Category Archives: New Release

Review of One More Life

Review of One More Life by Coco Scott
(written by Randall Wayne Belt)
November 2019

One thing about this artist is that she knows her strengths and makes the most of that by highlighting her stellar vocals and great pitch with sparse arrangements with piano and/or guitar, beats and accents of various kinds. One thing you’ll notice on her previous releases is that her voice is always the highlight of the song leaning on strong melody and vocal performance to carry her through. The song Falling is a good one to listen to to hear what I mean and is a fabulous song on its own . The melody and instrumentation have a very beautiful and Celtic feel.

Her song Smolder, another beautiful vocal oriented piece with rich piano backdrop, has the same Celtic underpinning.  As does the song “Wait For Me”. Scott puts all her heart and soul into her vocal takes, that much is obvious. And in that vein, as stated in her description of the song Wait For Me on her YouTube Channel, the description says, “we all make mistakes, but sometimes we don’t get to make up for them. ‘Wait for Me’ is a heart-wrenching plea for forgiveness. If you like any of the ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ soundtracks, you’re going to love this song!”

And the song is indeed heart-wrenching and continues with the sparse arrangement and emphasis on the vocal. After all, a lyrical song is all about the vocal and what is being sung. But this amazing vocalist is capable of much more than the sparse arrangements of Celtic underpinning, and she doesn’t leave it all there.

On Coco’s latest release “One More Life” the production gets more experimental with sounds and moves slightly away from the sparser arrangement style and takes on some more contemporary pop appeal.

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And it is a great success because the arrangements do not take away from the vocal but underscore it. On this song, which is my big focus here, piano starts as slowly the song builds and sequenced sounds appear – and then other sounds come in and build around the perfect vocal take and begin to pulsate by “Baby lets fly, I can’t wait another moment”. Electric guitar comes in just to make accents at this point. Then the beat picks up and pulses the song home even further while all is tastefully done and not subtracting from the vocal, but  rather, highlighting it!  The concept of less is more is working here as it has on other recordings of Coco Scott. Nothing is to intrusive. Nothing is overdone. Perfect arrangement.

Her voice is crystal clear like you are there in the room with her. A result of using very high resolution recording. Every syllable and consonant are crisp and clear and leave you hanging on the edge of your brain. One has to commend the recording engineer, as well as the singer, for capturing everything so well. Independent artists should take note of how well recorded this song is and use it as a vocal standard that can be achieved.

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The song seems to be asking for “one more life”, “One more love”, which could mean another chance at love to perhaps get it right this time – as it seems perfect for once – a concept I think a lot of people can relate to. The line “Better late than never” says it well. The song is short and sweet coming in under 3 minutes as a radio friendly pop song should. It does what it needs to do and ends leaving you wanting to listen again, which I think is the ultimate goal of a song in terms of wanting more.

This song is much more preferable than much of what passes as pop that clutters the airwaves today. It is contemporary but it is it’s own thing. The music and luxurious tasty vocals are rich like the audio version of sleeping on custom satin sheets.

Hear/Buy One More Life on CDBaby:

Coco Scott Homepage

Coco Scott on Spotify

Watch and listen On YouTube

Two of Us (Behind the scenes)

On October 3, 2019 a version of the song Two of Us was released as a joint project between Barley Station and Minneapolis band Radio Drive (Two of Us is from The Beatles Let It Be album)  You can now find it on most digital retail outlets.

And THIS is a little behind the scenes story on how this composition was formed. It is a fitting release considering it is the 50th anniversary of when The Beatles actually finished the final version of this song – which was during the Jan. 31, 1969 session.

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Now, when you sing harmony with someone you really have to be a good listener not just a good singer. You need to hear all the nuances of the other person’s voice. Which is why sometimes people will say to an artist “you sing like siblings”. And usually it is people who have been singing together a long time.

Or in our case, listening in the studio over and over until our voices match properly since we were doing this as a distance project. So making music isn’t just about playing it, it is about listening and feeling it. If you are a musician, producer, or songwriter/arranger, etc., you might be interested in how the rest was put together.

I sent the finished vocals over to Kevin and we were very pleased with how that part turned out and we had lots of comments of how our voices blended so well.  That part was easy enough.

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Kevin Gullickson

One of the biggest challenges of the song, was trying to find the right arrangement. The first idea was to make it a bit contemporary alternative rock. That didn’t work.  Sonically, it was like the song demanded a simpler arrangement. So I went back in time and dug up what was going on when the Beatles were working it up. And not to my surprise, they had tried something similar but it ended up being what Paul McCartney phrased as “too chunky”. I knew exactly what he meant. It was too chunky.

