The Bangles Help Keep The Light Alive For Lou Gehrig's Disease Sufferers

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro are one of the most beloved songwriting teams in music history, their hits include pop-rock standards such as "We Belong," "Keep The Light Alive," "If You Loved Me Like That," "You Stay On My Mind," and many more.

Then sadly, Eric Lowen was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.) According to the Keep The Light Alive website, ALS is a "neurodegenerative disease that usually attacks both upper and lower motor neurons and causes degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. First discovered in the mid 1800s and they still have no idea where it comes from or are anywhere near a cure. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time."

That is not even counting the many people worldwide who also suffer from the illness.

The music community immediately rushed to support Lowen by collaborating on an album of classic Lowen & Navarro tunes to raise money for research and proactive ways to fight this disease. Many artists came forward to offer their services, but only those who who made it clear they wanted to be a part of celebrating Eric Lowen's contributions as a singer, songwriter, and performer were chosen, and who could dedicate time and talent in equal measures to the project, including active promotion.

Artists who were chosen include The Bangles, Jackson Browne, John Ondrasik, Keb' Mo', Severin Browne, Joel Rafael, Andy Chase, The Refugees, Freebo, Eddie From Ohio, Phil Parlapiano, Charlie Wadhams, and Stonehoney.

Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson, and Debbi Peterson are the main driving force behind The Bangles, with former bassist Michael Steele having left the band in 2004. Lending their celebrated and harmonic voices and formidable instrumental talent, the trio performed a cover of the Lowen & Navarro anthem "We Belong", which was also a huge hit for Pat Benatar in the 80s. Joining Hoffs (rhythm guitar), Vicki (lead guitar, keyboards) and Debbi (drums) are fellow musicians Abby Travis on bass and John Cowsill (husband of Vicki Peterson and brother of Susan Cowsill) playing the congas.

Hoffs, in particular, has known Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro since 1985, when Eric began dating her best friend Mary. She even remembers a night at Mary’s apartment when Lowen and Navarro had the spark of inspiration to form an acoustic duo.

Hoffs reminisces fondly: "We all fell in love with the blend of their distinct voices, Eric's angelic purity and Dan's resonant soulfulness. They wrote and performed song after beautiful song [and we] recorded a few of them - 'I'll Set You Free,''Something To Believe In,' and 'Everything I Wanted,' all co-written with Eric and Dan. Here [on the album] we offer our version of the lovely, fervent song 'We Belong' as a thankyou to Lowen and Navarro for so many years of heartfelt and gratifying music."

Three specific organisations that this project will directly benefit include Augie's Quest in honour of fitness entrepreneur Augustine "Augie" Nieto, who together with his wife Lynne are champions in the fight against ALS since Augie's diagnosis in 2005. The second organisation is the ALS Association Greater Los Angeles Chapter which aims to to lead the fight to cure and treat ALS through global, cutting edge research, and to empower people with Lou Gehrig's Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support. Then there is The Eric Lowen Trust which was created to offset the enormous costs of fighting his illness and helps support his family, which includes his wife and their five children.

As for The Bangles, they have some fascinating new projects in the works, according to Gracie, the esteemed webmistress of The Bangles Official Website and Return Post Forum, who also acts as an official liaison between the band and their fans.

Debbi Peterson will be collaborating with British singer-songwriter John Wicks by drumming on his new album with his band The Records. Fans are being invited to check out this project at Wick's website and even offer their input.

Vicki Peterson has saucily hinted at some big new project, which she refuses to elaborate on. Gracie hilariously states: "Last but not least (although certainly the most exciting/frustrating) is the news from Vicki that "there is something biggish on the horizon..." But despite Yours Truly's very best efforts to get the rest of the story out of her (bribing, begging, bawling...) she won't give one more peep on the subject! So, I guess we'll all just have to wait to hear what's up... in the meantime, maybe a few (hundred) emails to her inbox demanding the details will turn the tide in our favor? You never know."


Wish Upon A Star This Christmas With Gretchen Peters

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The fabulous singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters is as well-known for her humanitarian endeavours as she is for making beautiful music, and this year, she has quite a few projects which incorporate both.

Peters has collaborated on the second of two albums with an organisation called Bandaged Together with all proceeds going toward the UK based charity Children In Need.

Peters' contribution to Bandaged Together 2 is a cover of the Disney classic When You Wish Upon A Star, which was also beautifully covered by Petra Haden on her 2005 album Petra Haden And Bill Frisell.

On Peters' recording of this iconic song from Disney's Pinocchio, she is superbly joined by musicians Viktor Krauss on bass, Barry Walsh on glockenspiel, and Christine Bougie on lap steel.

Peters has also contributed to the Pudsey Bear project with the creation and E-Bay auction of an original Pudsey Bear (see the link for all the bears being offered for auction), with proceeds also going to Children In Need. The Pudsey Bear was created in 1985 by Joanna Ball and named after her hometown of Pudsey, West Yorkshire. Helen Bach, one of the spokespeople behind the Bandaged Together organisation states that:

"Pudsey represents the work done by BBC Children In Need, and [we ask the recipients] to remember, every time they look at their Pudsey, that it was a thank you to them for using their talent to help a child have a better life! That concept applies equally to all the people who have helped us in whatever way, they have put their particular talent to great use to help children in the UK have a better life! What better gift could they give. "

Another charity that Peters supports is Room In The Inn, a charity to provide shelter, food, and clothing for homeless people during the cold winter months. In 2008, Peters released a Christmas album Northern Lights, (available in our Amazon Affiliates store.) This album is a deeply spiritual and uplifting masterpiece, skillfully interweaving updated versions of standard carols with Peters' own lilting original compositions. She has the uncanny ability to make music which is simultaneously timeless in a classic sense, yet refreshingly progressive.

