The Cherry Bluestorms were born of a need to do something more—to do something different. Singer-songwriter/guitarist Deborah Gee met ex-Dickies guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Glen Laughlin in a coffeehouse. The talented twosome quickly discovered they shared a love for 1960’s “guitar-based melodic rock.”
They formed a partnership. Soon they were busy writing material and recruiting Ryan Brown as drummer. With Gee on vocals and percussion and Laughlin on guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals, The Cherry Bluestorms was complete. They were spotted by a promoter at their first live gig and were quickly performing in several of “their hometown Hollywood haunts”, Canada and even the UK’s famous Cavern, birthplace of The Beatles.
The band headed into the studio to record their debut disc Transit of Venus. The end result is a ten-track album on the Roundhouse label which effectively introduces any audience to the group’s ‘60’s-inspired signature sound. The album opener is a memorable cover of The Beatles’ classic cut “Baby, You’re a Rich Man”. Here they revamp the vocal line and harmonies of one of their obvious influences to produce something more their own.
The second selection is the rockin’ “Daisy Chain”. This is the first example of Laughlin’s songwriting skills. It is like much of the music here, both foreign and familiar, both enticing and accessible. Their signature sound is already firmly implanted.
Gee’s vocals, reminiscent of The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, are perhaps at their best on “Just A Kiss Away”. This one takes the “Critic’s Choice”. It’s an edgy remake of a song from Gee’s solo album Portal. It’s got some nice guitar riffs and is both effective and seductive with vocals that easily draw the listener into the song.
“Here” follows here. This cut is a Laughlin composition and a simmering love song of sorts. It contains some almost overpowering, memorable musical moments that are very much inspired by The Beatles and reminiscent of The Smiths.
The next number is “Her Mirror Cracked”. This, too, is a Laughlin song. It’s a faster paced piece that works well with the ballads on the work.
“While You Were Away” quickly follows. This is a noteworthy collaborative effort by Gee, Laughlin and Gallagher. Laughlin notes: “Thomas Gallagher was coincidentally Deborah’s co-writer for much of her first solo album and my assistant in my studio.” Gee’s Hynde-like vocals work incredibly well as a familiarizing force to grab the listener’s attention.
“Violent Heart” is another tune by Gee. Already included on a television program, this song is highlighted by a great organ intro that breaks out into a song about a past relationship. Indeed, regret and imperfect pairings are the stuff of which great songs are made.
(It’s a wonder more gals with guitars don’t date your randy reviewer, huh?) Gotta love lyrics like: “Desire carries no shame/But you can’t move a brick wall with your tongue”. (To paraphrase Bugs Bunny: she don’t know me very well, do she?)
“Awaken” is next here. This one opens quietly as the band lifts a lullaby to add a touch of classical music to the mix. Gee’s vocals are almost sultry here in a song that seems to cry out for a happy ending with a Prince Charming straight out of Disney.
“Fear Of Gravity” follows with an almost ominous grind. This track is a tuneful team-up of both Laughlin and Gee. The obvious 1960s influence continues here although unlike Pink Floyd the band doesn’t have a fear of flying as they freely flow through this musical metaphor.
Laughlin’s “Departure” is the album’s endnote. It’s an apropos closing cut although their departure is a bit too soon. Fans should fear not, however, as a more acoustic, alternate version of “Fear Of Gravity” is available as a free download for those who sign up at the band’s website.
Gee says the track “is a cool version”. She adds: We had Ron Wagner (Cirque de Soleil) play tablas” (and) our friend Benedict Brydern (on) violin and viola (when he was) “home on break from touring with Yanni.” Gee also added that because their debut disc was so well-received and critically praised by publications such as L.A. Weekly, Glasswerk UK, Not Lame and others, they are already putting the finishing touches on their follow-up.
“We’re . . . on the tail end of recording our second band album”. The second release, tentatively titled Bad Penny Opera, is said to be “an ambitious concept album” and is due out soon. Your rockin’ reviewer was even made privy to two new tracks from the new release: “A Better Place” and “As Above So Below”.
While these cuts could go through more treatment before the actual album hits, these are yet two more fine examples of just what the band can do and where it is going. In fact, a third track from the soon to be released CD– “A True Heart Wears A Thorny Crown”—has already been placed in a TV show. The new album even includes a new face or two as Brown departed some time after the release of the first album.
Laughlin elucidates: “We worked with some other drummers temporarily, notably Tommy Diehl, who did a fantastic job on the soon-to-be-released Bad Penny Opera and Kellii Scott (Failure/Veruca Salt/Christina Aguilera). I had worked with (current drummer) Mark Francis White previously in The Furys, but had lost touch with him. We got back in touch and after hearing Transit of Venus he asked whether we were looking for a drummer. I always loved his drumming, so it was a no-brainer.”
When questioned further about live gigs Laughlin said: “Steve Giles has been handling the ‘live’ bass chores for pretty much the entire history of the band.” Whether live or in the studio, however, one thing is certain, The Cherry Bluestorms are working hard to remind music fans to note that their brand of 1960’s inspired psyche-pop is “Just A Kiss Away”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.