Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats practically explodes with deep, primal and ecstatic soulfulness. This stunning work isn’t just soul stirring, it’s also soul baring, and the combination is absolutely devastating to behold. You don’t just listen to this record—you experience it. So it’s entirely fitting that the self-titled album will bear the iconic logo of Stax Records, because at certain moments Rateliff seems to be channeling soul greats like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. But as this gifted multi-instrumentalist honors the legacy of the legendary Memphis label, he’s also setting out into audacious new territory.
Those who were beguiled by In Memory of Loss, Rateliff’s folky, bittersweet 2010 Rounder album, will be in for an initial shock when they spin Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. But when you delve beneath the rawboned surface of the new album’s wall-rattling presentation, with its deep-gut grooves, snaky guitars, churning Hammond and irresistible horns, you’ll find that same sensitive, introspective dude, who bravely tells it like it is, breaking through his reticence to expose often harsh truths about the life he’s lived, the people he’s hurt and the despair he’s struggled with. The difference between the two albums is that the Nights Sweats’ funkiness insulates the starkly confessional nature of Rateliff’s songs while at the same time underscoring their emotional extremes.
The place where Rateliff is coming from is intensely real and intimate. Doing what he does is an act of bravery. “These songs are about the struggles I’ve had in my life—drinking too much, that kind of crap,” he says with characteristic candor, punctuating the admission with a rueful laugh. “And then the relationships we all have. I’m not a great communicator in my personal life, so it’s funny to be writing songs that say the things that I’m never very good at saying. It’s taken me a long time to figure that out. I’m trying to be a better communicator, but it’s horribly awkward—it’s awful—to tell somebody something you know is gonna hurt their feelings. I’ve always been one to go, oh, I’ll just eat this one; it’ll be okay.”
As the band blazes away on the soul-rock rave-up “I Need Never Get Old,” the visceral “Howling at Nothing” and the supercharged “Trying So Hard Not to Know” (key line: “Who gives a damn and very few can”), which open the album with a sustained outpouring of torrid intensity, Rateliff is opening himself up emotionally as well as physically, the raw grit in his voice conveying anguish and hope in equal measure. The buoyant immediacy of the music makes the hard truths embedded in the songs easier to swallow than it would be in Rateliff’s other primary mode—a solitary guy with a guitar, the brim of his baseball cap pulled down, putting his heart and guts on the line without the protection of his simpatico cohorts. Make no mistake, these songs would stop you in their tracks presented in that naked way as well, but the additional layers of soulfulness provided by the Night Sweats—its core comprising guitarist Joseph Pope III, drummer Patrick Meese and keyboardist Mark Shusterman—bring a convergence of intensities, musical and psychological, to the performances.
“S.O.B.” sits at the dead center of the album, between the brutally honest confessionals “I’ve Been Failing” and “Wasted Time.” Thematically, the song is the album’s linchpin—partly a rebuke, partly a cry of defiance, “S.O.B” is the “fuck it all” anthem of a blue-collar kid from the Heartland whose conditioned idea of therapy is a shot and a beer chaser, and then another round, on the way to sweet oblivion. In live performance, Rateliff and the Sweats have been known to mash together “S.O.B.” and The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” as the double-barreled climax of their sets (you can find it on YouTube), the frontman high-stepping and boogalooing across the stage with controlled abandon, bearing a striking resemblance in his physicality to the young Van Morrison. These moments of revelry are also revelatory, singling out two of Rateliff’s biggest influences. Indeed, he hears distinct evocations of The Band on his new album, and he was listening to “TB Sheets” and the rest of Morrison’s The Bang Masters as he was writing it.
From there Rateliff contemplates some of the sustaining aspects of existence, from redemption by way of the forgiving love of another in “Thank You,” “Look It Here” and “I’d Be Waiting” to sexual heat in the N’awlins-style strutter “Shake.” The album ends on a hopeful note with the relatively laidback “Mellow Out,” which could certainly be heard as Rateliff admonishing himself to do just that. “Originally, I had it ending with a song called ‘How to Make Friends,’” he says. “The chorus is ‘When everybody knows you, nobody’s gonna want you.’” Another laugh follows, this one self-mocking. “But I replaced it with ‘Mellow Out,’ which is more of a release rather than a total bummer.”
When it came time to pick a producer, Rateliff went with Richard Swift, a polymath who has made records under his own name, helmed projects for Damien Jurado, the Mynabirds and others, and has played with The Black Keys and the Shins. Swift’s specialty is summoning (and capturing) inspired performances in the moment, and the synergy in the studio, first with Rateliff and then with his band, was instant and palpable. Rateliff and the Sweats already had the arrangements of the new songs down cold, having shaped them on the road. Swift, knowing a good thing when he heard it, set the mics, honed the sound, giving it plenty of space so that the studio itself served as an integral sonic component. Then he pressed “record” and coaxed it into happening organically. “Richard has such great ears, and he really knows how to play to the room,” Rateliff notes. “We have similar theories of recording: basically, you just need to play it right.”
Rateliff, who’s 36, traveled a long road to get to this point. He left school after his dad passed away at the end of 7th grade, left his home in the small town of Herman, Missouri, where his future would’ve likely involved endless shifts in a nearby plastic factory; and worked as a janitor for a high school. Not long afterward, he followed some local missionaries to Denver, thereby escaping what he describes as “the Midwestern lifestyle of working and growing up too fast.” He soon outgrew his childhood understanding of religion, realizing that “there are so many books out there besides that one,” as his worldview expanded exponentially. Rateliff spent the next 10 years on the loading dock of a trucking company before becoming a gardener and getting married along the way. But as the years passed, he became increasingly focused on writing songs and performing them at any watering hole that would have him, in time becoming part of the city’s burgeoning folk scene. “I got kind of a late start making music,” he says, “but eventually I went out on the road,” first with Born in the Flood, which he’d formed with Pope, and then The Wheel, the forerunner of the Night Sweats. By then, he’d overcome his longstanding discomfort at playing his songs in public.
“Writing at home is one of my favorite things to do,” says this constitutionally solitary man. “But for years touring was really hard for me—being alone, being married and having my relationship run through the mire, because a lot of my songs are about that. Sometimes it sucks to sing those songs and have to relive those situations. It leaves you pretty exposed, and your partner too; it can be unfair. But now I love being on stage and cracking jokes, trying not to take myself too seriously, even if the material is about failed relationships and alcoholism, that kind of stuff”—there’s that rueful laugh again.
“I try to be lighthearted,” Rateliff continues, “because, although the songs are heavy, I want it to be a release for people. I’m trying to do something that’s emotionally charged and heartfelt, and I want the experience to be joyous, for people to feel excited and dance around instead of being super-bummed by reality—I mean, things are hard. But I can remember dancing around to some song that was breakin’ my heart, dancin’ with tears in my eyes. I love that feeling, and I wanna share it with people, and hopefully they’ll feel it too.”
There is nothing quite like a Dinosaur Jr. album. The best ones are always
recognizable from the first notes. And even though J tries to trip us up by smearing “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know” with keyboards, it’s clear from the moment he starts his vocals that this is the one and only Dinosaur Jr., long reigning kings of Amherst, Massachusetts (and anywhere else they choose to hang their toques).
I Bet on Sky is the third Dinosaur Jr. album since the original trio – J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph – reformed in 2005. And, crazily, it marks the band’s 10th studio album since their debut on Homestead Records in 1985. Back in the ‘80s, if anyone has suggested that these guys would be performing and recording at such a high level 27 years later, they would have been laughed out of the tree fort. The trio’s early shows were so full of sonic chaos, such a weird blend of aggression and catatonia that we all assumed they would flame out fast. But the joke was on us.
The trio has taken everything they’ve learned from the various projects they
tackled over the years, and poured it directly into their current mix. J’s guitar approaches some of its most unhinged playing here, but there’s a sense of instrumental control that matches the sweet murk of his vocals (not that he always remembers to exercise control on stage, but that’s another milieu). This is headbobbing riff-romance at the apex. Lou’s basswork shows a lot more melodicism now as well, although his two songs on I Bet on Sky retain the jagged rhythmic edge that has so often marked his work. And Murph…well, he still pounds the drums as hard and as strong as a pro wrestler, with deceptively simple structures that manage to
interweave themselves perfectly with his bandmates’ melodic explosions.
After submerging myself in I Bet on Sky, it’s clear that the album is a true and worthy addition to the Dinosaur Jr. discography. It hews close enough to rock formalism to please the squares. Yet it is brilliantly imprinted with the trio’s magical equation, which is a gift to the rest of us. For a combo that began as anomalous fusion of hardcore punk and pop influences, Dinosaur Jr. have proven themselves to be unlikely masters of the long game. Their new album is a triumph of both form and function. And it augurs well for their future trajectory. If I were prone to wagering,
I’d say their best days are yet ahead of them. And yeah. I would bet the sky on it.
Founded in Colorado in 1986, Big Head Todd and the Monsters (BHTM) catapulted out of the mountain states and into the national spotlight. With chart-topping singles and engaging live shows, BHTM has sold over three million albums and packed major venues worldwide, including selling out their home state's historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre seven times, most recently in 2012. Most importantly, they've done it the old-fashioned way: with excellent songwriting, scorching guitar and fearless genre melding.
The band's last release was 2011's 100 Years Of Robert Johnson. Joined by special guests including B.B. King, Charlie Musselwhite, Hubert Sumlin, David "Honeyboy" Edwards and more, BHTM paid tribute to the blues legend both in the studio and on the road. The band recently recorded a new studio album in Chicago, set for release in 2014, with producer Steve Jordan (Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens) and engineer Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Warren Zevon).
On 2012's "Last Summer on Earth Tour," BHTM played some of the nation's biggest arenas alongside Barenaked Ladies and Blues Traveler. In August 2012, the band presented its inaugural Ride Festival in Telluride, CO. The lineup included Ben Harper, Lucinda Williams and The Lumineers, among others. At the 2nd Annual Ride Festival in July 2013, the lineup featured David Byrne and St. Vincent, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Cake and more.
BHTM are giving their fans exactly what they want in 2013: cross-country stops at intimate theaters, and two full sets every night. This summer BHTM is headlining the inaugural LP Tour which recently included a show at the baseball stadium Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. The longevity of BHTM's career is a testament to the quality of the music. More than a quarter of a century later, fans are still convinced that the best is yet to come.
The Things That We Are Made Of, the new full-length album by renowned and beloved singer, songwriter and performer Mary Chapin Carpenter, will be released May 6 on Lambent Light Records via Thirty Tigers (pre-order). Produced by 2016 Producer of the Year Grammy-nominee Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton), the album features eleven new songs, including the lead track “Something Tamed Something Wild,” which premiered yesterday at Rolling Stone and can now be heard/shared via Soundcloud. Of the song, Rolling Stone praises, “...beautifully sums up where she’s been and sets the stage for what’s yet to come…’Something Tamed Something Wild’ and indeed the entire new album finds the songwriter at her most thoughtful and also at times sweetly whimsical, perfectly capturing the buoyant spirit of her early successes and also serving as a reminder that she remains one of the most grounded, sentient songwriters of her generation.”
In celebration of the release, Carpenter will return to D.C.’s legendary Wolf Trap for a special performance on July 2. Tickets will go on-sale on Saturday, March 19. Additional tour dates to be announced shortly.
