"We were delighted to feature Heather Pierson at the second annual Listening Room Festival. The depth and delivery of her material captured many new hearts on the big stage and in the small living rooms."
-Fran Snyder, founder, ConcertsInYourHome.com
"Warm and engaging from start to finish, Heather Pierson's musical voice is fresh, original, and a delight to behold. Very highly recommended!"
-Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com
“There's a real pureness to her voice as she leads us through intimate corners of her experiences and tells stories with a Joni Mitchell kind of edge… Her hands float on and above the piano keys with the ease of a longtime player; it's as if it's as second nature as breathing.”
-Aimsel Ponti, Portland Press Herald
Heather Pierson is a multi-genre singer/songwriter, veteran performer and winner of the 2012 New England Songwriting Contest. Audiences all over the world enjoy her soulful, intimate and stirring performances with her piano, acoustic guitar and bell-tone voice in a wide variety of styles – from jazz to blues to folk – in a manner that is distinctly all her own.
Her most recent CD, "The Open Road", is a collection of her stirring solo piano compositions. It features fourteen pieces, including six Heartland Songs dedicated lovingly to the place of her birth and early childhood. She is currently working on her next CD release, "The Hard Work of Living", scheduled for a summer 2013 release, featuring her Americana/folk/roots material, including her award winner, "A Hard Man To Please".
Heather was raised on blues, jazz, soul – music that is at once both celebratory and melancholy. To define her strictly by these origins, however, is to miss the mark – she is a prolific performer, composer and songwriter in nearly every genre of music. Her wildly and beautifully varied live performances and her growing catalog of CD releases reflect this boundless creativity. New Orleans jazz, Delta blues, poignant and narrative story-songs, Native American chants, New Age instrumental piano, folk-pop – all are well within the capable grasp of this inspiring singer/songwriter and performer as she moves seamlessly from one style to the next.
Like many performing artists, Heather’s uncanny abilities were apparent from an early age. Using music as her anchor during a stormy childhood, she rose from the depths of her poor working class roots and crafted a world class approach to music – no pretense, no unnecessary frills, just honest and heartfelt music with the intention of connecting and communicating to audiences, one heart and mind at a time. Her nearly non-stop performance schedule speaks to her tireless work ethic and endless dedication to her craft.
Heather continues to dedicate her life’s work to communicating with audiences through the powerful language of music in as many dialects as her abilities will allow. It is the joy of connection to like minds and hearts, she says, that propels her art and her life. Her deeply personal and intimate performances and songwriting capture the depth and character of her heartland roots and the wildness and beauty of her current home in the mountains of northern New Hampshire.
1st place - 2012 New England Songwriting Contest
1st place - 2012 "Singing Against Homelessness" at Simple Gifts Coffeehouse
2nd place - 2013 Broward Folk Club Songwriting Contest
Heather Pierson - Vocals, keyboards, Piano, Acoustic Guitar, Hand Percussion
Shawn Nadeau - Vocals, Bass
The Open Road (2012)
Make It Mine (2010)
Between Lives (2003)
We All Have A Song (2001)
Honor The Light (2000)
Onward & Upward (1999)
I'll Never Know Freedom Again
The Hard Work of Living
A Hard Man to Please
Make It Mine
Dust Bowl Romance
Let It Roll Off Your Back
We All Have a Song
Review of Heather Pierson's "The Open Road"
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The Open Road is the sixth release from pianist/composer/singer/songwriter Heather Pierson, an artis...The Open Road is the sixth release from pianist/composer/singer/songwriter Heather Pierson, an artist who embraces a multitude of musical genres from blues, jazz, and soul to narrative story-songs to gentle piano solos to Native American chants. The Open Road is a collection of fourteen original piano solos that includes six pieces from the “The Heartland Songs” series, an homage to Pierson’s childhood hometown of Joplin, MO. The album was recorded on a fully restored 1930 Model A Mason & Hamlin piano that must have an impressive array of stories of its own to tell! Most of the songs are flowing, melodic, and easily accessible - no heavy drama, but lots of heart. Warm and engaging from start to finish, Heather Pierson’s musical voice is fresh, original, and a delight to behold.
