Reba McEntire, Self-Titled: Humble Beginnings

I have been a Reba McEntire fan for nearly my entire life. You can read more about that musical journey here. When I began to collect records I knew I had to have every album she had released on vinyl, but there was one little hiccup.

img_0506For the life of me, I could not find her 1977 Mercury self-titled debut. I searched everywhere from garage sales, record stores, and eBay. There is not a significant hit on this album nor did it even chart on Billboards Country Albums. I guess that means there are not many floating around.

Well, I finally found one in Oklahoma, the perfect place for one to be! We love our McEntires in the red dirt and have supported Reba since the beginning. I have now listened to it many times over and I don’t find it insignificant, but a foretelling of what was to come. This album is her humble beginnings.

Reba’s debut album takes a more traditional route compared to her later recordings. It might sound odd to some fans, but it firmly shows where her roots are planted. The album begins with the sweet, mid-tempo “Glad I waited Just For You.” I would say this is “bubblegum country” at it’s finest. One is then quickly taken into the first ballad of the album, “One to One.” This track is a highlight.

“One to One” echoes 70’s soft rock and shows Reba’s versatile vocals. Ballads are among some of my favorite Reba songs and nobody portrays pure love and pure heartbreak like she does. Although this song is not a “break-up” song, this album does give Reba much room to sing some heart-wrenching tunes.

45db73c6bd77c9326d4e8d185119a4caReba begins to show her emotional chops with songs like “I Was glad To Give My Everything to You,” “Take Your Love Away,” and a cover of Hot’s 1977 hit, “Angel in Your Arms.” One can clearly see where “For My Broken Heart,” “She Thinks His Name Was John,” and “Till You Love Me” come into play later in her career.

Sadly, this album only charted two songs, “I Don’t Want To Be A One Night Stand,” which came in at 88 on Billboards Country Singles chart, and “(There’s Nothing Like The Love) Between A Woman and A Man,” coming in at 86. Each of these songs is memorable, but not chart toppers for late 70’s country.

Lastly, two of the biggest gems are “Why Can’t He Be You” and “Invitation To The Blues.” The first was written by Hank Cochran and previously recorded by Patsy Cline. The later was written by Reba’s Oklahoma contemporary, Roger Miller. Reba’s version of “Why Can’t He Be You” is almost the exact same arrangement as Cline’s and although it still falls short of Cline’s greatness, it is remarkable. Reba’s version proves she had the performing chops in 1977 and it has shown a light to her later career. She was going to be a show stopper.

This album shows an Okie girl making it in the big music world. It’s merely her humble beginnings, just like her ones in the fields of Oklahoma. Although not considered a commercial hit, this album sets a precedent and lays a foundation for Reba’s career.

With All My Love, My Valentine’s Day Playlist

Every year I ponder a playlist of my favorite love songs for Valentine’s Day. Romance has played such a large part in my life that I have nearly gone 26 years without it. Every year I tell myself next year will be different. I’m always wrong. So below are some of the most romantic songs that I can come up with.

5. “Parasite” -Kiss

The word parasite derives from the greek word “parasitos,” which translates to “a person eating at anothers table.” One might also associate this word with leeches and malaria. I swore love was a synonym, but Webster is proving otherwise.  At any rate, we can all relate to people that may have these qualities….or scabies.

4. “Bang, Bang” -Cher

Now many may recognize this Sonny Bono penned song from either Cher’s original 1966 version or Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 cover. Anywho it just talks about two people who have literally been in love forever and one walks away. Basically, the song says it’s like a gunshot to the head. Hot damn, get me over to eHarmony right now!

3. “Thank God and Greyhound” -Roy Clark

I often think that country music explains love perfectly. Country songs touch that soft spot in my heart. In this song, by my fellow Okie Roy Clark, he really contemplates everything his lady has given him, actions like spending all his money and making him feel an inch tall. The clouded judgment love provides just sounds whimsical.

2. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” -Peter, Paul, and Mary

Most of us know this beautiful song written by the legendary Bob Dylan. This song has been covered by numerous artists, but Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version is my favorite. It’s a little ditty of love intertwined with hints of sarcasm. Who cares if somebody wastes your time? You just can’t get it back. Like I always say, you win some, you lose some.

