Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats practically explodes with deep, primal and ecstatic soulfulness. This stunning work isn’t just soul stirring, it’s also soul baring, and the combination is absolutely devastating to behold. You don’t just listen to this record—you experience it. So it’s entirely fitting that the self-titled album will bear the iconic logo of Stax Records, because at certain moments Rateliff seems to be channeling soul greats like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. But as this gifted multi-instrumentalist honors the legacy of the legendary Memphis label, he’s also setting out into audacious new territory.
Those who were beguiled by In Memory of Loss, Rateliff’s folky, bittersweet 2010 Rounder album, will be in for an initial shock when they spin Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. But when you delve beneath the rawboned surface of the new album’s wall-rattling presentation, with its deep-gut grooves, snaky guitars, churning Hammond and irresistible horns, you’ll find that same sensitive, introspective dude, who bravely tells it like it is, breaking through his reticence to expose often harsh truths about the life he’s lived, the people he’s hurt and the despair he’s struggled with. The difference between the two albums is that the Nights Sweats’ funkiness insulates the starkly confessional nature of Rateliff’s songs while at the same time underscoring their emotional extremes.
The place where Rateliff is coming from is intensely real and intimate. Doing what he does is an act of bravery. “These songs are about the struggles I’ve had in my life—drinking too much, that kind of crap,” he says with characteristic candor, punctuating the admission with a rueful laugh. “And then the relationships we all have. I’m not a great communicator in my personal life, so it’s funny to be writing songs that say the things that I’m never very good at saying. It’s taken me a long time to figure that out. I’m trying to be a better communicator, but it’s horribly awkward—it’s awful—to tell somebody something you know is gonna hurt their feelings. I’ve always been one to go, oh, I’ll just eat this one; it’ll be okay.”
As the band blazes away on the soul-rock rave-up “I Need Never Get Old,” the visceral “Howling at Nothing” and the supercharged “Trying So Hard Not to Know” (key line: “Who gives a damn and very few can”), which open the album with a sustained outpouring of torrid intensity, Rateliff is opening himself up emotionally as well as physically, the raw grit in his voice conveying anguish and hope in equal measure. The buoyant immediacy of the music makes the hard truths embedded in the songs easier to swallow than it would be in Rateliff’s other primary mode—a solitary guy with a guitar, the brim of his baseball cap pulled down, putting his heart and guts on the line without the protection of his simpatico cohorts. Make no mistake, these songs would stop you in their tracks presented in that naked way as well, but the additional layers of soulfulness provided by the Night Sweats—its core comprising guitarist Joseph Pope III, drummer Patrick Meese and keyboardist Mark Shusterman—bring a convergence of intensities, musical and psychological, to the performances.
“S.O.B.” sits at the dead center of the album, between the brutally honest confessionals “I’ve Been Failing” and “Wasted Time.” Thematically, the song is the album’s linchpin—partly a rebuke, partly a cry of defiance, “S.O.B” is the “fuck it all” anthem of a blue-collar kid from the Heartland whose conditioned idea of therapy is a shot and a beer chaser, and then another round, on the way to sweet oblivion. In live performance, Rateliff and the Sweats have been known to mash together “S.O.B.” and The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” as the double-barreled climax of their sets (you can find it on YouTube), the frontman high-stepping and boogalooing across the stage with controlled abandon, bearing a striking resemblance in his physicality to the young Van Morrison. These moments of revelry are also revelatory, singling out two of Rateliff’s biggest influences. Indeed, he hears distinct evocations of The Band on his new album, and he was listening to “TB Sheets” and the rest of Morrison’s The Bang Masters as he was writing it.
From there Rateliff contemplates some of the sustaining aspects of existence, from redemption by way of the forgiving love of another in “Thank You,” “Look It Here” and “I’d Be Waiting” to sexual heat in the N’awlins-style strutter “Shake.” The album ends on a hopeful note with the relatively laidback “Mellow Out,” which could certainly be heard as Rateliff admonishing himself to do just that. “Originally, I had it ending with a song called ‘How to Make Friends,’” he says. “The chorus is ‘When everybody knows you, nobody’s gonna want you.’” Another laugh follows, this one self-mocking. “But I replaced it with ‘Mellow Out,’ which is more of a release rather than a total bummer.”
When it came time to pick a producer, Rateliff went with Richard Swift, a polymath who has made records under his own name, helmed projects for Damien Jurado, the Mynabirds and others, and has played with The Black Keys and the Shins. Swift’s specialty is summoning (and capturing) inspired performances in the moment, and the synergy in the studio, first with Rateliff and then with his band, was instant and palpable. Rateliff and the Sweats already had the arrangements of the new songs down cold, having shaped them on the road. Swift, knowing a good thing when he heard it, set the mics, honed the sound, giving it plenty of space so that the studio itself served as an integral sonic component. Then he pressed “record” and coaxed it into happening organically. “Richard has such great ears, and he really knows how to play to the room,” Rateliff notes. “We have similar theories of recording: basically, you just need to play it right.”
Rateliff, who’s 36, traveled a long road to get to this point. He left school after his dad passed away at the end of 7th grade, left his home in the small town of Herman, Missouri, where his future would’ve likely involved endless shifts in a nearby plastic factory; and worked as a janitor for a high school. Not long afterward, he followed some local missionaries to Denver, thereby escaping what he describes as “the Midwestern lifestyle of working and growing up too fast.” He soon outgrew his childhood understanding of religion, realizing that “there are so many books out there besides that one,” as his worldview expanded exponentially. Rateliff spent the next 10 years on the loading dock of a trucking company before becoming a gardener and getting married along the way. But as the years passed, he became increasingly focused on writing songs and performing them at any watering hole that would have him, in time becoming part of the city’s burgeoning folk scene. “I got kind of a late start making music,” he says, “but eventually I went out on the road,” first with Born in the Flood, which he’d formed with Pope, and then The Wheel, the forerunner of the Night Sweats. By then, he’d overcome his longstanding discomfort at playing his songs in public.
“Writing at home is one of my favorite things to do,” says this constitutionally solitary man. “But for years touring was really hard for me—being alone, being married and having my relationship run through the mire, because a lot of my songs are about that. Sometimes it sucks to sing those songs and have to relive those situations. It leaves you pretty exposed, and your partner too; it can be unfair. But now I love being on stage and cracking jokes, trying not to take myself too seriously, even if the material is about failed relationships and alcoholism, that kind of stuff”—there’s that rueful laugh again.
“I try to be lighthearted,” Rateliff continues, “because, although the songs are heavy, I want it to be a release for people. I’m trying to do something that’s emotionally charged and heartfelt, and I want the experience to be joyous, for people to feel excited and dance around instead of being super-bummed by reality—I mean, things are hard. But I can remember dancing around to some song that was breakin’ my heart, dancin’ with tears in my eyes. I love that feeling, and I wanna share it with people, and hopefully they’ll feel it too.”
There is nothing quite like a Dinosaur Jr. album. The best ones are always
recognizable from the first notes. And even though J tries to trip us up by smearing “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know” with keyboards, it’s clear from the moment he starts his vocals that this is the one and only Dinosaur Jr., long reigning kings of Amherst, Massachusetts (and anywhere else they choose to hang their toques).
I Bet on Sky is the third Dinosaur Jr. album since the original trio – J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph – reformed in 2005. And, crazily, it marks the band’s 10th studio album since their debut on Homestead Records in 1985. Back in the ‘80s, if anyone has suggested that these guys would be performing and recording at such a high level 27 years later, they would have been laughed out of the tree fort. The trio’s early shows were so full of sonic chaos, such a weird blend of aggression and catatonia that we all assumed they would flame out fast. But the joke was on us.
The trio has taken everything they’ve learned from the various projects they
tackled over the years, and poured it directly into their current mix. J’s guitar approaches some of its most unhinged playing here, but there’s a sense of instrumental control that matches the sweet murk of his vocals (not that he always remembers to exercise control on stage, but that’s another milieu). This is headbobbing riff-romance at the apex. Lou’s basswork shows a lot more melodicism now as well, although his two songs on I Bet on Sky retain the jagged rhythmic edge that has so often marked his work. And Murph…well, he still pounds the drums as hard and as strong as a pro wrestler, with deceptively simple structures that manage to
interweave themselves perfectly with his bandmates’ melodic explosions.
After submerging myself in I Bet on Sky, it’s clear that the album is a true and worthy addition to the Dinosaur Jr. discography. It hews close enough to rock formalism to please the squares. Yet it is brilliantly imprinted with the trio’s magical equation, which is a gift to the rest of us. For a combo that began as anomalous fusion of hardcore punk and pop influences, Dinosaur Jr. have proven themselves to be unlikely masters of the long game. Their new album is a triumph of both form and function. And it augurs well for their future trajectory. If I were prone to wagering,
I’d say their best days are yet ahead of them. And yeah. I would bet the sky on it.
Founded in Colorado in 1986, Big Head Todd and the Monsters (BHTM) catapulted out of the mountain states and into the national spotlight. With chart-topping singles and engaging live shows, BHTM has sold over three million albums and packed major venues worldwide, including selling out their home state's historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre seven times, most recently in 2012. Most importantly, they've done it the old-fashioned way: with excellent songwriting, scorching guitar and fearless genre melding.
The band's last release was 2011's 100 Years Of Robert Johnson. Joined by special guests including B.B. King, Charlie Musselwhite, Hubert Sumlin, David "Honeyboy" Edwards and more, BHTM paid tribute to the blues legend both in the studio and on the road. The band recently recorded a new studio album in Chicago, set for release in 2014, with producer Steve Jordan (Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens) and engineer Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Warren Zevon).
On 2012's "Last Summer on Earth Tour," BHTM played some of the nation's biggest arenas alongside Barenaked Ladies and Blues Traveler. In August 2012, the band presented its inaugural Ride Festival in Telluride, CO. The lineup included Ben Harper, Lucinda Williams and The Lumineers, among others. At the 2nd Annual Ride Festival in July 2013, the lineup featured David Byrne and St. Vincent, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Cake and more.
BHTM are giving their fans exactly what they want in 2013: cross-country stops at intimate theaters, and two full sets every night. This summer BHTM is headlining the inaugural LP Tour which recently included a show at the baseball stadium Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. The longevity of BHTM's career is a testament to the quality of the music. More than a quarter of a century later, fans are still convinced that the best is yet to come.
The Things That We Are Made Of, the new full-length album by renowned and beloved singer, songwriter and performer Mary Chapin Carpenter, will be released May 6 on Lambent Light Records via Thirty Tigers (pre-order). Produced by 2016 Producer of the Year Grammy-nominee Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton), the album features eleven new songs, including the lead track “Something Tamed Something Wild,” which premiered yesterday at Rolling Stone and can now be heard/shared via Soundcloud. Of the song, Rolling Stone praises, “...beautifully sums up where she’s been and sets the stage for what’s yet to come…’Something Tamed Something Wild’ and indeed the entire new album finds the songwriter at her most thoughtful and also at times sweetly whimsical, perfectly capturing the buoyant spirit of her early successes and also serving as a reminder that she remains one of the most grounded, sentient songwriters of her generation.”
