The secret is out on this initial ‘Public’ offering
Young Berklee-trained singer Alexandra “Alley” Stoetzel has been causing quite a stir in Boston area clubs with a seductive and energetic take on R&B hits and soulful stylings of her original songs.
Now, Stoetzel and her band, Soul Alley, are on the record with release of their debut CD “Public Alley 421.” Produced by Bruce Bears and featuring the longtime Toni Lynn Washington band leader and Duke Robillard sideman on keyboards, the 13 songs are a fitting showcase for Stoetzel’s considerable vocal talents. With three originals and highly inventive covers of artists ranging from Sharon Jones and Millie Jackson to Dolly Parton, Stoetzel commands each with the presence and polish of a 20-year veteran. Her broad appeal was underscored by the raves with which her CD release party was met from a capacity crowd of fans and media at the Boston House of Blues Foundation Room.
This is affirmation of a calling Stoetzel first realized as a child. The Andover, Mass., native began singing almost right out of the crib and hasn't stopped since. Early exposure to many musical styles through her father’s eclectic tastes – ranging from Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead to Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin – made Alley a natural songbird. In her studies at Berklee College of Music, she became more heavily inspired by R&B icons such as Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Etta James – as well as the new sound of R&B via the influences of Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and pop stars Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone.
“For me, it’s about connecting with my audience, taking them away from their daily stresses and concerns, helping them enjoy their respite,” Stoetzel said. “I believe in music’s power to reach and affect people’s lives for the better.”
“Public Alley 421” is available: on iTunes, at Amazon.com and Cdbaby.com
and at the band’s Website www.soulalleymusic.com
Contact Info: Alley Stoetzel / Soul Alley Music / (978) 886-2765 / email@example.com / www.soulalleymusic.com
Soul Alley: The Brian Owens Interview
Metronome Magazine January 2011
Alley Stoetzel is the heart and “soul” behind Boston’s newest R&B act, Soul Alley. Her sheer determination and musical sensibilities blossom with every song she sings. For her debut, Public Alley 421, Stoetzel and her band mined ten priceless covers by folks as diverse as Motown’s Lamont Dozier to country superstar Dolly Parton while injecting three soul-fueled originals of their own. I spoke with Alley on a crisp day in October and she walked me through her journey as singer-songwriter and bandleader...
METRONOME: Is Public Alley 421 your first CD release?
Yes it is. This is the first CD I have ever done. I’ve made a couple of demos before, but this is the real deal.
METRONOME: How long has Soul Alley been together?
Soul Alley has been together for about three years. With the lineup on the CD, we’ve been together for two years.
METRONOME: Are you the founding member of the band?
I started the band. The person who has been with me the longest is the drummer, Justin Oliver.
METRONOME: How did you come up with the name Soul Alley?
We actually changed the name a year ago because we used to be Alley Blues. We decided we weren’t doing blues music anymore and we didn’t want to record a CD that had the name Alley Blues when it was really more of an R&B, neo-soul kind of sound. We tossed around a bunch of ideas and came up with Soul Alley.
METRONOME: That was a smart move. You don’t want that name on a CD if you’re not playing strictly blues...
Yeah, that was the advice I was getting, especially from the producer, Bruce Bears. He said, “You’re at a stage where you can change your name.” Alley Blues wasn’t really established. He said, “You might as well take this opportunity and change it.”
METRONOME: How did you meet Bruce Bears?
I had a guitar player named Mike Null, who wrote a song with me on the album. He did a gig with me and I needed a keyboard player for that same gig. He said, “Let me call Bruce.” Bruce came on board and did two gigs with us. I was still in college at Berklee at the time. He said, “If you ever want to make a CD, I would be interested in producing it for you.” I waited until I was done with college. I felt like it was too much on my plate at the time. But as soon as I was done, I called him and we started meeting, getting together, and picking songs.
METRONOME: When was that?
That was about a year and a half ago.
METRONOME: Did you attend Berklee for four years?
Yes. I graduated in vocal performance. That was my major. I actually graduated Magna Cum Laude also.
METRONOME: That’s impressive. Berklee teaches tough courses. You go there to learn music...
Oh yeah, they definitely kick your ass. I didn’t always enjoy my time there, but it made me a lot better. It definitely did.