It is important to note that in 2008, Peters won a Just Plain Folks Award for Northern Lights (Best Holiday Album.) She also won awards for Best Songwriter Of The Year, Best Live Album (Trio), and Best Country Album (Burnt Toast And Offerings) bringing her a total of four awards, an impressive achievement indeed.

Other projects which Peters has released in recent years include her Circus Girl: The Very Best Of Gretchen Peters (which contains rare demos and previously unreleased songs and is a treat for all fans) , and her western themed One To The Heart, One To The Head, a vivid musical depiction of life, love, and heartbreak in the prairies and deserts of the American west. Peters collaborated to stunning effect with Tom Russell for this project.
Along with her award winning albums Trio (featuring a cover of Paul Simon's American Tune), and Burnt Toast And Offerings, as well as her classic trio of early albums (Secret Of Life, Gretchen Peters, and Halcyon,) you have a treasure trove of musical gems, eclipsed only by the lovely heart and soul of the woman who wrote and sang them.

~ Michael Holloway


Unconquered to play at The Santa Fe Film Festival

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Brian Beasley's award winning documentary, Unconquered; Allan Houser and the Legacy of One Apache Family, narrated by Val Kilmer, will be featured at the Santa Fe Film Festival. Get all the info at Val Kilmer The Real


Susan Cowsill Is Covered In Vinyl Again

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Susan Cowsill, the youngest of the famous musical family The Cowsills, has recorded a new album with her band (The Susan Cowsill Band), which is now on sale at her website.

"Live at Carrollton Station: Covered In Vinyl Series Volume 2" is the much-anticipated follow up to the first "Covered In Vinyl" album from 2007. Proceeds from the sales of these albums go toward the efforts to rebuild New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in 2005. Organisations that directly benefit from these sales include The Carrollton Station Fund and The New Orleans Musicians' Relief Fund.

Along with this collection, Cowsill is also preparing to launch her next album of original music, "Lighthouse," through Threadhead Records, which is set for mixing and post-production in December for a hopefully early 2010 release.

Cowsill states: "While we wait to mix our next CD Lighthouse in early December, we have completed mixing and compiling a couple CIV CDs to make available to y'all. VOL 2 has 1-4 songs from 6 different CIV shows over the last few years. The albums from those shows were Aerosmith's "Greatest Hits", The Beatles' "Revolver", David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust", Linda Ronstadt's "Heart Like a Wheel", Sly and the Family Stone's "Greatest Hits", and Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run". Truly live and full of fun, joy, and love. Hope y'all enjoy it. Y'all can purchase from our website store."

In 2005, Cowsill released her very successful debut solo album "Just Believe It" which has already been reissued twice to popular demand, and besides her early career with her family, she has also released five albums with her former band The Continental Drifters. Also in this band were Cowsill's sister-in-law Vicki Peterson from The Bangles, former husband Peter Holsapple, new husband Russ Broussard, Mark Walton, Carlo Nuccio, Robert Mache, and Ray Ganucheau and Gary Eaton (the latter two having left the band before their big breakthrough.) Although the Drifters officially split in 2001, they have recently put aside old differences and emotional turmoils to tour on and off again as a band, particularly for benefits to raise money for their beloved grass roots home, New Orleans.

In 2008, Cowsill became a part of a project called "Congo's Angels" whose purpose was to record a CD of interweaving themed songs to raise awareness and funding to help combat the rising abuse of women and young girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cowsill collaborated with a vast array of talented and compassionate performers including: Irma Thomas, Neko Case, Eliza Gilkyson, Caroline Aiken, Karen Protti-Bailey, Claire Holley, Kim Carson, Theresa Davis, Mary LaSang, Ruby Rendrag, Gospel Gossip, Sonia Tetlow, Herman Put Down The Gun, Karen Garrabrant, Dede Vogt, Caroline Herring, Janet Bean, and Leilani Rivera Bond.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the press release for "Congo's Angels."

"Women singers, songwriters, and poets have donated 20 tracks for this limited edition compilation CD to raise awareness about violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo Week is a global initiative led by students throughout the globe to raise awareness about the escalating violence against women and children in the Congo and provide support. Students and community organizers in at least 100 countries and 1,000 campuses are expected to organize an activity or event in solidarity with the people of the Congo. All proceeds from the sale of "Congo's Angels" will go directly into a special account, designed to offer transparency in accounting. Friends of the Congo,a U.S. based tax-exempt non-profit, will manage this account. No monies, except minimal distribution costs, will be taken from sales.

1.1 million people are displaced in North and South Kivu provinces and living in unspeakable conditions in refugee camps. 200,000 women and children have been raped and brutalised. It is estimated 1,200 people die every day, and it could be stopped tomorrow with enough international will say human rights groups. Anneke van Woudenberg, the Congo specialist for Human Rights Watch, has urged independent journalists to explore the reasons behind the violence. "Things have gotten worse in the last few months," she said. "We desperately need firsthand reports of what is happening here."

In the meantime, fans are eagerly awaiting a possible second volume of songs from these inspirational musicians, both for the brilliant music on offer, and for the chance to make a real difference in the lives of these women who are suffering, often in silence.


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