In celebration of the release, Carpenter will return to D.C.’s legendary Wolf Trap for a special performance on July 2. Tickets will go on-sale on Saturday, March 19. Additional tour dates to be announced shortly.
The Things That We Are Made Of was recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium and Low Country Sound studios during the spring and summer of 2016. In addition to Carpenter (vocals, electric/acoustic guitar), the album features Cobb (electric/acoustic/gut string guitar, percussion, Moog, Mellotron), Annie Clements (bass), Brian Allen (bass), Chris Powell (drums, percussion), Mike Webb (piano, B3 organ, reed organ, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes) and Jimmy Wallace (piano, B3 organ).
Of the album, Carpenter comments, “Working with Dave felt great from the first day of our sessions. He is always willing to try something new, believes that ‘yes’ is the only answer, and surrounds himself with wonderfully talented and generous musicians; by the end of the project, I felt as if I was a part of a new family.”
Cobb adds, “I wanted to work with Mary Chapin because very few people can cut with words like she can. She’s an absolute poet and legend. I was so happy to collaborate on this album together.”
Over the course of her acclaimed career, Carpenter has recorded 14 albums and sold over 14 million records. With hits like ”Passionate Kisses” and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” she has won five Grammy Awards (with 15 nominations), two CMA awards, two Academy of Country Music awards for her vocals and is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Most recently, in 2014, Carpenter released her acclaimed debut orchestral album, Songs From The Movie. Arranged and co-produced by six-time Grammy winner Vince Mendoza, the record is comprised of ten previously recorded compositions including “Between Here and Gone” and “Come On Come On.” Since it’s release, Carpenter has performed alongside the New York Philharmonic, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the London Concert Orchestra, the L.A. Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra among many others.
One of the world’s best-known and best-loved performers, John Denver earned international acclaim as a songwriter, performer, actor, environmentalist and humanitarian. Denver’s career spanned four decades and his music has outlasted countless musical trends and garnered numerous awards and honors.
The son of a U.S. Air Force officer, Denver’s artistic journey began at age eleven when he was given his grandmother’s guitar. Denver eventually took guitar lessons and joined a boys’ choir, which led him at age twenty to pursue his dream of a career in music.
In 1963 he struck out on his own, moving to Los Angeles to be in the heart of the burgeoning music scene. It was during this time that Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. was urged by friends to change his name if a recording career was to be in his future. He took his stage name from the beautiful capital city of his favorite state, Colorado. Later in life, Denver and his family settled in Aspen, Colorado and his love for the Rocky Mountains inspired many of his songs.
John Denver experienced his first major break in the music industry when he was chosen from 250 other hopefuls as lead singer for the popular Mitchell Trio. Two years and three albums later, Denver had honed his considerable vocal talent and developed his own songwriting style. He gained recognition when his song “Leaving On A Jet Plane” was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, becoming their first and only number one hit. As the Mitchell Trio disbanded, Denver was climbing up the pop charts as a solo act with songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again,” “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” and “Calypso,” solidifying his position as one of the top stars of the 1970s.
By his third album in 1970, Denver’s social and political leanings were defined more clearly. Denver was one of the first artists to share an environmental message through his music, beginning with the song “Whose Garden Was This?” This was the first in a long line of songs that he wrote about the environment.
Denver contributed his talents to the benefit of many charitable and environmental causes and received numerous civic and humanitarian awards over the years. Fans responded to his heartfelt urgings about ecology, peace, and compassion that were consistently delivered in a gentle manner on his records and at live performances.
His passion to help create a global community paved the way for ventures into new musical and geographic territories. In 1985 he was invited by the Soviet Union of Composers to perform in the USSR, inspiring the internationally acclaimed song “Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For?).” The powerful video for “Let Us Begin” moved viewers around the world.
“I thought that I might be able to do something to further the cause of East/West understanding… The Russians say that the first swallow of spring won’t make the weather for the whole season, but it can mark the turn toward a warmer climate. I tried to be that swallow.”
The success of his visit lead to a concert tour of the USSR in 1986. These were the first performances by an American artist since the Cold War began – an unprecedented cultural exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. He returned to the USSR in 1987 to do a benefit concert for the victims of Chernobyl.
Denver was also the first artist from the West to do a multi-city tour of mainland China, in October 1992. He was somewhat astonished to discover how popular and well known his songs were in China. “‘Country Roads,’” he was told, “is the most famous song written in the West.”
Denver was a true adventurer, exploring all that the world had to offer. Throughout his life’s journey he challenged himself on every level, which is an integral part of what made him an extraordinary man, an uncommon friend and a rare human being.
While the frontiers of the American West satisfied his spirit, less-traveled frontiers appealed to his imagination. Denver was an experienced airplane pilot and collected vintage biplanes. His interest in outer space was so great that he took and passed NASA’s examination to determine mental and physical fitness needed for space travel. He then became a leading candidate to be the “first civilian in space” on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Denver planned to write a song in space, but circumstances kept him from joining the ill-fated expedition, which saddened the world when it exploded during take-off in 1986.
Among his many gifts, Denver was also a talented photographer. He photographed images of the people and places he experienced in his travels and showed his work professionally, often in connection with speeches made at colleges and universities as well as government and business facilities across the country.
Many of Denver’s songs reflected his relationship with nature and indeed, one of his greatest pleasures was spending time outdoors. He spent as much time as possible backpacking, hiking, climbing and fishing. He was an avid golfer and skier, regularly participating in celebrity charity events for both sports.
John Denver died tragically in a plane crash on October 12, 1997. He was survived by his brother Ron, mother Erma and three children, Zak, Anna Kate and Jesse Belle.
On March 12, 2007, Colorado’s Senate passed a resolution to make Denver’s trademark 1972 hit “Rocky Mountain High” one of the state’s two official state songs, sharing duties with its predecessor, “Where the Columbines Grow.”
Today, millions of fans old and new enjoy the work of this extraordinary performer. Thirty albums and four decades after he began, John Denver’s music is as relevant as ever. His humanitarian work continues to strengthen our global village, and his dynamic celebration of life, spirit and nature is a powerful inspiration to us all.
Since releasing their debut album Oh, What a Life in 2014, New York-based pop-rock outfit American Authors have experienced milestones most bands only dream about. They’ve watched their music climb to the top of the charts, and seen singles go multi-platinum. They’ve played awards shows, hit the stages of legendary venues all over the world, and toured with One Republic. They’ve heard their anthemic hit single “Best Day of My Life” in movie trailers, on TV shows, and as a theme song for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite these accolades, however, lead singer Zac Barnett asserts that the best day of their lives is still yet to come. “We just want to keep going,” he says. “We can’t wait to continue this adventure.”
Adventure is an understatement. After meeting at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Barnett and bandmates guitarist James Adam Shelley, bassist Dave Rublin and drummer Matt Sanchez began to develop an entirely unique, collaborative sound; one that radiates style, without sacrificing substance. This eclectic brand of energetic pop rock attracted iconic label Island Records, to which the band is now signed. “Signing with Island was so exciting,” remembers Barnett. “We literally signed the papers and then hit the road on our first legit tour.”
Regardless of time constraints, it’s clear that American Authors take their name seriously – their tracks are infused with tribal rhythms, country twang, Latin riffs and EDM-style drops, making their music as diverse as the city they live in. “New York opened us up to this whole new world and community of musicians,” says Barnett of the band’s adopted home. But worldliness doesn’t take away from the relatable nature of their authorship. They create fun and truthful pop rock, drawing on personal experience for inspiration. “Our songs are about daily life. We’re constantly learning and failing and succeeding and that’s what influences us more than anything.” They’re not afraid to take risks, a trait that’s only intensified since the release of Oh, What a Life. In fact, says Barnett, their new songs take elements from their beloved sound to the next level: “We’re pushing everything. Bigger harmonies, bigger melodies – it’s American Authors 2.0.”
This transition is exemplified in “What We Live For,” a song about moving forward and dreaming big. It’s fitting as the title track of the upcoming album - it’s hopeful and upbeat, utilizing road trip imagery the band has become so familiar with to call for artistic exploration. “The first album is all about reflection and the memories that led us to becoming American Authors,” says Barnett. “What We Live For is about the adventures we’re having and where we want to go.” “Right Here Right Now” echoes this sentiment, employing an infectious backbeat handclap, choral vocals and catchy lyrics that illustrate the carefree excitement of being in love. “We can have all these goals,” he notes of the song’s meaning, “but if you’re not doing the things you love with the people you love, they don’t matter.”
It’s entirely apparent that this statement represents the ethos behind American Authors. Their songwriting process is uniquely collaborative, with band members able and willing to play every instrument. Each song, including first single “Pride,” is the result of a dynamic mix of experimentation and experience. The track features tribal vocals, unique percussive sounds and banjo to underscore its emotional, but uplifting message. “We’re always open and excited to try new things and new sounds,” says Barnett. “That’s what sets us apart.”
Transparent lyricism and a sense of genuine enthusiasm have set American Authors even further apart, rendering them one of the most exciting bands of the last few years. They’re humble and earnest, eager to continue their adventure by writing, playing and traveling to new places. More than anything, though, the band is excited to continue connecting with fans. “Our music is our hearts and our souls and our entire lives,” says Barnett. “We hope that people can put their own stories into it and find a sense of unity with the music, but also with important moments in our lives. That’s what we really live for.”
North Mississippi Allstars formed in 1996; the product of a special time for modern Mississippi hill country blues. Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson soaked up the music of their father, Memphis legend Jim Dickinson, and absorbed the North Mississippi legacy while playing and shaking it down in the juke joints with their blues ancestors. R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Otha Turner and their musical families were at their peak, making classic records and touring the world. Eventually, Luther (guitar, vocals) and Cody (drums, vocals) formed the North Mississippi Allstars and pioneered their own brand of blues-infused rock and roll.
The North Mississippi Allstars released their debut album, Shake Hands With Shorty, in the spring of 2000. Their debut proved to be a success and earned them a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Contemporary Blues Album’. After earning 2 more Grammy nominations in the same category for 51 Phantom (2001) and Electric Blue Watermelon (2005), the North Mississippi Allstars earned the reputation as one of the most intriguing acts to emerge from the loam of Southern blues and roots rock.
In 2008, after five studio albums and more than a decade touring together, the Dickinsons decided to branch out and pursue other projects. In 2009 Luther teamed up with Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus to form the South Memphis String Band. The trio has toured across the country and released two albums since then. In 2012, Luther formed The Wandering, a five-piece folk band featuring Shannon McNally, Amy LaVere, Valerie June and Sharde Thomas (Otha Turner’s granddaughter), and released their debut record Go On Now, You Can’t Stay Here. He also recorded and released a solo acoustic album, Hambone’s Meditations, which received a 2013 Grammy nomination for ‘Best Folk Album’.