At its core this is a folk song. I believe if you look up the genre of the original on iTunes it is classified as folk/rock.  Keeping to that original concept and also making it into something new would prove to be challenging but we didn’t know it when we started on it.  My approach has always been “let your ears guide you”, as the Beatles’ producer George Martin might say.

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Randy Wayne Belt

I listened to the original and dug up outtakes, including an outtake of the song, recorded on 24 January 1969, which was released on Anthology 3 in 1996. The chief difference to me was whether the bass lines were more ascending or descending but it was clear; those lines were important to the song and oddly enough to its integrity. With the basic rhythm track finally decided upon and liked by both Kevin and myself, I had to shelf the song again until the rest of the arrangement came the way it needed to.

There had to be a way to keep it a simple arrangement but add our own flavor. So I experimented. For months and months I would go back to it to try different things. By the last time I came back to it, it finally hit me. It needed to be mixed similar to what a 4 or 8 track recording would do and it needed a guitar part on the electric end to give it more body but not interfere with the melody or the overall feel.

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And then, the bass guitar part was really crucial to keep the songs integrity. In the album version, The Beatles’ George Harrison played the bass lines on a Fender Telecaster. No one knows exactly why but it could have been done on Sir Paul’s Hofner bass just as easily, but since he was playing acoustic guitar, to keep it with a live feel, George ends up doing bass parts. Imagining being there and knowing a bit how the Beatles worked, I would guess that George picked up his Telecaster and doodled along making bass notes to fill the song out and John and Paul said “lets keep it like that, it sounds cool”. And if anyone would do something of that kind of unusual nature, it would be The Beatles.

So when I lay down bass tracks, I went to my own Viola Bass, the same style McCartney used in the Revolver/Rubber Soul mid sixties era and it was definitely what the song was lacking for its low end.

Then the bongos were scaled back. In fact, everything was scaled back to make it simpler. At one point Kevin even had a Rhodes keyboard track if I remember correctly. And slowly we brought everything back in to see what fit right. The decision was finally made that Kevin’s crunchier electric guitar track would be brought in panned far to the right or left and my tremolo guitar would be far the opposite leaving the basic rhythm and vocal in the middle.

The easiest part to do whatever we wanted with was the double bridge “you and I have memories…”, probably because that part was more “open” and easier to experiment with without messing things up.  The tremolo guitar and the crunchy electric are allowed to stand out more there with the simpler rhythm and bass line.  I think that’s probably the part where you hear our input more – along with the original ideas that probably emanated from the brain of Sir Paul McCartney.

The final result was a balanced non chunky semi-rock version but keeping the song’s original integrity. After all, this is the Beatles. There has to be musical integrity mixed with experimentation. I think that’s how they’d have done it.

Listen on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BPZoxP8E2WU

Listen to Two of Us on Spotify

Buy it on iTunes

Buy on CDBaby

Two of Us by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Copyright Sony/ATV Tunes LLC dba ATV o/b/o ATV (Northern Songs Catalog)

Heart Song

Review of Heart Song
by Randy Wayne Belt
October 2019

It’s autumn now and the smell of burning wood is in the air accenting the slight nip of chill beginning to make itself known. The perfect background music for warming up or winding down in front of the fireplace has been located.

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After listening to this album by Lisa Mitts in a nice relaxed atmosphere with, yes a real fire in the background, I have determined that the album’s title Heart Song was truly the best title it could have been given. As the title suggests, we can hear the songs emanate from the heart itself with the musical sounds giving life to emotions and feelings that otherwise could not be more perfectly expressed.

I don’t generally do reviews of purely instrumental music but I have to make an exception. This album could also work great not only as a soundtrack, or devotional background music, but is quite a charming album to have on during the Christmas Season.

Lisa Mitts is a Christian singer/songwriter from Washington state with influences of r&b, pop, country, jazz and rock. Her passion is to bring joy, love, and healing through music to everyone who listens. With also a good sized collection of albums under her belt that are more of an indie Christian pop and rock sound it is refreshing to hear an artist take a breather and express his or herself without words as Lisa so effectively does with the
Heart Song album, a collection of 10 piano driven songs released in 2018.

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The opening track Abide in my Love starts the album off setting the pace as a gentle piano piece with string sections woven in and throughout.

Divine Breath is the second track which continues the rich and full piano sound that was recorded just perfectly. Pianos are sometimes tough to get to sound the way you want them, but this was perfectly captured. There is just the right warmth that was captured by the microphone and placement of the mic giving this whole album the feel of a warm analog recording.