METRONOME: What one thing would you say Berklee did most for you? Discipline? Music knowledge?
It taught me how to be a musician and not just a singer. More than anything, what Berklee does is gives you a dialogue and teaches you how to communicate in the most effective way with other musicians so that everything is very smooth running. It creates a very good line of communication with other musicians.
METRONOME: What got you interested in blues, soul and R&B music initially?
When I first listened to music, I liked what every other girl my age liked. I liked Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Those were the two big singers for me. When I was in high school, I got really in to The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and a lot of folk music like Joan Baez, which is whom my dad listened to a lot. Then, when I went to Berklee, they are so in to jazz there, I started to fall in love with really old blues like Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton and people like that with those heavy, heavy voices. Then that led to Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples and people like that who were a little more R&B than straight blues.
METRONOME: You mentioned your dad listening to Joan Baez. Is he a musician as well?
No, he can’t sing at all.
METRONOME: How about your mom?
She took piano when I was younger. I would go to her piano lessons and I started piano when I was five. My dad is just a huge music lover. He has a huge CD collection, so there was always music playing in the house.
METRONOME: When did you decide that you wanted to be a singer and be in a band?
I honestly never thought I would do anything else. I always sang and just loved it so much. I didn’t know you could go to college for music honestly until my junior year in high school when I started thinking about colleges. Even though I took voice lessons, I wasn’t in to classical at all, so I knew I didn’t want to go to school for opera or theater. The best school to go to for contemporary music is Berklee.
METRONOME: Your album title Public Alley 421 is very clever because that is, in fact, a public alley in Boston, correct?
Yeah, that’s where we took the album’s picture.
METRONOME: What made you choose the cover songs for the CD?
When I first started meeting with Bruce, he asked me what I wanted to do with the CD. I was just thinking of doing a bunch of traditional songs that everybody female singer does like, “Chain of Fools” and “Storm Monday.” He said, “No, we’re not going to do that. If my name is going to be on this, I want you to really think about it and research more obscure covers and obscure artists that you can connect to. That way you can create your own sound and not fall in to that category of a female singer doing what every other female singer does.” He gave me a list of songs to listen to, but honestly, I think I only picked one from that whole list. The rest I did on my own. I would listen to different artists and that would lead me to another artist. I kept going and spiraling in to different funk singers and soul singers from the 1960s.
METRONOME: How did you dig that stuff up because some of it is really obscure?
I looked at a lot of compilations, especially from England. I had to have it imported through Amazon.com on CD. Some things I would recognize like the Aretha Franklin song, “Sweetest Smile and The Funkiest Style,” which I don’t think was ever released. I think it was just a demo. I went from one artist to the next whether it was on Amazon, or just talking to different people, and I just went from there. Even the more well known artists like Chaka Kahn, where I got the song “The Right Street” from. A lot of people know Chaka Kahn, but I’m not sure they know that song. Bruce also said, “Pick a song even if the only thing you like about it is the lyrics. We can change everything else and make it the way you want it. Just make sure you connect to it emotionally and lyrically first.
METRONOME: I love what you did with the song, “Your Thing Ain’t No Good Without My Thing.” How did that develop?
That was a really fun song to do. We had been doing that one live for a while. I had a lot of fun getting the harmony parts together for that. To me, they really make the song. Then Eric got that great tone on his guitar. It just sounds so beautiful.
METRONOME: Forgive me, let’s take a giant step back... Who are the guys in the band and how did you meet?
Eric Vincent is the guitar player. We were both at Berklee at the same time, but we never actually ran in to each other. I needed a guitarist and somebody gave me his name. It’s the same thing with Louis. We met through the musical community. I needed a bass player and he was somebody looking for work. It built from there. The only guy I really met without seeking him out was Justin, my drummer. We were in a band together for about three weeks and both quit because it was such an awful band. He came to see me sing somewhere and said, “You really should start your own band.”
METRONOME: So Justin has helped you out quite a bit?
Yeah, definitely. I had a band before I met him and that was the band that he came and saw. It was an okay band, it just wasn’t great. He said, “If you really want to do this, you should get better musicians behind you.”
METRONOME: Was Louis [Ochoa] and Eric [Vincent] in Alley Blues with you or are they new to Soul Alley?
