Music - April 2010
Rock Adult Contemporary
Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes
Cristen Grey worked diligently for three years recording her sophomore CD, 10,000 Things. It was worth the wait.
Grey writes clever, heartfelt lyrics, and sings them with clarity and conviction. She energetically performs on a variety of instruments, and writes melodies with unforgettable hooks. Her singing of mellow, reflective ballads—such as her own “So Much Better” here—is eloquent. But when Grey cuts loose on “I Want the World,” “Out of Control,” and “Bad Emotion,” she can really rock out, both vocally and instrumentally. Perhaps that’s because, about a decade ago, Grey was a guitarist for the Albuquerque metal band All Eyes. Fans of the gritty vocals of Melissa Etheridge should enjoy 10,000 Things.
The songwriter also dabbles in other musical genres. Grey plays mandolin in “Stir Up a Swarm,” which has a contemporary bluegrass feel, and concludes her new album with “God Drove By in a Big Limousine,” which is more alt-country tinged with gospel.
The Albuquerque native now is at home in La Cienega, south of Santa Fe. She sings of universal subjects, without any Southwest imagery, but says that the New Mexico environment has fed her creativity and soul: “The resiliency of the human spirit is this album’s overarching theme.” The title, 10,000 Things, refers
to the Taoist expression “and three begat the 10,000 things”—a reference to the entire universe.
Grey sings all lead vocals and plays electric and acoustic guitars, as well as harmonica, mandolin, dulcimer, and piano. Her recording partner Brian “Brain” Widger provides strong lead, rhythm, and slide guitar, backing vocals, piano, and some drum programming. Fans of real drums can hear the difference in those tracks in which drummer extra-ordinaire Mark Clark lays down the beat. Kelvin McNeal plays a lyrical piano on the heart-wrenching ballad “Absolute,” which details the loss of love. And Alberto Alcocer adds a buoyant touch on accordion to another heartbreaker, “Can’t Get Used To.”
Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes: Press
Cristen Grey And The Moving Dunes - 10,000 Things
2009, Divalicious Publishing
How does one go from the lead guitarist of a heavy metal band to a singer/songwriter/purveyor of edgy Adult Contemporary anthems and ballads? When you're New Mexico native Cristen Grey you realize all things are possible. The former guitarist for All Eyes spent time on the road opening for acts such as Quiet Riot and Cinderella, but always returned home for a dose of peace and quiet. In 2007, Grey struck out on her own, writing edgy and energetic adult pop with a knack for melody and a dusky alto voice that draws listeners in. Her new band, The Moving Dunes, is a perfect complement for Grey's edgy appeal, softening the edges and blurring the hard lines and leaving behind a cohesive group that is greater than the sum of its parts. The recorded fruition of this union is 10,000 Things, the debut album from Cristen Grey And The Moving Dunes.
10,000 Things opens with So Much Better, a cascading Pop/Rock tune that celebrates the joy in finding that special someone and the perspective that can bring. So Much Better won Best Rock-Adult Contemporary Song at the 2008 New Mexico Music Awards for Grey and has strong commercial potential. Rock Bottom has a classic rock song feel; this is one of those rare tunes that transcends genre and rises above simple monikers such as Rock or Adult-Contemporary. Grey is a fabulous songwriter and Rock Bottom is a turn of genius. It's not overly complex; just a near-perfect Pop song. I Want The World draws on Grey's days as a heavy metal rockergrrrl, incorporating some guitar work with big crunch and interspersing with a Rolling Stones style breakdown. This one is more a treat for the ears than anything else.
Out Of Control is another pure Pop song with a Rock edge. Originally licensed for the Independent short film Bloodline, Out Of Control would have real chart potential with the right break. Grey's best overall vocal performance comes next on Bad Emotion (nominated for Best Mainstream Rock Song at the 2009 New Mexico Music Awards). The feel here is sort of an Ann Wilson meets Pat Benetar dynamic with some serious guitar work involved. Grey's other award winning song, Absolute (Best Rock-Adult Contemporary Song, 2007) is a halting gem that creates a sonic pun in contrast with its title. This melancholic ballad might be the most commercially viable tune on the disc (and there are several that qualify). I wouldn't be surprised to hear another artist pick this up and make a hit out of it down the road if Grey doesn't do so herself.
