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New York City
Angie Stone @ The Howard Theatre
$42.50 / $50
If Angie Stone had her way, she'd sit down next to every single one of her fans and pour out her heart - and soul - to them. She'd empower them with hard-earned wisdom; lessons learned from her very own heartache and happiness, mistakes and triumphs that led her to three Grammy Award nominations, two Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards, and four Top 10 R&B albums (with her The Art of Love & War going all the way to number one). And with her new album, Rich Girl, the neo-soul songwriter has done just that, delivering a powerfully intimate collection of songs that wrap themselves around you like a warm embrace full of love and compassion, strength and wit. "I spent a lot of time over the past few years working with other people, writing with them, working with producers. And then one day I realized that while I was doing everything I could to help them succeed and watching them grow, I was losing pieces of myself in the process." she explains "I shaved a lot of my originality off when merging with so many other people. Fans weren't getting Angie Stone. They were getting Angie and so-and-so. I knew I had to get back to my own music and skills. It's time for Angie to do Angie." That journey returned Stone to her songwriting roots, determined to record an album where making great music and sharing her soul were the only things that mattered.
Lalah Hathaway @ The Howard Theatre
$52.50 / $60
An instrument embodied, timbre unmatched with words that call our most internal emotion… Lalah Hathaway’s presence is never mistaken nor forgotten. Skilled to the highest order, Hathaway’s voice possesses both power and vulnerability with a quiet resonance that fills spaces of grandeur and the hearts of many. “Lalah Hathaway is, quite simply put, the truth.” (Diriye Osman, Huffington Post) Born into musical legacy, the offspring of musicians Donny Hathaway and Eulaulah Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway’s career was never a choice: “I was always a musician” Hathaway clarifies, “there was never a moment of maybe I’ll be…” Preparations for the release of Hathaway’s debut self-titled album were firmly in motion during her final semester at Berklee College of Music, where the Chicago-native nurtured her multi-instrumental and songwriting talents. Since inception, Hathaway’s musical journey has remained devoted to education and musicianship. “I never wanted to be known as just a singer. I always wanted to be a well-rounded musician, with my voice as my primary instrument.” Proof of Hathaway’s musical prowess is evident in her work, operating as performer, musician, writer and producer. Revered by some of the greatest musicians of the last century, a myriad of collaborations and international performances signpost Hathaway’s 25-year success. A true bridge between masters of the Jazz and Soul traditions and new generations of Popular Music innovators, Lalah Hathaway has performed with greats such as Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker, Prince, Mary J. Blige, Metropole Orkest, Esperanza Spalding, David Foster, Snoop Dogg, Natalie Cole, Robert Glasper Experiment, Terri Lyne Carrington, Marcus Miller, Dianne Reeves, Dizzy Gillespie, David Sanborn, Rachelle Ferrell, Take 6, The Winans, Me'Shell NdegeOcello, Kirk Whalum, Donald Lawrence, Snarky Puppy, Christian McBride and many more. Enamoured with colour, space and the evolution of music, Hathaway’s six studio albums chronicle an emotive journey through R&B, Jazz, and Soul. The inflections of Blues, Funk, Gospel, Classical, Country, Rock and Folk cited in her work, are a reflection of this virtuoso’s versatility. With the 2014 Grammy win for Best R&B Performance fresh in mind, Hathaway describes how her career continues to rejuvenate with new beginnings and possibilities. “Throughout my career there have been points where new recognition or opportunity has emerged that inspires me in new ways.” Underscored by singing three notes at one time (a chord), the Grammy-winning performance of Hathaway’s 1991 single “Something,” recreated with Jazz collective Snarky Puppy, affirms Hathaway’s timeless relevance and documents the vast breadth of her vocal capabilities. Lalah Hathaway is, in every sense, a live performer. 2015 will bring the release of Lalah Hathaway LIVE, Hathaway’s first ever live album. Supported by her international fans and peers, Lalah Hathaway LIVE is a result of a successful internet-based crowd-funding campaign. “I wanted to make an album for the fans and with the fans. My fans constantly relay to me how the music they love on my records is taken to a whole new level when they experience it live.” Evident in her online presence and strong interaction with social media, Hathaway’s engaging, comedic personality is embraced by her fans, both new and longstanding. “The listeners are a huge part of my live performance and I want their presence to be captured and acknowledged on this album.” Whether live, recorded, televised or online, Lalah Hathaway’s incomparable skill, talent, musicianship and presence are recognised by artists and fans the world over. Like her father before her, Lalah Hathaway stands as music quality personified, optimum in every way.
