1/6: Linda Chorney, Public Nominee No. 1

It doesn’t get any more stars ‘n stripes than Linda Chorney — seen here strumming “Say No to Sarah” in a vid capture that does NOT refer to Sarah Jarosz — as the AmeriControversial musician preps to storm the gates of Grammy-lot with an intimate gig at Asbury’s Wonder Bar this very night.

She stands accused of “gaming the system;” a heinous offense that puts her on a par with any banned-from-Bally’s casino card counter — although we prefer to picture Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment, slinking under the laser alarms while doing a human hack into some hitherto impermeable layers of security.

She’s been placed in the middle of conspiracy theories involving the most shadowy Star Chambers of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) — in the same breath that she’s been cast as a carpetbagging, not-one-of-us interloper; a distaff Professor Harold Hill with a folding merch table and a smaller horn section.

She’s been called manipulating, fake, a player of house parties (?) — even, Helen Help Us, a “Poster Child for a Paradigm Shift.”

She’s also got a lot of people out there — including past Grammy winners and biz bigwigs — reaching for the phrase “You Go, Girl” in her defense. NARAS awards VP Bill Freimuth even went on record in Variety to point out that she’s played it strictly by the rules, and that she was “very diligent in her pursuit of attention by the Grammy voters, and it evidently paid off. Enough of the voters received her communications, listened to her music, thought it was worthwhile and voted for it.”

But Jeez Loweezy, you’d think that Linda Chorney was some kind of Carmen Sandiego villainess, the way that folks in certain rustic corners of the music industry have their polkadot bloomers in a bindle over her continued existence.

What the 51 year old, Beantown-bred, Sea Bright-seasoned singer and songwriter is at this moment is HOT — not just hotter than anything else born during the Ike administration or reliably flush with talent, but a hot topic of conversation; blazing with controversy and studio-tanning in the spotlight of public scrutiny.

Yeah, we’re well aware that we just did a feature on LaChorn a few weeks ago, but the circumstances surrounding the “local, Shore based” musician’s appearance on the national stage — including this oft-quoted story in Variety and some coast-to-coast radio guestings — are simply too tantalizing to ignore. Especially in the numbing lull of a Jersey Shore January.

To refresh your memory: Chorney — like any Upper Wet Side artist worth her salt water taffy, a relentlessly DIY self promoter with the scary skills to back up any blip of bluster — released last year her sixth and by far most ambitious album of her 30 year career, a doublewide sensation called Emotional Jukebox. An epic yet intimate moodswing sonata that traced its way home past territories controlled by pop, folk, country, R&B, classic rock covers and a fully arranged chamber symphony, the album boasted well known musicians, groovy graphics, playful sneetches of humor and a boundary-busting worldview born of an era in which recording artists — with the help of seemingly unlimited studio budgets (Chorney’s project was financed in full by a single philanthropic phan) — aimed for the stars and pushed the envelope of studio time ‘n space.

So smitten was Chorney herself over the quality of her labor-intensive babydrop — and so disheartened over the prospect of its disappearing into the black hole where “local records” go to die — that she decided to get it nominated for a Grammy. Which, while laughably improbable, is at least theoretically possible given the increasingly heightened presence of Grammy 365, the peer-to-peer social network via which NARAS members can hep each other to new sounds in an increasingly fragmented, post-everything industrial landscape.

Long story short, when the dust cleared for the announcement of the 54th Grammy Award nominations, there was Emotional Jukebox, nominated (in the company of several serial Grammy winners) as Best Americana Album — a development that didn’t exactly inspire the Nashville-based Americana Music Association to send her a congratulatory Edible Arrangement. But, not to put too hyperbolic a spin on it, it was a pretty history-making moment — the first time by our reckoning that such an uber-indie, DIY, far-from-mainstream recording had cracked the Grammy circle. We’re willing to wager that it won’t be the last.

UpperWETside managed to corral this 30-year music biz underdog for a phone interview before having to take a number behind Vanity Fair, and found her busily shopping for a gown with which to make a grand entrance — a little above and beyond the call of duty just for talking to our little blog, if you ask us, but then Linda Chorney never does anything halfway. Read on, pilgrim…

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ARCHIVE: Fab Faux Dig a Pony

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All Faux One: The Fab Faux, clockwise from top left: Jimmy Vivino, Jack Petruzzelli, Will Lee, Rich Pagano, Frank Agnello.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit July 29, 2009)

It was just about five weeks ago that The Fab Faux — that wondrous bunch of WannaBeatles assembled from some of the most sought-after session cats in what’s left of the music biz — came to Red Bank to perform their annual benefit concert at the Count Basie Theatre, a tradition that’s been going on for the better part of ten years. While local FauxFans have generally had to do an entire lap around the sun until their next FauxFix, the summer of 2009 offers up an unprecedented opportunity to catch the MockTops in action once more — this time on the open-air SummerStage of the Stone Pony, where they’ll be appearing this Saturday evening.

That’s especially exciting news, since the five Fabs certainly have their own fish to fry throughout the working week. This, after all, is the band that famously features two fixtures of late-night talk TV — bassist Will Lee of The Late Show with David Letterman, and guitarist Jimmy Vivino of the recently relocated Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. With Conan’s move 3000 miles (and one crucial time-slot) away, the bandmates have become Nielsen ratings rivals of sorts (awk-wurrd), though you’d never know it by Vivino’s continued cross-country treks to join his East Coast compadres nearly every weekend.

Fellow vocalists and instrumentalists Frank AgnelloRich Pagano and Jack Petruzzelli are themselves members of that same talent pool of New York session aces, and together the five fabulous fakirs have played with pretty much everyone in the history of the recording industry. No, really. Everyone. Like, there’s no point in even starting a list. In fact, we’ll just list the pathetic handful of acts who haven’t worked with any of these guys — Mrs. MillerThe Singing NunWazmo NarizJeff ConawayVon LmoOld Skull, and Rotting Moldy Flesh. And we’re not even sure about a couple of those there.

Don’t even think of The Fab Faux as a hobby project — not when the band has stepped up their schedule of live dates, gigging transcontinentally and internationally with the mix of early-career jangle and psychedelic-era experiments that have made their homage the most respected from here to the annual Beatle Week fest in Liverpool.

With its special emphasis on late-period Beatle tunes — the ones the boys never got around to playing live — and its welcome avoidance of moptop wigs, matching suits, Sgt. Pepper facial hair and 60s stock footage, a Fab Faux show is a thing of beauty and drama and nuance that puts forth stuff like “A Day in the Life” and “I Am the Walrus” and “Glass Onion” in ways you’ll never hear on the county fair circuit.

Red Bank oRBit spoke to William F. Lee IV on a rare night between gigs; Continue Reading for best results.

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