1.” What’s Love Got To Do With It” -Tina Turner

And then there is the mother of all love songs. There are so many questions this song asks that I ask myself every morning when I look in the mirror. Questions like, “Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” This song has now become my mantra. I just can’t help but think about how big of a “screw you” this song was to Ike Turner, signed with all Tina’s love of course.

Well folks, this is my 2017 Valentine’s day playlist. I hope it has filled you with joy and hope. Remember, it’s when your not looking that you will find that one special person….so keep your eyes open for there are a lot of parasites in this world that look like guns that need to take a greyhound far away from you. Don’t think twice about it, love has nothing to do with it.

With all my love, Gabe

Leslie Becker: More Than You Think You’ve Got, A Concert Review

I discovered Leslie Becker‘s music last year. Initially, I became hooked on her hit “Slow Burn” and then “Confidential.” I proceeded to visit her Soundcloud and listen to her wide array of songs from pop and country to musical theater. As an added bonus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she had written many of these compositions.

img_0378Although I have listened to her songs many times over, I have never seen her live until last Monday. I thought I had a firm grasp on her as an artist and performer and understood the culture she created through her music. I was wrong.

Becker performed at the W Hotel in Times Square. It was a double-header of sorts, for she was going to do a pop-up show at 7:00 strictly with her pop material and then an acoustic set was to begin at 7:30.

The 7:00 pop show was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Becker’s performance. I was mostly familiar with these tunes (“Slow Burn” and “Confidential”). She did not disappoint as her voice permeated the Living Room at the W. It may have been in a small venue, but she performed like it was Madison Square Garden.

Any music fan would have been completely satisfied with the first set, but the second set was really where Becker pushed her music into a new dimension. She started out with some of her more upbeat country songs, “Boy Toy” and “Marlboro Man.” These were great, but when she went into the country ballad “You Blues” I swear I felt my ears move.

fullsizerender-4

Photos by Liz Maney

“You Blues” is a beautiful country ballad that you could easily hear classic country stars like The Judds, Vince Gill, or Reba McEntire belting. This song enveloped the true essence of country music and put a lot of the new and “bro” country to shame.

Becker then went into a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons.” This was an ironic part of the show for Becker works with Joe Vulpis, the producer credited for giving Lady Gaga her start in the music industry. Her vocals commanded the lyrics in such a way I almost forgot Becker wasn’t the original artist! She performed this as a duet with Alex Ortega.

The most touching part of the evening was Becker’s homage to her late mother. She explained how her mom had passed away last year unexpectedly. Although her mother passed, she still gave her one more gift. This gift was the song “Love and Such,” a balladesque song with an iron bite.

She closed out the show with more of her country compositions that were reminiscent of true country music and the foundations of rockabilly. She sang a duet with Catherine Porter entitled, “I Cried.” This song was just another that proves Becker just “gets” music.

That evening she also introduced her new single “More Than All You’ve Got.” This song is dance worthy and has a “clapable” beat, but it also gave me a thought on what seeing Becker live is to music listeners. For to truly grasp the artistry of Becker, you must see her live. Becker radiates on recordings, but she dominates the stage. Recordings and video do not give her justice. I’m not discounting her records, they are fashioned to perfection, but they only show one facade of this performer.

As a music fan, she is more than you think you’ve got.

 

Sturgill Simpson, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth:” A Universal Heart

I have let Sturgill Simpson fall through the cracks these last few years. I’m not sure if I need to get out more, or if I get out too much. Do I have too much music or not enough?

When they announced the Grammy nominations for Album of The Year I was taken aback by his nomination, mostly for the pure fact that I did not know much about him. I have listened to Adele’s 25 and Beyoncé’s Lemonade and know each of these albums like the back of my hand. These records are some of the most innovative pieces of popular music we have today. So for Simpson to be ranked amongst these solid albums, I knew something had to be up. Little did I know he was the answer I had been looking for.

img_0334Over the past few years, I have grown increasingly aggravated and perturbed with modern country music. I am not a country music purist, but today’s country is anything but innovative or even remotely country in style. This new wave of “Bro Country” with the likes of Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Florida Georgia Line sickens me to my stomach. It’s not that I think these artists aren’t talented. I just believe they are leading country into oblivion and undermining its significance and meaning to our culture. Since having these revelations, I have naturally stopped buying many records that are deemed “Country.”

