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Filtering by Tag: "vintage music"

Julia Nunes: Charisma and Talent To The Nth Degree

LeAnn Stephenson


When I was in third grade I used to fantasize about being a rock star, preferably one that everyone thought was uber-talented and was kind of a musical sensation of some kind - think The Beatles.  I don't know what that says about me but there it is. I figured that the ultimate proof of success would be to have mobs of teenagers in tears, screaming and yelling and chasing after me like my voice had made them lose their minds or something.  I based this desire on about 650 gazillion re-run episodes of The Monkees, a sit-com fashioned around a Beatles-like band from the late sixties I watched in which exactly that happened.  One or all of the band members were always being chased by rabid fans - especially Davy Jones, he was the cute English one that I still have a crush on to this day.

So, I would practice.  Rehearsal entailed placing an album that contained a lot of Saturday morning cartoon music on it (one of the only records my little sister and I owned) on to our little blue record player.  I would then carefully place the needle on the theme song to another series produced in the late sixties called H.R. Pufnstuf that aired every Saturday morning on NBC.  The show was produced by Sid and Marty Krofft and the theme song was sung by The Murmers entitled, appropriately enough, H.R. Pufnstuf .  I would take my position on stage (my twin bed) and face the audience (the full length mirror on the back of my bedroom door) and mostly just flail my arms and legs furiously while lip sinking into my goldfish's bottle of fish flakes that served as my microphone.  And, if that doesn't provoke the "boy-that-is-the-saddest-thing-I-think-I-have-ever-heard" response in you then, well . . . rehearsal starts at 4 p.m. today - bring your own fish food!

And as usual, I told you that story to tell you this story of a young woman who has actually made it out of her bedroom onto a stage and has an album you can buy and everything!  Her name is Julia Nunes and she is a ukulele and guitar playing singer/songwriter from upstate New York.  The 1980s icon, actress Molly Ringwald, who took up the ukulele recently, famously said on "Good Morning America" about Julia, "I've always wanted to play the ukulele, and she completely inspired me."  Piano rocker Ben Folds found one of Julia's YouTube covers and asked her to open four shows for him in May 2008, and she duetted on stage with him in April 2009.


Julia's appeal is clearly her genuine demeanor.  Her talent is mined with humor. Her songs have well crafted lyrics, marvelous melodies, and lots of insight. She is fond of covering songs from the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Nat King Cole to Say Anything, Motion City Soundtrack, and Spoon. And as I said earlier she writes her own stuff as well, and I'm of the opinion that her music kind of transcends a genre.  She is the child and grandchild of musicians.  Her background includes Portuguese fado music, jazz, and rock and roll. Her own musical journey began at the tender age of 7, when she started piano lessons, but didn't really take off until she was given a guitar in her early teens. Her first song was written at 14. Her first CD of original songs, which unfortunately is no longer available, was released when she was 17. The second CD, "Left Right Wrong", the title of which reflects Julia's difficulties with direction, was released at 18. Her third, "I Wrote These" followed a year later. Her most recent collection of original songs is a CD entitled, "I Think You Know."



I was charmed by her talent and charisma, and I have feeling you will be too.  You'll find more on Julia and her goings-on at her website, her YouTube channel, and her Facebook fan page.

Julia will return to Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN this Thursday, June 10th and again on Sunday, June 13th, and plays tonight in Indianapolis at Radio Head on East Prospect St., doors open at 8 p.m.

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Ukulele Gal

LeAnn Stephenson


This morning I’m chin deep in fellas dressed in short sleeved white button downs, black ties and pants and pocket protectors. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit and my head is beginning to spin, but it's my computer that is doing the better Linda Blair impression and truly messing with my world! However, my knights in shinning VW Beetle are here!

So, to calm my mind and soothe my soul I need to be transported to a kinder gentler place - one without RAM, CRASHES or SYSTEM ERRORS. And the remedy has been supplied by a fellow “old soul” and favorite friend. He introduced me to an amazing artist that I would like to share with you, and her name is Janet Klein. I think she is quite possibly one of the most charming people I've ever been introduced to!

