Variety and talent abundant this year
It was a seriously eclectic year for new local music, with nearly all of this year’s independent releases standing uniquely on their own.
A few were stronger than others, but as I predicted listeners would have a fruitful pick of standout offerings, beginning with Bakersfield alt-rock quartet Cidona, who kicked off the year with a thoroughly well-produced, five-song EP titled “Credulity.”
Cidona, from left: Mike Jameson, Brock Beeney, Melissa Lucas, Josiah Frazier.
Photo by Ryan Sanders
Accompanied by a striking music video for their single “Falling,” a song about the struggles of addiction, vocalist Melissa Lucas proved her range of abilities on record as a passionate rock vocalist. As with many early year releases, “Credulity” could have gone overlooked by the masses, but after treating fans with a new acoustic digital download-only release from the band in October, we were all reminded of the group’s youthful energy. More from Cidona at facebook.com/cidonarock
This was also the year I was introduced to the music of Funeral Club featuring the remarkable husband-and-wife team of Joseph and Jenny Andreotti. Haunting, dark and romantic, their music defied category on the local scene with a cool mix of Ennio Morricone spaghetti western sounds and vintage Euro-jazz elegance.
Above: Joseph and Jenny Andreotti of Funeral Club
The unconventional blend of Joseph’s parlor and baritone guitar, Omnichord, synthesizer and percussion, with Jenny’s ethereal vocals, also drew me to their live show that featured vintage film clips taken from the public domain archive of avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren projected behind them during performances. More from Funeral Club at funeralclub.org/
Speaking of jazz, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make mention of keyboardist Jay Smith’s bizarre freeform jazz trip into the unknown with his debut CD, “Unashamed Portrayal.” Previously reviewed by me in an early column as, “raw, loose and at times exhausting,” in hindsight I felt maybe I was a little bit rough on Smith and gave it a few more listens — this time, with jazz ears.
Above: Jay Smith. Photo by Michael Chadburn
As I told Smith myself, my mind hasn’t changed on my original review after four full-length listens; however, I have to commend him on his unflinching commitment to his concepts of jazz, which could be debated until we all turn “kind of blue.” Smith really grew on me this year, and if you haven’t heard this guy play yet, make a point to find him. More from Jay Smith at jaysmithgroup.com
Above: Joel Jacob. Photo by Joseph Gomez
Taking a creative risk was local singer/songwriter Joel Jacob, who blessed us with a quietly released new praise and worship digital EP titled “Here Comes The Light.” Joel never ceases to amaze me when he jumps into action, and if you enjoyed his last CD, “Makeshift Motive,” as much as I did, you’ll be right at home here. Highly recommended for those in need of a spiritual boost whether you’re the churchgoing kind or not. More from Joel Jacob at www.joeljacobmusic.com
There were also strong new debuts and releases from Choirs, Catastrophist, Crooked Folk and The Volume, all of whom kept the flame burning on the indie rock scene.
Above from left: Choirs, Catastrophist, Crooked Folk
Not to be outshined was the lone local country release titled “Get Lucky” from Lucky Ned Pepper, featuring Smokin’ Armadillos alumni, guitarist Josh Graham and singer Rick Russell.
Former Smokin’ Armadillos members Rick Russell and Josh Graham returned this year as Lucky Ned Pepper.
A clever collage of country imagery from the opening track of “I Remember the Music” on through “Dirt Road,” to the fun-loving spirit of “I Oughta Own this Bar” and “Cowboy Thing,” the duo received a hearty “Welcome Back” from fans during the Kern County Fair. More from Lucky Ned Pepper at LuckyNedPepper.com
Names to watch
Truxton Mile, from left: Ethan Morris, Taylor Unruh, Ryan Coulter, Alec Olivieri.
Following a life-changing trip to the Nashville’s Music Row this year, the wild-eyed, good ol’ boys of Good Question changed their name to Truxton Mile and continued making their mark filling up venues and restoring the country music faith with legions of Bakersfield and Taft fans. Forging ahead with their new identity, the group is now focused on putting the finishing touches on their long-awaited debut CD.
Amity Flow above from left: Kevin Lundy, Andrew Whitmore, Drew Peterson, James Barron, Patrick Griffith. Photo by Dallen Ulrich
Youthful reggae newcomers Amity Flow have also been a solid hit since making their introduction this year, gaining exposure as the opening act on numerous local shows. They’ve got style and a vibe to match their easy flowing, conscious grooves. After pushing their free demo on fans every show, they plan to give fans a full-length release by the early spring. More from Amity Flow at Facebook.com/AmityFlow
Among the many interviews I conducted this year, one of my favorites was with singer Cassadee Pope, whom the nation now knows as the season 3 winner of “The Voice” on NBC. Back in February, a few months prior to auditioning for the show, Pope was just another independent artist looking for a break, headed to, of all places, the Jerry’s Pizza basement.
