By Christa T. for Accordion Americana It has long been a challenge to bring the piano accordion to a new generation of Americans. But, by using the instrument more and more, Alternative musicians, or artists who write and perform outside of the present musical mainstream, are giving the accordion a lot of exposure. Artists such as Ami Saraiya and her band, The Outcome, are examples of this growing trend of young musicians who seek different ways to express their own unique style in a new age.
The piano accordion is” like having a symphony in your hands” Ami Saraiya says. “I picked it up and I was in love. It’s very rhythmic, and since I grew up playing piano, it came very easy.” Trained as a classical pianist, Ami was a former music major at Indiana University. “I started playing piano when I was 5, and when I was growing up I was always singing and in choir….but the classical world was not for me. I joined a band when I was 19 and found my niche.”” Ami was the lead vocalist of pop collective Radiant Darling and R&B band Pelvic Delta, and has toured locally and regionally throughout the U.S.
Coming out of the Chicago music scene, the songs of Ami Saraiya reveal a distinct part of that American urban aesthetic, and reveal to us how she experiences her world. With original songwriting and instrumentation, Ami interprets it through a wide range of instruments. Along with her voice, she performs with the accordion, guitar, violin, and xylophone and other instruments, as well. Whether with the roar of any Pop icon or the soft and sultry style of a chanteuse, her live performance is captivating. Amy Saraiya always sings and writes with deep conviction, while she totally “shreds” on the accordion.
As a songwriter, “I create what I feel. I start with an idea and do lots of work out from there, but it’s just raw perspective — I’m not trying to create something in particular. What I do comes from the heart, and the hard work comes in finishing what you started. Ideas come and they aren’t always understandable, but I manage to find some transcendence.”
Ami Saraiya and The Outcome received excellent reviews with Saraiya’s first album under her own name entitled, “Archeologist” in 2009. She followed up with an EP entitled “Purging” which critics thought dark, “surrealistic” and “the best tracks she’s ever produced”(Joseph Montes, Loud Loup Press). With her second album, released in 2012, “Soundproof Box,” the singer/songwriter/bandleader “showcases the performer’s creative energy and intensity….vintage cabaret sound is drama in bold relief, swinging from playful to maudlin in a single measure.” (Jessica Hopper, The Chicago Tribune).
The Outcome, including Marc Piane (upright bass), Ronnie Kuller (violin), Gary Kalar, (electric guitar), Shirley Caen Rogiers (vocals), and Courtney Glascoe (vocals).
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Those folks who know Texas and know the Blues probably know that Christian Dozzler plays a sultry Blues piano and organ and a mean harp. What they may not know is that Dozzler, also known as “Vienna Slim”, is a master of the Boogie Woogie and Blues and also an enormously talented accordionist.
Standing 6 feet 7 inches, Dozzler is a shy man. When he was just 13 years old, he was captivated by the Boogie Woogie from the first time he heard it on the radio. He immediately quit his classical piano lessons and from then on, made it his business to master the Blues and the Boogie Woogie, and to make it his life’s work.
In his first band, Christian played guitar and harmonica as well as the piano and also sang. In a few years, he added the piano accordion.”The accordion is often misunderstood by people, because it appears in almost every folk music in the world. My influence, of course, is the Zydeco music. But I think it is a great instrument to solo on, I often use saxophone or organ phrases in my accordion solos, I think. I come from a rather puristic blues attitude, but my taste has opened up to a much wider spectrum over the years. While many blues musicians of my generation, especially here in the US, have started with rock music and then went back to the roots, I actually started with 1930s piano blues and boogie woogie and then chronologically went up in the blues history with the styles I listened to and tried to play…..But I myself try to play a wide variety of different styles within the blues framework, write much of my own material and avoid overplayed standards that everybody else plays too. In my choice of songs that I cover, I look for the hidden gems: great songs that are not so well known.”
