Internationally acclaimed Mexican acoustic rock guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela are back on the road again in 2014, bringing their unique instrumental blend of metal, jazz and world music to audiences all over the US.
Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero have been playing together for more than fifteen years. First as young thrash metal fans in their native Mexico City, then as innocents abroad and street musicians in Dublin, Ireland at the turn of the millennium, and finally as the globe-straddling, film-scoring, record-breaking artists they are today.
Known for exhilarating live shows, Rodrigo y Gabriela have won the hearts of music lovers from the haciendas of Cuba to the Hollywood Bowl and festival fields of Europe, as they continue to weave their unique six-string magic. The extraordinary interplay between Sanchez's fiery lead lines and Quintero's phenomenal rhythmic battery is truly universal.
The duo has reloaded their arsenal following the April 2014 worldwide release of “9 Dead Alive”, their first studio album in five years. The new songs are intimate, the playing intuitive, and the results are spectacular, bursting with melodic energy and rhythmic invention.
Recorded at their Pacific Coast hideaway in late summer, the album captures the warmth and spontaneity of two great musicians riffing and jamming together, perfectly distilled into 9 new songs teeming with desire, elegance and gusto.
With career sales in excess of 1.5 million albums, blockbuster movie scores, and sold out tours worldwide, Rodrigo y Gabriela have certainly made their mark. Their appeal is boundless, their scope limitless, and the music timeless; clearly, we have only begun to see what this duo is capable of.
A four-piece alt-rock outfit based in Brooklyn, American Authors use their razor-sharp musicianship and natural mastery of songcraft as a jumping-off point for sonic exploration. On their debut album Oh, What a Life, singer Zac Barnett, guitarist James Adam Shelley, bassist Dave Rublin, and drummer Matt Sanchez weave in everything from hip-hop grooves and Afro-Latin rhythms to dance-pop synths and Queen-inspired vocal harmonies—all while staying true to a rock-and-roll energy and melodic sensibility that’s highly refined. Featuring their breakout hit song “Best Day of My Life” and follow-up single “Believer”,” the sunny yet soulful Oh, What a Life is also built on a magnetic sense of optimism that’s carried American Authors from their formation at Boston’s Berklee College of Music to their down-and-out early years in Brooklyn to their current status as an internationally touring band on an ever-growing rise.
“Our number-one rule when we went to make this album was that we weren’t going to hold back or limit ourselves on any one particular sound,” says Barnett of Oh, What a Life. “All four of us have really eclectic musical taste, and we wanted to tie in all the different kinds of music that have inspired us throughout our lives. The most important thing was that we have fun and experiment, and see what happened when we got rid of any boundaries we’d put on our music in the past.”
Produced by Shep Goodman and Aaron Accetta, Oh, What a Life was born from the intensely collaborative approach that American Authors always take in creating new music. “Our songs tend to start with the four of us getting in a room together and trading ideas back and forth or sharing stories—a melody or groove or lyric can come from any of us,” Shelley says. And as they gradually brought in more sounds and styles to shape Oh, What a Life, the band ended up adding a host of new instruments to their repertoire, learning to play banjo, mandolin, accordion, melodica, and mandocello—as well as mastering the use of synth and drum machines—while in the throes of the recording process.
Despite their lack of restraint in making Oh, What a Life, the album proves a tightly crafted collection of pop-rock gems that—song after song—reveal American Authors’s irresistibly openhearted spirit. From the amped-up dance beats that kick off “Believer” to the epic folk-rock of the album-closing title track, the band channels their high-as-the-sky hope into songs marked by both soaring intensity and summery ease. On the anthemic “Best Day of My Life,” those good vibes radiate by way of breezy harmonies and propulsive rhythms, while “Luck” (a song about “family and the sacrifices we all make to follow our passions,” according to Rublin) turns its tension into stomping beats and blissed-out melody. Even in their darker moments—such as “Trouble,” an aching, acoustic-guitar-laced track that serves as Oh, What a Life’s sole straight-up love song, and “Heart of Stone,” an angst-ridden number driven by nervy guitar riffs—American Authors maintain a triumphant mood that’s deeply infectious.The mix of boundless energy and melodic finesse that fuels Oh, What a Life owes much to each member’s near-lifelong devotion to making music. Forming in 2007 at Berklee—where Barnett,
Shelley, Rublin, and Sanchez were all students—the band first took the name The Blue Pages and threw themselves into perfecting their pop-infused brand of indie rock. After two years of struggling to record and book tours on their own, the group dropped out of Berklee and moved to Brooklyn, where all four bandmates shared a cramped Bushwick apartment. Once they’d gotten settled in New York, the band changed their name to American Authors and began breathing new life into their songwriting and sound. “Being in a new city and feeling the inspiration that comes from that, it just felt like a fresh start,” says Sanchez. “We decided to go with American Authors for our name because an author can be anyone who tells a story through words, and we consider ourselves storytellers with our song lyrics,” Rublin adds, noting that the name also refers to each member hailing from a different corner of the country and bringing his own distinct background to the group.