That could be a large reason why I overlooked Simpson, yet he is the exact opposite. I have always said that country is the “white man’s” soul. This isn’t a racist comment, I am simply speaking of the song stylings that have come out of each race. Both genres have themes that traverse the strands of race. Although, soul has taken leaps and bounds and continues to do so into new territory. Country has largely remained stagnant in recent years.

Simpson has taken country and pushed it forward with his album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. The album flows like one continuous song while each composition retains its own identity. It’s a concept album, something we don’t see often in country music, and most importantly, its innovative.

One must understand the concept to understand the album. This is a letter to Simpson’s son that he wrote while on the road from the viewpoint of a sailor never knowing if he was going to come home.

This album opens with “Welcome to The Earth (Pollywog).” Simpson directly speaks to his son during a piano melody reminiscent of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” As the song progresses the classical piano stylings begin to intertwine themselves with a string section, and one of my favorite instruments, a steel guitar. The song then goes into a “breakdown” if you will. The song’s tempo speeds up while a soul and big band horn section begin to reconfigure this piece.

Wait, that was just track 1?

This style glides into the easy tones of “Breakers Roar”, before entering into “Keep It Between the Lines.” “Lines” takes on a new identity by turning country into retro-funk with the same kick ass horn section and steel guitar. This song is a father telling his son what mistakes not to make. “It don’t have to be like father like son,” Simpson sings.

Then we come to “Sea Stories.” These are the great stories our fathers and grandfathers tell us that we take for granted. This song has elements of modern rockabilly mixed into the mix of what I’ve already listed. In many ways, this song reminded me of my Grandpa and watching his old slides from when he was in Korea.

Oddly, Simpson then covers Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” I was reading where he said this song made an impact on him during his younger teenage years and how he admired the message of how society’s preconceived notions of being a man aren’t always (if ever) correct. He takes this song and turns it on its head. Nirvana’s style is still distinct, but the song has a new outfit.

sturgill-simpson1_custom-1fc997fa740562b360de811454a0f507463b4e9b-s900-c85

Sturgill Simpson- NPR

Side two opens with “Brace for Impact (Live a Little).” This was the lead single off the album. It is the album’s most commercial song, but it is in no way conventional. Next, the album turns to “All Around You.” The message this song sends is a message that transcends time. It reminds me of a prom from the 1950’s. It has a doo-wap style mixed with honky-tonk piano. Beyond the music though there is a simple fact. Underneath the pains of this world, there is a “universal heart” that beats in all of us. It is “All Around You.” This ode reminds me of the injustices that are still struck upon races, religions, and other’s ways of life. It made me think of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Although we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go.

The album closes with “Call to Arms.” This song is one of the most relevant songs I have heard when it comes to our generation. It is a snapshot of our world in 2017.  It talks about wars, bombs, egos, the survival of identity, and the countless distractions we experience every day, but don’t notice. This song defines us and serves as a wake-up call. As a society of immensely different people, with a universal heart built inside each of us, we cannot let the “bullshit” the big guys are shoving down our throats stand. This is 2017’s “Mississippi Goddamn.”

Throughout all the musical stylings though there is one thing that remains constant and it is the driving factor of why this album remains country. Simpson’s vocals are a conglomerate of some of the greatest country musicians including Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and Dwight Yoakam. He is a less raspy Chris Stapleton and creates a distinct path through his vocal stylings. They’re real and heartfelt. They speak truth. They are country.

This album is quickly making its impact on my life and is becoming one of my favorites. It’s an album that has frozen a moment of my life I will be able to revisit every time I hear the shores roar. Sturgill Simpson is exactly what country music needs, but in larger respect, his innovative musical stylings is what a lot of modern-day music is lacking. Art must keep forming and changing. Art has a responsibility to reflect its time and often the time’s injustices. It’s our responsibility to teach the next generation where to go and what not to attempt.

Although this album is directed straight to Simpson’s son, its messages capture society. He shows through the album’s stylings that not only do humans have a universal heart, but music does as well. This is essential to remember for music defines generations.

 

These are The Things I Lean On: A Musical Journey

I have loved music for a very long time now. As I have grown older, I am able to look back on music and artists and pinpoint exactly how they have impacted my life. Some of these impacts are very profound. I wrote an article over Reba McEntire and what she meant to my mom and me. She made an impact on our relationship through one of our families’ hardest times. You can read that story here.

wynonnajuddWell there must be something about country music superstars with red hair. Their art seems to consistently hold a special place in my heart.

To begin this story, I must preface it with a simple fact. I have listened to a lot of music in my 26 years on earth. I literally have 100’s of favorite songs and many favorite albums. I once heard that If you can pick out one favorite song and one favorite album, you must really have your life together. I’m far from complete.

Although I cannot choose my favorite song, I can tell you which song was my first favorite. That song was “Tell Me Why” by Wynonna Judd in 1993. It is close to being my first memory. I literally sang this song in my car seat.

fullsizerender-3

Happy days at Grandma and Grandpas.

My dad was a country music DJ and my mom was a teacher. Life was perfect. I loved both my parents with all my heart and felt lucky to have this family. My dad brought home a promotional poster the radio station had received in the mail of Wynonna. This was also the very first time my mom had to deal with what has now been my numerous musical binges.

Then in two short years, my parents filed for divorce. My dad moved out. My mom cried. I attempted to put together parts of a heart that had not even formed.

As time progressed, my relationship with my dad became strained. A bridge of healing has now been built-in its place, but there will always be hurt. Love built that bridge. There were many years where we went without seeing each other but once or twice a year. It was a complicated time, but one I am glad to say I have now taken ownership of in my life.

Every time I would talk to my dad, I always took an interest in his career. It’s still a dream of mine to work in the music industry and he was the closest person I knew! I don’t remember a lot from these conversations. We often didn’t have much to talk about and I tended to default to music. My dad and I did not always have the same musical taste, but we always had one favorite artist in common: Wynonna and The Judds  When we talked music, everything was at peace.

One day my dad told me about a radio conference in Nashville with many other stations and musical artists. It was professional environment, so it was not polite or proper to ask for pictures or autographs.

img_7479As the story goes, he found himself in a room with Wynonna. He told her I was a big fan and he showed Wynonna a picture of me from his wallet. She then turned to a staff member and asked if they had a picture and a piece of paper she could write on. Ms. Judd took it upon herself to sign a picture for me and wrote a small note. To say I was excited would be an understatement.

Of course this made me an even bigger fan. I asked my dad if I could write her back, because I was convinced he had all her personal contact information.

Fast forward to when I was 11. I was in the seventh grade and my relationship with my dad had not strengthened at all. During this year my grandpa, his father, was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis was terminal.

My dad took me up to northeast Oklahoma to spend time with my Grandpa and to tell him goodbye. I didn’t understand the severity of the situation and I was convinced that if I prayed enough Grandpa would heal. Prayer does heal, but when the Lord decides He wants one of our loved ones to be with Him we have to accept His choice.

41pwtcpmzvlOn the way up the turnpike, I had brought along a few CD’s with me to listen to in the car. One of these CD’s was Wynonna’s A New Day Dawning. I love this album. We listened to the entire album, and our favorite song was “Tuff Enough.” I still remember watching the Oklahoma countryside and listening to this album.

Throughout the following years, I continued to collect all of Wynonna’s recordings. I still remember buying What the World Needs Now from the local K-Mart. Are those still open?

In 2012 Wynonna had a concert booked in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I immediately called my mom and told her we were going. This concert was right before Wynonna and Cactus Moser got married. My mom and I had an absolute blast. We had great floor seats and beyond Wynonna’s near perfect live vocals, we were rolling on the floor in laughter. A person in the crowd heckled Wynonna about going and toilet papering Garth Brooks’ home. He lived in Owasso, OK, at that time, which is around the corner from Tulsa. Wynonna had a difficult time pronouncing “O-Wa-So,” but she assured us “Wy-No-Na” understood. My mom and I still talk about this concert today.

Two years later, Wynonna was making another stop in Oklahoma. This time she was in Shawnee, which was just around 45 minutes from where I lived. I followed Wynonna on every social media site and knew they were doing Wynonna trivia contests to win meet and greet passes. Well I got the answer correct and I exclaimed in the middle of work “Boom, guess who is going to meet Wynonna?”

fullsizerender-2After all these years, I couldn’t believe I was going to meet Wynonna. What was I going to say? This became an issue, but amidst my anxiety the day came. All of us who had meet and greet passes gathered in a tent beside the stage (the concert was outdoors). Then Wynonna walked around the corner. I had always thought Wynonna was pretty, but pictures don’t do her justice! She had a larger than life personality and image. Wynonna friggin’ Judd was in the room.

I waited patiently and I finally had my turn. Anybody who has been in a meet and greet line knows how quickly they flow. You maybe get 10 seconds to say what you want, get a picture, and move on. To be completely honest with you, I don’t remember the exact moment I spoke to her. I just told her I had been a lifelong fan and in her usual wit she asked, “Well how old are you now?” I told her I was 24 (at that time), and she just said “Oh Lord” or something along those lines.

I met Wynonna Judd. Lets end this anecdote here, because words don’t adequately express meeting a musician that has impacted your life through their music in such a profound way. To say I was star struck would be an understatement. Looking back, I wish I had just told her thank you.

fullsizerenderFast forward a few more years and Wynonna was again returning to Oklahoma. She was coming to Hinton, which also happened to be around an hour away from me. So I was going to buy tickets, that was a no brainer. Now by this time I had come across many of The Judd’s vinyl albums. My favorite cover is Rockin’ With The Rhythm. I remembered Wynonna often signed things people would bring to her on the stage. Now I wanted a record signed. Right during the break of a song, I ran to the stage and handed her the album. She looked at me, smiled, and signed my record.

I am now a Wynonna concert veteran, but I must warn you, when you see her live she will ruin other concerts. I have been to many shows and I have never seen anybody connect with their audience like her. She talks to people in the crowd directly. She cracks jokes with the crowd. She tells stories from her life and career. She plays the drums. She is a true performer. I call this the Wynonna effect, because nobody can quite connect to an audience like Wynonna. If you have a chance to see her, do it!! If she is within an hour of you, go and go every time! Each time she is spectacular and you’ll never see the same concert twice.

img_1341

My ever growing Wynonna and The Judds vinyl collection.

Now we arrive at the beginning of 2017. I’m still a vigilant fan and have written about her many times. Today, as I have come to learn Wynonna’s story, I have also found inspiration through her strength and perseverance through her life. She reminds me of my mom, which in my world, is the highest honor I can give anyone.

Oddly enough, throughout all my years of listening to Wynonna, my most profound experience with her music was in 2016. Earlier in the post, I mentioned that my parents divorced. My world was in shambles and my little mind could not make sense of the situation, but there were always two constant people in my life. They stood like stone pillars. I call them Grandma and Grandpa.

Last May one of those pillars took a new heavenly form and went to live with the Lord, my Grandpa. He was 88 years old and lived an amazing life. My family had recently moved him and my Grandma to a nursing home for rehab. Grandpa had just suffered a medium rate stroke and a minor heart attack. He needed a little extra care to get him back where he could live in assisted living again. The nursing home was going to be temporary.

13131669_10206162258042299_8352262274911169713_o

Grandpa and I.

Shortly after, my Grandpa became sick once more and he had to go to the hospital. This time they told us he wasn’t going to make it much longer and they called in hospice. He was placed on a ventilator and I rushed to the hospital. I sat and held his hand. As I looked him in the eyes I began to sing…”Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good ol’days.”

I didn’t know all the words to the song and I googled them. Every verse fit him. That song remained in my head all day. As they were making plans to send him back to the nursing home, I went to my house, which was about an hour away, to get some clothes and things to stay with Grandpa through his final days. God had different plans and within those two hours Grandpa met Jesus.