For nearly 10 years until 1993, Christian was the co-frontman of one of Europe’s few blues bands, the reknowned Mojo Blues Band. He left to form his own band, Blues Wave, and for 7 years, toured with them nationally and internationally. He produced his first solo album “All Alone and Blue” and today, Christian Dozzler tours Europe and North American, performing mostly as a solo act. He has since moved permanently to the U.S. from his native Austria and has made the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas area his home since 2000.
Christian Dozzler was nominated for the Blues Critic Awards in 2008, for “Best Blues Keyboardist” (Piano, Organ, Accordion,Harmonica and vocal). He has been featured on over 40 cd’s and has met and played with many Blues greats and legends. Because of this exposure throughout his career, his musical influences are broad. “But out of the probably 5,000 or more gigs that I’ve played in my life it is hard to pick out a special one. It is always an honor to play with a legend or somebody you have admired for many years, that’s for sure… But I like jamming with other musicians after a festival, or sitting in with other bands that I know and like….. maybe the most fun I had was at an organized jam at the Salmon Arm Festival in Canada a few years ago. It was part of the program and they just sat 6 or 7 individual musicians on a stage in a half circle and watched what happened.”
About being a musician, Christian reflects, “…I like to listen and observe, in every life situation. And that is very important (as a professional musician) in a band context as well. You have to listen to what everybody in the band is doing and intuitively react to it or even anticipate it. How you accompany a singer or soloist is just as –if not more- important than what you do on your own solo. That’s the biggest problem with a lot of “wannabe” musicians, they don’t listen to what’s going on stage, and they just concentrate on themselves. Most of the greatest musicians, at least the ones that I respect, are also good accompanists. Because they do whatever the song needs, not what boosts their ego.”
He says that his experiences in America, as a musician, are far different than abroad. “(In Europe)..there is a respect for the artist on stage. In the U.S.…there is free live music on every corner, blues is an every-day thing that everybody grew up with, and most people cannot even distinguish between good and mediocre musicians or real and fake. They want to be entertained, dance and have a good time, and often don’t even care who the person on the bandstand is. So that’s a completely different approach for the musician…”
Christian Dozzler has seen many changes in the music industry since he became a professional musician. He says, “The CD/album sales have gone down drastically over the last decade or so. It used to be that buying an album was the only way for you to listen to the music at home. Now you can download it, listen anytime on internet radio, watch it for free on YouTube, you don’t need to necessarily own a product anymore. And especially in a niche market like the Blues, this has the effect that it almost makes no sense anymore to produce a CD. In the 90s I used to break even with the production costs within 6-8 months, now it might take 2 years or more.”
But, Christian says that there are more changes underway, “The particular problem that Blues and also Jazz seem to have worldwide is also that our audience is growing too old –like we are. There are not enough young people coming up who are interested in our style of music to fill the gap.” He adds, “I can only hope that more young people, in spite of all the distractions from the internet, cable TV and superficial pop culture, would get a chance to discover the heartbeat of the blues.”
All quotes from “Christian Dozzler: Two Meters of Blues” by Michalis Limnios BLUES @ GREECE
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Sometimes a performer emerges with the potential to completely redefine our impression of musical performance using the piano accordion. Crystal Bright has shown she has courage to dare to push the envelope a little farther, dig a little deeper and forge a path to go beyond what is merely expected and acceptable.
Crystal Dawn Bright was born in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1981 and raised in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina. She began piano lessons at the age of seven, and while growing up, performed in musicals and studied drama. After earning her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and M.A. from Florida State University, Crystal traveled, studied and worked from Spain to Yellowstone. Something that she had previously read resonated with Crystal. It was a book that she credits as influencing her creative path, and one that continues to motivate her today, Clarissa Pinkola Estes’, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.
She deliberately sought to absorb all that she could that is magical and wild in the world, inspired by thoughts such as these:
- “Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.”
- “I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories from your life– not someone else’s life–water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. That is the work. The only work.”
- “Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in, polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life.”