The Things That We Are Made Of was recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium and Low Country Sound studios during the spring and summer of 2016. In addition to Carpenter (vocals, electric/acoustic guitar), the album features Cobb (electric/acoustic/gut string guitar, percussion, Moog, Mellotron), Annie Clements (bass), Brian Allen (bass), Chris Powell (drums, percussion), Mike Webb (piano, B3 organ, reed organ, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes) and Jimmy Wallace (piano, B3 organ).
Of the album, Carpenter comments, “Working with Dave felt great from the first day of our sessions. He is always willing to try something new, believes that ‘yes’ is the only answer, and surrounds himself with wonderfully talented and generous musicians; by the end of the project, I felt as if I was a part of a new family.”
Cobb adds, “I wanted to work with Mary Chapin because very few people can cut with words like she can. She’s an absolute poet and legend. I was so happy to collaborate on this album together.”
Over the course of her acclaimed career, Carpenter has recorded 14 albums and sold over 14 million records. With hits like ”Passionate Kisses” and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” she has won five Grammy Awards (with 15 nominations), two CMA awards, two Academy of Country Music awards for her vocals and is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Most recently, in 2014, Carpenter released her acclaimed debut orchestral album, Songs From The Movie. Arranged and co-produced by six-time Grammy winner Vince Mendoza, the record is comprised of ten previously recorded compositions including “Between Here and Gone” and “Come On Come On.” Since it’s release, Carpenter has performed alongside the New York Philharmonic, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the London Concert Orchestra, the L.A. Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra among many others.
One of the world’s best-known and best-loved performers, John Denver earned international acclaim as a songwriter, performer, actor, environmentalist and humanitarian. Denver’s career spanned four decades and his music has outlasted countless musical trends and garnered numerous awards and honors.
The son of a U.S. Air Force officer, Denver’s artistic journey began at age eleven when he was given his grandmother’s guitar. Denver eventually took guitar lessons and joined a boys’ choir, which led him at age twenty to pursue his dream of a career in music.
In 1963 he struck out on his own, moving to Los Angeles to be in the heart of the burgeoning music scene. It was during this time that Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. was urged by friends to change his name if a recording career was to be in his future. He took his stage name from the beautiful capital city of his favorite state, Colorado. Later in life, Denver and his family settled in Aspen, Colorado and his love for the Rocky Mountains inspired many of his songs.
John Denver experienced his first major break in the music industry when he was chosen from 250 other hopefuls as lead singer for the popular Mitchell Trio. Two years and three albums later, Denver had honed his considerable vocal talent and developed his own songwriting style. He gained recognition when his song “Leaving On A Jet Plane” was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, becoming their first and only number one hit. As the Mitchell Trio disbanded, Denver was climbing up the pop charts as a solo act with songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again,” “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” and “Calypso,” solidifying his position as one of the top stars of the 1970s.
By his third album in 1970, Denver’s social and political leanings were defined more clearly. Denver was one of the first artists to share an environmental message through his music, beginning with the song “Whose Garden Was This?” This was the first in a long line of songs that he wrote about the environment.
Denver contributed his talents to the benefit of many charitable and environmental causes and received numerous civic and humanitarian awards over the years. Fans responded to his heartfelt urgings about ecology, peace, and compassion that were consistently delivered in a gentle manner on his records and at live performances.
His passion to help create a global community paved the way for ventures into new musical and geographic territories. In 1985 he was invited by the Soviet Union of Composers to perform in the USSR, inspiring the internationally acclaimed song “Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For?).” The powerful video for “Let Us Begin” moved viewers around the world.
“I thought that I might be able to do something to further the cause of East/West understanding… The Russians say that the first swallow of spring won’t make the weather for the whole season, but it can mark the turn toward a warmer climate. I tried to be that swallow.”
The success of his visit lead to a concert tour of the USSR in 1986. These were the first performances by an American artist since the Cold War began – an unprecedented cultural exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. He returned to the USSR in 1987 to do a benefit concert for the victims of Chernobyl.
Denver was also the first artist from the West to do a multi-city tour of mainland China, in October 1992. He was somewhat astonished to discover how popular and well known his songs were in China. “‘Country Roads,’” he was told, “is the most famous song written in the West.”
Denver was a true adventurer, exploring all that the world had to offer. Throughout his life’s journey he challenged himself on every level, which is an integral part of what made him an extraordinary man, an uncommon friend and a rare human being.
While the frontiers of the American West satisfied his spirit, less-traveled frontiers appealed to his imagination. Denver was an experienced airplane pilot and collected vintage biplanes. His interest in outer space was so great that he took and passed NASA’s examination to determine mental and physical fitness needed for space travel. He then became a leading candidate to be the “first civilian in space” on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Denver planned to write a song in space, but circumstances kept him from joining the ill-fated expedition, which saddened the world when it exploded during take-off in 1986.
Among his many gifts, Denver was also a talented photographer. He photographed images of the people and places he experienced in his travels and showed his work professionally, often in connection with speeches made at colleges and universities as well as government and business facilities across the country.
Many of Denver’s songs reflected his relationship with nature and indeed, one of his greatest pleasures was spending time outdoors. He spent as much time as possible backpacking, hiking, climbing and fishing. He was an avid golfer and skier, regularly participating in celebrity charity events for both sports.
John Denver died tragically in a plane crash on October 12, 1997. He was survived by his brother Ron, mother Erma and three children, Zak, Anna Kate and Jesse Belle.
On March 12, 2007, Colorado’s Senate passed a resolution to make Denver’s trademark 1972 hit “Rocky Mountain High” one of the state’s two official state songs, sharing duties with its predecessor, “Where the Columbines Grow.”
Today, millions of fans old and new enjoy the work of this extraordinary performer. Thirty albums and four decades after he began, John Denver’s music is as relevant as ever. His humanitarian work continues to strengthen our global village, and his dynamic celebration of life, spirit and nature is a powerful inspiration to us all.
Since releasing their debut album Oh, What a Life in 2014, New York-based pop-rock outfit American Authors have experienced milestones most bands only dream about. They’ve watched their music climb to the top of the charts, and seen singles go multi-platinum. They’ve played awards shows, hit the stages of legendary venues all over the world, and toured with One Republic. They’ve heard their anthemic hit single “Best Day of My Life” in movie trailers, on TV shows, and as a theme song for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite these accolades, however, lead singer Zac Barnett asserts that the best day of their lives is still yet to come. “We just want to keep going,” he says. “We can’t wait to continue this adventure.”
Adventure is an understatement. After meeting at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Barnett and bandmates guitarist James Adam Shelley, bassist Dave Rublin and drummer Matt Sanchez began to develop an entirely unique, collaborative sound; one that radiates style, without sacrificing substance. This eclectic brand of energetic pop rock attracted iconic label Island Records, to which the band is now signed. “Signing with Island was so exciting,” remembers Barnett. “We literally signed the papers and then hit the road on our first legit tour.”
Regardless of time constraints, it’s clear that American Authors take their name seriously – their tracks are infused with tribal rhythms, country twang, Latin riffs and EDM-style drops, making their music as diverse as the city they live in. “New York opened us up to this whole new world and community of musicians,” says Barnett of the band’s adopted home. But worldliness doesn’t take away from the relatable nature of their authorship. They create fun and truthful pop rock, drawing on personal experience for inspiration. “Our songs are about daily life. We’re constantly learning and failing and succeeding and that’s what influences us more than anything.” They’re not afraid to take risks, a trait that’s only intensified since the release of Oh, What a Life. In fact, says Barnett, their new songs take elements from their beloved sound to the next level: “We’re pushing everything. Bigger harmonies, bigger melodies – it’s American Authors 2.0.”
This transition is exemplified in “What We Live For,” a song about moving forward and dreaming big. It’s fitting as the title track of the upcoming album - it’s hopeful and upbeat, utilizing road trip imagery the band has become so familiar with to call for artistic exploration. “The first album is all about reflection and the memories that led us to becoming American Authors,” says Barnett. “What We Live For is about the adventures we’re having and where we want to go.” “Right Here Right Now” echoes this sentiment, employing an infectious backbeat handclap, choral vocals and catchy lyrics that illustrate the carefree excitement of being in love. “We can have all these goals,” he notes of the song’s meaning, “but if you’re not doing the things you love with the people you love, they don’t matter.”
It’s entirely apparent that this statement represents the ethos behind American Authors. Their songwriting process is uniquely collaborative, with band members able and willing to play every instrument. Each song, including first single “Pride,” is the result of a dynamic mix of experimentation and experience. The track features tribal vocals, unique percussive sounds and banjo to underscore its emotional, but uplifting message. “We’re always open and excited to try new things and new sounds,” says Barnett. “That’s what sets us apart.”
Transparent lyricism and a sense of genuine enthusiasm have set American Authors even further apart, rendering them one of the most exciting bands of the last few years. They’re humble and earnest, eager to continue their adventure by writing, playing and traveling to new places. More than anything, though, the band is excited to continue connecting with fans. “Our music is our hearts and our souls and our entire lives,” says Barnett. “We hope that people can put their own stories into it and find a sense of unity with the music, but also with important moments in our lives. That’s what we really live for.”
North Mississippi Allstars formed in 1996; the product of a special time for modern Mississippi hill country blues. Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson soaked up the music of their father, Memphis legend Jim Dickinson, and absorbed the North Mississippi legacy while playing and shaking it down in the juke joints with their blues ancestors. R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Otha Turner and their musical families were at their peak, making classic records and touring the world. Eventually, Luther (guitar, vocals) and Cody (drums, vocals) formed the North Mississippi Allstars and pioneered their own brand of blues-infused rock and roll.
The North Mississippi Allstars released their debut album, Shake Hands With Shorty, in the spring of 2000. Their debut proved to be a success and earned them a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Contemporary Blues Album’. After earning 2 more Grammy nominations in the same category for 51 Phantom (2001) and Electric Blue Watermelon (2005), the North Mississippi Allstars earned the reputation as one of the most intriguing acts to emerge from the loam of Southern blues and roots rock.
In 2008, after five studio albums and more than a decade touring together, the Dickinsons decided to branch out and pursue other projects. In 2009 Luther teamed up with Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus to form the South Memphis String Band. The trio has toured across the country and released two albums since then. In 2012, Luther formed The Wandering, a five-piece folk band featuring Shannon McNally, Amy LaVere, Valerie June and Sharde Thomas (Otha Turner’s granddaughter), and released their debut record Go On Now, You Can’t Stay Here. He also recorded and released a solo acoustic album, Hambone’s Meditations, which received a 2013 Grammy nomination for ‘Best Folk Album’.
Meanwhile, Cody broadened the scope of his musical career and became what one might call an artistic entrepreneur in the fields of music, film and TV. Cody has contributed to several major motion picture soundtracks, including Barnyard, Snoop’s Hood of Horror, and Black Snake Moan. He had a recurring role on MTV’s $5 Dollar Cover series and appears in G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation. As a producer Cody has worked with a wide range of musicians including Lucero, Cisco Adler, and Les Claypool. He also produced British blues guitarist Ian Siegal’s last 2 albums, The Skinny (2011) and Candystore Kid (2012), both of which were nominated for ‘Best Contemporary Blues Album’ at the annual Blues Music Awards. Despite all his work as a producer, Cody continues to be one of the industry’s premier drummers, demonstrated by his 2013 Blues Music Awards nomination in the ‘Best Instrumentalist/Drums’ category.
The brothers reunited in 2010 to record Keys to the Kingdom after the passing of their father. Jim had always told them, “You need to be playing music together. You are better together than you will ever be apart.” Inspired by his words, Luther and Cody went into the family’s home recording studio Zebra Ranch, to create a record that could help them cope with the loss and rejoice in his honor.
