Chicks With Guitars

Not a fetish. Just an appreciation.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Liz Bowater

Just five years ago, Liz Bowater was picking up a guitar for the first time. Already, she has three EPs and one full-length CD in her discography.

In high school, Bowater sang back-up for a band, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy her muse.

“I didn’t have a part in writing any of the songs,” she said. “I wanted to write songs so that I could find my own true voice.”
And so a couple of months after picking up the six-string, she began writing and performing her own material.

“I’ve written a lot of really terrible songs,” she said of the process, “but I’ve become more and more satisfied with what I’ve written in the last year or two.”

She’s also kept a steady pace of recording and releasing her material, even if it’s in short-form EPs, so that the freshest material is available for those interested.

“It’s important to keep putting out new things,” she said, “At this stage, that seems better than spending a year working on something in the studio and then not be doing those songs anymore when I play.”

Bowater’s latest EP, “Last Confession,” ventures even deeper into what she calls “the unveiling” of the human heart and soul and “our need and desire for, ultimately, redemption.”

A native of the Chicago area, Bowater recently relocated to Cincinnati, where she’s found fewer places to ply her craft, but an excellent support system of fellow musicians and singer/songwriters.

“Chicago is saturated and performers are a dime a dozen,” she said. “As soon as I got here, it was easy to establish myself, to break into the scene, but I don’t know that Cincinnati has as much to offer.”

Thursday, December 15, 2005


I got a chance to spend 20 minutes on the phone with Kasey Chambers to preview her gig at the Southgate House. Her Warner Bros. publicist set it up for me, and I stayed in the office until 7:30 p.m. so I could take her call. She was very sweet, even when I started gushing about how much I loved her. Anyway, here's the story:

By Richard O Jones

When Kasey Chambers was 3 weeks old, her father Bill took her, her mother and her older brother Nash deep into the Nullabor Plain — a vast, desolate expanse of south-central Australia — to hunt foxes and rabbits. They lived there for seven months of the year, isolated from civilization, until she was 9 years old.

“It didn’t seem odd to me at the time,” she said. “It was just the way we lived. But now that I talk to people, I realize that it’s pretty strange.”

But without the influences of the outside world, the Chambers family entertained themselves, mostly with Bill playing the guitar and the others singing along to the songs that he knew — songs by Jimmie Rogers, the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

“My dad kind of gave me the impression that everybody listened to that type of music, and he probably thought that, too,” Chambers said. “He probably didn’t think how weird it was that in the Outback of Australia we’re playing Gram Parsons albums instead of Neil Diamond albums or something. But that was such a big part of my life, and I didn’t realize until years later how much it did influence me.”

The Chambers clan moved back to “civilization” in 1986 so the children could attend school, but they were soon back on the road touring as the Dead Ringer Band. After four albums together, culminating with 1997’s “Living in the Circle,” and winning several awards – including an ARIA – the Dead Ringer Band had become one of the most popular country acts in Australia.

When she was 13 years old, Bill took her to see a Roseanne Cash concert, and her outlook on music, and indeed her entire life, changed.

“I hadn’t been to that many concerts because of our lifestyle,” she said. “But
when Lucinda Williams came on stage to open for her, I’d never heard a singer perform like that. Up until then, I thought a song was just something a singer uses. But here she was, putting her heart on her sleeve with her songs.

“At first I didn’t know whether I loved it or hated it, but before the first song was over, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Her first album, “The Captain,” was released when she was 19. “Barricades and Brick Walls” followed two years later, and last year, at age 26, she released “Wayward Angel,” the first album, she said, that really sounds like what she wants to sound like.

And a fourth album shouldn’t be too far off.

“I don’t really write that many songs,” she said. “If an album had 13 songs on it, it’s because that’s how many I had when we started making the record.

“But I’ve been spending a lot more time at home and I’ve been writing all the time, a lot more than I used to.”

Chambers’ solo career is still very much a family affair. Nash serves as her manager and has produced her three albums. Bill is her lead guitarist and mother Diane is in charge of merchandise.


PS: We went to see Kasey's show at the Southgate House and hung around later trying to get an autograph. She didn't come out, but I had a chance to talk to Bill for a minute. I asked him if fox hunting paid better than being a guitar player and he said that it paid surprisingly well back in the '70s.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


The music never stopped around the Reider household.

