2017 Artists Lineup
Two time Grammy-award winner, John Prine, is a singer songwriter who, from his eponymously titled first LP release in 1971, has continued to write and perform songs that have become central to our American musical heritage. Classics like, ‘Angel from Montgomery’, ‘Sam Stone,’ ‘Paradise,’ and ‘Hello in There’ speak to the everyday experience of ordinary people with a simple honesty, and an extraordinary ability to get right through to the heart of the listener.
Long considered a “songwriter’s songwriter,” John Prine is a rare talent whose writing is greatly admired by his peers. Performers who have recorded from his extensive catalog, include Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, the Everly Brothers, John Denver, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Ben Harper, Joan Baez, George Strait, Old Crow Medicine Show, Norah Jones, Bette Midler, Miranda Lambert and many others.
“He’s so good, we’re gonna have to break his fingers,” Kris Kristofferson said after witnessing a Prine performance.
Bob Dylan remarked, “Beautiful songs… Nobody but Prine could write like that.”
But long before the awards and accolades, the concerts and many albums, John Prine trudged through snow in the cold Chicago winters, delivering mail across Maywood, his childhood suburb.
“I always likened the mail route to a library with no books,” says John Prine. “I passed the time each day making up these little ditties.”
John’s parents, William Prine and Verna Ham Prine migrated from Paradise, Kentucky in 1934, joining the many others chasing work in the industrial north. They settled in a west Chicago suburb, and raised four boys. John and his brothers – David, Doug, and Billy – grew up in a close, loving extended family where country music, the Grand ‘Ol Opry, good Southern cooking, and annual visits ‘home’ to Kentucky were as naturally part of their lives as Chicago hot dogs and baseball!
With his career spanning more than 40 years Prine continues to perform at sold out shows all over the US, Canada, and Europe. Among the many awards and accolades John has received in recent times include is his 2003 induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, an Americana Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting and was honored at the Library of Congress by US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. Prine has become for many, not just a well loved and appreciated songwriter, but a bonafide American treasure.
John lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, Fiona, and enjoys spending time with their 3 sons, daughter-in-law, and grandson.
Cheap Trick is part of the very fiber of American music, inspiring and delighting generations with their unique union of massive melodies and razorblade riffs, their own special brand of mischievous wit and maximum rock ‘n’ roll. Frontlined since 1974 by Robin Zander (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar), and Tom Petersson (bass guitar), the Rockford, IL-born band is set to impact still another era with the spectacular new BANG ZOOM CRAZY…HELLO, their 17th studio collection and first in more than five years. Co-produced by Cheap Trick and GRAMMY® Award winner Julian Raymond (Glen Campbell, Fastball), songs like “Heart On The Line” and the turbulent first single, “When I Wake Up Tomorrow,” are deeply connected to the band’s own irrepressible history just as they accelerate their trademark sound and vision into the now. The glorious “Long Time No See Ya” marks another in a long line of salutations spanning “ELO Kiddies” and “Hello There” to “Goodnight” and “Say Goodbye,” while the piledriving “Do You Believe Me” showcases dueling solos from Nielsen and six-string icon Wayne Kramer – a milestone meeting of the long established Midwestern mutual appreciation society between Cheap Trick and the mighty MC5. BANG ZOOM CRAZY…HELLO prove Cheap Trick to be as energetic and idiosyncratically irresistible as ever before, a callback to their classic canon yet somehow as inventive and exciting as a bunch of crazy kids just coming out of the garage.
“We wanted to make something that was new and fresh but also going back to our 70s sound and feel,” Zander says, “this Midwestern rock band that’s got a hard edge but still plays pop music.”
“It’s loud and it’s noisy,” Nielsen says, “which is exactly what we are. It sounds like there’s a lot going on but really it’s just a three piece band with a great singer.”
Cheap Trick are of course a indisputable institution, beloved for their instantly identifiable, hugely influential, powerhouse pop rock ‘n’ roll. The constant core of the band remains one of a kind – three guys, four chords, and tunes that will last in perpetuity, from “He’s A Whore,” “California Man” and “Dream Police” to “Surrender,” “I Want You To Want Me” and the worldwide #1 hit single, “The Flame.”
“The songs are why everybody knows Cheap Trick,” Nielsen says. “We have some good songs. ‘I Want You To Want Me” has been around for 40 years but people still love it. And even if you’re sick of it, it’s over in three minutes! The songs are still relevant, they still have the right words and the right emotion to move 99% of all humans.”
Amidst that not inconsiderable demographic, one particular fan served as catalyst for Cheap Trick’s return to the studio. Founder, president, and CEO of Nashville-based Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta has also been a lifelong supporter of the band. Conversations began in 2012 and were sealed when veteran producer/songwriter Julian Raymond – a longtime Cheap Trick associate and Academy Award nominee for co-writing the GRAMMY®-winning “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” featured in 2014’s acclaimed documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me – joined the zeitgeist-defining label as its Vice President of A&R. A multi-album deal was soon struck, a contract as rare as hen’s teeth for any rock band in the modern era let alone one of Cheap Trick’s considerable vintage.
“It’s a pretty big career tool,” Nielsen says. “Much better than putting a bunch of CDs in my car.”
“It’s been great working with Scott,” Petersson says. “He’s such a music lover. It’s rare for the guy that’s running the label to be so musical. Usually we have to battle it out with those guys but he left us alone. He was like, I love your band, you know what you’re doing in there.”
Deal in hand, Cheap Trick and Raymond quickly set to work. Described by all as the band’s de-facto “fifth member,” Raymond has been a friend and sometimes collaborator for three decades, relied upon as both confidante and traffic cop.
“We could produce our own records but we prefer to have Julian there to quell the storms,” Zander says. “You’ve got three writers in the band so there’s a lot of ideas floating around. You’ve got to have somebody that’s outside of the band to help give some direction. Otherwise you just get lost in yourselves.”
“Julian really brings the best out in us,” Petersson says. “He really understands our band and because he’s not us, he can see things that we don’t or can’t see in ourselves. We’re so close to this music, you need somebody else like Julian.”
Sessions got underway in 2015 at Los Angeles’ East West Studio. The band immediately got into their groove by locking into a playful version of “The In Crowd.” Written by Billy Page and made famous in not one, not two, but three distinct chart hits by Dobie Gray, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and Bryan Ferry respectively, the song was a staple of Cheap Trick’s earliest live sets, a reliable crowd-pleaser as they made their bones at local dives all over the Midwest.
“The feel started there,” Zander says. “We continued writing from that sound.”
All three original members cite drummer Daxx Nielsen as the most significant contemporary influence on Cheap Trick’s current creativity. A musical polymath who has played with artists spanning Dick Dale to Brandi Carlisle, the younger Nielsen was the obvious choice when the seemingly irreplaceable Bun E. Carlos retired from active touring and recording with the band he co-founded. Daxx’s innate virtuosity and spirited musicianship were propulsive in more ways than the usual, inspiring fresh energy while also keeping the band in touch with its roots.
“Daxx is so talented,” Petersson says. “He’s so into it, he can play all of our songs on any instrument. We’ll pull something from our back catalog and he’ll tell us how the bridge goes.”
“We have to recall stuff,” Rick says. “Daxx remembers.”
After more than half a decade away from the studio, Cheap Trick was fired up and ridiculously prolific, cranking out close to 30 new tunes over two pair of sessions in Los Angeles and Nashville. Tracks like “No Direction Home” hit hard as a teenage crush’s kiss, affirming the eternal strength of Cheap Trick’s smart, sly, sometimes sarcastic songcraft. Each member has skin in the songwriting game, contributing elements – a riff, a chorus, a hook that won’t stop – which are then jammed into three-and-a-half minute pop perfection by the entire unit, ensuring everybody’s respective two cents are represented in every finished tune.
“We start something and the songs take on a life of their own,” Petersson says. “There’s a lot of back and forth. It’s not like one person had to think of everything for 40 years straight. I think that keeps us in top form.”
Fast approaching their fifth decade, Cheap Trick is among the most active and successful in music history, with featured appearances on over 20 movie soundtracks, more than 40 international gold and platinum certifications, myriad awards and industry honors, and total record sales well in excess of 20 million. BANG ZOOM CRAZY…HELLO arrives just as the band are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a long overdue honor that confirms their incredible influence while simultaneously acknowledging the millions upon millions of Cheap Trick fans around the planet.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Nielsen says. “It wasn’t some goal we were trying to achieve – it’s kind of out of the blue. It means a lot to a lot of people.”
“People are so overwhelmed by it,” Petersson says. “They come up to me at the grocery store or at the bank, saying congratulations, that’s the greatest thing ever. It really means a lot to our fans.”
Surely on any shortlist of rock’s all time greatest live acts, Cheap Trick will take to the road in celebration of their electric new album, traveling as they have for decades, rocking arenas, concert halls, and amphitheatres worldwide more than 150 nights each year. BANG ZOOM CRAZY…HELLO affirms Cheap Trick as an indefatigable going concern, not merely Hall of Fame-worthy legends but a vital and vibrant fact of life.
“I don’t ever see us quitting,” Zander says. “We’re not cut out for sitting around and watching TV.”
“This is what we do,” Petersson says. “We’re very proud of this record, we have no problem going around the world playing songs from it. We’re going to do that anyway. That’s what we do.”
“We’re not a nostalgia band,” Nielsen says. “We never stopped making records, we never stopped touring. We’ve had ups, we’ve had super lows, but we kept at it and I think people appreciate that. Sometimes I think we’re just too dumb to quit. We just keep going.”
Dr. John & The Nite Trippers
Dr. John & The Nite Trippers
The legendary Dr. John is a six-time Grammy Award-winning musician and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Known throughout the world as the embodiment of New Orleans’ musical legacy, Dr. John is a true icon in American culture. His colorful musical career began in the 1950s when he wrote and played guitar on some of the greatest records to come out of the Crescent City, including recordings by Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Joe Tex, Frankie Ford and Allen Toussaint.
Dr. John headed west in the 1960s, where he continued to be in demand as a session musician, playing keyboards on records by Sonny and Cher, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones' “Exile On Main St.” During that time he launched his solo career, developing the charismatic persona of Dr. John The Nite Tripper. A legend was born with his breakthrough 1968 album “Gris-Gris,” which introduced to the world his unique blend of voodoo mysticism, funk, rhythm & blues, psychedelic rock and Creole roots. Several of his many career highlights include the masterful album “Sun, Moon and Herbs” in 1971 which included cameos from Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger and 1973’s “In The Right Place,” which contained the chart hits “Right Place Wrong Time” and “Such A Night.”
In addition to his six Grammy wins (1989, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2013), he has received six other Grammy nominations over the years. In 2007 he was nominated for “Sippiana Hericane,” his Hurricane Katrina benefit disc. After Hurricane Katrina Dr. John immediately stepped up to the plate with generous relief fund-raising concerts and recordings. In 2007 he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and Blues Hall of Fame. In 2008 he released “City That Care Forgot,” winning him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. His album "Locked Down", released in 2012 with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. In 2013 Dr. John was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tulane University alongside His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In 2014, Dr. John released critically acclaimed tribute to Louis Armstrong "Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch,” with co-producer and arranger Sarah Morrow, his longtime music director. In 2015, Dr. John was awarded the Louie Award from the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and he received the Jazz Foundation of America's Hank Jones Award in fall, 2016 at “A Great Night in Harlem” which has pledged $1 Million to help musicians recovering from the Louisiana flood.
Dr. John & The Nite Trippers released “The Bare Necessities,” produced by Morrow, for Disney's blockbuster “The Jungle Book” soundtrack in spring, 2016. In fall, 2016 Dr. John released the double live album and DVD “The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: A Celebration of Mac & His Music” with performers including Bruce Springsteen, Widespread Panic, Mavis Staples, Morrow, John Fogerty and many more. After more than half a century of creating music for others and himself, Dr. John continues to write, arrange, produce and interpret music with a passion.
Drivin N Cryin
Drivin N Cryin
I Played Guitar on a Chain Gang
Or, things you might want to know about my fuckin’ rock band
“We are a band that’s like your record collection.”
–That’s a quote from me in one of the first articles ever written about drivin’ n’ cryin’ back in the ’80s.
We released our first album Scarred But Smarter in 1986 on 688 Records. 688 was the center of the underground Atlanta rock scene in the 1980’s. Bands as diverse as Hüsker Dü, Rank and File, Lords of the New Church, The Residents and a week-long stint by Iggy Pop graced the hallowed walls of that now-defunct nightclub. If you drive down Spring Street today, there’s just a doc-in-a-box where the punk rock used to be.
