Author Archive

Victory Boyd: From Subway to Festival Stage

Victory Boyd was “discovered” busking Stevie Wonder songs on the streets and in the subway stations of New York City, and that discovery led to a recording contract not only for her, but for her entire family including her father and eight siblings. The singer-songwriter was a featured performer at the fourth annual LEAF Downtown

Fantastic Negrito: We Can Turn It Around (Part 4 / conclusion)

Continued from Part Three… And even though Fantastic Negrito is now a high-profile Grammy-winning performer and recording artist, he still feels and maintains a close connection to that neighborhood. “The people I started my collective label [Blackball Universe] with, they’re all guys I grew up with,” he says. “We did everything – committed crimes and

Fantastic Negrito: We Can Turn It Around (Part 3)

Continued from Part Two… The production on The Last Days of Oakland is “boxy,” and Xavier says that that quality is a deliberate aesthetic choice. “I wanted it to feel like I’m sitting right in someone’s living room,” he says. And I tried to minimize production; I was really going for a sense of urgency,

Fantastic Negrito: We Can Turn It Around (Part 2)

Continued from Part One… A 2014 EP titled Fantastic Negrito debuted Xavier’s new approach. Ostensibly blues, the five-song EP draws from a wider array of influences. Released to enthusiastic critical notices, the EP created a buzz but didn’t break through on a large scale. Undaunted and sure of his musical direction, Xavier created a low-budget

Fantastic Negrito: We Can Turn It Around (Part 1)

(An edited version of this feature appeared in print in Living Blues Magazine.) All photos © Audrey Hermon Kopp Fantastic Negrito is a a lot of things. On the surface, he’s a stage persona, the human means of delivery for songs that chronicle the realities of life. But dig deeper and you’ll find Xavier Dhphrepaulezz,

Album Review: Elza — Nothing’s Wrong

Combining literate, singer-songwriter approach with instrumentation that draws form trip-hop and moody alternapop, Canadian artist Elza has crafted an album of subtle beauty on Nothing’s Wrong. Elzy doesn’t possess the overly-affected vocal mannerisms so trendy these days; she sings in a straightforward, unadorned manner, and she has the pipes to pull that off with out

Diali Cissokho’s Story Songs

When Diali Cissokho moved to North Carolina in 2010, he knew hardly anyone. The Senegalese musician didn’t speak English, and had no one with whom to play music. But with the help of his wife and mother-in-law, he put together a dance band, Kaira Ba. Eight years later, Cissokho has a strong command of the

A Look Back at Crowded House’s ‘Temple of Low Men’

In April 1977, Neil Finn joined Split Enz, a New Zealand/Australian band co-founded nearly five years earlier by older brother Tim. Though he hadn’t yet reached his 18th birthday, Neil Finn quickly set about developing his skills as a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. He wouldn’t write any of the music on 1977’s Dizrhythmia, by the

Come Back Alice’s Simultaneous Attraction

Led by husband and wife Tony Tyler (guitar, vocals) and Dani Jaye (violin, vocals), St. Petersburg, Florida-based Come Back Alice plays high-energy rock ‘n’ roll that evokes the best of arena-rock concerts of decades past. Come Back Alice is the headliner at the August 17 installment of Hendersonville’s Rhythm and Brews concert series. You have

Mikaela Davis: Harping on a Pop Sensibility

The harp is an instrument most often associated with classical music; as a rule, its use in pop is generally limited to background orchestration in big productions. But clearly nobody explained that rule to Mikaela Davis: the pop vocalist not only plays the harp live onstage, but she writes songs on it. Davis takes advantage