Now You Know has an anthemic feel to it, with a chorus that soars in muted tones and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Sonically this is my favorite song on the disc; a blues-tinged power ballad that's not far behind Absolute for best on the album status. You'll Believe is another song on the disc with hit potential written all over it. There's a definite Heart-like quality to the tune and Grey pours her all into the vocal line for a stellar performance. Grey shows a Country/Bluegrass side on Stir Up A Swarm, highlighting the power of misdirected words. The surprising show of versatility cements the album and artist's status as essential. Sticking with the southwest/country theme, Grey launches into the closing number, God Drove By In A Big Limousine. This musical bit of whimsy is about as entertaining as they come, inviting you to get up and dance and remember that it's all in fun.
As a reviewer it's hard to not have some kind of notion about an album when you pop it in to listen. There's cover art or a press release or buzz you've heard about the band that informs your listening experience. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes not so much. I try to keep these pre-conceived ideas out of the review process, and for the most part it works. I have to admit, however, that when I popped in 10,000 Things I was expecting a whole lot. Former metal guitarist performing Adult-Contemporary music. Hmmmm. Much to my surprise, Christen Grey And The Moving Dunes turn in a dynamite performance on 10,000 Things. The band is incredible and deserve credit for helping Grey refine her talents, but the songwriting and distinctive voice and personality of Cristen Grey drive this project from start to finish. Grey is a talent; one of those individuals who could likely thrive in any genre she made the effort at. As a songwriter she has a gift for melody, rhythm and the turning of phrases. As a vocalist she has a smoky sound that waltzes the border between sultry, refined and earthy; occasionally dancing into one territory or another but never giving itself away. Make sure you take the time to get to know Cristen Grey And The Moving Dunes. You won't regret it.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes, 10,000 Things
Cristen Grey once was the lead guitarist & rhythm guitarist for the heavy metal act, All Eyes. She and her heavy-hittin’ band opened for some pretty big 80’s rock acts such as: Quiet Riot and Cinderella. That was then and these 10,000 Things are the now. 10,000 Things came from “Grey’s realization, as per Tao philosophy that we’re all in this world but not of it; on a planet where the three begat 10,000 things and all of them, including people, are interconnected. Moving Dunes comes from the weird sounds in the desert actually made by sand dunes. From the group name alone, you get a deep sense of being coming from the mind-set of Cristen Grey.
Singer/Songwriter, Cristen Grey, hails from the dry lands of Santa Fe, New Mexico. However, there is nothing dry or dull about the music Grey and the Moving Dunes have created here. The sounds coming through my speakers had a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Everything from adult contemporary rock to country and blues to metal-induced power ballads to acoustic folky pop pureness can be heard. It makes sense that Grey is “trying to connect with everyone” because that is exactly what she did here by intermingling all of these musical styles. The new record touches on real life issues that involve: love, fear, joy, sorrow and the power to bounce back when you’ve hit rock bottom. The sounds are versatile mixed with everyday themes. The entire public can relate with this album on many aspects and 10,000 Things can be narrowed down to one word: REAL.
Grey is responsible for all the music & lyrics on this new CD playing to the tunes of: vocals, lead & rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars, slide guitar, piano, dulcimer, mandolin, synth keyboard, harmonica, tambourine, shakers, bird sample and truck sample. I am completely floored by all the instruments Grey plays here—quite impressive. Grey also helped produce, engineer and mix this record along with Brian Widger who also contributes: lead & rhythm guitar, slide guitar, vocals, synth guitar, piano and drum programming. The guitar playing is very distinct and pleasing to hear actually.
By way of Grey’s musical ability, style of playing and voice adds an element of enriching substance. The record starts with a title called “So Much Better” that has a nice, easy-going flow sang with such high emotion. “I Want The World” offers up an edgy rock contemporary sound with a rebel-rockin’ & heavy guitar riff. “Bad Emotion” is one of my favorite songs due to its straight up nasty rock groove along with its in-your-face-raw-energy feel. “Stir Up A Swarm” includes a pleasant harmony with a melody that seems to paint a perfect picture. The album ends on a country-influenced tone while still hangin’ on to that edge and Grey is workin’ the harmonica in a big way.