- “All the ‘not readies,’ all the ”I need time,’ are understandable, but only for a short while. The truth is that there is never a ‘completely ready,’ there is never a really ‘right time.” Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
Crystal returned to Greenboro, North Carolina, and in 2010 she formed her band, Crystal Bright and The Silver Hands. She named her band after a fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm, called ‘The Handless Maiden’. Crystal Bright said, “it is about her losing her hands and gaining them back in the end, representing her coming into her full creative and soulful self which I felt like I was doing then, and am still doing.” Crystal adds, ” I had written these songs and I needed help in creating a band and taking my music to the next level. The Silver Hands helped me create something bigger than my own hands could.”
A multi-instrumentalist in the truest sense, Crystal performs with a vast assortment of ethnic and exotic instruments, including a musical saw. She has shown that she can captivate an audience with her vocal ability and style, described as operatic and ethereal. Crystal utilizes the piano accordion; taps into and takes full advantage of the edgy, noir quality that the instrument can evoke, to effectively convey a sense of mystery, and of darkness and light.
Since forming her band, Crystal Bright has performed with the North Carolina Symphony, winning their Triangle Talent Search. She has earned awards for her singing performance and musicianship, songwriting, best music video ,”Drowned Out”, as well as international recognition. In 2010, the Broach Theatre in Greensboro, N.C. featured Crystal Bright’s musical theatre production, “Illuminating and Transcending the Shadow”, which she wrote, produced and directed, and in which she starred. It featured her band, The Silver Hands and a cast of sixteen costumed actors.
As a performance artist, Crystal acted, sang and performed with musical instruments, collaborating with mixed media sculptor, Grey Pascal in “20/20: Filters of Light and Insight”(2010) “Downward Spiral” (2011). Crystal Bright also co-produced and starred in her musical concert, “Bones and Lilies” along with members of the Flowjo Family Circus. Two performances featured acrobatics, interpretive dance and circus arts. The events took place at The Flowjo (2012) in Carrboro, North Carolina. A visual album by Crystal Bright and The Silver Hands, “The Absolute Elsewhere”, was performed at the Carrboro Arts Center (2014) and received positive reviews. Most recently, Crystal Bright and The Silver Hands performed an original, live score to the classic silent movie, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2015 & 2016)
With her highly intuitive determination, Crystal takes her audience along the enchanting path that she has chosen to fashion. The direction that she will take is only beginning to unfold as Crystal Bright continues to evolve as a brilliant star
Permanent members Crystal Bright and The Silver Hands
Crystal Bright – Vocals, accordion, keyboards, concertina, adungu, bombo, zheng, piano, guitar, vihuela and musical saw
Current rotating members:
Aaron Bond – Double bass
Sanders Davis – Double bass
Jeremy Denman – Trumpet
Jeremy Haire – Acoustic guitars
Robbie Link – Double bass
Seth Oldham – Drums
Bradley Spencer – Mandolin
Crystal Bright and The Silver Hands has performed at over 500 concerts including:
South By Southwest
Midpoint Music Fest
The Steampunk World’s Fair,
June 2010: Crystal Bright & the Silver Hands
March 2012: Muses & Bones
April 2013: Live on All Hallows’ Evening’
May 2015: The Absolute Elsewhere
Punk’s 10 Best Accordion Players: A Tribute to accordion Rockers
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 12:18 PM (PST) by connor_maoil
The sound of the accordion is, in my opinion, one of the best, weirdest, and most unique additions to the punk genre. For most it’s easy to see the instrument as nothing more than a novelty but the truth is there are a lot of very talented musicians whose squeezebox skills can’t be overlooked as a gimmick. As an aspiring punk rock accordionist myself, I wanted to spotlight some of the best in the field.
Check out the list here.
10. (Honorary mention): Eugene Hutz (Gogol Bordello)
Things might have ended up differently for the gypsy troubadour Eugene Hutz if he stuck with his attempt at learning the accordion. In a video interview, Hutz jokes about the difficulties he had trying to learn the instrument:
“Learning the accordion was just impossible. Have you ever tried an accordion? It’s insane. It’s f*cking nuts man, it’s like, to play accordion you must have your brain wired differently. I worship people who can play accordion. I tried for 2 years and ended up withminor scoliosis and, anxiety problem. And that’s when I picked up [guitar].
