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Claire Adams

September 2014
Katy Guillen & the Girls
"Katy Guillen & the Girls
"
mp3
Normally when I discover a band for the first time, I listen to their album first, then go see them live. In the case of Katy Guillen & The Girls’ new release, the situation's been reversed. I saw them live a couple of times before the album was released, so I was interested to hear if the record was going to capture the ferocity of their live performances. I have to confess that my hearing is not in the best of shape, and, due to a poor sound mix at what shall be an unnamed Lawrence venue, I never got to hear the words or even the melodies properly live at the most recent concert I attended. But upon hearing the self-titled LP, it’s nice to hear that Guillen can write literate lyrics to these songs I've heard played out.
 
The album opener, "Don't Get Bitter," hearkens back to the sound and feel of the Beatles' "Taxman," with Claire Adams' bass introducing the song. It's short, catchy, and lasts exactly as long as it should. If there were a single release off this album, this would be it.
 
This record is no-frills. It's the band pretty much as you hear them live, with the mix capturing a live in-studio sound. What strikes me listening to this record is that Katy and the Girls are not strictly a blues band. There's certainly an infusion of the blues in what they do, but, to my ears, they hearken back to some of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s hard rock bands like Mountain and Free, but with better lyrics and songs. I also hear some White Stripes in there somewhere. The melodies and harmonies are accentuated and they help blend with the powerful playing.
 
Katy Guillen, Claire Adams, and Stephanie Williams fill up a lot of space in these songs. It's obvious they are all very well in sync and have that great intuitive blend that comes from playing lots of live gigs together. I also like the changes in some of the songs, which go in directions you don't expect, like "Woke Up In Spain," which switches tempo adroitly.
 
The absolute masterpiece of this album is the last song, “Earth Angel.” It's the longest tune on the album, but it doesn't feel long. It starts out with Guillen’s dirty-sounding guitar intro, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and builds in intensity as it moves along. Guillen takes one hell of a solo during this song. It's obvious from hearing this record that she is an excellent guitarist but never overplays during the songs. But when the song calls for a lengthy solo, like "Earth Angel," sparks fly. The rest of the band is equally as adept. Adams’ bass lines are nimble and fit right in place with Williams’ active drum work. It's a pleasure to hear a band that obviously loves to play together rolling through these songs. The album’s producer (Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab) captures the clarity of the music as well as the power of a live performance.
 

--Barry Lee

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Album review: Katy Guillen & the Girls - Katy Guillen & the Girls

(Photo by Michelle Bacon)
 
Normally when I discover a band for the first time, I listen to their album first, then go see them live. In the case of Katy Guillen & The Girls’ new release, the situation's been reversed. I saw them live a couple of times before the album was released, so I was interested to hear if the record was going to capture the ferocity of their live performances. I have to confess that my hearing is not in the best of shape, and, due to a poor sound mix at what shall be an unnamed Lawrence venue, I never got to hear the words or even the melodies properly live at the most recent concert I attended. But upon hearing the self-titled LP, it’s nice to hear that Guillen can write literate lyrics to these songs I've heard played out.
 
The album opener, "Don't Get Bitter," hearkens back to the sound and feel of the Beatles' "Taxman," with Claire Adams' bass introducing the song. It's short, catchy, and lasts exactly as long as it should. If there were a single release off this album, this would be it.
 
This record is no-frills. It's the band pretty much as you hear them live, with the mix capturing a live in-studio sound. What strikes me listening to this record is that Katy and the Girls are not strictly a blues band. There's certainly an infusion of the blues in what they do, but, to my ears, they hearken back to some of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s hard rock bands like Mountain and Free, but with better lyrics and songs. I also hear some White Stripes in there somewhere. The melodies and harmonies are accentuated and they help blend with the powerful playing.
 
Katy Guillen, Claire Adams, and Stephanie Williams fill up a lot of space in these songs. It's obvious they are all very well in sync and have that great intuitive blend that comes from playing lots of live gigs together. I also like the changes in some of the songs, which go in directions you don't expect, like "Woke Up In Spain," which switches tempo adroitly.
 
