Friday, October 12, 2012


Athon blends classic jazz fusion, hornlines, and a taste of alternative pop to create a unique vibe on his debut album

I have always been a fan of jazz, rock, and pop music that strongly defy category.  When I listened to Joe Athon's "Portrait of the Man," I was deliciously happy to find another artist to add to my list of musical geniuses.

I must confess before I review that I know Joe personally. We worked together as classmates in the music program at what is now the University of Central Missouri, over twenty years ago.  At that time, Joe was a fellow (and precociously advanced) student with me under Dr. David Aaberg in the jazz program. Outside of school, Joe headed an amazing funk band called "Purple Skunk Funk."  Several of my classmates and I would often go see PSF perform live in the Warrensburg, MO clubs whenever we could. 

At the time, while still a teenager, Joe was a fantastic alto saxophonist, who later played with Dr. Aaberg at my wedding, together with my father, vocalist Tim Ballard.  Between Athon, Aaberg, and Ballard, the people at that wedding likely had no idea what level of talent was truly in the house! 

At least fifteen years have passed since I have seen Joe, as I moved to Denver and he remained in Kansas City.  This year, we were reunited in cyberspace by Twitter and Facebook, and through that connection, it has been a wonderful surprise to learn that he released an album in October 2011.  So on with the formalities of the review!

"Portrait of the Man" is an appropriate moniker for the album, as it is an excellent testament to Athon's growth from teen prodigy to formidable composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist.  It is a shining example of a young man coming into his own musically.   And as a lifelong fan of generally "unclassifiable" songwriters and artists such as Joe Jackson, Walter Becker, and Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Athon's original songwriting, classy hornlines, complex chordal structures, and smooth vocals put me under their spell immediately. 

Fans of Elvis Costello will immediately be drawn to Athon's deep storytelling and natural vocal journey on cuts such as "Right Here". Fans of Steely Dan and/or Donald Fagen will appreciate and gravitate toward the complex jazz polychords and warm, reassuring, sax and trumpet lines on gems such as "Rainy Midnight Walk."  Treasures such as the title track, "Portrait of the Man”, power ahead, guided by progressions similar to Fagen's work on late-career albums such as "Everything Must Go" and "Morph the Cat."  Athon is also sure to attract brand new fans that just love a good story, as the album's lyrics are profound, exploring the ups and downs of daily joy and heartbreak.

JOE ATHON: “Portrait of the Man” is available on CDBABY at I regret that this review was over a year from release, but with the fantastic music I heard on the album today, it was well worth the wait.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
President, Independent Reviewer
TIMKAT Entertainment LLC
Denver, CO, USA

Twitter: @timkatent

Sick of Corporate Radio? Turn it off!

Kathryn Shut October 11, 2012

This evening, I took a rare few minutes off, sat down in front of the TV, and started watching what turned out to be a fairly boring science-fiction movie. While the plot was mediocre and my empathy for the characters non-existent, one thing stood out about the story where I identified.

The year was 2093 and everything had gone completely corporate, including crappy space missions like the one in the story.  In the movie, corporations owned everything and because of their vise-like grip on humanity, they could dictate exactly what society was and wasn't allowed to do, simply because money talked.

Unfortunately, in the entertainment and media world, many of us already feel that we need not wait until the year 2093 for corporate tyranny to take over.  Movies are rife with product placements, so-called reality TV shows often have a product agenda, and even music has succumbed to the vanilla and boring police state that is terrestrial radio.

In this not-so-make believe land of manufactured music, payola rules the day, and big record labels dictate which same 10 songs one gets to hear in an hour.  Big labels are convinced that everyone loves rap, hip-hop, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry, and therefore attempts to establish some de mode coolness factor by ensuring that they are always on the cover of every pop magazine.  The same 10 people also tend to show up on every program (also corporate) everywhere; the little indie guys are forgotten in the mélee.

However, it's only partially true today that corporate media has completely taken over.  One saving grace that the discerning listener has is the Internet, and there are literally millions of fantastic, independent (not Pandora, not Yahoo, not AOLMusic, not even Spotify - and I'll pick that bone later) - truly independent radio stations worldwide, dedicated to the eclectic mix and the freedom that comes with breaking free of corporate saccharinated swill.  Therefore with this first-hand knowledge of how good independent Internet radio can be, I hereby declare:


I know it will seem like a dark, scary, and eerily silent landscape once the car radio's squawking falls mute. I know that you'll feel like a traitor and be convinced that Sirius/XM will show up immediately via helicopter and wrecker to repossess your car, starting with the stereo.  I know you'll feel like a hopeless jerk.  But resist the corporate-imposed guilt; seriously, switch that swill off and feel your soul take flight!