Shortly after moving to Brooklyn, American Authors crossed paths with Shep Goodman while playing a gig in the city. Eventually signing with Goodman and Accetta’s production company Dirty Canvas, the band wrote and recorded “Believer” and quickly saw the track thrown into rotation on Sirius XM’s Alt Nation radio. With “Believer” fast landing on the Alt-18 Countdown and their eagerly received single “Best Day of My Life” building on the band’s momentum and greatly boosting their social media following, American Authors soon inked a deal with Island Records, took off on their first tour, and set to work on their debut album. “Everything happened so fast with ‘Believer’ and ‘Best Day of My Life’ blowing up and us going on tour, we ended up writing and recording the album at the same time,” recalls Sanchez. “But the way it worked out was that we didn’t have the chance of overthink anything—it was just us in the studio having fun and making the music that we wanted to make.”
Releasing Oh, What a Life in March 2014 and embarking on a national tour with OneRepublic in May, American Authors have spent almost the entire past year on the road and consider playing live essential to the band. “We love feeling the energy of the crowd and giving that energy back, and we go into every show thinking that this might be someone’s first show ever or their last show ever,” says Shelley. Already working on songs for their next album—with the help of a studio set up in the back of their tour bus—American Authors aim to continue instilling their music with the joyful urgency that fills their live show and first album. “One theme that runs throughout Oh, What a Life is this feeling of hopeful determination,” notes Barnett. “Before ‘Believer’ started taking off, we were at such a low point of being broke and jobless and down to our last dollar, but we just kept pushing to stay motivated and stay hungry. Our songs aren’t saying, ‘Don’t worry, everything’s gonna work out okay!’—they’re about all the ups and downs that everyone has to deal with, and how you have to keep moving and do what you want and create your own future, so hopefully someday you can look back at the good times and bad times and see how far you’ve come.”
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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.
Songs From The Movie, with its compelling orchestral reinvention of classic Mary Chapin Carpenter compositions, is an artistic landmark for the beloved singer-songwriter. Collaborating with Composer/Arranger and Producer Vince Mendoza (Sting, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell) and working once again with Co-Producer Matt Rollings (Keith Urban, Lyle Lovett), Carpenter’s new record harkens to her love of classic film and symphonic music.
Citing as inspiration such seminal film composers as Elmer Bernstein and Thomas Newman, and contemporary symphonic composers like Tobias Picker and Morten Lauridsen, Carpenter had long imagined this project but it wasn’t until she had the chance to work with Mendoza that it came to fruition.
The result reprises ten of Carpenter’s songs in Mendoza’s distinctively beautiful and cinematic arrangements – thus the album title that gathers them together – to give the listener the continuum of a film soundtrack, albeit an imaginary one.
The album was recorded at London’s legendary AIR Studios, with a 63-piece orchestra, and a 15-voice choir. “Part of the challenge of this new musical setting was to find the right approach to singing each song,” Carpenter says. “Singing with an orchestra is very different from singing with a band. I had to learn to ride the enormous wave of sound an orchestra produces but not over sing at the same time. Finding a quiet voice while still conveying strength was the way in.”
From “Come On Come On” to “On And On It Goes” to “I Am A Town” and “Goodnight America,” the record finds this multi-platinum album selling, multi-Grammy winner, two-time CMA Female Vocalist, and member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame still breaking new ground, giving us a record unlike any of her others. “I grew up in a house where film soundtracks and classical music played constantly because my mother loved them so,” Carpenter says, as a way to explain how she came to this project. “Recording at AIR Studios in London was magical and working with Vince as he transformed my songs with his arrangements was an extraordinary artistic experience. I feel so fortunate to have been given this chance to do something so different from what I have done in the past and what I expect to do in the future.”
That level of excitement and fearless creativity has been a common thread throughout Mary Chapin Carpenter’s two-and-a-half-decade recording career, during which she’s sold more than 13 million records and developed a remarkably loyal and devoted international fan base.
Born in Princeton, New Jersey, Carpenter began playing guitar and writing songs early in life, and was playing her songs in D.C. clubs before she was out of her teens. Word of Carpenter’s talents eventually reached Nashville, winning her a deal with Columbia Records, which released her 1987 debut album, Hometown Girl.
Her debut disc set the stage for the success of 1989’s State of the Heart and 1990’s Shooting Straight in the Dark, each of which produced four Top 20 hits, including the Grammy-winning smash “Down at the Twist and Shout.” Those releases were followed by the massive commercial breakthrough of 1992’s Come On Come On, which was certified quadruple platinum and yielded no less than seven charting singles.
More success followed with such albums as the platinum Stones in the Road, A Place in the World, Time* Sex* Love* and Between Here and Gone. Carpenter moved to Rounder/Zoë in time for 2007’s Grammy-nominated The Calling, which was followed by the seasonally themed Come Darkness Come Light: 12 Songs of Christmas, the Grammy-nominated The Age of Miracles and Ashes and Roses.
Along the way, Carpenter has won five Grammy Awards, was named the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year in 1992 and 1993 and in 2012 was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Her compositions have also been covered by a diverse assortment of artists including Joan Baez, Wynonna Judd, Cyndi Lauper, Trisha Yearwood, Maura O’Connell, Mary Black and Dianne Reeves and has also collaborated, on record and/or on stage, with the likes of Joan Baez, Shawn Colvin, Dolly Parton, the Indigo Girls and Tony Bennett.
Following the January 2014 debut of the album with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the prestigious Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, Carpenter will appear as a guest with orchestras in the U.S. and the U.K. throughout 2014.
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.
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.”
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.”