I met Tim Nielsen just after I moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee. One night I was playing in a pickup band with Die Kreuzen, my good friends from back home. (Check out their Touch and Go records produced by Butch Vig.) They were staying on my floor, just passing through on tour. We played a lot of shows together a couple of years back when I was in a punk band called The Prosecutors, so we figured what the fuck? Let’s see what happens.
Tim was there that night. He played in the big 688 band The Nightporters and was a rock star in Atlanta. He pulled me aside after the show and asked me if I lived down here. I told him that I had just moved to town and was working at the sewage plant, retired from the music world for good at age 24.
Tim stopped by my apartment one afternoon a couple of weeks later and TOLD me he was gonna find me a band to be in. My music was on the folk side of Dylan at the time but I decided I was up to playing just for the fun of it. He got me practicing with a few guys but it wasn’t really happening, so eventually he decided we’d just start our own damn band.
Tim quit The Nightporters and stole their drummer and we played our first drivin’ n’ cryin’ show at 688 in October 1985. A little over a year later, I’m sitting in my living room with an album, a real, freakin’ 12-inch vinyl LP record called Scarred But Smarter.
I wanted to be in a band that would be unafraid of changing genres, mostly because I’m easily distracted and change subjects mid-sentence. “Needs help with self control,” read every report card after fifth grade….smartass…underground comic-readin’ journalistic wannabe…too lazy to write a complete story….I settled on the song format…it’s perfect…a short poem…with its own soundtrack.
At 24, I wrote:
Nobody said it would be fair
They warned you before you went out there
There’s always a chance to get restarted
To a new world, new life
Scarred but smarter
At that time, I had restarted myself. I come from an industrial land of things that used to be: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, class of 79…a town, back then, that encouraged you to leave high school, get a job in a factory, get injured and then get workers compensation while picking up a side job at a liquor store or record shop where you got paid under the table.
The band released its first album for Island, Whisper Tames The Lion, produced by Anton Fier, in early 1988. The album peaked at No. 130 on the Billboard 200. College radio success (and some commercial) accumulated with airplay of the songs “Can’t Promise You The World” (for which the band filmed its first video) and “Powerhouse”.
1989 marked the release of some of the band’s most memorable songs on the Mystery Road album, such as “Honeysuckle Blue” and “Straight To Hell.”
In 1991 the more hard-rocking Fly Me Courageous ended up being the band’s most commercially successful album, with the album being certified gold. The next few years the band toured with artists such as Neil Young and Soul Asylum. In 1993, DNC released another album produced by Geoff Workman, entitled Smoke, which peaked at No. 95 on the Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. This album was another all-out rocker, marked with guitar assaults, but it failed to catch on with the public as had its predecessor.
Lotsa touring, lotsa recording, lotsa people, lotsa stress, lotsa change, lotsa lotsa.
In 1994, the band decided to move away from the heavy guitar sounds of the previous two records and brought in keyboardist Joey Huffman to replace Buren Fowler. That same year the band left Island Records and found a new home at Geffen Records. The band’s first and only Geffen album, 1995’s Wrapped In Sky, featured newly added keyboard sounds and a return to the band’s original sound. 1997 brought along a self-titled album, followed two years later by a live album, The Essential Live Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’.
2009’s (Whatever Happened To The) Great American Bubble Factory (the first recording of new material in 12 years!) was the perfect crescendo to a long twenty-plus year career of drivin’ n’ cryin’. I think we found the true essence of what we started to build back in 1985. It’s the truth as we see it set to a soundtrack fueled by music we love, everyone from The Ramones, The Clash, The Seeds, Iggy, Dylan, Patti Smith Group, R.E.M., Thin Lizzy, The Rolling Stones. You get the point.
The song title for (Whatever Happened to the) Great American Bubble Factory hit me one afternoon when I was at the dollar store getting some bubbles for the neighborhood kids. As I was standing in line, I looked down at the “made in” label and noticed that those bubbles were made in China…..China!! That’s a long way for a bottle of freakin’ soap to travel. Come on, maybe we can’t make TVs or refrigerators or cars here anymore, but bubbles?
In my world, the first step to a renewed America and our deliverance from an unspeakable disrespect of the American workforce would be the opening of THE GREAT AMERICAN BUBBLE FACTORY. They would come from miles around to see the Willie Wonka of the New Deal….There’s hope again!!! If you can make it here, why don’t you make it here…
We started demos for this record back in 2001 on September 10th. The next day the world was upside down and traitors were everywhere, underneath every coffee cup. Joe McCarthy was back and I just didn’t feel like I was ready to tell the story of the blue-collared optimist…
She said, ‘Son, you’re dreamin’
Well, ma, if I’m dreamin’
Just don’t you wake me
That record weaves in and out of the “Midwestern Blues” to the Flannery O’Connor South of “This Town” to the industrial grind of “Detroit City” to the optimistic anthem (and Dictators cover!!) “I Stand Tall” to the genuine pining for home in “I See Georgia.”
I wanted you settled in, riled up, loaded for bear and somewhere out there on the road in search of the great American dream…..
Cut to 2011/12: the Georgia General Assembly commended Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ in a house resolution for the band’s achievements.
Sadler Vaden joins the band (replacing Mac Carter on lead guitar), we cut a deal with Redeye Distributors to keep our records out there in the public eye, we sign on with the William Morris Endeavor to book our shows, and a new record release concept comes to mind…!
A couple months ago I was writing in the morning and my wife was listening to a record. She said I should record that song and I said ‘well, I did.’ It was the last song on the last record ! It dawned on me then that most people that listen to records don’t usually listen past five or six songs, so I’m going to make a record with only five or six songs on it. In fact, I’m going to do four… Or five… Or maybe the rest of them this way!!!! This solves a lot of problems for drivin n cryin. I love the fact that we have never shied away from the fact we are influenced by so many different sounds. But sometimes combining them on one record can be somewhat disconcerting to a particular group of fans. I love that. I love the psychedelic element of challenging the listener. I mean it’s all based on a library of music from our past… THE KINKS and THE WHO meet the RAMONES and THE COUNT FIVE at a little bar owned by BOB DYLAN and JOHNNY CASH… But the opportunity to focus on a specific genre or subject is exciting to me…. Also an opportunity to record with all the people we have been looking forward to working with is almost limitless… We would love to work all over the country with our friends and the five song format means we only need a few days of their time… I think people will be excited when they own a few and can contrast the different sounds and producers… We released number one, Songs From The Laundromat, on June 12, 2012. Paul Ebersold produced number two: Songs About Cars, Space And The Ramones (released Oct 1, 2012) – a tip of the hat to The Ramones, Stooges, MC5. So we toured all over for those 2 EPs and then headed in the studio again to work on number 3… Songs From The Psychedelic Time Clock.
Now jump to 2013: Songs From The Psychedelic Time Clock is released April 16, 2013. The band hits the road (again!) in support of all 3 EP releases, starting the tour in Atlanta with 2 sold-out nights at the legendary Star Community Bar (2 NIGHTS! NO HITS!) and capping it with a very cool show at Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival, sharing the stage with Journey and Phoenix. Work begins on a super secret TV project for Fox’s FX Network to air January – April 2014. (more on this at a later date!) On days off between tour dates, the band convenes in Nashville TN and Memphis TN with producer Paul Ebersold to work on EP4 Songs For The Turntable.
2014 ushers in great new things including new lead guitarist Aaron Lee Tasjan. Tasjan was honored by ASCAP at the Kennedy Center in 2013 as one of America’s great songwriters of the next generation. A much sought after guitarist, he has played lead guitar with The NY Dolls, Alberta Cross, Everest, Todd Snider, collaborated with Sean Lennon in the band Operation Juliet and had his songs recorded by Jack White and Pat Green.
Season 5 of F/X Network’s hit TV show ‘Archer’ features 12 songs produced by Kevn Kinney (8 of which are Kinney-penned songs, including a complete re-working of DNC hit ‘Straight To Hell’).
‘Songs For The Turntable’ is released to great reviews and acclaim. Once again uber-producer Paul Ebersold assumed the helm, working with the band both in Nashville and Memphis, TN. Work begins on compiling the tracks and bonus material for a vinyl box set release.
“I don’t have the patience anymore for a two year recording project, a big build up as if you’re JD SALINGER, a tour and then reality again… I don’t like hype… I just want to offer up my art for the fans or soon-to-be-fans. A five or six song recording every three months like a magazine subscription… I want it now!!! And I want it NEW!” -Kevn Kinney
Did you know…
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s Whisper Tames the Lion was the lowest debut in the Billboard Top 200 albums chart the same week that Dark Side of the Moon fell off that chart for the first time since its release.
Did you know…
Minneapolis 60s garage band band The Trashmen (“Surfin’ Bird”) had Tim’s Uncle Gary as a member. They used to practice in his grandmother’s basement.
Did you know…
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ is the only band to share a stage with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sonic Youth AND Neil Young in the same twelve-month period.
Did you know…
The Violent Femmes’ Brian Ritchie was Kevn’s high school locker partner. They would go to his house after school and Kevn would watch Brian play guitar before they both watched 8mm porn films.
Did you know…
Peter Buck produced Kevn’s first solo folk record MacDougal Blues, which is coming up on its twenty-fourth anniversary. Peter also road-managed and played on the MacDougal tour (which featured our great, late friend Nikki Sudden) on his break from R.E.M.’s Green tour!!…
Did you know…
did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know….did you know…. by kevn kinney
Shawn Colvin won her first GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album with her debut album, Steady On, in 1989. She has been a mainstay of the contemporary folk music scene ever since, releasing eleven superlative albums and establishing herself as one of America’s greatest live performers. She triumphed at the 1998 GRAMMY Awards, winning both Record and Song of the Year for “Sunny Came Home.” Her inspiring and candid memoir, Diamond In The Rough, was published in 2012. With the wit, lyricism, and empathy that characterize Shawn’s performances, Diamond in the Rough looks back over a rich lifetime of highs and lows with stunning insight and candor.
Shawn’s most recent solo endeavor, Uncovered, is the long-awaited follow up to fan-favorite Cover Girl. Uncovered includes masterful interpretations of songs by Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Stevie Wonder, Graham Nash and more
In June 2016, Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle united to release, Colvin & Earle, their acclaimed self-titled duo album. Fueled by their longtime friendship, Colvin & Earle beautifully captures the pair’s extraordinary chemistry and is a true standout in careers already filled with pinnacles and masterpieces.
Shawn was recently recognized for her career accomplishments when she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award at the 2016 Americana Honors & Awards Show. Presenting her with this prestigious award was Bonnie Raitt. Said Raitt, “She’s simply one of the best singers I’ve ever heard— and a truly gifted and deep songwriter and guitarist… She was groundbreaking when she emerged and continues to inspire me and the legions of fans and other singer/songwriters coming up in her wake”
Parker Millsap didn’t know not to sing like this. Listening to old albums as a kid alone in his room, he didn’t realize howling like a Delta blues ghost readying the world for rock-and-roll isn’t how a skinny white boy from Purcell, Oklahoma usually sounds. In the midst of a world so fond of condemnation as entertainment, Millsap’s rootsy rock-and-roll poetry offers open-armed love of people and their stories. New album The Very Last Day is the anticipated follow-up to his eponymous 2014 release, which netted him high-profile praise from NPR, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others, as well as a nomination for Americana Emerging Artist of the Year. Whether the 23-year-old is singing from the perspective of a convenience store robber haunted by his past, or as the King of the Underworld wild with passion, his character-driven songs mine deep wells of joy and despair to create gut-punching narratives that are sometimes hellish, sometimes heavenly, and always human.
After spending the '80s as an up-and-coming jangle pop guitarist with Oh-OK, Lloyd Cole, the Golden Palominos and in his own band, Buzz of Delight, Matthew Sweet emerged in 1991 as the leading figure of the American power pop revival. Like his British counterparts Teenage Fanclub, Sweet adhered to traditional songcraft, yet subverted the form by adding noisy post-punk guitar and flourishes of country-rock, resulting in an amalgam of the Beatles, Big Star, R.E.M., and Neil Young. Recorded with guitarists Richard Lloyd and Robert Quine, Sweet's third album, Girlfriend (1991), became a word-of-mouth critical and commercial hit over the course of 1992, with its title track reaching the Top Five on the Modern Rock charts. For the next five years, as alternative rock was the dominant commercial force in rock & roll, Sweet became a very popular concert attraction and solidified his reputation as the premiere alternative pop singer/songwriter. His next two records, Altered Beast (1993) and 100% Fun (1995) were both critically acclaimed and successful albums, with the latter reaching platinum status and making many year-end best-of lists.
