Anni Piper has to struggle. She’s so amazingly beautiful and her voice is one of those rare voices that can seduce a man through the airwaves, that it is sometimes hard to remember that she’s also a talented musician and songwriter that has to be taken very seriously.
Some performers may have one talent or another, but it is the rare individual who possesses all of them and is willing to share them with the world.
Piper’s latest album, MORE GUITARS THAN FRIENDS, is the first release on her very own Sugar Daddy Records label, may not be completely blues, but it is 100% pure Piper. She is the writer or co-writer of seven of the ten songs on the album and even those that are covers, she manages to make them sound as if they belong to her.
Piper is originally from Australia, halfway around the world from the Delta or Chicago, but that has a highly developed blues scene. Enchanted by the music of performers like Stevie Ray Vaughan, she began performing regularly in her native land and moved to the states (well, one state – Florida) about a year ago.
Since that time she has experimented with lacing her blues with different genres of music. Country is an obvious influence as both blues and country are two branches from the same tree. On this album she adds a little Latin flavor and some Caribbean spices that give MORE GUITARS THAT FRIENDS its unique sound.
Aside from Piper playing bass and handling the lead vocals she is joined by Dave Kury on guitar; Frank Hetzler on drums and percussion; Mike Franklin on keys; Tim Franklin (Paper Bag voice), Dave Kury, and Frank Hetzler - backing vocals; Charlie de Chant - saxophones; Sam Zambito - trumpet; and Jabba Ehley – shotgun.
Piper kicks off the album with a little bit of fun, Wonder Woman, a song many women can identify with especially the lyric, “I’m a wonder woman, I wonder what I saw in you.” Piper cleverly uses some imagery from the DC comic book to good effect (and I know this because I am a giant comic nerd with many actual Wonder Woman comics from the 1940’s in my collection). It’s a fast paced boogie number and both Piper’s bass work and vocals get quite a workout.
She keeps the energy high with Just A Little Bit, originally recorded by Rosco Gordon. Piper gives the song new life and rocks it out.
Buckle Bunny is a hard driving rocker that delves into her dreams of finding a real cowboy. Finding the reality to mesh with the fantasy is never easy, but it sure is fun. Listen out for Mike Franklin’s great riff followed up by Piper’s blistering guitar.
Almost all my guitar playing friends have this same problem, More Guitars Than Friends. Piper slows things down on the title track and reaches into the dark side of her emotions. It’s a sad evocative number and her low notes are beautiful and sexy. This one will be featured on Time For The Blues very soon.
She kicks things up with Paper Bag and even adds a horn section. It’s a fun song with some dark lyrics and it has to be one of this big hits when performed live. Charlie de Chant, who often plays with Hall and Oates, brings his saxophone into the mix and really kicks the song off. This is a party anthem.
Originally a number by Saffire The Uppity Blues Women, Piper’s cover of Cold Pizza And Warm Beer is one that perfectly follows up Paper Bag. Waking up with that pounding in your skull and trying to get through the day. Piper really gets to the essence of the song and she has performed it live in concerts for years, so it’s finally good to get it onto an album.
Piper fuses Caribbean rhythms and instruments into Shotgun Wedding for an interesting melding of styles. It’s reminiscent of some of Dr. John’s uses of zydeco and other New Orleans flavored sounds into the blues, and Piper succeeds in pulling it off nicely. Is it blues? Who cares, it's a great song that will get you up and moving quickly. Blues doesn’t have to be static, there’s always room for experimentation!
Piper digs deeply into her soul for her cover of this Memphis Slim song, I’m Lost Without You. She’s been performing it live for several years, it’s good to get this one onto a record. Her voice is quiet, stripped of any pretense and it stands out as a plaintive cry. Lovely song.
Eugene is a rocking number about a guy who takes off with someone else. Listen to her early Chuck Berry sounds in the orchestration and especially in the piano-guitar tradeoffs. This is a fun song about a guy who is basically a jerk. A hit song is often the best revenge!
Piper closes out the album with Blackberry Brandy, a song about despair steeped deeply in the sounds of old school country music. Every single note and syllable is pulled directly from her lonely heart. It brought to mind that great quote from Janis Joplin about how she “made love to 20,000 people from the stage, and went home alone.” It’s a slow number that just gets under your skin and takes up residence in your soul.
