Rae Radick – Keep ‘Em Guessing

We’re at the end of another working week (if you’re lucky enough to be working) and that calls for a bit of a knees-up. In the past, we might have looked forward to Friday evenings because a trip to the pub would have followed the day in the office. And as the alcohol flowed so would our conversations. The office joker would do bad impressions of Boris whilst others just let off steam about the things that were causing them sleepless nights. I’m sure those evenings will return.

But, just in case you need an extra fix of bar life and the fun that can happen within them, today’s Sonic Breakfast treat comes straight from a Stateside tavern. In that bar, we find Rae Radick and her friends having fun, playing pool and singing karaoke whilst putting one leery punter firmly in his place. 

 

‘Keep ‘Em Guessing’ is a good time, toe-tapper that clearly draws influence from the country-rock sounds of Shania Twain. Even if it’s not the sort of music that you might typically be drawn to, I urge you to give it a chance. It’s music designed to make you smile – the video simply amplifies that – and we’re probably all in need of a bit of happy juice right now.

I ask Rae, a touring member of the American Bombshells (look them up, I had to) what she’s most looking forward to in 2021 and she’s quick to assert what she wants. “What would make it a great year is if COVID was no longer hindering artists from performing at gatherings, and I can get back to my second home…the stage.

From the evidence supplied in ‘Keep ‘Em Guessing’, Rae is quite the performer. I’d go to any bar she might be in and I’d try my very hardest not to be the drunken barfly loser propped up on a stool. 

Have a cracking weekend.

Ryne Meadow – Judgement

I tend to keep it very quiet but I was once a full-on born-again Christian. During my teenage years, whilst friends got high and stole cars, I chose to read my bible and to organise impromptu prayer meetings in the school library. I had it bad; speaking in tongues and getting slain in the spirit was my drug of choice. Every slight distraction from that path was the temptation of the devil.

It was never going to end well. A fundamentalist faith doesn’t sit well with a liberal outlook and I became increasingly conflicted. On the one hand, the Church was telling me that homosexuality is an abhorrent sin and yet I couldn’t quite reconcile that with the sense that my gay friends were the coolest and kindest people I knew. The church was governed by a set of male elders whilst women did the childcare, played the piano sweetly and made the sandwiches and tea after the services. I would have done anything to listen to a women preach but to suggest such craziness would have been derided; this church was not a place where the apple cart should be upset. Talking of apples, some of the elders seemed to delight in the fact that Eve was the temptress.

I know that not all Christian faith is as wildly right-wing as the one that I landed in. But the net result is that I have no faith now, just a language of love that includes everyone with no preconceived notions. 

And that seems to be the place that Ryne Meadow has settled upon as well. Raised in a southern baptist background, Ryne has clearly been on a spiritual journey. A gay man, he must have felt confused, sidelined and denounced as he came (out) to the judgements stemming from modern-day evangelicals. In today’s glorious Sonic Breakfast tune, Ryne reclaims his power by contemplating that judgement. With soulful voice and intense intent, Judgement is a passionate plea for the personal to be considered over and above any organised religion. It’s a tune that sparkles with class as it meanders towards a thrilling climax. And it marks Ryne out as a real talent to watch.

You only have to look at the events in Washington over the past few days to see how dangerous it can be to follow a set of beliefs so wholeheartedly that you somehow lose your own critical faculty in the process. 

Abby K – All Good

I don’t talk much about my day job within this blog. It’s pretty much been an unwritten rule since beginning Sonic Breakfast that I would rope off some aspects of my life and rarely discuss them. I’m not sure why it’s developed that way.

For those that don’t know, I work for a charity that distributes funds to youth homelessness projects. I work as part of a team that’s helping to create new homes for young people who don’t have that security. Get beyond the day to day routine, rigmarole and frustrations that are part of anybody’s working life and it’s a pretty rewarding place to be.

But, I still walk past people sleeping rough (or did before 2020) and barely bat an eye. If challenged my well-rehearsed lines still stand up to my own scrutiny. “It’s better to give my money elsewhere“, I say before spending it that evening in the pub. “You’re not really getting to the root cause of the problem“, I say before spending the day talking with friends about the latest exit on I’m A Celebrity. “I need the food myself“, I say before putting nothing in the food-bank collections and going home to write a blogpost about my expanding waistline.

Despite thinking that I care about others and actively do good when I really think about it what do I really do? My emotions are hardened, my tears trained not to fall and my life, as a result, is all good.

This is the situation that Abby K describes in her latest song and video, All Good. Released in the build up to the US election, it served as a call for Americans to vote for change. Asked specifically about this track, Abby says, “the idea that we are privileged and turn away from the ugly truths of our world is a powerful notion. Something’s got to change or something’s going to give! When tears refuse to stream the way they should, I guess that means, life’s all good? It’s time to MAKE things all good.

A gentle country-folk song for a Thursday, Abby’s delivery has none of the rage that you might traditionally expect from a protest song. Like a calm and collected schoolteacher taking an assembly, the singer-songwriter carouses and encourages us with her unique voice into looking at the world differently. 

