Meresha – A Rising Star Enters the Dreamland


Meresha1Have you heard of Meresha yet? Let me introduce you. It seems like many years since I first heard Meresha sing, but given her age it can’t be that long ago. I feel like I’ve watched her grow up from a young bubbly teenager (with a mature musical spirit) to a powerful multifaceted musician, singer/songwriting woman, and that we are friends even though we’ve never met in person.

Meresha BillboardI knew instantly, seeing her perform (online) that she was going to be a superstar. She has a voice to die for, passion and personality that you can’t help but get swept up in, energy to burn that seems endless, a vision for what she wants and humility that keeps her grounded despite amazing successes on Billboard, MTV and many other platforms.

Meresha

On June 12th she is launching her latest EP called ‘Enter The Dreamland’ and I’ve had the privilege of listening to it pre-release. The title song opens the door to the rest of the EP with a wonderful hook and reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, except that she takes us with her. Listening without the great video it is the sort of song where you can put your own journey or story into it and think “this is about me” and then with the video, you have another adventure to enjoy.

I’ve been saying for a while that it’s time for the comeback of concept albums. When I saw Carlos Santana perform again a few weeks ago and he went from Black Magic Woman to Oye Como Va as people remembered off the Abraxas album, the crowd roared with approval. They collectively remembered and appreciated the sequence of songs, where today so often we listen to one artist, one track, and move on to the next artist, especially with services like Spotify, where a search will find some of Meresha’s songs. I’m personally completing the third song of a concept  album I am writing about my cancer journey, with my target audience being people with cancer and those close to them, but I digress other than welcoming the approach Meresha has taken with this EP.

Enter The Dreamland really feels like a concept album and that we are being taken on a journey. My favorite song at the moment is Jungle Potion. It shows off her range and has a rich fusion of Soul and Pop. I really like the brass, the bass and other instrumentals that support her vocals.

Violet Night starts and ends of with that vinyl sound many of us grew up with or are discovering with its re-emergence and is a track that has great rhythm and joy as a dance track superbly presented as a climax but isn’t the end of the album, which comes with Lights Out, a great way way to close, telling you to step outside your mind. The album may be over, but it still resonates.

I’m confident there are hit singles in this album and what is really cool is that it will have wide appeal to different audiences. I can’t wait to see the final cut of the video and perhaps more videos which really illustrates how much Meresha loves what she does.

So watch this space and sign up for updates and get a free download of Lemonade City and get ready for the latest EP from this great performer and recording artiste. I don’t normally right reviews of music, but I am really excited about this talent. I love to see the sort of commitment that she puts into her craft. Music is hard work and making it in this industry to a point where you don’t have to wait tables or do something else so that you can do what you love is not something many people get to enjoy.

Just as a footnote, while you are on her website, check out her videos and you will see what I saw, joy, passion and youth, combined with vocal control and skill. If you like what you see, please support her and buy the album.

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Helping Soldiers with PTSD through Music


As you know, a few days ago I set up a new Facebook page called Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies. It is about people helping other people. Today I came across a group that help soldiers with PTSD by using songwriting to express themselves and tell their stories in a trust environment, which is helping a lot of people, even those who are not musical themselves, or don’t realise they are.

Several years ago I wrote a song called Another Stretch in Iraq. You can hear a demo on my Reverbnation page. It was motivated by a newspaper story of a service woman who came home looking for some love and normality only to find that her man had left her for another woman. A common story sadly.

I joined a military blogging (milblogging) site and spent a good year or so talking to military personnel, mostly serving overseas at the time to get a feel (as much as that is possible, given that family members who served almost never spoke about their experiences when a civilian was present).

They trusted me and I learned a lot about their lives, their hopes, their agonies in losing brothers and sisters, general life and the isolation from their families where their fellow soldiers in fact became their families such that many could not and still can not adjust to civilian life without their brothers and sisters from he service.

When I was in Orlando some years ago, I played a couple of sets at a biker-friendly bar in Longwood and my song Another Stretch in Iraq was one of the songs I played with some great backing from the house band. I wish I had taken some photos because it was the classic bar with 30 Harley’s in a neat row out front, sawdust on the floor, the sort of place that Kiwis only see on movies and TV shows and that the cab driver thought I had no place being until he saw the friendly bear hug greeting I got from the woman who ran it.

After finishing the song a group of 6-foot something burly men came up to the stage. The biggest of them all came up to me with tears in his eyes and I thought I was about to become roadkill. He and his friends looked me in the eye and then he shook my hand and said I took him right back to the theatre at Desert Storm. He re enlisted twice and his son had just left for Iraq a week ago.

It was so rewarding to me that I had captured the emotions and environment with integrity and that the song gave them some comfort. I haven’t worked harder on a song and would love to record it professionally. It is on Reverbnation as a free download and is also on a couple of sites of free MP3 downloads that is made available to all serving US military.

Back to the Facebook page. There are thousands of returned servicemen in dozens of countries who suffer from PTSD. They come from all walks of life and many of them play musical instruments, or used to. Many of them can no longer motivate themselves and need a hand. Some of them join groups like the one in the video above. Many will not join groups, either because they can’t or won’t ask for help, because they don’t want to appear weak, or because they are still in service and don’t want to jeopardise their careers by showing weakness.

The concepts in this Facebook page mean that all they have to do is talk to a few friends and family that they are close to and trust. Then all they need to do is ask for a little encouragement, it’s as simple as that. For those who wish to or are able to contribute stories, I am hoping they will join the Facebook Group because it can only grow and flourish if they know about it.