“There were guitars everywhere, so that’s what I know,” said singer/songwriter Katie Reider, whose father Rob was a featured vocalist on “The Bob Braun Show” in the late ’70s and ’80s.

“My mom sings, too, so growing up I didn’t understand why other families didn’t all play music together,” she said. “She’s really in heaven when we’re all in town for the holidays, when there could be four or five people playing guitar around the fireplace.

“I knew that music would be a part of my life, but I didn’t know to what extent.”

Since her first release in 1998, Reider has been recognized by the local and national recording industry, winning five Cincinnati area music awards, landing several national airing spots on the ABC television network, and independently selling over 10,000 CDs.

Music is still a family affair for her. Her dad helped produce and her brother Robbie lent additional guitar work on her fourth and latest release, “Simplicity.”

“There was never a doubt that I could make a career in music,” she said. “I watched my dad do it at a regional level and supported a family.

“Taking it to the next level is now the goal. We’ve been approached by some industry folk who are shopping us in New York City,” she said, and a recent booking at the fabled Bitter End brought landed her a February showcase.

“This is the best opportunity we’ve had yet,” she said, although it’s taken her to take a second look at her attitude toward “the business.”

“I have been so anti-big business that it’s been difficult,” Reider said. “But I’ve come to realize that if you want to do this, you have to be really lucky, really determined and have some money behind you.

“The machine doesn’t seem so terrible as long as I’m not sacrificing my integrity,” she said.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Although on her new record, “Little Fugitive,” Amy Rigby claims, ““I Don’t Want To Talk About Love No More,” that’s just about all she talks about.

Rigby began her solo career as the Mod Housewife (as in, “The Diary of”), hailed for her keen eye and sharp wit in tracing the vagaries and victories of modern romance. She was a desperate housewife before they became trendy.

Rigby co-produced the album with her longtime guitarist Jon Graboff, leading the band of players through a whirlwind two-day recording session.

“We just sat down, went over a list of songs and talked about what we were going to do, and then went in the next day and did it,” she said. “It was a great experience. Time seemed to expand and contract to allow us to do what we needed to do. I just enjoyed every minute of it.”

The result is a collection that continues to prove Rigby to be the ultimate rock girl next door – strong-willed, sharp-tongued and ready to wrestle you to the barroom floor.

Yet it also reflects the wisdom of a grown woman who has made her mark as a consummate artist, penning songs with an emotional honesty and rare incisive humor. 

Informed not only by the heart, but also Russian history and American punk rock culture, on “Little Fugitive” Rigby colors her songs with stylistic splashes that include bright folk chords to stomping rock and ’60s psychedelia.

Rigby grew up in Pittsburgh but ended up in New York for art school amidst the fertile downtown scene of the late 1970s.  She describes herself as a “casual listener” before happening upon CBGB’s, the legendary punk rock club on the Bowery.

“That was the turning point,” she said. “Suddenly, I was more actively involved with music. I was a part of a scene. And music became the motivating force in my life.”

She revisits that heady time on “Dancing With Joey Ramone.”

“It was a dream I had,” she said, “one of those dreams that felt like it was happening, like maybe it did happen. I got up and immediately wrote the song.”

As the album closes with “The Things You Leave Behind” - the first cover song Rigby has recorded, written by Patti Smith consort Lenny Kaye - one can sense Rigby’s creativity pondering new challenges beyond the series of peaks on her five solo albums. It takes but a listen to Little Fugitive to hear that it’s the work of a masterful and original musical artist in full bloom.

For the making of “Little Fugitive,” Rigby returned to New York City, where she first struck solo gold with “Diary Of A Mod Housewife.”

“It felt like home,” she explains. “Going back to New York was like putting back together the pieces of my past and wondering, who am I going be for the rest of my life?”

Monday, November 21, 2005


Singer/songwriter Anna Nalick never had another career option. Show business is in her blood.

“From the time I was a little girl I just knew I wanted to be a performer,” she recalls. “My grandparents both performed on Broadway, mainly in the chorus. My grandmother even danced with Fred Astaire. She was in the stage versions of the Marx Brothers’ 'Coconuts’ and 'Animal Crackers.’