Overall, Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes have created something here that can be consumed by the masses. The rich diversity evident on this album is nothing short of immense with 10,000 Things to talk about. For more on Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes and their latest release, 10,000 Things, SKOPE out www.cristengrey.com.
By Jimmy Rae
Rating: 3 out of 5
You'd never ever guess, after hearing this mellow rock CD, that Ms. Grey is a headbanger in her alternate life. Yep, she fronted a group by the moniker of All Eyes and opened for such heavyweights as Quiet Riot and Cinderella. Here, though, she has much more in common with Ann & Nancy Wilson, Martha Bates, and even echoes of Aimee Mann. What's really unusual, however, is her compositional and arrangement sensibilities. Both have progressive slants oft tending to the orchestral, "Now You Know" being perhaps the most demonstrative in that regard.
Part of what impresses is her choices in drummers: Mark Clark and Charis Hurst (with Brian Widger programming on three cuts), guys who accent the measure perfectly. I am so damned tired of brainless metronomes that it's a pleasure to hear cats who understand their duties to forward the song and not smother or stifle it. Of the two, though, I'm really impressed with Clark. Nothing whirlwind, no great rolling gales of thunder, just well thought out inflections, simple but right. Grey herself is a multi-instrumentalist (acoustic, electric, and slide guitars; piano; synth, harmonica, shakers, etc.), though Widger also provides guitars and keys.
The songs are basically all love-and-regret compositions with vaulting passages, quiet asides, thematic developments, and extended narrative. Though you can rock out in many places, they're actually cuts requiring active listening because a lot is transpiring in many. You'll Believe is one such and carries the kinda build-up that made Heart's Mistral Wind so attractive. Rather than break into the strum und drang of that more famous song, though, it remains in magisterial mode.
Oh, and the CD's title is drawn from the taoist conception of physical reality fractionated into 10,000 manifestations. Apparently she believes, as some taoists and others do, that we're in this world but not of it...but that's not quite right. There's a deeper truth, and it's contained in the Sanskrit saying 'Tat tvam asi' ('Thou art that'). We're in the world, and the world is in us: there's no difference.
Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes- 10,000 Things
Artist: Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes
Title: 10,000 Things
Style: Adult Contemporary
You might have heard of Cristen Grey from her time spent as the rhythm and lead guitarist for the metal band, All Eyes, who opened for major musical acts like, Quiet Riot and Cinderella. When I read that I expected this release to be filled with smoking metal guitar riffs, but instead what I heard was ramped up adult contemporary music that reflects Grey’s spirit.
The album’s title comes from the Tao philosophy that, “we’re all in this world, but not of it; on a planet where three begat 10,000 things and all of them, including people, are interconnected…”
Stylistically Grey’s music has been compared to early Heart and Sheryl Crow in style, which I also think is a fair comparison. Grey’s songs are about human emotions, some good, but mostly bad and that no matter how far a person falls their human spirit of resiliency will pick them back up and keep them moving forward.
The mid-tempo song, “So Much Better,” get things started. The song’s lyrics deal with how much better things are when you’re experiencing them with your one special soul mate.
Highlight tracks for me included, “Out of Control,” a pop/rock song that offers up several nice tempo changes in it. “Bad Emotion,” is a gritty rock number, featuring big rock guitar sounds. This song felt much like a shaken can of soda pop, that when opened up, comes rushing out with its big sounds.
The why track for me was, “Aqualine Cove,” a 30 second instrumental track that felt like it was just thrown in to the album with no real reason for being there.
Things end up really strong with the mandolin driven, bluegrass, country feeling song, “Stir up a Swarm.” The song deals with the power of words and how when used carelessly they can create a swarm of emotions in reaction to them. Last up is, “God Drove by in a Limousine,” an alt. country sounding track that’s filled with fast beats and deals with the power of music.
If you’ve always wanted to give the adult contemporary music format a try but was afraid that it would be too boring then you should give 10,000 Things a listen with its more up tempo variation of the AC genre.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes – 10,000 Things (CD)
“So Much Better” is a song that ties together rock and alternative music in a way that touches upon the work of Edwyn McCain, The Eagles, and even early (“A Boy Named Goo”-era Goo Goo Dolls). The production of “So Much Better” is important due to the openness that it allows. Each instrument is able to shine, while there is a warmth to the compositions here that will make it honestly seem as if the listener is in the studio with Grey and the Dunes.