Meanwhile, Cody broadened the scope of his musical career and became what one might call an artistic entrepreneur in the fields of music, film and TV. Cody has contributed to several major motion picture soundtracks, including Barnyard, Snoop’s Hood of Horror, and Black Snake Moan. He had a recurring role on MTV’s $5 Dollar Cover series and appears in G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation. As a producer Cody has worked with a wide range of musicians including Lucero, Cisco Adler, and Les Claypool. He also produced British blues guitarist Ian Siegal’s last 2 albums, The Skinny (2011) and Candystore Kid (2012), both of which were nominated for ‘Best Contemporary Blues Album’ at the annual Blues Music Awards. Despite all his work as a producer, Cody continues to be one of the industry’s premier drummers, demonstrated by his 2013 Blues Music Awards nomination in the ‘Best Instrumentalist/Drums’ category.
The brothers reunited in 2010 to record Keys to the Kingdom after the passing of their father. Jim had always told them, “You need to be playing music together. You are better together than you will ever be apart.” Inspired by his words, Luther and Cody went into the family’s home recording studio Zebra Ranch, to create a record that could help them cope with the loss and rejoice in his honor.
Most recently, Luther and Cody have toured extensively with Robert Plant & The Band of Joy, headlined major festivals and toured internationally as a headliner and with Ian Siegal as part of The Mississippi Mudbloods. They also released two live bootleg records, 2011’s Live in the Hills and 2012’s Live in the Hills Volume II, both recorded at the annual North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic in Potts Camp, MS.
The North Mississippi Allstars are at times joined by Lightnin' Malcolm, Alvin Youngblood Hart, the legendary Chris Chew, and a host of other talented musicians.
Luther and Cody continually expand the tradition of the Mississippi hill country blues that has inspired them from the beginning, but as Rolling Stone aptly notes, “the Allstars may be children of tradition, but they’re digging deep in undiscovered country”.
In 2013 the North Mississippi Allstars released their new career-defining record World Boogie Is Coming. The album marked a return to the band’s blues-infused rock & roll roots and pays homage to hill country legends and songwriters like RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. Produced at their own Zebra Ranch Studios in Hernando, MS and featuring special guest appearances by Robert Plant, Duwayne and Garry Burnside, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharde Thomas, Chris Chew, Steve Selvidge, Lightnin’ Malcolm and others, World Boogie Is Coming is the record that perfectly ties it all together, fusing all the elements that have made the Allstars special while pushing the band’s sound further into the future than ever before.
It's incredible that Galactic has never made a carnival album yet, but now it’s here.
To make Carnivale Electricos, the members of Galactic (Ben Ellman, harps and horns; Robert Mercurio, bass; Stanton Moore, drums and percussion; Jeff Raines, guitar; Rich Vogel, keyboards) draw on the skills, stamina, and funk they deploy in the all-night party of their annual Lundi Gras show that goes till sunrise and leads sleeplessly into Mardi Gras day.
Galactic was formed eighteen years ago in New Orleans, and they cut their teeth playing the biggest party in America: Mardi Gras, when the town shuts down entirely to celebrate. Carnivale Electricos is beyond a party record. It’s a carnival record that evokes the electric atmosphere of a whole city – make that, whole cities – vibrating together all on the same day, from New Orleans all down the hemisphere to the mighty megacarnivals of Brazil. Armed with a slew of carnival-ready guests—including Cyril and Ivan Neville, Mystikal, Mannie Fresh, Moyseis Marques, Casa Samba, the KIPP Renaissance High School Marching Band, and Al "Carnival Time" Johnson (who remakes his all-time hit)—Galactic whisks the listener around the neighborhoods to feel the Mardi Gras moment in all its variety of flavors.
Carnivale Electricos begins on a spiritual note, the way Mardi Gras does in the black community of New Orleans. On that morning, the most exciting experience you can have is to be present when the small groups of black men called Mardi Gras Indians perform their sacred street theater. Nobody embodies the spiritual side of Mardi Gras better than the Indians, whose tambourines and chants provide the fundament of New Orleans carnival music. These “gangs,” as they call them, organize around and protect the figure of their chief. The album’s keynote singer, Big Chief Juan Pardo, is, says Robert Mercurio, “one of the younger Chiefs out there, and he’s become one of the best voices of the new Chiefs. Pardo grew up listening to the singing of the older generation of Big Chiefs, points out Ben Ellman, and “he’s got a little Monk [Boudreaux], a little Bo Dollis, he’s neither uptown nor downtown.”
On “Karate,” says Ellman, the band was aiming to “capture the power” of one of the fundamental musical experiences of Mardi Gras: “a marching band passing by you.” The 40-piece KIPP Renaissance High School Marching Band’s director, Lionel "karate" Williams, arranged up Galactic's demo, then the band rehearsed it until they had it all memorized. The kids poured their hearts into a solid performance, and, says Mercurio, “I think they were surprised” to hear how good they sounded on the playback.
Musical energy is everywhere at carnival time. “You hear the marching bands go by,” says Mercurio, moving us through a Mardi Gras day, “and then you hear a lot of hiphop.” There hasn’t been a Mardi Gras for twenty years that hasn’t had a banging track by beatmaker / rapper Mannie Fresh sounding wherever you go. “You can’t talk about New Orleans hip-hop without talking about Mannie Fresh,” says Ellman. His beats have powered literally tens of millions of records, and he and Galactic have been talking for years about doing something together. On “Move Fast,” he’s together with multiplatinum gravel-voiced rapper Mystikal, who is, says Ellman, “somebody we’ve wanted to collaborate with forever. It was a coup for us.”
Out in the streets of New Orleans, you might well hear a funky kind of samba, reaching southward toward the other end of the hemispheric carnival zone. There has for the last twenty-five years been a smoking Brazilian drum troupe in town: Casa Samba formed at Mardi Gras in 1986. They’re old friends of Galactic's from their early days at Frenchmen Street’s Café Brasil, and the two groups joined forces for a new version of Carlinhos Brown’s “Magalenha,” previously a hit for Sérgio Mendes.
But the Brazilian influence on Carnivale Electricos goes beyond one song. “When we started this album, we all immersed ourselves in Brazilian music and let it get into our souls,” says Mercurio. The group contributed three Brazilian-flavored instrumentals, including “JuLou,” which riffs on an old Brazilian tune, though the name refers to the brass-funk Krewe of Julu, the “walking krewe” that Galactic members participate in on Mardi Gras morning. After creating the hard-driving track that became “O Côco da Galinha,” they decided it would be right for Moyséis Márquez, from the São Paulo underground samba scene, who collaborated with them and composed the lyric.
If you were Galactic and you were making a carnival album, wouldn’t you want to play “Carnival Time,” the irrepressibly happy 1960 perennial from the legendary Cosimo Matassa studio? Nobody in New Orleans doesn’t know this song. The remake features a new performance in the unmistakable voice of the original singer, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, who’s still active around town more than fifty years after he first gained Mardi Gras immortality.
The closing instrumental, “Ash Wednesday Sunrise,” evokes the edginess of the post-party feeling. The group writes, “There is the tension you feel on that morning -- one of being worn out from all of the festivities and one of elation that you made it through another year.”
But, as New Orleanians know, there’s always another carnival to look forward to, and Galactic will be there, playing till dawn and then going to breakfast before parading.
Galactic is a collaborative band with a unique format. It’s a stable quintet that plays together with high musicianship. They’ve been together so long they’re telepathic. But though the band hasn’t had a lead singer for years, neither is it purely an instrumental group. Galactic is part of a diverse community of musicians, and in their own studio, with Mercurio and Ellman producing, they have the luxury of experimenting. So on their albums, they do something that’s unusual in rock but not so controversial an idea in, say, hiphop: they create something that’s a little like a revue, a virtual show featuring different vocalists (mostly from New Orleans) and instrumental soloists each taking their turn on stage in the Galactic sound universe.
Mostly the band creates new material in collaboration with its many guests, though they occasionally rework a classic. Despite the appearance of various platinum names on Galactic albums, they especially like to work with artists who are still underground. If you listen to Carnivale Electricos together with the two previous studio albums (Ya-Ka-May and From The Corner To The Block, you’ll hear the most complete cross-section of what’s happening in contemporary New Orleans anywhere – all of it tight and radio-ready.
Despite the electronics and studio technology, Galactic's albums are very much band records. Mercurio explained the Galactic process, which starts out with the beat: “The way we write music,” he says, “we come up with a demo, or a basic track, and then we collectively decide how we’re gonna finish it.” The result is a hard-grooving sequence of tight beats across a range of styles that glides from one surprise to the next.
What pulls all the diverse artists on Carnivale Electricos together into a coherent album is that one way or another, it’s all funk. Galactic is, always was, and always will be a funk band. Whatever genre of music anyone in New Orleans is doing, from Mardi Gras Indians to rock bands to hardcore rappers, it’s all funk at the bottom, because funk is the common musical language, the lingua franca of New Orleans music. Even zydeco can be funky -- and if you don’t believe it, check out “Voyage Ton Flag,” the album’s evocation of Cajun Mardi Gras, in which Mamou Playboy Steve Riley meets up with a sampled Clifton Chenier inside the Galactic funk machine.
Look to your left. A young couple is passionately making out. To your right, two grizzled bearded gentlemen are getting drunk and rowdy, and singing loud as hell. And don’t forget to look up, because an old punk rocker has just launched himself from the stage. Welcome, you are at a Lucero show.
Over their 16 years together, the Memphis band has built up a fanbase that’s as diverse as it is rabid. Ask 50 Lucero fans what their favorite song is and you’ll get 50 different answers. Among the band’s 100-plus songs across nine albums and multiple EPs, there’s no universal fan favorite. “Each person makes Lucero their own thing,” says frontman Ben Nichols. “Everyone identifies with us for completely different reasons. For one reason or another, Lucero becomes a very personal band.” But the one thing that seems to unify Lucero fans of all kinds is the band’s all-or-nothing live show, and Live from Atlanta, the band’s latest live record, thoroughly captures that.
Live from Atlanta is a massive, career-spanning collection of songs recorded over three nights in Atlanta’s Terminal West. It’s a four-LP greatest hits collection of 32 tunes played the way they were meant to be heard, with all the distinguishing elements you’d hear at Lucero’s live show—horns, pianos, and the trademark instrument of the band’s live sound: whiskey-fueled audience sing-alongs. “When you listen to ‘Freebird,’ you’re not listening to the studio version. You’re wanting that 17-minute crazy one. That’s the one you think to go to,” says guitarist Brian Venable. “So we’re hoping with this record, you’ll finally get a version of ‘Tears Don’t Matter Much’ that you know.”
Lucero’s entire catalog, from 2000’s The Attic Tapes to 2013’s Texas & Tennessee EP, is represented on Live from Atlanta, which clocks in at over two impressive hours. “You should’ve seen us turn that record in,” laughs Venable. “They wanted an 88-minute live record. But we were like, ‘That’s just not a live Lucero show!”
