Last October
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Last October


Band Folk Acoustic


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"7 Days Last October Self-Title Debut Album Review"

Last October, Last October

Album Review
By Dan Bolles [11.09.11]

(Last October Music, CD)

Here’s a confession: I really wanted to dislike the self-titled debut record from Mad River Valley-based duo Last October [1]. To explain, I need to avail myself of a dirty little music-scribe secret. You see, the fastest way to lose a critic’s interest is to prattle on about how much music means to you. Your music, someone else’s music, music in general … it doesn’t matter. If, as a musician, you need to explain that music is important to you, the odds are high you’re not very good at it. Otherwise, why the hell are you/we here? But I digress.

In preparing to review Last October, I started doing a little background research on the band. That’s when I discovered this eye-roll-inducing nugget in their bio material: “Honing their crafts from opposite sides of the country, Erica Stroem and James Kinne [2] came together through their sheer love and respect for music.” Awww. (As an aside, have any musicians ever come together over a shared hatred for music?)

But then I pressed “play.” And I realized I was wrong.

Kinne and Stroem share more than an affinity for music. As Last October, they seem to share one mind. Or — cheese alert! — one soul. Like so many great male-female Americana duos, past and present — Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, etc. — they complement one another so much that it’s hard to envision one without the other.

That’s not to say Last October are on par with those aforementioned greats. They aren’t — yet. But their debut is a stirring exposition of the power of intimate artistic collaboration, and is an undeniably enjoyable listen.

Kinne is a veteran local tunesmith and a member of “folkgospel grassicana” outfit Phineas Gage. His experience and savvy lends the project ballast. His sweet, reedy croon is a perfectly measured foil to Stroem’s more emotionally charged delivery, especially on album opener “Down This Road.” Here, the duo weaves vocal lines together in beautifully soothing, dovetailing fashion.

At moments — “All You Do,” for example — Last October do tread awfully close to feel-good, folk-pop schmaltz. Yet, rescued by an irresistible homespun charm, they never fully tumble. Frequently throughout the record, and particularly at that song’s winding chorus, there’s a naked vulnerability in the pair’s performance that is simply impervious to cynicism. So, I apologize, Last October. I do believe you melted my heart.

Last October play Two Brothers Tavern in Middlebury this Friday, Novermber 11.
- Seven Days

"Bp's Song of the Week #131: Last October "Catch a Moment""

As I was driving and listening to this track on today [last Friday] I thought about a great way to discuss it that involved meeting a friends’ baby for the first time, the intimacy of conception of both life and songwriting, the fragility and excitement of performance, and it all made sense in my head. Unfortunately it’s not making its way to the keyboard as nicely as I thought it would and now sounds ridiculously goofy. But I’m not satisfied with just saying, ‘this is a brilliant song, listen and you’ll know why.”

Last October is a new project between a long-time favorite songwriter of mine, James Kinne, and his new musical partner, Erica Stroem. They’ve been working together for about a year and the freshness and vibrancy of their musical relationship comes through in the music. It’s not tentative, but the intimacy created mirrors that of a new relationship. It’s not hesitant, but there is a hesitance (I’m not sure if that makes sense to anyone other than myself, but I know what I’m talking about – if this record was made three years from now with the same songs, it would sound different). The songwriting is seasoned, but infused with a spark and excitement of a new musical relationship. And it’s the details, the nuances, that make the entire album, but this song in particular, so exciting and fun to listen to.

Things I love, things to listen for (ie- why I love the song):
• Lyrically its foot is in three places, the now – savor the moment, with the wind in your hair, enjoy the now and be present in it; the past – touched by remembrance, recapturing memories, we are the sum of our experiences; and the future – maybe it’s the optimist in me, but there is definitely a future.
• The two acoustic guitars complement each other, one finger-picked, the other picked.
• The light accents way out in the right channel (by ‘way out’ I mean across the road and in the field past the house – get some headphones on and you’ll hear what I mean – starting around 0:55)*
• The weaving of Erica’s voice around James’ – it’s organic, it’s natural. They are not 100% precise as an over-produced recording would be, it’s beautiful in its ebb and flow. There’s a precision to Def Leppard’s vocal harmonies that works within those confines, but there’s a gorgeous give and take to these two voices intertwining with each other.
• At 1:18 when the first chorus of “whoa, oh” comes in its sparse and Erica supports James, you feel uplifted, but the next time around the blend of their voices become something you never want to end – you want it to ride out like “Hey Jude” for minutes on end.
• At 2:30 “living the daydream, under a cloud drenched sky” – okay, I first started to type out that they were separated, they weren’t locked in sync (which led to my previous comment about loving the organic vocal, that it didn’t need to be precise), but I’m not so sure I’m right now. There’s definitely something there, especially at “under a cloud” – but maybe it’s just that James’ “under” and Erica’s “sky” just slightly different than each other makes me love it so much.
• And then that big “whoa, oh” section I referenced earlier that I didn’t want to end, but they do…and they do it beautifully. Down to one guitar, down to their voices, reminding you to “go catch a moment, where the field touches the sky, savoring the moments, before they pass us by”

This is one of those songs that as soon as it’s over you feel compelled to start it again.

