Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Music Mondays in Hollywood

"Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream?"


Every time I walk down Hollywood Boulevard at night, surrounded by cheap souvenir shops, clothing stores specializing in stripper attire and discounted suits and bars of every persuasion, I can't help but think of that line from the opening moments of Pretty Woman. But as cheesy as it can be, I love what Hollywood represents. Believe in your dream, work your butt off, hopefully catch a break and you'll get your chance to be a star.

I've mentioned The Hotel Cafe in previous posts, and it's exactly the kind of Hollywood place musicians go to work at making their dream happen. I hadn't been out to see any live shows in quite a while, so when my pal Tammy suggested we check out a line-up that included one of my favorite Hotel Cafe regulars, I couldn't resist. And Hollywood on a Monday night is a lot more tame than a weekend, and therefore more enjoyable since you're not fighting off crowds everywhere you go.

After a nice dinner at The Geisha House (where I not only tried my first sushi roll but got a splinter in my thumb from the chopsticks), we went to check out some new music and appreciate an old favorite. Here's a rundown on the acts we enjoyed.

The Smoking Flowers
Cool alt-country duo from Nashville. According to their website, they call their sound "Southern Gothic folk." I call it awesome. The lyrics were gorgeous and Kim Collins, the female half of this duo, reminded me of a young Loretta Lynn. Tammy and I met them after their set and they were both SUPER nice. They're got a new album coming out soon and are hoping to come back to The Hotel Cafe later this spring for a CD release party. They're definitely worth a listen.

Courtney Marie Andrews
Even though she's American, she sounded a little Irish when she sang. Her music had kind of a Tori Amos meets Florence + The Machine with a touch of early Sarah McLachlan vibe. I'm interested to see what the recorded versions of her songs sound like because her guitar got a little lost behind the keyboard and drums she had backing her. Not completely sold at first blush, but not without potential.

Angel Taylor
She's got a really strong voice, which she featured by starting her set solo on piano. My first impression was that she's a classic case of an artist with a great voice but nothing unique in terms of musical direction. That said, anyone who pulls out a cover of my favorite Bonnie Raitt song ("I Can't Make You Love Me") and does it justice is fine by me. Her cover of "Creep" by Radiohead was far less inspiring, but I enjoyed her original song "When I Come Home" and some of her other lyrics were interesting ("Girl on the piano bench singing my tears away..."). During her set, she mentioned she will be a contestant on new season of The Voice. She's funny and self-effacing on stage so she'll make great TV.

David Ryan Harris
David is a longtime Hotel Cafe regular who many people know because of his long standing role as touring side man for John Mayer (You might have heard of John somewhere...). All kidding aside, I've heard John say many times during his own shows that David has more than enough ability to be a successful solo artist in his own right, and he shines in a venue like this. David's strength is telling very human stories with his music. Simple melodies, strongly visual lyrics, great guitar work and a voice with incredible range are all he needs. He's working on finishing a new album, and if his preview of  "Shelter" is any indication it will be another phenomenal record. Plus David always throws in a few crowd favorites at every show. Check out iTunes for "Still Be Loving You" (written for his mother) and my all-time fave "Pretty Girl."

So now you have ideas if you want to discover some new music. Find an artist you like and support them -- they need your help to make their dream come true.

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