Winter Warmer Quarterly Edition

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March 10, 2019 by Jay Minkin

Hello friends.  I have created a quarterly post that is comprised of excerpts written for Mimi’s Magazine.  Three Northeast Ohio area artists are highlighted: The Shootouts, Gretchen Pleuss, and Ray Flanagan.  All have or will be releasing new material.   It’s just a sampling from the rich soil that harvests so many wonderful musicians.    

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In Some circles, Ray Flanagan has been labeled the best guitar player in Northeast Ohio.  Not bad for the twenty-six year old phenom from Medina who can sit and shred an electric Fender or Gibson with anyone.  In a bit of a dramatic change of pace from his previous recordings with The Authorities , Flanagan has recorded seven acoustic songs that encompass his first solo record Passerby  released on February 2nd.

Working with engineer/producer Jim Stewart at Jim Stewart Recording in downtown Cleveland, the tracks display Flanagan’s sweet poetic voice accompanied by a sparse, soft, finger-picking guitar.  Listeners can close their eyes while the music takes you away to a relaxing state of nirodha as the album spins through “Positive Nihillsom Song”, “How I Look At You”, “Lord’s Day Blues”, and “Patience, Like A Willow”.  Flanagan stretches his vocals to a falsetto during “Fords of Jordan” then brings it down sweetly with a lovely uptempo “We’re On The Move Now”.  “Your Sweet Smile” closes out the record with wishes it would have lasted longer than twenty-three minutes.

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The rich fabric of the Northeast Ohio arts community is woven with singer-songwriters whose original compositions and voices touch their listener’s souls.  One of those shining lights is Gretchen Pleuss, who will be releasing her third album Daughter of the Broader Skies on April 12th.

Signed last fall by Sun Pedal Recordings, Pleuss has been working on a more stripped down collection of material since she recorded From Birth, to Breath, to Bone in 2016.   A college graduate with a degree in anthropology, Pleuss has been writing songs since the age of 12 and rounded out her education with classical guitar and piano courses.    Besides playing locally, Pleuss has performed at the prestigious 30A Songwriters Festival as well as locations on both sides of the Atlantic.  Influenced by the phrasing, jazz rhythms and deep songwriting styles of Joni Mitchell and Shawn Colvin, Pleuss has a unique talent of painting pictures and storyboards with her lyrics.

Recorded at Cleveland’s Superior Sound and produced by Jim Wirt, Pleuss weaves a theme which centers on finding your place in the world as a modern day woman.  Close your eyes and be transported with the jangly guitar radio single “If You Saw Me Now” that kicks-off the new twelve track album.  Another primed for the airwaves is “Everybody’s Pretty”, how observations bustling around NYC left her feeling lonely and craving deeper interactions are diary snippets put to a beat. Alan Harrell, a cellist with The Cleveland Orchestra, is featured on the song along with the title track.

Pleuss has three album release shows scheduled for the weekend of April 12th.  On Friday night she will headline at The Rialto Theatre in Akron, an in-store performance at Lucky Records in Wooster Saturday during Record Store Day, and gracing the stage of Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland on Sunday, April 14th.

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Megaforce Records is proud to announce the release of Quick Draw, the debut album from The Shootouts, a high energy traditional honky-tonk band with a touch of Americana rock and western swing.

Produced by Luca Benedetti and Jim Campilongo and recorded at Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, NY, The Shootouts are not only a throwback to the sounds that flowed out of Nashville and Texas sixty years ago, but dress to honor the history of those golden years of country western music.  Nine of the thirteen tracks are original compositions from the ensemble that features Ryan Humbert (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Brian Poston (electric & acoustic guitar), Ryan McDermott (bass), Dylan Gomez (drums, percussion) and Emily Bates (harmony vocals).

The heart of the group lies in Humbert and Bates, who have been performing together for over 16 years beginning with the Ryan Humbert Band.  Like one of his heroes Elvis Costello, Humbert has been a chameleon recording rock, Americana, pop, and folk compositions with his band, a string quartet, big band, orchestra and even a gospel choir.  Inspired by a post-midnight drive flipping through channels, Humbert penned “Radio Jesus” within ten minutes of returning home.  His close relationship with his grandparents led to co-writing a song with Kim Richey about a young Ronald Dean Humbert hitchhiking cross country in 1953 from Camp Pendleton to see the woman he loved and his new born daughter in “California to Ohio”.

The Shootouts mix a blend of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison with the hot sounds of Marty Stuart & The Fabulous Superlatives.  One track that jumps out at you is “I’d Rather Be Lonely” written by featured player on the recording “The Reverend” Al Moss (pedal steel, acoustic guitar), a timeless melody featuring his pedal steel layered with Poston’s guitar.  For those tired of the bro country pop schmaltz, The Shootouts answer back with “Who Needs Rock & Roll (When You Have Western Swing).  “Lonely Never Lets Me Down” is a slow burner that will transport you back in time when every bar had a ten cent jukebox.  Bordering on the edges of cosmic country, “Reckless Abandon” will have you making comparisons to The Flying Burrito Brothers.

The band covers a hodgepodge of songs including Nashville’s Tim Carroll two-step “If I Could” and the late Shel Silverstein epic tears in my beer “Alimony”.  Two numbers that highlight the Humbert/Bates chemistry are the classic “Must Be Love” (George Ducas and Stacey Earle) and “If We Quit Now” (Marc Lee Shannon).

The closing song “Losing Faith In Being Faithful”, co-written by Humbert and Moss, has the band backed by Jon Cowherd on piano and classic Nashville inspired strings performed and arraigned by Chris Carmichael.

The Shootouts will have an album release show at Music Box Supper Club on May 10th and performing at Laurelive Music Festival on June 9th.

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