“This was a nice chance to document what we’ve been doing recently,” says Nichols. “It’s very representative of what we’ve been doing live for the last couple of years. It’s a pretty good snapshot of where the band is right now.”
The album’s extensive assortment of songs proves that Lucero is a band for everyone. Parts country and parts folk with an added heaping of punk rock, the six-piece cover the musical gamut. Even the band members have varying opinions on how to define their sound. “We’re each playing in a completely different band. We’re on stage and each playing in our own Lucero. I’m not sure that’s how it works for other bands,” laughs Nichols.
However you see Lucero, Live from Atlanta will satisfy your needs, whether you’re in the drunk couple, one of the drunk and rowdy beardos, or the stagediving punk rocker. Whether you look towards slower Lucero songs to get you through tough times like “Nights Like These” or party jams like “All Sewn Up,” Live from Atlanta has got you covered. It might even make fans out of non-believers (especially if they like whiskey). Because like bassist John C. Stubblefield always says, “Lucero loves you.”
Dismiss labels. Forget trying to fit into a scene. Be true and play your songs.
That encompasses the prevailing spirit of Let It Go, the fifth studio album from Grammy-nominated bluegrass expansionists The Infamous Stringdusters. The new effort, released April 1 on the band’s own High Country Recordings, finds the band on firm footing, at ease with an evolving sound that defies categorization. It’s acoustic music, sure, but not the kind you’ll hear from any other band. Roots can be traced but boundaries don’t exist.
The Infamous Stringdusters have proven they can both mine the past and look forward to the unknown, and their new album is a touchstone for a group of tightly bonded musicians completely comfortable with each other and their collective identity.
Perhaps the sentiment is best summarized through five joined voices in the mountaintop gospel-hued title track: “If it’s worry you’ve been feeling over things you can’t control, it’s time to let it go.”
There’s a great scene in The Last Waltz – the documentary about The Band’s final concert – where director Martin Scorsese is discussing music with drummer/singer/mandolin player Levon Helm. Helm says, “If it mixes with rhythm, and if it dances, then you’ve got a great combination of all those different kinds of music: country, bluegrass, blues music, show music…”
To which Scorsese, the inquisitive interviewer, asks, “What’s it called, then?”
“Rock & roll!”
Clearly looking for a more specific answer, but realizing that he isn’t going to get one, Marty laughs. “Rock & roll…”
Well, that’s the way it is sometimes: musicians play music, and don’t necessarily worry about where it gets filed. It’s the writers, record labels, managers, etc., who tend to fret about what “kind” of music it is.
And like The Band, the members of Railroad Earth aren’t losing sleep about what “kind” of music they play – they just play it. When they started out in 2001, they were a bunch of guys interested in playing acoustic instruments together. As Railroad Earth violin/vocalist Tim Carbone recalls, “All of us had been playing in various projects for years, and many of us had played together in different projects. But this time, we found ourselves all available at the same time.”
Songwriter/lead vocalist Todd Sheaffer continues, “When we started, we only loosely had the idea of getting together and playing some music. It started that informally; just getting together and doing some picking and playing. Over a couple of month period, we started working on some original songs, as well as playing some covers that we thought would be fun to play.” Shortly thereafter, they took five songs from their budding repertoire into a studio and knocked out a demo in just two days. Their soon-to-be manager sent that demo to a few festivals, and – to the band’s surprise – they were booked at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival before they’d even played their first gig. This prompted them to quickly go in and record five more songs; the ten combined tracks of which made up their debut album, “The Black Bear Sessions.”
That was the beginning of Railroad Earth’s journey: since those early days, they’ve gone on to release five more critically acclaimed studio albums and one hugely popular live one called, “Elko.” They’ve also amassed a huge and loyal fanbase who turn up to support them in every corner of the country, and often take advantage of the band’s liberal taping and photo policy. But Railroad Earth bristle at the notion of being lumped into any one “scene.” Not out of animosity for any other artists: it’s just that they don’t find the labels very useful. As Carbone points out, “We use unique acoustic instrumentation, but we’re definitely not a bluegrass or country band, which sometimes leaves music writers confused as to how to categorize us. We’re essentially playing rock on acoustic instruments.”
Ultimately, Railroad Earth’s music is driven by the remarkable songs of front-man, Todd Sheaffer, and is delivered with seamless arrangements and superb musicianship courtesy of all six band members. As mandolin/bouzouki player John Skehan points out, “Our M.O. has always been that we can improvise all day long, but we only do it in service to the song. There are a lot of songs that, when we play them live, we adhere to the arrangement from the record. And other songs, in the nature and the spirit of the song, everyone knows we can kind of take flight on them.” Sheaffer continues: “The songs are our focus, our focal point; it all starts right there. Anything else just comments on the songs and gives them color. Some songs are more open than others. They ‘want’ to be approached that way – where we can explore and trade musical ideas and open them up to different territories. But sometimes it is what the song is about.”
So: they can jam with the best of them and they have some bluegrass influences, but they use drums and amplifiers (somewhat taboo in the bluegrass world). What kind of music is it then? Mandolin/vocalist John Skehan offers this semi-descriptive term: “I always describe it as a string band, but an amplified string band with drums.” Tim Carbone takes a swing: “We’re a Country & Eastern band! ” Todd Sheaffer offers “A souped-up string band? I don’t know. I’m not good at this.” Or, as a great drummer/singer/mandolin player with an appreciation for Americana once said: “Rock & roll!”
Alternative electro band 888 is made up of Denver music vets Danny Stillman (vox), Aaron Rothe (keys) and Danny Cooper (drums). Their self-released 2015 debut “The Decades EP” features the single “Critical Mistakes” and has quickly earned them awards and acclaim. The trio won KTCL’s 2015 “Hometown For The Holidays” competition in both fan voting and live performance categories, cementing their place in Denver’s burgeoning music scene. With mounting radio air play, unforgettable shows, and a sound all their own, 888 are poised for a massive 2016.
“Spacedust & Ocean Views”
The depth of one’s life is evident through their music. The more sorrow, laughter and adventure experienced, the more interesting curves and crevices are carved into an artist’s songs. The miles traveled leave rich lines in the verses that only time, misadventure, and hard-won wisdom can produce. Anders Osborne is a map of intensely felt, passionately engaged living, a fractured but healing topography of heartbreak and hope for fellow travelers to explore.
Osborne’s music is redolent of the blues bathed in West Coast sunshine and brotherly compassion, a torchbearer for rock ‘n’ roll with blood in it’s veins and a heart in it’s hands. His long awaited new full length, Spacedust & Ocean Views, offers up graceful songwriting and signature guitar work on one of the strongest releases in his storied career. A strong sense of place runs through the album. From an evocation of geography to a questioning of one’s place in the universe, big ideas are condensed in thoughtful, smoothly swinging ways. It’s the album his fans have been waiting for- one that only he can deliver.
“These twelve songs speak about places dear to me, places I feel something profound about, but there’s also the presence of the universe,” explains Osborne. “I think one of the main struggles we all face is the separation from unity. I want to understand how I can feel unified with the world and others, with the universe writ large. I can arrange the ideas intellectually but the feeling of longing remains. The whole thing is a mystery, sometimes a sad, baffling mystery and sometimes very enchanting, but overall I just don’t understand and want to desperately. That’s what this music is, an attempt to understand it all.”
And what an attempt it is.
Producer Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Daniel Lanois, Iggy Pop) uses Osborne’s seasoned, searching voice like a river running through the song cycle. It’s a distinctly human element that continually tenderizes the listener as his sinewy, emotionally charged guitar dances with longtime bassist Carl Dufrene, guitar foil Scott Metzger (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead), and the shared drumming of Brady Blade and Tony Leone. New Orleans percussion master Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton, and pop-jazz legend Rickie Lee Jones join Osborne for the cosmically charged album closer “From Space.” On the other hand, Spacedust’s lead single “Lafayette” is a roots-fueled rocker- a track that finds Osborne simultaneously sticking to his guns and exploring new territory as an artist.
This special collection of compositions is the culmination of years of writing and touring. “This is the last chapter before something new emerges. I’m wrapping some stuff up and figuring some fresh stuff out,” says Osborne, who’s been moving beyond his complicated past for close to a decade. “Now my life is about a human experience in a larger sense. Now, I feel I’m standing on my own two feet, trying to be a grown man doing the right thing.” In an ever changing musical landscape, Spacedust & Ocean Views firmly plants Anders Osborne as one of American music’s elite guitarists and songwriters.
Andy Frasco, the 27-year old Los Angeles, CA native singer / songwriter / band maestro / entrepreneur /party starter / everyday hustler, and his band of gypsies “The U.N.” have been cited frequently as “Party Blues,” but the band’s musical inspirations and influences run much deeper incorporating elements of Soul, Funk, and Rock as well as tones of Roots, and Americana, creating a much more diverse sound and style that is distinctly Andy Frasco & the U.N.
Frasco’s shows have been described as infectious, entertaining, and feel good. His performances are recognized as orchestrated chaos, inciting frenzied, undeniable good times, dancing, and perhaps even a good ole fashion freak out.
Touring independently across the U.S. and Europe since he was 18 years old, Frasco first got his taste of the music industry managing and promoting bands when he was 16 years old -booking bands like Hello Goodbye, and working with labels such as Drive Thru and Atlantic Records, as well as venues like The Key Club in Hollywood, CA.
Since his start, Frasco has embodied a DIY attitude and work ethic, making the road his home; averaging 200+ dates a year, trekking over 200,000 thousand miles spanning the country dozens of times over, blowing minds and building a loyal following everywhere he goes.
2014 marked a breakout year for Frasco, highlighted by the release of the band’s 3rd full-length studio album Half A Man, a host of high profile festival performances both domestically and overseas, and recognition from national press outlets such as Pollstar, Live For Live Music, and Relix.
Produced by Grammy Award Winning, Charles Goodan, Half A Man received warm praise from press and fans alike, charting in the top 10 of Relix/Jambands.com Radio Chart for nearly 6 months, while the road highlighted featured performances on festivals like Wakarusa, Electric Forrest, and YMSB's Harvest Festival in the US, and festivals like Zwarte Cross (NL), King’s Day Festival (DE), Bamberg Jazz Festival (DE), Guezenpop Festival (NL), and the COTAI Jazz & Blues Festival in Macau, China.
To date, Andy has shared the stage and performed with artists such as Leon Russell, Galactic, Jackie Greene, Gary Clark Jr, Jakob Dylan, Butch Walker, Deer Tick, John Mayer, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Fishbone, Lukas Nelson, JJ Grey & Mofro, Lettuce and more.
Continuing to build off the success of 2014, Frasco & the U.N. continued to pick up momentum both at home and abroad in 2015 with featured performances at SXSW, Wakarusa, Phases of the Moon, and Backwoods Music Festival in the U.S., as well as Totaal Festival (NL), a return to Zwarte Cross (NL), Open Flair Festival (DE), and Open Air Gross Lindow (DE) overseas.