They were in Alley Blues with me but they weren’t the first players that I had. I went through a lot of bass players. I was hiring a lot of free-lance musicians. It wasn’t really a band situation.
METRONOME: Your material is not that simple so it must have been a lot of work on your part?
Yeah, but I can play piano and I went to Berklee, so I have charts and a lot of stuff written out.
METRONOME: Do you write out the charts yourself?
Yes. There’s charts for everything on the CD.
METRONOME: I really love the treatment you gave to the song “Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do.” What made you choose that one?
Definitely the lyrics. I think you can take the song a lot of ways. You can take it that girls can’t go out and party like guys do because of what other people will think of them. Guys can go out and do that stuff and not feel so intensely about it. Girls get a little more emotionally caught up in living that kind of night life. Girls are always a little more emotionally attached to things.
METRONOME: I also felt from the song that girls don’t always want to do what the guys do. I got that message with out feeling like it was a battle of the sexes.
We made it a little classier (laughs).
METRONOME: My favorite cut on the album is the Dolly Parton song, “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” What made you choose that?
That’s my favorite too. Honestly, I’m not crazy about her voice. That was another one, I loved the lyrics. I couldn’t believe that a woman that looks like that could write a song that was that beautiful. It’s so vulnerable, it really is. That was the last song that we added. We were looking at all the songs we recorded and realized we didn’t have a single ballad on there. They were all mid to uptempo songs.
I had been singing that song on my own at the piano since I was eighteen. It was one of those songs, when I first went to college, that I would fall asleep listening too. I really liked it. We tried it with the whole band, but I thought, I just want to do it with guitar and maybe some tambourine. Bruce wanted to put the organ on there and I thought that sounded great. That’s my favorite track.
METRONOME: It’s a country song but you delivered a “soul” feel to it. It defies categorization.
We didn’t want it to stick out like a sore thumb.
METRONOME: Tell me about your original song, “Feeling Low.” What inspired that one?
“Feeling Low” was the first song I ever wrote. I would always write lyrics, but never wrote music. I didn’t think I was good enough to do it. I was in a recording class at Berklee with Winston Maccow. I recorded a cover song the first week and he said, “The next song you do, you have to write an original tune.”
I had the lyrics and I had been singing that melody in my head for a while and it went from there. It’s come a long way. When it started, it was much more bare. The chords weren’t as exciting. It was the first song I wrote and it was about not feeling too great and feeling very alone and isolated.
METRONOME: Was that because of one of your low points at Berklee?
Probably, yeah. I commuted to Berklee. I didn’t live on campus, so I never felt like I was at Berklee socially. I went to class, but I never really partied at Berklee or did any of that so I definitely felt isolated there.
METRONOME: You wrote the lead track, “Tell Me You’re My Guy” with Bruce Bears. How did that evolve?
That came from a writing session I did with him and guitarist Mike Null. I had four or five different melodies and he said, “That’s the one that is the catchiest and the hookiest.” We started to build it from there; he and I and Mike.
METRONOME: How long did it take you to record the CD?
To record the CD... about nine months. I had been meeting with Bruce much longer than that. Maybe about a year and a half. I would record the rehearsals that I did with the guys and bring them to him and he would listen to it. We didn’t want to waste time in the studio. I financed the CD myself and Bruce understood I didn’t have a ton of money to blow on this. We tried to make the most of our time. Bruce’s advise was, “Just keep gigging and doing these songs at gigs because it’s the best way to get them together.”
METRONOME: You recorded the album at Bill Smith’s studio, Club 39, is that correct?
Yes, with Bill Smith. That was a blast. So much fun.
METRONOME: Was that the first time you had been introduced to Bill?
Yes. Bruce put me in touch with him. We just had a great time. He’s a really fun guy to work with. I was very nervous because this was my project. He was very good at getting the right atmosphere and getting everyone relaxed and loosened up while still being very productive and efficient.
METRONOME: Where are some of the clubs that you perform at?
We play at Smoken’ Joe’s in Brighton a lot. We had a September residency there every Tuesday. We’ve also played there on a couple of weekends. We play at Stella Blu in Nashua about once a month. We play Mari’s Place in Quincy about once a month as well.
METRONOME: Are you thinking ahead as far as recording another CD and will your style morph a little more from just soul and R&B?