Sweet recorded the follow-up to Girlfriend with producer Richard Dashut, who had previously been best known for his work with Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey Buckingham. Again featuring Quine and Lloyd, the resulting Altered Beast was subversive compared to Girlfriend and considered by many critics and fans alike to be a favorite. The album became a sizable college radio hit on the strength of the modern rock and MTV hits "The Ugly Truth" and "Time Capsule." After releasing the stopgap EP Son of Altered Beast in the spring of 1994, Sweet recorded his fifth album, this time with a more commercial producer -- Brendan O'Brien, who had previously worked with Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. Released in the spring of 1995, 100% Fun received Sweet's strongest reviews to date and went gold then platinum on the strength of "Sick of Myself”.
Following 100% Fun, Sweet retained O'Brien for 1997's Blue Sky on Mars. In Reverse followed in 1999, and the best-of collection Time Capsule arrived a year later. Hip-O released To Understand: The Early Recordings of Matthew Sweet in 2002, a collection that Sweet followed up with the Japanese-only release Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu. He returned to the domestic studio in 2004 for Living Things, followed by a collection of choice covers from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s with Bangles member Susanna Hoffs for Under the Covers, Vol. 1 – 3.
In 2008, Sweet put out his tenth studio album, Sunshine Lies, which he termed as "power-pop-folk-rock-psychedelic-melodic-singer-songwriter-type stuff”. By turns achingly melodic and startlingly visceral, Sunshine Lies swirls with poetic emotion and stark attitude, bringing neatly into play the entire gamut of Sweet's stylistic experience
Released in 2011, Modern Art features 12 new compositions of Sweet's trademark wistful, yearning pop that recall some of Sweet s touchstones: the Beatles, Beach Boys and Big Star. ''She Walks the Night'' is reminiscent of early period Byrds, while ''Ladyfingers'' stomps along with the authority of T. Rex. Other standout tracks include the swirling, psychedelic ''Oh, Oldendaze!,'' the ruggedly assertive ''Late Nights With the Power Pop,'' the acerbically witty ''Evil By Design, Goodbye Nature'' and the sweetly soulful ''Modern Art.''
Sweet recently wrote and recorded (and sang and performed guitar on) a Journey parody song for an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer forms an ill-fated garage band.
Known for his knowledge and extensive collection of Margaret Keane paintings, Sweet was hired as a consultant on the 2014 Tim Burton film “Big Eyes". Many of the Margaret Keane paintings in the film are from Matthew’s collection.
Sweet is currently mixing a new studio album at his home recording facility in Omaha where he now lives. The record is scheduled for release first quarter of 2017.
Jojo Hermann (Widespread Panic)
Jojo Hermann (Widespread Panic)
John "JoJo" Hermann started playing keys with Widespread Panic in 1992. His major influences stem from New orleans piano players; most notably Professor Longhair and Dr. John.
Throughout his career he has brought his New Orleans piano boogie woogie style into his songwriting. JoJo is looking forward to taking these songs on the road and into the studio with his new project JoJo's Slim Wednesday. Hear all these songs live in Rosemary Beach for the 30A Songwriter's Festival.
“What’s so bad about happy?” John Fullbright sings on the opening track of his new album, ‘Songs.’ It’s a play on the writer’s curse, the notion that new material can only come through heartbreak or depression, that great art is only born from suffering.
“A normal person, if they find themselves in a position of turmoil or grief, they’ll say, ‘I need to get out of this as fast as I can,’” says Fullbright. “A writer will say, ‘How long can I stay in this until I get something good?’ And that’s a bullshit way to look at life,” he laughs.
That plainspoken approach is part of what’s fueled the young Oklahoman’s remarkable rise. It was just two years ago that Fullbright released his debut studio album, ‘From The Ground Up’ to a swarm of critical acclaim. The LA Times called the record “preternaturally self-assured,” while NPR hailed him as one of the 10 Artists You Should Have Known in 2012, saying “it’s not every day a new artist…earns comparisons to great songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Randy Newman, but Fullbright’s music makes sense in such lofty company.” The Wall Street Journal crowned him as giving one of the year’s 10 best live performances, and the album also earned him the ASCAP Foundation’s Harold Adamson Lyric Award. If there was any doubt that his debut announced the arrival of a songwriting force to be reckoned with, it was put to rest when ‘From The Ground Up’ was nominated for Best Americana Album at the GRAMMY Awards, which placed Fullbright alongside some of the genre’s most iconic figures, including Bonnie Raitt.
“I never came into this with a whole lot of expectations,” says Fullbright. “I just wanted to write really good songs, and with that outlook, everything else is a perk. The fact that we went to LA and played “Gawd Above” in front of a star-studded audience [at the GRAMMY pre-tel concert], never in my life would I have imagined that.”
But for Fullbright, it hasn’t been all the acclaim that means the most to him, but rather his entrance into a community of songwriters whose work he admires.
“When I started out, I was all by myself in a little town in Oklahoma where whatever you wanted, you just made it yourself,” he explains. “I didn’t grow up around musicians or like-minded songwriters, but I grew up around records. One of the most fulfilling things about the last two years is that now I’m surrounded by like-minded people in a community of peers. You don’t feel so alone anymore.”
If there’s a recurring motif that jumps out upon first listen to ‘Songs,’ it’s the act of writing, which is one Fullbright treats with the utmost respect. “When I discovered Townes Van Zandt, that’s when I went, ‘You know, this is something to be taken pretty damn seriously,’” says Fullbright. “‘This is nothing to do with business, it has to do with art and identity.’ You can write something that’s going to outlast you, and immortality through song is a big draw.”
But just as important to Fullbright as writing is careful editing. “I can write a first verse and a chorus fairly easily, and it’s important just to document it at the time and come back to it later,” he explains. “That’s the labor, when you really get your tools out and figure out how to craft something that’s worthwhile.”
Fullbright inhabits his songs’ narrators completely, his old-soul voice fleshing out complex characters and subtle narratives with a gifted sense of understatement.
“My songwriting is a lot more economical now,” he explains. “I like to say as much as I can in 2 minutes 50 seconds, and that’s kind of a point of pride for me.”
The arrangements on ‘Songs’ are stripped down to their cores and free of ornamentation. Fullbright’s guitar and piano anchor the record, while a minimalist rhythm section weaves in and out throughout the album. That’s not to say these are simple songs; Fullbright possesses a keen ear for memorable melody and a unique approach to harmony, moving through chord progressions far outside the expected confines of traditional folk or Americana. The performances are stark and direct, though, a deliberate approach meant to deliver the songs in their purest and most honest form.
“I’m a better performer and writer and musician now, and I wanted a record that would reflect that,” he says. “We tracked a lot of it live, just me and a bass player in a room with a few microphones. The basis is a live performance and everything else supports that. I think you just get as much energy and skill as you can into a take, and then start building from there. And what we found is that you don’t have to add too much to that.”
The songs also reflect how drastically Fullbright’s life has changed since the release of ‘From The Ground Up,’ which launched him into a rigorous schedule of international touring. “Going Home” finds him appreciating the simple pleasure of heading back to Oklahoma, which he likens to The Odyssey. “When you’re gone for so long, once you know you’re headed in the right direction to your own bed and your own home, that’s one of the greatest feelings you can have,” he says.
“I Didn’t Know” is a song he premiered live at concert hosted by Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, a story he tells still somewhat incredulously, while “When You’re Here” is a somber piano love song, and “The One That Lives Too Far’ is a raw account of the strain that distance can put on a romantic relationship. “All That You Know,” which features just voice and Wurlitzer, implores listeners to appreciate what’s right in front of them, and the finger-picked “Keeping Hope Alive” is a song of resilience through hard times.
To be sure, ‘Songs’ has its moments of darkness, tracks born from pain and heartbreak, but for a craftsman like Fullbright, there are few greater joys than carving emotion into music, taking a stab at that lofty goal of immortality through song. It makes him—and his fans—happy, and there’s nothing bad about that.
Over The Rhine
Over The Rhine
When you listen to Over the Rhine, the supremely talented wife-husband duo of Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, you quickly fall under the spell of Karin’s compelling voice, ethereal and earthy at once, and then you notice their subtle, satisfying arrangements, all the instruments so exquisitely balanced, and finally the lines of the songs start hitting you. Paste Magazine praises their “lovely, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting musical mosaic.” The Washington Post applauds their “understated, country-tinged charm.” The Los Angeles Times praises their 2014 holiday album, Blood Oranges In The Snow, declaring "If every musician brought this much inspiration and imagination to the task of recording holiday songs, what a wonderful world it truly would be.”
Tom Gray (The Brains)
Tom Gray (The Brains)
In 2008 the American Roots Music Association named Tom Gray Blues Songwriter of the Year. But Tom’s music ranges far beyond the blues. His songs have been recorded by Cyndi Lauper (several, including the hit “Money Changes Everything”), Manfred Mann, Carlene Carter, Bonnie Bramlett and many other artists.
Tom was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in Virginia and Georgia, where he lives today. But home has always been the family farm in the North Carolina mountains where he spent summers as a child and which he and his siblings bought back in the 1980s.
About that time Tom picked up his first lap steel guitar. He hasn’t put it down yet. Originally a keyboard player, in the early 1980s Tom led a rock group, The Brains, that recorded two albums on Mercury Records and an EP on Landslide Records. Today Tom tours internationally with the award-winning blues-based band Delta Moon and performs as a solo artist. Delta Moon's latest album, Low Down, was named one of the best of 2015 by both Downbeat and Blues Music Magazine.
Tom’s other interests include family, vegetable gardening and aikido.
"Despite his success and sense of history, Mr. Paul remains an artist with his eye on the future and an interest in discovering the transformative potential in his music." - The New York Times
Some artists document their lives through their music. Others chronicle their times. It’s a rare artist who can do both, telling their own story through songs that also encapsulate the essence of people and places who have helped define their era overall. Woody Guthrie comes to mind, and so does Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen certainly as well. Yet few others, for whatever genius they may possess, can relate their own history to the history experienced by those who find that common bond, be it in a coming of age, living through the same realities or sharing similar experiences.
Ellis Paul is one of those gifted singer/songwriters.Though some may refer to him as a folksinger, he is more, for lack of a better word, a singular storyteller, a musician whose words reach out from inside and yet also express the feelings, thoughts and sensibilities that most people can relate to in one way or another, regardless of age or upbringing. The exhilaration of the open road. A celebration of heroes. The hope for redemption. Descriptions of those things that are both near and dear. The sharing of love..., intimate, passionate and enduring.
These are the scenarios that emerge from Ellis Paul’s new album, Chasing Beauty, a set of songs which detail, in typical Paul fashion, stories of people and places that reflect larger truths about us all. “Kick Out the Lights (Johnny Cash)” pays tribute to that fearless American icon name-checked in its title. “Plastic Soldier” offers homage to a wounded soldier returning from Afghanistan. A real-life barnstorming pilot takes the spotlight in “Jimmie Angel’s Flying Circus,” while iconic Boston blue collar musician Dennis Brennan takes the focus in “Waiting on a Break.” Even the Empire State Building and the Boston Red Sox get their due, via “Empire State” and “UK Girl (Boston Calling),” respectively.
In reality, these stories are a continuation of tales Paul has told for more than a quarter century, over the expanse of nineteen albums, numerous critical kudos (15 Boston Music Awards alone), inclusion in several movie soundtracks, and stages he’s headlined both near and far. “I’ve got a car with over 475,000 miles on it, and it's my third road vehicle,” Paul declares. “I’ve been doing 200 shows a year for over twenty years. There isn’t a town in the country where I won’t find a friend. I’m a nomad. And I’m gonna write and play until I’m gone.”
No doubt he will. Still, it’s somewhat ironic that Paul gravitated towards this bigger world of intent and expression given that the place Paul considers his hometown these days isn’t New York or Nashville, or Boston or Austin or Charlottesville, VA. where he lives, but rather Presque Isle, Maine, a tiny enclave surrounded by three rivers. Not surprisingly, the name translates to “almost an island.” Presque Isle shares a vanishing tradition with many small towns these days, where family farms are giving way to industrialization and giant corporations, and earning a livelihood from the land is no longer the simple option it once was. Nevertheless, it’s still a haven for traditional values and for people as real and authentic as the soil they once tilled. If there’s one grace left to cling to, it’s the grace of nature’s beauty, sealed off by the surrounding mountains and fields.
