Naomi La Violette, Ghosts Like Us, Jane Kramer

Naomi La Violette

Portland, Oregon-based songwriter, pianist and vocalist Naomi LaViolette has found her niche in the marriage of two worlds: folk singer and jazz soulstress. Combining otherworldly Sarah McLachlan-like vocals with the soul of Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones’ understated elegance and Ingrid Michaelson’s playfulness, LaViolette’s songs demand your attention.

LaViolette’s 2012 eponymous debut album—which features ten original songs and her own arrangements of George Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”—was released to immediate critical acclaim. Oregon Music News wrote that she “shines” in her original tracks, The Portland Tribune praised her balanced combination of “chops” and “lyricism” and StereoSubversion.com proclaimed that “Naomi LaViolette is a siren, and if she isn’t then she damn sure is possessed by one because it is impossible not to be ensnared by her jazzy vocal prowess.” Produced and engineered by Dean Baskerville (Sheryl Crow, Everclear), Naomi fronts the album at the piano and sings lead and background vocals in addition to adding synths and harmonica into the mix.

An honest and in-the-moment songwriter, LaViolette composes from an authentic outpouring of life experiences. She writes songs about falling in love, staying in love, heartbreak, life’s tough questions, and finding answers in surprising places. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, her songs often contain inspiration from the natural world, reflecting a sort of wild, uncontained beauty. “In artistic expression,” says LaViolette, “we find places to stand in a world that is constantly changing. We discover what is most important in our lives, and understand our trials and joys at a deeper level because of them.”

Her album showcases LaViolette’s comfort with writing songs for a number of genres. Whether channeling Diana Krall on the rich piano ballad “Fragile,” playing emotional piano pop on “Somewhere New to Stand,” or getting flirty on the funky “Hey Yeah,” LaViolette demonstrates her desire to not repeat the same thing over and over again. This focus on variety is not accidental. “I went into the record very open minded about the direction the album was going to head in,” LaViolette says. “I had over 20 ideas for songs to put on the record. I like to play a lot of styles, and I like variety when I listen to records, so we decided to be eclectic while still having some unifying concepts, such as my voice and the way I sing, and a strong piano presence on every track.”

LaViolette’s roots are deep in classical music—she has a master’s degree in classical piano performance—but she has also immersed herself in jazz standards, folk songs, soul, pop and gospel music. All these influences give her songs a musical vibe that is simultaneously vintage and current, and help to give her album a variety of moods and feelings for listeners to enjoy.

Ghosts Like Us

The newly launched band Ghosts Like Us is a genre busting acoustic-electric group with one foot in retro-soul and the other in indie rock. The band is the brain child of song writing duo Matthew Gailey and Peter Lance. They formed the group after collaborating on Matthew's 2012 debut EP "Beast in Babylon".

Rounded out by local drummer Charles Neal and bassist Sam Hallam, a recent transplant from England, the band is a mix of modern sounds and retro 60's rock (think Black Keys meets Adele) with soulful lyrics by Matthew Gailey who's vocal range can take the form of a Jeff Buckley-esque croon to a much more aggressive R&B, soul sound reminiscent of Ceelo Green. Says China Forbes of Pink Martini "I was blown away by Matthew's voice, the minute he started to sing. He has an effortless sound."

Jane Kramer

Sometimes the title singer/songwriter conjures up the notion of coffee house background music or lyrics one could take or leave, set to acoustic guitar. With her unforgettably sweet yet hauntingly emotive voice, her intricately poetic lyrics and timeless melodies, Portland, Oregon-based, (long-time North Carolina-dwelling) artist Jane Kramer brings a fresh and distinctive take on the genre. Her soulful songs, drawing deeply from the roots of American folk tradition, are compelling stories—raw and honest—that are powerfully intimate and stay with you. In love with words and with an arsenal of fraying notebooks full of poetry and melodies in her head, Jane wrote her first song at age seventeen and recorded her first full-length demo of 16 original songs at age nineteen. “I have always been fascinated with and deeply affected by the beauty and the heartbreak of our human experience,” Jane explains. “My songs are about living and loving in a complicated world as an imperfect being. I feel like I’ve succeeded if I can make a very personal experience translate as universally relateable.”

Jane was deeply influenced by the unforgettable voices and stylistic grace of such artists as Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Patty Griffin, Natalie Merchant, Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris. She also credits her grandfather, David Madison, a violin prodigy and first chair violinist in the Philadelphia Orchestra for 51 years as a driving force in her musical upbringing. Although he passed away when Jane was only twelve, she firmly remembers “…the powerful dedication, conviction and humility behind his playing; the way he’d call his violin his ‘fiddle’ even though he performed in a tuxedo with the orchestra and played Handel and Beethoven, and the way he built his life on and through music, with reverence and sacrifice, much discipline and great joy.” Jane channeled these influences and became her own best music teacher. One time hearing her chill-inducing, signature yodel-like flick between her lower register and bell-like falsetto will make you a believer. “I taught myself to do that listening to a very careful combination of Hank Williams Senior, Patsy Cline and Sinead O’Conner at around 16 years old,” she explains.