Now that Piper is on American soil, I’m hoping that we will see more of her at festivals and clubs. Her brand of high energy music is a sight to see and if you haven’t been a fan of hers before now, here’s your chance to catch up.
You can find out more about Piper, her music, and her upcoming shows at her website: http://www.annipiper.com/. You definitely want to have her on your radar!
Normally that would be the end of the Professor’s review, but Ms. Piper was gracious enough to consent to a small interview. So, if your interested is piqued, stick around for a few more minutes and enjoy her thoughts on things.
Professor: Where in Australia do you originally hail from?
Anni Piper: I spent all my time in Australia on the east coast. I grew up in Sydney as a small child, then lived close to famous surf destination Byron Bay while attending university. I moved to Wollongong in my early 20s. It's a small coastal city, and I was based there until I made the move to the USA. You might notice the recurring theme of living by the ocean, so Florida was obviously a natural fit for me.
Professor: What was your first exposure to the blues?
Anni Piper: First blues record I heard was Paul Butterfield Blues Band playing Born in Chicago when I was fourteen. It really was a defining moment. My mind had been blown a few years earlier by Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love, and this sound grabbed my attention in a whole new way. So it's a style I've been exploring since early in my life. I don't come from a musical family, my parents were a doctor and a university professor and creative activities didn't have a lot of value in my childhood home. They didn't play records or even listen to the radio so music was very much something I had to pursue myself.
Professor: Was it difficult to get noticed in Australia?
Anni Piper: Well I was certainly noticed in Australia, but I'm glad you mentioned earlier in the article, some references to sexism, because I think it was harder to gain credibility and be taken seriously as an artist in my home country. I'm speaking in reference to being an attractive woman, and particularly a bass guitar player. I think American audiences are far more welcoming to the idea of a woman with a guitar.
Professor: When did you move to the States?
Anni Piper: I moved here about 18 months ago.
Professor: How have things changed for you?
Anni Piper: I left almost every personal possession I owned behind. So stripping a lot of the clutter from my life was a big change but a very cleansing thing to do. I definitely work more in the USA, and I get the opportunity to listen to a lot of great blues bands close to home. I got married in Vegas by Elvis recently, so I'm certainly immersing myself in the culture here. I also had to get used to driving on the right hand side of the street (Australians drive on the left).
Professor: Does living in Florida affect the way you approach music?
Anni Piper: All the songs on MORE GUITARS THAN FRIENDS were written within the first twelve months of me moving to the USA. I had pretty bad insomnia for a few months and was up at odd hours of the night, just sitting with my bass and notepad and writing. I think it's not just living in Florida that has affected the way I approach music, but the touring that I have done here in the USA. I was exposed to a wide variety of folk music and Americana. I was my first real square dance, and traveled way out into cowboy country, and I think those kinds of things had a big influence on the subject matter of the songs and the way in which they're presented.
Professor: What was the experience of starting your own label?
Anni Piper: The choice of name, Sugar Daddy Records, was of course my little joke! I love the freedom to express myself however I choose in my selection of material, production style and artwork. That's something you have to sacrifice when working with a record label. No more!
Professor: Any plans to tour more often?
Anni Piper: I hate snow so I don't like leaving Florida in the wintertime. I'm currently applying for my green card and at the moment I can't leave the USA so I can't do any overseas performances for the foreseeable future. I'll be on the road again in the summertime.
Professor: Tell us a little about your music video 'Paper Bag' from the new album?'
Anni Piper: The 'Paper Bag' music video is a comedy classic. When you watch it, you will be able to tell how much fun we had in filming it. I get dressed up in a mustache and my guitarist Dave Kury is wearing a dress and blond wig. We were in front of the camera for two full days and you'll see some of our favorite venues from beautiful Cocoa Beach featured.
The Professor would like to thank Anni Piper for her time and especially for her music. Keep checking her site to see where she will be playing throughout the year and if you are anywhere near one of her shows, be sure to check it out. You will not be disappointed!
And any Sugar Daddies out there that want to help…
(Photos of Anni Piper provided by the artist. And don't worry about the handgun, I'm sure it was just a prop. But she does live here in the south now, so anything is possible...)