Just an aca-fan navigating the aca-world.

First Listen Friday: Simply Put

People have asked me where I hear about all of the a cappella groups I listen to. There are various sources, so maybe I’ll do an entire blogpost on that in the future.

In this case, I discovered Simply Put while watching the livestream of the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival (LAAF) Collegiate Competition in January 2012, which Simply Put hosted and during which they sang “”It Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got That Swing),” but would you believe this group somehow worked in “All the Single Ladies” and “I Whip My Hair” (arrangement by David Stal)?! I kid you not, it was RIDICULOUS (in a very good way)!

So, of course, I purchased their album Simply Put and took a first listen.


Simply Put A Cappella

Meet Simply Put: (L to R): Loren Smith (bass), Andi Gibson (soprano), Melissa Stewart (alto), Marisa Esposito (mezzo), Drew Tablak (tenor), David Stal (baritone/VP)

And interestingly, there is a style — a little jazzy, a little big band, a little theatrical — that is somehow more. There are recognizable influences from other artists that hint at the versatility of Simply Put. It sure makes me want to put the music on repeat so I can catch new things each time through. The ability to listen on repeat is a must for me when I purchase an entire album. This one’s a winner.

Simply Put was recently nominated for three 2012 CARAs (Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards) for Best Jazz Song for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,”  Best CAL (Contemporary A Cappella League) Album for Simply Put, and Best CAL Song for “Human Nature.”

You can also find Simply Put’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the brand new album, Voices Only Forte, a compilation of tracks from professional, semi-professional, and amateur a cappella groups (i.e., non-collegiate).  I can’t find a video of it to post for you, so instead, here is “Killing Me Softly.”

My favorite tracks on Simply Put are “Killing Me Softly,” “Human Nature,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but really, pretty much every song.

Band: Simply Put
Twitter: @SimplyPutSINGS
YouTube: SimplyPutSINGS

I am happy to say I will be present for the Live CARA Awards — with red carpet — at BOSSaca, cheering on Simply Put and all the other nominees. Don’t you wish you were going? #beep

In the meantime, leave a comment and let me know what you think about Simply Put!


*NOTE: Hey, everyone – made a correction in paragraph 2. “Sing, Sing, Sing” arranged by Deke Sharon is a completely different song than “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” arranged by David Stal. Credit where credit is due. I also corrected the CARA nomination info – 3 noms, not 2.


First Listen Friday: Duke Rhythm & Blue

Last fall, I contacted a friend from high school who attended Duke University, (hi, Elaine!), to ask if she ever attended SoJam A Cappella Festival (which is held on the Duke campus). Although she replied she hadn’t, she did mention she was an original member of Duke Rhythm & Blue, an a cappella group on campus.

I had heard of Rhythm & Blue, but I hadn’t actually listened to them until a few weeks back via my “The Sing Off” Pandora station. What struck me was that I really liked every song that came on from their album House on Fire, so of course I headed to Spotify to check out the whole thing.


With a little more exploring, I discovered these recent Fun Facts about RnB:

  • Founded in Fall 1992
  • Have opened for Rockapella and for Transit
  • 2010 Winner, SoJam Collegiate A Cappella Competition
  • 2011 single “Run” is featured on the compilation Voices Only 2011 College A Cappella (Volume 2)
  • Nominated for 4 CARA Awards, including “Best Mixed Collegiate Album” for House of Fire (2010)

Here’s the song, “Closer,” that  has been nominated for 2 CARA awards, one for  “Best Hip Hop / R&B Song” among collegiate and professional a cappella groups, and one for “Best Mixed Collegiate Song.”

My favorites on House of Fire are “Closer” and “Alone,” but the whole album is just solid, as they say. It’s ALL good. I was amused to find a cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” on the 2007 album Punch a Higher Floor, but sometimes I think you have to have lived through the 80s to really get that music right.

Band: Duke Rhythm and Blue
Twitter: @DukeRhythmNBlue

A little additional group trivia: Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly was also a founding member. Connections everywhere, if we only knew.

So, how did you like this edition of First Listen Friday? Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to leave me a comment!


First Listen Friday: Cadence

Cadence is not an unfamiliar a cappella name for me.  They certainly make the rounds of the #basslove discussions on the Twitter (thank you Angie W.). This Canadian vocal band recently performed at the London A Cappella Festival, and I see them on the schedule for Boston Sings A Cappella Festival, or BOSS, in April — for which I have a VIP Pass #beep. So, I decided to check them out on Spotify.

Verdict: WOW. WOW. WOW.


Meet Cadence (L to R): Ross Lynde (tenor), Aaron Jensen (tenor), Kurt Sampson (bass and vocal percussion), Carl Berger (baritone)

So, I listened to their 2010 album Speak Easy, and it is full of big band, Rat Pack, jazzy goodness. And also #basslove. Remember that number on The Sing-Off Season 3, “The Way You Look Tonight” by BYU Vocal Point? It’s like that. Many times over. The harmonies are fabulous, the beat is infectious, and you just want to snap your fingers and dance. Not knowing all the singer-type descriptions, that’s all I can give you. Better yet, take a listen:

My favorites on Speak Easy after a First Listen are “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” and “The Tramps,” but this album deserves more attention. On recommendation, I also checked out the 2000 album Frost Free, and just the fact that there is a version of “Spinning Wheel” had me sold before I put my headphones on. There are more albums, but I’ll leave that to you to look up. It will be worth it.

Band: Cadence
Twitter: @cadencetweet
YouTube: cadenceunplugged

Well, my first First Listen Friday was a success! Let me know what you think. I’m sure there will be another post about Cadence in the future, since I’ll be seeing their show from the front row as part of my BOSS VIP Pass. Be jealous.