I have discovered that it is virtually impossible to listen to singer, chanteuse Janet Klein and her band, The Parlor Boys, without smiling. Her love of lost classics, vaudeville melodies, and Yiddish songs of a bygone era are brought back to effervescent life through their stylings. Klein might seem at first to be a novelty act, with her sleek bob hairdo and vintage clothing, but when she opens her mouth to sing the obscure, naughty songs from the 1910s, 20s and 30s, her amazing talent and passion for curating these tunes is evident.

Her debut album, 1998's Come Into My Parlor, is almost a solo record, with Klein's vocals and ukulele occasionally supported by, John Reynolds' guitar and producer and husband Robert Loveless' accordion, mandolin, harmonica and triangle. Klein's second album, Paradise Wobble, was credited to Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys, and, like the first album, was bedecked in vintage photos and perfect replications of early 20th century graphic design. Subsequent albums, including her newest release, Ready For You, can be found here.

She performs with her band mostly in the Los Angeles area and continues to utilize her collection of vintage photographic matter in graphic design projects, including two miniature books, "Love is A Boomerang" and "Take A Picture of the Moon", and has plans for a DVD of musical film shorts and live concert footage. There are two must see videos that perfectly illustrate Klein’s charm and eccentricities. The first is Klein singing an Irving Berlin tune entitled, "Cohen Owes Me Ninety-seven Dollars" at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento, California - it’s hilarious! The other is an instructional Ukulele video that can be found here and is a charming example of her manner and gentle spirit. Her Facebook and MySpace pages will lead you to her site where you can find their tour dates. This Sunday, April 26th at 7 pm, Janet the boys will be "Backstage" at the Coffee Gallery in Altadena, California.

There . . . all calm . . . now, to find my Ukulele.

Make Mine a Pink Martini

LeAnn Stephenson


Morning - it’s your friendly, narcoleptic blogger here. Today I feel as though I have just eaten a rather large bowl of Captain Crunch that has been drenched with Ambien-laced milk. For the last three mornings I’ve waked and turned immediately to my husband and have said, “You know what I could go for? - A nap.” I realize I’m belaboring the "I don't care for daylight saving time" point here, . . . so I will move on.

This morning I would like to have a little session of show and tell. A long, lost dear friend and I have recently reconnected. We have been catching up with photos of spouses, kids and brief glimpses of the events that have shaped our lives over the last 20 years. We’ve been swapping favorite recording artists, comedians, books, websites and blogs. And if you would be so kind as to indulge a sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated woman, I’d like to share a wonderful group of artists that he has introduced to me. If you are already familiar . . . just humor me.

Pink Martini is the brainchild of classically trained pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale and vocalist China Forbes. This duo and the rest of the band members blend genres of music such as Latin, lounge, classical, and jazz. In trying to reflect the group's style and period-inspired content of their songs, many descriptives have been attached to their music like "vintage" or having the characteristics of a "little orchestra". Their songs' lyrics involve many different languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, and Modern Greek. According to Wikipedia, they were originally brought together to play political functions in Portland, Oregon, their home base. Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival, and the group's debut album, Sympathique, was released on Pink Martini's own label, Heinz Records, in 1997. Over 1.3 million copies of the record have been sold worldwide. The song of the same name is also featured on Putumayo World Music "World Lounge" CD.

In October 2004, the group released its second album, Hang on Little Tomato. In the transition from its first to its second album, guest-singer Pepe Raphael left to concentrate on his other band, Pepe and the Bottle Blondes. Lead singer China Forbes continued to write songs with Lauderdale.

Pink Martini songs appear in such films as In the Cut, Nurse Betty, Josie and the Pussycats, Tortilla Soup, Shanghai Kiss and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and have been used on television shows such as Dead Like Me, The Sopranos and The West Wing.

If you're listening to the soundtrack on my blog, I've added many of their songs to my playlist. You can learn more about the group and get their concert dates on the official Pink Martini site. I think they are really groovy and my family and a few friends have made plans to attend their San Antonio, Texas concert date on May 15th at the Lila Cockrell Theater. Ticket info and purchases can be made here.