The Open Road begins with the title song, a lively piece that suggests the freedom and excitement of setting out on a new adventure - perhaps one without a specific destination. “Bittersweet” has an easy flow tinged with just enough melancholy to merit the title. “Doc Bradley’s Waltz” is a graceful minor key waltz with a poignant lilt and a sweet melody; I especially like the darker, more turbulent middle section. “Edith” is one of my favorites. Coincidentally, “Edith” is my grandmother’s name (and my middle name, but don’t tell anyone!), and this piece seems to suit her well - somewhat complex and always moving forward with strength and determination. One of the more dramatic pieces, it tells a wonderful story about another great lady named Edith. “Flight of Fancy” is as light and carefree as the title implies. “Late October” has the feeling of an improvisation - free and in the moment, expressed from the heart without reservations; very effective! “The Heartland Songs” begin with “Jasper County,” a gentle, nostalgic piece that tells of a simpler time with fond memories and bittersweet longing. “Skipping Rocks at Shoal Creek” is full of innocence and playful energy. “Sunflowers” suggests graceful movement with just a touch of funk for fun. One might expect “The Storm’s Promise” to be turbulent and dark, but it’s actually a very peaceful, serene piece - a beauty and another favorite. “Wheat” elegantly conveys the rippling motion of a breeze moving through a field. The Open Road ends with “Prairie Sunset,” peaceful, warm, and very content. What a great introduction to this very impressive artist!
The Open Road is available from www.HeatherPierson.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
Heather Pierson's journey culminates in "Open Road"
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Neoclassical pianist Heather Pierson just released her sixth CD, "The Open Road," consisting of 14 o...Neoclassical pianist Heather Pierson just released her sixth CD, "The Open Road," consisting of 14 original pieces composed by Pierson and recorded at Baked Beans Recording Studio in Harrison. Pierson was born in Joplin, Mo., but spent her formative years in Maine, and now calls Center Conway, N.H., home. Find her online at heatherpierson.com, where you can purchase "The Open Road." Pierson recently took time out to talk to GO about the new record, her love of vintage pianos and more.
WHEN: 3 p.m. Oct. 28
WHERE: First Universalist Church, 479 Main St., Norway
HOW MUCH: $15 (includes free copy of "The Open Road")
WHAT'S ON HEATHER PIERSON'S iPOD
"Banquet," Joni Mitchell
"Forget Me Not," The Civil Wars
"In the Meantime," Seth Walker
"Night Train," Oscar Peterson
"Oklahoma Going Home," Kate Wolf
"Quarter Master," Snarky Puppy
"Some Day Baby," Ray Charles
"Teardrop," Massive Attack
"Three to Get Ready," Dave Brubeck
"Tried and Tempted," The Wood Brothers
When did you first start to play the piano?
I got my first piano at age 5. It was a toy that I received for Christmas the first year we were in Maine. It came with a strip of paper of colored squares that went across the keys and a book of songs that were played by "color." I had learned and memorized all the songs in the book by New Year's, which made my parents say, "Maybe she's got a knack for this " My first real piano came the following year, and it's been a love story ever since.
What are some of things you like and appreciate about the 1930 Model A Mason & Hamlin piano that you recorded "The Open Road" on?
First and foremost, I love the care and the attention that Alan Bean (owner of Baked Beans Recording Studio) and his wife, Kim, who teaches on that piano, give so freely and lovingly to the instrument. They have spent a tremendous amount of time, money and energy in dedication to restoring and maintaining this beautiful piano. It's also the same piano on which I recorded all the tracks for "Make It Mine."
When Bob Ludwig (of Portland's Gateway Mastering) mastered that album for me, he was so deeply impressed with the sound of the piano that he made an appointment with Alan specifically to see the piano and the studio. I also love the fact that Alan, whom I've known for over 20 years now, took great care to give the recording of the piano a darker sound to match that of the Steinways that I typically prefer.
Over what period of time were the songs on "The Open Road" written?
A couple of the "Heartland Songs" were originally composed when I was just a teenager during a trip I took back to Missouri and Kansas. They've been revisited and revised for this release. The rest have been composed over the last 10 to 12 years or so since.