Born in Valley Forge, PA in 1980 to a musically inclined family, Jane will tell you very frankly “I’ve never had a singing lesson, but can’t remember back to a time when I wasn’t singing.” Jane’s mother Debbie sang to her constantly as a child. According to Jane, “Even though she, too, was completely untrained, she has such a sweet voice and a perfect ear. She can spontaneously harmonize with any tune she hears and taught me to sing harmonies by ear, listening to Bob Dylan and the Everly Brothers when she drove me to school every morning. She would challenge me to sing something other than the melody—like the instrumental parts or to harmonize over-top her harmony. It was the best music class ever.” Always in a hurry to catch up to her older sister Carrie who played the piano when they were young girls, Jane trained her ear by sitting down to pick out melodies on the keys with her right hand, and used her left hand to find and play the harmonies. In much the same way, she easily picked up the silver flute, taught herself to read music and played in a youth chamber ensemble. Jane’s father, David, a classically trained guitarist, always found time to practice guitar late at night after grueling days at the office, and gave Jane her first guitar at age seventeen along with showing her a few basic chord structures. Jane remarks that his reverence for and dedication to the music he plays continues to be deeply inspiring to her. While he may not be hitting the road with her any time soon, Jane insists, “He’s my favorite accompanist. We do a stellar version of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Guilty’ that I aim to record with him someday.”

Jane attended college in Asheville, NC where she earned a degree in Social Work and became a founding member, songwriter, guitarist, flautist and anchor voice of The Barrel House Mamas, a regionally beloved female folk quartet from 2003 to 2009 who were regulars on the lineup at important music festivals and venues across the southeastern US. While on the road, Jane’s angelic voice and memorable songs garnered her attention from such names as Melissa Ferrick and acclaimed songwriter and performer, Malcolm Holcombe. At just nineteen years old, Jane was playing her guitar and singing on a street corner in Provincetown Cape Cod when a captivated Melissa Ferrick approached, sat and listened to four or five songs and then asked Jane personally to open for her in a Philadelphia performance. Several years later, Malcolm Holcombe overheard Jane rehearsing a cover of his song “A Far Cry from Here” backstage at a benefit concert they were both on the bill for, and approached her asking if she’d like to sing it with him in his set that day. Jane identifies this as a defining moment in her career, saying, “He is one of my songwriting heroes, and I hadn’t even meant for him to hear me—I was just messing around. What an honor. Then we got on stage and he didn’t sing a lick—just accompanied me with his killer finger-style guitar and I sang the whole tune. It was surreal and beautiful.”

Jane moved to Portland, Oregon two years ago, where she has been writing, performing and recording. Her debut solo release, Break and Bloom, recorded and engineered at New North Sound and mastered by Sound Lab Studios in Asheville, NC, was released on July 26, 2013, (an accompanying music video for a track on the album, “The Devil Don’t Want" was released on May 3rd). The album is comprised of ten original songs and one cover—the riveting gospel tune, “How Far am I from Canaan”, and includes the sultry, summer night longing of classic country-influenced “Georgia” (accented with David Jacobs-Strain’s dead-on slide guitar), as well as the spectacularly heartbreaking piano ballad “The Devil Don’t Want”. The redemptive, bittersweet and rebellious post-breakup anthem “Nobody’s Woman Tonight” will have everyone who has ever lost a love singing it’s refrain. In “Mourning Dove”, Jane reflects on a close friend’s suicide; a raw and moving re-interpretation of a song she had written for him years ago. While the songs are stylistically diverse, Jane's heartrending voice and performances tie them together into a beautiful expression of vulnerability and the heart's capacity for loss and healing.

Favoring simple, tasteful arrangements, pared-down production that allows the songs themselves and Jane’s spot-on vocals to shine, some of Portland’s most talented musicians back Jane’s beautifully unpretentious folk guitar lines. Featuring Foster Haney of Bitterroot Portland on banjo, harmonica and backing vocals, Tim Ribner of Max Ribner Band on piano, Steve Foster of De La Warr on drums and Sam Howard on upright bass, to name a few), Break and Bloom serves as a stunning debut release from this promising artist who endears herself to us early on with eloquent honesty and songs that quickly begin to feel like old companions. With a start this solid, it’s easy to picture Jane in her “famous brown boots” walking the winding dirt road to recognition as a beloved songwriter and performer in the Folk, Solo Female Artist and Americana genres.

$8 in advance • $10 day of show

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Naomi La Violette, Ghosts Like Us, Jane Kramer

Friday, November 15 · Doors 8:45 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Secret Society