Biography Ina Forsman

Ina Forsman is the one you’ve been waiting for. Maybe you’ve caught a glimpse of her on the blues stages of Europe, blowing out the speakers with that burnt-honey voice. Perhaps you marked her for future greatness when she represented Finland at the 2014 European Blues Challenge, or during her early guest spots with Guy Verlinde and Helge Tallqvist. Now, as this next-big-thing releases her self-titled debut album – and rocks the house on the famous Ruf Records Blues Caravan 2016 – it’s time for a proper introduction.
Released on Ruf Records, Ina Forsman is everything that great music used to be: real, raw, written from the heart and shot from the hip. Likewise, Ina herself is everything that great frontwomen are meant to be: enigmatic, honest, passionate and dangerous. By the time you’ve heard these ten self-penned songs – plus a stellar cover of Nina Simone’s “I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl “– you’ll know her inside-out, and want to know more. Read on.
Play Ina Forsman and the first thing that hits you is the voice. That astonishing delivery is a major weapon in Ina’s arsenal, and the icing on the big-band brass and soul-blues piano of these breakup and redemption songs. Growing up in Helsinki, Finland, she always hoped it would take her places. “I was six years old when I first said out loud that I wanted to be a singer. My influences go back to the time my aunt gave me my first Christina Aguilera album when I was seven. For me, a great singer is someone who has power in their voice and isn’t afraid to use it, in all of its colours and shades.”
Yet Ina’s debut album goes far deeper than a God-given voicebox. These eleven songs speak of an artist who lives and breathes the blues, having gigged from the age of seventeen and received guidance in the genre from Finnish harmonica legend Helge Tallqvist. “Helge was the first person who introduced blues to me,” she remembers. “He took me to the studio and put our band together a couple of years ago. There aren’t enough words to describe how much I learnt from him. So much about music, but also about organising gigs, doing the boring paperwork, and life in general.”
Perhaps the most crucial lesson that Ina took from her mentor was that music has to be a personal expression. As such, while her early setlists relied on covers, for her debut album, she penned all the lyrics, while co-writing the music with principal collaborator Tomi Leino. “For me,” stresses Ina, “it’s very important to sound original. There is no other way for me than to write the songs on my own. I have a story and no one else can tell it quite like I do.
“All the songs are about love and its ups and downs,” she adds. “They have a story behind them and are very personal to me, though some are more serious and deeper than others. For example, the song “Pretty Messed Up” is a last love-letter to my ex-boyfriend, and “Bubbly Kisses” is about drunk sex.”
As for the musical direction, there were no limits. “When I started to look for inspiration for this album, I searched for new music everywhere. I went to record stores, on YouTube, Spotify, just every possible place where I could find something I haven’t heard before. Mostly, I listened old soul and blues records – artists like Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke – so this idea of a blues album turned into a soul/blues album. Mostly, it just came out that way, without much planning or trying to get a specific vibe.”
When it came to the album sessions, Ina also looked towards America, tracking at Wire Recording in Austin, Texas, where her band included Laura Chavez and Derek O’Brien (guitars), Nick Connolly (keys/organ), Russell Jackson (bass) and Tommy Taylor (drums) – plus guest harp from Helge Tallqvist and brass from The Texas Horns, led by producer/saxophonist Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff. “I was so happy the whole time,” she remembers. “The week that I spent in Austin is gonna be my favourite memory for a long time. I got to work with amazing, talented people in a beautiful city on the other side of the planet from where I live. A while back, I didn’t dare to even dream about something like that. We worked so hard, and after every day I was more tired – but also more excited to go back to the studio.”
You can hear the joy in the results. At a time when most blues albums are dominated by chugging guitar, Ina’s debut truly swings, evoking a brassy soul-blues session from a bygone era, but imbued with the singer’s modern attitude. “All my favourite songs always had piano or brass on them,” she says of the varied instrumentation. “Piano and saxophone are my favourite instruments, so it was obvious from the start.”
With a classic debut album in her back pocket and major international touring plans afoot, many are tipping Ina Forsman as the breakthrough artist of 2016. As for the singer herself, she prefers to ignore the predictions, live in the moment and let her creativity take the lead. “Sometimes,” she considers, “it’s good to just let the music take you there. My next album might be totally different – and it probably will be. That’s what makes songwriting so exciting, because you never know where your next inspiration will come from…”