What inspires your writing?
Different things inspire different types of writing. For the pieces on "The Open Road" and for that type of composition, I'm inspired very much by the beauty of the natural world. When I'm writing songs with lyrics, I tend to go inward, either to my own personal experience or to reflect on the complexity of human behavior and relationships. I'll be heading into the studio later this fall to start recording the next project -- a collection of Americana/roots/acoustic guitar-driven songs -- which will include my song that won this year's New England Songwriting Contest, "A Hard Man to Please."
What did you grow up listening to?
I spent a lot of time alone in my room with my headphones on, listening to everything I could get my hands on, and enjoyed it all. I grew up in Hebron, where sometimes I could just barely tune in WRBC (Bates College radio), and was introduced to lots of wild and innovative stuff that way. I'd go through phases -- metal, then classical, then punk, then jazz, then electronica, then blues. I bounced around, and I still do. My parents both really loved and enjoyed music too, and we were always listening to something in the house.
Some favorite groups around the house were The Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, The Beatles and Kansas. Lots of blues-influenced stuff. They liked a lot of folky stuff too, like John Denver. My father really loved Anne Murray's voice, and my mother was wild about Rod Stewart. Dad also loved jazz, especially Pete Fountain, but those records -- and his clarinet -- came out usually after Mom went to bed. Some of my fondest memories are of listening to him play along with those scratchy Dixieland records.
When you're playing, where does your mind tend to go? What's your emotional state?
My mind tends to empty, and I'm completely focused on the music and on the connection I'm trying to make with the audience. I hesitate to say that it's a Zen state, but it's something akin to that. I don't always get there, but that's always the goal.
What's the best part about performing live?
It's a transcendent experience that is difficult to quantify. I love connecting with people in the audience. One of the best feelings is looking up and making eye contact with someone who is picking up what I'm putting down. Music is a language, to quote Victor Wooten, that doesn't have to be understood to be effective.
Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:
The celebratory and melancholy sounds of Heather Pierson
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Heather Pierson was born in Western America and raised on the music of the South including blues, ja...Heather Pierson was born in Western America and raised on the music of the South including blues, jazz and soul. It has been said that her music is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and Paula Cole. Her performances and songwriting capture the depth and character of her heartland roots and as she says “the wildness and beauty of her current New England home”.
“I started piano lessons when I was six years old and was classically trained , so many of my early hero’s were the great composers like Chopin, Mozart and Bach. Vladimir Horowitz, the famous Russian pianist, was and remains my favorite musician living or dead. As I got older I began exploring more jazz like Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.”
Tell me how your childhood influenced your music style and how do you classify your music?
My childhood was, in a word, interesting. Without going into too much detail, there was enough going on that I had plenty to write about in my journals every day. You can catch glimpses of it in some of my songs, like “Did I Mention”. I was blessed (and cursed) with a vivid imagination and a constant desire to create – poems, songs, drawings – which helped me make sense of what was going on in my world day to day.
I’m not sure how to classify my music, to be honest. I’ve written for so many different genres that I almost defy categorization. I always say that my favorite genre of music is “good music played from the heart” and that’s the kind of music I try my best to write.
Vessel Recordings Music Videos: www.youtube.com/user/vesselrecordings
Share some of your experiences on stage with rock stars and folk legends.
Just to mention a couple: I performed with Meatloaf at a sell-out show in Portland, Maine during his VH1 Storytellers Tour. He was a real gentleman. I also one summer shared the stage with Jonathan Edwards and performing his hit tune “Shanty” was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a live show!
What do you want us to get from your music?
Music, at its best, moves people – literally and figuratively. Every time I perform or share my work with people, my hope is that they are moved in some way – moved towards a new perspective or emotion, whether it’s joy or sadness. I don’t necessarily mean to say that I want to bum people out, but that’s life, you know? Take the good with the bad and learn from all of it.
What CD’s do you have out and tell me about any new projects your working on?
