Growing up around the world, singer/songwriter Alice Merton was as influenced by other cultures as much as transience itself. Born in Germany and raised in Canada and England, Alice Merton’s absorption of different styles and sounds helped craft the worldly progressive pop leanings on her debut, which came out in 2016. As a child, she learned classical piano and singing while in Canada. When Merton was a teenager, her family moved to Germany, where she would pick up the guitar and write her first song. While in Germany, she also studied at the Mannheim conservatory of music. Later, the family would relocate again, this time to England. These frequent international shifts would play a key role in the songwriting process for her first output, 2016’s No Roots EP (Paper Plane Records International / Mom+Pop Music). The four-track effort included the groove-heavy title track and “Hit the Ground Running”. Merton won the EBBA award 2018. ~ Neil Z. Yeung, Rovi
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Artist Biography by Steve Huey
Producer, songwriter, arranger, session pianist, solo artist — Allen Toussaint wore all these hats over the course of his lengthy and prolific career, and his behind-the-scenes work alone would have been enough to make him a legend of New Orleans R&B. Thanks to his work with numerous other artists, Toussaintbore an enormous amount of responsibility for the sound of R&B in the Crescent City from the ’60s on into the ’70s. His productions kept with the times, moving from rollicking, earthy soul in the ’60s to gritty, rambunctious funk in the ’70s. As a composer, Toussaint proved himself a consistent hitmaker, penning more than a few gems that have since become R&B standards and been covered by countless artists working in many different styles. In keeping with that across-the-board appeal, Toussaint worked in some supporting capacity for a wide variety of rock and blues legends, particularly from the ’70s on. On top of all that, Toussaint waxed his own records from time to time, enjoying a creative peak in the ’70s with several albums that highlighted his laid-back vocals and elegantly funky piano work. Even if he wasn’t always the most visible figure, Toussaint‘s contributions to New Orleans music — and to rock & roll in general — were such that he earned induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.Post Views: 816
Marti Jones & Don Dixon have been performing together, off and on, for over twenty years. This longtime partnership has resulted in an intimate stage rapport as well as the seamless blending of two of the most distinct voices around today. With over two hundred songs in their collective recorded catalogue, you never know quite what to expect when they hit the stage, but rest assured their performance will feature thoughtful lyrics and heart-felt singing.Post Views: 894
The Pretenders/Chrissie Hynde
Over the years, the Pretenders became a vehicle for guitarist/vocalist Chrissie Hynde’s songwriting, yet they were a full-fledged band when they formed in the late ’70s. With their initial records, the group crossed the bridge between punk/new wave and Top 40 pop more than any other band, recording a series of hard, spiky singles that were also melodic and immediately accessible. Hynde was an invigorating singer who bent the traditional male roles of rock & roll to her own liking, while guitarist James Honeyman-Scott created a sonic palette filled with suspended chords, effects pedals, and syncopated rhythms that proved remarkably influential over the next two decades. After Honeyman-Scott’s death, the Pretenders became a straightforward rock band, yet Hynde’s semi-autobiographical songwriting and bracing determination meant that the group never became just another rock band, even when their music became smoother and pop-oriented.
Originally from Akron, Ohio, Hynde moved to England in the early ’70s, when she was in her twenties. British rock journalist Nick Kent helped her begin writing for New Musical Express; she wrote for the newspaper during the mid-’70s. She also worked in Malcolm McLaren’s SEX boutique before she began performing. After playing with Chris Spedding, she joined Jack Rabbit; she quickly left the band and formed the Berk Brothers.
In 1978, Hynde formed the Pretenders, which eventually consisted of Honeyman-Scott, bassist Pete Farndon, and drummer Martin Chambers. Later in the year, they recorded a version of Ray Davies’ “Stop Your Sobbing,” produced by Nick Lowe. The single made it into the British Top 40 in early 1979. “Kid” and “Brass in Pocket,” the group’s next two singles, were also successful. Their debut album, Pretenders, was released in early 1980 and eventually climbed to number one in the U.K. The band was nearly as successful in America, with the album reaching the Top Ten and “Brass in Pocket” reaching number 14.
During an American tour in 1980, Hynde met Ray Davies and the two fell in love. Following a spring 1981 EP, Extended Play, the group released their second album, Pretenders II. Although it fared well on the charts, it repeated the musical ideas of their debut. In June of 1982, Pete Farndon was kicked out of the band due to his drug abuse. A mere two days later, on June 16, James Honeyman-Scott was found dead of an overdose of heroin and cocaine. Pregnant with Davies’ child, Hynde went into seclusion following Honeyman-Scott’s death. In 1983, two months after Hynde gave birth, Farndon also died of a drug overdose.
Hynde regrouped the Pretenders in 1983, adding former Manfred Mann’s Earth Band guitarist Robbie McIntosh and bassist Malcolm Foster; the reconstituted band released “2000 Miles” in time for Christmas. The new Pretenders released Learning to Crawl early in 1984 to positive reviews and commercial success. Ending her romance with Ray Davies, Hynde married Jim Kerr, the lead vocalist of Simple Minds, in May of 1984.
Apart from a performance at Live Aid, the only musical activity from the Pretenders in 1985 was Hynde’s appearance on UB40’s version of “I Got You Babe.” Hynde assembled another version of the Pretenders for 1986’s Get Close. Only she and McIntosh remained from Learning to Crawl; the rest of the album was recorded with session musicians. Get Close showed the Pretenders moving closer to MOR territory, with the bouncy single “Don’t Get Me Wrong” making its way into the American Top Ten in 1987. Hynde recorded another duet with UB40 in 1988, a cover of Dusty Springfield’s “Breakfast in Bed.”
Hynde’s marriage to Kerr fell apart in 1990, the same year Packed! was released, although it failed to ignite the charts in either America or Britain. Hynde was relatively quiet for the next few years, re-emerging in 1994 with Last of the Independents, which was hailed as a comeback by some quarters of the press. The album did return the Pretenders to the Top 40, with the ballad “I’ll Stand by You.” In the fall of 1995, the live album Isle of View was released, then the group remained silent for a few years. Hynde finally returned in 1999 with an album of new material, Viva el Amor. Three years later, the Pretenders left their longtime label for Artemis. The reggae-tinged Loose Screw appeared in November and a tour followed in January 2003. In March 2006, the band released their first-ever box set, Pirate Radio, via Rhino. The four-disc package included over five hours of music and a DVD of rare performances. Two years later, the Pretenders released Break Up the Concrete, their first album in six years; it debuted at 32 on the Billboard charts and 35 in the U.K.
Following the release of Break Up the Concrete, the Pretenders spent the next few years touring, but after 2012, Hynde put the band on hiatus. In 2014, she released Stockholm, her first-ever solo album, which was followed in 2015 by her memoir Reckless: My Life as a Pretender. In 2016, Hynde revived the Pretenders to record a new album with Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach as producer. Alone emerged in October 2016. 2019 saw the belated release of The Pretenders with Friends, a CD, DVD, and Blu-ray package that documented both sound and images from a 2006 concert in which Hynde and her bandmates were joined on-stage by Iggy Pop, Shirley Manson of Garbage, and members of Incubus and Kings of Leon. The Pretenders reunited with producer Stephen Street for 2020’s Hate for Sale, which also was the first album since Loose Screw to feature Chambers on drums. ~ Stephen Thomas ErlewinePost Views: 248