Biography Heather Crosse

A lot of today's emerging blues artists serve up the music with a healthy side order of rock. Heather Crosse is different. As a singer, songwriter and bass player, she still believes in the power of old-school blues and R&B.
"Blues and soul just speak to me the loudest," says Crosse, who's spent the past two decades paying her dues at festivals, clubs and honky tonks across the American South. Originally from Louisiana, she's now an in-demand player in her chosen hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi, where she and her band have backed blues heavyweights including Bob Margolin, Guitar Shorty, Jody Williams and James "Super Chikan" Johnson. For years, Crosse has appeared regularly at the world-famous Ground Zero Blues Club. Early in 2015, she toured Europe and the UK as a member of the Blues Caravan 2015 "Girls With Guitars" tour and was also part of the Jim Gaines-produced album of the same name. But the rock-oriented slant of that project wasn't really her thing.  
Her solo debut Groovin’ At The Crosse Roads shows what she's really about. It's all blues – with a soul twist. "I grew up singing Motown and a couple of my blues mentors did a lot of 70s soul. So that tends to come out in the songs that I'm writing," explains Crosse, who co-wrote five of the album's eleven tracks while also paying tribute to heroes such as Etta James and Big Mama Thornton. It's the kind of mix she relies on to get Mississippi crowds dancing on a Saturday night.
Though it's her name on the cover, Crosse chose to record Groovin’ At The Crosse Roads with the same band she's been fronting for the past eight years: Heavy Suga' & the SweeTones. The current line-up includes Crosse's songwriting partner and significant other, drummer Lee Williams (B.B. King, Big Jack Johnson), keyboard wizard Mark Yacovone (Kenny Brown, Maria Muldaur) and guitarist Dan Smith (Anson Funderburgh, Smokin' Joe Kubek). The songs convey the comfortable feeling you'd expect from four friends making music together. "Our band is a unique thing. We're very tight and close, like a family band," says Crosse about choosing her own musicians over session players.
With the help of Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines – who's worked with everyone from Carlos Santana to Stevie Ray Vaughan during his illustrious career – Crosse and her comrades turn in a collection of first-rate performances. At the soul end of the spectrum, there's the laid-back musician's anthem "Hurryin' Up To Relax" and a cover of the 1975 top ten hit "Rockin' Chair," originally recorded by Gwen McCrae. Crosse felt a little intimidated doing this well-known tune, but likes what Gaines and her "guys" were able to conjure up. "Besides, I think it's kind of interesting to have a white girl bass player resurrect a 70s soul classic," she grins.
At the blues end, she offers "Walkin' In Their Shoes" as a loving remembrance of the elders who schooled her in the ways of the blues, as well as "Clarksdale Shuffle," dedicated to the city that has become her own ground zero. "It's been a big part of my life," she says of her adopted home in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. "I was there as an 18-year-old, just out of high school, and that's when I fell in love with the blues. I went back every year for the Sunflower Blues Festival, no matter where I lived, and that's how I ended up moving there."
Crosse is thrilled about the sounds veteran producer Gaines coaxed out of her band. "Jim got so many different guitar textures and layers from just one guy. And it was the same with my keyboard player. He got so many layers and textures. We've got B3 organ, that old Pinetop piano sound, a cool ray Charles electric piano sound…"
Gaines also helped her raise her game vocally. "He brought singing out of me that I didn't know was in me," Crosse reflects, her feral growling on Etta James' classic "Damn Your Eyes" a good example. It's one of the grittier moments on an album that – unlike so many others that come down the pike – doesn't take a sledgehammer to the blues, but instead uses a set of fine-tipped brushes to create a down-to-earth landscape of blues and soul. Crosse is confident that with Groovin’ At The Crosse Roads, she has created a recording representative of her own unique and personal blues journey. "It's everything I thought it would be and much, much more."
  

Biography Eliana Cargnelutti

Electric Woman marks the international solo debut of Italian recording artist Eliana Cargnelutti and once again shows Ruf Records' willingness to think outside the box. The project brings together unique talents from diverse genres and different corners of the world, including acclaimed American bluesman Albert Castiglia, who produced, and rock and metal specialist Timo Rotten, who recorded and mixed the album in his native Germany. It features veteran all-rounders Jamie Little (drums), Roger Inniss (bass) and John Ginty (keyboards) and was mastered by Grammy winner David Farrell (Irma Thomas, Royal Southern Brotherhood) in New Orleans.
Its centerpiece is of course singer/guitarist Cargnelutti, who combines hotshot vocal swagger with impressive technical chops. During her young career, the Udine, Italy native has shared the stage with the best of the Italian blues scene while also dabbling in soul, jazz, funk and heavy metal. "I started out playing rock and metal," she reveals. "They'll always be part of my musical language." Indeed, cuts like "Just for Me" and "Show Me" confirm that hard rock and heavy metal are still very close to her heart. "You can hear many of my influences: Guns N’ Roses, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Sardinas, Susan Tedeschi, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Led Zeppelin."
Though they'd met just once prior to the sessions in the fall of 2014, producer Castiglia was instantly smitten with this young talent from northern Italy. "Eliana is a very technically proficient guitar player, but she can kick you in the ass with her playing as well. She can certainly hold her own with anybody on the guitar end. Her vocal range is very impressive and reminds me of the great female singers of the 80s, like Joan Jett, Ann Wilson and Pat Benatar."
Having only just completed work on Girls With Guitars, her collaboration with Blues Caravan touring partners Heather Crosse and Sadie Johnson, Cargnelutti faced the pressure of creating a strong solo album on the fly. She rose to the challenge, wrote eight new tunes in just three weeks and came into the studio ready to go. "It was a test of me and my abilities," she reflects a few months later. "I did feel some pressure, but only because I wanted a good result. No efforts, no enjoyment!"
Covers of The Allman Brothers' "Soulshine", Savoy Brown's "Street Corner Talking" and AC/DC's "There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'" round out a diverse track list of rock-, blues- and soul-infused sounds. Castiglia lent a hand with the arrangements, helped polish the lyrics and added his own prodigious guitar talents to "Just For Me," the aforementioned AC/DC classic as well as the sizzling guitar duel that closes the album, "Eliana's Boogie." "My role as producer," says the Florida-based bluesman, "was to help Eliana achieve her vision as an artist. She was open to constructive criticism and was very professional. We worked extremely well together."
The album's most autobiographical cut – drafted by Cargnelutti just one day prior to the recording sessions – poses a key question for any young artist trying to make it in today's blues world: "Why Do I Sing The Blues?" The song reflects openly on a youth well spent ("the best of life under the sun"), her daily struggle to make ends meet as a professional musician ("teaching days and playing nights") and ultimately looks forward with hope and confidence to the opportunities of the future. "I'm ready to take on this great big world, it better be ready for me."
With help from a roomful of world-class studio talents, Eliana Cargnelutti literally broadens her horizons on Electric Woman – a convincing statement of this tough young artist's dedication and will to succeed on the international stage.