Onward & Upward (1999); Honor The Light (2000); We All Have A Song (2001); Between Lives (2003); Make It Mine (2010). I’ve currently been recording a bunch of new songs in the studio that are all over the map – some jazz standards; some of my original compositions for solo piano; blues and jazz originals with vocals and a trio; several country and folk ballads (originals and some obscure covers).
Ideally, what would you like to be doing five years from?
As long as I’m still practicing and developing my skills as a songwriter and performer, I’d be happy just about anywhere. As much as I love New England, I do have a particular fondness for the south, especially for New Orleans, and also for the desert in the Southwest. In five years I will still be performing, writing, and recording, no matter where I end up.
By: Diana Olson – firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather Pierson lives her life through music
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Heather Pierson does what she always knew she would. Having just won a songwriting award this summer...Heather Pierson does what she always knew she would. Having just won a songwriting award this summer and scheduled to release her sixth CD this fall, Pierson earns her living and lives her life through music.
"I guess for most people breaking through means winning 'American Idol' or getting a big record contract," Pierson said. "But I'm already doing what I want. I'm able to make a living with my music. What could be better than that?"
Pierson's calendar is booked for the rest of year with performances every weekend somewhere in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. She writes songs and records her music between gigs.
Winning first place in the 2012 New England Songwriting Contest this summer along with the cash prize was an added bonus.
But for Pierson paying the bills isn't what life's about. It's about music, and music is about life. Her winning song, "A Hard Man to Please," subtly paints a sorrowful vignette of a woman trapped in a destructive relationship with hopes that her son won't follow in his father's footsteps. Pierson's clear voice carries the simple but captivating melody with honesty and beauty.
"I'm completely flabbergasted that I won," said Pierson, who grew up in Hebron and now lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. "I almost didn't submit that song because I thought it might be too controversial. I didn't even expect to place."
But with the encouragement of her boyfriend, bass player and touring partner, Shawn Nadeau, Pierson entered the contest.
"The song is less about me and more about the characters," Pierson said. "But there's a little bit of me in everything I write."
Pierson shared that she had been in a relationship for several years that "really held her down." She preferred not to go into detail but said that she resolved to never let it happen again.
"I have a friend who told me I should write happy songs once in while," Pierson said with a laugh. "I do have some, you know. Normally, I really am a happy person."
Pierson's complete range of emotions and her zest for life come through in her overflowing repertoire of music. She plays jazz and New Age piano; she sings folk and blues; she writes songs that she doesn't know how to tag.
"I don't write with a particular genre in mind," Pierson said. "It's just however the song comes out."
Her latest collection of original piano compositions, called "The Open Road," lends itself to a more soothing New Age sound. Pierson, who began piano lessons as a young child, considers piano her primary instrument. She has dedicated this CD to her longtime piano teacher, Helen Davidson.
"Sometimes kids take lessons and their parents have to remind them to practice," Pierson said. "With me, it was just the opposite. My parents would tell me that maybe I should do something else once in a while."
But Pierson readily gives credit to her family who encouraged her music and particularly her father, who played guitar and clarinet. Pierson's parents uprooted from Joplin, Mo., where Pierson was born, to make a fresh start in Maine. But they kept their musical roots and surrounded their daughter with a variety of genres.
While attending Oxford Hills High School, Pierson was already singing with bands and playing gigs in local bars. "I had to either sit with one of my parents or an adult band member between sets," Pierson said. "I wasn't allowed to walk around the bars because I was underage."
Pierson said she never doubted that she would be doing something with music. And now in her 30s, she believes she has come into her own and is doing full time what she has always wanted to do. For more information on Pierson's scheduled performances and music releases, visit www.heatherpierson.com.
Pierson's latest charts course for intimate corners of life
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Singer-songwriter Heather Pierson's latest CD, "Make It Mine," is home to no less than 16 songs. Ori...Singer-songwriter Heather Pierson's latest CD, "Make It Mine," is home to no less than 16 songs. Originally from the West, Pierson calls New England home and keeps up a dizzying pace of live performances, as evidenced on the "Gigs" section on her website.
Pierson's main instrument is the piano, though she also plays the occasional drums, bass and electric guitar on the disc. There's a real pureness to her voice as she leads us through intimate corners of her experiences and tells stories with a Joni Mitchell kind of edge.
