CD Reviews

Peter Sprague and Randy Phillips

Sparks and Seeds

San Diego jazz guitar virtuoso Peter Sprague has always held a deep affinity for singers, in fact, his first self-released record with the band Dance of the Universe Orchestra was called You Make Me Want to Sing and it featured the remarkable Kevyn Lettau. In the intervening years, Sprague has been a beacon—drawing in the […]

Nathan & Jessie

That’ll Never Be Me

A wonderfully exotic bit here, That’ll Never Be Me, by the trio Nathan and Jessie. Yes, a trio despite the problematic moniker, based in Temecula and composed of guitarist-vocalist Nathan Rivera, guitarist-vocalist Jessie Smith, and Trevor Mulvey on upright bass. Performing all original songs, Nathan and Jessie have their roots in a variety of old-timey […]

Sibarg Ensemble


In the summer of 1977, through sheer providence, at the tender age of 19, I attended a concert by John McLaughlin and Shakti, an East meets West band featuring musicians from the North and South Indian music traditions. Even though I was more interested in McLaughlin’s recently disbanded Mahavishu Orchestra, from the very first moment […]

Gary Shiebler

Isn’t Love Something?

Gary Shiebler’s local connections go back to the Dorados, with the late Larry Robinson. He played with the country-oriented Thursday Night Fishing Club and has released solo projects, including 2016’s Depressing Coffee House Songs. That album showed a move away from country toward personal ballads, while keeping some of Shiebler’s storytelling and sharp lyrics intact. […]

Aaron Bowen

Spring the Necessary Pilgrimage

Aaron Bowen’s latest album is Spring the Necessary Pilgrimage. He is a local multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer/everything else who has made a reputation as a guitarist, but also has avoided being cornered into any one genre. He has played and recorded locally for a couple of decades, and the new disc is a wonderful testimony to the broad […]

Annie Rettic


Annie Rettic is a local singer/songwriter who plays several instruments (including five-string viola and mountain dulcimer), and her new CD Heartstrings is quite unusual. It is collects some Rettic originals, another original by local singer Sweet Joyce Ann, and a cover of a standard. Then, Rettic opens up what is already a group of quite […]

Smitty & Julija

Made in Ojai

Soulful, soul searching, soul bearing, soul matching, all terms to describe the singer-songwriters who write tunes less as candidates for hard rotation on radio or various streaming services and more like updates on the status of their psyches. Much of it is endearing and attractive, depending on the melodic craft and canny poetics of the […]

Alicia Previn


Alicia Previn has quite a back story. The daughter of a knight who has conducted major symphony orchestras, including the London Symphony (Andre Previn KBE) and American jazz singer Betty Bennett, who sang for Benny Goodman. She trained on violin as a child, and later was a member of several bands in the ‘70s; by […]

Sue Palmer

Gems, Volume One

San Diego’s Sue Palmer is a pianist known to the world as the Queen of Boogie Woogie, and throughout the 20 selections on her dealer’s choice anthology, Gems Volume One, we find the sobriquet is hers alone to wear. A constant and vital presence on the local music scene for 30 years plus, Palmer’s energized […]