The only way to send a message to the "big record labels", in cahoots with corporate trash radio, that one doesn't care about their incessant playlists is to switch to independent radio on the Internet. Only here can you interact directly with DJs, program managers, and music enthusiasts to hear exactly what you want.  Only here does the freedom still exist to discover an incredible new band.  Only here can the corporate shackles be broken!

I am not saying that independent radio stations may not have commercials from time to time; they have to pay their bills as well.  However, in the majority of cases, these ads exist to promote new artists that do not have a big label behind them and therefore are just trying to get the word out.  They are not part of a huge agenda and don't have super deep pockets.  Most ads do not come from a hungry machine that already has plenty of money to blow and greedily must have more, and most do not disturb the music but for a couple times an hour.  Finally, you may not enjoy every song you hear; indie Internet radio is not a paradise.  But you probably don't like every song you hear on corporate crap radio either, which is why you're still reading this blog!

Now that I've said my peace, where does the new wayfarer go?  Here are some suggestions for stations that have been welcoming, open, eclectic, and truly friendly places for the independent artist to be heard.  (This is but a tiny list, as I know there are other amazing stations out there.)

  • Radio Kaos Caribou (Ermont, France) - Follow @RadioKC on Twitter
  • KINGFM World (Berlin, Germany) - @KingFMWorld and/or @TomKolbe
  • Awesome Sound Wave with Online Don.
    (USA, classic rock/oldies from 60s - today) - @Sound_WaveRadio
  • Radio Wey
    (United Kingdom, eclectic mix, classics)  - Mandy Morrow @toucan2
  • WDGP (Maryland, USA)  - @WDGRPRadioCom
  • 40 Foot Hole Studio (New Jersey, USA) - Eclectic Mix - @40FootHole
  • Simphony Tandil (Tandil, Argentina) - @SimphonyTandil
  • RadioIO  (Florida, USA. Every genre possible) - @TheRadioIO or @mmatheny
  • Coffee Talk Jazz (California, USA) Mainstream and Smooth jazz) - Bridgette Lewis - @CoffeeTalkJazz
  • Soul City Radio (Baltimore, USA) - (Soul/RnB/Smooth Grooves) DeWayne Alston -

Be assured that NONE of these stations has paid me anything to mention them.  None of them has asked me to take a stand.  None of them even knows that I am writing this article (yet).  They are simply stations that have invited new music into their rotations, made it to my bookmark list, and are amazing supporters of the independent artist above all.  Furthermore, it is through these stations that I too have learned about some other fantastic talents!

Finally, as the president of an entertainment company, I also understand too well how cold the corporate stations can be.  Again, if one is not from a big label, sending a CD to local program managers gets you nowhere.  They do not bother to thank you. They do not play your music.  They don't care how good it is. It very likely ends up in a pile with every other independent artist, or worse, flies right into the trash can, dismissed as futile rubbish from the indigent masses.  Corporate entities such as Sirius/XM, Pandora, Clear Channel, Premier, and Intercom have never even so much as graced me with a message to piss off, and we have sent program managers in key market areas several of our albums to enjoy.  They are obviously too buried in their Arbitron Ratings to realize that the crap on their stations isn't anything most people want to hear.

Want proof?  Do you remember who the #1 album seller was this last summer?  I'll give you a hint.  It wasn't Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, LMAO, or even Madonna.

It was Tony Bennett, and Gaga knows it, because she is now making a jazz album with him.
That's staying power, that's talent, and that's a huge barometer of who the record-buying public really is.

So since probably you're in the majority of people with some modicum of taste, take the airwaves back. Turn off the corporate crap (including Internet corporate crap) and start exploring more independent mavens.  And if you find one that I need to add to my growing list, let me know at Twitter: @timkatent.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
TIMKAT Entertainment LLC
Denver, CO, USA

Web Portal:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy Birthday, TIMKAT!

Kathryn Ballard Shut
October 3, 2012

Tomorrow, October 16, 2012, TIMKAT will celebrate five years of being in business.  When I stop promoting, tweeting, 'Facebooking', and writing press materials long enough to ponder this moment, I cannot help but want to thank so many people for their support and love in helping this tiny company reach that landmark place in time, especially in light of having been founded during one of the most difficult economic periods in history!