My mom then went home to southern Oklahoma to begin planning the funeral. I went home a few days later to be her support. We went to the funeral home and we were going to have a picture video made of Grandpa. There was a full section over just his grandkids. The funeral home asked us what song we wanted to play. I told my mom that we had to play The Judds’ song, “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Old Days)” and we did. I now think about him every time I hear that song and it has become another one of my favorites.

Music is more than just art. Artists are more than just talent. When you become a fan of a particular artist, they become a companion to you. The records are there for you through thick and thin and are always ready for a spin.

As these artists become your companion, they begin to hold a special place in your heart. Wynonna and her music has been there for me my entire life. Her songs remind me of the happiest moments in my life and they provide comfort for me at my lows.

15799884_10207966773034046_7234734989831879843_o

Grandma in 1947.

Today, not even a year after my Grandpa’s passing, I moved to New York to pursue a job opportunity. I miss my Grandma terribly and wish I could be with her, but I know she wants me to pursue what makes me happy. She has stood as solid as ever through Grandpa’s passing. She struggles, but I have never seen strength portrayed the way my Grandma has these past 6 months. She is truly the most beautiful person I know.

And remember when I said there was just something about red heads I liked. My grandma has red hair.

Thank you, Wy, for everything. I’ll catch you on the next tweet.

An Accomplished Fire: Leslie Becker

Vinyl and its sound is a culture. As I have gone through collecting vinyl and the many artists that have albums, I have noticed that only certain voices are deserving of this medium.

slowburncoverfrontThis medium only does justice to true performers and musicians. Vinyl has depth and soul that reads artists correctly. Some musicians today haven’t been pressed on vinyl, but are truly deserving of this vinyl culture. One of these artists is Leslie Becker.

On the surface, Becker is a theater extraordinaire. She has a vast resume in musical theater playing roles that are accolades just to play. Once one digs deeper into her career, they quickly discover her songwriting and her many recordings. This performer’s talent does not stop when the spotlight is off. I recently had the chance to sit down with Leslie Becker in New York City to talk about her work and her vast array of talents.

From the moment we sat down, I was taken aback by the warmth of Becker’s personality and her genuine sincerity. I had to begin talking about one of her latest accomplishments, her song “Slow Burn.”

“Slow Burn” is currently sitting at around 20,000 spins and charted at number 4 on Billboards Hot Adult Contemporary chart. It’s video, which I have included at the end of this post, is also under the Grammy’s consideration for best music video. This song was solely written by Becker and produced by Joe Vulpis of AP Music, who is well-known for kick starting Lady Gaga‘s career and his large array of work in the music industry.

Ironically, Becker says that she originally wrote “Slow Burn” for another artist. But when she cut the scratch vocal for the demo, Vulpis was blown away and they decided to make it her debut radio single. She largely credits this song’s appeal to letting her be herself. This seems to be her success factor in many of her musical ventures, and its true vessel is writing.

Becker is an accomplished songwriter whose compositions go across pop, cabaret, musical theater, and country. She often wrote for other artists in the earlier stages of her career and recorded many scratch vocals on her material. It wasn’t long though until somebody noticed that she was not just a scratch vocalist. Her love for songwriting largely opened up through country music.

img_1546Many of her songs can be heard on SoundCloud, but one must brace themselves before they dive in to this musical playground. You will continually be aghast at the range her lyrics and voice can reach. Just when you think you have her figured out, she throws a wrench into the production. Leslie doesn’t fix things that aren’t broken, she just tweaks them to near musical perfection.

Her writing does not stop at just composing music. She is also a librettist with her first show, A Proper Place, opening in Seattle, Washington next year. There isn’t much in the music and theater field that Becker hasn’t ventured into.

What sticks out to me above everything else is Ms. Becker’s voice. It is a unique blend of warm tones, with pop personality loaded with emotion. Just like her song writing, her voice effortlessly goes over musical genres and finds its niche in each. Her voice can easily morph into many characters and embody the complete emotion of her new alter ego. At one moment she can sing a song of heartbreak while moving into a song of new-found love.

Leslie Becker produces competent pop music through her multi-faceted voice and pristine song interpretation. She is pretty much Judy Garland mixed with Lady Gaga.

