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Stephanie Williams

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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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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Album review: Katy Guillen and The Girls - ...and then there were three

 
 
(Photo by Brandon Forrest) 
 
I never used to be a fan of the extended play record. I thought, way back in the day (as the kids say), that when an artist or group released something that had three to six songs on it instead of eight to twelve, they were just being lazy. For quite a while you didn’t see very many EPs on record store shelves so perhaps—way back in the day—that was indeed the case. But in these days the music industry is a lot different; online stores and internet radio stations and DIY promotion strategies have created a business model in which there is much more emphasis on immediacy of product availability. The vast majority of recording artists don’t have the luxury of taking years to create an all-encompassing work that tells a story gradually and with great detail. In a time when the single is king, I’ve realized that the short-set album now has much more relevance. I’m growing as an individual and as a consumer here. How ‘bout that.
 
There are a couple ways in which the EP offers ideal packaging for an artist’s music, one of which is to give a relatively new band some quick exposure. In the case of Katy Guillen and the Girls, their recently-released EP … and then there were three offers a trio of songs that showcases a trio of ladies who have firmly grasped the nuances of rock, blues, soul, and groove—and by “firmly grasped,” I mean they make it clear from the outset that they know their stuff. From the opening notes of “The Race”—a song that features Guillen’s sneering vocals and guitar work, Claire Adams’ rumbling, fat-bottom-bass foundation, and Stephanie Williams’ second-to-none percussive power and precision—you’d think you were hearing a band that had been together for a while… and in a sense, you’d be right. Katy Guillen and the Girls has been an entity for just more than a year, but the three have worked together in various forms and lineups and duos and trios for quite some time, and that familiarity helps to solidify their sound and give it the air of confidence that comes with having a history of working together.
 
That cohesiveness carries over through the other two tracks on … and then there were three: “Quiver” alternates between a dance-worthy salsa and a cautious waltz as Guillen’s ode to insecurities and doubt (“What makes you quiver, what makes you so upset? What makes your heart pound, what makes you lose your head?”) leans heavily on the rhythm section, and Adams and Williams are more than up to the task. “Stalling On Dreams” closes out the EP with a paean to unrequited might-have-beens (“I’ve been ghost-stalking old neighborhoods, getting pulled back into the woods, just humming my own tune, it don’t do me no good.”) that segues into more of that bluesy swagger, letting the listener know that—even though our protagonist may have some unsure moments—you can bet that she’ll figure things out in the end, on her terms.
 
As mentioned earlier, Katy Guillen and the Girls hasn’t been around as a unit for very long, but that didn’t stop them from entering—and winning—the Kansas City Blues Challenge at Knuckleheads a few months ago. They’ll be off to Memphis in January for the International Blues Challenge, where they will rep the 816 as they go up against bands from Europe, Canada, Australia, and possibly Latin American and/or Asia. Regardless of who else shows up, this is a band that just might be making some sweet, sweet noise for quite some time. And if they should happen to win the challenge and go on to the bigger and better things that they and their music deserve, we can say we knew them when they released their first EP.
 
Way back in the day.

Your next chance to see KG and the Girls will be back at Knuckleheads (in the Gospel Lounge) on Wednesday, October 30. The weekend after that, they’ll be heading down to Austin for a short tour. Head out to Knuckleheads next week and support them! 
 
--Michael Byars 

Michael Byars did mention that there were a couple benefits of releasing an EP; he’ll tell us what the other one is in his next review. That’s called a tease, folks. Pretty damn sneaky, ain’t it?

 

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