There are three ways to get a CD made. The traditional way is to pay your dues, playing live and building up your experience and renown, and applying for grants to cover some of the costs. For those who can afford it, you can build your own studio and record yourself. But the way that everyone dreams of is to get discovered.
“Kevin Barr was there and he brought in Elmer Burchett, a banjo picker in from Louisville,” Riley explains. “He asked Kevin, ‘Who is this girl?’ and Kevin brought him into one of my Tangerine Ange Jams.”
After that, Riley went down to Louisville, Kentucky, where she recorded her CD, “Big Time”, with Burchett on rhythm guitar and banjo, and Randy Hayes on lead guitar, bass and drum.
Riley comes across as a country or Southern rock diva. Singing four of Burchett’s songs, three of her own and a few covers, Riley’s expansive voice rings out of these tracks.
Riley also performed with Wanda Jackson’s band in Nashville, Tennessee. She dedicated the CD to the rockabilly queen, paying tribute with three of Jackson’s songs, Fujiyama Mama, Mean Mean Man and Tongue Tied. She has fun with them, obviously enjoying the rhythm, the energy and the speed.
Burchett’s songs are a great vehicle for Riley’s voice and personality. Big Time, the CD opener, could be Riley’s story – a song about a person who is determined to make it in the music industry:
“Everybody tells me you’re crazy girl, you better stay where you are. But I’m going to hit the big time, they’re going to love me and my guitar.”
Write a Love Song is slower and more tender, and with Burchett and Hayes fingerpicking behind her, Riley can sing softer, filling the melody with emotion.
The Devil Knows the Dance, another Burchett original, which should be a country rock hit, shows Riley’s incredible range. She hits soaring high notes without cracking. Her voice is her instrument and she plays it with complete control. Her vocal is powerful and passionate, fleshing out the songs, while Hayes’ electric guitar provides the bones.
There are times, however, when it seems she’s too much in control of herself.
When she performs Kris Kristofferson’s Me and Bobby McGee, a song that could allow her to rock out, she under-sings it, staying truer to the early recordings by Roger Miller and Gordon Lightfoot, rather than the wild, defining versions of Janis Joplin and Peggy Hanifan.
Whistle, one of Riley’s original songs, is pure raunch. She takes on a predatory character, a young woman out for a good time, in her in skin tight jeans:
“Come on boys, let me hear you whistle.”
With this song, she’s far from the ladylike role that won her the title of Rendezvous Queen.
Since recording the CD, Riley has been hitting the road. With Burchett’s contacts and guidance she’s sure to go places. She’s currently on a tour of Canada and the U.S.
“I want to travel with music,” she says, “and I’m doing it, so I’ve basically already achieved my goals.”
Outstanding Tracks: The Devil Knows the Dance and Whistle.