I last reviewed a streamed Billy Strings show in July. A lot has changed since then. Online concerts have grown more sophisticated, with platforms like Twitch taking the tech out of the artist’s hands. Billy’s hair? That too has changed from the oft braided locks of an up and comer to the mullet of someone who has arrived.

Valentine’s Day is lame. After this statement I am sure you instantly labeled me a disgruntled, single woman who has lost all hope in love. This is an incorrect assessment as actually I am a true romantic who loves fervently, yet I can wholeheartedly understand the initial reaction and placing me in the cold-hearted category. Regardless, hear me out as I have a multitude of sensible reasons for disliking V-Day. The first issue is the pressure to show love with overly priced red roses or tacky jewelry just because a national day, primarily benefiting large corporations, has been declared.

Writing has always been a hobby. I created sonnets to unleash my teenage angst. I did my undergraduate thesis, basically a short story, about interning at an anti-gun violence nonprofit where I focused on the flavorful like shooting an AK-47, melting guns to transform them into art and working with ex-convicts in the Tenderloin. In my late thirties I launched into book reviews taking on the obscure to the popular, posting them on a funky Google blog earning a few bucks a month from clicks. Currently, I’m in the process of writing a memoir.

In times like we’ve been living, maybe we could all use a friendly voice to lead us to the other side. Perhaps one of music’s most wonderful capabilities is its undeniable ability to bring us comfort in times of tumult. Surely, the sonic pleasantries and lyrical content of some tunes lend themselves to being that warm blanket that covers you and, say, a whole bunch of your friends.

The only time getting punched in the face feels good is when it's done by a song. ‘Miss Mooney’, the latest effort by The Eckels Brothers does not build towards anything, instead starting off at the height of its energy, which it maintains throughout. It punches…and it feels fine. From the opening descending guitar flick, this modern-day blues rocker holds you tightly in its web of bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar drums, keys and percussion; all played by brothers Shawn and Joel.

The country’s energy immediately shifted last week and not because Mercury is in retrograde. (That’s not occurring until January 30th.) If you’re perplexed and silently questioning my changed outlook, I’m profoundly aware we are unfortunately, still amid an extremely challenging reality. Nevertheless, confidence, optimism and even a sense of normality was restored with the new administration. “Something Good” finally happened.

This past week was astonishing, and frankly I still may be in a state of paralysis. Disturbing images of January 6th will be etched into my memory similar to the IRA bombings in the 90's; Londoners covered in blood and marked with silvers of glass. The unbelievable scenes of jumbo jets plowing into iconic, NYC buildings on 9/11 as office workers jumped from 60+ story windows and most personally the haunting visuals of a discarded shoe, open curtains, pool of vomit resulting from the repercussions of suicide.

Leslie Mendelson’s studio performance of "Happy New Year" celebrates this important benchmark while providing the optimism we desperately need after a whirlwind of a year. There is both simplicity and complicatedness in Mendelson’s tune. The piano which is the only supporting instrument is straightforward and gentle, creating an underlying, welcoming calmness whereas the intricately resides in her voice and lyrics. She expresses melancholy in each of her notes, even though the song’s words are uplifting.

When I first heard John Hurlbut’s and Jorma Kaukonen’s acoustic album, The River Flows, my being instantly welled up to the sound, welcoming it like an ocean does a river. With tears filling my eyes, the quality of the music made me realize—There’s something about greatness that opens the soul to living. What was it that I was experiencing which caused me to think such things, to feel such sentiment? John and Jorma’s touch begs the asking.

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