Singer Cassadee Pope appeared at Jerry's Pizza in February before winning season 3 of NBC's The Voice. Photo courtesy of Cassadee Pope
At the time of our conversation, Pope was sharing an apartment in Los Angeles with a number of other aspiring musicians — little money, but rich with ideas for a self-funded solo acoustic tour she hoped would keep her on the road for a year after her kickoff show at Jerry’s.
“I’m starting from the ground up,” she told me during that interview, along with her plans to shed her tomboy image she had as the lead singer of pop punk band Hey Monday. The Jerry’s show was sparsely attended, mostly by those who were fans of Pope’s former band.
Fast forward to September when Pope is introduced to the nation as a contestant on “The Voice” along with singer Rudy Parris from Visalia, with whom I also profiled a number of times.
Above: Rudy Parris
Together they made beautiful music on coach Blake Shelton’s team, but after weeks of competition Pope would be crowned the winner, becoming the youngest and the first female contestant to win on the show.
Above: Cassadee Pope wins season 3 of NBC's The Voice
Maybe Parris should have tried getting some of that lucky Jerry’s Pizza mojo before the competition.
Another big highlight to help this year end on a promising high note was welcoming the arrival of local independent terrestrial radio station 89.7 FM KSVG “Savage Radio,” this month. Since the launch two weeks ago, they’ve shown positive strides keeping the flow of their “anti-format” format, consistently entertaining.
Above from left: Greg Looney and Jake Chavez of KSVG Radio. Photo courtesy of KSVG
One moment I’m hearing Iggy Pop, onto Bakersfield band The Architecture, then it’s Jimmy Cliff and Let’s Go Bowling. Their signal currently is best in the downtown area, but according to co-founder Jake Chavez, they should be expanding their broadcasting reach within a few months.
More KSVG at Facebook.com/KSVGRadio
***BAND OF THE YEAR: DUB SEEDS***
Dub Seeds, from left: Chris Taylor, Gary Rink, Anthony "Gizmo" Rodriguez. Photo by Jessica Moncrief
Bakersfield reggae rock trio Dub Seeds were on a creative roll this year, with more than 100 live shows across the state and along the coast, not to mention the release of their second full-length CD, "Skunk Face," just in time for summer. In addition to those milestones, band members Chris Taylor, Gary Rink and Anthony "Gizmo" Rodriguez dedicated themselves to expanding their presence on the Web, winning fan-voted slots on both the Sacramento Hemp Fest in August and the massive Cali Roots Festival in Monterey coming this spring with some of the biggest names in the genre. Capping off a stellar year, Taylor also just married his longtime girlfriend, Cynthia, and welcomed a new baby son, Elijah Robert.
Other music standouts
Above: Paul Cartwright performs with Totsy at The Fox on 12/20. Photo by Frank Sullivan
A multi-talented violinist, guitarist, trombonist and vocalist, 31-year-old Bakersfield native Paul Cartwright has been building his name in Hollywood circles for a few years now, scoring soundtrack work on hit shows like "The Walking Dead" and on Broadway. This year, he was seen on the road with Los Angeles pop burlesque troupe Totsy, as the opening act on guitarist Brian Setzer's Christmas extravaganza. True to his roots, he made frequent trips back to Bakersfield to share his artistry with the hometown crowd, performing onstage with local Beatles tribute band The Abbey Roadies, among others.
Above: Louie Cruz Beltran at 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival. Photo by Matt Munoz
After years of commuting between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, percussionist Louie Cruz Beltran had one of the biggest years of his career after releasing his star-studded new Latin jazz CD, "Paint the Rhythm," which helped propel him onto the playlists of jazz enthusiasts around the globe.
That recognition also brought him to the attention of the prestigious Playboy Jazz Festival, which booked him to bring the sold-out Hollywood Bowl audience to their dancing feet.
Complete list of Bakersfield Breakout Talents of 2012 - as featured in the 12/27 Bakersfield Californian!
Well folks, that’s all for now as we put the lid on another great year of local music and art. It was a pleasure meeting all the new talent and hearing from those vets keeping the heartbeat of our scene pumping. Please keep sending me those demos and show announcements. Cheers to another great new year! See you 2013!
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Also printed in the 12-27-12 issue of the Bakersfield Californian