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November 2009     Web Edition     Issue #3

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Musician Update

Carmel Helene

by Jerry Jewett

Carmel Helene first came to my attention when she was busking along the Third Street Promenade one summer weekend afternoon, circa 2006. She was a strong singer with good range, total confidence and clear expression, working in the rock genre at that time. Since then, I followed her to the Viper Room on Sunset and to other local venues as her musical career developed, watching her transition from a singer/songwriter who did some covers and some originals, to a singer/songwriter who also plays her own guitar, plays mostly her own songs now, and functions well whether solo or with a combo.

She has now turned her ability to Country music. From Patsy Cline to Dolly Parton into the current moment, female country singers typically need to sing at least as well as Broadway singers, although some of them are better. She has always had a fine voice, though I had not seen her live for several years.

Thursday night, February 1, 2018, Ricky Abramsonís Boots on Stage production company presented an evening of country music at the estimable Hotel Cafť venue on Cahuenga in Hollywood, in the smaller, more intimate Second Stage. Drew Dixon opened with a gripping solo act, accompanying himself on dobro and singing his tunes, including his dark and harrowing Dead Man. His singular voice will carry him far in combination with his song-writing abilities.

Singer-songwriter Annie Bosko followed on acoustic guitar, with an adept young Nashville chap playing more intricate parts on his acoustic guitar while she laid down chord progressions. Ms. Bosko has a good country career going and some songs that will keep her in the minds of listeners as long as she is working. She has the hometown ease of the girl next door with vocal skills of a very high order. Nothing she did was drab and some of it was very rousing. Her ease with the crowd and her relaxed rapport made her set feel like sitting in someoneís living room for a hoe-down. Her several impersonations of the styles of other musicians, e.g., the quavering tremolo of Mr. Aaron Neville and the emollient glissando of Ms. Celine Dion, were funny in their accuracy.

Carmel was the next act. She plays acoustic guitar on some tunes, with a gent playing lead parts on his acoustic guitar, a nice lady singing back-up vocals and a percussionist with a minimum kit, for time keeping. All of her eight songs were at least very good. She has that same bonding with the crowd facility as the French singer-songwriter-guitarist Gaelle Buswel does, engaging the audience and keeping things interesting and engaged. My only quibble was that I think the chap mixing the sound could have brought Carmelís voice a little bit further forward to good effect.

She has been performing as a vocalist for a good many years, not always as the centerpiece. Among other things, she was a chorister for the French rock icon Johnny Hallyday in Strasbourg in 2012 and on a North American tour in 2014. Such experience broadens and deepens a musicianís career.

One Foot Out the Door and If You Want Something Done are both tunes ready for country radio airplay. There was never a lapse nor a letdown in tempo through her half hour set. She closed with Humble Little Home. For this one she set down the guitar and put her all into the deliverance. This was perhaps the most country performance I ever saw. Speaking with her after the show, I mentioned how extremely impressive her performance of that tune is.

I also bought her CD New Frontier, the better to remember and re-enjoy these tunes. This CD is a Nashville product through and through, with accomplished country instrumentalists and vocalists on all five songs. On the album, Humble Little Home is a perfected tune, something as good as Calicoís The High Road in terms of being kind of a high-water mark for the genre. She also mentioned that she has been well-received in Bakersfield, Nashville and where rednecks gather, generally. I can believe that easily, as her energy and personality dynamics always make her performance uplifting and fun. I hope to see another live show soon!