radio

And then there was music again

My rock & roll past is no secret. In fact, most who know me are aware of how all-encompassing music was, has been, for most of my life. It wasn’t a hobby, a little thing I did on the side; it was MY LIFE… in all caps.

I started singing professionally when I was a teenager, hit the road with a rock & roll band before I was old enough to drink in the bars we played, and I ate the LA music scene during the ’80s like it was the best damn meal out there. No matter what else I may do in my life as a creative artist, being a singer/songwriter, and being able to get up on stage or behind the mic in a recording studio with incredible musicians making magic around me is, seriously, one of the greatest highs to be had.

But rock & roll dreams tend to be built on the alchemy of youth, opportunity, contacts, and, in some case, sheer luck, and as luck (or destiny or fate or whatever it is that drives these things) would have it, and as much fun as I was having, I didn’t quite get to the mountain I had in mind. There was disappointment in that, surely, but still… what a journey!

So now, as I write my articles and books, take and share my photographs; do any of my beloved creative activities, I keep my Music Muse nearby, always ready to tap her shoulder and say, “Wanna come out and play?” And she still (I see my Music Muse as a “she”!), miraculously, does. A few months ago I was in the studio singing backups for the upcoming album of my friend, Ken O’Malley, and his new band, The Ne’er Duwels. Friend and frequent songwriting partner, Jason Brett, and I cut one of our songs this past year and will get to others when I’m in Chicago next. Occasionally people write to tell me they picked up my CD and, still and always, I sing my lungs out in the car. It may not be Madison Square Garden but damn if the acoustics aren’t good! 🙂

Then, out of the blue, a music colleague of mine shared some information from an Internet radio station called Women of Substance Radiothe music brain child of musician and entrepreneur, Bree Noble; they were looking for new music from female artists. I had not heard of the station but loved the name and mission statement:

WHAT IS A “WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE”?

Substance can be defined as “significant quality with the implication of a hidden or special significance.” Music of Substance is not just entertainment or fluff, but has an essential “core” brimming with heart, soul, and spirit.

Women of Substance are female performers who deliver high quality music that speaks to the listener through vocal excellence, depth of character and emotion, and lyrics that leave a lasting impression. This includes Label Artists, Indies and Unsigned artists alike.

Women of Substance Radio has been on the air for 7 years. We are an Internet Radio station garnering fans from all over the world. WOSRadio plays the BEST female artists, both label and Indie, in all genres. We hand-pick all of our music starting with icons of the past like Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Tracy Chapman, Mariah Carey, No Doubt, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Michelle Branch, Kelly Clarkson, Sara Bareilles, Colbie Caillat, Adele, Carrie Underwood, Amy Winehouse, Feist, Christina Perri, Ingrid Michaelson, and so many more.

As one who sings, loves, and – hopefully – writes the kind of music that has an “essential core,” I raised my hand without hesitation. And, lo and behold, one of the two songs I submitted, “Comfort Me,” was chosen for their new music playlist and will be put into rotation starting tomorrow (9.8). As the title says… then suddenly there’s music again!

I’d be delighted for you all to click onto the station, listen, vote, do that thing you do. The necessary information and links follows, and I sincerely thank you in advance for your ears and your support. Of course, I mostly hope you enjoy listening to my song and the music of other singing, songwriting “women of substance”!

COMFORT ME (written by Lorraine Devon Wilke, David Resnik & Rick M. Hirsch) will debut on the “What’s on my iPod” Show, our weekly new music show on WOSRadio. See the playlist HERE.

Show airs September 8-12, 2014 at 2 PM PT; same show airs every weekday this week.

Listeners and fans can tune in at: http://rdo.to/WOSRADIO (click on “Website”). 

You can also tune in on Mobile Devices by downloading our Mobile App. Just search for “Women of Substance” in your App Store or use these links to download:

iTunes Store (Apple): Women of Substance app on iTunes
Google Play Store (Android): Women of Substance app

After this week, COMFORT ME will enter heavy rotation on WOSRadio for 2 weeks. Fans are invited to vote “thumbs up” for your song by clicking the “thumbs up” icon while it is playing on our desktop player (and some Android devices). Fans can also request your song right from the desktop player top menu. Songs that receive votes and requests will remain in heavy rotation for an additional two weeks (possibly more depending on voting) and will be considered for the Top 20 which is posted on our website and linked to our player.

There you go… now go rock on!  🙂

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

FOLLOW-UP: …I Want To Sing With the Funk Brothers!

Like a wish inscribed on a paper, slipped into a bottle and thrown into the sea, my little story about the Funk Brothers was picked up on another shore and taken to heart…I had to share it with you all.

With the Sturm und Drang that punctuates too much in the world today, it’s sometimes hard to focus on the brighter, more uplifting, elements of life; those moments that remind you of good people, the notion that someone’s paying attention, the simple hope that a little dream long held might still, inexplicably and unexpectedly, come true. Given that systemic cynicism that attempts to hijack our time and ponderings, I wanted to post this addendum as a reminder that moments of thrill and surprise can happen from time to time.

If you haven’t already read the original story, please do and then come back to this…it will make much more sense that way: Enough With Politics… I Want To Sing With the Funk Brothers!

Hummm-hum-humm (I’m humming as you get caught up with the story…but it is a Motown song I’m humming.).

OK, done? Great. So anyway, I wrote the story mainly because, as noted, I’m inspired by these guys and the music they’ve made and any chance I get to throw a little attention their way, I’m gonna do it. I mean, just yesterday I was listening to “Standing in the Shadows of Love” as loudly as my Ipod and ears could handle and as I bopped down the street like an aging Lada Edmund Jr. in Nikes and a sweatband, I was again in full thrall of the funk that is the Funk Brothers (and tell me, besides my sister Mary, how many of you can say you remember Lada Edmund, Jr.?:)

I posted the story here on Rock+Paper+Music, as well as my column at the Huffington Post (HuffingtonPost.com/Lorraine-Devon-Wilke/Funk-Brothers) where, regardless of my wish that my own blog garnered such numbers, I clearly get more play. And lo and behold, about three days after it posted there – this story that not only extolled the Brothers but went on to declare my Bucket List wish to sing with them – came this message on the comment board:

Lorraine-my name is David Spero and I have managed the Funk Brothers for years. I promise that the next time they play the west coast you WILL sing with them! 

Meet us at the soundcheck for a trial run, and if you have ‘the goods’ we’ll invite you up at the show as well. 

Pause for a moment of awed silence.

You can imagine my reaction. Message in a bottle.

David Spero is a longtime and highly respected manager and all-around music entrepreneur who has worked with a staggering list of bands and musicians we’ve all listened to over the years. Still very active in the music world, his attachment to the Funk Brothers somehow led him to my article and his unexpected and smile-inducing comment. He later contacted me via my website and we were able to have a more in-depth conversation about my background, his, mutual people we knew, etc., and it was a delightful conversation left with this:

Lorraine…thanks for bringing the Funks to so many people’s attention! That alone gets you a shot on stage…but then when I realized you can really sing, well…let’s fill that bucket. We may be doing (a gig) in April in LA…when it’s finalized I’ll let you know. The gigs are far and few between, the guys all have health issues now, so this would be the best shot. It is so appreciated what you did for them…the guys loved it!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, made my day, week, month, year….knowing “the guys loved it.”  Seriously, it does not get much better than that.

So I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the potential LA gig in April will include my humble and appreciative participation but, for this moment, Mr. Spero’s reaching out made clear that life can still surprise me. That’s really nice to know. Almost as nice as picturing the venerable old Brothers reading my piece and smiling.

More later…(but I tell ya, I’m warming up those vocal cords!).
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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.