The Year in Music 2007

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music,   From Issue 651   By: Scott Baker

20th December, 2007     0

It was a teeter-totter type of 2007 for the local music scene, having as many ups as it did downs, but as an outcome the good news is how raw original talent and music shined through for the first time in many years.

At one end was the spark of new talent that burst like fireworks over the course of a few months, only to either break up or splinter into separate projects.

The other end saw the return of original music and multiple CD releases from voices that had been on hold over the past few years.

Kicking off the earlier part of the year was the release of Larry McCray's first studio album in seven years. The self-titled release   featured his most eclectic blend of music, from straight blues, rock, acoustic soloing, and a wide range of songwriting styles. It also wrapped up many live staples that McCray has featured over the past five years, putting the studio stamp and gloss on disc.

The Review-Award winning Banana Convention parted ways with guitarist Josh Jekel and vocalist Melissa "Mel' May who started their own new imprint with The Thunderchickens.  The new group has already spread like wildfire around the state and region with a fiery-brand of intense original output and off-the-cuff covers that keep the audience on their feet. 

Meanwhile, The Banana Convention added Ray Torres (from The Holy Gun) on guitar and moved forward with the new CD Dirty Negatives. They have brought out the rock and continue to venture about regionally with their newfound direction.

Upon winning Solo Artist of the Year and Rock Musician Deserving Wider Recognition at the Review Awards in May, Andy Reed continued to hone his magical pop into the Tri-Cities and beyond.

Having left the now defunct Happy Bastids last year, Cary Ewing released his first solo CD in July, Box of Pandora, which also featured an incredible DVD with videos he made for a few of his songs, one of which features Bay City's Masonic Temple on the title track.
Magical vocals and new talent was also heard coming out of Midland from one Micah Read, a post-American Idol-ist who managed to jump around the area with percussionist Earl 'The Squirrel' with relative ease. His presence on the scene brings a positive light to the singer/songwriter crowd and the man is full of classic covers as well!

Summer Solstice in Midland brought out the energy of California's vagabond song-master Jay Nash with local singer/songwriter Jon Rajewski and others piling on the talent for the new feature concert.

Dave Kellan went Rounder Than The Sound this summer, offering his next foray into pop, blues and rock originality. Nearly a month after the CD's official release, Kellan high-tailed it to New York City to promote his groove and find his footing in the Big Apple, only to return to Mid-Michigan again just recently. He also can be found out and about regularly with the busy sideman Earl 'The Squirrel' as well.
Concerts were also a feature in Farwell with the debut of the Mountain Rock & Country Festivals, attracting fans of both to two different weekends of entertainment with multiple nights of national and local artists.

Radio, press, and coverage for both the Country Music Festival and the Mountain Rock Fests drew beyond statewide attention and attendance was well received.

Other local concert nods went to The Dow hosting the unique Blue Man Group, Alice Cooper and the Three Days Grace/Breaking Benjamin/Seether shows.

Anita Baker and George Benson both recently performed in Saginaw at the Temple Theatre and earlier in the year Sullivan's Black Forest in Frankenmuth scored with two different classic rock evening's, including one with Johnny Winter and one with Mountain.
Blues songstress Debbie Davies and Janiva Magness graced the State Theatre in April for the Saginaw Bay Area Blues Society's Cabin Fever Blues Festival with the great local Blues Creators and for the second year in a row, the Hells Half Mile Film & Music Festival took over Downtown Bay City for nearly a week of entertainment.

Making another noise were new artist's Barbarossa, who made a hit at the Review Awards, only to go their separate ways later in the year. Keyboardist Loren Kranz can be found playing solo stints with The Holy Gun, and more recently backing Matt Besey. Bassist Ryan Fitzgerald moonlighted with Bryan Rombaslski and Chicago's blues rocker Frank Bang.

Another new artist to hit hard only to implode was the unique Beefy Sloppy Gypsies, who brought back Wednesday's to Bemo's in Bay City with their '70s drag and rock show, only to splinter a few months back.

On the harder rock side, seminal local legends Wet Cement were reborn. Milligram Smile was a new Review Award winner, nailing Rock Band of the Year & Best Original Album.

