WPGU/Buzz Local Music Awards 2007

-Steve Plock

Having just completed her first tour of the Northeast and eastern Midwest in early January, singer-songwriter Kayla Brown has proven herself to be a staple in the local music scene. In the past, she has been part of both Feaze and Desdemona, and she is currently keeping herself very busy. Kayla performs in a group called Darling Disarm alongside cellist Kristen Castagna and guitarist Mike Ingram. She is also part of the drum and bass group DJ Lil Big Bass. Kayla’s solo music is a calming blend of disarming vocals and delicate acoustic guitar. Unlike most female singer/songwriters today, Kayla doesn’t employ odd quirks or strange melodies to her music – she writes straightforward, relatable songs that are perfect for those long, contemplative nights. To hear Kayla’s songs and get a full list of her upcoming shows, visit her online at myspace.com/kaylabrownmusic, and be sure to listen to the song “Serenity Speeches,” which features some light piano ornamentation. You can catch her live at Bar Louie on March 16.

-Alyssa Vale

Kate Hathaway was born and raised in a very musically inclined family. She began playing the guitar at the age of 13, and started writing songs not long after that. Hathaway played her first show as a musician during her senior year of high school and since then it has been a rollercoaster of hard work and steady achievements. She released her first EP, entitled One, Two, Three in 2003, and her full-length album Sprout Don’t Pout in 2005.

Hathaway is unique in the way she allows herself to be bold in a very indistinct and subtle way. Her music combines sultry poetic lyrics with jazzy guitar riffs to form a sound that is not quite as grunge as Fiona Apple, and yet not quite as dreamy as Norah Jones. She currently has four songs available on her MySpace page at myspace.com/katehathawaymusic. I recommend “Panda Sorrow Part One.” Also, if you care to see her live, feel free to visit Aroma CafÇ at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 15 for a free, all-ages show that is sure to, if nothing else, give you a well-deserved break from your midterms.

-Rosalind Walters

Lynn O’Brien is a celebrated local artist hailing from Illinois State University in Bloomington. Still, she is no stranger to the Champaign music scene and has been performing around the area for two years. Lynn has graced the stage at the Illini Union Courtyard CafÇ three times with her jaunty, jazzy style and chocolatey tones. She has a melodic sound like Joni Mitchell, but the sound and lyrics move her off the beaten track.

Her music is, one could say, similar to a sweet, smooth dessert.

“Its like an ice cream sundae,” said O’Brien. “The different sounds are like all the flavors and toppings.” Not only is there a song on her album titled “Tangerine,” but there is also soul in her lyrics that binds with the music like a smoothly blended coffee.

If jazz with dessert is your game, then grab a coffee and check out O’Brien’s music at her upcoming concerts. Her next will be on Friday, March 9 at the Canopy Club in Urbana, or listen at her Web site, www.lynnobrienmusic.com.

-Rosalind Walters

Lynn O’Brien’s smooth jazzy melodies, jaunty piano and myriad of different instrumental sounds blend together to make her first CD, Umbrella. The songs and melodies of the lyrics are colorful – sometimes sweet, sometimes smooth – and are consistently soulful. Melodically, like Joni Mitchell, the jazz, piano and resonating vocals are very mellow yet energetic.

Although there are a variety of instruments selected by O’Brien herself, she refrains from harsh, jarring tones. The chorus of instruments, from the tuba to the congas, mix surprisingly well together.

The song “Tangerine” almost has a 1950s jazz ring to it, while songs like “She Said” flow with a smooth style. The stylistically jaunty instrumentals paired with O’Brien’s poetic lyrics will make walking in the rain or waking up and drinking coffee a less “run of the mill” Champaign experience.

-Rosalind Walters

Rob McColley, who was born and raised in Champaign, is also the lead singer in a band called The Heather, and has an alter ego named Laurie McColley. His first CD, Psuedonymous, presents him as an eclectic singer whose appearance is as confusing as his sound. While the definition of his CD means “to bear a false or fictitious name,” his Rufus Wainwright-meets-Wilco musical vibe proves that the unexpected is for once a safe bet.

In 2003, he released Juicy, and in 2005, he was also a “Best New Artist” Local Music Awards nominee. To learn more about this Champaign native, visit www.robmccolley.com.

-Erin Gillman

Rachel Braunstadter’s voice is wispy and haunting as she strums away on the guitar. Each of her songs has a unique feel, from synthetic-infused pop to melancholy acoustic poetry. Rachel is in a band called Cameo Turret (also native to Champaign), and her voice strangely resembles Alanis Morissette’s, but her music and lyrics are a few steps up. Rachel’s main music influences include Poe and Heather Nova, and it shows – for fans of the two, expect the same chilling voice matched with a soft acoustic melody. She’s Champaign’s resident Sarah McLachlan with more emotion and energy in her whispers than many bands can match with an hour-long live show. Her MySpace account is at www.myspace.com/12117696, and my recommended song is “Hit.” Rachel isn’t scheduled for any solo shows, but Cameo Turret is playing at Cowboy Monkey at the end of March. I recommend sitting back and relaxing with a bottle of wine and some Rachel time.

Mike Ingram Speaks:

Smashing jazz and blues together makes for an odd grouping, but Kilborn Alley always seems to be the favorite. Jazz Sandwich is a ridiculously talented band, but not enough people have seen them yet.

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