MP3 Abbe Rivers - Ordinary Fool
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10 MP3 Songs
Shake Acoustic Shake Reformist Rock
Ordinary Fool Songs
In the course of a picaresque career that has taken her through both the brightly lit thoroughfares and crowded back streets of the music biz, Abbe Rivers has been an R&B diva, a street busker, a session singer, a performance artist. On her just-released solo debut, Abbe has taken on her most compelling role yet: simply being herself.
For the Brooklyn born-and-raised Abbe, music has been a lifelong occupation. As she recently told a reporter in her adopted home of Hoboken, NJ: "I don't think I ever 'became' a musician. I've been singing since I could walk. I picked up a guitar when I was 11 and pretty much taught myself. Never thought twice about it. It what's I do. It's part of who I am."
Abbe is refreshingly forthright in conversation, and she's unabashedly emotional on record. Ordinary Fool is dreamy on the outside, with gorgeously gauzy photographs and a beautifully collaged cover. But it's ballsy on the inside, filled with raw-edged rock of a truly classic kind. Abbe's songs are often soulful, a little bit bluesy, and constantly candid, with a little bit of girl-group sweetness thrown in so the going doesn't get too heavy. Abbe admits, "My lyrics tend to be a little tortured, yet the music is often uplifting and hopeful - I guess that's the style I've developed over the years."
Ordinary Fool was produced by Abbe's longtime friend Julio Fernandez, the guitarist for veteran jazz-fusion group Spyro Gyra. Fernandez tried to give each of these tracks an in-the-moment feel, foregoing lots of overdubs to keep things as live as possible. Abbe explains, "Recording all the basic tracks live with the musicians was the most fun. Julio has always been a fan of my live performances, and he wanted to capture the essence of what I put out on stage. There's just something about being in front of a drum kit and loud electric instruments that helps me deliver a performance I probably wouldn't get standing alone in a vocal booth. We would turn the lights down and play the make out of the material and I would just wail. There's a joy and energy in that approach that would be hard to duplicate in any other way."
Joining Julio and Abbe in the studio was Spyro Gyra drummer Joel Rosenblatt, whose Yonkers, NY studio they used. Joel also served as an assistant producer. Say Abbe, "It was truly an honor to have everyone involved with the project be so into it. That's the ultimate compliment: when people who you respect and admire get into your stuff. And it's their human element that gets my adrenaline going and makes me give that much more. For example, we had a great time with 'Living Without You,' which I consider my unofficial Beatle song. We even did live handclaps on that one."
Abbe brings a wealth of musical and emotional experience to Ordinary Fool, channeling into these tracks the hard knocks she's endured, along with the hopefulness she's always maintained. As a college student in New York City studying musical theater, she made the streets her stage. "The arch in Washington Square has great acoustics and was a particular favorite of mine," she recalls, adding that money was often better out there than in the Bleecker Street clubs in which she occasionally performed. Her early shows post-college were more theatrical in bent, as she fashioned an "R&B/pop diva thing" for herself, which, she confesses, "was more drama than rock and roll."
Abbe enjoyed greater success behind the scenes in the world of music publishing, penning songs for other artists and becoming a sought-after session vocalist. For many years, she has been a muse for Broadway composer, James Rado, the co-creator of the now legendary Hair collaborating with him and inspiring him as he continues to develop a show called Rainbow.
She's also had her share of stranger-than-fiction moments as a performer. She appeared on the Star Search talent show with a band called Doll House, singing back-up and playing keyboards. "I don't play keyboards," Abbe deadpans. "We lost." She also had the honor of being one of downtown luminary Brenda Bergman's back-up singers, the Bodacious Ta-Ta's, who were kind of a hipper version of Bette Midler's Harlettes. "It was sort of like a drag act," Abbe explains, "except that we're really women." Her tenure with the outrageous Bergman culminated in a well-reviewed Off-Broadway musical, Endangered Species - The Brenda Bergman Story at the John Houseman Theater on West 42nd Street.
These days most folks in Hoboken know her as the proprietor of Empire Coffee and Tea, a local institution that's impressively held its own against the encroachment of chains like Starbucks and Panera. ("Time to Go," which has a funky hip-hop feel, references the entrepreneurial side of Abbe's life - and her need to occasionally get away from it all.) The store, with its small-town feel, is like a stage for Abbe, and the buzz you get there is as likely to be fueled by her feisty attitude as by caffeine. But her customers and neighbors have begun to see her in a different light. She recently performed at the fall Hoboken Arts and Music Festival, an event that attracts upwards of 50,000 visitors to the main drag of Washington Street, and she plans to perform regularly in the metropolitan area and beyond to support Ordinary Fool.
"I'm so glad the record is done and out there," Abbe says, "so I can get back to doing shows again. I feel like my career has come full circle. I mean, isn't that what it's all about - playing for the people and getting back what you put out? I've promised myself to never lose sight of this. It's too precious a thing."
As you'll discover on this disc, there's nothing ordinary about Abbe Rivers. She's smart, funny, impassioned, hard-rockin' -- and absolutely nobody's fool.
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