9. Eric Melvin (NOFX)
While the accordion is rarely up front in the ranks of NOFX, founding guitarist Eric Melvin busts out his giant squeezebox to time to time to please the crowds. Wailing minor waltzes about sleepless nights, Melvin really puts a lot of character into the instrument
8. Katie McConnell (The Mahones)
I’ve gotta admit that I’ve had a crush on this punk for a long time. McConnell really does a great job of bringing the punk style and hardcore energy to the accordion. Her style of playing seems to draw a good deal of inspiration from The Pogues (above). Seeing any performance by her with The Mahones is an awesome experience that I highly recommend to any lover of celtic punk. Watch for them in your town!
“A Great Night On The Lash” (from “The Black Irish,” 2011, True North Records)
7. Marc Orrell (Dropkick Murphys, 2000-2008)
He’s the one who brought you Shipping Up To Boston. Enough said?
6. Tim Brennan (Dropkick Murphys, 2003-present)
The current recording and touring multi-instrumentalist Tim Brennan has continued to make the accordion a more part of the band’s staple sound.
The Hardest Mile (off 2011′s Going Out In Style)
5. James Fearnley (The Pogues)
One of the pioneers of the punk accordion, James Fearnley, the original and current member of The Pogues, was originally a guitar player. According to Fearnley’s memoir, “Here Comes Everybody: The Story Of The Pogues,” founding banjo member Jem Finer, desperately seeking an accordion for his new band, showed up at Fearnley’s flat with an accordion in a laundry bag and persuaded him to try and learn the instrument.
“Turkish Song Of The Damned“ (from “If I Should Fall From Grace Of God,” 1988, Island Records)
4. Seamus O’Flanahan (The Dreadnoughts)
I’ll just let Seamus speak for himself. (Off “Polka’s Not Dead”, 2010)
3. Matt Hensley (Flogging Molly)
Hensley, a former skateboarder, picked up accordion from guitar like so many others on this list. In addition to skillfully adding to the work of Flogging Molly with his accordion, Hensley is also frequently featured on the concertina and more traditional Irish diatonic button accordion. That’s the kind of thing that tends to really impress the geeky accordion junkies.
“Tomorrow Comes A Day Too Soon” (from “Within A Mile Of Home,” 2004, SideOneDummy)
2. Yuri Lemeshev (Gogol Bordello)
Although not a founding member of the New York gypsy punk band, Yuri Lemeshev has been a vital part of the band for over a decade. Hailing from Russia, Lemeshev has to be one of the most technically skilled members of the scene. And not only can he knock down tunes masterfully, he can also move around and have a good ol’ punk time on stage while doing it.
“Supertheory Of Supereverything” (from “Super Taranta!”, 2007, SidOneDummy)
1. Franz Nicolay (World/Inferno Friendship Society)
In addition to that moustache, Franz Nicolay brings in the background of a converted rock piano player (most notably in The Hold Steady) and has spread the use of the accordion all over the genre. Nicolay probably has the most impressive resume of them all; in addition to being a former longtime member of the punk circus collective World/Inferno Friendship Society and his own collective Anti-Social Music, Nicolay has recorded and toured with the likes of Against Me!, Leftover Crack, The Dresden Dolls, The Loved Ones, and Mischief Brew. Check out a complete list of his recording and producer credits over here.
“Your Younger Man” (from “Red Eyed Soul,” 2006)
Had enough yet? If not, check out some up-and-coming bands featuring the accordion.
The First Chairs (ska)
Roughneck Riot (celtic punk)
Larry And His Flask (cow punk)
The Real Mckenzies (celtic punk)
Mad Caddies (ska/swing punk)
The Mighty Regis (celtic punk)
Crash Nomada (gypsy punk)
Joey Briggs (solo from The Briggs)
Ramshackle Glory (folk punk)
Feudalism (folk punk)
Lucero (cow punk)