Bonoff continues to connect
Isn’t it nice that we can dreamOf all the places we can’t seeFly over oceans wideDo all the things we never triedAnd isn’t it strange how you can goBack to a home you’ve never knownThe new world waits inside your dreamAnd your heart knows the way– “New World,” 1988Few musicians play songs that are felt on a broad plane of emotion or understood by a broad range of listeners. Karla Bonoff’s music is beautiful in its sensual simplicity and striking in its ability to generate empathy. Her lyrics echo basic facts about human nature, our relationship to the world and to each other. Her guitar is powerful accompaniment, augmenting the impression of her voice, forming the vibrant textures of her rich, clear sound. Bonoff will continue to connect with her listeners with a performance at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek on Saturday, March 29.Bonoff’s career as a musician began early. A Los Angeles native, Bonoff was encouraged by her parents to take lessons in piano, violin, and guitar, the instruments she showed interest in and had very obvious talents with. By age 15, Bonoff was taking guitar lessons under Frank Hamilton of the well-known folk group The Weavers.Less than two years later, Bonoff and her sister were lined up at the Troubadour Club in L.A., waiting for a chance to perform as a duo in the club’s open mic circuit. Already a unique and capable singer-songwriter, Bonoff was influenced and encouraged by the most popular female performers at the time Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, and Carly Simon. Bonoff’s ability to connect to the Troubadour crowd catapulted her career in the same direction of success as many other performers of the time. Elton John, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor all had their starts on the stage of this famous venue.Soon after her start, Bonoff was approached by three other musicians interested in forming a band. Andrew Gold, Wendy Waldman, and Kenny Edwards joined with Bonoff to form Bryndle, now considered one of the earliest songwriter groups a band that writes and performs only original, handcrafted material. Before this period, in the 1950s, artists like Elvis Presley frequently relied upon professional songwriters to write material for them and usually had a wide array of supporting musicians.Bryndle signed a contract with A&M records and cut an album with little delay. For reasons only the marketing managers could explain, the album was shelved. On her Web site, Bonoff recalls, “They didn’t release it. I think they didn’t really know quite what to make of it. This was right before Crosby, Stills, and Nash, before Fleetwood Mac. We were these two girls and two guysthe closest thing they could compare us to was the Mamas and the Papas. Later on, in the next few years had we stayed together, I think we could have done well.”Disappointed by the experience, but not discouraged, the members of Bryndle disbanded to concentrate on individual projects. Bonoff’s solo work came to the attention of Linda Ronstadt, who performed a few of Bonoff’s songs for her album “Hasten Down the Wind.” The reception these songs got won Bonoff another recording deal with Columbia Records, this time as a solo singer-songwriter. Her first self-entitled album was released in 1977 to critical praise and started a touring schedule that included opening for fellow Troubadour performers Browne and Taylor.Over the next 14 years, Bonoff would release three more albums, establish herself as one of the top female songwriters of the time, collaborate with such musical giants as Joe Walsh, Don Henley and Peter Frampton, and maintain a humble, grateful approach to life, a quality that has always been apparent in her work.The 1990s proved to be a huge decade for Bonoff. After writing hit songs for Bonnie Raitt, Wynonna Judd, and the “8 Seconds” movie soundtrack, Bonoff was climbing another summit of popularity. In 1991, the members of Bryndle began to discuss the possibility of reforming the band, an idea Bonoff enthusiastically supported.”When we decided to put this band back together, we realized that one of the things that was wrong with it the first time was that we all wrote separately. We thought it would be great to write together this time. It’s been new and really fun to do that, the four of us.”Bryndle has since put out two albums as a full band, both receiving the same supportive praise Bonoff received as a solo artist, and created a loyal following of fans. The secret of Bonoff’s success continued with Bryndle.”I think there is one thing that will never go out of stylea good song,” Bonoff says. “People really want to hear melodies and good lyrics that come from the heart. I think they want to be touched by the music. I know I do.” q– Matthew CharlesMusic fans interested in ‘feeling’ a little bit of Karla Bonoff will have a chance to see her performing solo at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 29. Tickets are $28. Call (970) 845-TIXS.Soaking up RainvilleAlt-rock fans can check out Rainville, playing at Checkpoint Charlie’s in Vail at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, as part of the Budweiser Street Beat Concert Series. The outdoor show is free of charge. Call (970) 949-1999 for more information.With only two albums out to date, “Collecting Empties” and “The Longest Street In America,” Rainville has already amassed an impressive collection of critical reviews about their studio and live performances. A review from their Web site exclaims, “Whether it’s a stompy roadhouse rocker, a sparsely beautiful ballad, or a soaring American anthem, Rainville knows how to take a song and make the characters and stories come to life right there in front of your eyesRainville connects with their audience and pulls them into the music.”Bandmates John Common, Ian Hlatky, Larry Joireman and Matt Sumner cite a dizzying array of musical influences indie rock, rock-n-roll, bebop, jazz from the ’40s and ’50s, old school country, emo, soundscape, alt-country, old blues, and, as they put it, singer-songwriter stuff. They describe their own sound as “gritty rural rock mixed with swampy blues, old-school country and gutter jazz.” Whatever they sound like, the description that “Rainville plays drinking music for people who dance too much and dancing music for people who drink too much” means that they’re really good right?– Matthew Charles
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