I don’t want to do the same genre for the rest of my life. I want to evolve and grow and really create my own sound and style. I don’t want to be doing the same thing forever.
METRONOME: Are you writing more, now that you have an album under your belt?
Yeah, I do a lot of writing on my own, but as far as writing creatively with a band we haven’t been doing to much of that lately because we’re really trying to get everybody to hear this CD. That’s our main focus now.
METRONOME: Do you have a day gig in the music business?
Yes, I teach privately, voice and piano lessons. I have my own place in Newton.
METRONOME: Being a piano player, do you ever play solo?
Not at all, and I really don’t want to (laughs). I use the piano more for songwriting and arranging. I really like just singing.
METRONOME: What are your musical goals for the New Year?
I would like to develop more of a team as far as the business side goes. I’d like to take it to the next level as far as business goes; promoting and getting my name out there and to grow career wise. I’m so happy with the guys in my band and all the players that I have. My real goal is to reach more people with my music. That is really what the whole journey is about for me. Connecting with as many people as possible. The ultimate goal is to make people feel less lonely through music. That is what music does for me and I would like to communicate that to other people.
By Brian M. Owens
MUSIC REVIEW: Soul Alley, mixes variety, audacity at Quincy show
by Jay N. Miller for The Partriot Ledger
December 19, 2010
Quite a few rock and blues artists try to tackle Janis Joplin's classic "Me & Bobby McGee," but there are certainly not many performers out there doing a version of an Aretha Franklin demo, which the Queen of Soul never ended up releasing.
That kind of variety, not to mention audacity, is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Soul Alley, the rhythm and blues quartet fronted by Watertown's Alley (Alexandra) Stoetzel, which kept a full house at Mari's Place in Quincy jumping wuith three sets Saturday night.
Stoetzel has been playing in a series of bands with drummer Justin Oliver of Newton for more than four years, but this current configuration has only been together since May. Bassist Louis Ochoa, from Brighton, and guitarist Timo Arthur, from Watertown, give the foursome a supple command of several genres, and especially stand out at adding a bit of funk to almost everything they play. (Ochoa is on a trip to the Phillippines to introduce his new baby to his family, so Roslindale's Sven Larson subbed capably on bass Saturday.)
Stoetzel, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, also has a handful of her own originals, and usually mixes in half a dozen a night. Her new album, "Public Alley 421," includes three of her original songs among its 13 cuts, with the rest being mostly obscure but tasty tunes from r&b's past.
"I would credit Bruce Bears, who produced my album, for finding many of those obscure covers," said Stoetzel, referring to the Boston musician who's led Toni Lynn Washington's band. "I came in to the studio with a bunch of songs I wanted to record, most of them pretty familiar rock and blues covers. Bruce convinced me we ought to do something different, songs people hadn't heard a lot, and we began digging."
"Bobby McGee" is surely not very obscure, but many vocalists who try to tackle it stumble at the finish, where Joplin's unvarnished raw passion took over. Stoetzel did an admirable job in that segment, taking the song to its fiery finish without slipping into screeching or losing the essential melodic flow. A middle set run through "Proud Mary" similarly delivered the goods without becoming too much of an homage to Tina Turner, aiming a bit more for a rock treatment. One middle set highlight was Millie Jackson's "You Created a Monster," a detailed look at a relationship gone awry, and probably one that is new to most listeners, but very striking with Stoetzel's bold and brassy rendition.
Soul Alley welcomed guest Chuck Langford on soprano sax for the late set, starting off with a sizzling take on "Standing on Shaky Ground." That Aretha Franklin rarity, "The Sweetest Smile and Funkiest Style," was really galvanizing, as Stoetzel marked her smoky vocal with high end trills that echoed the sax.
Mari's Place tends to be casual and unpretentious, so it should be no surprise that regular Danny Clark came onstage to sing Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Clark tells us he does that tune with almost every band that plays Mari's, and he has a deep enough baritone to make it work. But more to the point, the Soul Alley rhythm section gave it an effervescent shuffle momentum, and Arthur's chicken-scratching guitar solos gave its country feel a decided funk edge.
Arthur's facility was again a paramount feature of the old blues classic "Tore Up," taking the tune down the road forged by Freddie King with rapid-fire runs, as Stoetzel belted it out. The quartet did a good job on the Motown nugget "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," not content to just replay the classic version, but pushing the tempo to a new, funkier level.
The original "You Had me Going" was a particular standout, as Stoetzel's tune rode jazzy syncopated rhythms, with Arthur providing the kind of guitar chordings that suggested George Benson on a Caribbean cruise. The song was not quite jazz, not quite blues, but thoroughly fascinating.
We covered Susan Tedeschi in her earliest musical days, and now we can say we've heard someone do a Tedeschi cover--this must mean one of us is getting old. Stoetzel's take on Tedeschi's signature song "Hurt So Bad" was perhaps a shade off the original, but as good as any other singer is going to come. Stoetzel has the vocal power and the emotional content down, but perhaps she needs to avoid following the original too closely. The concluding scat-singing section, for instance, was almost too accurate to the Tedeschi record, when a more individual interpretation would better stamp it as her own.
Soul Alley concluded their night with a boundlessly exuberant "Tell Me Something Good," again taking that funk classic from Rufus down some new paths. The rhythm section was again firmly in the pocket, while Arthur's fluid fretwork was a marvel of intelligently crafted solos.
The Soul Alley debut CD "Public Alley 421" was released in late October, and can be ordered through the website www.soulalleymusic.com, where fans can also download individual cuts from the album.
Copyright 2010 The Patriot Ledger. Some rights reserved
C.D. On Songs: Soul Alley - "Tell Me You're My Guy"
Posted by C.D. Di Guardia Oct 20, 2010
Public Alley 421 is somewhere in Back Bay, at least according to forgotten-boston.com. It is also, as luck would have it, the title of local band Soul Alley’s CD that they are releasing tomorrow. They’re not even doing it in an alley - they’re doing it indoors. At the House Of Blues Foundation room. $15 gets you in the door and also gets you a copy of their new record, the aforementioned Public Alley 421. I don’t know if #421 is the Soul Alley. Or maybe it’s the band’s lead singer, also named “Alley.” Or maybe there is no Soul Alley. Or maybe Ali Larter is going to show up. I don’t know. But you better. Show up, that is.
Soul Alley - “Tell Me You’re My Guy”
There is a lot of sugar to Soul Alley’s new “Tell Me You’re My Guy,” but there is a deceptive amount of spice in there as well. Like a tasty apple pie with a healthy helpin’ of cinnamon and nutmug in there to give it a little zing; this song has a bit of a bite to it. It is this well-measured amount of seasoning that brings balance to the song, giving it a pleasingly well-rounded character where lesser songs may have fallen flat.
The brighter elements of “Tell Me You’re My Guy” sparkle, and the vigor of this track comes largely from the vocals. Alley Stoetzel’s voice is both energetic and silky smooth at the same time. She works supple, nonlinear melodies for the greater part of the song; yet is able to drop instantly into a descending, rhythmic prechorus without missing a note - literally or figuratively - before hitting the song’s memorable and catchy refrain.
The spice in the track comes in the form of some bold moves by the rhythm section. No one throws down and starts slappin’ da bass, but the instruments are able to inject a subtle level of funk into the proceedings, clicking in and out of the pocket for some nice unison lines and tags on the ends of their measures. In this way, they mimic the vocal line, effortlessly locking in and out of various grooves in an organic and well-arranged manner. The fun little switches back and forth keep this track on the move and dynamic.
Metronome, Dec 2010 Issue
PUBLIC ALLEY 421
Singer Alexandra Stoetzel fronts Boston's newest R&B/Soul outfit Soul Alley along with bandmates Eric Vincent on guitar & vocals, Louis Andre Ochoa on bass & vocals and drummer Justin Oliver. Their new album Public Alley 421 was produced by longtime Toni Lynn Washington keyboardist Bruce Bears and features three Soul Alley penned originals along with funky renditions of songs written by mid-20th century songwriters like Lamont Dozier [Motown], Reid/Clarke, Mann/Brenneck/Sugarman, Don Pullen, Dolly Parton, Ron Stockert, Dee/Burgess and Briggs/Carter.
Leaning more towards funk and jazz than Motown and Stax, Soul Alley whips up contemporary arrangements sure to get toes tapping and fingers snapping. Best tracks: the groove of "You're Thing Ain't No Good Without My Thing," the poignant "Girls Can't Do What The Guys Do," and the beautiful Dolly Parton song, "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?" [D.S.]
