River songs

Musicians living in the Riverside Artists’ Lofts unveil Living Riverside

The <i>Living Riverside</i> CD cover gives a nod to Artown’s <i>Counting Sheep</i> exhibit.

The Living Riverside CD cover gives a nod to Artown’s Counting Sheep exhibit.

Living Riverside is available at Dreamer’s Coffeehouse, 27 S. Virginia St. (at the lower level of the Riverside lofts), Tower Records, The Warehouse and at various local bookstores around town. Call Dreamer’s at 322-8040.

When the city of Reno decided to renovate the dilapidated Riverside Hotel Casino and turn it into inexpensive housing for artists, I suspect its thinking went a little like this: Invest in artists, and they will return that investment by bringing culture to the city, by creating a strong artistic community and identity and by just making Reno a bit nicer for everyone.

Enter Living Riverside, a compilation CD showcasing the musicians of the Riverside lofts, and the first formal project of the Riverside Loft Musician’s Association.

The CD is a collaborative effort between RLMA founder Ezzy Lamé, producer Steve Pfister, nearly 30 local musicians, one professional country singer and scores of supporters and well-wishers.

It’s clear that this is an unconventional album from the first track, Pfister’s “Arizona South,” which is an instrumental song.

“It’s something unexpected,” says Pfister. “Something to draw you in.”

This tranquil yet intricate piece sets the stage nicely for the rest of the album. For the most part, Living Riverside is a calming, soothing listen, where nearly every track is accessible and listener-friendly.

“We kind of formed it towards a middle-stream audience,” Lamé explains. “It’s the type of music you put on after work and kick back.”

This “soft touch” is the result of a careful song selection process.

“I had to be picky and choose, but amazingly enough, I didn’t make any enemies,” Pfister says, laughing.

But, as with every compilation CD, Living Riverside is as diverse as the musicians included on it. From Kate Cotter’s “Her Only One,” a quiet, acoustic ballad sung in a beautiful soprano reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell, to Aaron Conkey’s “You,” an intense alt-rock piece brimming with barely-restrained fury, to Jackie Ford’s “Night and Day,” a catchy, upbeat jazz number, the common thread binding track together is the artists’ address—and their passion for their work.

Local music fans may recognize one of Nick Ramirez’ signature songs, “Marianarchy.” Half rock ballad, half sea chantey, the track has appeared on two of Ramirez’ prior albums. Despite the presence of the word “anarchy” in the title, the song has no political message; it’s about Ramirez’ girlfriend.

“It’s basically the story of a gutter punk and some hippie chick who makes him better,” says Ramirez.

Country singer Lacy J. Dalton contributed “Artown Paradise,” the “theme song” for Reno’s annual Artown festival. Dalton has written several gold albums, and is most famous for her hit single “16th Avenue.”

Dalton recorded the guitar and vocal tracks at a local recording studio; Pfister later added all the other instruments in his studio.

Living Riverside is only the first project of the RLMA; in fact, with the proceeds from the CD, the association plans to form a mentorship program for elementary school students, in which local musicians will come to the schools and volunteer their time to hand down much-needed music education.

Support is dwindling for the art programs, Lamé says, explaining the need for such a project.

So, as Living Riverside kicks off a program of artists actively giving back to the community, it looks like the city’s investment in the Riverside is already beginning to pay off.