Most recently, Luther and Cody have toured extensively with Robert Plant & The Band of Joy, headlined major festivals and toured internationally as a headliner and with Ian Siegal as part of The Mississippi Mudbloods. They also released two live bootleg records, 2011’s Live in the Hills and 2012’s Live in the Hills Volume II, both recorded at the annual North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic in Potts Camp, MS.
The North Mississippi Allstars are at times joined by Lightnin' Malcolm, Alvin Youngblood Hart, the legendary Chris Chew, and a host of other talented musicians.
Luther and Cody continually expand the tradition of the Mississippi hill country blues that has inspired them from the beginning, but as Rolling Stone aptly notes, “the Allstars may be children of tradition, but they’re digging deep in undiscovered country”.
In 2013 the North Mississippi Allstars released their new career-defining record World Boogie Is Coming. The album marked a return to the band’s blues-infused rock & roll roots and pays homage to hill country legends and songwriters like RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. Produced at their own Zebra Ranch Studios in Hernando, MS and featuring special guest appearances by Robert Plant, Duwayne and Garry Burnside, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharde Thomas, Chris Chew, Steve Selvidge, Lightnin’ Malcolm and others, World Boogie Is Coming is the record that perfectly ties it all together, fusing all the elements that have made the Allstars special while pushing the band’s sound further into the future than ever before.
It's incredible that Galactic has never made a carnival album yet, but now it’s here.
To make Carnivale Electricos, the members of Galactic (Ben Ellman, harps and horns; Robert Mercurio, bass; Stanton Moore, drums and percussion; Jeff Raines, guitar; Rich Vogel, keyboards) draw on the skills, stamina, and funk they deploy in the all-night party of their annual Lundi Gras show that goes till sunrise and leads sleeplessly into Mardi Gras day.
Galactic was formed eighteen years ago in New Orleans, and they cut their teeth playing the biggest party in America: Mardi Gras, when the town shuts down entirely to celebrate. Carnivale Electricos is beyond a party record. It’s a carnival record that evokes the electric atmosphere of a whole city – make that, whole cities – vibrating together all on the same day, from New Orleans all down the hemisphere to the mighty megacarnivals of Brazil. Armed with a slew of carnival-ready guests—including Cyril and Ivan Neville, Mystikal, Mannie Fresh, Moyseis Marques, Casa Samba, the KIPP Renaissance High School Marching Band, and Al "Carnival Time" Johnson (who remakes his all-time hit)—Galactic whisks the listener around the neighborhoods to feel the Mardi Gras moment in all its variety of flavors.
Carnivale Electricos begins on a spiritual note, the way Mardi Gras does in the black community of New Orleans. On that morning, the most exciting experience you can have is to be present when the small groups of black men called Mardi Gras Indians perform their sacred street theater. Nobody embodies the spiritual side of Mardi Gras better than the Indians, whose tambourines and chants provide the fundament of New Orleans carnival music. These “gangs,” as they call them, organize around and protect the figure of their chief. The album’s keynote singer, Big Chief Juan Pardo, is, says Robert Mercurio, “one of the younger Chiefs out there, and he’s become one of the best voices of the new Chiefs. Pardo grew up listening to the singing of the older generation of Big Chiefs, points out Ben Ellman, and “he’s got a little Monk [Boudreaux], a little Bo Dollis, he’s neither uptown nor downtown.”
On “Karate,” says Ellman, the band was aiming to “capture the power” of one of the fundamental musical experiences of Mardi Gras: “a marching band passing by you.” The 40-piece KIPP Renaissance High School Marching Band’s director, Lionel "karate" Williams, arranged up Galactic's demo, then the band rehearsed it until they had it all memorized. The kids poured their hearts into a solid performance, and, says Mercurio, “I think they were surprised” to hear how good they sounded on the playback.
Musical energy is everywhere at carnival time. “You hear the marching bands go by,” says Mercurio, moving us through a Mardi Gras day, “and then you hear a lot of hiphop.” There hasn’t been a Mardi Gras for twenty years that hasn’t had a banging track by beatmaker / rapper Mannie Fresh sounding wherever you go. “You can’t talk about New Orleans hip-hop without talking about Mannie Fresh,” says Ellman. His beats have powered literally tens of millions of records, and he and Galactic have been talking for years about doing something together. On “Move Fast,” he’s together with multiplatinum gravel-voiced rapper Mystikal, who is, says Ellman, “somebody we’ve wanted to collaborate with forever. It was a coup for us.”
Out in the streets of New Orleans, you might well hear a funky kind of samba, reaching southward toward the other end of the hemispheric carnival zone. There has for the last twenty-five years been a smoking Brazilian drum troupe in town: Casa Samba formed at Mardi Gras in 1986. They’re old friends of Galactic's from their early days at Frenchmen Street’s Café Brasil, and the two groups joined forces for a new version of Carlinhos Brown’s “Magalenha,” previously a hit for Sérgio Mendes.
But the Brazilian influence on Carnivale Electricos goes beyond one song. “When we started this album, we all immersed ourselves in Brazilian music and let it get into our souls,” says Mercurio. The group contributed three Brazilian-flavored instrumentals, including “JuLou,” which riffs on an old Brazilian tune, though the name refers to the brass-funk Krewe of Julu, the “walking krewe” that Galactic members participate in on Mardi Gras morning. After creating the hard-driving track that became “O Côco da Galinha,” they decided it would be right for Moyséis Márquez, from the São Paulo underground samba scene, who collaborated with them and composed the lyric.
If you were Galactic and you were making a carnival album, wouldn’t you want to play “Carnival Time,” the irrepressibly happy 1960 perennial from the legendary Cosimo Matassa studio? Nobody in New Orleans doesn’t know this song. The remake features a new performance in the unmistakable voice of the original singer, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, who’s still active around town more than fifty years after he first gained Mardi Gras immortality.
The closing instrumental, “Ash Wednesday Sunrise,” evokes the edginess of the post-party feeling. The group writes, “There is the tension you feel on that morning -- one of being worn out from all of the festivities and one of elation that you made it through another year.”
But, as New Orleanians know, there’s always another carnival to look forward to, and Galactic will be there, playing till dawn and then going to breakfast before parading.
Galactic is a collaborative band with a unique format. It’s a stable quintet that plays together with high musicianship. They’ve been together so long they’re telepathic. But though the band hasn’t had a lead singer for years, neither is it purely an instrumental group. Galactic is part of a diverse community of musicians, and in their own studio, with Mercurio and Ellman producing, they have the luxury of experimenting. So on their albums, they do something that’s unusual in rock but not so controversial an idea in, say, hiphop: they create something that’s a little like a revue, a virtual show featuring different vocalists (mostly from New Orleans) and instrumental soloists each taking their turn on stage in the Galactic sound universe.
Mostly the band creates new material in collaboration with its many guests, though they occasionally rework a classic. Despite the appearance of various platinum names on Galactic albums, they especially like to work with artists who are still underground. If you listen to Carnivale Electricos together with the two previous studio albums (Ya-Ka-May and From The Corner To The Block, you’ll hear the most complete cross-section of what’s happening in contemporary New Orleans anywhere – all of it tight and radio-ready.
Despite the electronics and studio technology, Galactic's albums are very much band records. Mercurio explained the Galactic process, which starts out with the beat: “The way we write music,” he says, “we come up with a demo, or a basic track, and then we collectively decide how we’re gonna finish it.” The result is a hard-grooving sequence of tight beats across a range of styles that glides from one surprise to the next.
What pulls all the diverse artists on Carnivale Electricos together into a coherent album is that one way or another, it’s all funk. Galactic is, always was, and always will be a funk band. Whatever genre of music anyone in New Orleans is doing, from Mardi Gras Indians to rock bands to hardcore rappers, it’s all funk at the bottom, because funk is the common musical language, the lingua franca of New Orleans music. Even zydeco can be funky -- and if you don’t believe it, check out “Voyage Ton Flag,” the album’s evocation of Cajun Mardi Gras, in which Mamou Playboy Steve Riley meets up with a sampled Clifton Chenier inside the Galactic funk machine.
Look to your left. A young couple is passionately making out. To your right, two grizzled bearded gentlemen are getting drunk and rowdy, and singing loud as hell. And don’t forget to look up, because an old punk rocker has just launched himself from the stage. Welcome, you are at a Lucero show.
Over their 16 years together, the Memphis band has built up a fanbase that’s as diverse as it is rabid. Ask 50 Lucero fans what their favorite song is and you’ll get 50 different answers. Among the band’s 100-plus songs across nine albums and multiple EPs, there’s no universal fan favorite. “Each person makes Lucero their own thing,” says frontman Ben Nichols. “Everyone identifies with us for completely different reasons. For one reason or another, Lucero becomes a very personal band.” But the one thing that seems to unify Lucero fans of all kinds is the band’s all-or-nothing live show, and Live from Atlanta, the band’s latest live record, thoroughly captures that.
Live from Atlanta is a massive, career-spanning collection of songs recorded over three nights in Atlanta’s Terminal West. It’s a four-LP greatest hits collection of 32 tunes played the way they were meant to be heard, with all the distinguishing elements you’d hear at Lucero’s live show—horns, pianos, and the trademark instrument of the band’s live sound: whiskey-fueled audience sing-alongs. “When you listen to ‘Freebird,’ you’re not listening to the studio version. You’re wanting that 17-minute crazy one. That’s the one you think to go to,” says guitarist Brian Venable. “So we’re hoping with this record, you’ll finally get a version of ‘Tears Don’t Matter Much’ that you know.”
Lucero’s entire catalog, from 2000’s The Attic Tapes to 2013’s Texas & Tennessee EP, is represented on Live from Atlanta, which clocks in at over two impressive hours. “You should’ve seen us turn that record in,” laughs Venable. “They wanted an 88-minute live record. But we were like, ‘That’s just not a live Lucero show!”
“This was a nice chance to document what we’ve been doing recently,” says Nichols. “It’s very representative of what we’ve been doing live for the last couple of years. It’s a pretty good snapshot of where the band is right now.”
The album’s extensive assortment of songs proves that Lucero is a band for everyone. Parts country and parts folk with an added heaping of punk rock, the six-piece cover the musical gamut. Even the band members have varying opinions on how to define their sound. “We’re each playing in a completely different band. We’re on stage and each playing in our own Lucero. I’m not sure that’s how it works for other bands,” laughs Nichols.
However you see Lucero, Live from Atlanta will satisfy your needs, whether you’re in the drunk couple, one of the drunk and rowdy beardos, or the stagediving punk rocker. Whether you look towards slower Lucero songs to get you through tough times like “Nights Like These” or party jams like “All Sewn Up,” Live from Atlanta has got you covered. It might even make fans out of non-believers (especially if they like whiskey). Because like bassist John C. Stubblefield always says, “Lucero loves you.”
Dismiss labels. Forget trying to fit into a scene. Be true and play your songs.
That encompasses the prevailing spirit of Let It Go, the fifth studio album from Grammy-nominated bluegrass expansionists The Infamous Stringdusters. The new effort, released April 1 on the band’s own High Country Recordings, finds the band on firm footing, at ease with an evolving sound that defies categorization. It’s acoustic music, sure, but not the kind you’ll hear from any other band. Roots can be traced but boundaries don’t exist.