Likewise, his geographical origins also couldn’t have been further from the world at large. He was born in the dead of winter in the small town of Fort Kent, Maine, a place nestled right up next to the Canadian border. He came from humble origins, a family of potato farmers who could count among their forebears a veteran of the battle of Gettysburg, whose heroism on that field of honor earned him the 140 acres of Maine farmland that his descendants would continue to sow. It was the place that taught Paul the meaning of hard work and self-reliance, and the values that accompany as much drive and determination any individual could muster.
As a boy, Paul found his escape in athletics, working out as a runner and testing his mettle in the open spaces near his home. He became a star competitor, and enjoyed the advantage of traveling throughout the nation after being given opportunities to compete. Along the way, he saw more of the country than most people do in a lifetime. “I was lucky to be able to travel for competitions all over the U.S. and to see places I once could only dream of,” he recalls. “The Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles, the endless plains of Texas, the Kansas prairie, the Rocky Mountain in Wyoming. Every trip was funded by a hat the town passed around on my behalf, and it never came back empty.” When Paul finished second in a nationwide track competition, he was met at the airport by the high school marching band and a fire engine with spinning lights that drove him in triumph through town. In an expression of hometown pride, the mayor handed him the key to the city.
No one ever told Paul he had to follow in his family’s tradition. He was a dreamer after all, and he had seen enough of America to know there was more out there than his little town could ever offer. Consequently, his ambitions were never destined to stay bottled up for long. He would write, paint, play trumpet and sing in the school choir. “I never had anyone tell me I had to be a farmer,” Paul insists. “I had plenty of people telling me how my hard work and talent could take me places. That’s enough to get you dreaming, And enough to make you believe those dreams are within reach.”
Indeed, Paul found those dreams were within his reach, at least in terms of his imagination. However their pursuit would take him far from home. His first destination was Boston College, courtesy of a track scholarship. Yet as Paul describes it, his athletic endeavors, combined with his academic responsibilities, served to rob him of his creativity. It was only after he suffered a knee injury which forced him to take a year off that he rebounded with a new form of expression, made possible when his girlfriend’s sister gave him a secondhand guitar. “A mysterious, lustful partnership with the instrument followed,” Paul concedes. “It became a marriage, a friendship, a lifelong bond that only comes when you find that one thing that becomes an extension of yourself. I played for hours, choosing to write my own original songs and sing instead of studying, socializing or exploring what the Boston streets could offer after hours.”
After graduation, Paul did find time to explore those paths, while taking opportunities to indulge his creative ambitions. Working as a teacher and social worker with inner city children by day and pursuing the possibilities offered by Boston’s fertile music scene at night, he gained prominence in local coffeehouses and open mic nights. It was the same circuit that opened the door for other like-minded artists of the day, and in turn, gave Paul exposure to such creative contemporaries as Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, Patty Larkin, John Gorka, Catie Curtis, and Bill Morrissey. It also helped him win a Boston Underground Songwriting competition and placement on a Windham Hill Records singer/songwriter compilation, bringing him his first hint of national exposure at the same time.
The major tipping point in his career came with the opportunity to open for Bill Morrissey, one of New England’s most prominent folk artists. Paul would repeatedly ask Morrissey about his own influences and seek his advice on who he ought to listen to. “You know, that’s a very smart thing to do,” Morrissey muses. “It helped set him apart. A lot of young singers I meet are not curious about what went on before; they just say, ‘I want to sing another song about my life.’ Paul has a sense of roots, of connectedness to the whole history of folk music; he sees the thread that runs through all the generations of this music.”
It was mutual admiration that caused Paul to ask Morrissey to produce his first full album, 1993‘s Say Something. It was released on Black Wolf Records, the label he founded with Ralph Jaccodine, the man who would become his manager. “Ralph was fulfilling a dream to get into the music business,” Paul recalls. “Starting with a folk singer isn’t a rocket launch, but we got off the ground. We started a label and began a lifelong, DIY partnership and have been in the trenches for over 20 years.”
Paul also became infatuated with the music of Woody Guthrie, drawn to Woody’s social consciousness and the humanitarian streak that ran through his work. He even had a tattoo of Guthrie imprinted on his right shoulder, referring to it as “a badge of who he was.” His commitment to Guthrie’s legacy eventually led to his inclusion in a ten day celebration of Woody’s work held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in September 1996, an event that included such notables as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, the Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco and which was presided over by Guthrie’s daughter Nora. Later, when Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma hosted the first Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in July, 1998, Paul was tapped as one of the headliners. He has since made this an annual part of his touring schedule, garnering the honor of being named an honorary citizen of Okemah in the process. The connection with Guthrie continued into the new millennium when Nora Guthrie invited him to put music to a set of her father’s lyrics. He later participated in the “Ribbon of Highway” tour, a communal salute featuring such luminaries as Arlo Guthrie, Marty Stuart, Ramblin’ Jack Ellott, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark and Janis Ian, among others.
There’s likely no greater evidence of how Guthrie’s insights and humanity have rubbed off on Paul than in this particularly telling tribute from Nora Guthrie. "A singer songwriter is only as good as the times he reflects,”she said in praising Paul. “In times like these, when so many nuts are running the show, it's comforting to know that Ellis Paul is actually holding our sanity on his own stage! Wise, tender, brilliant and biting, Ellis is one of our best human compasses, marking in melodies and poems where we've been and where we might go if we so choose to. Personally Ellis, I'm goin' where you're goin'!"
Where Paul is “goin’” is to practically every place a microphone beckons and a crowd of the folk faithful awaits. He’s become a staple at the Newport Folk Festival, played Carnegie hall, and venues from Alaska to Miami, Paris and London. In addition to his 19 albums released on the Rounder and Black Wolf record labels, his music has appeared on dozens of distinguished compilations. A Film/DVD entitled 3000 Miles -- part concert film, part documentary, part instructional video -- provides a further prospective on both the man and his music. He’s also released a pair of children’s albums, earning him honors from the Parent’s Choice Foundation for both. His latest, "The Hero In You" has been turned into a picture book, detailing the lives of great American heroes. Ellis' literate, evocative and insightful writings are further showcased in a book of poetry and short stories entitled “Notes from the Road," already in it's third pressing.
It’s no wonder then that recently Paul received a prestigious honor: an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Maine, which also asked him to write the school's alma mater as well as deliver its commencement address in May 2014.
Happily, his music has been shared with a wider audience as well, through commercials, documentaries, TV shows and in the soundtracks of several blockbuster films, among them three by the Farrelly Brothers -- “Hall Pass” (starring Owen Wilson and Alyssa Milano), “Me, Myself, & Irene” (starring Jim Carrey) and “Shallow Hal” (starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow). Peter Farrelly summed up the sentiments of all those who have come to know and appreciate Paul’s music by referring to him as “a national treasure.”
Not surprisingly, Paul’s consistently been heralded by others as well. One writer noted “that it reminds you how much we need storytellers back in pop music -- storytellers with empathy, fine eyes and an understanding that even though we live in a soulless, indifferent would, out music doesn’t have to reflect our culture." Another reviewer was even more pointed. “Ellis Paul is one of the best singer/songwriters of his generation,” she commented. “And for many of us he is the face of contemporary folk music. Few are as smart, as literate, as poetic as Paul. I cannot think of another artist on the acoustic music scene is better loved by fans, or more respected by his contemporaries.”
Indeed, he is all that, and in a very real sense, even more. He’s an observer, a philosopher, and an astute storyteller who shares with his listeners the life lessons he’s learned, and in turn, life lessons they ought to heed as well. By affirming and defining who he is, Ellis Paul affirms and uncovers the essence of us all.
-- Lee Zimmerman (writer/reviewer for American Songwriter, No Depression, New Times, Country Standard Time, Blurt, Relix, and M Music and Musicians)
Austin-based singer/songwriter/creative force of nature Bob Schneider has a guy in his band, Oliver Steck, who plays keyboards, accordion, trumpet and assorted whistles and horns. Also, Schneider notes, “Oliver also does a lot of dancing. He doesn’t necessarily get paid for the dancing. He does it because he can’t not.”
Sometimes it’s writing songs — he has written some 2,000 songs in the past 16 years — sometimes it’s creating videos to accompany some of those songs and sometimes it’s making gallery-ready art, including paintings and collages. He also has played a wedding singer in an indie film, written two books and penned a rock opera that has a title that can’t be printed in a family newspaper.
Some of his musical mates even wonder when — or whether — he ever sleeps.
“I love making things, so that’s what I spend a lot of my time doing,” says Schneider… “I do have periods where I feel like I’ll never create anything that’s any good ever again. The good news is, it doesn’t stop me from creating things, and eventually that feeling will pass and I can look over the stuff that I’ve made and figure out which of it is better than the other stuff. Because I like to do it so much, I’ll end up with quite a bit of it at the end of the year.”
Schneider has been a recording artist for 25 years, putting out his first record (“Party Till You’re Dead”) in 1991 as frontman for Joe Rockhead, a funk-rock combo in the vein of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That band was followed by his best-known group, Ugly Americans, which toured with the Dave Matthews Band and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Ugly Americans was a kind of alt-rock supergroup, with former members of Cracker, Poi Dog Pondering and Mojo Nixon’s band.
Schneider also fronted a full-on funk ensemble that played around Austin in the late 1990s called The Scabs, at the same time he was establishing himself as a solo artist. His first solo project, “Songs Sung and Played on Guitar at the Same Time,” came out in 1998, and he’s gone on to record an almost inconceivably diverse and eclectic array of songs since then, with his work making it onto the soundtracks of seven major motion pictures (and one indie film).
All told, Schneider has been the singer and main songwriter on nearly 30 studio albums, and he has been named Musician of the Year six times at the Austin Music Awards. Considering the renowned strength of the music scene in Austin, that’s saying something. His artistry coupled with his movie-star looks and boyish charm makes it a wonder he’s not a household name around the rest of the country the way he is in Austin.
His prodigious musical output is a result of a songwriting challenge group he started 16 years ago while touring. At first, the challenge was to write one song a day, and the people doing the writing were on the tour bus with him. They’d come up with a title each morning and at the end of the day play the songs they came up with for each other.
The pace of the songwriting challenge has eased up substantially since its beginnings, going to one song a week, but the scope of the participation in the group has widened to include a lot of widely known musicians.
“We’ve had lots of famous folks in the game from time to time, but they usually don’t last very long,” Schneider says. “The exception would be Jason Mraz, who has been in the game on and off for six or seven years and is one of the most consistent songwriters in the group. Very talented and will always turn a song in. At the end of the day, though, I really only have the group as a motivation to get me to write a song each week. Otherwise, a month might go by without writing anything and that would be a shame.”
The past few years, Schneider has grouped the songs he’s written in a year under an album title, just to kind of keep track of when they were written. Titles for recent years have included “Here’s the Deal,” “The Ever Increasing Need to Succeed,” “Into the Great Unknown” and “Mental Problems.” This year’s theme (and the name of his current concert tour) is “The Practical Guide to Everything.”
Schneider has a fantastic website where fans can listen to all of the songs from the three five-song “King Kong Suite” EPs he released last year, with humorous commentary from Schneider himself between songs.
The website also has the 10 videos he created for “King Kong” songs using public-domain found footage, including the menacing “Black Mountain” video that culls scenes from Francis Ford Coppola’s directorial debut. The website also offers a chance to stream his regular Monday evening shows at Austin’s Saxon Pub.
“The Saxon Pub shows are unique in the fact that I play a lot of material there that I don’t play anywhere else,” Schneider explains. “New stuff that I wrote that week or in the last few weeks. Really old material that we haven’t played in a while. I hardly play any of the stuff that you’ll hear on the road, which is a mix of the best of everything. The best new material alongside the best of my last 20 years of writing songs.”
…He has an almost Dylanesque reputation for keeping things fresh, with shows so different from one another that for years he [has] recorded every show and…[sold] copies for people to purchase right after the show.
“I play a lot of cities twice a year, and I like the fact that a lot of my fans will come see me play every time I come to town, knowing that I’ll be playing material they’ve never seen me perform and might not ever perform again,” Schneider says. “I don’t have any of the banter planned either, so that stuff is usually unique to that night as well. It keeps things fresh for me and allows me to play crowd favorites that I’ve been playing for years, but still makes the whole thing feel new overall for me and hopefully for the audience.”
Adapted from "Bob Schneider surfs an ocean of creative juices" written by Randy Erickson and published in the LaCrosse Tribune, April 14, 2016
The opening chords of the first track, "Inside," on award-winning, singer-songwriter, author, and activist Chely Wright’s new record, I AM THE RAIN, are direct, purposeful, and intense – a sound that defines the brilliant album. After more than five years away from the spotlight, and through a heroic personal and creative journey, Wright has returned with the release of a long anticipated new CD. And as she begins to sing the lyrics of "Inside," her confidence, intelligence, and poetic ambition quickly come into focus.
When it came time to record her new album, Chely knew it was going to be different from everything she had done in the past. Scheduled for release on September 9th, Wright and multiple GRAMMY® Award-winning producer/artist Joe Henry (Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, Carolina Chocolate Drops) approached the work as a new beginning. Her recent songs were coming from a place of total openness and spoke to the kind of self-discovery that changes lives.
Putting her talents as a singer-songwriter to the fore-front, the beginnings of which can be seen with producer Rodney Crowell on her 2010 record LIFTED OFF THE GROUND, becomes fully formed on I AM THE RAIN. Crowell actually pointed Chely to Henry and he quickly became a vital influence and contributor to I AM THE RAIN. “Joe’s a visionary,” Wright says. “He taught me to understand that a great deal of making music is intention, and then to trust those intentions all the way. As terrifying as it could be expressing some of these feelings, those have become my best moments. That let me reach for my best self and trust what I found when I did that; and to not be afraid about being imperfect. Instead, just be able to let go.”
On her new album, Wright finally realizes all those dreams of making music that comes from her deepest soul. She has arrived, and we are among the lucky beneficiaries.
Her 2010 Random House memoir, LIKE ME, describes a life of dizzying heights as well as terrifying lows. The truth is told, no matter how painful it might be. As the artist wrote about her coming out as a lesbian, she also struggled with facing all the trauma and inner turmoil she had been through.
Getting there for Wright has been a lifelong journey. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, she grew up in a musical family in the small town of Wellsville, Kansas. The young Wright starting singing professionally at age 11, and by her senior year of high school was working as performing musician at the Ozark Jubilee, a country music show in Branson, Missouri. After graduating, the young Kansan went directly to Nashville as part of the music production at Opryland USA theme park. Wright landed her first label deal in 1993 with Mercury/Polygram and immediately started getting serious attention in country music circles. In 1995, she was named Top New Female Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music, then scored her first Top 40 country hit in 1997 with “Shut Up and Drive,” from her third album LET ME IN. Two years later, Wright’s fourth album SINGLE WHITE FEMALE produced several hit singles, including the chart-topping Number 1 title track and her first gold album certification. In 2000, Wright and artist Brad Paisley co-wrote the duet “Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife,” performing it at the Grand Ole Opry’s 75th anniversary gala. There were other career highlights in the next few years, including a nomination for The Horizon Award Vocal Event of the Year at the annual Country Music Association Awards, Top Female Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Association, a Top 4 debut for her 2001 album NEVER LOVE YOU ENOUGH, and being named to People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” list that same year.
Clearly the promising new singer had become an established national star, but like most careers, there would also be detours ahead. She left her major record label in 2003, and then the next year signed with a new independent label. Her single, “Bumper of My SUV” became a hit with country radio and led to a new affiliation Dualtone Records. Wright’s sixth album, THE METROPOLITAN HOTEL became a Number 7 hit on the Top Independent Albums chart, followed by Vanguard Records’ release LIFTED OFF THE GROUND in 2010, the same year as publication of her self-penned memoir, LIKE ME.
Wright approached the writing process for I AM THE RAIN with a new found hope and excitement that a musical and lyrical expression unique to her alone was in her reach. "I spent time in the hospital room with my mother while she was dying,” Wright says. “I’d recently written 'At the Heart of Me,' and as my mom listened to the demo of that song, it became clear to me that it was time to start a new record.”
The range of songs on I AM THE RAIN reflect a view into an entire lifetime. The first song recorded for the album, “See Me Home,” set the stage for the rest of the songs to come. “That song became the rudder of the whole album, feeling like the saying, 'A rising tide lifts all ships.' Except in this case it was the rest of the songs." The lyrics remain the centerpiece of the album:
“Take my hand
Walk me through the valley
I’ll fear not, with the sun to warm my face
There we’ll stand
In the light of all that shall be
Knowing home has never been a place”
Wright quickly understood this was one of the most moving revelations of the album. It came over her like a wave. “The recordings became a life lesson,” she says. “Something dramatic started happening as the album was unfolding. It required me to just take a seat and absorb these amazing musicians in the room. It was then that I could acknowledge that something was being sprinkled in the atmosphere and it made me able to just trust."
Part of the power that Henry brought to the album included drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist David Piltch, guitarists Adam Levy and Mark Goldenberg, keyboardist Patrick Warren, saxophonist Levon Henry, and engineer Ryan Freeland. It was in this circle of players and people that Wright realized she had to change how she related to what was being created. “I needed to get really quiet as we made the album. And I needed to recognize all those special moments in the day as they were happening. Several times during the sessions I felt a warmth wash over me as we were working. I had never experienced anything quite like it before.”
In working on the songs that would become I AM THE RAIN, Chely discovered a way to shape not just the life she was hoping to live but also to see all the things that had brought her to this place. “Sometimes the past becomes a stalker, demanding to be acknowledged. And other times it can be a savior, where all the lessons learned are a gateway to the future,” she says.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the song “Next to Me:”
“If the world starts comin’ at me
And my armor rattles loose
If my compass starts to spinnin’
Tell me can I count on you?
To say you’ll stay next to me
Even on the darkest days we’ll ever know
Just stay next to me
Next to me forever please don’t go”
As Wright’s new strength was gathering, she was able to look at her past and not fidget or flinch. Each new recording session offered insights and continued aspiration. “At the Heart of Me” became one of her new mantras:
“Our faith is a well and deep down I can tell
I’m as thirsty as a mortal can be
Silence abounds and is ringing through town
Like a bell swinging high over me
But it won’t matter now
It couldn’t change what I see
If a thousand miles lay between us today
You’re still at the heart of me”
In speaking about the musical and emotional breakthrough of I AM THE RAIN, it is quickly clear that Chely could not have come to this place without writing her honest and telling memoir LIKE ME, where she speaks so openly of a life sometimes lived in the shadows, and the price that demanded. “Something became free in me when that happened. That process of freedom led to a new way of living. Before the book my object in life was to stay concealed, and I tended to write that way. But now I can write from the inside out, and it completely changes what I can do. I was no longer afraid.”
I AM THE RAIN is a new beginning, but one that is built on the bedrock work of a musical survivor. Milestones achieved include working with Joe Henry, writing with him, Edie Carey and Rodney Crowell, singing with Crowell, Emmylou Harris and the Milk Carton Kids, recording a Bob Dylan song (“Tomorrow is a Long Time”): the list continues. Asked to sum up this hugely significant step in her life, Wright doesn’t hesitate. “I believe I’ve given birth to a beautiful new baby and I would like people who see my baby to think it’s beautiful too. That’s how much this new music means to me. I am so very lucky it all came true."
Robert Ellis has named his new album after himself and the reason is clear. The album is both his most personal statement yet and a summation of his career thus far. Robert Ellis opens with “Perfect Strangers,” a meditation on what brings people together (and how tenuous that connection can be), and ends with “It's Not OK,” a raw look at emotional compromise. Between those two powerful bookends are nine other songs that set Ellis's soaring vocals and knowing melodies against his sharp, dark observations, and that show him in full command of a vibrant set of songwriting skills—irony, distance, character, narrative, a thoughtful relationship between sound and sense.
Ellis was born and raised in Lake Jackson, a town about an hour from Houston whose other famous residents have included the Pauls (Ron and Rand) and Selena (the original Queen of Tejano, not the current pop sensation). From an early age, he escaped small-town boredom through music. At first, his tastes ran toward traditional hits. “I remember having a bunch of pop records when I was really young: No Doubt and Michael Jackson and Garth Brooks. That was when I was pretty passive as a listener—I liked them, but maybe I got to them because my mom or one of my sisters had them. The first I really got obsessed with was a Doc Watson collection. I was already starting to play guitar, and my uncle told my mom to get it for me. He was my first guitar hero.”
As he developed as a writer, though, he found himself drawn toward the smartest and sharpest of the class of songwriters who developed in the 1970s: artists like Paul Simon, John Prine, and Randy Newman. And he didn’t just listen to them. He learned from them. Specifically, he learned the finer points of songcraft. “I've been a big fan of Paul Simon for a long time,” he says. “He has this capacity to surprise you with his music and his lyrics. With John Prine's songs, I grew from believing that they happened to him to understanding that it didn’t matter if they really happened to him. And Randy Newman? Wow. I especially love a record like Trouble in Paradise, when there are all these artificial 1980s production techniques, but they’re being used in the service of this master composer.”
That respect for tradition—but more specifically for the fact that so-called traditional artists were in fact consistent risk-takers—fuel Ellis’s new record. “With this record,” he says, “I feel like I’ve gotten to where I can use the material of my own life as a jumping-off point. But now I can do different things with that material.” In this case, of course, the material has an element of melancholy. Much of the record revolves around the dissolution of Ellis’s marriage. It’s a breakup album, but not one that dissects its subject with straightforward rage and regret—Ellis and his ex-wife remain friends, and she is even featured in the album art, which was created after the divorce. Rather, it’s an album that finds Ellis reaching back into the trick bags of masters like Simon, Prine, and Newman, and employing the full complement of skills that he’s learned from them. “‘Perfect Strangers,’ took a month,” he says. “I had a notepad and walked around New York, giving myself personal therapy through the eyes of the city.”
Other songs came faster. “I wrote ‘Elephant” quickly,” he says. “It's about my misunderstanding of monogamy and my complete bewilderment with some of the ideas that I grew up with. I felt that in the past year, lots of constructs I took for granted were turned on their head. But I was careful to express those ideas in a way where the gray areas got to stay gray. If what you’re saying is that you’re confused, you shouldn't say you're confused. You should betray a contradiction.”
Ellis isn’t afraid of sophistication. The beautifully orchestrated “You’re Not the One” has more complex origins than its title might suggest. “For that one, I woke up from a nightmare that was a kind of sex dream. In the dream, the faces around me kept changing. It was very eerie, like a David Lynch movie. The song has that sense of unease but also this Ellington bridge that’s unrelated to the key of the song. I’m really proud of that one.” But he can make his point with simplicity also, as in the chorus to “Drivin’,” a co-write with Angaleena Presley: “This don’t feel like living, it’s just surviving / I’m ain’t going nowhere, I’m just driving.” And then there’s “High Road,” the emotional center of the record, co-written with friend Jonny Fritz, a song about professional and personal insecurity that builds from lonesome shivers to almost operatic melodrama—all the while riding a lovely, fragile melody.
While Ellis wrote nine of the album’s songs, he is also a generous collaborator dedicated to finding songs from other writers who advance his vision. “Once I knew that much of the record would be composed of these extremely personal songs like ‘Elephant’ or ‘High Road,’ but I was aware from the start that I couldn’t have a whole record of them. Putting it together was like assembling a collection of short stories. You need different tones and colors. So that’s why I included a song like ‘How I Love You,’ which was written by my friend Matt Vasquez, from Delta Spirit. We were hanging out, and I asked him if he had any good uptempo songs, and he showed me that one. And ‘Screw’ was written by Kelly Doyle, who plays guitar in our band. Listening to him work on his solo record, I was amazed by the sound. His process and palette were really inspirational to me.”
The album ends with “It's Not OK,” which holds its ground as a traditional busted-love song before hurtling headlong into a dark thicket of guitars. “In that case, because the song is about that kind of emotional trouble, part of me that wanted dissonance and chaos. The melodic and rhythmic ideas to me are a different kind of information from the lyrics, but they’re still information.”
As thoughtful as Ellis is about the process, his album also has plenty of pop pleasures. “California” is a jaunty, intimate travelogue that elevates into his chorus. “Amanda Jane” has an almost bossa nova shuffle and a melody that splits the difference between power pop and 70s soft rock. And “Couples Skate” reaches back even further. “I wrote that one while were on tour with Richard Thompson. It’s a green room song. I was just journaling, and I remembered holding this girl’s hand in second grade. It’s a nostalgic idea, which is why I reached for a 50s soul vibe. But it’s also nineties, in a way—something about it that reminds me of the rock and roll I was listening to around that time.”
In the end, Robert Ellis (the album) is the most accurate reflection yet of Robert Ellis (the man). It’s analytical and emotional, calculated in spots and improvisational in others, restless, peaceful, never indifferent, never dispassionate.
ROBERT ELLIS DISCOGRAPHY The Great Rearranger (2009) Photographs (2011) The Lights From The Chemical Plant (2014) Robert Ellis (2016)
Movies that claim to be “based on a true story” are often a loose interpretation, and this concept record is a bit like that. I really did run away from home, if only for a few days, and parts of this song diary come from those honest emotions and true events. But I wanted these songs to flow like good film, like my daydreams do, so I took a storyteller’s liberty here and there. My hope is that this collection is an all encompassing escape for the listener; a chance to runaway for 45 minutes and get lost in a good story.
In tenth grade my friend Becky and I decided on a whim to just split. Our friend Jenny drove us downtown to the Detroit bus station and we went to Chicago. We slept in the big train station where we were approached a number of times by what I’m sure were pimps wondering if we needed "work.” We definitely looked the part of teenagers ready to find trouble, and after a couple of nights we were caught and taken by paddy wagon to Juvenile Hall and then flown home. It was an adventure, and fortunately it had a safe and happy ending. Not every runaway gets so lucky.
In 2009 I was invited to play an opening run for an artist named Seasick Steve. His life story is full of hobo adventure. He ran away at 14, hopped trains, played music and had a million interesting jobs and stories to tell. After recounting some of his vagabond stories I thought how I would have loved to have him guide me through the ways of being a real drifter, had I not been caught in that Chicago train station. His stories made it seem romantic. Knowing Steve, he would have eventually steered me home and so my daydream turned into the song "Rabbit.” It opens the record, and I see it as something of a foreshadowing in the storyline.
The cover songs stitch together and round out the storyline. "Where I Lead Me" brings a little fun and defiance to the drifter in our story, when she's feeling free and empowered and isn't yet homesick or hungry. "How" struck me at once as a song always appropriate at some point in just about any story's plot, and “Dark Moon” comes at the moment she's realizing that there is always a dark side.
My filmmaker friend Mike McCarthy wrote “Lousy Pretender,” which I tried to include on my last record, Stranger Me, but couldn’t make it fit. It seems to settle better with this collection of songs – perhaps it's a bit ambiguous in its literal place in the storyline, but this is where the listener gets to decide who plays the cheating wife.
I'm sure now that when taking that trip to Chicago I was really running to something not away from something. My home life wasn't tragic – some parts were just sad and unsatisfying. My parents had recently divorced, my sister was angry and in trouble, and school bored me to tears. Most of my friends were lost souls experimenting with drugs (I am not excluded on this one count), skipping class (well, this one too), getting pregnant (thank goodness, not this one) and nothing seemed to be happening. As a matter of fact, I believe all of them stayed near that small Michigan town and now have nice families and regular jobs. At times that life seems desirable, but my nature is too restless. I wouldn't last.
The song “Big Sister” is written from a child’s perspective. When we were young my sister and I fought like animals and I thought she was the meanest thing on Earth. She seemed cruel, sometimes abusive and was a vacuum for my parent’s attention. Today, my sister is amazing. We’re close, and our teenage years are water under the bridge. She’s also an artist – now that I understand her better, I know she felt things in our childhood with an artist's sensibilities and was in a lot of pain.
"Last Rock’n’Roll Boy To Dance" falls in with the theme of a drifter’s restlessness and recognizes the restlessness in another. The Last Rock’N’Roll Boy to Dance is someone behaving in a way that embodies reckless abandon with indifference to the judgments about the common cool kid at any rock club.
"Snowflake" is the most honest song here. It’s my perspective, in my language and gives an accurate account of what went through my mind in the act of leaving. It's kind of like my version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I moved away from home for good at 17. I briefly quit school, later finishing at night school while working at various restaurants. I saved my money and moved to L.A., but I couldn't find a job – 17 days later I asked my mom to wire me some money to get back to Michigan. I left again at 19 and moved to Louisiana, then Nashville, Ocean City and Orlando. I eventually made it to Memphis, which I now call home – but I tour more than I’m there, and it satisfies my nature.
I wrote "Self Made Orphan" in the middle of a terrible crush. The desire to be connected to my crush was so powerful that I was sincerely terrified. I was trying to convince myself that I didn't want to love or to be loved in any kind of needy way. I was so distracted by this man that my brain twisted every song on the radio to be about us. The matters of the heart scare me more than anything, and actually, the entire record was recorded under this duress. Anyway, I gave the song to the character in my daydream. I put her out on a sidewalk with a transistor radio and let her try to convince herself that she was happy with what was around her. Of course, through the writing of the song I knew I was going to have to get brave and take a chance -- run to something -- and I'm so grateful I did.
When I was a kid, my mother once said, "You could drop Amy naked in the middle of New York City with one dollar and she'd walk out clothed with a hundred." Naturally this is one of my favorite things she ever said about me. I try to buy into it as I roll around the world. At times I am running away from a bad experience and other times racing to what I know will be a good show or a chance to see some friends. And when I am in the van traveling down the road, this is my favorite time of the day – I like to turn on a record and run away in the story, lose myself in the daydreams the music conjures. This record is for daydreaming. Thank you for listening.
David Hodges (Evanescence)
David Hodges (Evanescence)
David Hodges is a multi-platinum Grammy and BMI award winning, Golden Globe nominated, songwriter & producer. David cut his teeth as one of the founding members of the Little Rock, AR based rock act Evanescence. Their debut album went on to sell over 18 million copies, but in the height of the band’s success, he left to focus on songwriting and production. Over the past decade, David has worked with some of the biggest artist’s in the world from writing their hits to creating successful end titles for film. From the haunting piano melodies of Evanescence’s My Immortal to Christina Perri’s 6 million selling Twilight end title, A Thousand Years… Hodges signature sound starts on the piano and can be heard across many of the song he’s written. David also co-wrote #1 smash singles Kelly Clarkson’s Because of You, Daughtry’s What About Now, and Carrie Underwood’s See You Again, and many others. David has sold over 65 million records to date. Most recently David has the 5 Seconds of Summer single Jet Black Heart, the Ben Rector single Brand New, and is currently working with Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Christina Aguilera, Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum, and others. David is one of the most sought after multi-genre songwriters in the world.
It is a true, and nowadays rare, musician who writes lyrics so vulnerable and authentic that an audience is irrevocably captured by the powerful experience of sharing the journey. An album that is essentially an autobiographical account of personal mistakes, change, and growth, offers listeners a chance to reflect on their own experiences and connect with another’s story. With Griffin House’s upcoming album, So On And So Forth, it is clear the artist digs deep and offers up his narrative after much reflection. House is now a young family man and artist who is choosing sobriety and celebrating the path to his success, through songs which share his perspective on how people remember the past with rose-colored glasses, how we grow up and realize what we deeply need, and how we must find happiness in ourselves in the present. “The record has a lot to do with recognizing the ego in one’s self and letting it die. It can feel like your whole identity is being wiped away, and you don’t even know who you are anymore. For the person singing these songs, holding on to one’s own individuality in order to remain special or important in the world has started to became far less important than being content with being a good, decent, and loving person. But old habits die hard,” adds House. The project was tracked last summer at Lakehouse Recording Studios, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. House’s ties to Asbury Park go all the back to 2004, when he was invited to tour with Patti Scialfa. His first show in the boardwalk town was opening a show for Scialfa at the Paramount Theatre. It was there that Griffin met her husband, Bruce Springsteen, and all the wonderful characters in their crew and band. Those memories and experiences made returning to Asbury Park over a decade later to record So On And So Forth feel like a full circle moment in his career. House recorded the essentially live project with no click track and very little overdubbing. Lakehouse owner, Jon Leidersdorff, helped assemble the band. Prior to walking into the studio, House had never met the musicians and had no idea how the songs would turn out. He adds, “The experience ended up being one of the most fun and positive of my career. The process was stressfree and freeing.” The resulting album reflects this journey -- a leap of faith with triumphant results. Recording and performing for over a decade, House has toured with Ron Sexsmith, Patti Scialfa, Josh Ritter, John Mellencamp, Mat Kearney, and The Cranberries. He received early critical acclaim on the CBS Sunday Morning, and his songs have since been featured in countless films and television shows such as One Tree Hill, Army Wives, and Brothers and Sisters. He has also appeared on Late Night with Craig Ferguson. Most recently, CNN Newsroom invited House to perform “Paris Calling,” from So On and So Forth, live on the air, and the song has been picked up by radio prior to being serviced. House has released ten albums and continues to headline his own national tours. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Jane and their two daughters.
Raised in East Nashville, the son of a Grand Ole Opry drummer, Jaren Johnston was always surrounded by quality, diverse music. He started playing drums as a little kid, and when he was 13 his dad gave him an acoustic and an electric guitar along with an amp. Becoming more rock influence by Nirvana, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Petty and others, Johnston began to explore the craft of writing songs. In 2005, with his best friends, he formed a rock band that became American Bang. Through Warner Bros. Records, they released their first EP, two singles (“Move To The Music” and “Wild And Young”) and a full record. They lost their record deal but as they regrouped they found a new direction that has been called “country fuzz”. It wasn’t long before they were recording music for this band, The Cadillac Three. The band is signed to Big Machine Records, has enjoyed success with such singles as “I’m Southern”, “White Lightening” and “Drunk Like You” and recently released their record Bury Me In My Boots.
Through all of this Johnston has always remained focused on writing. He celebrated his first number one with “You Gonna Fly”, recorded by Keith Urban, and has a few cuts with Urban including the #1 single “Raise ‘Em Up”. His list of hit singles include: Jake Owen’s “Beachin’”, “Days of Gold” and “American Country Love Song”; Billy Currington’s “Don’t It”; Tim McGraw’s “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” and “Southern Girl”; Frankie Ballard’s “Sunshine & Whiskey” and “It All Started With A Beer”; and Drake White’s “Livin The Dream”. He has additional cuts with such artists as A Thousand Horses, Cavo, David Nail, Dierks Bentley, Easton Corbin, Jack’s Mannequin, Kenny Chesney, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Meatloaf, Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans, Tyler Bryant and Thomas Rhett.
The Grammy-nominated Jaren Johnston is always working hard to build his career. Along with being the primary writer and lead-singer for The Cadillac Three, writing with and for other artists, he has now started a publishing company, Two Black Dogs with his publisher Sony/ATV Music Publishing. When Johnston is not touring, recording or writing, he is spending quality time in Nashville with his family.
Emerson Hart (Tonic)
Emerson Hart (Tonic)
It’s a good album title, Beauty in Disrepair. A telling one, too.
There’s a yin and a yang there. It’s a thread that Emerson Hart, frontman for the multi-platinum band Tonic, comes back to time and again on his new record, his first solo release in over six years.
“Early in my life I learned to appreciate the beauty in things as they grew older,” says Hart. “Houses, furniture, churches, whatever. I think it started after my dad was killed: I lived with my grandfather on his farm, this 19th century mansion. Everything in it was constantly broken, but there was such a beauty to it as well.”
On his new record, Hart touches on loss, but also the beauty of rebirth, newfound love, family and starting a clean slate. Beauty in Disrepair marks a remarkably polished and honest follow-up to his 2007 solo debut Cigarettes & Gasoline, a critically-acclaimed album that spawned two Top 20 singles.
You may very well know Hart from that record. Most likely, you recognize him as the frontman and songwriter for Tonic, the alt-rock band that hit it big with their debut record Lemon Parade, which featured the smash hits “Open Up Your Eyes” and “If You Could Only See.”
A string of massively successful albums followed, including the Grammy-nominated Head on Straight and 2010’s self-titled release.
And Hart is more than happy to talk about his band. But Beauty is a different beast altogether. “This album, and my solo work, is just born out of stuff I don’t want anyone else to say,” says the singer, laughing.
For Beauty in Disrepair, Hart found a willing collaborator in David Hodges, who had found his own success working with the incredibly diverse likes of Kelly Clarkson, Christina Perri and Carrie Underwood. Hart also landed additional support from some trusted friends in LA, as well as his adopted hometown of Nashville (where he, naturally, often writes and records in his 200-year-old farmhouse).
“This record was interesting because I didn’t start out with a template,” says Hart. “My first solo record, I think I wanted to emulate [the Peter Gabriel classic] So. With this one, I wanted a songwriter record, not a Tonic record, but I was having a hard time getting started. I think the people I worked with ended up helping me find my way.”
Collaborators and new sounds aside, Beauty is immediately recognizable as an Emerson Hart record: warm, inviting, accessible. And possessing some killer hooks. “It’s still me,” says Hart. “I could sit here and tell you how much I love bands like Beach House or old Irish music, but I can’t write like that. I have to write songs in my way.”
Lyrically, it’s an intensely reflective album, exposing a lot of personal pain and joy. “Divorce is painful,” admits Hart. “But falling in love again and getting remarried is amazing. And having a young daughter changes your viewpoint. What I learned making this record is that you need to lose the baggage of your last hurt, and focus on the present, making sure you take the steps to make things better in the future.”
That’s an apt description of “Hurricane,” a pop song full of real world wisdom and a killer chorus. For Hart, the single is about “washing away the damage of your youth and having a real awakening.”
It’s also a rich record, wonderfully diverse musically and emotionally. Pianos and acoustic guitars abound. “Mostly Grey,” a favorite of Hart’s, hits the somber notes, while “All is Well” is a pretty, contemplative ballad; and harmonies abound, big and bright on “Best That I Can Give” and “The Lines.”
It’s an album any music fan would love to embrace, including both “Cigarettes and Gasoline” and Tonic fans alike.
[Speaking of... “Tonic will absolutely put out a record next spring or summer. I love my band. They’re caregivers, a pain in the ass, the fuel that keeps me running. All those things.”]
For now, Hart will be hitting the road to support Beauty, playing a mix of intimate venues and (perhaps) a larger tour. “It’s a nice cross-section of fans,” he says. “Fans of my first record. Die-hard Tonic fans. And I’ll play those songs. I wrote ‘em! And then you’ll see those guys who don’t know me, who hear me play ‘If You Could Only See” and their eyes light up and they connect the dots. They’re like, oh, it’s that guy.”
So while recognizing his past, Hart thinks Beauty marks a turning point in his career.
“The whole spark of this record was finding the beauty in healing,” he says. “Learning from the hurt and moving forward. I’ve done that.”
The Money, the final volume in Charlie Mars’ Texas trilogy (out Oct. 14 on Rockingham Records/Thirty Tigers), opens with a scene of cinematic vividness. “Looking out a rainy window/In a hotel in Caroline/Drinking free coffee, smoking that smoke/From an apple by the exit sign.” He called the song “Hell Yeah,” a Rebel yell from this Oxford, Mississippi, resident not of celebration but of recognition. Maybe you, too, have found yourself far from home and feeling very alone, seeking relief in the substances at hand, exhaling out the open window as a practical measure. In those four lines, jotted down in a Hampton Inn in Greenwood, South Carolina, moments later, we find Mars (or a protagonist who closely resembles him) resuming his zigzagging trek through the darkness in search of the light. It’s a theme as old as The Odyssey, laid out in crisp contemporary verse over a lowdown, hickory-smoked backbeat, in the tradition of fellow Southern minimalists Tony Joe White and J.J. Cale.
The Texas trilogy (so named because the first two albums were cut in Austin, the latest one at Sonic Ranch outside of El Paso, all with Billy Harvey as producer and core musicians J.J. Johnson, John Ginty, and George Reiff) began with the ironically titled Like a Bird, Like a Plane, released in 2009, two years after the record label Mars had been signed to went out of business, leaving him no choice but to go DIY. It was the best thing that ever happened to Charlie because, out of necessity, 12 years and five albums into his career, he found his true voice, just as he was beginning to experience life more fully. His eyes were opened to culture and possibility while spending much of the last half-decade in New York and Austin, hastening his artistic and personal maturation, reflected in the songs that were coming out of him along the way.
Mars followed that initial revelatory effort with 2012’s Blackberry Light, which served as my reintroduction to his distinctive artistry and character. I’d met and connected with him eight years earlier, when I was asked to write the bio for his self-titled V2 Records album, a smart and hooky piece of work, though not, it turned out, as deep or subtle as the three gems that would follow. “Making records in semi-obscurity for 15 years, Mars has come upon the ideal musical vehicle for his achingly soulful, Gram Parsons-like drawl and languorously meditative songs,” I wrote in my Uncut magazine review of Blackberry Light, taking note of the “aural seductiveness” that rendered such songs as “Nothing but the Rain”, “Back of the Room” and “Great Wall Of China” so memorable. “Nestled among these incandescent pearls is the hyper-funky, badass ‘How I Roll,’ an unrepentant, all but defiant admission of extreme rock ’n’ roll misbehavior.” At the time, I thought the last-named tune, with its delectably funky, righteously Southern deep gut groove, was the best thing Charlie had ever recorded.
“There’s something universal about groove music, whether it’s world music or Moby or Widespread Panic,” Charlie says now. “There’s something trancelike about sitting your songs on top of a groove that I’ve always liked. It’s allowed me to sink a little deeper into the material.”
The Money contains a track with a groove that’s just as seductive. That groove, on “Danger Danger,” is married to the meter of the lyric and the syncopated way Charlie sings it, locked in with JJ Johnson’s high-stepping drums, George Reiff’s spare bass line, John Ginty’s pillowy piano chords and Billy Harvey’s rhythm guitar lick, which flits over the track like a hummingbird. These four superb musicians have served as the core band throughout the trilogy, providing it with its feel, and Charlie has dubbed them the Comma Squad–“because I know one day those guys are gonna help me get some commas in my bank account,” he quips. “They are so good.” The tightly woven rhythm the five of them lay down is also at one with the premise of the song. “I was young and I took my heart/I took my heart and gave it to a stranger,” it begins. “Didn’t listen to myself when I knew my heart was in danger... Everybody here tried to tell you/But nobody here could tell you.”
“They have the ability to show restraint,” Charlie says of his cohorts, “as well as being in the places they need to be and playing things that matter in those places. Also, their playing has a sensuality to it that’s rare in rock. There was a period back in the ’70s where it was hip to leave stuff out, to make it sound like it was hands on skin and dust on the floor. It was high-fidelity recording, but it was done in a very organic way. So those are the kind of records I’ve made and will continue to make.”
According to Charlie, “The Money isn’t about the money. It’s about stripping the chaos down to essentials, and letting what’s left shine.” To put it another way, “Life has a tendency to become cluttered, and in order to see things more clearly, it’s really good to do away with that.” These declarations apply not only to the prevailing theme of this song cycle but also the sound of the music, from the reggae-fied lilt of “Things You Don’t Wanna Know” to the languor of the disarmingly tender “Oh Girl,” so restrained, and so in sync with that tenderness, that the recording seems to be hiding in plain sight.
Mars inserted the bridge from a song on his very first album into “Oh Girl,” one of several intriguing choices he made on the album. He recorded “Silver Buttons” for the third time because he felt the first two attempts had missed the mark, and he now had the players and the thematic context to finally get it right. He also cut his first-ever cover, “Rainfall,” from an obscure EP released by the short-lived Alabama band Bentley Tock that Charlie had discovered as a teenager, serving as a catalyst for his own writing. The song was penned by Paco Ahlgren, who went on tobecome a novelist of some repute. These choices are all integral to an album about the choices we make in our lives, and their consequences.
“I always felt that music was gonna let me escape from those things in life that had let me down,” Charlie reflects. “I grew up in a bubble within a poor, impoverished state, with limited access to the outside world. And so my worldview was very Mayberry. And then, when Mayberry falls apart, you realize maybe you’re not gonna find the girl of your dreams and live happily ever after, and you’re not gonna score the winning touchdown–maybe that’s not how life pans out. All these things that you grow up believing are true, some of them are not. So Like a Bird, Like a Plane was about trying to rise out of all that, and Blackberry Light was more of a rejection; it’s a dark record. I would say that this album is about looking at those things and feeling disillusioned, but still finding the humor and the beauty and the inspiration that is inherent within them.
“I’ve realized that these are the only things in life–love, friendships, conflict, marriage, children,” he continues. “You can’t reject this stuff; there’s no escape from it. It’s not gonna be perfect, it’s not gonna be like you want, but it’s gonna be fulfilling; it’s gonna be an emotional roller-coaster, and that’s OK. Like in ‘Pride Before the Fall,’ which is the song I pored over the most, because it’s the most revealing. It says, ‘If you really love somebody/You know they could break your heart/And if you’re telling the truth/You knew it from the start.’ It’s a commentary about these things that are inherent in all our neuroses.
“But there’s also a sense of humor on this record that was absent on the last two. I’m trying to move toward something more positive, more lighthearted. Like, isn’t it all a mess, and can’t we all laugh at it and celebrate it together?”
The narrative that plays out in the final chapter of Mars’ trilogy doesn’t have a perfect ending, because perfect endings are pipe dreams, as he notes. It concludes instead with the protagonist missing someone and hoping she’s missing him too, while at the same time imagining the daughter they didn’t have going on to repeat her parents’ mistakes, winding up with a boy like him–“running nights through Alabama/Running nights through Tennessee/Some nights she’ll be waking up/She’ll be looking over her shoulder/But don’t worry momma, don’t worry, don’t cry, cry, cry.” Now, that may not be a perfect ending in the aforementioned “happily ever after” sense, but in a literary or cinematic sense, it’s absolutely devastating.
So Charlie Mars has been through some things, just like everybody else in this mortal coil, and he’s turned it into something emotionally raw yet beautifully rendered, deeply personal yet universally relatable. Way under the radar, this guy is making serious art–and you need to know about it. You need to sit down, put your phone on airplane mode, mute the sound on the TV, crank up the stereo and listen. Because Charlie Mars is telling it the way it is.
Farewell Angelina is an all-female country group featuring four powerhouse vocalists, dynamic songwriters and badass multi-instrumentalists. Together their magic blend of a multitude of stringed instruments, blazing twin fiddles, and unique harmonies have taken Nashville by storm, and that enthusiasm is now spreading via word-of-mouth, social media, and live shows that bring down the house.
Band members Nicole Witt and Andrea Young teamed up with noted Nashville harmony singer and solo artist Lisa Torres in late 2014. Their clear writing chemistry, creative drive and incendiary performance soon caught the ears and eyes of producers Jen Ketner and Keith Stegall (Zac Brown Band, Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker) and recording commenced in 2015. 2016 has already celebrated the release of their debut EP on Stegall’s Dreamlined Entertainment – and appearances at the ACM Fan Jam, CMA Fest, a 75-city radio tour, festival dates at Creek Fest and Trails West. In late summer 2016 they added ACM and Tony Award nominee Lauren Lucas, adding yet another lead vocalist and stellar guitarist to the mix. Their single “If It Ain’t With You” is poised to conquer the radio universe the fall.
Roughstock called it “Our favorite new country song.” Queens of Country said, "This song is a hit in the making. This could end up becoming Farewell Angelina's "Burning House." The Boot said, Listeners will get a Dixie Chicks-like vibe from Farewell Angelina — not a tough comparison to draw, given that both are groups made up of strong, talented women — most especially on “If It Ain’t With You,” their EP’s second track. Farewell Angelina rolls into September as Rolling Stone Country’s “Artist to Watch”.
Members have had songs recorded by artists ranging from George Strait to Lee Brice and their instrumental and vocal talents have graced and enhanced country stars such as Jason Aldean, Trace Adkins, Josh Thompson, Jana Kramer, Frankie Ballard, and Jerrod Niemann. Onstage, They’ve opened for Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley and a host of others.
This group’s number one love and concern are country music fans. Farewell Angelina leaves everything they have on stage every night. They want to create a moment -not for their audience, but WITH their audience. Expect these four Strong Women to deliver sophisticated songs that matter to radio and fans hungry for real depth, artistry and perspective…and to packed venues ready for their energy, attitude, and allure.
BMI has recognized Jeffrey for over 63 million airplays for hits he penned for a multitude of artists including Keith Urban, Montgomery Gentry, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Steve Holy, Phil Vassar, LeAnn Rimes, Rascal Flatts and Van Zant. Among his many accolades over the past few years, Jeffrey Steele has been named to the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (2013), awarded BMI Songwriter of the Year (2007 and 2003) and the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) Songwriter of the Year (2006, 2005 and 2003). CMA has twice awarded him the coveted “Triple Play Award” for three No. 1 songs in a year (2010 & 2007). His country and A/C mega-hits include a string of chart toppers including: “Raise ‘Em Up”, “Knee Deep”, “Here,” “My Wish,” “The Cowboy In Me,” “These Days”, “Everyday” and the groundbreaking “What Hurts The Most,” nominated for Best Country Song at the 2007 Grammy Awards.