Home-grown singer celebrates release of first album
By Dustin Luca Staff writer The Andover Townsman Thu Oct 14, 2010
Alley Stoetzel started singing when she was 12 years old, and she hasn't stopped since.
Next week, over a decade of hard work pays off as Stoetzel, lead vocalist for her band Soul Alley, gears up for the release of her first CD.
Today she lives west of Boston, but her roots are here in Andover, she said.
"I had a lot of support here," Stoetzel said with her debut record, "Public Alley 421," in her hands. She paused and laughed. "People tell me that I was always singing. I'm sure most of them found it annoying, because I would never stop."
Listing classic pop divas like Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston as her main sources of inspiration, Stoetzel described her first album as carrying a "retro R&B theme," a decades-old feeling that she said doesn't exist in pop music today.
Stoetzel's love for such classics started when she was younger, living in a house full of music. Her father was a huge fan of folk rock and her mother, a 25-year veteran of the Andover Public School system, played the piano.
The development of Stoetzel's singing talent started when she attended a voice lesson class with a friend at "The Voice Studio" on Main Street.
Sandi Bedrosian-Hyde, owner of "The Voice Studio" and Stoetzel's voice teacher for nearly a decade, said she remembers when the artist first walked into her studio.
"She came in with a friend who was taking voice lessons, and after watching, she decided she wanted to take them herself," Bedrosian-Hyde said. "With most students, you can hear very obvious talent or lots of potential, and with her, she had some of everything. She really enjoyed it and was so enthusiastic."
Stoetzel attended Bancroft Elementary and Doherty Middle schools. While at Doherty, she walked to the studio after school regularly, she said.
In high school, Stoetzel said that she often cut classes — but not for the typical reasons that other kids did.
"Usually, I would be in the bathroom singing," she said. "My friend Ziba, she would force me to sing in the bathroom. Anybody who came in, she would be like, 'You have to sing!'"
After high school, Stoetzel went to Berkeley. She then met Bruce Bears, who plays keys for Stoetzel and produced Public Alley 421. Berkeley is where the album project was born, Stoetzel said.
"He said he was interested in producing a CD for me," she said.
The CD, which celebrates a release party in Boston next week, features 13 songs including three original compositions and 10 tracks representing Soul Alley's take on a number of classic pop songs and ballads.
Stoetzel said her version of Dolly Parton's "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?" is her favorite track on the album.
"It is a country ballad, very different from anything else on the CD," Stoetzel said.
Overall, though, Stoetzel said the album is a reflection of her as both a performer and an artist.
"It is an accurate representation of what I was feeling when I recorded the CD," she said.
"She really worked hard," Bedrosian-Hyde said of her former student. "Some people coast calmly on looks, or talent, because there is always someone allowing them to go forward. But she put in the time, and when you make it big, it shows if you've put in the time. People see that you know what you're doing."
The CD release party for Soul Alley's "Public Alley 421" is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 20 at the House of Blues, located at 15 Lansdowne St. in Boston. Starting at 7 p.m., the event has a $15 cover charge, which includes a CD.
"Soul Alley Has Perfected Their Sound with Debut CD Public Alley 421"
Bill Copeland Music News Oct 7, 2010
Soul Alley will be releasing their debut CD Public Alley 421 in two weeks time. Those of us with an advanced copy already know the treat in store for those who have to wait several more days. Every track grabs the ears with its first note. The highly-polished sonic quality from producer Bruce Bears who plays keyboards throughout perfectly captures lead singer Alley Stoetzel’s clear, precise, powerful voice on every cut. (Pronunciation: Stoetzel rhymes with pretzel).
Stoetzel’s own song “Tell Me You’re My Guy” opens the disc with her silky catchy chorus working wonders with the mouthful of lyrics she’s singing. Her voice rises and comes back down again with the kind of control often found in veteran horn players. Drummer Justin Oliver knows just how much to smack those skins and he plays with the precision of a clock.