“Rock Bottom” deftly links together the alternative/rock hybrid sound of “So Much Better” with a timeless instrumentation that brings in hints of the seventies. Each track on the album is great not only because the band is that damn good, but because they are so spontaneous. “I Want The World” is a delightful pop track that flips the script and showcases a grittier side of the act, while “Out of Control” is a much more sedate type of composition. Grey’s vocals shine through this track, running the gamut between Macy Grey, Shirley Manson, and even Lita Ford.
The instrumentation does not slack off here, either: the guitars and percussion ebb and flow in perfect harmony with Grey’s vocals. “Bad Emotion” is a special track for me on “10,000 Things”, as it further establishes the harder side of the act that was first explored during “I Want The World”. What comes forth during this cut sound-wise is akin to The Runaways meeting Aerosmith; it is a track that will be bouncing around my head for weeks after I’ve last listened to the disc. What “I Want The World” does in regard to the harder side of the band, “Absolute” does for their softer and more intricate side. Without anything in the way of weakness present on “10,000 Things”, I feel that the band has shown themselves well here. However, I would like to hear where the band ultimately decides to go with their follow-up to “10,000 Things”. Here’s to hoping they enjoy the best of success.
Top Tracks: I Want The World, Absolute
THERE iS NO "i"
CRiSTEN GREY OF THE MOViNG DUNES
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THE CD 10,000 THiNGS
TAKiNG CONTROL OF THE MUSiC
AND GiViNG CREDiT TO A HiGHER SOURCE
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
Santa Fe, New Mexico isn’t the most rocking town on the U.S. map. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t rock at all outside of the geological sense, but the art capitol is home to CRISTEN GREY ANDTHE MOVING DUNES. Following the band’s 2002 release ‘JUST A LITTLE REMINDER’, GREY and her musical sidekick BRIAN WIDGER were anxious to make music on their own terms without the compromises that bands end up making because of a ticking clock and a shortage of funds. For three years, GREY and WIDGER took the time to learn the ropes of running a console, while still churning out their brand of reflective, roots rockers that recall SHERYL CROW from a decade earlier (strangely enough, I lived in Santa Fe at that time!) and the result is 10,000 THINGS. According to GREY, from here on out, the sky is the limit with what they can do production-wise. “Not only are we happy with the final product, but now we’re in a really good place as far as a platform to launch toward any project that we would want to pursue in the future. It will be interesting to see what we can do in the future.”
ROCKWIRED spoke with CRISTEN GREY over the phone. Here is how it went.
You are the first band from New Mexico that I have ever interviewed.
Really? Oh my goodness! That’s interesting!
10,000 THINGS is a great CD! Now that all of the work is behind you and it’s out there for people to hear, how do you feel about the finished product?
I am very pleased with it. We spent a lot of time ensuring that it was what we wanted as opposed to the very first release which was really more of a singer-songwriter type of project. This is the first time where I’ve actually put on the engineering and producer’s hat. I co-produced the album with my musical partner BRIAN WIDGER and we actually did everything by ourselves. Most of the instrumentation that you hear – including some of the drum work which was programmed – we did ourselves.
How long did it take to put the whole thing together?
The whole project form beginning to end took about three years because I had to learn how to engineer first. It was quite a bit of a learning curb but we had decided back then that we would have absolute creative control over what we were going to release. It’s very difficult to be in the studio and to have the clock ticking. It can also get really expensive and that helped us to decide to do this album all by ourselves and I’m so glad that we did. Not only are we happy with the final product, but now we’re in a really good place as far as a platform to launch toward any project that we would want to pursue in the future. It will be interesting to see what we can do in the future.
You’re in an interesting locale for a band of your type. Santa Fe New Mexico isn’t known for its music.
That is very true. It’s mostly known for its art.
Describe what it’s like to do music in that kind of a community.