Amidst another heavy year of touring the band also recorded their 4 th full-length studio album, “Happy Bastards”, set for release by Ruf Records on February 26, 2016 with producer Rick Parker (Lord Huron, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Sugarcult).
Slow All Over, the debut album from eclectic musician Brian Harding’s new project Blond Ambition, is a laser-focused work filled with danceable moments of percussive, head-nodding rhythmic bombast paired with catchy synth- and guitar-laden hooks, deliberate and slow-burning pace, and subtly emotive melody. Despite its considerate influence from the broad and open-minded style of world-beat, the album is complete in its vision and scope, a tight and sexy affair fully realized by Harding and created almost entirely in his new home of Los Angeles. But to reach this peak, he needed to leave parts of his past behind—not to mention his coast.
Harding, formerly of the acclaimed Brooklyn project Ex Cops, left the bright lights of NYC for the serene woods of upstate New York after the release of the project’s sophomore release “Daggers.” He made some musical headway there, writing new material and recording demos in a cottage in the woods of Tivoli. But while standing in an LAX terminal in early 2016 to catch his flight home after finishing the final Ex Cops tour, Harding decided to change his surroundings.
“I got off the tour in LA and didn’t get back on the plane,” says Harding. “Literally at the airport I decided I wasn’t going back.”
No stranger to Los Angeles and its many stages, having played the hallowed Hollywood Bowl as a guitarist with Daniel Johnston’s band, Harding landed (or Ubered, rather) on his feet, staying with friends in LA until finding a place of his own.
“I’m much happier now,” he says. “Los Angeles gives me city and country. Also I write more when I don’t have to wear a jacket everywhere.”
There he connected with his friend and producer Andrew Miller, the former guitarist for Dum Dum Girls who he had met while their bands toured together, and recorded what Harding calls “fun stuff” and “mostly hip-hop tracks.” From there, recognizing their chemistry but each sticking to their roles as songwriter or producer, the pair began work on some demos of Harding’s material. Taking inspiration from the “attitude influence” of Madonna, the new solo project, christened Blond Ambition, immediately began to take flight.
“I had a clear vision for what I wanted this project to be aesthetically and sonically,” he says. “My dad used to play trumpet for Ray Charles and I used to be obsessed with The Genius Comes to Town, which is like a very early world-creation album, and I chose to focus on things like Desert Sessions or Channel Orange where it’s a record you’re not just hearing, you’re living in it.”
Blond Ambition takes respectful cues from the early disco/dance/Avant-garde Downtown scene of 1970s and ’80s New York, the pastiche-sampling art rock of bands like World Party and Big Audio Dynamite, and even the Grateful Dead. Harding also cites his stint as a bartender in an NYC nightclub for exposing him to the house and dance scenes that changed the way he looks at making music.
“All of that stuff is very percussive and groove-oriented, but they could write a pop song too—it wasn’t JUST the groove, even though I like that, too.” Harding says. “I lost a lot of interest in guitar rock. It didn’t hit me the way it used to, so I wanted to make a more crystal-clear kind of music. I wanted to permeate the album with lucidity, but you’re still driving through fog.”
That sentiment is clear from the first notes of Slow All Over. The percussive, kitchen sink catchiness of “Shasta” sets the mood early, with Harding crooning over sunny, almost tropical hooks reminiscent of Here My Dear era Marvin Gaye. The fuzzed-out tone and jangly verses of “Houses of Reason” build confidently into a rock-solid piece of songwriting with its assured refrain of “We got everything we needed/It’s a funny way to get there,” and despite the song’s defined structure its “jam” qualities never drift. There’s no template at play here, but the intention remains precise.
Harding played nearly everything you hear on Slow All Over himself—with the exception of lead guitar, which was performed by his childhood friend Jason Roberts—from programmed and sampled beats to bass guitar to various synthesizers, bongos, and shakers. The album was completed in just under six months. “We were learning as we went,” Harding says. “Throw a dart out here and hit a good player. We were very fortunate to be around really good people, musically and wholly.”
The album takes bittersweet U-turns with tracks like “Lights," a delicately tinged nod to Van Morrison and Nico; while the electronic, blipping climb of “F.S.I." takes us on a lo fi cruise through an abandoned Circuit City. And with the narrative content of songs like “Stupid Boy/Girl” and “Confused 4EVR,” it’s clear that Harding is delving into the truly personal for perhaps the first time. “As you’re making the album, you’re changing your life completely and meeting new people and going to different parties and shows. I feel that really informed the sound of the album in a big way,” he says. “I guess I’m also thinking more about what I’m saying and thinking about real life experiences for the first time, rather than surreal elements, and it’s really influencing what I’m writing. Obviously there’s a lot about changing locations and leaving people behind and meeting new people. I just wanna be lucid. Selectively.”
As Harding acknowledges, the process of making a debut album for a new project in just half a year when you’re in a new city across the country from your old home can be a pretty radical experience. With Blond Ambition he has found an outlet to express those feelings in the form of catchy songs, while at the same time holding down a relentless groove.
BoomBox, the electronic work of songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Zion Rock Godchaux, released their latest EP Bits & Pieces in 2016. The new record is a further exploration of the band’s signature sound; an electronic blend of soulful Rock and Blues based dance music incorporating Backbeat, Psychedelia and Funky House sounds, which Godchaux veraciously refers to as “Dirty Disco Blues.”
"We were toying with the idea of calling the album Our Strongest Material To Date” laughs Jeremy Schmidt. The Vancouver outfit’s keyboardist can afford to joke about what they describe as “the dog-eared ace of spades of all rock band platitudes." It was during a solo show under his Sinoia Caves alias that he performed a revelatory electronic prototype for Mothers Of The Sun. This quintessentially Black Mountain tour de force kicks off the renamed but still accurately titled IV. “It’s actually an older song which we couldn’t get quite right before,” explains Schmidt. “It has all the elements that we gravitate towards, built into one miniature epic.”
Chief among these elements is the distinctive voice and breathtaking range of Amber Webber, whether she’s powering through interstellar boogie on Florian Saucer Attack, setting the celestial tone for her beautifully orchestrated ballad Line Them All Up, or constructing the choral midsection for Space To Bakersfield, a psychedelic soul finale inspired by Funkadelic’s deathless Maggot Brain. “We'd meant to have an actual choir, but I ended up singing all the parts. It’s a choir of me! I’d never written an arrangement like that before.”
The group’s sense of rediscovery as a creative whole is tangible throughout. They were joined in the studio by spiritually attuned bassist and veteran purveyor of the riff, Arjan Miranda (formerly of S.T.R.E.E.T.S, Children, and The Family Band) whose roots, heart and soul are connected to the same soil and cement that Black Mountain were borne from. Recording was primarily done in close collaboration with Sunn O))), Wolves In The Throne Room and Marissa Nadler producer Randall Dunn, at his trusted Avast! facility in Seattle. “It’s got some grit,” enthuses guitarist and co-vocalist Stephen McBean. “And there’s a history there: Northwest punk, grunge and general weirdo outsider stuff, plus it houses the same Trident mixing board used for Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies.”
A heightened mystique and dramatic yearning can be heard on such perfectly formed earworms as Cemetery Breeding, described by drummer, engineer and occasional pianist Joshua Wells as “a dark pop song with an emotive urgency to it that taps into my teenaged eyeliner-and-trenchcoat wearing sensibilities.” Wells’ eclectic tastes and multitasking flair – his supple percussion also provides the backbone for Dan Bejar’s world-conquering Destroyer ensemble – inform Black Mountain’s wider palette as well as their rhythmic choices. “It’s like painting. All sound colour. And space is really important. People think of us as this heavy rock band – and we are sometimes – but it has to be tempered with space. There has to be these emotional cues. It’s not just about rocking out.”
Check out the way Amber and Stephen’s harmonies telepathically entwine on cosmic standout Defector, or Constellations’ unforced confluence of synthesizer pulse and double denim riff. In addition to being blessed with a melodic facility that eludes most rock groups, Black Mountain effortlessly echo the limitless possibilities of the internet age. Sonic tributaries that never met in the real world – AC/DC and Amon Düül, Heart and Hawkwind, King Crimson and Kraftwerk – flow together on IV as they do online. It fits with McBean’s unifying theory of the modern YouTube stoner, wherein “kids discover their own alternate universes online, from Cologne to Melbourne… Detroit to Laurel Canyon.. the ice age to annihilation. There’s a new scene with a different set of headphones creating a postmodern futuristic Fantasy Island. All those fledgling heads in waiting escaping within their computer screens!”
This impulse to connect is reflected by the band members’ activities and journeys outside the mothership. Josh and Amber have their self-run Balloon Factory studio and pop-noir Lightning Dust project. Stephen relocated to Los Angeles six years ago. Traveling and creating via his Southern Lord released hardcore unit Obliterations and ongoing post-punk rock ’n’ roll combo Pink Mountaintops (whose heady sometimes electronic throb led to the majestic, mantra-like You Can Dream). “There’s something very West Coast about us all.” he says. “That rambling restlessness of keepin’ on guides us and keeps the music alive. Whether it’s the gravitational pull of the Pacific Ocean that draws us back together or simply a good taco… The turning up, turning on and getting down is Black Mountain. It’s home, and it always feels good to come back to. ”
Back in Canada, meanwhile, Jeremy, channelled his analogue synth mastery and youthful John Carpenter worship into the hugely acclaimed cult science fiction film score Beyond The Black Rainbow. He’s been busy of late conceptualizing Black Mountain’s “mystic Concorde” art direction. Referencing the hallowed aircraft’s future/past iconography, his designs are emblematic of IV’s spatial diversity and maximalist astral-rock vision. You know, it really is their strongest material to date.
Brent Cowles began playing the guitar at the age of 13. Within a year, he was writing his own music and playing in bands. At 17, Cowles began a solo career under the moniker You, Me and Apollo and played mostly in the southwest and west coast.
In 2011, You, Me and Apollo transitioned from a solo act to a full band. The band released a well-received debut EP titled Cards with Cheats and later a full length album, Sweet Honey. After a great ride and three years of touring the United States, and much to their fans dismay, the band called it quits.
After a short break from music, Cowles returned to his roots; standing on a stage, just him and his guitar, belting out his poetry that, according to the Denver Post, would be the envy of songwriters twice his age. Cowles writes from a deep, raw, authentic place and marries it to a sound that has been likened to the soul of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding.
Cowles is currently working on new music and releasing a new solo EP.
