Donna Colton Christmas
Christmas Present from Donna Colton The Post Standard - Stars Magazine Sunday, December 12, 2004 Mark Bialczak - Music Critic The pure voice of Central New York singer Donna Colton, matched with 10 great holiday songs, makes a great Christmas present. Colton's rich vocals warma room, setting the mood perfectly for a crackling fire and reflection time about the graces of life. An all-star band of Colton's usual performing partner Sam Patterelli on bass, bouzouki and guitar; versitale Arty Lenin on guitars, mandolin and baritone and Subcat Studios producer Ron Keck on percussion help Colton shine on traditional holiday favorites such as 'White Christmas', 'I'll Be Home for Christmas', 'Silent Night' and 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' in a truly gorgeous light. To further set it apart from you've - heard - it - all - before holiday fare, Colton starts the collection with a totally hip rendition of Joni Mitchell's great song 'River' and closes it with a goose - bump - raising version of 'Amazing Grace.' On the latter, sit back and admire the range, depth and sonics of Colton's beautiful voice. ### This Christmas album was made over the course of a couple of years. We did five songs the first year and five more the second. It's mostly a quiet ride with some songs having a singer/songwriter feel (River, Silent Night, White Christmas) and others have a bit of a jazz feel (Merry Little Christmas, I'll Be Home for Christmas, The Christmas Song). Blue Christmas was a lot of fun to sing in a sort of country Elvis style. Run Rudolph Run has some great percussion in it that makes it fun and a Happy Xmas is what the world needs. Amazing Grace had to be on the CD because I end many of our live gigs by doing it acappella. I'm hoping that all of the people who've asked me to sing it at their funeral will by the CD! We are happy to tell you that this CD did get a Syracuse Area Muisc Award (SAMMY)nomination in the Best Acoustic CD category and we were in great company with Joanne Shenandoah, the Lost Boys and the Van Norstrands. Here's what the Syracuse New Times said about it: Syracuse New Times Donna Colton Christmas ... Santa's cap with a lone black high heel on the back, sets the stage for local lark Colton and her vivacious vocals. Bracketed by her soaring solos with the opening track, River, and the closer, Amazing Grace, in between rests a bumper crop of seasonal chestnuts that include, White Christmas, Silent Night and a gently rocking Run Rudolph Run. Providing expert backup are Arty Lenin on guitars, Sam Patterelli (who recorded and mixed this effort at SubCat Studios in Skaneateles) on bass and percussionist Ron Keck. ... Colton's Christmas is a swell sonic sleigh ride. We also have to take a minute to thank Arty Lenin for his masterful guitar work. Without him, we'd still be recording this album. Big, Red, Wet Ones to Arty! And to my duo partner, Sam Patterelli, who plays, records and agonizes over every step and celebrates with me when it's finally done. ### The group configuration includes Donna Colton on acoustic guitar and vocals with duo partner, Sam Patterelli, playing bass, electric and baritone guitars and singing back-up vocals. Performing together since 1999 all players are based in the CNY area. The duo or trio is billed as Donna Colton +1 or +2 (say, plus two) depending on whether we use a drummer or percussionist. Our style fits the Modern Adult Contemporary category with a bit of acoustic R&B. We've also been described as Rock-Edged Folk, if that tells you anything about our varying styles. Our live performance is energetic and fun, but also tries to offer some insight into songwriting craft and inspiration. The fans of our music range in age from 6 to 60. Donna Colton Career Highlights Syracuse Area Music Award (SAMMY) nominee for Best Acoustic Act; and most recently her CD, Donna Colton Christmas, was nominated in the top 6 out of 100 entries in the Best Acoustic category. Colton has released two independent CD's of original work, Black and Blue Elaine and Fatal Love, that also included a couple of stylized cover tunes and made the Top Ten Local Artist CD's in both the Syracuse Post Standard newspapers and the Syracuse New Times alternative weekly. She has played a solo showcase of her original music at The Bitter End and The Spiral Club in NYC; appeared on national TV in the Charlie Daniel's Talent RoundUp broadcast on TNN and performed live on various local TV and radio shows. Pursuing her career in music had also taken her to places such as the Snowbird Lodge in Utah and the Iron Horse in Kansas where she was said to be the only woman in Iron Horse history to wear high heels on their stage. The duo or trio plays about 150 club and concert dates a year generally in the central New York area and Colton has made a name for herself as the 'gigging - est chick in the area'. Recently Donna and Sam were invited to play a house concert that was also a live webcast for ArtMusic Coffeeehouse and GarageRadio.com. Two major productions that Donna has performed in are The Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral, a Christmas program that blends celtic and modern music. This has had her singing songs like Against The Wind, Christmas Day Is Come by Moire Brennan (Enya's sister) and Shower The People by James Taylor. An annual event in Syracuse since 1999, Colton has been a guest vocalist for the past four years of the show. High Hopes Concert at Syracuse Stage and High Hopes at the Jazz Fest were two special concerts celebrating the music of Jimmie Van Huesen. In these shows, Donna got to showcase her ability to switch gears and sing Sinatra style music or 'crooner tunes' as she likes to call them. Both gave her the opportunity to work with Music Director Mark Doyle who is a noted producer, composer and musician and gave her a spot on two locally produced CD's of these music presentations. Donna Colton +1 also performed for the New York State Budweiser Blues Fest for the past 3 years to help promote Women 'N Blues and contributed a tune to the compilation CD of the same name. Donna Colton has been recognized as a distinguished songwriter in a couple of different ways. First, after submitting an original song, It Takes Time, that she helped co-write to Garrison Keillor's Town's Under Two Thousand contest, she got a call from one of the shows' producers, Stevie Beck. She said, 'You haven't made the cut, yet, but we liked your song so much that we'd like your permission to post it on our Prairie Home Companion website. Is that okay with you?'. Yeah, it was okay!! 'By the way, if I had a voice like yours, I'd be rich!'. Second, Fatal Love, the title track and one of her original compositions made Mark Bialczak's, Music Writer for the Syracuse Newspapers, 100 Favorite Songs list. House Concerts More recently we've expanded our venues to include playing house concerts. This is an old idea of having live music performances in your living room that is experiencing a rebirth. There is a network of people and places across the country that host these events and we are just beginning to tap into it. This is how it works: The host has a living room, dinning room, barn, etc. Large enough to seat anywhere from 20-30 people on up. They will e-mail or mail out invitations to this event providing info on who will be performing, a suggested donation (usually $10, 15, 20 per person depending on the artist), what to bring (if anything) and usually you must RSVP. They will often (but not always) provide food and/or drink. We were able to convince two of our fans, David and Teresa Mott to host a concert for us this past May. They provided delicious appetizers, beer, wine and hospitality. We set up our very small sound system and some recording equipment in their living room. We played two 45 minute sets of our original music with a 20 minute break in between. It was a fabulous evening for us as artists to have a listening audience to perform our music for. Also, it was great to be able to visit with people in between and afterward. The response from people was immediate, intimate and immensely gratifying. And we sold CD's and acquired many new fans. I would recommend this to any fan as a great way to introduce your friends to music that you like and to help support and promote these artists. And as an artist, what a great way to make new fans and friends and have your music heard and appreciated. Background Born in Lafayette, New York and raised for the most part in Marcellus, New York. Both are small town and rural communities and great places to grow up. My family moved to Marcellus when I was in fourth grade and I went to Marcellus Central Schools. I have two sisters and had one brother. Both of my sisters could sing and harmonize. Most of our family get togethers' included music and singing and most of the music comes from my mother's side of the family. In fact, I was always performing with one relative or another, a cousin or a sister throughout my musical career. So we sang in church, in school choir; stuff like that. I learned how to play guitar from my aunt and uncle, finger picking style for the first. It took awhile for me to learn to play with a pick. I learned how to play chords and they had sheets of music with lyrics and chords that taught us how to play actual songs; Blowin' In The Wind, Love of the Common People, Sunshine On My Shoulders, Bobbie McGee are some of the ones I remember learning. Then came the contests. I started entering things like the school talent show and the State Fair talent show. When I was in 7th and 8th grades, I started doing shows, playing VA Hospitals and schools. Then my parents, who always were involved in helping to promote me, got me a regular gig at a local restaurant. I played solo; four hours for fifty dollars and a steak. A fortune for me at the time! I had also been trying to write my own songs. Still have the sheet music and copyright info and some old tapes kicking around. My parents and I had been told be various music business people that if you were going to make it, you had to write your own stuff. I did write and perform my own songs, but there is nothing that I wrote at that