Right now, we’re working with a few companies. At this point our main focus is to get the album out and launch it nationally and internationally through online distribution. We are working with CDBABY of course and we’re going to place it on AMAZON and i-TUNES. What we are really trying to do right now is to gear some of this music toward television and film. We’re in a strange place when it comes to the music market but we’re in a great place for television and film. Right now, we’re making the connections and we’ve got a few irons in the fire and we’ll see what happens. Right now it’s just a matter of working and working and working. It was funny when you said “…the work was behind you…”. Now is when the work really begins.
Talk about how your music has been received live.
I love the people that come out and support us. Our fans have been phenomenal. It’s been really well-received live. We’re getting radio coverage locally through KBAC 101.5 THE PROJECT. I think the fans have been the bedstone of everything that we have been trying to accomplish because they’ve been so supportive. For the CD release that we had a while ago at THE SANTA FE BREWING COMPANY, everyone showed up! The place was packed! There was no parking and I was shocked. I didn’t anticipate that kind of response. They had been waiting for a few years. You know when you’re out the loop and not playing live for a while, people have short attention spans and they find other things that they want to support. It was inspiring to know they didn’t forget us. They were there in multitudes. It was great! We want to continue to do more festivals and special events. At this point, we can really hone in on showcasing and highlighting the CD in those types of venues as opposed to doing regular clubs. For right now, we are staying away from the regular club type scenarios and sticking to festivals.
How does the band’s sound translate live onstage?
Usually we have the capacity to perform as a duet and all the way up to being a seven piece band. We are very flexible and that is what’s nice about the material. The songs can translate very well acoustically if they need to. Mostly, we are a four or five-piece band and if there is a special event, we perform as a seven piece.
Talk about how music began for you as an individual.
I was about twelve or thirteen years old when my father gave me this beat up, hollow-bodied guitar. I couldn’t event tell you the brand name of that guitar, but the strings were so high off of the frets that I would literally bleed. I was just really determined to play that instrument. I was self taught and have gone on to also play mandolin and bass. I fiddle around with keys also. The majority of strings and keys that you hear on the CD – I was fortunate enough to manage my way through. I am not a keyboardist by no extent of the word. I am a multi-instrumentalist in the sense that if something needs to happen and the instrument is lacking then I will pick it up. I played dulcimer on the song STIR UP A SWARM. I had never touched the instrument before. I also had to learn to play harmonica very quickly for this CD. Whatever the music requires, I will do what I have to do. Even if I burn the candle a both ends, then so be it. When you hear something in a song and have a vision for it, then you have to approach and achieve it. There is no other way around that. As a kid, I was determined to learn how to play guitar. I started playing coffeehouses and writing songs when I was about fifteen and then I continued on and I would sneak in underage and perform at different clubs here and there. When I hit about sixteen or seventeen, I was playing in various punk groups and new wave bands. Songwriting has always been my first love. That is my truest love and that is probably my forte more than anything. I just continued on throughout the years and then heavy metal happened in the eighties. At the time, it was unheard of for a female guitar player to even venture towards heavy metal and because of that, I had to do it. If you tell me that I can’t do something, then I am going to prove you wrong. I just started learning a lot of different riffs and learned to play lead guitar. I had some regional success with a group called ALL EYES. I was the lead guitar player and the backing vocalist. I did not front at the time. We had some successes here and there. We opened up for a lot of the Hair Bands like CINDERELLA and QUIET RIOT. We even did some stuff with MISSING PERSONS even though they weren’t really a heavy metal band. We did quite a bit here and there. After doing that for a few years, I continued to write and I eventually said “all right! I think I’ve got that out of my system.” I felt that at the time, I was trying to prove myself to my peers, the men in my life, and the world. I realized that that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing stylistically. It was time for a change. I enjoyed singing and I really wanted to front a band. I wanted to write my own material and that was how CRISTEN GREY AND THE MOVING DUNES was formed.
Talk about your other band mates. Who are they and what is it that each of them brings to the table both musically and personality-wise that makes it all work for you?
