High-School Journalists Review Recent Houston Releases
Last year, my kids' bands teamed up for an idea to attract younger local followers. They sent sampler CDs to the entertainment editors of about two dozen area high schools and asked them to review the music in their school newspapers.
Does a Houston school boast the next William Miller (or Lester Bangs...or Cameron Crowe?)
To prove they weren't entirely self-serving, they included a list of nearly 50 local bands the students might seek out on their own. The pitch: it's fine to write about Lady Gaga or Radiohead, but why not be the innovative and daring writer who introduces readers to the best music acts playing here at home? The kinds the cool kids in movies like Almost Famous and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist follow; the musicians they could enjoy regularly at Houston's abundance all-ages shows.
My kids never heard back from any schools last year. But, I thought I'd shamelessly jack their novel idea for my own purposes here with Rocks Off. So I asked several area high schools if they had music-loving students willing to share their thoughts on some recent albums released by local acts.
A handful of awesome, forward-thinking teachers from the Fort Bend, Houston and Katy school districts volunteered some of their best and brightest, as did St. Pius X, where my own high school journalism teacher, Mrs. Gagne, is still being an inspirational and influential force in the lives of students. Shoutout to Mrs. Gagne!
So, with many thanks to those teachers and their students, here's hoping these reviews turn some of their peers on to what's happening in local music.
Theresa Grayson is a saxophone wiz that is sure to captivate music enthusiasts, and potential fans, with the smooth, resonating sounds on her album Live 2 Love. Her desire is to "create a feeling of warmth and happiness" and that is exactly what she does for the listener.
Jazz has, in present-day, been degraded to the status of elevator music. With the power of the emotion embedded into her music, Grayson throws that discredit back in the faces of those originally discontented by jazz.
On Live 2 Love, Grayson includes covers of favorites like "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars, as well as "Natural Woman" by the soulful Aretha Franklin. Grayson reinvents and refashions these songs in such a way that they seem to evolve into something different, yet still give the listener a reason to bop along in familiarity.
The original tracks on the album set the foundation for a talented woman on her way to the top. In an industry dominated by pop, the Houston-raised saxophonist paves the way to make a name for herself and her music in the contemporary instrumental genre.
Yasmeen Yahya is a senior at Clements High School. She has been co-editor-in-chief of her school magazine for two years.
It's gospel music for sure, but what makes The Jones Family Singers' music different? Well, first it's their diversification of harmonies. There are several solos on their album, but different voices combine to give the effect of a large choir with that full sound you would expect.
Not only are the voices great, but the instrumentation also has a strong presence in each song, not to mention the inspirational messages of every song. The music has the feel of a Sunday service but also the quality of a top-rated musical group.
"Made Up My Mind" is probably one of the best tracks on their album, The Spirit Speaks. It reflects the influences of various musical genres on their sound, such as jazz, the blues, along with other traditional gospel music. Another aspect of the song that stands out is the background guitars. While the bass regularly pushes the tempo and hypes the energy, the lead guitar simultaneously carries a melody that sets the tone for the entire track.
Every song on their album may sound like a different band, but it's all the work of The Jones Family Singers. However, there are some aspects of each song that leaves the band's signature, like the bass riffs and clean electric guitar, which tie all of their songs together and deliver a great sound.
Perhaps the best parts of the album are the vocal solos. There's a lot of talent in this group and it shows, and it's definitely an album that you want to give a try. Overall, The Jones Family Singers provide songs that are enjoyable anytime and for anyone.
John Johnson is a senior at St. Pius X High School and plans to join the Air Force.
Being a music nerd, listening to the Wheel Workers' newest album, Past to Present, really piqued my interest. Not only did the band produce a nice crisp sound, their witty lyrics made me want to keep listening to the next track.
This unorthodox band has managed to break away from the typical beat we hear on the radio today and created their own. The harmonies in each song give the overall album a soothing tone.
Even though the hard-rock aspect the band uses in their songs may come off as "too loud" for the quieter listeners, the smooth vocals combined bring a nice offset to the tracks. It's not your typical "rock on" band, but the intelligent lyrics will satisfy your brain.
If you are a music lover The Wheel Workers is a new band you should look into. If they keep making music like this, I will definitely become a diehard fan.
Karina Melrose is a senior at Furr High School, ready to graduate and pursue a career in law.
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