The Infamous Stringdusters have proven they can both mine the past and look forward to the unknown, and their new album is a touchstone for a group of tightly bonded musicians completely comfortable with each other and their collective identity.
Perhaps the sentiment is best summarized through five joined voices in the mountaintop gospel-hued title track: “If it’s worry you’ve been feeling over things you can’t control, it’s time to let it go.”
There’s a great scene in The Last Waltz – the documentary about The Band’s final concert – where director Martin Scorsese is discussing music with drummer/singer/mandolin player Levon Helm. Helm says, “If it mixes with rhythm, and if it dances, then you’ve got a great combination of all those different kinds of music: country, bluegrass, blues music, show music…”
To which Scorsese, the inquisitive interviewer, asks, “What’s it called, then?”
“Rock & roll!”
Clearly looking for a more specific answer, but realizing that he isn’t going to get one, Marty laughs. “Rock & roll…”
Well, that’s the way it is sometimes: musicians play music, and don’t necessarily worry about where it gets filed. It’s the writers, record labels, managers, etc., who tend to fret about what “kind” of music it is.
And like The Band, the members of Railroad Earth aren’t losing sleep about what “kind” of music they play – they just play it. When they started out in 2001, they were a bunch of guys interested in playing acoustic instruments together. As Railroad Earth violin/vocalist Tim Carbone recalls, “All of us had been playing in various projects for years, and many of us had played together in different projects. But this time, we found ourselves all available at the same time.”
Songwriter/lead vocalist Todd Sheaffer continues, “When we started, we only loosely had the idea of getting together and playing some music. It started that informally; just getting together and doing some picking and playing. Over a couple of month period, we started working on some original songs, as well as playing some covers that we thought would be fun to play.” Shortly thereafter, they took five songs from their budding repertoire into a studio and knocked out a demo in just two days. Their soon-to-be manager sent that demo to a few festivals, and – to the band’s surprise – they were booked at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival before they’d even played their first gig. This prompted them to quickly go in and record five more songs; the ten combined tracks of which made up their debut album, “The Black Bear Sessions.”
That was the beginning of Railroad Earth’s journey: since those early days, they’ve gone on to release five more critically acclaimed studio albums and one hugely popular live one called, “Elko.” They’ve also amassed a huge and loyal fanbase who turn up to support them in every corner of the country, and often take advantage of the band’s liberal taping and photo policy. But Railroad Earth bristle at the notion of being lumped into any one “scene.” Not out of animosity for any other artists: it’s just that they don’t find the labels very useful. As Carbone points out, “We use unique acoustic instrumentation, but we’re definitely not a bluegrass or country band, which sometimes leaves music writers confused as to how to categorize us. We’re essentially playing rock on acoustic instruments.”
Ultimately, Railroad Earth’s music is driven by the remarkable songs of front-man, Todd Sheaffer, and is delivered with seamless arrangements and superb musicianship courtesy of all six band members. As mandolin/bouzouki player John Skehan points out, “Our M.O. has always been that we can improvise all day long, but we only do it in service to the song. There are a lot of songs that, when we play them live, we adhere to the arrangement from the record. And other songs, in the nature and the spirit of the song, everyone knows we can kind of take flight on them.” Sheaffer continues: “The songs are our focus, our focal point; it all starts right there. Anything else just comments on the songs and gives them color. Some songs are more open than others. They ‘want’ to be approached that way – where we can explore and trade musical ideas and open them up to different territories. But sometimes it is what the song is about.”
So: they can jam with the best of them and they have some bluegrass influences, but they use drums and amplifiers (somewhat taboo in the bluegrass world). What kind of music is it then? Mandolin/vocalist John Skehan offers this semi-descriptive term: “I always describe it as a string band, but an amplified string band with drums.” Tim Carbone takes a swing: “We’re a Country & Eastern band! ” Todd Sheaffer offers “A souped-up string band? I don’t know. I’m not good at this.” Or, as a great drummer/singer/mandolin player with an appreciation for Americana once said: “Rock & roll!”
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.
Alternative electro band 888 is made up of Denver music vets Danny Stillman (vox), Aaron Rothe (keys) and Danny Cooper (drums). Their self-released 2015 debut “The Decades EP” features the single “Critical Mistakes” and has quickly earned them awards and acclaim. The trio won KTCL’s 2015 “Hometown For The Holidays” competition in both fan voting and live performance categories, cementing their place in Denver’s burgeoning music scene. With mounting radio air play, unforgettable shows, and a sound all their own, 888 are poised for a massive 2016.
“Spacedust & Ocean Views”
The depth of one’s life is evident through their music. The more sorrow, laughter and adventure experienced, the more interesting curves and crevices are carved into an artist’s songs. The miles traveled leave rich lines in the verses that only time, misadventure, and hard-won wisdom can produce. Anders Osborne is a map of intensely felt, passionately engaged living, a fractured but healing topography of heartbreak and hope for fellow travelers to explore.
Osborne’s music is redolent of the blues bathed in West Coast sunshine and brotherly compassion, a torchbearer for rock ‘n’ roll with blood in it’s veins and a heart in it’s hands. His long awaited new full length, Spacedust & Ocean Views, offers up graceful songwriting and signature guitar work on one of the strongest releases in his storied career. A strong sense of place runs through the album. From an evocation of geography to a questioning of one’s place in the universe, big ideas are condensed in thoughtful, smoothly swinging ways. It’s the album his fans have been waiting for- one that only he can deliver.
“These twelve songs speak about places dear to me, places I feel something profound about, but there’s also the presence of the universe,” explains Osborne. “I think one of the main struggles we all face is the separation from unity. I want to understand how I can feel unified with the world and others, with the universe writ large. I can arrange the ideas intellectually but the feeling of longing remains. The whole thing is a mystery, sometimes a sad, baffling mystery and sometimes very enchanting, but overall I just don’t understand and want to desperately. That’s what this music is, an attempt to understand it all.”
And what an attempt it is.
Producer Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Daniel Lanois, Iggy Pop) uses Osborne’s seasoned, searching voice like a river running through the song cycle. It’s a distinctly human element that continually tenderizes the listener as his sinewy, emotionally charged guitar dances with longtime bassist Carl Dufrene, guitar foil Scott Metzger (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead), and the shared drumming of Brady Blade and Tony Leone. New Orleans percussion master Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton, and pop-jazz legend Rickie Lee Jones join Osborne for the cosmically charged album closer “From Space.” On the other hand, Spacedust’s lead single “Lafayette” is a roots-fueled rocker- a track that finds Osborne simultaneously sticking to his guns and exploring new territory as an artist.
This special collection of compositions is the culmination of years of writing and touring. “This is the last chapter before something new emerges. I’m wrapping some stuff up and figuring some fresh stuff out,” says Osborne, who’s been moving beyond his complicated past for close to a decade. “Now my life is about a human experience in a larger sense. Now, I feel I’m standing on my own two feet, trying to be a grown man doing the right thing.” In an ever changing musical landscape, Spacedust & Ocean Views firmly plants Anders Osborne as one of American music’s elite guitarists and songwriters.
Averaging 250 shows per year, 10 countries, at least 10,000 hours playing music, countless satisfied fans, and about 1 million beers kicked, the past decade has been nothing short of an odyssey for Andy Frasco & The U.N.
In 2016, this wild musical journey culminated with a three-hour headlining set in front of 15,000 people at Jazz & Blues Festival in Bamberg, Germany. The evening marked a handful of firsts. It would be the first time the band performed its entire catalog during one show, and it would be recorded for their first-ever live CD/DVD—2017’s Songs from the Road: Live in Bamberg. In many ways, Andy had been working towards this evening since he quit his record label job at 19, bought a van with his remaining Bar Mitzvah money, hit the road, and never looked back…
“I always wanted to do a live album,” he exclaims. “I didn’t want to play some cliché venue though. When I started booking shows for the band in Europe, Bamberg was actually the first place that threw us a bone. We decided to take over this town, throw a block party, showcase everything we’ve done, and see if anyone shows up. All of a sudden, the whole town is there. In this last decade, I’ve played every dive bar you can imagine. It was like we finally manifested all of the dreams I’ve had for my entire life.”
Songs from the Road captures the magic inherent in an Andy Frasco show. Throughout the set, the chemistry between the musicians and sonic unpredictability power every second. Among many standouts, the group slowed down “Main Squeeze” from 2014’s Half A Man into a sultry and seductive “Soul Version” highlighted by Andy’s bluesy delivery, hulking keys, and a virtuoso saxophone solo.
“That was the first song I ever wrote as a kid,” he recalls. “It started as a slow ballad, but we sped it up over the years for festivals. We went back to the original incarnation here.”
Elsewhere, the group locks into a show-stopping 20-minute jam during “Struggle” spiraling into drum and guitar battles. Meanwhile, “Smoking Dope n Rock n Roll” and “Stop Fucking Around” incite raucous and rowdy singalongs between crowd surfing to a barrel of wine—you have to see it to believe it. These moments hint at something much bigger for Andy though.
“It made me like I’m not just an entertainer, but I’m becoming a musician,” he admits. “To see all of these Germans who barely speak English singing my songs made me feel like I’m doing something bigger than me. I tell everyone, ‘Whatever’s going on in your life, don’t worry about it. I don’t care how broke or tired you are, let’s just come together and celebrate life.’ If we can get the audience out of their heads for two or three hours, we’ve done our job to make this world happier.”
Stirring up a simmering stew of soul, funk, rock, roots, Americana, and blues, Andy continues to musically intoxicate listeners worldwide. Releasing five independent full-length albums to date, the boys have shared the stage with everyone from Leon Russell, Dr. Dog, Joe Walsh, and Gary Clark, Jr. to Snoop Dog, Galactic, Pepper, Foreigner and more. A festival favorite, they’ve ignited Firefly, SXSW, Wakarusa, Electric Forest, Backwoods Music Festival, Phases of the Moon, and beyond. Along the way, they earned acclaim from Relix, Pollstar, Live for Live Music, SoundFuse, and others in between cracking 2 million cumulative Spotify streams.
As they begin recording album number six with producer David Schools of Widespread Panic, Songs from the Road confidently opens up the next chapter of Andy Frasco & The U.N.
“At the end of the day, I want people to know we’re a band that can entertain, but we write good songs,” he leaves off. “We have fun, but we take this super seriously. We’ve dedicated our lives to this. This is my life destiny to make everyone feel good. That’s my job on this planet for the next thirty or one-hundred years that I’m alive. It’s what I plan on doing.”
"We were toying with the idea of calling the album Our Strongest Material To Date” laughs Jeremy Schmidt. The Vancouver outfit’s keyboardist can afford to joke about what they describe as “the dog-eared ace of spades of all rock band platitudes." It was during a solo show under his Sinoia Caves alias that he performed a revelatory electronic prototype for Mothers Of The Sun. This quintessentially Black Mountain tour de force kicks off the renamed but still accurately titled IV. “It’s actually an older song which we couldn’t get quite right before,” explains Schmidt. “It has all the elements that we gravitate towards, built into one miniature epic.”
Chief among these elements is the distinctive voice and breathtaking range of Amber Webber, whether she’s powering through interstellar boogie on Florian Saucer Attack, setting the celestial tone for her beautifully orchestrated ballad Line Them All Up, or constructing the choral midsection for Space To Bakersfield, a psychedelic soul finale inspired by Funkadelic’s deathless Maggot Brain. “We'd meant to have an actual choir, but I ended up singing all the parts. It’s a choir of me! I’d never written an arrangement like that before.”