I could not have completed this project without BRIAN WIDGER who is my right hand man. He is just a phenomenal guitar player and producer and engineer. He is also a multi-instrumentalist. He has been my pillar. He is that one person within the past few years that I feel like I can lean on. He’s got a great sense of humor which is just amazing to me especially in circumstances where things are stressful. He’s just been very even-keeled. I could not have done this project without him. He is the other piece of the puzzle that is THE MOVING DUNES. The other musicians that I consider to be consistent parts of this unit would be MARK CLARK. He has been in this industry for over twenty years or so. His most recent session was with CAT STEVENS’ latest project. He is phenomenal. I love him. JOSE ROMERO is amazing! He is Santa Fe’s best kept secret when it comes to bass guitar. He also plays Spanish guitar and acoustic guitar but his bass playing skills are just wonderful. KEVIN ZOERNING has the same type of resume that MARK CLARK has. He’s played with some wonderful, national musicians. He was also an instructor at the College of Santa Fe which is now defunct. He plays keys and strings. He is a monster when it comes to what he does. ADRIENNE BELLIS is a wonderful vocalist. She is also a dance teacher. She teaches the Irish dance. She is just a creative wonderful person. All of these people that I have been so fortunate to work with have these wonderful work ethics. I guess that is why I choose to work with them. They are perfectionists and they are relentless with what they do. I think that synergy between all of us is just wonderful. Last but not least, we have LISA CARMEN who is a wonderful vocalist and an artist in her own right. She has several releases under her belt and she has played for many years locally and all along the East Coast, which is where she is from. She is a phenomenal songwriter and vocalist as well. She has a really smooth vocal presence.
Explain – if it can be explained – the creative process. How does music get written in this band?
I am the primary writer for the band. It depends on where the inspiration is drawn from. For example, I’m currently working on a song right now called ‘AMERICA’ which may or may not make the cut on a future CD. That song came from a story that I heard from a friend of mine who had visited this older gentleman who had participated in the Cold War and was part of this secret operation. He was deployed out during that time period and had discovered that a building he had blown up had children in it. When I heard this story, needless to say, I already had the lyric. It was that quick. Sometimes the lyrics come to me first. Sometimes it’s the music and other times, it’s both. It really depends on where I draw the inspiration from. I keep saying “I”, but I really have nothing to do with this. I truly believe that I am just a conduit. There is no “I” in this process. That is why I am so overwhelmed and grateful. I believe that when it comes to something creative, it comes from source. It comes from the universe. It comes from God or whatever you want to call it. It has nothing to do with us. It’s my responsibility to pull it down, fashion it and present it.
From this CD, what moments stand out for you the most and why?
I think the overall feel of the CD has to do with human resiliency and strength. If you really listen to the CD from beginning to end, you will notice that there is a common theme. And that common theme is of strength, the bittersweetness of life and what it takes to actually survive all of those experiences and how we all share those experiences. That to me is the essence of 10,000 THINGS. There is one thing in the TAO that says “…one produced two, and two produced three, and three produced ten-thousand things” which basically means that we are in this world but we are not of it and it is through that connection with source that we are able to find the resilience and the strength to continue forth no matter what the circumstance.
New Mexico Music Award-winning singer-songwriter Cristen Grey takes the dullness out of adult contemporary. Grey's smoky alto voice gives her a hard-rock feel, while acoustic guitars soften the sound. It's a little ballsy and perpetually pleasing, good for young and old.
It has been a few years since Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes released their first and only album, 2002's catchy, folk-rock driven Just a little Reminder. Now they're back with a new CD that, quite frankly is so much better than the first one. 10,000 Things, co-produced by Grey and the Moving Dunes guitarist Brian Widger, displays the band's superlative talent for blending contemporary rock with everything from country and blues to metel-tinged power ballads.