time that I feel is good enough to perform today. All of this gave me a lot of experience in many aspects of performing. When I was in the 10th grade, my parents split up and I didn't play much until a few years later. When I finally got back into playing, it was always in addition to working a day job. I've done a little bit of everything in the working world; waitressing, cooking, telemarketing, computer and furniture sales, bartending, office clerk, much of this while attending University College of Syracuse part time. I started playing solo again at first and then played clubs around Syracuse with my cousin as Rearview Mirror. Then formed a band with another cousin and her husband that we called Double Down. This included various bass players and drummers, but the three of us were always the core of the group. We were a cover band unique in that we had two female singers up front. The band stayed together for 6 or 7 years and during the last year, I started playing some solo gigs on the side. I was married but didn't have any children and wanted to expand my horizons and play other venues and original music. I must also tell you that although my husband and I now live separately, he was always, always, always supportive and encouraging of my musical efforts. He came to every gig, lugged equipment, smiled and sang along with all of the songs. I couldn't have done it without him. My cousin and her husband were in the midst of raising their family and really needed to have more time off from playing so we decided to disband. That was when I started writing again, encouraged by my friend Ted Wellenc. He and I began co-writing and that spurred me to record and to put out my EP called Black and Blue Elaine. That was also when Sam Patterelli and I first started working together. Sam had been in a band and had been writing and recording with another one of my cousins. Sam had a studio set up in his basement and that's where I met some other musicians and corralled them into playing on my disc. This was my first experience not working with any members of my family. It was another good experience in getting another musician's take on your material and letting them interpret while trying to put together a CD that was representative of the solo act I did at the time and still have it be something good to listen to. It took me a couple more years to talk Sam into playing the live gigs with me, but it's been an adventure ever since. We also have had percussionists and drummers when the venue allows. We've been lucky to have Cathy Lamanna playing drums for us the most lately and she has agreed to help us out recording our next CD. So now, still based outside of Syracuse, New York, we are furiously writing and tweaking the next batch of songs for our next studio CD. We've done the Christmas CD, which is being reprinted and we also have our Live at the Mott's house concert CD being readied for duplicating. We are actively seeking out more venues to play our original music. That's really the direction we want to take at this point. So we're applying to do more house concerts and small theaters, festivals and wherever they're open to hearing our stuff. Sam Patterelli Sam has always had his hand in audio production and engineering, currently with SubCat Studios in Skaneateles and recently featured in an article on the new studio in the CNY section of the Syracuse Newspapers. He had previously interned at Penguin Studios with Steve Feldman and also took a turn at owning his own studio, Blue Jay Way which produced the Sammy award winning Best Jazz Recording for the Sox Tiffault Trio. His sound skills and reputation for being easy to work with have led to varied recording experiences with local artists such as Joe Whiting, Mark Doyle, Artie Lenin, Gary Frenay and Ronnie Leigh and groups like Skatos, The Back Alley Boys, The Lost Boys, The Fab Five, Guardrail, Flying Column and Tommy Bridges. A well known bassist for many area bands such as The Mercurys and Glass Hammer, Patterelli began working with Colton as a musician in her band Double Down. Soon they were collaborating on her CD projects, Black and Blue Elaine and Fatal Love, finding musicians, songwriters and artists to complete the record. They also began co-writing some of the tunes they perform and continue that relationship into the next CD venture. To the live show, Sam adds texture with bass, acoustic and baritone guitars and as well as blending in back up harmonies, oh yeah, and wise cracks and quips as needed! Cathy Lamanna Cathy is a SAMMY award winning drummer for her work with Karen Savoca and the Mind's Eye and Kim Lembo's blues band. She has played drums with just about every Syracuse native and notable musician in her career; Joe Whiting's band, George Rossi of Shufflin' Hungarians fame, the Neverly Brothers which included Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin as well as sitting in with the Flashcubes and the Fab Five. Cathy is as quick with a joke as she is with her drum sticks and that keeps her busy and makes her a favorite musician for CNY area bands to work with.