The group’s sense of rediscovery as a creative whole is tangible throughout. They were joined in the studio by spiritually attuned bassist and veteran purveyor of the riff, Arjan Miranda (formerly of S.T.R.E.E.T.S, Children, and The Family Band) whose roots, heart and soul are connected to the same soil and cement that Black Mountain were borne from. Recording was primarily done in close collaboration with Sunn O))), Wolves In The Throne Room and Marissa Nadler producer Randall Dunn, at his trusted Avast! facility in Seattle. “It’s got some grit,” enthuses guitarist and co-vocalist Stephen McBean. “And there’s a history there: Northwest punk, grunge and general weirdo outsider stuff, plus it houses the same Trident mixing board used for Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies.”
A heightened mystique and dramatic yearning can be heard on such perfectly formed earworms as Cemetery Breeding, described by drummer, engineer and occasional pianist Joshua Wells as “a dark pop song with an emotive urgency to it that taps into my teenaged eyeliner-and-trenchcoat wearing sensibilities.” Wells’ eclectic tastes and multitasking flair – his supple percussion also provides the backbone for Dan Bejar’s world-conquering Destroyer ensemble – inform Black Mountain’s wider palette as well as their rhythmic choices. “It’s like painting. All sound colour. And space is really important. People think of us as this heavy rock band – and we are sometimes – but it has to be tempered with space. There has to be these emotional cues. It’s not just about rocking out.”
Check out the way Amber and Stephen’s harmonies telepathically entwine on cosmic standout Defector, or Constellations’ unforced confluence of synthesizer pulse and double denim riff. In addition to being blessed with a melodic facility that eludes most rock groups, Black Mountain effortlessly echo the limitless possibilities of the internet age. Sonic tributaries that never met in the real world – AC/DC and Amon Düül, Heart and Hawkwind, King Crimson and Kraftwerk – flow together on IV as they do online. It fits with McBean’s unifying theory of the modern YouTube stoner, wherein “kids discover their own alternate universes online, from Cologne to Melbourne… Detroit to Laurel Canyon.. the ice age to annihilation. There’s a new scene with a different set of headphones creating a postmodern futuristic Fantasy Island. All those fledgling heads in waiting escaping within their computer screens!”
This impulse to connect is reflected by the band members’ activities and journeys outside the mothership. Josh and Amber have their self-run Balloon Factory studio and pop-noir Lightning Dust project. Stephen relocated to Los Angeles six years ago. Traveling and creating via his Southern Lord released hardcore unit Obliterations and ongoing post-punk rock ’n’ roll combo Pink Mountaintops (whose heady sometimes electronic throb led to the majestic, mantra-like You Can Dream). “There’s something very West Coast about us all.” he says. “That rambling restlessness of keepin’ on guides us and keeps the music alive. Whether it’s the gravitational pull of the Pacific Ocean that draws us back together or simply a good taco… The turning up, turning on and getting down is Black Mountain. It’s home, and it always feels good to come back to. ”
Back in Canada, meanwhile, Jeremy, channelled his analogue synth mastery and youthful John Carpenter worship into the hugely acclaimed cult science fiction film score Beyond The Black Rainbow. He’s been busy of late conceptualizing Black Mountain’s “mystic Concorde” art direction. Referencing the hallowed aircraft’s future/past iconography, his designs are emblematic of IV’s spatial diversity and maximalist astral-rock vision. You know, it really is their strongest material to date.
Slow All Over, the debut album from eclectic musician Brian Harding’s new project Blond Ambition, is a laser-focused work filled with danceable moments of percussive, head-nodding rhythmic bombast paired with catchy synth- and guitar-laden hooks, deliberate and slow-burning pace, and subtly emotive melody. Despite its considerate influence from the broad and open-minded style of world-beat, the album is complete in its vision and scope, a tight and sexy affair fully realized by Harding and created almost entirely in his new home of Los Angeles. But to reach this peak, he needed to leave parts of his past behind—not to mention his coast.
Harding, formerly of the acclaimed Brooklyn project Ex Cops, left the bright lights of NYC for the serene woods of upstate New York after the release of the project’s sophomore release “Daggers.” He made some musical headway there, writing new material and recording demos in a cottage in the woods of Tivoli. But while standing in an LAX terminal in early 2016 to catch his flight home after finishing the final Ex Cops tour, Harding decided to change his surroundings.
“I got off the tour in LA and didn’t get back on the plane,” says Harding. “Literally at the airport I decided I wasn’t going back.”
No stranger to Los Angeles and its many stages, having played the hallowed Hollywood Bowl as a guitarist with Daniel Johnston’s band, Harding landed (or Ubered, rather) on his feet, staying with friends in LA until finding a place of his own.
“I’m much happier now,” he says. “Los Angeles gives me city and country. Also I write more when I don’t have to wear a jacket everywhere.”
There he connected with his friend and producer Andrew Miller, the former guitarist for Dum Dum Girls who he had met while their bands toured together, and recorded what Harding calls “fun stuff” and “mostly hip-hop tracks.” From there, recognizing their chemistry but each sticking to their roles as songwriter or producer, the pair began work on some demos of Harding’s material. Taking inspiration from the “attitude influence” of Madonna, the new solo project, christened Blond Ambition, immediately began to take flight.
“I had a clear vision for what I wanted this project to be aesthetically and sonically,” he says. “My dad used to play trumpet for Ray Charles and I used to be obsessed with The Genius Comes to Town, which is like a very early world-creation album, and I chose to focus on things like Desert Sessions or Channel Orange where it’s a record you’re not just hearing, you’re living in it.”
Blond Ambition takes respectful cues from the early disco/dance/Avant-garde Downtown scene of 1970s and ’80s New York, the pastiche-sampling art rock of bands like World Party and Big Audio Dynamite, and even the Grateful Dead. Harding also cites his stint as a bartender in an NYC nightclub for exposing him to the house and dance scenes that changed the way he looks at making music.
“All of that stuff is very percussive and groove-oriented, but they could write a pop song too—it wasn’t JUST the groove, even though I like that, too.” Harding says. “I lost a lot of interest in guitar rock. It didn’t hit me the way it used to, so I wanted to make a more crystal-clear kind of music. I wanted to permeate the album with lucidity, but you’re still driving through fog.”
That sentiment is clear from the first notes of Slow All Over. The percussive, kitchen sink catchiness of “Shasta” sets the mood early, with Harding crooning over sunny, almost tropical hooks reminiscent of Here My Dear era Marvin Gaye. The fuzzed-out tone and jangly verses of “Houses of Reason” build confidently into a rock-solid piece of songwriting with its assured refrain of “We got everything we needed/It’s a funny way to get there,” and despite the song’s defined structure its “jam” qualities never drift. There’s no template at play here, but the intention remains precise.
Harding played nearly everything you hear on Slow All Over himself—with the exception of lead guitar, which was performed by his childhood friend Jason Roberts—from programmed and sampled beats to bass guitar to various synthesizers, bongos, and shakers. The album was completed in just under six months. “We were learning as we went,” Harding says. “Throw a dart out here and hit a good player. We were very fortunate to be around really good people, musically and wholly.”
The album takes bittersweet U-turns with tracks like “Lights," a delicately tinged nod to Van Morrison and Nico; while the electronic, blipping climb of “F.S.I." takes us on a lo fi cruise through an abandoned Circuit City. And with the narrative content of songs like “Stupid Boy/Girl” and “Confused 4EVR,” it’s clear that Harding is delving into the truly personal for perhaps the first time. “As you’re making the album, you’re changing your life completely and meeting new people and going to different parties and shows. I feel that really informed the sound of the album in a big way,” he says. “I guess I’m also thinking more about what I’m saying and thinking about real life experiences for the first time, rather than surreal elements, and it’s really influencing what I’m writing. Obviously there’s a lot about changing locations and leaving people behind and meeting new people. I just wanna be lucid. Selectively.”
As Harding acknowledges, the process of making a debut album for a new project in just half a year when you’re in a new city across the country from your old home can be a pretty radical experience. With Blond Ambition he has found an outlet to express those feelings in the form of catchy songs, while at the same time holding down a relentless groove.
BoomBox, the electronic work of songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Zion Rock Godchaux, kicks off 2017 with “Laid Back and Loaded”, their first new music since the departure of long time collaborator Russ Randolph. The new track is a further exploration of the band’s signature sound; an electronic blend of soulful Rock and Blues based dance music incorporating Backbeat, Psychedelia and Funky House sounds, which Godchaux refers to as “Dirty Disco Blues.”
Brent Cowles began playing the guitar at the age of 13. Within a year, he was writing his own music and playing in bands. At 17, Cowles began a solo career under the moniker You, Me and Apollo and played mostly in the southwest and west coast.
In 2011, You, Me and Apollo transitioned from a solo act to a full band. The band released a well-received debut EP titled Cards with Cheats and later a full length album, Sweet Honey. After a great ride and three years of touring the United States, and much to their fans dismay, the band called it quits.
After a short break from music, Cowles returned to his roots; standing on a stage, just him and his guitar, belting out his poetry that, according to the Denver Post, would be the envy of songwriters twice his age. Cowles writes from a deep, raw, authentic place and marries it to a sound that has been likened to the soul of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding.
Cowles is currently working on new music and releasing a new solo EP.
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.
A 2014 Blues Music Award winner, there’s not a time in her life that singer/bassist/songwriter Danielle Nicole (born Danielle Nicole Schnebelen) doesn’t remember loving to perform. As a child, she would sing for her family at holidays and took tap, jazz and ballet lessons for many years competing in numerous events. Danielle also took band in middle school, playing the tenor saxophone and enjoying it quite a bit. Unfortunately, she was forced to quit when the family moved to Kansas City and the new school did not offer band.
Danielle comes from generations of singers. Her grandmother, Evelyn Skinner, was a big band singer. Danielle’s mother, Lisa Swedlund, taught her everything she knew while growing up and listening to all different kinds of music from the Everly Brothers to the B-52s.
It wasn’t until she was 12 that Danielle took to the stage for the first time singing, Koko Taylor’s “Never Trust a Man” at a Blues for Schools program that her parents were playing at Englewood Elementary. From then on, she knew music would be her passion for the rest of her life.
Danielle began singing in coffeehouses and at open mic events at age 14, jamming with her parents whenever she could at clubs that would allow minors. At 16, she began singing lead in her father’s band, Little Eva and the Works – until he became too sick to play. In March of 1999, she started her own band, Fresh Brew, with Kansas City music veterans Steve Gronemeyer, Steve Hicks, Chuck Payne and Terry Roney. They performed for four years and even represented Kansas City in the International Blues Challenge.
It was during this time that Danielle and her brothers Nick and Kris began talking about a family band that would eventually become Trampled Under Foot. Not only did she and Kris have to move to Philadelphia (where Nick was living), but she would have to learn the bass guitar to keep it a family band. It took a few years of lessons and saving money before that could become reality.
After several acclaimed self-released albums, Trampled Under Foot released Badlandson July 9, 2013 on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group. Toughened by years of nonstop roadwork, Badlands revealed a musical sophistication well beyond the band’s years.
On Badlands, the band worked with veteran producer Tony Braunagel at his Ultratone Studios in California. The drummer in the Phantom Blues Band, Braunagel played some percussion on the album and recruited veteran keyboardist Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James) to play keys. Johnny Lee Schell, who also recorded the album, added acoustic guitar to one track and John Porter mixed the final results at Independent Street Studios in New Orleans.