I’m hoping that if you know people like that, you will share this post or the link with them so that they can be made aware that help is available and whilst it is not easy as it sounds, with a little help from their friends it can happen.

As John Lee Hooker and my idol Carlos Santana sang, Blues is a Healer. It heals those who play it as much as those who listen to it. If you can help someone pick up their instrument, or raise their voice and break the silence, you can have a profound influence on people’s lives and it can be as simple as my mate Rob sending me a TXT message saying “pick that gat up and play for 10 minutes man.”

If you know of anyone that could benefit, please share the Facebook group with them and perhaps join us yourself. My thanks on their behalf.

Your Ashes on Record


I’ve lost friends and a family member recently which has led me to think about what I would want to do with my ashes. We don’t often face our mortality and a number of topics have come up recently. For example, what happens to your social networking and web presence when you die. One solution I discussed in a previous blog was Legacy Locker, who can provide access  to your records to anyone you want to access them. Do think about the consequences of this though, especially who you provide access to.

Another topic that I have pondered on is my funeral. No I’m not planning to die anytime soon. Hopefully I have at least another 40 years on this planet. But I would like to have control over at the very least, the music that is played. I have a few tracks in mind, like Santana’s Samba Pa Ti, which I love. I’d also like to have at least one of my own songs that I have recorded, but I am hoping that my best work is yet to come, so that may change.

I definitely plan to be cremated. I hate the idea of worms crawling through my bones. So what to do with my ashes. Well I think I’ve found the perfect solution. A company called Add Vinyly will press your ashes into 30 records containing 24 minutes of any audio content you want. Now you can not only have control of what’s played at your funeral, but you can be a physical part of the performance and any of your friends who want to can have a piece of you so to speak.

What do you reckon?

And When I Die……………


Lately there have been a number of ads and programs on TV showing video’s that people made for their children and families to watch after they die of cancer. It’s an opportunity to leave messages for the future and to tell people those last important things like how proud they are and how much they love their family.

It got me to thinking about funeral music. No I’m not being morbid, but I have been to funerals where people play music, perhaps recommended by the funeral director, or what other people think would be nice.

When I die, I would like to have the last say and play the music that reflects who I am and what I like. I’m thinking a little Carlos Santana, like Samba Pa Ti which is one of my ultimate favourites, I love the what I call romantic melodies that he plays with the long full bended notes. There’s another one off the Album Caravanserai which is similar, so that’ll be on the list. I can’t remember the tune so I’ll have to dig it out.

Then there is another one that I love from Phil Guy called Professor’s Boogie. I don’t know whether it was written by Professor Eddie Lusk or a collaboration, but it has given me many happy listens. I had the privilege of meeting Phil, who is Buddy Guy’s brother at Koko Taylor’s Club in Chicago several years ago and I love his music. It was an honour to meet him and I treasure my autographed CD.

Another song that will be on my list is I Can’t Quit You Babe, but actually not Willie Dixon’s version but Since I’ve Been Loving You from Led Zeppelin lll, which was one of my favourite albums.

Finally I’m going to write my own song which I will leave behind as a message to those that I will leave behind, telling them how much I love them and how proud I am of them. It will be my final parting gift that I can perform for them, so I will be at that final farewell. I haven’t started writing it so I better not get hit by a bus or anything. Maybe I’ll be able to include a few full long bendy notes of my own along with my last words. Now don’t get me wrong, I intend to be around for a long, long time and write many more songs, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to leave something special for people to remember? It won’t be something sad, it will be a thank-you for all the opportunities I’ve had and the love I’ve shared.

So I had better start writing it soon so I can put aside the tracks that I will play for the very last time. Have you thought about what you would like to have played at your final celebration, your funeral?

Carlos Santana Live Your Light Auckland 2008


Carlos Santana graced Auckland last night with an amazing concert at the Vector Arena last night. Starting with Jingo and ending with favourites such as Black Magic Woman, the man who is on a crusade for world peace showed that te decades have not slowed him down.

While most people probably didn’t get to hear the old favourites they were hoping for Carlos and an outstanding band of drummers, percussionists, brass, keys and bass got an Auckland crowd onto their feet and showed that he still has the magic. This isn’t a man living off his old songs, this is a musician, a master craftsman who constantly reinvents himself while still paying homage to his roots.

He and his band played for a solid 2 1/2 hours which for most of us could have happily extended for another hour or more. I can’t remember the names of his band, but would go and see any of them on their own. Carlos is not afraid of being outshone by his musicians, rather he brings the best he can find and gives them all a chance to show their chops.

The only negative is that the Vector Arena still hasn’t got their sound sorted. Sitting upstairs with one ear facing the speakers and the other ear getting the echo it was probably far more noticable than for the people sittingdownstairs facing the stage. Every beat started in the ear facing the speakers and then came back to the other one. This would have been novel once in one of the awesome drum solo’s, but after a while it got a bit tiring to a musician who likes to hear exactly what is happening. The sound people never got the vocal levels right either and it was often difficult to hear the lyrics and I don’t think they did the singers justice. Of course in general a Santana fan doesn’t go to hear vocals butwhat we heard sounded like they could have been very good.

Other than that, I now have a new Santana concert to remember and even more admiration for a man who not only keeps growing musically and spiritually, but seems true to his convictions and for all that he has achieved, remains a humble man.

A final note, Blue King Brown from Australia who were the supporting act couldn’t have been better for the job. Their music was authentic but in a similar vein and they warmed up the crowd superbly. I’ll be checking out their MySpace Page and looking out for an album. I’ll be watching out for their next visit here.