The absolute masterpiece of this album is the last song, “Earth Angel.” (Note: The Deli KC premiered this song when it was first released as a single back in January. Here’s the link.) It's the longest tune on the album, but it doesn't feel long. It starts out with Guillen’s dirty-sounding guitar intro, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and builds in intensity as it moves along. Guillen takes one hell of a solo during this song. It's obvious from hearing this record that she is an excellent guitarist but never overplays during the songs. But when the song calls for a lengthy solo, like "Earth Angel," sparks fly. The rest of the band is equally as adept. Adams’ bass lines are nimble and fit right in place with Williams’ active drum work. It's a pleasure to hear a band that obviously loves to play together rolling through these songs. The album’s producer (Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab) captures the clarity of the music as well as the power of a live performance.
 
--Barry Lee

Barry Lee is an occasional contributor to The Deli KC and can often be found on the radio Sunday nights at 8 pm on KKFI 90.1 as host of the long-running free-form show,
Signal To Noise. In the daytime he attends to many tasks as Station Manager for KKFI. 
 
 
This weekend, Katy Guillen & the Girls will play two special performances at Knuckleheads. On Saturday, September 6, they will be throwing a CD release party with special guests The Old No. 5’s. Facebook event page. On Sunday, September 7, they will play an unplugged show for the first time, in Knuckleheads’ Gospel Lounge. This is a special benefit show for KKFI 90.1 FM. Facebook event page. Both shows begin at 8:00 p.m. Go see them and indulge yourselves.
 
 
 

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Album review: Claire and the Crowded Stage - Kamikaze

Sometimes a gimmick can trample upon the art. We have all seen it. Some band who may or may not be creating something special, only to let it take a firm back seat to a schtick. Perhaps it is an elaborate super shiny multimedia extravaganza. It might come in the form of a five-person, multi-tuned cowbell section and/or audio samples from Dr. Strangelove. These are the kinds of bands that leave the soundman sorely exclaiming, “How many mics and DIs do you need again?” before sulking off and muttering under his breath a filthy slew of words only known to the hardiest of sailors.
 
With a live set up that features up to double-digit members playing various strings, percussion and woodwinds, it would be easy for Claire and the Crowded Stage to suffer this pitfall. Thankfully, on the new album Kamikaze, the band shows masterful control of how to question the integrity of a stage’s weight limit in a way that is truly synergistic to a great whole.
 
The range of tones and sounds featured throughout make it almost unclassifiable, a truly wonderful sideshow of pop music. Kudos to the arranger (and sound engineer) for creating a roadmap and space for each part to shine in just the right way. The instrumentation is woven with a delicate and deft touch. At any given time, the listener can focus upon any of the various elements and clearly decipher what dish it brings to the dinner table. It is a symphony of rock music, like a progressive new high school band teacher fresh out of grad school choosing to close his first spring concert with a version of “Helter Skelter.”
 
At times, it is almost a rock music bait-and-switch. During the proggy break in “Songbird,” the usual scathing guitar takes a back seat in the rhythm section to let the clarinet champion the solo with splitting vigor. The single reed’s moment in the spotlight works especially well in tandem when it returns to its more traditional floaty place on the following “Night Owls,” whose side-to-side head bob groove sounds like the perfect sound track for a Tootsie Roll pop commercial. Extra points for the delightfully arbitrary reprise outro.
 
Other strong moments include the Avett Brothers-go-to-Disneyland sounds of “Tower of Babel” and the prohibition jazz speakeasy slice of noir in “Technicolor.” “I Saw it All” is perhaps the best use of the symphony style arrangement on the record, growing from simple ukulele to full orchestra pit and back again. “The Nightside of Day” finishes off the record as a delightful denouement with joyful-sounding, yet stormily-themed sock hop flair.
 
Fronting this well-oiled juggernaut is the powerfully voiced Claire Adams. Her affected vocal stylings pierce the ear in a beautiful misfit manner, ranging from a very airy and playful Regina Spektor to the soulful belt of Neko Case. Much like the success shown by the orchestra beneath her, she shows great discretion on when to play the sweet little skipping girl with cartoon hearts in her eyes and when to let fly the tortured, broken soul inside. The often-paired harmony vocals add a further power and intrigue in all the right spots.
 