Falling Into winter is the next track and the minor chords carrying the song give you that sense of winter coming. It has a certain bleakness to it that speak of the frigidness of winter. But with it a certain beautiful sadness that is best highlighted by the main piano riff that works as a chorus if this were a vocal piece.

The albums’ title track Heart Song appears as track 4 and takes a gentle but bright and uplifting turn from the wintry past and moves on and upward to a more delightful sound and tone and just a touch of flute makes sound as it could be a background music track for an episode of Downton Abbey or the background music for a part of Pride and Prejudice. It has a classical feel to it that takes you back there. This one is my favorite!

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Dancing in the Field is a roving piano tune with strings accompanied at times again. I could hear this for a soundtrack for a very deep movie. It has an edge of sadness to it despite being titled “Dancing in the Fields”.

Leading My Path comes in as track 6 and if words were written to this it could well be a hymn and does have hints of influence from the gentle sacred hymn As the Deer Panteth for the Water“, which again leads us back to the title of the album by mood and emotion. This was the longest track of the album clocking in at 5:42. You can get away with that on instrumentals and this one fills the time as if it is not passing at all.

Rushing River displays once again Lisa’s knack for melody and writing a catchy melodic phrase. In a bit more of a minor chord emphasis, this song also has a wintry feel of the icy cold water moving along and beginning to freeze as if in slow motion at your feet and backs up my claim that this could be a good Christmas Season album, well, as long as you are somewhere where it gets cold in winter!

Track 8 is titled Peaceful Wanderer and once again that knack for melody is on display and with the help of synthesizer strings in carefully selected spots of the song. The song and its chosen melodic phrasing does indeed give a sense of peace and a sense of wandering though not tooo far off.

Joy in the Morning begins to close the album and starts with yet another beautiful melody and structure and has a new twist with some double time melodic phrases thrown in giving the song a lot of added interest. The song explores more of the pianos range and does so effectively. It is a happy type of song just as the title suggests.

And finally, the closing track gives us the sense that the album is complete and is appropriately titled Soul Rest. It gives a sense of completeness and rest for the weary soul. You can hear on this song especially a sense of two different playing styles that I would guess were learned earlier then later and combined together to paint a picture of an accomplished pianist.

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As an accomplished singer, songwriter, performer, and pianist it is no surprise that Lisa is an ISSA (International Singer Songwriter Association) 2019 recipient of the Female Songwriter of The Year (Bronze) and was also nominated in 5 categories for the Josie Music Awards, the largest globally recognized music awards for Independent Artists. She is also a prolific performer and serves as a worship leader. She resides in Auburn, WA with her husband David. They have four children and three grandchildren.

Put this one on and relax at the end of a long day and sit in front of a nice warm fireplace. Or put on a pretend fireplace on your TV screen, have a beverage and chill.

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And what is coming next for Lisa Mitts? Well, she has a pre-release announcement for – yes – Heart Songs Vol. 2: Songs of Peace.

In her own words “I wrote each one of these 11 new soothing instrumental songs by inspiration of God’s love and healing, all of them spontaneously at my keyboard. You will also love the beautiful strings on a few of them added by Billboard producer & sound engineer Kenny Lewis of Mixedemt Emotions who did an outstanding job mixing and mastering.”

The album is anticipated to release on Spotify and on iTunes and all digital outlets by Oct. 25th, 2019. A very limited number of physical CD’s (just 50 copies) are also being made and will be available by the end of this month. You can place advance orders by emailing to lisa@lisamitts.com or calling 425-277-2775.
website: www.lisamitts.com

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2pP7RonAsAN91ouZXLi5hC?si=vN3X0AxZSkO4-xTT2OT3vQ

iTunes: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/lisa-mitts/359488551

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/lisamittsmusic

The “Waiting” Video is Here

Time is precious and life is precious. We hope our video for the song “Waiting” effectively conveys that.  We often worry about the future, or obsess about the past and forget that we live here and now.  “Now is the day that is here” sums up the song fairly well.

It is a summery song in many ways with catchy guitar hooks, honest lyrics, and melody and harmony that grabs your ears as you would expect from any Barley Station song.

“Waiting” appears as track 1 on the Barley Station album Back There Somewhere, released Sept. 14, 2017.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel here for future releases:  http://www.youtube.com/barleystation

 

Announcing the release of Borderline by Barley Station

March 21, 2018

This is a Rock/Pop version of Madonna’s song that hit #10 on Billboards Top 100 in 1984. I was on the Billboards chart in various positions for a total of 30 weeks. This new version by Barley Station is more akin to the version of Madonna’s 2010 Stick and Sweet Tour and is a collaboration of vocals between Randy Wayne Belt (Barley Station) on lead vocal and Verity White (Verity White) on leading harmony (and both on backing vocals). It is an across the pond vocal collaboration between he U.S. and UK that will surprise many!

The old saying that a hit song is a hit song in any format bears true.  The new format for the song was achieved by removing the dance/pop elements from the song and stripping it all the way down to an acoustic guitar and vocal and rebuilding it with a rock/pop beat, crunchy guitars and somewhat gritty vocals.  It was with the help of Verity White on a leading harmony vocal that the song was able to be sung with a conviction and reflection of the new atmosphere that helped the song stay true to the integrity of the original underlying song written by Reggie Lucas and first performed by Madonna.

It was deemed by Randy, who produced the new version, that the piano/keyboard melody that opens the song was an important element that should be kept as closely as possible to the original and tastefully translated to the electric guitar. This was achieved by multi- layering various harmonics of the melodic phrases to achieve a thick and believable electric sound.  The rest of the song fell easily enough into place very naturally.

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So far, all those surveyed before the release, liked this version even better than the original.  That could be a matter of taste because the original was a brilliant mix of dance and pop. But at the least, this song works very well in a rockier format to be certain!

The photo for the cover is by Veronica Linge Phillips of Veronica Marie Photography.

You can find Borderline at most major digital retailers such as:

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/borderline/1352851105?i=1352851119

On Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/0vXxqupVurPDg7DMFtDK2Y?si=od48UVxjSMq4F-cGtbzkTA

And at CD Baby: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/barleystation20

 

Olivia Penalva | “Dream You Home” Single Review

by Randy Wayne Belt
Dec 23, 2017

(First published in Starlight Music Chronicles on Nov. 30, 2017)

I’ll admit I love the Hallmark Christmas movies.  There’s something about that time of year  that makes even the mediocre movies seem good or magical.  But the best ones always have great music behind them.  Olivia Penalva’s new Christmas song “Dream You Home” would fit well as a background track for one of the well produced Hallmark Christmas movies, or any other, for that matter. This song is far beyond medicocrity.

Olivia, who hails from Vernon, BC in Canada, has put together quite a gem with this new song.  It has that magical sparkle to it in the underlying arrangements.  It is not as much an in-your-face Christmas song as it is capturing the spirit behind the season, making it perfect for placement in any Christmas or Holiday movie.  The chorus of the song is very memorable and powerful and even having  this as a background track would make any movie even better. (Great tracks can MAKE a great movie)

Not only does the song have a great mix of sounds based around a sort of shuffle march type drum beat on the verses but the lyrics are well written and paint a perfect picture of what she is trying to convey.

My favorite lyric in “Dream You Home” is “The light in your soul shines brighter than gold in my heart – that’s where you are.”

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The images invoked by the song could be any number of situations. It could be a lost loved one or a significant other who is separated by distance or time, or even a soldier gone in a far away land during the Christmas Season and the song  is almost like the soldiers spouse singing to bring him home even if it’s only at home in the heart.

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The song does indeed grab your heart and imagination, which is, to me, the ultimate goal of a song – to speak to anyone or everyone in any situation.  This is one more thing that makes it an easy shoo in for anyone considering it for a spot in a Christmas movie.

Often, it is this time of year when many find themselves missing a loved one in some capacity, and it isn’t always the best time for many, but even still and even if you are not into Christmas or the spirit of it, and even if you are the Grinch himself, this song still weighs in on its own merit as a song with a powerful  chorus that demands attention and speaks to the soul.

This isn’t Olivia’s first Christmas song.  I reviewed “Christmas For Two” which was published in Starlight Music Chronicles’ December issue back in 2015

 

And also on my own blog: https://barleystation.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/review-of-christmas-for-two/

Since that time Olivia has progressed even further as an artist and has honed even further her vocal and songwriting skills. Recently reaching a million plays on Spotify, her newer music bears out how far she’s grown since then.

Her voice still has that same special warmth to it but with a sultry yet still innocent sound that will capture your ears, heart, and will leave a memorable impression when you hear it.  I compared her voice before, in a sense to that of Nora Jones, or Colbie Caillet.  In fact, since the last review, Olivia was able to be mentored by Colbie Caillet after winning teen artist of the year in the Starlight Music Chronicles “Artist of the Year Contest” in 2016.

As a winner, Olivia got to attend ArtistMax an Artist Development program in L.A. in March 2017. Artist Max was dreamed up by legendary producer and engineer Ken Caillet (Fleetwood Mac Rumours) and was mentored there by Ken and Colbie Caillet, and David Foster in L.A..

Link to Dream You Home on Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/album/69E17KNMwKzhFSPRHKNHQU

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OliviaMusicLive/

Website: https://www.oliviamusiclive.com/

YouTube Lyrics Video: https://youtu.be/Fp6F0TAK1AI

Olivia Penalva SMC 2016 TEEN Artist of the Year

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dream-you-home/1300720379?i=1300720661

Back There Somewhere

With the release of the new album Back There Somewhere on September 14, Barley Station has launched a weekly Facebook Live show called ‘T-Night Live with Barley Station’.  The format draws somewhat from the old Saturday Night Live concepts and formats and incorporates a type of humor, skits, and live music into the weekly broadcast. Already into Episode 3, which is the most fun and zaniest Episode yet, the band promises to take you on a ride that will leave you laughing, crying, singing along, or in stitches. 

(watch below – Facebook required to view -And below THAT is the Official Press Release of the Album)

Episode 3

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbarleystation%2Fvideos%2F1653805027998414%2F&show_text=0&width=560

For all Episodes go to:  https://barleystation.net/tnight-live-archives

BARLEY STATION ‘BACK THERE SOMEWHERE’
ALBUM RELEASED SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

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BARLEY STATION ‘BACK THERE SOMEWHERE’
ALBUM RELEASED SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 14th, 2017 – Barley Station has just announced the official release of their third studio album ‘Back There Somewhere’ via Barleyfields Records (ASCAP). The first new single off the album, ‘Waiting’, released on August 10th, 2017 and has already been well received by North American and European media and radio.

Barley Station consists of multi-instrumentalists Randy Wayne Belt and Brian (Hex Jin) Kious as its core vocal and songwriting team, and is often joined onstage by others. The album also guest features the exquisite backing vocals of Virginia Grey of Carolina Magnolia fame. (Tracks 3 and 4 on the album)

Founded in 2011, Barley Station has written, produced, and launched two albums ‘After All’ (2012), and ‘Damaged Goods’ (2013) followed by a multiplicity of singles. Songs from the ‘Damaged Goods’ album have already hit the top 10 on charts in Paris, France and with the release of the bands’ new album ‘Back There Somewhere’ (September 14th, 2017), the band will surely become a household name on the European charts. Barley Station has been picked up by prestigious curated Spotify Playlists and have received glowing press feedback from a myriad of credible publications, radio, and television media platforms. The bands’ signature sound is a genre crossover blend of Americana, Country, Pop, Folk, and even Rock Alternative which is authentic and original.

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Inside art and disc art

Singles from ‘Back There Somewhere’ have already garnered the interest of North American radio and media such as Steel Notes, Skope, AVA Live Radio, Indie Music Monday, Starlight Music Chronicles, American Pride Magazine, and Ally’s Attic to name a few. Their first single off the new album ‘Waiting’, was released on August 10th, 2017 and is a warm, uplifting, mellifluous song reflective of the heart of this masterpiece.

Songs like ‘Take Me To The Shade’, and ‘Warm Embraces’ lend a fun element to the album while others like ‘Long Ago Angel’, ‘Like Winter’, and ‘Keep Me High’ add emotional depth with well thought out lyrics & Instrumentation that is a true reflection of Americana.

A few previously released singles like ‘Double Star’, ‘Like Destiny’, ‘4th Of July’, and ‘Must Be Something’ have been added to the album to appease avid Barley Station fans and European radio who have demonstrated a strong, supportive response for them. The closing number on this album, ‘Come On Down Hey’, is the jewel in the crown. It is a smooth but driving song that is inviting in its lyrics and jubilant in its melody with mandolin weaved in careully. It’s the perfect way to leave loyal fans on a lingering note of what’s to come for this exceptional band.

Back There Somewhere | Track Listing

Release Date: September 14th, 2017

  1. Waiting 3:04
  2. Take Me To The Shade 3:13
  3. Warm Embraces 2:39
  4. Long Ago Angel 3:54
  5. Keep Me High 3:59
  6. Must Be Something 4:02
  7. Like Winter 3:41
  8. Double Star 3:29
  9. Like Destiny 3:21
  10. 4th Of July 2:21
  11. Come On Down Hey 4:03

The album is available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes, and has also been launched on Spotify.

 

Website: barleystation.net

 

PR Contact: Candice Marshall pr@barleystation.net