With her punchy vocals making it a potential hit, Stoetzel goes right to work on “Punish Me. The rest of the band is in fine form. Guitarist Eric Vincent pays out plenty of soulful melodic phrases. He makes it sound easy. “I’ve Got Reason” finds Stoetzel belting out high octane proclamations of love, and, the band’s composition “Had Me Going” has a fantastic groove coming from Eric Vincent’s funky riffing. Drummer Justin Oliver and bass player Louis Ochoa are deep in the pocket. Their snappy, stop-start rhythm work kicking this into high gear.
“Your Thing Ain’t No Good Without My Thing” plays out with Stoetzel’s vocal cruising over more funky, danceable grooves and whip smart guitar work. “How Do I Let A Good Man Down?” features Eric Vincent’s best phrases on the CD. Vincent and the rhythm section play so tightly it isn’t funny. Lead guitar notes hit the spot in a reserved spot under the vocal melody and the bass and drums force the feet to move.
“Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do” is a classy number that Stoetzel unfurls at her own special pace. Eric Vincent jumps in her with a cool guitar solo that reminds me of the Isley Brother’s in the late 1960s. The funkiest song on the CD, “I Got The Right Street” depended on Ochoa’s heavily accented low end notes. From there, Stoetzel voice gets duskier and huskier. “Feeling Low” also relies on Ochoa to take it down low with some easy going bass guitar thumps. Eric Vincent strikes it while its hot in the spaces that the rhythm guys leave open, like a target shooter that never misses his mark.
Stoetzel sounds catchier than ever on “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me” with some overdubbed vocal harmonies on the chorus, and, “You’ve Created A Monster” is the bands chance to rock out. The funk gets heavier on “Monster” and Stoetzel’s voice gets an appealing rasp while Eric Vincent’s guitar gets edgier. This piece is definitely a sledgehammer break from the breezy, jazzy R&B numbers on this disc.
“Sweetest Smile And The Funkiest Style” gets into a breezy zone of funk underneath Stoetzel’s girlish charm. She is warmer in tone on this love song and her band puts the wind in her sails, with tastefully knobby bass and a drive in the drums.
Closer “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” gives Stoetzel a chance to show her emotive chops on this old country number by Dolly Parton. Give this girl just a little acoustic guitar and some organ and she reaches moments of sublime beauty. Alexandra Stoetzel is truly a gifted singer and a gifted songwriter who can take her talents and her band as far as her ambition reaches.
Sleepless Nights and Rising Stars: Alley Stoetzel
By Ken Boege Sept 27, 2010
Regulars at Smoken’ Joe’s are already familiar with a beautiful and powerful new singer named Alley Stoetzel. Since first visiting the restaurant last winter Alley has joined almost every regular band here for a song or two. She has sung with some of our favorite musicians including The Gumbo Kings, Alizon, Muzik Makerz, Philip Pemberton, and recently the Luke Mulholland Band. If you have not seen Alley sing, you are in for a wonderful surprise. Alley is an amazing and gifted performer and the story of her start down this road is priceless.
When Alley was 5 years old she suffered from terrible insomnia. Rather than passing the time reading or playing with toys like an average child, Alley would sing. That’s right, for hours and hours she would sing. According to Alley, several neighbors could hear her and they never complained. With encouragement like that her parents signed her up for piano lessons. At age 8 they got her a voice coach and there was no stopping her.
In high school she played acoustic guitar reciting songs by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead. During four years of voice training at the Berklee School of Music, Alley’s tastes gravitated first towards blues and then toward soul, particularly old-school soul and hidden classics. Today Alley describes her music as neo-soul/retro R&B. In her music you will hear echos of blues masters voiced with a new vibe and spirit that is pure Alley.
“This CD is the culmination of a lot of hard work, writing, recording, and promoting. I’m so proud of it and excited that it’s finally out for everyone to enjoy,” says Alexandra. The CD was produced by Bruce Bears (Duke Robillard and Tony Lynn Washington), featuring several originals and reworked versions of covers.
Soul Alley Played Fine R&B at Stella Blu in Nashua, NH Last Night
For a band that has done well in blues band contests, Soul Alley has done a credible job transforming itself into a respectable R&B outfit. Their new CD should be dropping in a matter of days, and they have a solid gig schedule keeping them busy throughout greater-Boston. Their show last weekend at Stella Blu in Nashua, New Hampshire was another night of good music and good entertainment.
