August 15, 2013

Making Noise: Incredible Michael O adds to his catalog

Anna Lombard impressive in debut CD

By Aimsel Ponti
News Assistant

I'll start this week off by sending out a huge congrats to Mainer Michael Odokara-Okigbo. First off, these days you can call him Michael O; second, he just released a fantastic EP, "In the Beginning."

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Singer Anna Lombard, above, is backed by a slew of talented musicians in her debut CD “Head Full of Bells.”

Courtesy photos

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Keelan Donovan recently won a spot at the Gulf Coast Jam music festival next month in Florida.

TURN YOUR RADIO DIAL to 102.9 WBLM every Friday at 8:30 a.m. to hear Aimsel Ponti wax poetic about her top live-music picks for the week with the Captain and Celeste.

O is an R&B, pop and soul singer from Portland who now calls Los Angeles home. You may recognize the full name from his stint with his college singing group The Dartmouth Aires, which took second place on NBC's "The Sing Off" in 2011. Ben Folds commented that O's performance on the show was "incredible," and Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men said O is a "freaking superstar." Michael O is 23, and my money's on him having a very successful career, because he really is that good. 

AS I WRITE THIS on a rainy Friday morning, I'm listening to "Head Full of Bells," the debut album from Anna Lombard. Less than a half-hour ago, I freed it from its shrink wrap, put it in my PC and threw my headphones on. Then I tried my best not to multi-task and just listen to the music.

You'll have to just trust me that I truly sat at my desk and listened to all eight songs on the CD, as my only distraction was looking at my two seagull pals out the window. Full disclosure: I had already heard rough mixes of some of these tunes. But to hear the final cut was a divine experience.

Lombard's voice has never sounded better, and she's backed by a slew of talent, including guitarist Adam Agati, who wrote the songs on "Head Full." I haven't been so excited for a CD-release show in quite some time, and I challenge us music fans out there to pack Port City Music Hall on Friday. 

The opening song, "Leave Town," has a haunting, cinematic air to it, both musically and lyrically. The other song I need to declare my love for is the closing one, "All For You." Lombard's voice is at its finest, as are Agati's words and guitar.

The song starts off slowly and quietly, then packs a huge emotional punch as Lombard really lets loose at the 3½-minute mark. The phrase "your heart's a machine, don't leave me now," is repeated, and each time you can hear the pleading in Lombard's voice.

Add to this the cello from Darcy Doniger and violin and viola from Carolyn Mix, and you've got one of my favorite songs of 2013 by anyone, hands down.

I'll leave the discovery of the six songs in between up to you, but be assured, you won't be disappointed. Look for a full review of "Head Full of Bells" in these pages in the coming weeks.

Anna Lombard with Lyle Divinsky. 9 p.m. Friday. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland. $10; $20 VIP; all ages.

SINGER-SONGWRITER Keelan Donovan is pretty happy these days. He recently won a spot at the Gulf Coast Jam, a festival next month in Panama Beach, Fla.

Donovan will also be opening for a show right here in Portland, as he warms things up Saturday for Donovan Frankenreiter at the Asylum. Funny name coincidence, don't you think? I digress.

Donovan is from Scarborough and now calls Nashville home. Listen to some of his music at If "When I'm Gone" doesn't pull at your heartstrings, you might need to head to Whoville for an adjustment from Cindy Lou Who and her crew: "When I'm gone, go look at all my pictures, you'll never see me sad/ It's all because of my friends, the best a man could be blessed to have."

Donovan Frankenreiter with Keelan Donovan. 9 p.m. Saturday. Asylum, 121 Center St., Portland. $16 in advance; $19 day of show; all ages.

Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:


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