Biography Candye Kane

Candye Kane was born and raised on the mean streets of East L.A. She wanted to be a singer from the tender age of 5. As a young girl, she auditioned for countless amateur shows and talent competitions, appearing on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour at 14. She won a scholarship to USC Music Conservatory that same year, but at 17, found herself unwed and pregnant. To support herself and her young son and to escape the welfare rolls, Kane became a stripper and topless model. She appeared on the covers or pages of over 500 magazines including Hustler and High Society. She used the money from the adult entertainment business to subsidize her musical career, hiring top notch musicians to play with her and record demos. Her first band was a country trio called "Haywire". Kane was part of a thriving music scene in Hollywood in the early '80s and shared the stage with punk rockers like Black Flag and The Circle Jerks, as well as roots legends like The Blasters, Los Lobos and Dwight Yoakum. Many of these musicians are still Kane's personal friends and appear on various recordings throughout her career. In 1986, she was signed to a developmental deal with CBS Epic records. Her band, The Armadillo Stampede appeared on vinyl for the first time on the Enigma Records release "A Town South of Bakersfield".

Biography Thorbjørn Risager

Talk about a tough act to follow. Back in 2014, Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado released Too Many Roads: the award-winning ninth album that saw the golden-voiced frontman and his seven-piece lineup showered with global acclaim. For the fans who had followed the Copenhagen band since their formation in 2003, it felt like a career-best release. vBut we were wrong. With Change My Game, Thorbjørn has raised the stakes once again. In a world where most bands are content to tread water, here’s an album that breaks new creative ground, explores fresh musical directions and delivers a bold batch of songs that are at once catchy and immediate, but rich with deeper meaning. Released in January 2017 on Ruf Records, Change My Game is not just an album title, but also the guiding ethos that has driven this band from the start. Since making their first impact with 2006’s From The Heart, Thorbjørn and his all-star lineup have dodged media pigeonholes and broken down the boundaries of genre, their confidence to experiment growing with every year spent together on the road. Now, on this 11th album, their musical leap is greater than ever before, with dynamic arrangements sent through the roof by the band’s musicianship and Thorbjørn’s electrifying vocal. Change My Game finally achieves the studio sound that Thorbjørn has always heard in his head. For the first time, the eight musicians decided to self-produce and mix the entire album, and the result is a visceral production that showcases their best material to date. Rock-influenced songs like Dreamland are hard, fiery and ferocious. Ballads like lead-off single I Used To Love You have an aching emotional power. Meanwhile, for the fans who love the Tornado’s fresh take on classic blues, there’s Train, which opens with a locomotive sound, a lone vocal and an acoustic guitar – before the band turn up the heat and bring the song to its horn-driven climax. At a time when technology rules the music industry, Change My Game is an album that runs on human chemistry, and that’s testament to the 800-plus shows that this lineup has played together in 21 countries from the Canada to India. Firm believers in the power of live music, Thorbjørn and the band will take Change My Game out on the road in 2017, with a touring schedule that will see them raise roofs across the planet and convert countless new fans to the cause. Fourteen years into their career, these are high times for Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado. Perhaps you thought they’d peaked with Too Many Roads. But with Change My Game, the only way is up…

 

FACTS:

#           Despite hailing from Denmark and releasing albums on a small Danish label until 2014, the band have won acclaim in Canada and all over Europe.

#           They have played over 800 shows – more than 200 of these at festivals – in 21 countries including Canada and India.

#           They received a Danish Grammy two years in a row.

#           In Germany, where they recently participated in the legendary TV show Tyskland ROCKPALAST, they received one of the most prestigious awards in the business.

#           In the UK, they were included on the Classic Rock Blues Magazine’s Best Of 2014 CD.

#           The band was formed in 2003, and all but two of the original members are still in the lineup.

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