"I knew a woman once who collected other people's mistakes / And with her voodoo magic she could make them all her own," sings Pierson in "Did I Mention." Her hands float on and above the piano keys with the ease of a longtime player; it's as if it's as second nature as breathing.
"Fix" is another standout song: "The very thought of you makes me weak in the knees / So I'll try my best to stand up and be brave." You can feel the sorrow through the vocals, the piano and the haunting chorus of backup vocals.
Halfway through "Little Bluebird," drums come crashing through the door and Pierson's voice soars. This left me hoping that her next record will let even more percussion in.
Pierson released "Make It Mine" on her own Vessel Recording label and employed the services of none other than Grammy winner Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering to master it. It was recorded at Baked Beans Recording Studio in Harrison. You can hear several tracks at www.myspace.com/heatherpierson1.
Aimsel Ponti is a Portland freelance writer. Contact her at:
Heather Pierson dives full time into music career
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CENTER CONWAY, N.H. — At 34, Heather Pierson is the happiest she’s ever been in her life, ever since...CENTER CONWAY, N.H. — At 34, Heather Pierson is the happiest she’s ever been in her life, ever since she was a young child. And the reason is simple, even if the journey to get there was not:
“I’ve found my voice,” she said. “I’m living my life a lot more honestly. I really feel I have found my voice, and now I’m going to let that guide me.”
Gone is the little girl of age five, sitting at the piano at her home in Hebron, struggling to read music under the encouragement of her father. Emerging is the self-assured singer-songwriter who’s gone from exploring music over the past three decades to exploring herself through her music — in her new, edgy, at times intensely-personal 16-song CD, Make It Mine.
Emerging is a woman who knows that her destiny is to sing and write and perform, and is embracing that destiny for all its worth. She’s become a one-woman self-promotional whirlwind, making connections at open mics, doing gigs almost nightly, anywhere she can. She spends late nights on the computer sending out digital press kits to national radio stations, and is taking to the road more and more to explore musical venues outside Maine and New Hampshire.
This week, she’s on a road trip to Arizona, visiting friends and making the musical rounds.
“I feel like I’m right on the cusp of something awesome. I don’t know what it is yet. It’s like being right on the edge of a cliff — but in a good way,” she said in a recent interview.
No longer out of reach
It all started to come together this past spring, when she left a bad relationship and moved to Center Conway, N.H. It had been seven years since her last CD, Between Lives, was released. She’d left her job the previous summer as the children’s librarian at the Naples Public Library, a job she’d held for six years. More importantly, she left a bad relationship behind her.
“I was settled for a while. And even though I knew it wasn’t the right thing, I kept thinking, well, at some future point, things are going to get better. And then I realized that’s never going to happen if I stay in this situation,” she said. “It’s always going to be just out of my reach.”
She was sitting on all this “stuff,” and her community work in music — as founder of the nine-years-running Norway Open Mic, singing at the Naples Library for the kids, as eight-year choir director at the Norway Universalist Church — while still rewarding, didn’t provide an outlet for her inner life.
So she did what she always does when she hits a wall: she began writing songs.
These songs felt different. Instead of hope-filled lyrics about the way she wanted herself and the world around her to be, she began drawing from her actual experience, exploring hidden places. She started writing stories — some intensely personal, some not. She started weaving hope and hopelessness, pain and joy — and let her passions fly.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done musically,” said Heather. “I’m a much stronger person, I’m much more honest, much more self-aware. And I’m aware of what music can do and how to reach more people.”
She produced the CD with her longtime friend, Alan Bean of Harrison, from his Baked Beans Studio. They started out with 22 songs and settled on 16 that “went together somehow,” she said.
As a classical music student at age 14, Heather was shy about her voice, shy about improvising. It was Bean who encouraged her to try new things, when they were playing together in the band Garajh Mahal. The icing on the cake was getting Bob Ludwig to master her new CD at his Gateway Studio in Portland. Ludwig has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, like Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones.
“It was kind of pricy, but it was worth it,” Heather said. She said he was impressed with her music; Heather not only wrote and sang all the songs, she did all the instruments — piano, drums, bass and electric guitar.