Badlands debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Blues Chart and Trampled Under Foot performed live throughout the United States and Europe in support of the album.
As Trampled Under Foot wound down after 13 years, Danielle formed her own band and now makes her Concord Records solo debut with the March 10, 2015 release of a New Orleans-flavored, blues-soul based EP, featuring GRAMMY®-winning producer-guitaristAnders Osborne, Galactic’s co-founding drummer Stanton Moore and her regular keyboardist Mike “Shinetop, Jr.” Sedovic.
The self-titled EP is an introduction to Danielle as a formidable solo artist. A full length album is currently scheduled for release in late summer 2015, featuring more music created in New Orleans with Osborne, Moore and Sedovic.
Dave Schools is a critically acclaimed bass player and founding member of American rock band Widespread Panic. He is also an accomplished producer, songwriter and journalist with articles published in a wide variety of music magazines. Schools lives in Sonoma County, California with his wife and two dogs; when not on tour he likes to garden.
Schools is an innovator on the bass with a non-traditional approach that has given him a unique voice on the instrument. With his primary band, Widespread Panic, he plays a six-string Modulus Quantum 6 bass that affords him a wide range of sounds that are further enhanced by an array of effects pedals. Influenced by an early desire to play drums and childhood piano lessons, Schools has deviated from, though not abandoned, the established rhythm role of the bass and created a more melodic, improvisational style that has been referred to as “lead bass.”
Just outside the jazz mecca of Kansas City springs liberal oasis Lawrence, Kansas—separated only by the waves of wheat from the epicenter of the electronic music revolution in Colorado. From Lawrence, it would logically follow that an act could rise to prominence fueled by the swing of Basie, the birth of Charlie Parker’s bebop, and the wild frontier of electronica. Born in funk and bred in the digital age, live electronic duo The Floozies have burst onto the scene at a time when the industry needed them the most.
Brothers Matt and Mark Hill share the stage just as easily as they share a musical brain. Without a setlist, and without a word between them, Matt’s guitar is in lockstep with the thud of Mark’s kick. Endless looping and production builds the raw scenery upon which palm muted chugs, searing solos, and wobbling bass paint their dazzling array of colors.
Well versed in everything from Chris Cornell to Kavinsky, the sonic vision shared by the brothers eschews contemporary electronic influences in favor of broader, deeper tastes including Zapp & Roger, Lettuce, and Amon Tobin. That wide-angle view of a century of popular music allows the Hills to remix Toto and The Dead—in the music you can hear reverence for the giants of the past, all the while producing wildly futuristic tunes for the masses to dig now.
When the pendulum swung as far as it could away from live instrumentation to laptops, The Floozies rose up to the challenge, swinging as hard as they could in the other direction with neck-snapping, knee-breaking funk so dirty that the gatekeepers stood up, wiped themselves off, and took notice. A bold live show full of sonic exploration and unbreakably deep pocket grooves has landed the brothers on stage with luminaries of the jam world Umphrey’s McGee as readily as electronic elites STS9 and Big Gigantic. Sold out shows across the Country, huge festival appearances at Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, High Sierra, Summercamp, Wakarusa, Camp Bisco, Summerset, Bumbershoot, and a headlining Red Rocks show have continued to cement the duo’s ascent.
The Floozies are bringing the funk back, and they’re right on time.
“Going in, we said ‘lets make a bad ass indie rock record with a sound as big and dynamic as we can, without compromising one single heartfelt lyric."
Singer-songwriter Heather Maloney did just that on her newest LP, Making Me Break. Working with Grammy-nominated producer Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses, Avett Brothers), the two crafted and delivered on an artistic vision to merge Maloney’s folk roots with indie rock.
“The sounds I love in indie rock are so lush, and textured, and intricate, like someone spent a lot of time on this, so they must really care,” Maloney explains, citing influences such as Ben Howard, The Shins, and Io Echo. “And as a singer-songwriter raised on folk, I am drawn to lyrics that that are meaningful, intelligent, tell a story, paint pictures… that care. So I just wanted to make an album that cared musically and lyrically. Some sort of a bleeding heart meeting a distant, unaffected, sparkly rock band. That was the goal.”
Maloney’s new music has a definite edge, but it also has a classically trained voice that delivers well-crafted lyrics over a technical arrangement—a combination we’ve recently seen getting mainstream appreciation once more. Suddenly, the term “singer-songwriter” carries serious weight again. Chalk it up to a revival of everything 90s and Maloney’s influence from “those bleeding hearts,” as she calls them, referring to artists’ like Fiona Apple, Tori Amos and Aimee Mann.
“We wanted to make something more relevant, in a new zone.” Maloney wasn’t kidding – she teamed up with producer Bill Reynolds (who moonlights as the bassist for Band of Horses) and an all-star group of players with extraordinary talent, including engineer Jason Kingsland (Iron & Wine, Delta Spirit), guitarist Tyler Ramsey (Band of Horses), and guitarist and sax player Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket).
Throughout the new musical heights and depths on this record, Maloney’s voice and lyrics remain center stage, truthfully articulating the insights and emotions of growing up, without clichés nor quirks for their own sake.
Maloney’s journey to finding herself as a singer-songwriter took some unexpected routes. She studied classical operatic, improvisational jazz vocals, and music theory for several years in New Jersey, in addition to a brief stint studying classical Indian vocals with a tutor. “My first shows were jazz, in New York City. I love jazz, but it didn’t feel like where I belonged. Neither did opera. I was grasping to find what felt like home,” she says. “I needed to do something kind of radical.”
Maloney found herself at a silent meditation retreat center in Central Massachusetts. She lived and worked there for nearly 3 years, taking vows of silence from seven to ten days at a time. The silence, oddly enough, became conducive to finding one’s true voice. "The biggest motivating factor in writing was probably the experiences I was having in my meditation practice… There was the difficulty of it, the suffering of it, and wanting to channel that into something creative, and on the positive side, the insights that came out of my experiences. In my cottage away from the designated silent area, I just sang, and wrote, and cried. And for the first time, I felt I was using my voice in an authentic way.”
This was the breakthrough Maloney had been waiting for, the first moment she had a reason to get up on stage. Armed with guitar and her fresh sense of purpose, Maloney traversed across the northeast – playing coffeehouses, libraries, and even meditation centers – before eventually getting signing with celebrated independent record label Signature Sounds (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter). Maloney’s self-titled label debut followed in 2013, launching her from the small stages of New England to nationwide audiences, sharing stages with renowned musicians like Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Shakey Graves, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Anais Mitchell, among others.
In 2014, Maloney released a collaborative EP with Boston quartet Darlingside called Woodstock, on which she covers Joni Mitchell’s anthemic “Woodstock” - and absolutely nails it. A video of the session ended up on the New York Times website and gained momentum with praise from Graham Nash, who was among the first to cover Mitchell’s “Woodstock” in 1970. The ensuing nation-wide collaborative tour with Darlingiside gave birth to new experiences, emotions, and perspectives. Maloney began to find moments in the van, in hotel rooms and on days off at home to write the songs that would eventually become Making Me Break.
Maloney feels this record is the closest she’s ever been to the sound that’s truly herself. “As an artist I’m constantly changing. But I think we cracked the code on blending the two worlds here,” says Maloney. For now, her distinctive voice has soared a long way from the silent confines of hushed meditation, and into a natural equilibrium of progressive Indie-Folk. Mission Accomplished.
HØØNCH, the new indie-electronic group from Los Angeles-based musicians/producers Jonathan Kim and Gabriel Rodriguez, has arrived. Having played together in past projects, the duo pull from a wide variety of musical influences. The electronic undertones of ZHU, the synth-tinged rock of Phoenix, and Hoonch's own unique hooks come together to create a sound that is truly their own. Kim (lead vocalist/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist) and Rodriquez (keyboards/vocals) were recently featured in Billboard, MTV, and USA Today. Their song “101” currently has over 10 million plays on Spotify. For Hoonch, it’s about creating chemistry through music, and sharing it. Enjoy…
In 2010, the five Wisconsinites that make up Horseshoes & Hand Grenades found themselves in a living room in the college town of Stevens Point, WI, holding acoustic instruments and enjoying a hodgepodge of fermented beverages. Music and revelry ensued that evening and, while many of the party guests eventually bid their goodbye well into the morning hours, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades wasn’t ready to let the get-together fade. Many years later, the music still hasn’t stopped and the party is still going strong, from the mountain west to the river towns of the Midwest that the quintet calls home, and all across America.
While strongly rooted in bluegrass, old-time, and folk music, the band produces a sound that draws on the vaults of music collectively and individually enjoyed throughout the course of their lives thus far. The music doesn’t lend itself well to categories or boundaries. One could possibly be formed, but the boys seem to generally prefer fishing a river, or enjoying the company of friends and barley beers.
With their music well-defined or not, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades has begun to form a place in the American music scene, gaining recognition on both a regional and national scale. The band took 3rd place at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s Band Competition in 2012 and has since shared the stage with Trampled By Turtles, The Travelin’ McCourys, Railroad Earth, Merle Haggard, The Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band, Marty Stuart, and many more. The group’s third full-length Middle Western was released in March of 2015 and another record is expected in 2017. Being mostly inspired by rivers, valleys, good friends, and good drink, this five-piece is as sturdy as any Midwest riverbed and will make your toes tap from sundown to sunrise.
Harmonica, Accordion, Spoons, Vocals / David C. Lynch
Fiddle, Mandolin, Vocals / Collin Mettelka
Banjo, Fiddle, Vocals / Russell Pedersen
Guitar, Dobro, Vocals / Adam Greuel
Bass/ Samual Odin
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.
“…the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg with a vagabond troubadour edge.” – The Stranger
“The record opens with the shanty-like Dylan-meets-Prine number “Virgin Guitar,” which displays Craigie’s talent for understated singing coupled with poetic lyrics.” – The Portland Tribune
“Craigie’s latest, “I Am California,” is haunting, poetic, and just how a longing for California should sound. Draped in nostalgia and covered in memories, Craigie paints a beautiful homage to the Golden State, with the assistance of singer Gregory Alan Isakov.” – Impose Magazine
If John Prine and Mitch Hedberg had a baby, the resulting product would resemble something very close to Portland, OR singer-songwriter John Craigie. Musically comparable to Prine, with the humor and wit of Hedberg, the humble, gracious, and hilarious Craigie is one of the best storytellers of our time. It’s no wonder that Chuck Norris sends him fan mail, and Todd Snider brings him gifts on stage.
The vagabond troubadour has charmed audiences in all 50 states and throughout much of Europe, with a DIY spirit seldom seen these days. While touring solo and with the likes of Todd Snider, the Shook Twins, Nicki Bluhm, and ALO, Craigie has taken the stage at festivals, sold out venues, intimate house concerts, center camp at Burning Man and even Gregory Alan Isakov’s farm. Although based in Portland, Craigie’s true home is on the road, and just like that he’s on to the next town, playing and singing and telling stories to everyone who wants to listen.
He’ll make you laugh and make you cry, all in the same song. With a fan-base that is more of a continually-expanding circle of friends, John Craigie’s true passion is connecting with people through shared experiences, stories, and song.
The the trio that makes up Made Violent – Joseph White (bass/vocals), Rob Romano (guitar) and Justin Acee (drums) - started out with no five-year plan, secluding themselves in a cabin near their hometown of Buffalo, NY to make music with no aspirations. The band casually released “Wasted Days” online, a song Acee says is "about losing everything.” To their surprise, the song would catch the attention of UK heavyweight NME Magazine. Not long after, the band would find a home at Columbia Records’ tastemaker imprint, Startime International.