Powertrip continues their assault around the state. Phi stamped their name as well, with many shows coming at the Arlington in Bay City during the Hott & Bothered shows. Kathy Pisarski booked a successful jaunt for her Hott & Bothered Sound team this year, only to part ways due to management differences in October. She is now looking for a new venue.

Closing out the year, TensionHead scored an opening slot with hot national act Hell Yeah down at the Fillmore in Detroit.

Another new face around the scene is The Cash O'Riley Show, featuring the sounds of unique rockabilly and country funk. Performing around the area as well as state wide, they have re-opened ears in the wake of fun live shows.

Another unique ear-turning group sprouted in the form of Duality, mixing singer/songwriter, Irish, and alt-country fare to many different stages across the state. They feature an incredible vocal mix with acoustic instrumentation.

Jazz speaking, Brush Street are everywhere. Bringing Julie Mulady's vocals to a standout and performing original and classic pieces, they not only struck out successfully alone, but joined the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra for performances as well and were honored at a special performance for Governor Jennifer Granholm

Electrically and instrumentally speaking, the Chromatic Effect has picked up on the heels of Bryan Rombalski's instrumental approach, releasing the debut CD Act 1. Bringing in a mix of sound like Joe Satriani meeting Jeff Beck with David Sanborn, the new group is made up of familiar local faces.

Sharrie Williams returned to the recording scene with I'm Here To Stay, her first studio album in three years. Reminding the world of what a vocal prowess we have here in Saginaw, Williams continues to travel the globe.

Bo White also continued to bring in legendary acts to White's Bar, especially in the form of former Paul McCartney guitarist Laurence Juber, Frank Bang (former Buddy Guy guitarist), Sal Valentino of the Beau Brummels, and the return of legendary poet and ex-Michigander John Sinclair, who has graced White's in the past over the years.

The return of former Saginaw guitarist, indie/punk rocker Johnny Coldheart was the talk of the town in August during a quick stop to Rumors. He now resides in Washington.

Three artists wrapped up the year with new original CD releases all coming in the month of November.

The long awaited sophomore release titled Prisoner from Matt Besey went national Nov. 3rd with a kick off, packed-to-the-gills show at Pit & Balcony in Saginaw. Following a ten-year gap between albums, Besey continues to showcase his chops and excellent rock song writing in more diverse ways than ever before.

Brett Mitchell poured Juice into the ether in mid-November, his second release as a solo artist. Mitchell will sure to be a Review Award contender in 2008, as he has over the past few years.

Wrapping up the past month, over 180 people came out for Scott Baker & The Universal Expressions CD release party at the Masonic Temple in Bay City. The new CD, Between Seasons marked Baker's first CD release in over five years and the first as a solo artist. Sprout opened the evening, which also included a Cary Ewing solo performance.

Speaking of Sprout, their next CD should drop sometime in early 2008, giving a glimpse into the new horizon for the coming year. Unfortunately, contrary to the Spirit of the Season, just before press-time we received word that Sprout's equipment trailer had been stolen (a second time in several years) leaving the band in the lurch. Watch for more details on this in future issues.

2007 was also a year of loss, sadness, and reflection, with the passing of Jim Zimmerman, co-founder of the Saginaw Bay Blues Society, and one of the area's strongest supporters of live music; local legend Shaky Jake Woods; former Sinclair's member Dr. Greg Bever contracting a bizarre virus while on vacation; and the shocking back-to-back strokes of Saginaw legend Dick Wagner and keyboardist Brian Bennett.  With Wagner recuperating in Arizona, Bennett is also diligently and bravely moving forward, with a successful benefit for the artist held in early December that raised over $8,000.

And to end on a positive note, longtime Reggae/Rock stalwarts David Asher and The Process nabbed nominations for the Grammy Awards, while  closed down, re-tooling with a new focus on multi-media delivery through ReviewTV, which is currently being aired and showcases live performances by local artists.

The first annual Review Night of Stars Holiday Showcase took place in early December as a Benefit to help launch Review TV. With standout performances by Lavel Jackson, Noel Howland, Honesty Elliott, Mel Curry, The Jim Perkins Band, Matt Besey and Caitlin Berry and The Thunderchickens, the event set a fresh standard for things to come in the New Year.

Let's hope to slide into 2008 with continued remarkable musical artistry and the hope that more venues and fans will bend toward the quality originality that has been a staple in this area for decades.


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