“If it hadn’t been for their stories, I probably would have chosen something else as a career,” she said. “I learned many of the songs from those old shows from my grandmother who taught them to me when I was a kid.”

Growing up, she was also an avid reader, beginning with Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss, enamored of the way they told stories through rhyme. Around the age of 9 or 10, she began writing her own poems, then began writing new lyrics to the songs she loved.

Among them were Matchbox 20 songs, which rings of a little bit of irony since her first national tour is opening for Rob Thomas, that band’s songwriter and lead vocalist, who now gives her a lot of good-natured grief for rewriting his songs.
But around the same time, she also discovered that she could write her own melodies and began writing for a heavy metal band that performed in her high school and sang with a Rush cover band.

In addition to writing her own songs, she was developing as a live performer, singing on-stage with a Rush cover band. “I was also in a band with my best guy friend and we played hard rock songs,” she recalls, “and I had to be really angry and do a lot of screaming.

“I loved singing, but had it in my head that only little kids wanted to be rock stars,” she said, so she put off a musical career for an educaiton, but in college, she continued writing and documented her songs on a Rainbow Brite cassette tape recorder.

She gave a tape to a classmate who had parents in the music industry, which lead to an introduction to Christopher Thorn and Brad Smith, the founding members of Blind Melon now turned production team, and Eric Rosse, best known for his production work with Tori Amos.

College went on hold and her career took over. Within weeks of making a professional demo, she had label interest.

“If you want something bad enough, your dreams come to find you,” she said.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Bethany Dillon writes songs in color, with a pallette of bright greens, earthy browns and hues of deep blue.

Green, she said, “Because I see a lot of growth and brightness here, and yet there’s also a lot of restlessness, which is sometimes the result of growth.”

Brown because “I just love earthiness, musically. A lot of the songs feel like standing at the edge of a cliff and just staring out and seeing a lot of open space, a lot of freedom.”

The blue hues, she said, are “like the swirling ocean in the moonlight. They reverberate throughout the album,” which is “Imagination,” comprised entirely of songs that Dillon — a native of Bellfontaine — wrote or co-wrote.

“Imagination is the follow-up to her highly-successful 2004 eponymous debut, which featured the No. 1 single “All I Need” and earned Dillon Gospel Music Association nominations for both Female Vocalist and New Artist of the Year.

The journey also informed the songs of “Imagination,” inclulding “All That I Can Do,” a song about learning to trust, and “Dreamer,” the mythical story of a good king who gave up everything to save his people.

“God’s unearthly grace and immeasurable love for us is the heartbeat of this whole record,” Dillon said. “This is a story of hope and redemption, one that paints a brutally and beautifully honest picture of what it is really like to live by faith.”


“It’s always a challenge,” said singer/songwriter Bif Naked, “to find stimulating ways to describe heartache.

“I’ve been chasing that dragon all my life.”

The daughter of a professor of dentistry who also was a missionary and moved his family all over North America, Naked said that she’d been enrolled in arts schools all her life, always taking ballet lessons or performing in piano recitals.

She also started writing at a very early age, won a spoken poetry competition (in French) while still in elementary school, and
formed her first band at 17 years old.

When the band started trying to come up with original material, “a light bulb went on,” she said. “I can just use my poems.”
And so her quest began.

“I write all the time,” she said. “I can’t shake it. I carry notebooks with me all the time. Something will strike me and I’ll write it down and keep it for later.

“Through the years you try to hone your skills,” she said. “I love using language to convey a state of mind or an emotion.”

Her lyrical content frequently is informed by her voracious reading habits. Currently, Naked said that she is immersed in a new interpretation of the Koran, not because she subscribes to any particular religious belief, but is fascinated by theology, partly due to her father’s influence, although their beliefs don’t always harmonize.

“Religions are important because if you lose everything else, it allows the human spirit not to be broken,” she said. “I like the idea of having something to believe in, the universal force. There are parallels in all of the holy scriptures that makes me believe that all paths lead to God.

“I like them all. As a result, I hope it’s made me a calmer person. I’m not calm, but I aspire to be more calm, and faith-based readings bring me into a reality check.

“My dad gives me a really hard time, saying that we’re not allowed to cherry pick from the different religions, to just take what you like. I just look at him and say, 'Why not?’”