There is an old axiom coined by either Frank Zappa or Elvis Costello that goes, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." I believe that saying to be true but mine is a powerful ego (a curse) so I'm going to start the dance & trot out some thoughts for the masses to devour.
Writing about music falls under the overarching umbrella of arguing over aesthetics. Books and books have been published by brilliant philosophers over the years but despite these volumes over the past centuries there are no absolutes when it comes to the subjective valuations of music, literature, paintings, architecture or defining beauty.
To date no music writer has dared to declare how they formulate their opinions. So now is the time to document my criteria for ranking songs, song writers, artists and the methodology goes as follows:
1. Degree of infection - After you hear the song can you hum the song again and again, does the bloody song stick in your brain ?
2. Degree of originality - Is the artist doing something hyper-creative, disruptive or transformative versus delivering a derived sound?
3. Quality of lyrics - Is the artist saying something new? changing the narrative? or just so damn clever that it leaves you scratching your head? Do the words provoke a new paradigm or strike newfangled nerves in your spine or soul so you weep at best or stoke nerves that were previously dormant? Is their use of rhyme, rhythm and repetition masterful vs formulaic and boring.
This Wednesday night at Lost Lake I am honored to make the following invite. You should go out and listen to Denver's most under-rated singer / songwriter. Her name is Deva Yoder. Musicians hate comparisons but when you watch her sing and listen to her band it leaves you wondering. Is she vintage folk, modern americana or doing something new? I think it's the latter.
Her voice has the vocal clarity of Karen Carpenter but with a different texture. Her song writing is something you could have heard in the 1960's Beat Poet era. But fast forwarding through the decades since then I would say she and her band sound like a hybrid of Joni Mitchell , Shawn Colvin , Fleetwood Mac and Kacey Musgraves. Deva sites "Over the Rhine" as an influence and I hear that working in her sound. Her genre is contemporary folk. She can rock it when necessary but is also brave enough to go hush at times which is a very tough skill to master. Her vocals are solid and so are her tunes. She has one album released and another due out in early 2020.
My only criticism is that she is so unassuming but this is really a compliment.
I believe it's better to be a good citizen vs some distant celebrity. She is a mom full time and also has some interesting gigs such as working in her brother's restaurant (Meadowlark Kitchen) and selling Rick Simpson Oil for cancer patients. I'm predicting with proper coaching surrounding marketing, a publicist, a booking agent and a stroke of good fortune this part time musician will reach a new level of appreciation and her career will explode in a good way. She has already achieved the impossible which is being talented. Those tertiary / ancillary things I listed above, namely publicity and catching a break will manifest later in 2020.
Moreover, her band is astounding. Her husband drums and is rock solid with profound sensibilities & proper dynamics. When I saw her last a woman named Samantha filled in on bass (exceptional and she understood her role, nothing busy but had a nice round & warm tone.) Nat Nelson is a brilliant utility guitarist that understands Yoder's aesthetic. He knows how to play counter melodies vs stomping on the melody line and plays glorious licks. Genevieve Nelson (aka "I'm not just Nat's wife") plays electric piano which compliments the songs. Meanwhile she provides supporting and harmony vocals. Being in clubs where stage sound is often unreliable I give Genevieve props for hitting the correct harmony notes, this only comes with having a good ear and synching up with Deva's voice. Their vocal blend works. This band rehearses which indicates there's a work ethic and none of this nonsense or bullshit of using iPhones for drum beats.
The Nelson's also have a band named "Vatican Vamps" (great name) but more importantly are expecting their first baby soon. I told them after their last show, everyone will give you parenting advice - Don't Listen to any of it. We wish them the best with the pending little one's birth and there is some urgency here. You might not get to see this lineup as new parents become slaves (& rightly so) to their precious infants post birth. Speaking of being born, to experience feelings of renewal, check out Deva Yoder.
I want everyone to attend her upcoming show Wed Dec. 11 at Lost Lake Lounge in Denver. Deva also opens for co founder of Drive by Truckers, Patterson Hood Dec 18th at Globe Hall. Music starts at 8pm.
video shot at The Walnut Room & HiDive