Fiery anthems and tumultuous confessional songs punctuated with raw, inspired guitar.
Rich and glorious…Osborne possesses a voice that rises out of the darkness to the light of a soulful, tremulous wail. He is a consummate showman and shaman, bending successive moments to suit his majestic purposes. Osborne seeks an epic quality to much of his music, crafting layer upon layer of hugely scaled soundscapes.…never lazily derivative…every slashing guitar figure, every cry of a lyric, seems to come from an authentic place.
--New Orleans Times-Picayune
Between the potency of his richly detailed songwriting, his intensely emotional, soulful vocals and his piercing, expert guitar work, New Orleans’ Anders Osborne is a true musical treasure. He is among the most original and visionary musicians writing and performing today. Guitar Player calls him “the poet laureate of Louisiana’s fertile roots music scene.” New Orleans' Gambit Weekly recently honored Osborne as the Entertainer Of The Year. OffBeat named him the Crescent City’s Best Guitarist for the third year in a row, and the Best Songwriter for the second straight year. Osborne also won Song Of The Year for his composition, Louisiana Gold.
Since the release of his 2010 Alligator Records debut, American Patchwork, his 2012 follow-up, Black Eye Galaxy, and his critically acclaimed 2013 EP, Three Free Amigos, Osborne has earned hordes of new fans. He has toured virtually non-stop, either with his road-tested trio, as a solo artist, or as a guest with his countless musical admirers, including Toots and The Maytals, Stanton Moore, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo, The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. He’s appeared on Galactic’s Ya-Ka-May album, and in 2011 produced and played on critically acclaimed albums by Tab Benoit, Johnny Sansone and Mike Zito.
Now Osborne delivers the next chapter of his spiritual odyssey, Peace. With the new CD, Osborne continues the journey started by American Patchwork and Black Eye Galaxy, emerging from a whirlwind of emotional chaos and moving toward a sense of inner peace. Recorded at Dockside Studios in Louisiana and produced by Osborne and Warren Riker, Peace looks at the title subject from all angles. Drawing strength and inspiration from his family and friends, Osborne created the most observational record of his career. According to Osborne, “Peace is light from darkness. The songs are written from the outside looking in. They are not making any judgments. I’m just stating facts. I’m writing from a brighter perspective. There’s less dusk and dark, and much more sunlight. The results are greater than I expected. The driving tones and sounds are free and natural. This is one of the coolest records I’ve ever made.”
Since his recording debut in 1989, Osborne has written virtually all of his own material and contributed memorable songs to a wide variety of artists. Two tunes co-written by Osborne appear on Keb Mo’s Grammy-winning 1999 release Slow Down. Country superstar Tim McGraw scored a #1 hit with Anders’ song "Watch The Wind Blow By." Osborne’s compositions have been covered by artists as diverse as Brad Paisley, Tab Benoit, Jonny Lang and Kim Carnes. His songs have appeared in multiple feature films. He can also be seen performing in an episode of HBO’s New Orleans-based drama, Treme.
BoomBox, the electronic duo compromised of versatile producers, DJs, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalists Russ Randolph and Zion Rock Godchaux, recently released their first new studio album in 4 years, Filling In The Color, following 2010’s downriverelectric and 2006’s debut record Visions of Backbeat. Godchaux calls the new record “further evolved” from the bands’ signature sound, an electronic blend of soulful Rock and Blues based dance music incorporating Backbeat, Psychedelia and Funky House sounds.
The band created a majority of the album on the road over the past two years. “It was written mainly in transit – backstage, hotel rooms, and places like the interstate in different vehicles,” says Godchaux. A handful of tracks on the new album, including “Waiting Around” and “Dream“, incorporate live guitar riffs that were pulled from soundboard multi-tracks as the band experimented with the new tracks on the road. “There’s a live energy mixed in with that. A lot of the new tracks were developed in the live setting,” Randolph says. “And you’re recording that part with an audience in front of you, so it’s a totally different vibe than if it were just the two of us in the studio or hanging out at my house.”
The band returned to their hometown of Muscle Shoals, AL to complete the tracks at Randolph’s home studio. “90% of it was cut in the Shoals,” says Randolph. There was an added historical significance to recording in Muscle Shoals given it’s rich recording history, where legendary soul artists such as Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding once laid down records. “The history obviously has some bearing on the emotional tone of the creative process,” Randolph said.
While Filling In The Color draws from many influences in Randolph and Godchaux’s lives’, the record ultimately comes from an honest, personal place. “It comes down to a search for a certain sound,” says Godchaux, “a certain feel. It’s something we hear in our heads all the time. Forces from within are the driving, motivating factor in pointing this sound out to people.”
“We want the listener to be able to play the record front to back, not just a few tracks,” Godchaux said. “To enjoy the album as a whole. Day or night, happy or sad, from the speaker on their phone to the thumping sound system. We are song makers. That’s what we do. And this record should be confirmation that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing with our lives.”
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.”
The Floozies are producer/guitarist Matt Hill and drummer Mark Hill. These two brothers from Lawrence, KS are bringing their fresh approach to electronic music and live performance to venues and festivals all over the country. The duo's combination of cutting edge electronic production and party rocking funk energizes crowds and turns venues into epic dance parties. All of The Floozies music, including their latest album "Sunroof Cadillac," can be downloaded for free from flooziesduo.com.
“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.
From Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Jonathon "Boogie" Long was born with the blues coursing through his veins. Brought up in a Southern Baptist community, he first picked up the guitar at the age of six, teaching himself old gospel songs. Years later, a teenage Long found himself playing weekly gigs at blues clubs and events around town. At fourteen, he left school to lay down his roots touring with local legends Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor from 2003 to 2005. Additionally, he has toured with Chris Duarte, Kenny Wayne and Tyree Neal on the Chitlin' Circuit. Boogie has shared the stage with standout musicians such as Dr. John, Rockin' Dopsie, Monte Montgomery, Ellis Hall, Kenny Neal, Larry Garner, Henry Gray, Lil Ray Neal, and Lou Marini of the Blues Brothers Band.
In 2011, Boogie Long was crowned Guitar Center's "King of the Blues" from a field of over 4,000 contestants in the competition for #1 Unsigned Blues Guitarist in America. Soon after, Boogie was sought out to film 2013's Boogie Blues Magic, an instructional three-DVD set on which he shares his original tricks for learning fundamental blues styles (www.boogiebluesmagic.com). On another recent project, Boogie co-starred in the independent film, We Be Kings, a fictional story about an elderly couple that owns a juke joint in the Mississippi Delta.
Boogie currently fronts his own blues/soul trio, The Blues Revolution. His soul-stomping vocals and monster guitar shredding, paired with bluesy songwriting chops make his powerhouse performances a "must see" on the upcoming 2014 tour season. In April 2013, Boogie was tapped by B.B. King to support his four week tour. Also, he was given a prime slot at the New Orleans Jazz Fest Blues Stage. Quickly ascending from Baton Rouge to the main stage, Boogie Long is on track to achieve his lifetime goal of championing blues music and its roots. His debut record was released in April of 2013.
Over the last few years Belgian artist Milow has emerged as one of Europe’s most exciting young talents: a plugged-in singer-songwriter with the ability to touch a crowd and the pop know-how required to make great records. He’s an old-school soul with a new-fashioned sensibility. Milow’s music gleams with the inherited song craft of his heroes but it also reflects a point of view all his own. For many artists, success means stop; for Milow, who has sold more than a million albums in Europe, it’s a reason to go. After five years of non-stop touring and having released several well-received albums, Milow moved to Southern California in 2012. Not to start conquering the US, but to recharge his batteries in a sun-drenched region where he had lived before. With the same humble spirit that originally inspired him to start writing songs as a teenager, he patiently worked on his next move in seclusion in a city where no one knew him.
The result of this two-year journey is reflected on the folky new album "Silver Linings”. Milow reveals himself as a mature artistic personality and shows a much more melancholic side. The ten songs on "Silver Linings" captivate the listener with the irresistible hooks that the charismatic musician was so loved for on his earlier albums, and draw the listener in. The album was recorded live in Los Angeles at Fairfax Recordings, the studio known in music history as Sound City Studios; great albums by Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Neil Young and Nirvana were created here. Together with his producer of many years Jo Francken (who was at the helm for both Milow’s European debut “Milow" and "North and South") and Kevin Augunas (known for his work for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, The Lumineers, Cold War Kids and Valerie June), Milow surrounded himself with an illustrious team: Clif Norrell (Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Tom Petty) was at the mixing desk, Larry Goldings (James Taylor, Norah Jones, Maceo Parker) was on keyboards and Matt Chamberlain (Fiona Apple, David Bowie, Kanye West) on drums. Guitars were provided by Val McCullum (Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson) and Tom Vanstiphout (a member of Milow's band since 2007). The album features a 13-piece live string section, as well as additional guests like Roger Manning Jr. (Beck), Greg Leisz (Ray LaMontagne, Eric Clapton) and introduces Courtney Marie Andrews, a 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Seattle who has already released four solo albums, providing backing vocals.
The combination of the intimate and the widescreen has won Milow a devoted fanbase across Europe, not to mention a list of achievements that includes hit singles, platinum albums, sold-out tours, performances at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals and millions upon millions of YouTube hits. What’s more, he’s accomplished all this as his own boss, releasing music through Homerun Records, a label he founded in 2005 in his bedroom. “I just never wanted to have to answer to anyone else,” he says of the DIY operation. “It’s always been my call.” A sophisticated music-scene veteran with the bottomless energy of a beginner, Milow’s ready for what’s next.
"Rock & Roll was made to make you suffer" professes singer Josh Benus on "Selfish Generation," the towering new single from Modern Inventors. The evocative alt-rock anthem is not so much a damning take on modern music from the Philadelphia-based outfit, but rather, an honest look at the sacrifice required to discover one’s unique artistic voice. That's just what Modern Inventors have accomplished with their new batch of material, as Benus, Matt Kass, and Joel Gleiser have expanded upon the carefully rendered arrangements and heartbreaking harmonies of their 2013 debut album "Trains & Aeroplanes" to capture a more vibrant, muscular sound. They've impressed Paul McCartney and have worked with a Grammy-winning engineer -- now, Modern Inventors are primed for their breakout moment.
"We took time after the first record to re-examine how we wanted the band to sound, and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone," says Kass of "Selfish Generation," the first in a series of new singles set for release in summer 2014. While "Trains & Aeroplanes" featured a rustic rock focus that earned the young group comparisons to Wilco, and multiple performances at this year’s South By Southwest, the group's upcoming material is richer, catchier and altogether bigger. "There was a turning point where we decided to look outside of ourselves," says Benus, "and from there, we found our voice."