Questions bring art to life. Songs can still ponder socio-political issues, the fragility and isolation of the human condition, and what lies ahead for earth. Moreover, music possesses the potential and gravitas to incite change, while reflecting the world’s faults and follies. The Bright Light Social Hour contemplate a “Future South” on their second full-length album, Space Is Still the Place [Frenchkiss Records]. The Austin artists—Curtis Roush [guitar, vocals, synths], Jack O'Brien [bass, vocals, synths], Joseph Mirasole [drums, synths]—offer a different interpretation of the space around them throughout ten thematically connected songs. They tackle a myriad of issues head on during tracks such as “Ghost Dance” and “Ouroboros,” while “Infinite Cities” contemplates loneliness and “Escape Velocity” subtly hints at a orgiastic ending. The album will pose a few questions, but you may leave with an answer or two as well.
The Bright Light Social Hour convened while Curtis and Jack attended graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin. They released their self-titled debut in 2010 and scored six awards at SXSW 2011 Austin Music Awards. Throughout nearly three years on the road, they experienced the ins and outs of America, and that voyage ignited a perspective shift. “The new album’s themes and inspirations came from touring, particularly the southern part of the country,” explains Jack. “We couldn’t afford to stay in hotels most nights so we were staying with a lot of people. We got to see how average young Americans lived. We felt a lot of struggle.”
“It was shocking,” adds Curtis. “We realized how few individuals were working jobs they felt self-actualized by to some extent. They’re pedaling for survival. Our generation has grown up in continuous financial crises, a lot of unemployment, a lack of opportunity, widening inequality, and pervasive issues of race, gender, and class. We’re taking a lens to some of these gritty realities and espousing an optimistic, frontier-looking gaze into the future.” Theirs is not just a thematic progression though. Traversing the country and cranking tunes in the van, the collective musical palette expanded, embracing influences as diverse as deep house icon Frankie Knuckles, dance renegades Disclosure, Motown legends like Marvin Gaye, and Detroit Afro-rock revolutionaries Black Merda. Everything siphoned into the vision behind Space Is Still the Place. Building a studio in their Austin home, the boys began their musical journey in early 2013.
“We’re all ostensibly southerners,” Curtis continues. “The South has great food, a relaxed pace, and sweet, well-mannered folk. However, a lot of issues aren’t going away. ‘Future South’ is both an aesthetic and political statement. We’re taking forms and influences from soul, blues, and gritty southern music and ushering them forward. ‘Future South’ evinces the south can be a vibrant egalitarian place. You can love barbecue and not be racist.”
“The dichotomy exists musically,” says Jack. “Some songs mirror these harsh truths with guitars and blues energy. Meanwhile, the dreamier electronic-influenced moments are about escaping those dark realities and going to a place symbolized by space.” Opener “Sweet Madelene,” which Curtis dubs “the most southern rock of the bunch,” tempers guitars thick enough to rustle tumbleweed with a bombastic beat and emotive, soulful vocals.
“Slipstream” could be considered “a death train for the ego,” acting as a clarion call to let go of isolation and join the communal struggle under a haze of hypnotic delay and haunting textures. The ethereal “Dreamlove” blasts off on a synth swell, conjuring the image of what Jack likes to describe as “waking up in a hospital on a spaceship.”
The propulsive bass riff of “Ghost Dance” augments its magnetic pull. “At this point, the record trajectory breaks out of the atmosphere and moves into the stratosphere,” Jack goes on. “It’s a call to the community. We want to encourage using the power of togetherness to effect change.”
Their version of a love song is the dreamy and strangely danceable “Sea of the Edge,” painting a lunar portrait that’s infectious and inviting. After the pensive and potent “Aperture”, “Ouroboros” directly compares those stuck in that cycle of banality to the mythical snake who eats its own tail over buzzing guitars.
The album’s first release “Infinite Cities” coasts ahead on a driving beat before building into one of its sweetest refrains. Accompanied by a transfixing video, it bristles with a bright energy. “Now, we’ve been away from our families and the ones we love so much—literally gone on the road and figuratively away in Austin while making the album,” states Curtis. “We still found a sense of hope in that distance, becoming closer and reimagining what community is. It’s like finding a way home no matter where you are.”
“The Moon” and “Escape Velocity” provide a subtly hopeful dénouement, leaving listeners with breathy optimism. Jacks reveals, “You wake up from that dream, realizing humanity may end someday, but you still have to work toward progress anyway.”
Ultimately, The Bright Light Social Hour will unite people. “We’re all together, but we have a lot of individual power,” concludes Jack. “We want every listener in the audience to have his or her own experience—but together.”
Jo leaves off, “As far as the south goes, it can be a place that exists and participates in the future. I’d love to see more southern bands think about the future. They respect the past so much. At one point, those classic artists forged new paths, but we’re treading the same paths they did fifty years ago. Musical generations passed by and respected their elders so much they forgot to kill them.”
Space Is Still the Place is out now on Frenchkiss Records (worldwide) and MapleMusic Recordings (Canada).
Patrick, Tiffany, and Nathan Meese began performing as The Centennial in the Spring of 2010. Joined by Joseph Pope III (Born in The Flood, Miss America) and Adam Blake (The Films) the band celebrated the release of their first full-length album, Nervous System, in January 2013.
The Denver based group has a deep rooted love for the Colorado music scene. Patrick and Nathan founded the pop-rock band "Meese" in 2004 and went on to release an album under Atlantic Records. After deciding to end the project due to lack of good times, Patrick's wife Tiffany joined the brothers in the studio and the trio adopted a new sound and aesthetic.
"It was time for a fresh start," says Patrick. "...and after we started The Centennial, Nate and I were lucky enough to tour with some other great bands and see how they did things."
In the past two years the brothers have performed with other Colorado based acts such as Nathaniel Rateliff, Tennis, Gregory Alan Isakov, Churchill and The Epilougues. "I think each tour has helped shape our band into something closer to how I always imagined it."
The Centennial draw their musical style from a mixture of styles and sounds. Patrick and Tiffany front the band and share the lead vocal responsibities. Their soaring harmonies, joined by spacious synths and driving guitars, create a sound similar to the heavens opening up and angels spitting in your ears.
But growing up as children of the 90's means having to rock a bit as well.
"The new record is intentionally not as mellow as the first EP we put out. In a lot of ways this project is figuring itself out. The new record is a big step."
Damian is a normal dude with average to below average musical ability that through a series of fortunate events has found himself fronting a Polaris winning, critically lauded punk band called Fucked Up and hosting the acclaimed (albeit sparsely viewed) The Wedge on Much Music. Despite this success, he remains firmly planted in the knowledge that it can be fleeting and thus finds stability from his growing family and growing record collection.
Outlaw Exits – Escaping the Machine.
Brent DeBoer never meant to turn road agent, I swear. I knew that man better than anybody alive, and he had a heart bigger than the motherlode at Tombstone. But it’s hard on a man, coming up the way he did, all hardscrabble and hand-to-mouth from just about the time he could walk. He wasn’t no more than a boy, really, when he worked his first round-up over in Lincoln county, but he came back a man, and I should know, I seen enough to know the difference. That round-up put dollars in his pocket for the first time in his life, and more than that, it got him a reputation around the other cowhands. I don’t know what he did in those weeks exactly, but there was a new Colt on his hip at the end of it and something different in his face, and when he took his shirt off that night upstairs at Meg’s Place there was a scar went right across his chest like lightning in a Wyoming sky. I didn’t see a lot of him after that – he was on cattle drives and working the ranches all across the territory. But I heard the stories just like everyone else, and I didn’t want to believe them, but I could see why they might be true. He’d come see me sometimes, when he had the money for it. He never went with any of the other girls, at least not the ones in Meg’s Place, and he’d always treat me real nice, so no matter what stories they told, I knew there was that little part of him hadn’t changed. But then, when the range war came, he went with the Regulators, and that turned his heart just about black. I could feel it in him, one time he sneaked a visit, it was like range wire strung tight through every muscle in his body. Anyhow, after the army came to Lincoln in the summer and the Regulators scattered, Brent got out with the Mexicans and I thought I’d never see him again. But he sneaked back one last time to see me in the Autumn. Garrett and his murderers were still chasing Billy McCarty and Tom O’Folliard and some of the others, but I think they’d forgotten about Brent. That made it easier for him, and so did the storm there was that night, beating rain like Noah’s own flood and lightning like that scar on his chest. He had this wild look in his eyes the whole time, and he was talking strange, wouldn’t tell me what his plans were, just kept saying over and over that he’d “found some people” and he was “headed for the pines”.
He rode out after midnight and that was the last time I ever set eyes on him. Some say as how the U.S. Marshall killed him all the way up in Multnomah county the following year, but no-one I knew ever saw the body, and I did not believe that tale.
Brent DeBoer – taken by the Autumn Carnival October 14th 1879
Zia McCabe walked into my life about the same time my luck was walking out. That’s the way it always seemed, anyhow, and that’s about the way I told it to the Feds when they finally showed up asking. They’d been on her tail a solid six months by then, sniffing along a jagged little line of stick ups and bank jobs Dillinger would have been proud to call his own, if he hadn’t been shot dead the summer before. So I told them what I knew – this Zia dame blows into my office late one autumn afternoon, stands there in the stripes of low sunlight coming through the blinds, five eight in flat heel boots and a raincoat with the collar turned up. She had a deflated-looking carpet bag in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other, and she said she needed to find “a friend” down in the Tenderloin. I looked in her face, into eyes like holes in target practice paper, I looked at the way she stood, and then at the smoke coming off that coffin nail, and it wasn’t too hard to figure a .32 in that hand instead. I didn’t buy the line about a friend, no-one out of diapers would have. But these days I just do what they pay me to do, and she paid in rubber-band-wrapped cash, half my fee up front and no quibbles or batted eyelashes to drive down the price, right out of the bottom of that carpet bag. Looked to me like she was down to the last couple of bundles too. So I took the job. I shook down some known faces, kicked in a couple of doors and told her what I found behind them. Not long after that, her friend turned up behind a name you’ve probably heard. It was in all the papers for a while. They found him lying face down in a drain over on Russian hill, plugged three times in the chest and once in the back of the head. Whoever did it was making sure, and it was a .38 Smith that did the damage, which I guess goes to show you can’t always trust first impressions. Anyhow, the night before all that made the Chronicle’s front page, Zia shows up in my office again and asks me to pour her a shot in a voice that misses steady by less than an inch. She knocks the liquor right back and wipes her mouth like she’s trying to clean something off. Then she pays me the balance out of that same carpet bag, which, I got to say, is suddenly looking a lot fatter than it did. When I offer her another pour, she tells me I’m sweet, but she’s heading up to Portland, got to meet some people there. And she walks away.
They tell me the feds found her car parked up on a forest track off route 99, just over the state line into Oregon, but she wasn’t in it. And nor was that carpet bag.”