Through Startime, the trio released their debut EP; a short-and-sweet self-titled EP full of subtle nods to their rock and roll forefathers from America and across the pond, and recorded with the infamous Dennis Herring (The Hives, Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello). The songs go from sweet to salty on a dime. White abandons the drawl he delivers in “Wasted Days” for a snotty tone on “Inside Out,” a seemingly Adderall-laced song about “being tired of someone’s shit.” Minutes later, the band picks up where “Wasted Days” leaves off with the bright and shiny “On My Own,” in which White’s vocals are nearly reminiscent of a hip-hop verse.
Since then Made Violent has made their debut appearance at SXSW, toured with the likes of Frank Turner, Wolf Alice, From Indian Lakes, and The Struts, and are now looking forward to releasing their first full length album. “We can’t wait to hop in our van and drive across the country to play for anyone and everyone,” Romano quips. “Two things really matter to us – making as much good music as we can, and touring as much as we can. We never want to stop doing this.”
How many bands can take you to another place through their music and then explain how they did it by citing the works of psychologist Abraham Maslow?
Meet Modern Inventors. Migrating from Philadelphia to Nashville a year ago, Josh Benus and Matt Kass have symbolically expanded on their backgrounds as formally-trained musicians with a sound that’s both unique and powerfully emotional.
Not only that — they’ve challenged our assumptions of what it means to even be a band. Are they two guys with a rotating cast of sidemen? The core of a broader community of experimenters, composers and occasional house guests? All of the above?
“Modern Inventors is in fact a slew of different things,” answers Josh, whose artistically active family back in New Jersey encouraged him to avoid conformist thinking even before he set off for the Hartt School of Music. “We’ve learned to be producers, engineers, session musicians …”
“ … and other roles too,” adds Matt, the product of a musical upbringing in Philadelphia and a Cornell graduate in psychology and ethnomusicology. “We’ve done a film score. We’ve done co-writing. I mean, Modern Inventors really is a band with us at the center and collaborators, friends and some of the most talented people we know who gravitate toward this house.”
More about that house in a moment. First, let’s focus on the music Josh and Matt have been conjuring lately. Start with “Tonight,” their current single. Guitars chime, a synthesizer lick percolates and choir-like harmonies waft as voices cast sparks into a dark sonic sky. Then check out the B-side, “Closer,” whose spell is just as deep through with a whiff of R&B stirred into the mix. In these and all Modern Inventors tracks, there’s a sense of immersion and movement, depth and discovery.
“One of the most influential things I’ve experienced is when you can listen to a record and it takes you to a place and leaves you there until the music is over,” Matt says. “That’s what we’re trying to do, to take you out of your own life and transport you to someplace new where you can lose yourselves for a while but also let you know that you’re not alone. We want you to inhabit this music with us.”
Matt and Josh sensed they were on the same wavelength shortly after they met. Josh sought out his future collaborator after hearing Matt’s work with The Brakes, one of Philadelphia’s most popular local bands. “Josh wanted me to produce his record,” Matt recalls. “So I listened to his compositions and I was like, ‘Man, this is interesting stuff!’ It soon became evident to me that we were gravitating toward the same type of sound and that we had a similar musical vocabulary.”
After several years of collaborating in a variety of projects, including a soundtrack for the HBO documentary First Comes Love, they solidified their partnership by founding Modern Inventors in 2012. Shortly after that, they decided to move to Nashville, where they connected quickly with the city’s vibrant artistic network and — critically important — found the house that functions now as their personal and professional home base.
“Working and living here is great because we can put all of our time into writing and recording,” Josh explains. “We have our hands on every second of these recordings. They are us. And because this house has allowed us to do this, it’s become our signature. I mean, we’re walking around town and people in bands that we respect come up and say, ‘Oh, you’re those dudes from Philly! You’ve got that killer studio at your house!’”
“For me, the allure of Nashville is, that it’s about the songwriting,” Josh adds. “It’s inspiring living here because everyone’s so passionate about their craft. So in retrospect, this is the probably the best move we could have made.”
Dinner parties featuring Josh’s gourmet creations morph into jam sessions here. Songs take shape on the weathered upright piano in their living room. Other artists drop in, stay awhile, lay down a few tracks and leave their mark on this ever-evolving community. That’s all part of Modern Inventors’ mission, to keep their door open to anyone who might drop by and contribute ideas and inspiration.
But, always, Matt and Josh helm this ship. “Our long-term plan is to have a sound that people know when they hear it,” Matt insists. “We have the ability to curate not only what we do and to make Modern Inventors a great American rock band but also to say, ‘We really like this artist who opened for us. We want him to come to our studio and work with us, just to see what happens.”
“We want to be a part of people’s lives,” Josh sums up. “Whether it’s about helping someone get past a problem or enhance their experiences, Modern Inventors is about creating meaningful and enduring music. There are all kinds of avenues we want to explore … but the first step is always the songs.”
It’s clear: The world needs this music. Maybe the group has already worked its way up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to the self-actualization pinnacle … but that’s another conversation for another night at the Modern Inventors dinner table.
The future of funk is clear on The Motet’s new self-released studio album, Totem, which hits streets July 8, 2016. The 12 tracks on Totem, all originals, cover a lot of ground stylistically while never losing sight of the groove. Produced by Lettuce and Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno, Totem was written collectively by the seven members of the band. Each song is steeped in The Motet’s signature style that slaps you in the face with sounds that are fresh and unique.
The recent addition of singer Lyle Divinsky, who joined the band in early 2016, fans the flames of this already hot band. His sinfully soulful voice and rich lyrics are powerfully prevalent throughout Totem. “There was a month and a half between the time I joined the band and when we went into the studio,” explains Divinsky. “I wound up writing the lyrics and melodies to four songs, and re-wrote the lyrics to two. It gave me and the band an opportunity to really connect musically. We’re deeply proud of this album and it’s very exciting to have this new material to push out as we begin this next phase of The Motet’s journey.”
The brilliance of The Motet is that they do not mimic bands of the past, but rather create new, authentic sounds in a language from the past. One might explain the difference like the process of writing a poem in Old English or Aramaic: first, you have to learn the language by digging into the past, then you can express yourself in the present - and say anything you want - using that language.
No matter how you choose to express funk, you can’t fake it - and you sure as hell can’t play it - if you don’t know where to find it.
Just how did The Motet find the funk? Simply put, they dissected it. “We have put together funk-themed Halloween shows for the past fifteen years, where we pay tribute to a particular artist or play a ‘Mixtape’ set of music culled from a certain year,” shares Dave Watts.
Past Halloween cover sets have included tributes to Herbie Hancock, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Parliament-Funkadelic and many others. Recent tribute shows have celebrated a particular year in music, with ‘Mixtape’ sets from 1975, 1977, and 1980. “Preparing for these shows are intense, and we take it very seriously. Each year it gives us an incredible opportunity to not just learn, but to understand, the art of funk – both as individual players and as a band.” These shows, which have become a beloved live music tradition and sell out each year, have also offered a unique (and rowdy) opportunity for the band’s fans to join them in their ongoing exploration of creative, live dance music.
The Motet began in 1998 in Denver, Colorado, where the band’s then-rotating cast of musicians amassed an enthusiastic and loyal throng of hometown fans. The Motet took their infectious dance parties on the road about three years ago, and their national fan base has been growing exponentially ever since. Today their shows sell out from coast to coast at such venues as Red Rock’s Amphitheatre, Brooklyn Bowl, Chicago’s Park West, The Independent in San Francisco, Tipitina’s in New Orleans, Portland’s Crystal Ballroom, and Variety Playhouse in Atlanta. A favorite along the festival circuit, The Motet has performed at Electric Forest, Summer Camp, All Good Music Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, Bonnoroo, Peach Fest and many others.
The Motet are Lyle Divinsky (vocals), Dave Watts (drums), Joey Porter (keyboards), Garrett Sayers (bass), Ryan Jalbert (guitar), Gabriel Mervine (trumpet), and Drew Sayers (saxophone).
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
Nate is a magician, writer, traveler, and host of the Discovery Channel’s international hit TV series Breaking Magic, but don’t think of this as a magic show. Nate abandons the ubiquitous style-without-substance bravado so often associated with magic and appeals instead to the imagination and intellect of his audience.
“Just caught a Nate Staniforth show,” one reporter tweeted after opening night, “and now I have no idea what to believe about anything ever again.” No rabbits. No top hats. No smoke machines. Nate’s shows feel more like jumping out of an airplane than a night at a comedy club. The journey is wild, visceral and immediate, and like all great art, encourages us to open our minds and hearts, and see the world in new ways.
“When you’re young, it’s easy to be amazed,” says Nate Staniforth. “As you get older, that experience of astonishment gets harder and harder to find. Good magic isn’t about deception. It’s about trying to see things the way you saw them before they became ordinary.
For over a decade, Nate has toured the US college circuit as one of the busiest working magicians in the country. He’s given a TED Talk, lectured at the world-famous Oxford Union, and in 2018 the Harry Potter-famed Bloomsbury Publishing will release Nate’s memoir in bookstores worldwide. Here is Real Magic follows Nate's evolution from obsessed wunderkind to disillusioned wanderer, and tells the story of his rediscovery of astonishment—and the importance of wonder in everyday life—during his trip to the slums of India, where he infiltrated a 3,000-year-old clan of street magicians.
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.
theNEWDEAL have released Mercury Switch, the band’s first studio album in over a decade. The seven-song affair will be followed by a series of remix releases, beginning with Avenue’s indie electronic remix of “Quattro”.
With over 1400 legendary late nights, sold-out clubs and triumphant festivals under their belts, theNEWDEAL returns with a passion in 2016. Recently released tracks “Quattro, “Mercury Switch” and “Sabotage the System,” offer a preview of the studio release which bassist Dan Kurtz describes as their “most creative” endeavor to date. “In the last few months we've been pushing ourselves to work with new sounds, new styles, new ways of arranging jams, and the stuff we've come up with has felt great and exciting to us as a result. We're listening back to the board tapes of all the shows and finding the parts, even if they're just a couple of seconds long, that sound the most inspiring and then building studio recordings around them. In some cases we'll glue a bit from one show in one city to another completely unrelated piece from another town, and create something we'd never have come up with in either just a live or just a studio setting.”
Keyboardist Jamie Shields agrees: “I think we've come up with a way to take the best from both the live and studio worlds and make something that's going to have the energy of a live show, but shaped in a way we could only do in the studio. theNEWDEAL has always been about development. When we’re performing on stage our goal is always to create a fresh musical idea and see in real-time how we can develop it - melodically, harmonically and structurally. Because we approach every show with an improvisational mindset, we know that every night brings a different concert, a different vibe and a different audience experience. Even with all those variables, it always ends up sounding like a New Deal show; exciting, driving and incredibly danceable!”
theNEWDEAL first began in Toronto in 1999, quickly gaining support from Toronto’s underground club scene as pioneers in electronica, recreating the DJ experience with live, improvised music. Soon the band brought their interpretation of Electro House, Trance, Breakbeat and Drum & Bass to the US, where they were embraced by the crowds at NYC’s Wetlands Preserve and cultivated a loyal following in the American jam scene.
After twelve years of touring, theNEWDEAL took a hiatus in 2011; Dan spent much of the next few years touring the world with Electropop band Dragonette. When theNEWDEAL returned to stages in 2014 they brought on board a new drummer in Dragonette’s Joel Stouffer.