For Immediate Release – July 1st, 2009
Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes CD release of ‘10,000 Things’
SANTA FE – After three consecutive nominations, two wins under the ‘Rock Adult Contemporary’ category for ‘Absolute’ and ‘So Much better’, three performances three years in a row at the NMMA (New Mexico Music Awards) all of which were garnered from this forthcoming CD, Cristen will be releasing ’10,000 Things’ July 31st at the Pub and Grill at the Santa Fe Brewing Company at 8pm. Nominated this year under the ‘Mainstream Rock’ category for the song ‘Bad Emotion’, Cristen has been the only artist selected to perform three years in a row at this event which this year included a very special All-Star performance at the end of the program, highlighting legendary jazz and R&B vocalist Hillary Smith, award-winning producer and musician John Kurzweg, award-winning producer and jazz musician John Rangel, Grammy award-winning producer and guitarist Larry Mitchell and the legendary James Douglas Show. She will be performing with her seven-piece band The Moving Dunes - which includes rhythm and lead guitarist Brian Widger, Mark Clark on Drums, Jose Romero on Bass, Kevin Zoernig on keys, Lisa Carmen and Adrienne Bellis on vocals. Nancy Laflin the Executive Director of the the New Mexico Music Commission will be the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes have performed over the past few years at local festivals such as the Hyperactive Music Festival and most recently at this year’s Thirsty Ear Festival (on a bill with artists such as Keb’ Mo’, Bela Fleck and Steel Pulse). Writing, arranging, engineering and co-producing this latest project with co-producer Brian Widger, she currently resides in Santa Fe, and is recognized as one of this states premier talents.
Somewhere there is a land, far, far away where women who play straight ahead rock, tell it like it is and sing with a certain emotional catch in their throat can perform and not constantly be compared to Alanis Morissette, Heart, and/or Melissa Etheridge. Sadly that land is not called "Santa Fe". But that seems to be ok with Cristen Grey, who barrels fearlessly through her original songs in front t of a floor full of (mainly) woman. She claims to be angry, but her songs exhibit the masterful composition of someone fully in control. And of course, the comparisons to las Morissette, Wilson and Etheridge flow like, well you oughtta know...
With a voice that's strong and sometimes haunting around the edges...grey describes as a combination of pop, rock and angry folk-angry being the operative word-although she didn't sound angry when she called to clue me in to what she was up to. When she showed up at my door the next day to deliver her latest recording (Just a little reminder) she was delightfully unpretentious, with out a trace of anger. I guessed she saved the angry persona for the music. If I were still doing radio, I'd toss the recording on the cd player so you could check her out on the airwaves. As I listened, I could hear an intensity, as well as an intention, in her voice-and her band sounds fab, with Brian Widger on guitars and backing vocals, Jose Romero on electric bass and Charis Hurst on drums.
Telling Cristen Grey she can't do something is like putting dried-out wood on a fire. Just ask the Albuquerque musicians she grew up with. They would tell her "You play well...for a girl," and give her an acoustic guitar when she wanted to play lead. Despite these local naysayers, Grey continued to develop her skills until she was playing lead for the nationally touring band All Eyes. These days, fronting her own band, Grey now performs select shows around Santa Fe and doesn't have to prove her skills anyone. "People would freak because I would hold my own against whoever else was playing," she says with an I-told-you-so smile. Her face lights up when she explains that she plays Paul Reed Smith guitars-a very high-end instrument, considered by some better than those made by Les Paul, not only because "they play like butter," but also because guitar legend Carlos Santana prefers them. After years of proving herself, Grey clearly has earned the right to call her band Cristen Grey and the Moving Dunes. Vocalist and lead guitarist, Grey also composes, arranges, engineers and produces her recordings. She even manages booking and publicity for live performances. Grey had the luxury of fronting a solid band. She has worked with backup vocalist Deborah Martinez for more than 15 years. Brian Widger plays a sweet rhythm/lead guitar and assists with Grey's arrangements. Bassist James Griego and drummer Gabe Vigil add a tight rhythm section. Grey named the Moving Dunes after the phenomenon of the sand in the Sahara Desert-when it rubs together in the wind, it produces a humming sound. As it so happens, both the band and the desert sand prefer the keys of G and D. Considering Grey's varied repertoire, it's not a surprise that her influences range from Joni Mitchell to Metalica. The Albuquerque-born musician comes from a metal background and spent years opening for bands like Motley Crue and Poison. She now compares her music to Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette. Grey is currently working on the follow-up to her debut album (Just a Little Reminder), which she plans to finish by the end of the year. "True success is to be able to get to that point where I can convey what's inside you and me truthfully," she said. "And also [to] make a comfortable living doing what I love to do." Currently working a day job, Grey aims to be a fulltime musician. Try telling her she can't make it, and you would just be feeding the fire. CW