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Free Spirit — LaTresa’s Nice Fusion of Bluegrass, Country, Pop, and the Blues

Music - Josephine - July 25, 2020

St. Vincent performs at O2 Apollo Manchester in October 2017 in Manchester, England.

I’ve never been much of a country or bluegrass fan–my tastes run to the rock ‘n roll area, and anything from pop to the metal usually catches my attention on gudang lagu. I’ve always thought that singers and musicians in the country and bluegrass field were some of the best around, and I always sort of liked the traditionalist philosophy that they had. Amplification is an anathema to most of these folks, and they generally eschew electronics in favor of traditional musical instruments, which is in truth how music is probably supposed to be made. When I received a copy of Free Spirit by an artist named LaTresa Orndoff, I gave it a listen and decided to see just how an aging rock ‘n roller like myself could review an album of a musical style that I hadn’t really related to much before.

Here’s what I learned.

Free Spirit–LaTresa was recorded in 2003 at Direct Image in Nashville, Tennessee. The CD was produced by Kenny Royster and LaTresa, and all songs were written by LaTresa. Ever true to her bluegrass and country roots, traditional instruments are used on every track. Banjo, acoustic guitar, harmonica, upright bass, dobro, mandolin, and fiddle appear on almost every song, and the only electric instrument I could detect was lap steel on a track or two. The players are excellent, and all vocals and most harmonies are performed by LaTresa. The production is almost seamless, and the overall sound of this CD is impeccable.

As I said earlier, I suspect that LaTresa’s musical roots are firmly grounded in bluegrass and country, but there are enough pop, blues and modern country influences that made me feel like I was listening to somewhat of a fusion of all these musical styles. It certainly made the listening experience enjoyable and gave me an idea of what musicians might have influenced this artist.

Track List

  • Gone To Memphis
  • This Turn Is Mine
  • Whenever My Eyes Cry
  • Something Blue
  • Free Spirit
  • Really Hurtin’Over You
  • From Her Memory
  • I’ve Gotta Go
  • Love Curse This Hold
  • Before I Go Too Far
  • Holy Moly
  • Where Time Flies

My Thoughts

Gone To Memphis kicks things off with a rather tame, dolorous intro that resolves quickly into a rollicking dose of bluegrass featuring all those traditional instruments and some interesting pop stylings. This Turn Is Mine falls squarely in the pop genre and exploits the use of acoustic instruments in that pop setting. Whenever My Eyes Cry is written in waltz time and brings some of the classics of Patsy Cline to mind, while Free Spirit is an upbeat tune featuring a great fiddle line and vocals that sound a lot like Juice Newton. Really Hurtin’ Over You has bluesy inflections, and neat harmonica line, and a tip of the hat to Hank Williams with the “walkin’ the floor over you” line.

Something Blue turns a cliche’ into a solid country song featuring some incredible vocal acrobatics by LaTresa, while the gorgeous Where Time Flies takes a restrained, introspective look at a failing relationship, with acoustic treatment and seamless harmonies. From Her Memory puts LaTresa’s delicate vocal delivery up front, along with a beautiful acoustic guitar line and some fine dobro work, and Before I Go Too Far features a banjo, fiddle and nice harmonies, which further compliment LaTresa’s delicate vocal delivery. Her strength as a songwriter is emphasized by the very clever hook line “I think  better go before I go too far.”

I’ve Gotta Go is an upbeat tune with some interesting time signatures and some very competent mandolin and dobro work, while Holy Moly, with its blues inflections, and Love Curse This Hold, with good lap steel playing, prove that LaTresa can belt one out with the best of them in the bluesy country style of Loretta Lynn and some of the other country greats.

Free Spirit is a fine collection of songs. Not only is Latresa an excellent vocalist, but she’s also a great songwriter with a knack for fusing pop themes and blues inflections with the bluegrass and country styles that she was probably raised on. Catchy hooks and this unique fusion makes this album work for me, and you should give it a listen too.

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6 Factors to Consider When Choosing Handpan Scales

Music - Josephine - July 13, 2020

Who is the player?

One of the main things that you need to consider when choosing handpan scales is the player. Who will play the instrument? Is it a kid or an adult? A professional or a beginner> A jam session participant or a solo player? It is always important to consider these factors so you can decide the right type of handpan to buy. Generally, there are several variations of handpans that are available in the market. Some of those include tongue rums, pan drums, handcrafted tank drums, opsilon handpans and so many more. But most probably, professional quality handpans will be the option of pro players as it requires solid technique and skills in playing this instrument.

What is Your Playlist?

Your playlist is another factor that you need to consider when choosing the right handpan scales. When you look for handpan in the market, you will see that they have major and minor mode. To know these things, you need to check your playlist. Basically, it answers questions like what is your prefer genre? Is it slow, happy, moody or uplifting? Minor mode scale drums are perfect for relaxing and soft melodies. But if you prefer entertaining songs, then major mode scale drums are the perfect instrument for you.

Understand the Variety

Buying handpan is like buying a coffee. Which one do you prefer? Is it hard espresso or cappuccino? Maybe you prefer whipped cream latte that has syrup. Technically, you need to check the menu first and do comparisons, so you’ll get the right coffee that suits your taste and preference. In relation to choosing handpan, it is advisable to check the websites of different brands of handpan instrument. In this way, you will have an idea of the variations of models. 

Consider Your Budget

Your budget is another important factor that you need to consider when choosing handpan instrument. As mentioned earlier, there are several brands and models of handpan. All of those come in different prices in the market. Hence, determining your budget at your disposal is necessary. Generally, the more complicated the scale is, the more expensive it is. So if you are not a professional player yet, it is advisable to choose an instrument that suits your skills. Only choose the scale that you think you can handle. Buying a professional scale can be very daunting and challenging to learn and yet expensive on your side.

Choose Your Culture

Your preferred culture should also be given consideration when buying handpan. You can choose from traditional, or ethnic melodies. Always keep in mind that the scales of the handpans produce wide variety of sounds that can remind you of traditional Asian music or the beats and melodies of native Americans. You can choose among Asian, American and Arabic culture. Your preference and taste are the main factors to consider here. As a musician, you should be able to choose an instrument that truly connects your feelings and emotions.

Number of Notes

Last but not the least, you should also pay attention to the number of notes of the ahndpan instrument. Basically, handpans have 8 notes surrounding the Ding which is considered as the central lowest note. But you also have to be aware that there are other options that have additional notes that are usually placed on the Ding. Some of those include F Pygmy RAV Pan and B Celtic Double Ding RAV Vast. Choosing these additional notes will give you an opportunity to experiement using the instrument. But ideally, these additional notes are suitable to more advanced musicians.

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