Although his musical talents make it easy to believe he’s always been a full-time musician, Rob Drabkin attended Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, where he graduated with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with the intention of becoming a doctor. His focus quickly changed after a family trip to New York. “My Dad played Jazz full time for 30 years before he got into medicine. On that trip, we re-connected with his old musician friends, and it was inspiring to see them giving their lives to music night after night for so many years. That was the night I dropped science and dedicated myself to music. After that moment, I spent every possible minute singing and honing all of the songwriting skills that I could.” He adds, “It's kind of embarrassing to admit, but I had an epiphany while watching the Broadway musical “Chicago.” I decided right then and there that I didn't want to work in a research lab for the rest of my life and that I wanted to pursue music full time even though I had never sung a note up to that point.” He took to Denver’s music scene quickly, and set his career into motion.
Drabkin’s newly released single, “Someday,” has earned a spot on major international Spotify playlists such as Spring Acoustic on Spotify UK and Discover Weekly, and in just one month, the single accumulated half a million plays from listeners around the world. "We too often forget that love is ever-present. We share it with each other through laughter, smiles, and sympathy. We can find it in everything and we can also create it in the smallest, most unassuming moments of our lives. I wrote this song for those moments. All we can do is keep being kind and have the courage to choose love in every decision we make.” In “Someday” His lyrical talents show his listeners that you can take whatever you might endure, and turn it into a way to express yourself. Although the Colorado native has an impressive list of musical achievements, this song serves as an opportunity to start his career from scratch. A new plateau with new possibilities
“With earnestness and originality, Drabkin thrives within stylistic excursions that range from driving folk rock to understated experiments with classical musicians.- ““Denver Westword
Get Gone, the potent debut album by the Shreveport, Louisiana natives in Seratones, makes a strong case that this little-known corner of the state is fertile ground, musically speaking. A.J. Haynes (vocals), Connor Davis (guitar), Adam Davis (bass) and Jesse Gabriel (drums) serve up a combination of Southern musicality, garage rock ferocity, and general badassery.
Haynes’s powerful singing voice, first honed at Brownsville Baptist Church in Columbia, Louisiana at age 6, rings across every track. Davis’s bass and Gabriel’s playing propel every song with the grit, energy, and rawness of punk, the feeling of soul, and occasionally, a little jazz swing. The other Davis offers a clinic in guitar riffs, from swaggering blues to searing interstellar leads.
Recorded at Dial Back Sound studios in Mississippi, Get Gone is all live takes, a portrait of the Seratones in their element. Add the soul and swagger of a juke joint with the electricity coursing through a basement DIY show, and you’d begin to approach the experience of seeing this foursome live. The well-paced, multi-faceted set showcases a band dedicated to sonic exploration. “Don’t Need It,” which opens with a muscular swing and tight guitar lines, builds into a monster finish with a nasty corkscrew of a guitar line. “Sun,” a brawny thrasher, courses with huge, raw voltage riffs. “Chandelier,” a mid-tempo burner and vocal workout by Haynes, goes from croon to a crescendo that would shake any crystals hanging from the rafters.
Shared history in the city’s music scene brought the Seratones together a few years ago. All four had played together with one or another in various local punk bands, bonding through all-ages basement shows, gigs at skate parks and BBQ joints, and late nights listening to jazz and blues records. In a city of multiple genres, no fixed musical identity and a flood of cover bands, these adventurous musicians carved out their own path, personifying the do-it- yourself ethos. The group was quickly recognized after forming, winning the Louisiana Music Prize in 2013.
“Shreveport is always shifting its identity,” says Haynes. “You can do a lot of different things when it seems like every band is its own genre.”
Seratones’s music, created with collaborative songwriting and spontaneous creativity, is certainly their own, due perhaps in part to Shreveport’s unique sonic geography. The city sits at a nexus roughly equidistant from Memphis soul, Mississippi Delta Blues, and New Orleans jazz, with Texas swing located just over the nearby state border. The band’s sound draws from those touch points and more, ranging from Black Sabbath’s Paranoid to Kind of Blue. They’ll happily connect the dots between Ornette Coleman and Jello Biafra.
Seratones have different names for the amalgamation of styles found on their debut: Their own “expression of freedom,” music that’s “all about waking people up,” a safe space to feel what you want. However you choose to describe it, Get Gone is unexpected and unbowed, a head-snapping showcase of the twin pillars of Southern music, restlessness and resourcefulness.
by Patrick Sisson
“I love the harmonies of the Shook Twins, the dreamlike songs that seem somehow permeated by the American Folk tradition, without actually being part of it. They make music that twines through your soul the way vines cover an abandoned shack in the woods.” – Neil Gaiman, New York Times – Best-Selling Author
“The Portland, Ore., folk group is ready to rattle the music world with its ‘What We Do’ album.” – USA Today
“The Shooks will Shake you. These ladies have been keepin’ it real since the day they were born and that was only seconds apart from one another I think. Do yourself a favor and check ’em out. I do declare, ya won’t be sorry.” – Langhorne Slim
“The Shook Twins put on a heck of a show. Keep your eyes on these folks. I’m excited to hear what they do next.” – Tucker Martine
“A unique, personal music that lights up the stage with its joy and enthusiasm.” – Mason Jennings
Born and raised in Sandpoint Idaho, Shook Twins are an Indie folk-pop band hailing from Portland, Oregon. Identical twins, Katelyn and Laurie are the main songwriters, but they also back up their band member Niko Slice (electric guitar, mandolin and vocals) adding his uniquely compelling songs to the mix. Barra Brown is on Drums, vocals and Drum Pad, and Josh Simon is on Bass, vocals, Electric guitar, and synth. Central to Shook Twins’ sound is their wide range of instrumentation: banjo, acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass, mandolin, electronic drums, face drum (beat-box), glockenspiel, ukulele, banjo-head drumming and their signature Golden Egg. Beautiful twin harmonies, layered upon acoustic and electric instrumentation, coupled with Laurie’s inventive use of percussive and ambient vocal loops, and Katelyn’s re-purposed telephone microphone, set their sound apart, creating a unique and eccentric blend of folk, roots, groove and soul.
Their eclectic style fluctuates from song to song; drawing from their life experience they write about being potters’ daughters, the sway of the subconscious, imagined superpowers and a chicken friend named ‘Rose.’ Shook Twins also pull out unexpected covers on classic hits as well as their friends’ songs. After releasing their first album You Can Have the Rest, the twin sisters moved to Portland where they released Window (featuring Bonnie Paine and Bridget Law of Elephant Revival). Both albums were recorded and produced in Santa Cruz, California, at InDigital Studios with Brody Bergholz and Mason Rothchild. Shook Twins recorded their third album, What We Do, with Grammy nominated producer Ryan Hadlock at Bear Creek Studios. They are currently recording new music at Hallowed Halls in Portland, OR with Justin Phelps.
After releasing their first album You Can Have the Rest, the twin sisters moved to Portland where they released Window (featuring Bonnie Paine and Bridget Law of Elephant Revival). Both albums were recorded and produced in Santa Cruz, California, at InDigital Studios with Brody Bergholz and Mason Rothchild. Shook Twins recorded their third album, What We Do, with Grammy nominated producer Ryan Hadlock at Bear Creek Studios. They are currently recording new music at Hallowed Halls in Portland, OR with Justin Phelps.
Shook Twins have shared the stage with artists including: Ryan Adams, Gregory Alan Isakov, Greensky Bluegrass, Mason Jennings, Blitzen Trapper, Railroad Earth, Keller Williams, David Grisman, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sarah Jarosz, Laura Veirs, The Fruit Bats, Jonathan Brooke, JJ Grey and MoFro, The Indigo Girls, Crooked Still, Jason Webley, The BoDeans, Elephant Revival and more.
Spanning the spectrum from distinctive and genuine to amusing and whimsical, Shook Twins’ laid-back and fun stage presence draws the listener in, allowing them to take the audience on an adventure. 2016 saw the band opening up for Greensky Bluegrass on a 13 show tour, supporting Keller Williams for several shows in Northern California, and playing Red Rocks Amphitheater with Gregory Alan Isakov and Ani Difranco. The band also embarked on a Spring tour to Europe where they played two festivals in Germany and six shows in the UK. Festivals for this year included WinterWonderGrass Tahoe (CA), Huckleberry Jam (ID), Safety Harbor Fest (FL), Apple Jam Music Festival (OR), Beaverstock (CA), Summer Camp Music Festival (IL), Revival Fest (MN), Northwest String Summit (OR), Fayetteville Roots Festival (AR), Summer Meltdown (WA), Oregon Country Fair (OR), Suwannee Roots Revival (FL) and more!
Shook Twins have never been sonically confined to the indie-folk world in which they’ve become well-known artists. Always harnessing an adventurous spirit, Shook Twins are never shy to incorporate beat boxing, banjo-head drumming, vocals using a re-purposed telephone microphone, and other ambient sources within their arrangements. On their latest single, “Call Me Out” (Release Date: August 19, 2016), Shook Twins once again take another leap from the acoustic music scene with a vibey, pop-infused soundscape with a poignant message ready to be embraced by the masses. Lush harmonies, delayed banjo pickin’, deep drums, and multi-layered lead vocals draw the listener into this intimate breakout summer 2016 single.
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.
Weakened Friends emerged from the rubble of a few withering projects, fueled by the desire to simply have fun with music again. And, holy shit, is it fun. The fuzz rock trio's short songs are catchy, moody, candid, and to-the-goddamn-point. On top of that, Weakened Friends is relentlessly energetic and unapologetically LOUD. It's very clear that Weakened Friends is having all of the fun they'd once craved and it casts an immediate and cathartic pull onto anyone within earshot.
"The band’s choruses are as big as their hearts and singing along seems less like an option and more of a primordial urge" -The Le Sigh
"Do you ever get into a band and like them so much you get mad at yourself for not knowing about them earlier? That is what’s happening to me here." - Music Savage
Virtuoso vocalist Zeshan B is widely being recognized as one of the most unique singers to come out of Chicago. Blending the hard-driving rhythms and horn heavy sounds of 60s and 70s soul with the angsty scats and vocal stylings of early Indo-Pakistani film/folk music, he has created an entirely new genre that is his very own--Brown Skinned Soul.
After graduating from Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music, Zeshan B has come of age in the Chicago scene and his vocal prowess, paired with the Transistors--a hard-grooving band of Chicago's best and brightest--has garnered him sold out performances at the Apollo, Cobo Arena (Detroit), Excel London, Millennium Park (Chicago), Coke Studio’s Jaipur Literature Fest, as well as the privilege of opening for acts and leaders like Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim, Aasif Mandvi, Rev. Jesse Jackson and former President Jimmy Carter. These acclaimed performances recently led to the ultimate honor for Zeshan--an invitation from President Obama to perform at the White House for the inaugural Eid celebration.
In January of 2017 Zeshan was signed by Chicago's Minty Fresh Records and the label is is slated to release his debut solo album in April of 2017. Produced by Lester Snell---the legendary arranger for Isaac Hayes, Al Green’s, Sam & Dave and Mavis Staples of Stax Records Fame--the album is a mixtape of Zeshan’s originals and lesser known 1960s and 70s deep soul gems. Recorded in Memphis with a wrecking crew of Stax Records’ original sidemen at Ardent Studios, Zeshan pours his heart out in 10 tracks and 3 languages-- English, Urdu and Punjabi