Much of the following year was spent in studios in Philadelphia, New York, and Nashville, writing songs, experimenting with the band’s sound, and collaborating on different projects, including the film score for critically acclaimed HBO documentary “First Comes Love.”
With the addition of keyboardist Joel Gleiser rounding out the band’s dynamic, and the help of Grammy-winning engineer Neal Cappellino (Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley, John Fogerty), who mixed the group’s new singles; Modern Inventors have moved beyond the confines of a singer-songwriter duo, developing a talent for creating lyrically engaging rock anthems whose layers unfold upon repeated listens.
Since the beginning, Modern Inventors’ ascent has been rapid -- shortly after playing their first show together, the band quickly found support from Philadelphia’s WXPN-FM, and the radio station asked them to record a Paul McCartney cover in honor of the music legend’s 70th birthday. After the group’s take on “Every Night” became popular on WXPN, the version eventually made it to the former Beatle himself, who tipped his cap at the tribute in an email to the group. “He said he was ‘chuffed,’ which is a British phrase meaning ‘moved,” says Kass.
Modern Inventors will be delivering their imaginative live performances across the country with tour dates coming later this year. Discover the blossoming new group's music now, before their mainstream moment arrives.
The Moth and the Flame have been creating earnest and heady alternative indie-rock since 2011. They have been heralded as one of the top emerging artists in the western United States, and as a “band to watch” coming out of their new home in Los Angeles.
Formed in the high desert of Provo Utah, TM&TF is singer/guitarist Brandon Robbins, keyboardist/vocalist Mark Garbett, drummer Andrew Tolman, and bassist Michael Goldman. Their songs feature weaving layers of Robbins’ haunting baritone, dense instrumentation, and fresh moments of simplicity. The band extends this layered philosophy to their audience by integrating installation art with their live performances; filling cities with twenty-foot-tall anthropomorphic giants, and transforming venues into lunar visions, starry nights, and floating-lantern dreamscapes.
TM&TF’s latest release, &, is a collection of five complex and thematic songs produced by celebrated drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, Atoms for Peace). Released in late 2013 as the band joined Imagine Dragons on their European Night Visions tour, & begins with their first major single, Sorry. It follows the success of their 2011 debut, a self-titled album, and their signing to REDDistribution/Hidden Records.
The success of & has anticipation already buzzing for the band’s next full-length album, produced by Peter Katis (Interpol, The National, Jonsi) and featuring string arrangements by Rob Moose (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens). It was tracked while living isolated in Katis’ Connecticut studio for several weeks, and is set for release early 2016. -C.R. Holgate
It’s like this: New Beat Fund is more than just a band.
Yeah, the four sun-bleached, good time boys from LA with the colorful hair and the funky clothes play music, travel the country, have a new album called Sponge Fingerz, and are best friends and brothers as well (half of them by blood), but this thing they ride with is way deeper than any of that. It’s who they are, what they think, how they dress; it’s where they come from, and how they live their lives. And, even if you didn’t already know it, New Beat Fund is who you are, and how you live your life, too. But we’ll get to that part.
New Beat Fund birthed when a piggy bank with the words "New Beat Fund" encrypted on it was catapulted into the facade of a corporate building. No joke. Jeff Laliberte, his brother Paul, Shelby and Michael have been at it for a couple years now, releasing an EP Coinz, and touring with the likes of blink-182 and 3OH!3, but they go way deeper than that. They trust each other on a supreme level, and even though their business is that of getting you hyped up, helping you chill, setting the mood to lay back with your girl or guy, or just letting you be you, they take that business seriously. “That’s the whole point and the reason that we’re in this,” says Paul, “to grow with a culture. And to also influence that culture rather than just hit at a surface level.”
“When people meet us, they say, ‘You guys are weird, but it’s fun!’” says Michael. “We want people to be cool with being weird, and thinking about things differently. The name of our record is Sponge Fingerz. What the fuck is that? It’s what we are as a band, there’s no definition—we’re able to be free. We wrote the record in Topanga Canyon—the freest place ever—we live in Southern California...that’s the whole vibe of our band. Just being weird and free.”
That freedom is the first thing you notice when listening to Sponge Fingerz, which was co-produced by Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Maroon 5) at LA’s legendary Sound City Studios and mixed by Tony Hoffer (Foster the People, Beck.) The band finds inspiration across the musical spectrum, shoving it all in a blender to cook up a colorful mash-up they call “G-Punk.” The vibe jumps from track to track—sometimes within the same song, or even the same verse—covering all the band’s favorite bases, like if you drew a huge baseball diamond over SoCal and swung for the fences. First base might be the surf-rock and dub-heavy vibes of the coastline, while rounding second brings up the hip-hop beats of South Central. Sprint over to third and pick up on the arty, indie hip and punk stuff from the city’s downtown heart. Finally, slide headfirst into the garage pop and heartfelt jams of Ventura County and the Valley, the band’s true home. “It’s not just punk rock, or indie, or weird ass psychedelic art. We were all exposed to different things growing up, so we didn’t choose to only go in one direction,” says Shelby.