The cynic in me finds this so easy to dismiss as idealistic, hippie twaddle. Maybe, thinking about why I have that response and taking a good look at what I’ll be doing to make things better today is the more appropriate way forward.

Noah Gundersen and Harrison Whitford – Union Chapel – January 16th 2020

Noah Gunderson is right. It probably does suck to start any UK tour at Islington’s Union Chapel. The wonderful serenity of the surrounds; the stained-glass looking down on us in this stunning place of worship. Other venues just can’t compete with the peace and beauty. “It’s all going to be downhill from here”, observes Noah wisely. 

Tonight, the Union Chapel is Noah’s ark. His brand of singer-songwriter folk goes down a treat with the hushed audience who cling to his every word. Noah loves the British audiences; they’re attentive listeners and polite with their praise. We are in a chapel and sitting in pews after all. 

He’s joined for most of his set in the chapel by support act, Harrison Whitford. Clearly friends off-stage, there’s a magic that works between them. Harrison harmonises and play crisp slide guitar licks whilst Noah holds fort taking cheap (and obvious) shots about the state of British food. Rich from an American. 

We’ve already been treated to Harrison’s support set. He’s great; a storyteller with a manner of delivery that mixes Sufjan Stevens with Randy Newman; he plays a cover from the latter. It’s definitely going to rain today. 

Talking of covers, Noah’s not averse to one or two himself. ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ sounds sad and mournful rather than pop. The Tom Waits cover, ‘Day After Tomorrow’ a smart addition and a set highlight. His own songs, earnest and literate, sometimes suffer from a popular blandness. I yearn for a bit more weirdness in my music but there’s no denying that when Noah really opens his mouth, a powerful voice comes to the fore. 

In between the acts, a chap (whose name I miss) comes and gives an impassioned speech about the sadness of suicide, especially in young men. Apparently, it’s a cause close to Noah’s heart and he’s actively working with this charity to get men to talk, to be more open about their emotions. Got to appreciate that touch. 

We parade out into rain-drenched Islington streets. I’ve enjoyed my first visit to the Union Chapel. The adoring fans are oblivious to a bit of drizzle. 

 

Lucy DK – Drama

Everyone who watched Lucy DK’s performances years ago at the OBS Unplugged showcases knew that they’d seen something pretty special. So taken with her talents was I that I featured her here and then reprised that with a second place in my Sonic Breakfast top ten of the year (here).

At University in America it appears that Lucy has continued to develop. Alerted to a new video via social media, I felt compelled to take a look. 

Gently unique, laidback but suitably strident, Drama is the sound of a strong, young woman finding her voice – although in Lucy’s case one suspects that the voice has always been there. 

Drama finds Lucy coming to an end of what sounds like a toxic relationship, one in which she’s taken the blame from her boyfriend for all sorts of misdemeanours. In truth though, the faults that he’s been so keen to highlight are little more than his own insecurities coming to the fore. 

Glossed with a charming pop intent,  a calypso dust and a light jazz spray bubble away under the surface in this altogether addictive piece that lures you sweetly in. The chorus, a restrained and elegant hiccup of a thing, is the catch that draws you further in and, in my case at least, necessitates repeat listens. 

Lucy DK – her stage is so clearly set. 

 

Todd and Jingyu – Find Me Find You – A Story

As this week builds towards the corporate schmalz of Valentines Day, Sonic Breakfast has unearthed a delightful record about love for your listening pleasure. 

Find Me Find You: A Story by Todd and Jingyu is quite an album. We’re suckers for stories here at Sonic Breakfast and this one beautifully documents the relationship of our leading characters. The first half of the record takes us from the pain of previous friendships that weren’t quite right through to the initial connection and meeting between Todd and Jingyu. The second half shows how, despite some cultural differences (Todd is American and Jingyu Chinese), the love that develops continues to grow. 

One suspects that this is still a couple who hold hands when they walk in the park. You get the sense that Todd and Jingyu wake every morning with that secure knowledge of being able to share the wonders and curiosities of the world together. 

Musically, the story of Find Me:Find You also touches on many of Sonic Breakfast’s pinch points. There are counterpoints a-plenty within the sweet, observational duets that make up much of the record. You can easily imagine that you’re listening to the soundtrack from a stage musical here; a simpler Sondheim shall we say?

Do listen to the record from start to finish if this has piqued your interest – it’s freely available on line and well worthy of digging into. For now, Sonic Breakfast wants to share two songs with you . 

‘Find You’ is set before Todd and Jingyu meet. Both are establishing their online dating profiles, boiling their wants and desires down into a simplified cliched language that might appeal to their dream partner. And wrestling with themselves over the apparent stupidity of it all.

‘Boy And Girl’ is the album’s central stone. It’s the thoughts of Todd and Jingyu when they first meet; the initial rush of excitement when they realise there’s a connection; the nervous energy that’s expended when you babble on about the first thing that comes to mind in those moments when any silence might be considered awkward rather than perfectly natural.

These are happy romantic tunes, awash with the sweetest of uncorrupted innocence. It almost feels like Spring is in the air.