As if it needed yet even another cylinder to fire upon, the lyrics are often nothing short of poetry. Lines such as:
 
Oh, I’m a boat of awkward, sinking in the shifting waters of our chemistry (from “Kamikaze”)
 
It's been a long grey time, rhymes in red, blue and yellow fighting to flash well, nobody's talking trash just pass the hat 'til someone steps up to bat sayin' I know something you don't know  (from “Technicolor”)
 
I watched the sun it rose, standing on my tiptoes to catch the moment when the day broke in halves as people live straining to love and give, it's just another tower of babel falling (from “Tower of Babel”)
 
… are just a few examples of the impactful wordsmithing flexed throughout.
 
All put together, it ends up being one damn fine record that should definitely be added to your collection. Having been fortunate enough to catch Claire and the Crowded Stage a few times in various haunts, the live show is equally as impressive. Make sure you check it out and get your own copy of Kamikaze.
 
--Zach Hodson
 
Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings begins production. He is also in Dolls on Fire,Drew Black & Dirty Electric, and Riot Riot Riot, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.
 
Claire and the Crowded Stage will be commandeering the recordBar stage this Saturday, July 26, to celebrate the release of Kamikaze. Ali Holder & Christy Hays and Bearing Torches will open the show at 10 pm. Facebook event page.
 

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Katy Guillen & the Girls Runner Up in The Deli KC's 2013 Best Emerging Artist Poll

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
 
Congrats to Katy Guillen & the Girls, The Deli KC’s second-place pick for 2013 Emerging Artist!
 
Though they’ve been a band for only a little over a year, Katy Guillen & the Girls have gained a strong and dedicated following in Kansas City and beyond. Guillen—whose blues/roots/rock/flamenco guitar skills far exceed that of most—has assembled a precise, expert rhythm section of Claire Adams on bass and Stephanie Williams on drums (see our 2012 interview with Williams) to set her songs in motion.
 
The trio recently took fourth place at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis with its unique, daring interpretation of blues rock.
 
KG & the Girls released …and then there were three in summer 2013 (see our review here) and a single for “Earth Angel” early this year. If you want to find out more about them, we did a Q&A with them shortly after the album was released.
 
 
The group will be playing at Knuckleheads on Wednesday, February 26, with The Latenight Callers and John Velghe & the Prodigal Sons. Facebook event page.
 
 
 
--Michelle Bacon
  
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays bass in The Philistines and Dolls on Fire, and drums in Drew Black & Dirty Electric
 

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Song premiere: "Earth Angel" by Katy Guillen and the Girls

 
We are happy to premiere the latest track from Katy Guillen & the Girls, “Earth Angel.”
 
 
The trio releases the song right before descending upon Memphis to represent Kansas City in the International Blues Challenge next week. The KC kickoff show is this Saturday, January 18, at BB’s Lawnside BBQ. KG & the Girls will play the IBC as well as a few dates in Nashville and New Orleans over the next week.
 
“Earth Angel” is a ballad that successfully packs in every element that gives KG & the Girls its signature style, which is rooted in the blues but draws from rock and jazz influences. It begins with Guillen’s masterful guitar work and carefully weaves in her compelling vocals with  the always-on-point rhythm section of Claire Adams and Stephanie Williams. Though the track clocks in at nearly eight minutes, it gradually accelerates along with a balance of delicacy and force that gives it a satisfying sense of brevity and completeness.
 
The song was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab.
 
The band is offering up the track as a free download for one week, so head over to their Bandcamp and get your download.
 
Also, head over to BB’s this Saturday at 9:00 p.m. to see them before they leave for Memphis. AJ Gaither will be opening up the show and joining the band on a few tunes. Facebook event page.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is the editor-in-chief of The Deli Magazine—Kansas City. She plays drums in Drew Black & Dirty Electric and bass in Dolls on Fire and The Philistines. She thinks gingers are dumb.
 

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