“We don’t claim any certain scene,” adds Michael, “and that’s kind of what we represent as a band, especially for kids who are figuring out who they are and where they fit in this weird ass world. We can hang with all of it and show people that’s OK to do. Let’s play how we play as individual musicians, and let’s write about our lives and go in that direction and not think about it too much. And this is what came out.”
The album blasts off with “Any Day,” a funky breakup anthem about finding your footing. The song itself was an early demo that was cast aside, but finally found its own groove at the last minute during pre-production when the band bought some dancehall albums for 50 cents at a nearby head shop. “The dancehall groove just laid the song out in front of us,” says Jeff. “It’s about when you’re right at that post-breakup thick of it, that moment where you look back and you finally see what it is. That switch when you’re done, you’re not lingering.”
In contrast, “It’s Cool” came together quickly. The song’s creation serves as a blueprint for how the band works best. “At the time, we were in a bedroom so we didn’t have the opportunity to jam it out, and we were fucking around with sampling and just had this mood and started writing to it,” says Jeff. “We all usually come together and build tracks like that. We start pretty simple, lyrics or melodies or beat, and we all color in the picture. If you had a sketch or a pencil drawing, we all come in with colors or additives and finish the painting, and then there’s the song.”
“Sikka Taking the Hard Way” shines, too, with its with its funky dub breakdown and noodling electric guitars, and its celebration of overcoming whatever obstacles life can throw at you: “I tell myself that it’s alright/it’s OK/there’s no way/I’m stumbling back now/I’ll figure it out.”
Then there’s “Halloween Birthdaze,” with its Red Hot Chili Peppers-worthy chorus, and the catchy, stoner shrugs of “Friends in High Places,” which showcases the band’s love of hip-hop. “It paints a picture of someone who is less fortunate but has the support system that they can find happiness in,” says Paul, before his brother finishes his thought: “When you got nothing but you have everything.”
Jeff sums it up like this: “We want everyone to be into our music. The word ‘pretentious’ is the worst fucking word I have ever heard. We want people to feel at home when they come to our shows, like they can do whatever they want at a New Beat Fund show. We want to be an unpretentious band that makes people feel honest emotions. Come to our show and join an experience and let you just be you. Have a good time and relate to our music.”
Yeah, it’s like that.
Since the band's formation in 2007, Paper Bird has been playing its joyful blend of indie folk, blue-eyed soul, and rock to delighted audiences nationwide. The current lineup includes Mark Anderson (drums), Sarah Anderson (vocals, trumpet), Carleigh Aikens (vocals), Paul DeHaven (guitar), Genevieve Patterson (vocals, keys), and Caleb Summeril (bass, guitar, banjo). Everyone writes for the group, and there is no leader. Paper Bird’s live performances showcase the group’s diversity and good-time vibe. Their rare and beautiful approach to music has led them to be featured on NPR's All Things Considered, in a New York Times story about up and coming Denver bands, and most recently listed in Paste Magazine's Top 10 Colorado Bands to Watch.
Growing gently from the haunting landscapes and enchanting seas of the islands, Richard Macintyre slowly emerged from the darkness of winter on the Isle of Skye. Beginning alone, recording through the night in a cupboard full of old coats, as the snow melted, Siiga remained, its roots bursting into life through his captivating, atmosphere song-writing, delicate artwork and transcendental videos.
Innovatively crafted piece by piece, song by song over the seasons of the year, each step intimately documented through an engaging and personal online diary, his only communication to the outside world from the remote Scottish Herbrides. Joined in time by fellow West-Coaster and musician Seamus O'Donnell, whose natural melody soon found its way flowing through the rich harmony of Siiga, they found a new home together breathing life into each song in the shimmering analogue studio of friend, engineer and musician Iain Hutchinson.
From his painstakingly handmade, ethereal silhouette animation "Hollow Bones", through dreamy home-made reels of sailing trips amongst layers of weaving porpoises, beyond vignettes of hazy forest woodlands, Macintyre's transportive world of Siiga comes to life through - The Sea and The Mirror.
Over the course of his 20-year career, drummer Stanton Moore has become known as one of the premier funk musicians of his generation. On his latest album, Conversations, he moves in a slightly different direction, returning to his roots while reinventing his trademark sound. The result is a lively and combustible jazz piano trio outing that reveals unexpected new dimensions to Moore's always-engaging virtuosity.
Anyone who's ever heard the interplay between the drummer and his band-mates in the Stanton Moore Trio, Galactic, Garage a Trois or Dragon Smoke is no doubt aware of his intense improvisational chops. But with Conversations, Moore unveils his profound sense of swing and the fluency of his jazz vocabulary in its purest form for the first time. "I've played a lot of jazz in New Orleans through the years, but it's not something that the general public has ever seen me do or is even aware of," Moore says.
Having delved deep into the styles of pioneering drummers like Jabo Starks, Clyde Stubblefield, and Zigaboo Modeliste for his multimedia 2010 project Groove Alchemy, Moore decided to explore his straight-ahead jazz influences with a similar focus. "Jazz has been part of my development and a deep love of mine for a long time. Everything I do funk and groove-wise is informed by what I've learned playing and studying jazz. I had put myself through what was basically a doctoral program on funk drumming, and I wanted to do the same thing with my jazz playing."