Soul Alley opened with a mellow dinner pace mood, beginning with the Sharon Jones‘s tune “How Long Do I Have To Wait“ . Stoetzel’s voice was marked by sweetness in her soulful rendering of the Jones hit. Eric Vincent’s guitar notes kept whistling by the ear with cool precision. They moved into “Tore Down” and kept it even in breezy blues mode, and you could see that this young band is very accomplished, classy, professional, fitting right in with the upscale bar atmosphere of Stella Blu
“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” and “Tell Me You’re My Guy” showed that Alley has a strong voice for these story songs. The crowed was into the band from the beginning, and more so when she showed the huskier side of her timbre.
Stoetzel wrote and performed her own arrangement of Dolly Parton’s “9 To 5,” turning the country pop song into a slower country blue, voice reaching into the country southern drawl. She belted out the song around its more countryfried sound and it worked to great effect. Guitarist Vincent brought in some vintage country chords and just enough twang for crossover appeal.
Soul Alley’s rhythm section was another high point. Drummer Justin Oliver and bass player Louis Ochoa knew how to get everything right and to sound cool at the same time. This kind of music only works when the rhythm guys can groove and open up the space for the voice and the guitar.
On “Me And Bobby McGee” Stoetzel put her rasp all over this classic, and guitar boy Vincent nailed the country blues lead guitar. Soul Alley rocked right out after their dinner set. They tackled the Ike and Tina Turner arrangement of “Proud Mary” with Alley’s voice nice and steady going into the uptempo part. Oliver kept a danceable beat on “Superstition” and Vincent kept pealing off the funky guitar riffs. The band moved right into Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” with a lot of synergy between the players.
Soul Alley launched into Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” a clever selection, despite being a song written and recorded in the 1980s. Gabriel’s gem is really a great funk song with roots in the two previous decades. Soul Alley found the funk and they ran with it. On “Had Me Going” she delivered the challenging vocal that required her to belt over a slamming band. She then changed dynamics and breezed through “Son of a Preacher Man.” But it was on “Hurt So Bad” that she focused on tight ensemble work with the boys. This is where the band showed how they have gelled into a very tight cohesive unit over the last few years. Stoetzel’s range complimented it, but it was a showcase of how the foursome work well together.
Eric Vincent made his guitar sound sort of a like a Hammond organ when the band launched into “Chain Of Fools.” He uses unisons and other techniques to compensate for not having an organ and other instruments, as Soul Alley is a guitar and drums four-piece. Stoetzel oozed the tough rasp and soulfulness to the song over it’s “organ” chords. She accomplished this again on “Punish Me” as well, which she unwound at her own pace.
“What A Man,” “Shaky Ground,” and “Higher Ground” were appropriate crowd pleasers. It was on “Stormy Monday,” though, that you could really see how Soul Alley has become a polished, professional outfit that perfectly matched the upscale atmosphere of Stella Blu. Stoetzel’s vocal phrasing was just perfect on this classic, slow burner. She sounded like a torch singer from an earlier time period and Vincent played some of his finest guitar melodies of the evening, sharp, brittle, and clear.
Soul Alley closed out with Rufus “Tell Me Something Good” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” showing again their penchant for danceable crowd pleasers. The band knows how to have fun on these tunes. It was evening of high energy, upscale performances from each band member.
"Soul Alley brings a unique level of electricity every night they play at Stella Blu. Alley is a world class vocalist, and the musicians are as talented as they come. Soul Alley consistently packs the house, and everyone has a great time."
Bill Smith – owner, recording engineer Club 39 Studios
"My studio is a live performance recording studio. By design, no ProTools.
A band has to rehearse and be prepared before they book a session at Club 39.
The energy that shines through on the Soul Alley CD “Public Alley 421” is a testament to
the strength of the band, and the talents of Alley Stoetzel. This was a
fun project to record live. To quote the late, great Weepin' Willie, "The tape don't lie!"
“Alley Stoetzel is a meaningful emerging talent who displays extraordinary vocal power and a solid command of various roots-oriented idioms. Stoetzel projects measured doses of innocence, sexuality and showmanship in order to connect with her audiences in a manner that is rarely found in contemporary music.”
–Jim Carty, Host “Blues & Beyond” on WMFO 91.5 FM Medford, MA. Also, Blues, Jazz & Jam & Americana Music Director at WMFO. Chairperson – Boston Music Awards, Blues Category.