Catch a Moment
Let's go catch a moment in the field by the sky
Recapturing memories of days gone by
Like I'm standing on top of the world
With the wind in your hair
And the strong scent of roses is everywhere

I'm touched by remembrance
When things still felt new
And all the doors were open
For me and you
Let's lay down together
Can you spare me the time
Living the daydream
Under a cloud drenched sky

So let's go catch a moment
Where the field touches the sky
Savoring the moments
Before they pass us by

There’s more Last October to discover at their page on the Reverb Nation site: here.
Here are a couple that I recommend:

More Last October:
Down this Road
“Deep in the woods in the freshly fallen snow
Lie two tracks in sync towards the unknown
Feeling life in a way we'd almost forgot
As the things behind us can't equal what we've got”

Work in Progress
“Take the chance, push past the edge
Climb that peak, tumble down again
One foot first and then the next
You never know what lies ahead
Good things come to those who wait
You'll miss the chance if you hesitate and
I want to see your smiling face....”

Samples from the entire album, click on “An Angel’s Touch” – you can hear the magic in just this short clip – stunning!
Click here.

*With my normal headphones which aren’t labeled, apparently I have them on backwards normally because this was originally in the left channel. I had to switch headphones to a different pair which is very clearly labeled right & left and all of a sudden it was coming in the right channel. For some reason I really liked it better out of the left.

- Squintyt4e.livejournal

"The Sanity Behind Mad 4 Music"

The Sanity Behind Mad 4 Music – Thursday, August 25 at The Big Picture Theatre
Last October and Phineas Gage
James Kinne is the sound mix master for this locally grown musical night. He took a few minutes after his gig at the Cheese is ARTisinal at The Pitcher Inn on Tuesday to reflect on his musical endeavors with his two groups, sound-mixing work, studio recording and living his life in the Mad River Valley. Last October, he and Erica Stroem created a new band called, literally, Last October. As two-thirds of the Phineas Gage Project (the other third being Rob Williams), the duo was familiar, comfortable and inspired by each other’s musical intuition and discovered a deepening connection into songwriting.
Kinne calls the music of Last October “intense, extremely personal, original, acoustic, singer-songwriter-esque, deepening, harmonious and organic.” While both Erica and James have lived and loved music through their entire lives, it appears that this collaboration is bringing a synergistic rhythm to their musical creations. James reflects, “Never before have I been this inspired in such a constant way.” Erica adds, “We have time to intensely move into the songwriting mode. Quite often the setting will be my home in Waitsfield that seems to nurture our creative output. We settle in, perhaps build a fire, and James begins to play his guitar. It is almost as if the music is already there and James is just picking his way through the notes to find the riff that sets off a new song. An intense wave digs deep into our collaboration - and it seems to be there all the time.”
James laughs that in his younger day he would have scoffed at such a mystical explanation of the creative process; this inspired movement is a new experience for him. Listen to their first song, “Catch A Moment,” and you will find penetrating and soulful harmony that blends into a sense that you’ve heard this somewhere before, in a time long past in our own memories….like the music was already there, waiting for you to hear it for the first time.
Both Erica and James grew up in New Jersey, found Vermont in their bones at an early age, and kept returning in body and soul until they became permanent residents.
Erica has been coming to the Mad River Valley since “in the womb,” to the house that her grandfather built in 1967 with the dream of living here permanently finally fulfilled two generations later: She lived the wandering life, including a 13 year stint in Salt Lake City where she played at the Olympics, opened for Sheryl Crow and other big names as a member of the Mother Lode Canyon Band. She always loved to sing, with her first big gig as the unwelcoming innkeeper in the church play that stunned the audience with such a big voice for such a tiny thing. She believes singing “sets the soul free, and the point is to play the music.”
James left college to tour (twice!). With Angry Salad, James traveled the U.S. and China in a 320-gig per year schedule and continued on a musical odyssey as those Mad River sirens called him back again and again. While playing at the Purple Moon pub, he caught Rob Williams outside playing, and “all of a sudden we were playing.” They started up Phineas Gage Project and came across Erica – again at the Purple Moon Pub (thank you, Dan!) and the trio was formed.
While Phineas Gage performs mostly covers, Last October entertains with about 85 percent of their material as original songs. James refers to the Phineas Gage playlist as “more familiar, versus more introspective with Last October. While the actual people may be the same, the audiences are a bit different in mood – with Last October the audience moves into a more reflective feeling. And Phineas Gage is beginning to find a groove/funk element in its three part harmony. It could be described as funk/bluegrass.”
When James isn’t authoring songs such as “All You Do,” he plays drums, bass and his first love – guitar- and also does the sound mix for live gigs at the Big Picture Theatre, including his own performance on August 18. He loves to collaborate with other musicians on stage, at jam sessions and in his home studio.
His Stillwater Studio allows him to really explore. “The recording process is an amazing tool for discovering and developing the music into ever deepening form.” Of his three solo albums, his latest, Alethea, is the culmination of James in his multi-dimensional roles to write, play, record, mix, master and distribute. As intense as James’ musical efforts are, he still finds time to help others on their musical journeys. He has a “passion to produce”; he is putting the final sounds into a three year project– Jason Fulton’s first solo album, Startled Arms; he is looking for new projects for his mixing board.
Erica and James express appreciation for the unique musical community of the Mad River Valley. “If you listen to the music that is happening here – just in these few weeks – it is pretty amazing,” says Erica. “Vermont is a wonderful, organically formed music community.”
Check out these sounds at and

- The Valley Reporter - Bev Kehoe

"Last October: Soul Settling Music for A Chilly Time of Year"

Last October: Soul Settling Music for A Chilly Time of Year

Full disclosure.

James Kinne and Erica Stroem, the two musicians who comprise new Mad River Valley acoustic duo “Last October,” are both friends and Phineas Gage band mates. And, as their third Phineas phriend, I promised them an objective review of their brand-new CD “Last October,” which has been in the works for an entire year.

Simply stated? I love their new “Last October” CD.

Kinne, it should be noted, has toured the world as a professional musician with “Chasing Gray” and “Angry Salad.” He can sing, he can play, he can write, and he can record – his audio studio engineering skills are top notch in our small state. And Stroem is no slouch, either, having performed as a one woman songstress and in bands out west for years. Anyone who has heard her sing appreciates her captivating vocal range, from the quietly romantic to the soul-beltingly ripsnorting, Stroem has got some serious vocal chops.

Put these two musicians together in a quiet Vermont living room for several weeks with a couple of guitars as fall turns to winter, and what do you get? All this tremendous talent – Kinne and Stroem together - bottled to near-perfection on “Last October.”

“Down This Road” kicks off the CD with Kinne’s bright and shuffling instrumental invitation to enter this lush musical world, and by the time we reach “Catch A Moment” (track #2), the intertwined vocals of Stroem and Kinne hook the listener….in a big way. Sonically speaking, “Last October” alternates between the contemplative (“Wait Out The Storm” - even more fitting in our post-Irene Vermont universe) and upbeat, and everywhere in between, including the hauntingly beautiful “Kismet Dance,” which begs the listener to meditate and gyrate, all at the same time.

My favorite tune, though, (at least this week) may be “Eastern Horizon,” with Kinne’s upbeat guitar riff accompanied by the twosome’s gorgeous layered harmonies, calling on the listener to find inspiration in those around us as we look forward to better days ahead. Good advice, given the times in which we live and the season of the year.

Don’t miss Stroem and Kinne performing as “Last October” at the Purple Moon Pub on Friday night, October 21 @ 8:00 pm. - The Valley Reporter - Rob Williams

"Last October on BHW"

Acoustic duo Last October, made up of James Kinne and Erica Stroem, visited Rocket Shop after Funkwagon, quieting the mood. “We holed ourselves up last October,” Erica says, which is how they got their name. They wrote a bunch of songs, James singing and playing guitar and Erica singing. They harmonize, take turns at lead vocals, and dig into heartfelt, introspective lyrics. “He brought the songwriter out in me,” Erica says of James, who is also a producer.

The duo hails from Waitsfield, but they’re both actually from New Jersey. They also play in the Phineas Gage Project with Rob Williams, also from Waitsfield via Jersey. James and Erica played a bunch of their songs, including the first tune Last October ever wrote. “Home fills a void in our soul,” they sing, and “Feeling life in a way we almost forgot.” It’s interesting that they use the pronoun “we”, but that’s because these songs were written together. However, even though the project was born inside, Erica and James play out as much as possible, busking on Church St. and down by the waterfront. Erica praised Vermont’s music scene. “It’s great,” she says, and we think the same thing about Last October. - Big Heavy World


Last October - 2011



A truly unique listening experience, Last October creates a musical journey that will deeply tug at your heart strings. Honing their crafts from different sides of the country, Erica Stroem and James Kinne came together through their sheer love of music and respect for profound harmonies. Finding themselves in Vermont, each had successfully pushed their careers forward fronting popular bands, only to desire something more out of music….

With powerful harmonies, rich song writing, and passionate storytelling, Last October has found a distinctive way to interpret their rapidly evolving style. Impossible to ignore, Last October will capture your attention and leave you wanting more.