Moore sent himself back to the jazz woodshed, taking lessons with veteran drummer Kenny Washington and spending time with Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra co-leader Jeff Hamilton, Moore's partner in the Crescent Cymbal Company. He refined his brush playing by studying the work of Philly Joe Jones—evidenced by his brushwork on "Tchefunkta," a slinkier transformation of the tune that opens his 1998 solo debut, All Kooked Out!
The New Orleans native called on a pair of veterans from that city's vibrant, deeply rooted jazz scene to form his new trio. Pianist David Torkanowksy and bassist James Singleton have both played with saxophonist Tony Dagradi's long-running band Astral Project alongside Moore's mentor, drummer Johnny Vidacovich. Singleton has also worked with the likes of James Booker, Professor Longhair, Aaron Neville, Joe Henderson, Milt Jackson, Harry Connick Jr. and Lightnin' Hopkins. Torkanowsky's credits include work with The Meters, Maceo Parker, Dianne Reeves, Dr. John, Boz Scaggs, George Duke, Kirk Whalum, James Moody and Chuck Berry.
Moore chose Torkanowsky and Singleton for their unparalleled musicianship, versatility, compatibility, and long history together. What he realized only after the fact is that his newly-assembled trio was already a Grammy Award-winning group: they had worked together as the rhythm section for Irma Thomas' After the Rain, which was named the Best Contemporary Blues Album of 2007. "I always love playing with Stanton," Singleton says, "and when he got me back together with Tork it became pure inspiration. We all share such deep bonds within very specific musical languages, and the energy keeps growing."
The connection shared by the three New Orleanians, Moore says, "brings a deep sense of groove and pocket and a whole batch of ideas and cultural influences that I can reference and these guys know exactly what I'm talking about. There's the Mardi Gras Indian thing, the brass band thing, the James Black thing. It's hard to find a group of guys who are not only aware of all those influences, but are equally happy playing in any of those genres."
The NOLA bond becomes even stronger through Moore's choice of material. All but one of the album's eleven tracks were written by a New Orleans composer, including the legendary drummer James Black, Tony Dagradi, Steve Masakowski, Evan Christopher, and all three members of the trio. The sole exception is Herbie Hancock, whose "Driftin'" is given a stride piano intro by Torkanowsky that makes it feel right at home in this company.
"Some of these tunes are New Orleans standards or tunes that David and Jim have played a lot together over the years. I wanted to create an outlet for the jazz side of my playing, but I didn't want to do jazz standards that everyone else has done. So we developed a repertoire of tunes that were more in our wheelhouse."
That material was honed over more than a year and a half of Tuesday-night performances at Snug Harbor, the renowned New Orleans’ jazz venue on Frenchman Street. The deep chemistry forged over the course of that residency is in ample evidence throughout the aptly-named Conversations, from the graceful but roiling opener "Lauren Z" to the wistful ballad "Waltz for All Souls," from the Bill Evans-inspired elegance of Steve Masakowski's "The Chase" to the deceptively complex celebration of the New Orleans standard "Paul Barbarin's Second Line."
"Improvised music should be conversational," Moore says. "If one guy's holding the floor, you don't want to start speaking over him; you want to listen, you want to interject, you might want to convey another idea related to what he's saying, but the same rules for good conversation apply to making good music. The music on this album is conversational, and all the tunes are coming from friends who we've had musical conversations with over the years."
Ume is a band that shatters expectations – balancing elegance and brutality, strength and fragility, ferocious metal and sweet melody. These forces resound through the Austin trio’s new album, Monuments, a collection of songs that reimagines heavy music and is as beautiful as it is massive. When the musicians began writing for the album, after touring over 200 dates in support of their acclaimed debut Phantoms, the emphasis was on translating the impassioned force of Ume’s momentous live show onto a recording.
Recorded with Grammy-winning producer Adam Kasper (Queens of the Stone Age, Cat Power, Foo Fighters, Nirvana) at Robert Lang Studios and Studio X in Seattle, WA, Monuments is Ume’s most colossal sounding recording yet. From the first blast of the opening track “Black Stone,” there is no doubt this is a record driven by one of today’s most ascendant shredders, and one that is also not afraid to subvert rock conventions. Cohesive but unorthodox, the album brings together the propulsive, surging rock of songs like “Too Big World” and “Chase It Down” with the raw, acoustic introspection of “Barophobia.” At the record’s emotional epicenter is “Gleam,” a dedication to Esme Barrera, one of Lauren’s fellow Girl’s Rock Camp volunteers who was murdered during the writing of the record.
Lauren and Eric began making music together after meeting at a skatepark in highschool. Shortly after forming Ume, Lauren moved on to attend graduate school in philosophy, but eventually traded in the PhD pursuit to follow her guitar heroine dreams. Driven by a desire to share how they felt as kids the first time they saw Fugazi, Lauren and Eric have logged tens of thousands of miles together on the road, moving from basements and dive bars to major festivals like Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, Paris’ Rock En Seine, and London’s British Summer Time Fest.
The band has shared the stage with Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins, Warpaint, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Franz Ferdinand, Helmet, Wu-Tang, and Foals, and were personally called by Perry Farrell to open for Jane’s Addiction at their Lollapalooza afterparty. In May 2014, Lauren was invited by rock legend Nancy Wilson of Heart to perform alongside her at an acoustic benefit show in San Francisco featuring James Hetfield, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Sammy Hagar. Ume also appeared on the 2012 Season Premiere of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, who celebrated the band as “a shitload of rawk in a tiny little room” before taking them to dinner during SXSW. The band’s name – pronounced “ooo-may” – was taken from a Japanese plum blossom that they later learned symbolizes perseverance and devotion, a moniker that aptly reflects the musicians’ tenacity and passion.