“He told me if there is anything he can do to help me, just let him know. I don’t know if he expected that from a Maine girl,” she joked.
Baring her soul
Finally it was time for her CD release party at the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield. Heather said she “shamelessly promoted myself” in the months leading up to the show, or her Facebook page, her blog, at all her gigs, and on her website for her self-produced record label, Vessel Recordings.
Sitting at her piano, before a standing-room-only crowd of over 150 people, she began to bare her soul.
“I play music because I have to. It’s like breathing for me. I swear it’s in my cells,” said Heather. And now, here she was, on stage, only in a way so much more vulnerable, more honest, than ever before.
“And it was so quiet. You could hear a pin drop. I started to wonder, are people enjoying themselves?”
Heather needn’t have worried.
Her friend Sandra, after the show, told her she was mesmerizing the audience. That’s why people were so quiet.
“I don’t even know how to take something like that,” she said. She later blogged, “Whether it’s two people or 200 people, when I let go of my inhibitions and just let the music find its way, nothing but good comes of it. It’s a very Zen-like place to be — in the moment, eyes closed, fingers moving, voice singing, ears engaged.”
She refers to her music on Facebook as “happily defying all categorization,” although some compare her to such songwriters as Joni Mitchell and Paula Cole. Heather finds it interesting that “everyone seems to have a different favorite song” on the CD. “I was trying to touch on a lot of different emotions.”
The title track, Make It Mine, has made it onto the regular rotation for airplay at Conway’s WMWV 93.5 FM, based in part on the many requests for her music that have been called into the station. The lyrics on that song aptly describe her life now: “Isn’t it a miracle to be alive — to feel that spark of passion along your spine?”
She’s also had her songs played on WBLM, and has submitted them to WCLZ, both in Portland.
“It always helps when people call and request it,” she said.
She and her boyfriend plan another trip this spring to the South, particularly New Orleans, where they will stop and hit all the open mics and mingle with other musicians. That’s what they’re doing this week, during a 10-day road trip to Arizona. By hanging out with other musicians and trying out new material, “You see how people respond, and learn how to shape the songs.”
Heather says she doesn’t focus on making it big in a conventional sense, like getting a major record deal. Of course, it would be nice.
“I’m working toward whatever will allow me to play my music for more people. Even if I end up doing everything on my own,” she said. “I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.”
A fellow musician, Harry Peet, wrote recently on her Facebook that from all the gigs she’s been doing — at the Wildcat Tavern in Jackson, N.H., the Red Parka in Glen, N.H., and 302 West in Fryeburg — it looked like she was having a blast.
Peet wrote, somewhat wistfully, “In me younger days, been there, done that myself. Now I go to sleep early, don’t sleep, and feel like a space cadet most of the time. How I ever manage to find a minute to strum on the old guitar I’ll never know.
“By the way, before I forget why I wanted to comment, it does look like you’re the center of attention… and having a great time… that’s what counts! Great. Let your spirits fly!”
Originals (partial list):
Crooked Smile Girl
Did I Mention
Dust Bowl Romance
A Hard Man To Please
The Hard Work Of Living
It's Time To Go
Let It Be So
The Love Of His Life
Make It Mine
Now All I Do
The Perfect Shade Of Green
The Road To Nowhere
Sometimes It's So Hard
When Your Mother Grieves
You Wouldn't Know Me Anymore
Chants (partial list):
I Am Grateful
Let It Roll Off Your Back
We All Have A Song
When I Walk
Original Instrumentals (partial list):
Flight of Fancy
Pass The Buck
Skipping Rocks At Shoal Creek
What's The Score?
Covers (partial list):
All I Think About Is You
Bright Morning Stars
Dark As A Dungeon
Dirty No-Gooder's Blues
Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
Drown In My Own Tears
For No One
Give Me One Reason
Give Yourself To Love
I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister
Love Me Like A Man
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
Tell Me Something Good
Wade In The Water
When You Say Nothing At All
You Don't Know Me
Cover Instrumentals (partial list):
Blues For Alice
Lullaby Of Birdland
Sweet Georgia Brown