Steve Byrne @ DC Improv
Suit up! Steve is a crowd favorite, bringing a positive vibe, tons of energy, and a classy looking outfit to every performance. For three seasons, he starred in “Sullivan and Son” on TBS – a show loosely built around his upbringing as an Irish-Korean American living in Pittsburgh. He has also produced three hour-long comedy specials, the latest of which debuted on Netflix in 2014.
Corey Smith @ The Hamilton Live
Tickets: $30.00 - $35.00 The way Corey Smith sees it, he owes a debt to his fans. And it's one he is determined to repay with his 10th album, While the Gettin' Is Good. The project, released on Sugar Hill Records, marks the first time that the singer-songwriter, a wildly popular touring artist who has produced all of his past efforts, has turned over the reins to a bona fide country music producer in Keith Stegall. The result is Smith's most ambitious record yet, as well as a return on the investment made by the fans who have supported him since his first album in 2003. "A lot of start-up acts are using fan-funded programs to finance their record. That's what my whole career has been: Kickstarter before Kickstarter. When my fans show up and buy a ticket and a t-shirt, they're investing in what I'm doing," says Corey. "It's my responsibility to invest it wisely and give them the best album I can. That's what led me to While the Gettin' Is Good." It's also what led him to Stegall, who has produced such radio heavyweights as Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band. It was the producer's track record, country-music experience and easy-going nature that convinced Corey that he was the man to refine his signature acoustic sound. "Keith knows how to make country records," he says, "but I wanted to make my kind of country record and he understood that immediately. He simply wanted to get us comfortable in a studio environment so we could do what we do onstage every night. For me, it was very liberating to be able to focus solely on performing and not be burdened by a lot of the decision-making and drilling down that goes into producing. It was the first time I was able to go into the studio and focus on what I do best. Keith was there to handle the rest." A collection of 12 songs, While the Gettin' Is Good was written entirely by Corey. As such, it's a deeply personal album, one that explores themes of love, hometown pride and even personal discovery. A close relative inspired one of the record's highlights, "Bend," about learning how to adapt to what life throws at you. "I wrote 'Bend' about a family member who was struggling with issues and I realized through writing this song that I was also talking about myself at the same time," says Corey, who scored a Top 20 album with The Broken Record in 2011. "So that song really hits home." Still, the album stands as the Jefferson, Georgia, native's most upbeat. Especially on the nostalgic "Pride," a bouncing look back at Corey's high school days, from pep rallies to game day. His children attend the same school he did and together they often attend high-school football games, where the one-time social studies teacher sees friendly faces from his past. "I remember sitting up in the stands going, 'Man, this is so cool.' I'm so glad we decided to stay here and let my kids be a part of this tradition," he says. "'Pride' summarizes who I am and even how my career has developed." Likewise, album opener "Don't Mind" coasts along with a New Orleans vibe, full of fiddle and clarinet. A fun, happy song, it sets the tone for the record and pays tribute to the things we all gladly bear when we're in love. It also epitomizes Corey's current worldview. "I have a 2006 truck that runs great, so I don't need a new truck. I don't have much time to get on a big lake, so I don't need a bass boat. I could have bought some really cool stuff with the money that I spent on this record, but I didn't, because I'm happy," he says. "It's a privilege to be able to do something like this, finance it myself and not have anyone telling me how my music needs to sound." Nonetheless, Corey has hit on the perfect song for today's country radio: the approachable ballad "Taking the Edge Off." It's a road-weary travelogue, like Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" or Zac Brown Band's "Colder Weather," about the loneliness of touring and how people who travel combat such feelings. "It captures a certain mood that we go through, especially in the winter. It's really a grind, it gets cold and lonely, and you're taking the edge off with a drink," he admits. "I remember being in Omaha and it was cold as hell. I worked on that tune throughout the day and night there and every time I hear it, I am transported back to that time." Now, however, Corey is focused squarely on the future. As the new album title suggests, he's ready to make a determined grab at country's brass ring while the gettin' is good. And with Keith Stegall and Sugar Hill Records behind him, the gettin' has never been better. As the perseverant Corey is fond of saying, "There is more than one way to skin a cat in country music." "I always dreamed of being able to make a record like this. I wanted to explore all the possibilities of a song and work with a producer who was among the best and who could teach me," he says. "What makes me different is that I write all these songs, and I write them from the heart. I've lived them." Which is exactly why his fans are willing to go along for the ride and invest so much in an artist who speaks to their way of life. To Corey, While the Gettin' Is Good is his way of opening up his heart, along with his wallet, and paying them back. "I'm going to take the goodwill they've given me and continually invest it into making better and better records that reflect who I am and my vision," he says. "They've entrusted me with a lot, so I'm trying to be the best steward I can be."
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