When he debuted in 2002 with the album To Let, Xavier Rudd began a journey that would see him become one of the most iconic voices in Australian music, literally and figuratively. With each new album, this journey has wound like a river making its way toward the ocean - twisting and turning, flowing and cascading as it relentlessly pushes forward.
Introducing himself as an artist of both imagination and conscience, To Let was definitive of Rudd’s ability to marry uplifting music with thought-provoking themes and concepts. It was music that, one way or another, made you feel good. With an array of guitars, didgeridoos, stomp boxes and percussion, Xavier Rudd re-introduced a lot of Australians to the sounds and stories of the land’s original owners, while introducing the rest of the world to an entirely new sound altogether.
Solace, Rudd’s sophomore album of 2004, showcased the raw power of his songs by stripping them back to bare essentials. Recorded in Vancouver with friend and producer Todd Simko, Solace – far more than just a singer-songwriter album – captured the essence of Xavier Rudd’s one-man-band dexterity. Rudd’s spirituality permeated the songs on Solace with a masterfully emotional touch. Singles Let Me Be and Shelter captured a sentimental heart in wonderfully warm songs that resonated strongly with fans - the album debuting in the top 20 of the ARIA charts and having three of its songs voted into triple j’s annual Hottest 100.
The next evolutionary step forward came a year later with the ARIA-nominated album, Food In The Belly. Once again recording in Vancouver, Rudd found a perfect middle-ground between the first two albums, but also introduced a more haunting and mournful sound to his repertoire. His ability to weave genres together had strengthened to the point where a once-undefined mixture of blues, reggae, indigenous and folk music was now simply his trademark.
The further into the world he travelled, the more Xavier Rudd’s music became refined and seasoned with new influences. People were connecting strongly with what Xavier had to say, and what those words meant. Better People, the first single from the 2007 ARIA-nominated album White Moth, saw Xavier examine his position in this connectivity, singing ‘and what I have could be a message / or just some words from my heart’... a recurring theme in Xavier’s philosophies. Musically, however, it would be White Moth’s edgier songs like Stargaze that would be the shape of things to come.
Released in 2008, and stunning fans with the heaviest musical departure of his career; Dark Shades Of Blue was unlike any previous Xavier Rudd album. Gritty, dark and incredibly dynamic, the album redefined Rudd as a lapsteel player and lyricist alike. While still deeply spiritual in his songwriting, Rudd presented a more introspective side on Dark Shades Of Blue that deeply connected with fans.
Returning to lighter shades for sixth album Koonyum Sun, by 2010 Xavier’s music had, in a sense, come full-circle. Recorded as Xavier Rudd And Izintaba; Koonyum Sun featured a newfound collaboration with bassist Tio Moloantoa and percussionist Andile Nqubezelo, and saw Rudd return to his blues and roots foundations. Themes of love, respect and peace – a fixture throughout all of Rudd’s work – were once again at the fore of his expression.
And so the journey continues....
Encompassing all of his musical and spiritual gifts; 2012’s Spirit Bird is Xavier Rudd at his best.
A #2 ARIA chart debut, ARIA accredited GOLD selling record (35,000+ sales) which also spawned the GOLD selling hit Follow The Sun and radio favourites Bow Down and title track Spirit Bird,has made this endeavour Xavier’s most ground-breaking and successful.
Shaped by his history but continuing to break new ground, Xavier Rudd is at his most creative on Spirit Bird – once again painting breathtaking pictures with vivid, unmistakable tones. Hypnotic ceremonial rhythms ease effortlessly into tender folk songs. Gritty guitar blues sits perfectly alongside entrancing yidaki passages. Rudd’s voice, and the voice of his ancestors, yet again bearing truth and knowledge.
At times Spirit Bird recalls the simplicity of Solace, and at others the electricity of Dark Shades Of Blue. There is the youthfulness of To Let, but the wisdom of Koonyum Sun. It is Xavier Rudd by every measure.
And whether it is a message, or just some words from the heart; Spirit Bird is a defining moment in the evolution of one of Australia’s most important artists. The moment where the river meets the ocean.
By age 21, Denver native Zach Heckendorf signed his first record deal, released his first album, played Colorado’s legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre and shared stages with Rodrigo y Gabriela, John Butler Trio, Brett Dennen, The Lumineers, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Guster, and One Republic. That was then.
Heckendorf has spent the past three years patiently honing his craft, combining songwriting and rapid-fire guitar picking with his deep passion for infectious hip-hop beats.
The new album was funded entirely via Kickstarter by Heckendorf’s devoted fan base. The new songs take inspiration from his childhood influences, like Jack Johnson, Ray Charles and Aesop Rock, while incorporating ideas from deep album cuts by artists like Drake, Chance The Rapper and Frank Ocean, among others.
Heckendorf’s ability to captivate a crowd, spit rhymes, lead a mountain-influenced groove, or raise a ruckus with his full band demonstrates his dynamic range and already well-seasoned stagecraft.
Heckendorf is currently performing around the country behind the release of his new full-length album, Speed Checked By Aircraft.
This is now.