This is why Leslie Becker’s belongs within the vinyl culture. Vinyl culture isn’t about just having your material pressed on vinyl, it’s about possessing the talent that shoots straight for the soul. This talent does require pomp and circumstance. It’s a vocalist who is just at home at the piano as well as with a dance tune.

Leslie Becker’s career is going to continue to burn with the flame getting hotter. Right now, she has barely scorched listeners with her talent. Her voice and career is moving into a full-blown fire.

Don’t forget to follow Leslie Becker on Twitter at

Check out Leslie Becker and other AP artists on December 20th at the AP music showcase. She will be performing her hit song “Slow Burn” along with others.

Click here to buy your tickets.

My Love Letter to Kristin Chenoweth: A Review

Dear Miss Kristin Chenoweth,

Many years ago in my wonderful years of adolescence, you made me love you. I have to admit though, I did want to do it. My friend introduced me to you through the Wicked soundtrack. You see I wasn’t much in to Broadway yet, for I was still a little Oklahoma country boy.

That’s something we have in common. We are both from Oklahoma. Dare I say “Thunder Up?”

img_3512Well since then I have collected all of your albums and watched many of your TV appearances. Now it’s hard to fully keep up with Broadway when you can’t make it to NYC regularly, but I tried my best. I guess you could say you were always on my mind….or was I losing my mind?

Any hoo, last Sunday, I was able to see your one woman show My Love Letter to Broadway. It was a dream to see such a historic event and to finally see you solely in your own show. I now live close to NYC. Once you announced this engagement my heart-strings went zing and my credit card bill went up.

The show was simply brilliant. My skin was crawling in anticipation. I even arrived at the theater an hour before the doors opened! You then went straight into your humorous and well thought out “You Made Me Love.” Your version captured the child like essence Judy Garland gave it in the 1930’s, yet you gave it a seasoned entertainers flair and made the song your own, with many humorous stops along the way.

And I agree. You should have been Miss Oklahoma and 60 minutes is a good amount of time.

You then gave us Glinda around the world with “Popular.” What a great concept to give this song new breath! You sounded just like you did on the soundtrack 10 years ago. Do you age? It doesn’t sound or look like it.

 

The songs that brought you into a character really showed what a skilled actress you are. Your renditions of “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three” and “I’m Tired” from two distinctly different plays was very amusing and showcased your talent. Is there a role you can’t play?

Now I have to mention your version of “Bring Him Home” here. This song can not do wrong in your hands. I simply offer my applause.

Kristin Chenoweth performing during the Opening Night of Kristin Chenoweth - 'My Love Letter To Broadway' at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 2, 2016 in New York City.

Kristin Chenoweth performing during the Opening Night of Kristin Chenoweth – ‘My Love Letter To Broadway’ at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 2, 2016 in New York City. Courtesy of EW.com

When you sang “A House is Not A Home,” my heart sank. It was the most emotional version of that song I have ever heard. That song holds a very special place for me. This was another ode to you as an actress and pristine song interpreter. You didn’t sing that song in front of an audience, you lived it.

 

It is very hard to pick out a favorite number from the evening, but I truly loved “Upon This Rock.” Thank you for standing up for your faith while accepting others. I’m not sure if I have had that many goose bumps during a song ever. I didn’t listen to that song, I experienced it, and felt His spirit there with us right there on Broadway.

Lastly, I have to say that when I arrived at the theater I was pretty lonely. I don’t have a ton of friends in New York yet, so I came to the show alone. Although, you quickly obliterated that feeling with a “Big Gulp” and that hint of twang only us Okie’s can hear. I felt like you had transported me back home, especially through your song “Fifty Years,” which was a beautiful tribute to your parents. Through your many mentions of the heartland, I could feel the red dirt beneath my feet.

Thank you for an amazing show full of depth, humor, and quality.

Thank you for taking me back to Oklahoma right here in New York.

Thank you for giving your all on stage and leaving nothing.

I simply couldn’t be happier.

Sincerely, your loyal fan and fellow Okie,

Gabe

P.S. Yes, us straight men did enjoy the view from the mezzanine.