Zia McCabe - taken by the Autumn Carnival September 7th 1935
Courtney Taylor-Taylor? Oh hell, yeah, I remember him. Came from money, they say, some trust fund clan up north, but that first night I met him, at this big Redondo beach cook-out, he just looked like another fucking beach bum. Pair of baggies hanging down past the crack in his ass, this bleached out T-shirt with, like, something French written on it, and just one sandal. There was some story about what happened to the other one, everybody was busted up laughing about it. Everyone in Redondo had stories that year, but mostly they were about getting busted by the cops, for possession or protesting the war or like that. I remember that Taylor-Taylor cat listening to one of those hippie sad luck tales and when it was done, he just smiled and toked hard and said – in, like, that tight, hold-the-smoke-down voice – trick is, you don’t want to get busted… And then he lets the smoke up, lets it out like a sigh and says, quiet and all husked up, like his voice was smoke too you gotta see the heat coming right around the curve of the world. And I remember his eyes kind of glittered in the firelight when he said it, and – I mean, it was a warm night, man – I could feel like this chill at the back of my neck. Or maybe it was just the weed, coz that was some wicked shit we were hitting that night. Anyhow, I asked around about Taylor-Taylor the next couple of days, and it was weird. See, everyone knew him, but when you got right down to what they knew, well, there wasn’t a whole lot. Word was he had a gig running that weed down from the Anderson valley in some hot-rod Mustang that Spider Ed Murdoch tore down and re-built for him. The weed was his trademark, everyone talked it up, though the story went he could get you pretty much anything else you wanted if the price was right. Had some big name customers too - I heard he knew Morrison, Richards, the Dead, the Airplane, like that. And next time I run into him, sure enough, it’s up in the Hollywood hills at some big shot movie producer’s party, out by the pool. He looks at me funny too, like he’s maybe heard I was asking about him. But he hands me the joint he’s got and it’s that Anderson valley primo again. He asks me if I ever wonder if there’s more than one of us, and when I laugh, faking more stoned than I am, and say thar there’s two of us right here, he shakes his head, like, irritated, and says more than one version of us, man. Like you could go back or forward or…something. Then he’s quiet for a while, just smoking, so I ask him about the weed like I’m supposed to, and he gives me this weird smile and drops a ton of information on me about how he’s gotta do this big run Sunday. I thought it was weird at the time, I mean, it was like he was speaking for the microphone or something, like he just knew. When I tell him to save me some, maybe I can unload it for him around Redondo, he just gives me this sad look and he says it’s all gonna go bad, man. Couple of years more at most. And before I can ask him what the fuck that means, he walks away, through the pool light and into the dark in the garden.
Well, the rest you know, right? The big run that never was. They watched for that Mustang all Sunday and into the week, but it never showed. Got some eye witness put it near Klamath Monday night, but that was never, like you guys say, substantiated, right? Thought I saw him backstage at Altamont in ’69, but he was turned away, talking to one of the Angels and….nah, couldn’t have been. Couldn’t be. He was long gone by then. Long gone. You could sort of feel it.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor – taken by the Autumn Carnival September 28th 1967
What I am about to tell you is classified at national security level, so you’d better turn that thing off. Pete Holmström shows up exactly seven times in the records for Operation Sundevil, no mention even remotely useful for prosecution, and there’s a reason for that. Guy’s a fucking ghost. You hear about him, but he’s never there. Even the archive photos we have of him, it’s like he’s always on the edge of the group, always turning away, or his face is in shadow. We think he was part of the team that knocked over the NSA database in ‘87, but there’s no evidence, and he walked. We think he helped take down First National in Chicago the following year, but if he did, we never traced his share of the haul. A lot of the hackers we offered immunity to after Sundevil talked Holmström up, like he was some kind of guru, but there was nothing we could use. And when local PD kicked down his door in Portland on some probable cause we cooked up, he was gone, baby gone. Rental apartment, bare walls, mattress on the floor next to a power socket. The only stuff in there that didn’t belong to the landlady was a couple of trashy sci-fi novels by some guy I’ve never heard of, a bunch of papers with sketched schematics and equations on them that no-one in the team can decipher, and this fist-sized chunk of concrete someone was using for a paperweight. Turns out it’s a piece of the Berlin Wall. Oh, yeah, and he left a smiley sticker on the front door for us – neighbour says it definitely wasn’t there the day before. That was early ’91. We all figured he’d lit out for Canada on a fake ID – end of story. Then, one day that autumn, I’m on my way down the coast to a security consultants’ conference in Oakland and I stop for gas just outside Davis. It’s a beautiful day, sunlight bouncing off the windshield and glinting on the paintwork, I get back in behind the wheel and he’s sitting there. Face in shadow. Had this cap over his eyes and a lumberjack shirt covering the Glock he was holding on me. He tells me to turn around and head north, back the way I came. Which I do. We drive in total silence for about an hour before I tell him I’m surprised to see him, we all thought he’d crossed a border somewhere. And he just looks at me oddly and says he has. That’s all. Goes back to staring out of the windshield at the road. We drive all afternoon like that, he barely says a word the whole time, it’s like he has to keep reminding himself I’m really there. I ask how he found me, have to ask him three times before he notices I spoke, and then he just says something about I’m some kind of test he has to pass. I tried talking him into giving himself up, he just shrugged. Enforcement’s a busted paradigm, he said. There’s too much space, too many alternatives. You people have your fist wrapped around a grenade with the pin pulled. Isn’t going to matter how hard you squeeze. It was getting dark by then, we were over the state line and well into Oregon, and suddenly, middle of nowhere he tells me to pull over. No town, no houses, just forest and night sky. He grins and thanks me for the ride, slams the door and he’s gone, off into the trees.
It’s been ten years now, and nothing, no trace. Like the forest swallowed him.
Only thing is….I sometimes think maybe I saw a glow he was heading towards, like from a camp-fire in the trees or something, and I’d swear I heard calliope music too. But, hey, I was tired from that fucking drive, stressed out of my box, he had that Glock on me the whole time. Gotta figure it’s just something I imagined.
Pete Holmström – taken by the Autumn Carnival October 21st 1991
A 2014 Blues Music Award winner, there’s not a time in her life that singer/bassist/songwriter Danielle Nicole (born Danielle Nicole Schnebelen) doesn’t remember loving to perform. As a child, she would sing for her family at holidays and took tap, jazz and ballet lessons for many years competing in numerous events. Danielle also took band in middle school, playing the tenor saxophone and enjoying it quite a bit. Unfortunately, she was forced to quit when the family moved to Kansas City and the new school did not offer band.
Danielle comes from generations of singers. Her grandmother, Evelyn Skinner, was a big band singer. Danielle’s mother, Lisa Swedlund, taught her everything she knew while growing up and listening to all different kinds of music from the Everly Brothers to the B-52s.
It wasn’t until she was 12 that Danielle took to the stage for the first time singing, Koko Taylor’s “Never Trust a Man” at a Blues for Schools program that her parents were playing at Englewood Elementary. From then on, she knew music would be her passion for the rest of her life.
Danielle began singing in coffeehouses and at open mic events at age 14, jamming with her parents whenever she could at clubs that would allow minors. At 16, she began singing lead in her father’s band, Little Eva and the Works – until he became too sick to play. In March of 1999, she started her own band, Fresh Brew, with Kansas City music veterans Steve Gronemeyer, Steve Hicks, Chuck Payne and Terry Roney. They performed for four years and even represented Kansas City in the International Blues Challenge.
It was during this time that Danielle and her brothers Nick and Kris began talking about a family band that would eventually become Trampled Under Foot. Not only did she and Kris have to move to Philadelphia (where Nick was living), but she would have to learn the bass guitar to keep it a family band. It took a few years of lessons and saving money before that could become reality.
After several acclaimed self-released albums, Trampled Under Foot released Badlandson July 9, 2013 on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group. Toughened by years of nonstop roadwork, Badlands revealed a musical sophistication well beyond the band’s years.
On Badlands, the band worked with veteran producer Tony Braunagel at his Ultratone Studios in California. The drummer in the Phantom Blues Band, Braunagel played some percussion on the album and recruited veteran keyboardist Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James) to play keys. Johnny Lee Schell, who also recorded the album, added acoustic guitar to one track and John Porter mixed the final results at Independent Street Studios in New Orleans.
Badlands debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Blues Chart and Trampled Under Foot performed live throughout the United States and Europe in support of the album.
As Trampled Under Foot wound down after 13 years, Danielle formed her own band and now makes her Concord Records solo debut with the March 10, 2015 release of a New Orleans-flavored, blues-soul based EP, featuring GRAMMY®-winning producer-guitaristAnders Osborne, Galactic’s co-founding drummer Stanton Moore and her regular keyboardist Mike “Shinetop, Jr.” Sedovic.
The self-titled EP is an introduction to Danielle as a formidable solo artist. A full length album is currently scheduled for release in late summer 2015, featuring more music created in New Orleans with Osborne, Moore and Sedovic.
Dave Schools is a critically acclaimed bass player and founding member of American rock band Widespread Panic. He is also an accomplished producer, songwriter and journalist with articles published in a wide variety of music magazines. Schools lives in Sonoma County, California with his wife and two dogs; when not on tour he likes to garden.
Schools is an innovator on the bass with a non-traditional approach that has given him a unique voice on the instrument. With his primary band, Widespread Panic, he plays a six-string Modulus Quantum 6 bass that affords him a wide range of sounds that are further enhanced by an array of effects pedals. Influenced by an early desire to play drums and childhood piano lessons, Schools has deviated from, though not abandoned, the established rhythm role of the bass and created a more melodic, improvisational style that has been referred to as “lead bass.”
Just outside the jazz mecca of Kansas City springs liberal oasis Lawrence, Kansas—separated only by the waves of wheat from the epicenter of the electronic music revolution in Colorado. From Lawrence, it would logically follow that an act could rise to prominence fueled by the swing of Basie, the birth of Charlie Parker’s bebop, and the wild frontier of electronica. Born in funk and bred in the digital age, live electronic duo The Floozies have burst onto the scene at a time when the industry needed them the most.
Brothers Matt and Mark Hill share the stage just as easily as they share a musical brain. Without a setlist, and without a word between them, Matt’s guitar is in lockstep with the thud of Mark’s kick. Endless looping and production builds the raw scenery upon which palm muted chugs, searing solos, and wobbling bass paint their dazzling array of colors.
Well versed in everything from Chris Cornell to Kavinsky, the sonic vision shared by the brothers eschews contemporary electronic influences in favor of broader, deeper tastes including Zapp & Roger, Lettuce, and Amon Tobin. That wide-angle view of a century of popular music allows the Hills to remix Toto and The Dead—in the music you can hear reverence for the giants of the past, all the while producing wildly futuristic tunes for the masses to dig now.
When the pendulum swung as far as it could away from live instrumentation to laptops, The Floozies rose up to the challenge, swinging as hard as they could in the other direction with neck-snapping, knee-breaking funk so dirty that the gatekeepers stood up, wiped themselves off, and took notice. A bold live show full of sonic exploration and unbreakably deep pocket grooves has landed the brothers on stage with luminaries of the jam world Umphrey’s McGee as readily as electronic elites STS9 and Big Gigantic. Sold out shows across the Country, huge festival appearances at Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, High Sierra, Summercamp, Wakarusa, Camp Bisco, Summerset, Bumbershoot, and a sold out Red Rocks show with Griz have continued to cement the duo’s ascent.
The Floozies are bringing the funk back, and they’re right on time.
“Going in, we said ‘lets make a bad ass indie rock record with a sound as big and dynamic as we can, without compromising one single heartfelt lyric."
Singer-songwriter Heather Maloney did just that on her newest LP, Making Me Break. Working with Grammy-nominated producer Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses, Avett Brothers), the two crafted and delivered on an artistic vision to merge Maloney’s folk roots with indie rock.
“The sounds I love in indie rock are so lush, and textured, and intricate, like someone spent a lot of time on this, so they must really care,” Maloney explains, citing influences such as Ben Howard, The Shins, and Io Echo. “And as a singer-songwriter raised on folk, I am drawn to lyrics that that are meaningful, intelligent, tell a story, paint pictures… that care. So I just wanted to make an album that cared musically and lyrically. Some sort of a bleeding heart meeting a distant, unaffected, sparkly rock band. That was the goal.”
Maloney’s new music has a definite edge, but it also has a classically trained voice that delivers well-crafted lyrics over a technical arrangement—a combination we’ve recently seen getting mainstream appreciation once more. Suddenly, the term “singer-songwriter” carries serious weight again. Chalk it up to a revival of everything 90s and Maloney’s influence from “those bleeding hearts,” as she calls them, referring to artists’ like Fiona Apple, Tori Amos and Aimee Mann.
“We wanted to make something more relevant, in a new zone.” Maloney wasn’t kidding – she teamed up with producer Bill Reynolds (who moonlights as the bassist for Band of Horses) and an all-star group of players with extraordinary talent, including engineer Jason Kingsland (Iron & Wine, Delta Spirit), guitarist Tyler Ramsey (Band of Horses), and guitarist and sax player Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket).
Throughout the new musical heights and depths on this record, Maloney’s voice and lyrics remain center stage, truthfully articulating the insights and emotions of growing up, without clichés nor quirks for their own sake.
Maloney’s journey to finding herself as a singer-songwriter took some unexpected routes. She studied classical operatic, improvisational jazz vocals, and music theory for several years in New Jersey, in addition to a brief stint studying classical Indian vocals with a tutor. “My first shows were jazz, in New York City. I love jazz, but it didn’t feel like where I belonged. Neither did opera. I was grasping to find what felt like home,” she says. “I needed to do something kind of radical.”
Maloney found herself at a silent meditation retreat center in Central Massachusetts. She lived and worked there for nearly 3 years, taking vows of silence from seven to ten days at a time. The silence, oddly enough, became conducive to finding one’s true voice. "The biggest motivating factor in writing was probably the experiences I was having in my meditation practice… There was the difficulty of it, the suffering of it, and wanting to channel that into something creative, and on the positive side, the insights that came out of my experiences. In my cottage away from the designated silent area, I just sang, and wrote, and cried. And for the first time, I felt I was using my voice in an authentic way.”
This was the breakthrough Maloney had been waiting for, the first moment she had a reason to get up on stage. Armed with guitar and her fresh sense of purpose, Maloney traversed across the northeast – playing coffeehouses, libraries, and even meditation centers – before eventually getting signing with celebrated independent record label Signature Sounds (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter). Maloney’s self-titled label debut followed in 2013, launching her from the small stages of New England to nationwide audiences, sharing stages with renowned musicians like Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Shakey Graves, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Anais Mitchell, among others.
In 2014, Maloney released a collaborative EP with Boston quartet Darlingside called Woodstock, on which she covers Joni Mitchell’s anthemic “Woodstock” - and absolutely nails it. A video of the session ended up on the New York Times website and gained momentum with praise from Graham Nash, who was among the first to cover Mitchell’s “Woodstock” in 1970. The ensuing nation-wide collaborative tour with Darlingiside gave birth to new experiences, emotions, and perspectives. Maloney began to find moments in the van, in hotel rooms and on days off at home to write the songs that would eventually become Making Me Break.
Maloney feels this record is the closest she’s ever been to the sound that’s truly herself. “As an artist I’m constantly changing. But I think we cracked the code on blending the two worlds here,” says Maloney. For now, her distinctive voice has soared a long way from the silent confines of hushed meditation, and into a natural equilibrium of progressive Indie-Folk. Mission Accomplished.
HØØNCH, the new indie-electronic group from Los Angeles-based musicians/producers Jonathan Kim and Gabriel Rodriguez, has arrived. Having played together in past projects, the duo pull from a wide variety of musical influences. The electronic undertones of ZHU, the synth-tinged rock of Phoenix, and Hoonch's own unique hooks come together to create a sound that is truly their own. Kim (lead vocalist/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist) and Rodriquez (keyboards/vocals) were recently featured in Billboard, MTV, and USA Today. Their song “101” currently has over 10 million plays on Spotify. For Hoonch, it’s about creating chemistry through music, and sharing it. Enjoy…
Cosmos-wrangling Americana upstart Israel Nash returns from Texas Hill Country with his Silver Season, a deeply gorgeous and wholly immersive nine-song set that plays less like an album, and more like a cross section of time and space. The man's fourth LP ventures farther down the acid-soaked trail blazed by 2013's Rain Plans, arriving in lush and expansive territory. Here, this Missouri son sounds more assured than ever, supported by his highly capable band and production inspired by psychedelic greats. Israel Nash's Silver Season is best played loudly, and sounds wonderful in headphones.
Like the record before it, this one was made on Nash's 15-acre swath of land in Dripping Springs, Texas, with one key difference. While Rain Plans was recorded inside of the new home he shared with his then-pregnant wife, Silver Season was born in the studio Nash built outside and named Plum Creek Sound, a 1,400 square-foot Quonset erected in March. The band was ready to begin in late May when the floods came, filling the building with water and muck. Nash and the boys pushed on anyhow. Digging trenches, hauling sandbags, clearing mud, and plugging in—that's how they made an album, doing what needed to be done.
The end result isn't so terrestrial, however. Silver Season billows outward with its opening song, "Willow." A swirl of keys, bass, pedal steel, acoustic strum, and languid drums envelop the listener as Nash's cooed poetry recontextualizes the world through his daughter's eyes. A shimmery Morricone-like passage carries us into "Parlour Song," which sounds a little like Neil Young leading Tame Impala. "Sooner or later we'll surrender our guns/But not until we've shot everyone," Nash sings. And while the line would fit into a celebratory tale about Old West outlaws, it's actually a modern lament.
From the warm drift and easy elasticity of "Strangers" (one of two cuts that verge on seven minutes) to the holler-along gospel of "The Rag & Bone Man," Silver Season feels like a living thing. That's a product of the wild five-man sessions that took place in the sweltering Quonset (with beer breaks, and slingshot target practice using the empties). It's also due to the care put into taming all of that good noise, with engineer Ted Young (Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth) returning to the mix. The analog hum grounds the guitar wizardry, while the depth of sound ties the band to the pasture that surrounds.
It makes sense that Nash would come into his own out there. He was raised in the Ozarks amidst hills and farmland. Other things add up too. His pastor father and artist mother were very much children of the '60s. Dad bought him Sgt. Pepper's when he was 10, Mom handed him an electric guitar at 11, and Nash was writing songs by 12. And while he's grown away from the religion he was raised under, Nash's music is nothing if not spiritual. The spirit just comes from a different place—nature, family, song, and the occasional trip into times and spaces we can't normally access. Hidden within the folds of Silver Season, Nash's weather-beaten voice says it best:
"I don't live like the others/I see twice as many colors."
It’s all but inconceivable that J Mascis requires an introduction. In the quarter-century since he founded Dinosaur Jr., Mascis has created some of the era’s signature songs, albums and styles. As a skier, golfer, songwriter, skateboarder, record producer, and musician, J has few peers. The laconically-based roar of his guitar, drums and vocals have driven a long string of bands – Deep Wound, Dinosaur Jr., Gobblehoof, Velvet Monkeys, the Fog, Witch, Sweet Apple – and he has guested on innumerable sessions. But Several Shades of Why is J’s first solo studio record, and it is an album of incredible beauty, performed with a delicacy not always associated with his work.
Recorded at Amherst Massachusetts’ Bisquiteen Studios, Several Shades is nearly all acoustic and was created with the help of a few friends. Notable amongst them are Kurt Vile, Sophie Trudeau (A Silver Mount Zion), Kurt Fedora (long-time collusionist), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), Matt Valentine (The Golden Road), and Suzanne Thorpe (Wounded Knees). Together in small mutable groupings, they conjure up classic sounds ranging from English-tinged folk to drifty, West Coast-style singer/songwriterism. But every track, every note even, bears that distinct Mascis watermark, both in the shape of the tunes and the glorious rasp of the vocals.
“Megan from Sub Pop has wanted me to do this record for a long time,” J says. “She was very into it when I was playing solo a lot in the early 2000s, around the time of the Fog album [2002's Free So Free]. She always wanted to know when I’d do a solo record. [Several Shades of Why] came out of that. There are a couple of songs that are older, but the rest is new this year. And it’s basically all acoustic. There’s some fuzz, but it’s acoustic through fuzz. There’re no drums on it, either. Just one tambourine song, that’s it. It was a specific decision to not have drums. Usually I like to have them, but going drum-less pushes everything in a new direction, and makes it easier to keep things sounding different.”
There is little evidence of stress on Several Shades of Why. The title track is a duet with Sophie Trudeau’s violin recalling Nick Drake’s work at its most elegant. "Not Enough" feels like a lost hippie-harmony classic from David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name. "Is It Done" rolls like one of the Grisman/Garcia tunes on American Beauty. "Very Nervous and Love" has the same rich vibe as the amazing rural side of Terry Reid’s The River. And on and on it goes. Ten brilliant tunes that quietly grow and expand until they fill your brain with the purest pleasure. What a goddamn great album.
by Byron Coley
Jakubi is a Melbourne-based band composed of two brothers, two cousins and one friend whose love for producing music brought them together and whose pure talent propelled them forward. Jakubi’s unique flavor stems from an irresistible combination of jangly guitars, hip-hop beats and sailing synth rhythms. Flawlessly melding the sounds of a talk box one minute and reggae-inspired guitar the next, the band’s infectious experimental songs are guaranteed to get everyone dancing.
2014 saw the band touring two continents and three countries including Australia, the US, and Canada. Since the release of their first single in 2013, the band’s music has been streamed on SoundCloud almost 5 million times and has amassed over 4 million views across YouTube.
The band’s latest single, “Couch Potato,” earned the praise of the king of pop culture commentary himself, Perez Hilton, who says, "It's so dope! They've got a real laid-back, positive vibe that's infectious.” The playful video for the track features a couch coasting down the street and was filmed by dragging the couch behind a car, a stunt that accidentally got the band featured on "Highway Patrol," a national television show in Australia.
After a whirlwind 18 months the band is excited to announce the Life’s A Beach tour, an 11-date summer run through Australia. Jakubi will also release their debut EP and tour the US in 2015.