Category Archives: Singing

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

Review of “Don’t Underestimate Me” by Carolina Magnolia

Originally printed here on Starlight Music Chronicles

by Randy Wayne Belt

This rootsy song by Carolina Magnolia could be the missing song from “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”, or even better, it could have been used for a follow up movie “Oh Sister Where Art Thou”.  No seriously!  This song could easily find its way into an appropriate soundtrack, without a doubt.

Based out of Petal, Mississippi this Duo has an acoustic sound all their own. blending genres a bit without you even noticing, this song in particular has that old-timey feel that will pull you right back in time.  The chorus and title of this song, “Don’t Underestimate Me”, lends the song a very memorable phrase and melody. It is like you may have heard it before, only you haven’t.

carolinamagnoliaLead vocalist Virginia Grey delivers just the right sassy soulful sound with her voice and guitar playing for this track.  The line “I’ve got horns hidden under my halo” sums up the vocal work here.  Carolina Magnolia is backed by Tammy Chambliss with her smooth harmony and background vocals and upright bass ability.  The vocals together in harmony and alone, hauntingly sound like they were pulled straight out of a time warp to back when music was pure, raw, and real and sounded music the better for it.

Adding in the upright bass gives the song just the bottom end it needs to thump its way onto the canvas of sound and bring the swampy bluesy sound into an Americana field and into your soul and feet.  If you mix a little CCR (especially that tremelo guitar sound in this song) with a bit of Alison Kraus and Union Station and a little rock, blues and country, you’ll get a bit of an idea of what sounds you can expect with this group.
The duo is currently working on their first album together which is expected to be released sometime in 2016.  Judging from the back catalogue by the duo’s songwriter Virginia Grey, (notably, and I recommend as well: Virginia Grey’s Greatest Hits you can expect some excellent songwriting and musicianship coming up on that album.

Social Media Links for Carolina Magnolia (click to view):
Website
Facebook
Since the original posting of this review on Starlight Music Chronicles
Carolina Magnolia has indeed released a full length album. It was released Dec 7, 2016.

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‘New Beginnings’ cover art

Here is the link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/id1181934091

Recording Vocals

Recording Vocals

This isn’t about mixing vocals, it is about recording them. They are two very different things. I will address mixing and EQ-ing some other time. But right now I will address some very basic but important and sometimes overlooked things about getting a good vocal track. A famous saying in my studio is “do it again.”

Having a background in musical theater and formal training in singing, I act as the vocal coach for my own band and for myself, though I am always learning something new. The learning never ends.

When recording your vocals take your time.  Do it right. Listen carefully. Did you got the right feel? Did you capture the right mood? Don’t be afraid to create the right atmosphere during recording. If your studio is set up with lights that make it feel like someone’s office cubicle, you may well get a sound that makes you feel like you are at work or somewhere you don’t want to be singing the song, much less listening to it. It will reflect in the recording.

Set up some lights that reflect the mood you need for the song. It could be candles you need, or colored lights. Or bright whites if that’s what you’re going for. No matter what your recording space is like, with lighting, you can always create an atmosphere that will help you get the song out the right way. I keep different colored bulbs on hand for just this purpose. Strings of Christmas lights of various colors will work great too and they are usually on sale cheap right after the winter holidays.

As for gear, if you don’t have an expensive tube mic, never fear. There are inexpensive ways to get around that and get a good clean warm tube sound. ART’s Tube MP Project Series Tube Microphone/Instrument Preamp is under $80 and will really get you the warmth you need in your vocal. And it works great for other instruments as well. A handy little tool even if you already have great expensive gear. In which case, great, you are lucky and all good to go and there’s no reason to hear a recording that is less than stellar. photo (300x291)

If you have the luxury of having your own studio, take the time to do it right. Take lots of ear breaks and don’t be afraid to just leave it be for awhile. Go back to it again completely fresh. Take off a week from that song. Or even longer. It could be that a new approach is what you need and a fresh view of the song. Ask the opinion of a 10 or 12 year old. They will be brutally honest. Ask the opinion of an 80 year old. They will be brutally honest too. But then take it all with a grain of salt.

Are you singing with the emotion that the song needs and that inspired you to write it? If not, get it back. You’ll need to try different positions around the microphone. Do want it more airy? Do you want it more gutsy? Do want it more plain? You need to ask yourself all these things and position yourself or the microphone to capture what you want.

Do you hear something that makes you cringe? Then do it again. It will probably make others cringe as well. Do yourself a favor and become a better vocalist and do it again until it’s right. Unless you are using autotune as part of your style, ditch it. You won’t get better that way.

If you constantly use cheat machines, you are only robbing yourself of the ability to improve. They can be useful, I’m sure, but there’s nothing that beats the self satisfaction of knowing you pulled off a great vocal performance without using machines. A live audience will certainly appreciate the time and effort you put into bettering yourself as a singer. It won’t happen overnight, so don’t expect it to. But it takes constant practice, just like when you learned to play that guitar, the piano, or those drums. Your voice is an instrument and needs to be practiced.

Now, if you are singing harmony parts, there’s some things that work great if you can adjust your voice. Again, it requires listening carefully to every nuance of the way the lead or other vocal is bieng sung. I will go back and listen to a part over and over again to figure out how my band mate sung a certain part or phrase and I will make my voice match that style to get those perfect sibling harmonies everyone covets.  Is it a breathy whispery phrase? Then your harmony needs to match it for it to be effective and not sound out of place.  An example of this would be the song “True” from my own band’s album After All.

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/barleystation/true-1
Or on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/true/id507047384?i=507047521

Listen carefully to how the vocals and harmonies match each other and the mood of the song. That’s what makes it work. We have distinctly different voices, but in harmony it is often hard to tell who is who when they are effectively sung. That’s your sibling effect. (It’s what I call it anyway)

Learn to harmonize with yourself and your bandmates if you have them. You need to grow as a vocalist.  In the studio, feel the right notes. Close your eyes. See the notes in your head. Find them, hit them, and remember what you did to get them.

You can be your own vocal coach if you can’t afford one if you are self-disciplined and not tone deaf. There are great voice teachers who often give good free advice online (I didn’t say free lessons) and have written helpful things, like Nashville vocal coach Renee Grant-Williams whose clients have been folks like Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Ben Folds, Keith Urban, and Jason Aldean.

But whatever you do, make sure you are using proper technique so you don’t ruin your voice. There are also plenty of videos that can explain it so you can understand it. Experiment with your voice but don’t mess it up.

Your voice is your paintbrush and the sound is your canvas and this is your art. Take the time to do it right!