For many that may not know, TIMKAT actually started as a casual phone call between my father (Tim) and me one night, about two years before he lost his battle with lung cancer.  At the time, Tim was going through heavy chemotherapy treatments and we were very hopeful that the sessions would help to place the deadly disease into remission.  Some days left him feeling strong and ready to fight on; others simply left him sick, weary, and almost ready to give up.

At one point in our conversation, Tim asked me if I knew anything about the new social media page, MySpace, and I said that I did; that I'd easily created a couple of pages and that people from all over the media world were "befriending" me on it.  He mentioned that he too, had a page, but had no idea what to do with it - would I help him to improve it?  I promised that I would.  However, the next thing he said resulted in the birth TIMKAT.  He said, "Do you think that we could use those pages to sell my albums online?  And do you think that we could go further, say, into getting TV, movies, and commercials to notice us?" 

Since that idea, TIMKAT has suffered its setbacks (including the loss of Tim in 2009) but more importantly, has grown into a company that continues to carry the torch for the independent, up-start, talented Jazz, Soul, and now, House music artist, that otherwise gets lost in the stream of corporate media and payola rotations.  We have built a strong social media presence that includes pages on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, ReverbNation, Jango, Google+, LinkedIn, MusicSubmit, TuneCore, CDBABY, Spotify, all major global mp3 download sites, About.Me, Blogger, JazzTimes, Thumbtack, StoryAmp, and many more outlets.  We are a company that by and large ties its existence and continued growth to the Internet.

We have grown from sponsoring the music of one signature artist (Tim Ballard) to include five additional ones; two of these groups are from Italy, making us a truly international presence in more than just social media spaces, forging distribution and songwriting contracts with partner music agencies and publishers, such as Azzurra Music of Verona, Italy and PLG Music Group/Blue Pie of Chicago, IL.  See the complete roster listing at the end of this article.

Regarding social media and fans, as of this writing, TIMKAT proudly interacts daily with just under 4,000 "followers" (we call them "citizens" of our music community) on Twitter, all legitimately interested parties, thanked individually, and followed back, per our promise never to 'buy' support for what we do or to become distant from the wonderful people who support our efforts In addition, the Tim Ballard Facebook  page is home to over 1,700 people who love his music, and visits to our ReverbNation page grows every day, with new fans becoming turned on the eclectic mix of the world-class jazz, soul, and house music that we offer.

Furthermore, since 2008, we have forged very strong connections with growing Internet radio stations around the world, becoming veritable partners with station directors at (US-FL & SC), (US-MD); Coffee Talk Jazz (US-CA); KING FM World (Berlin, Germany); Radio Kaos Caribou (Ermont, France); Radio Wey (United Kingdom), AwesomeRadio featuring Indie Showcase (Australia/Canada), Sound Wave Radio (US) and AllStars70s (France).  Each station has taken a personal and active interest in learning about TIMKAT's mission and we simply cannot thank them enough for their support and partnership.

Finally, as President, I have also been honored personally and professionally, first in 2008 with inclusion into The Recording Academy (Grammy, Los Angeles Chapter), then again as a publisher and songwriter in ASCAP in 2012, and finally as a businesswoman into Who's Who Among Entrepreneurs (2012).

The key to our success so far has been very simple.  It is imperative to be respectful, gracious, and honest, and timely in business dealings.  Even though the music business can be cold, cruel, and cut-throat, there is no reason to succumb to a level of madness that dehumanizes people and steals their work.  We believe in the music of our artists, but also commit to being ethical, fair, and giving to those who sacrifice and work hard to make their sound a reality.  There is plenty of room for great musicians out there, and not just limited to the sacred few that pay to be played on corporate radio.  At the end of the day, as many a jazz artist would have said back in the day, it's all about your sound.  Get a great sound first; worry about showing off later.

While we may not be the most prolific or famous company on the block, we appreciate today, and will continue to appreciate tomorrow, the support from each and every person with whom we cross paths.   Just ask those so-called "followers" on Twitter.  Most of the people that began with us months ago are still with us today and continue to share us with their friends, which has been a true blessing.  They know that we're the real deal on the musical block, and to us, they have never been followers -- they are in fact leaders for others to find great music -- the "cool kids" on the block that found the gold first.

So happy birthday, TIMKAT; may we celebrate five more years and beyond of working toward the goal of "world-class jazz, soul, and house music!"

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
Denver, CO, USA

Web Portal: