Claire Adams

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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Artists on Trial: Katy Guillen & The Girls

(Photo by Brandon Forrest)
They’ve only been around for about a year, and already Katy Guillen & The Girls (formerly The Katy Guillen Trio) have taken Kansas City by storm with their compelling, proficient brand of blues and rock. Guillen, along with “The Girls”—bassist Claire Adams and drummer Stephanie Williams—have big plans for the rest of 2013. They’ve released a series of singles, and they’re finalists for the 2013 KCBS Kansas City Blues Competition this Saturday at Knuckleheads. We’ll find out more about them here.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
KG & The Girls: Rock and roll, heavy blues, lots of guitar, big drums, soulful harmonies, and songs about working to survive, dreams, and people.
The Deli: Tell us about …and then there were three, the EP you're releasing. What should we expect?
KG&G: It’s more of a release of three singles and/or a taste of the band, than an official EP. Our goal is to release an album soon with these songs and more on it. They’re the first three originals of mine that we ever jammed on and made into band songs.
The Deli: Katy, you play solo and also played with Go-Go Ray in the past. How/why did you start this project with Claire and Stephanie?
KG&G: Katy: Last September, I got asked to open for the Royal Southern Brotherhood at Knuckleheads with 2 weeks’ notice, and said of course, not knowing who I would play with. I asked Stephanie and Claire if they would want to play this show, and maybe just be a band. They were stoked and we’ve been playing music together ever since. We were already good friends, and playing in Claire & The Crowded Stage together too, so the chemistry and comfort was there from the beginning.
The Deli: All three of you are members of several other bands around town. What is it about this specific project that's most rewarding to each of you?
KG&G: Stephanie: It’s the coolest!
Claire: It’s nice because it’s a small group and we communicate very well together, musically and organizationally.
Katy: I second what Claire said. It’s easy and fun.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
KG&G: Playing shows, seeing shows, and volunteering your time and music for community events and causes. It’s staying active with others, and when we support each other, we support the music.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
KG&G: Everyone in The Grisly Hand, and Julia Haile.
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
KG&G: Those Darlins, Lily Hyatt, Delta Spirit, Heartless Bastards.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
KG&G: Heartless Bastards, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Carrie Brownstein.
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why? 
KG&G: Carrie Brownstein because she rules at life, John Bonam because he rules at drums, Janis Joplin because she rules at the stage, Jimi Hendrix because he rules at the guitar. Or, Steph’s 3 dogs and Claire’s dog, because they’re loyal.
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
The Deli: What other goals do KG & The Girls have for 2013?
KG&G: Play shows, travel more, and record!
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
KG&G: Have fun, love it, and don’t turn your back on a good thing!
You can catch KG & The Girls anytime in the next few days! Tonight they’ll be at BB’s Lawnside BBQ (Facebook event page), tomorrow they’re playing a benefit for the Sherwood Foundation, and they round it out Saturday at Knuckleheads for the KCBS Blues Competition from 2-6 p.m. The winner of this round goes to Memphis in January to represent Kansas City at the International Blues Challenge. Good luck, girls!
Also, for today only, you can download the band’s three-song release on Bandcamp at this link for free, or pay what you want.

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also plays drums Drew Black & Dirty Electric and bass in Dolls on Fire and The Philistines. She likes to visit potentially dangerous or blighted areas because sometimes you find castles. 

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Album review: Claire and the Crowded Stage - Technicolor (EP)

Technicolor opens with the quirky and cleverly written “Tower of Babel,” which sets an intriguing backdrop for the EP. And two things are immediately made clear about Claire and the Crowded Stage. First, the band’s handler, Claire Adams, does not need a crowded stage to capture an audience’s attention—her voice alone will do the job. And, second, nothing about this band is superficial. Its music is a unique combination of raw emotion and refined sound. The nine-piece, coupled with Adams’s knack for songwriting and compelling vocals, radiates with talent and versatility.  

Adams’ vocals haunt the heart-wrenching “Tower of Babel” [and “Tower of Babel (minimal mix)”] as she sings: “I never lost you / You were never mine.” The strong piano, clarinet, and accordion parts make the ballad memorable and unique. The album’s title track, “Technicolor,” is perhaps the most danceable track on the EP. It carries a rolling-‘20s-esque feel—breaking out into the jitterbug certainly wouldn’t be inappropriate. “Songbird” starts slow and instrumental with an exotic sound unlike any other on the EP. About halfway through the track, however, the tempo, chords and mood change completely and the song becomes very upbeat. It’s another example of the group’s ambidextrous abilities.

Claire and the Crowded Stage is full of enduring talent that will only get better with time. This isn’t just a group of musician friends who are aimlessly plucking away on guitars or noodling around on a piano. Their sound is purposeful and polished. They weren’t thrown together by accident; this crowd was brought about to give local music a good name.
Technicolor, the group’s second EP, was released January 5. Claire and her crowded stage comprises: Claire Adams (vocals, ukulele and guitar), Katelyn Boone (bass and keys), Pete Lawless (accordion and saxaphone), Meredith McGrade (electric guitar), Katy Guillen (electric guitar), Stephanie Williams (drums), Jerod Rivers (drums), Brent Jamison (keys) and Teri Quinn (clarinet and guitar). As is par for the course of being a musician in Kansas City, several of these band members can be found hopscotching from lineup to lineup and venue to venue across the city. 
You'll be able to listen to Claire and the Crowded Stage on 90.1 KKFI next Wednesday, March 27 at 11:15 a.m. Members will be performing live on Mark Manning's weekly show, Wednesday MidDay Medley. The group will next be crowding the Coda stage on Friday, March 29 with Rev Gusto. Facebook event page here.
Here's a video from the title track, "Technicolor":
--Alex Peak

Alex Peak is a magazine designer by day and a music listener by night. To her, stumbling across great new music is even better than finding a $10 bill floating around in the laundry.


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