Additionally, he has won numerous BMI Country and Pop awards, was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Award for Best Original Song “I Thought I Lost You” for the Disney/Pixar animated feature BOLT, performed by Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, been named one of Billboard Magazine’s top 5 writer’s 8 years in a row, as well as Music Row Magazine’s 2006 Songwriter of the Year Award. Steele was featured as an artist and writer on Colt Ford’s song It’s All off his latest Billboard no. 1 Country Album Declaration of Independence. Steele has penned current single’s for Jana Kramer (Circles), Randy Houser (Chasing Down a Good Time) and Lit (Fast).
Singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins readily admits that several of the songs on his new album, My
That oh-so-fallible, yet essential part of our being is, it turns out, the guiding force behind just
In that respect, Mullins says, it’s not all that different from most of his discography — which
Still, nothing inspires songwriters quite like a breakup, and Mullins confirms, “This record came
He remembers sitting on his porch one afternoon, thinking, “‘I know this is all in my head, but
There’s humor, too. Sure, much of it is wrapped in sardonic cynicism; “It all Comes Down to
That song is one of several Mullins penned with his main songwriting collaborator, Chuck
With a supple baritone that still allows him to channel Prince, as well as wail the blues and growl
“She played a few songs and talked about being a performing songwriter,” he recalls. “It helped
Mullins majored in music education at North Georgia College, where he began performing in
Labels that had ignored his earlier efforts to get their attention suddenly clamored to sign him; at
When Chuck Cannon heard “Lullaby” on a Nashville station, he actually did a U-turn and
“Chuck’s got a lot more edge than a lot of other Nashville songwriters, and a lot more rock ‘n’
Cannon wrote “It all Comes Down to Love,” the album’s only cover. It was his attempt to write
Cannon had even demoed it with many of the same players who perform it on the album. (They
Though he may be wearing a little more emotional armor this time, he’s also armed with new
Vulnerability and carnal desire go head-to-head on Elise Davis’ The Token released September 9th via Make The Kill Records / Thirty Tigers.
Story and storyteller are one and the same. “I really can’t express my vulnerable feelings – especially towards men I've had feelings for over the years,” Elise confesses, “But, I have no trouble writing down painfully honest lyrics about it.”
The Token puts a microscope on the southern dynamic between the sexes, and the Little Rock, AR native’s inner turmoil, founded on her life’s trajectory against a more traditional path. Elation and ache play a tug-of-war.
Davis has a keen sense of a bad idea. Plenty of songs in this cannon pass off as mere lurid insight, but Elise’s observations give salacious lyrical points layered depth. One can tell she has spent endless hours observing interpersonal dynamics and honing the craft, both professionally and personally.
In 2012, Elise relocated to Nashville without a safety net. She landed in Music City after playing countless shows ranging from prominent support slots to gigs in hotel lobbies; she'd paid her dues before she'd even arrived. She knew that the pursuit of a song was her path.
After a short time in the new city, a friend mentioned a contest in American Songwriter Magazine – all she had to do was upload a few mp3s. “I submitted songs I’d been performing live for years,” Elise said. Shortly thereafter, she received an email explaining she’d reached the Top 100. Then another one saying I was in the top 25...then the top 5. “I have to admit, I ignored it. I didn't think it was real. They had to track me down to tell me I'd won.”
The contest awarded Elise a publishing deal and a crash course in the Nashville songwriting technique, and she spent the next two years arriving to scheduled co-writes with some two-hundred writers. This proved to be an invaluable education in the craftsmanship and collaboration. Through this process, Elise truly defining the individuals she wanted to work with to craft songs. In the end, there were only a handful of the two-hundred Davis felt a strong enough connection with to write the material that ended up on the album.
Additionally, the process of delivering songs with a broader message in hope of a Music Row cut brought Davis's artistic mission and method into sharper focus; her own songs with handful of confidantes were quietly getting more personal, more vivid, more yearning. A more introspective scope emerged, defined by rock-solid imagery and honest exploration of motives.
After a couple of lackluster recording sessions with a ticking clock in Nashville, Elise had a realization. Through her creative evolution, she knew she needed to take a step back from where she’d honed her craft.
In 2015, a newfound manager pointed her in the unlikely direction of Sam Kassirer – keyboardist in Josh Ritter's band and an accomplished producer known for work with the likes of Ritter, Lake Street Dive, Erin McKeown, Langhorne Slim, and others. The intersection of Davis's recent songwriting realizations and Kassirer's more textured approach to recording was a defining dynamic in the output, with Sam’s production techniques matched the open-hearted and clear-headed nature of Davis's songs while toeing a line between neo-country-soul and more indie realms.
Late night phone calls and escalating email threads put The Token into motion. Davis had always produced her own recordings by default; “I couldn't afford to do it any other way.” The arrival of a sounding board and collaborator of Kassirer's capacity proved to be a revelation.
Producer and artist decamped to Kassirer's Great Northern Sound Society studio in rural Maine in winter of 2015. “I'd never been to Maine before,” Davis admits. “getting outside of my day-to-day songwriting rituals allowed my songs to develop in a more authentic way. Nothing but snow and woods all around. Middle of nowhere. Phones didn't work...it allowed me the space to recognize Sam and I’s vision. Everything about the process was creative and real.”
The instrumental support was delivered by guitarist Josh Kaufman (Day of the Dead collaborator with Aaron and Brice Dessner of The National, Craig Finn, Bob Weir), bassist Bradley Cook (Shannon Van Etten, Indigo Girls), drummer Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver, Hiss Golden Messenger).
With the producer and instrumental support she needed, Elise’s southern sensibilities are pushed into the foreground by skeletal rhythmic backdrops and guitar textures. Southern twang was pushed to new heights by the band’s dynamics, and, while tracking live for the first time, Davis's songs blossomed. This sonic dynamic parallels the song’s message here, where Kassirer and the band’s more modern sensibilities underscore Elise’s Arkansas upbringing and inner dialog.
The opening title track – her steely, determined, plainspoken vocal against just electric guitar, bass, drums, and organ awash in spring reverb – is the mission statement for what follows and the Elise Davis of today.
A compelling, thematically unified work, The Token takes place in unremarkable corners, in kitchens and diners, on porches. Bacon, bourbon, and (ex-) boyfriend t-shirts are set-dressing for interwoven narratives outlining lust, loss, need, and envy in a distinct and unique fashion. “There's a right way to ask me for my love,” she pleads. “Don't you want it?”
The snarling, bluesy “Benefits” is ushered in by a fiercely distorted tremolo guitar as Davis observes true love just prior to celebrating her own no-strings-attached situation. “Pick up the phone / I don't feel bad about it,” she sings. “Not knocking love / I just haven't found it,” she adds, clearly unrepentant about biding her time while feeling a need to pursue a path that began in Little Rock.
Davis is as upfront about her desires as she is about her needs – and she's a survivor. Witness the tenderly wounded “I Go to Bars” or the hurting resignation of “Diamond Days,” where she wonders just what could have been: “I chose to take my time, she chose to take his name, someday I might wish I had done the same...but who am I kidding.” But Davis is no shrinking violet; she's fearless, even overtly predatory. On Penny, “don’t want you to take your eyes off me. Cause, honey, I’m a lot of things, but I ain’t naive.”
The Token is a rare piece of art born of risk and actually sounding like a risk that paid off. Elise Davis is putting her human condition in the forefront for all to hear; The Token delivers an unrelenting living contradiction, one born of her past while wrestling with the present.
"Shaped by the Pentecostal music of his upbringing and the ’60s folk records in his parents collection, Eliot Bronson’s latest self-titled album is an Americana gem. Produced by Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson), Eliot Bronson is a poetic blend of urban coffee house and outskirts-of-town saloon. His deeply emotional lyrics about a wide range of topics have earned the former member of The Brilliant Inventions a host of songwriting awards for good reason."— Josh Jackson Paste Magazine
"One of the key up-and-coming songwriters in the Americana scene." - Brice Ezell Pop Matters
"It’s always exciting to discover an artist of this caliber, and given the fact Bronson’s just now coming into his own, even more accolades seem destined to follow. Eliot Bronson not only reflects well on this gifted singer/songwriter, but it also bodes well for the fame that’s sure to follow." – Lee Zimmerman Elmore Magazine
Award-winning singer/songwriter Eliot Bronson’s latest self-titled album was tracked entirely analog in Nashville by acclaimed producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Rival Sons, Jason Isbell, Nikki Lane). It’s a vibey, ten-song album with an uncluttered production aesthetic that highlights Bronson’s songwriting and his achingly beautiful vocals.
The story goes that after Bronson completed writing this cycle of songs, he sent Dave Cobb an unsolicited email with a sample track attached. Bronson was inspired to reach out to Cobb because he was intrigued by the spacious vocal production on the Jason Isbell record which Cobb had produced. Bronson felt Cobb could help him realize the atmospheric and timeless qualities he wanted for his songs. Cobb was impressed with Bronson’s music and replied back. “I was stunned when I got a response. It was really validating for me because I sort of had him on a pedestal,” Bronson says candidly.
Eliot Bronson was recorded in one week at Cobb’s home studio and Cowboy Jack Clement Studios in Nashville. “It all felt really natural and effortless,” Bronson recalls. “Dave would be in the room playing right along with us during tracking.” The album was mixed the following week.
"It was quite a pleasure workin' with Eliot," says Cobb. "He's a brilliant lyricist and poet. We did the record live all together and the album feels timeless."
The record is something of a homecoming for Bronson, who was raised in a Pentecostal home by a family for which music was prayer and life was expressed and enjoyed in song. At an early age, Bronson discovered his parents’ folk collection of 1960s artists. These two became formative musical influences shaping Bronson’s purposeful, pensive, and poetic songwriting. Though his own music adventures took him away from these roots, he returns home to these music guideposts with Eliot Bronson
“I spent a long time trying to get away from where I came from,” Bronson says, “but it never really felt right. This is the music I’ve always had in me. This record is me.”
Eliot Bronson is anchored by Bronson’s honeyed weary voice; blend of wry wit with emotional sincerity; expansive palette of Americana; and the album’s crisp vintage production. “River Runs Dry” boasts high-lonesome vocal harmonies, tenderly mournful lap steel, and it conjures up a cathartic sadness. “I like songs to preserve little moments without telling a specific story, so you feel something but you don’t always know exactly why,” Bronson reveals. The rollicking “Comin’ For Ya North Georgia Blues” combines almost William Boroughs-esque cutup images with unbridled and euphoric shitkicking musicality. “I was really having fun with words and ideas on that one, trying to paint picture of a relationship” he explains.
Bronson’s engaging cleverness comes to the front on the “You Wouldn’t Want Me If You Had Me.” “I didn’t think I was being funny on that one,” he says with a good-natured laugh. “I was being truthful, but I guess it works on a humorous level too. My friend said that title is the ‘dating musician’s credo.’”
Previously Eliot Bronson issued two critically acclaimed solo albums and, prior to his solo career, was a member of folk favs The Brilliant Inventions. The Atlanta Music Guide says: “Eliot Bronson is the type of songwriter who could squeeze out something meaningful about taking out the trash. He writes heartfelt songs with dark humor and backs them with his resonant voice and swampy instruments.” Georgia Music Magazine notes: “He can pull at your heartstrings like nobody’s business.” Coming up, in his native town of Baltimore, Maryland, The Baltimore Sun called him a “a folk singing wunderkind.” He has won such esteemed songwriting awards as first place at Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest and Eddie Owen Presents “Songwriter Shootout,” and he’s been a finalist at Kerrville Folk Festival, Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriting Contest, and New Song Contest Lincoln Center NYC.
Sarah Lee Guthrie
Sarah Lee Guthrie
Sarah Lee Guthrie’s lineage is undeniable. But if you close your eyes and forget that her last name is synonymous with the river-legacy of a widening current of American folk music, you’d still be drawn to the clarity and soul behind her voice. There is a gentle urgency to her interpretations of the songs she sings and the classic music of her heritage. It flows from the continuity of her family, her vital artistic life today and the river of songs that have guided her to where she now stands.
It’s been hinted at since she first stepped on the stages of Wolf Trap and Carnegie Hall as a teenager in 1993 singing Pete Seeger’s “Sailin’ Down My Golden River” for sold-out audiences. But it was later, when she met her husband, Johnny Irion, grandnephew of Woody Guthrie’s literary kindred spirit, John Steinbeck, that she began to embrace her birthright and her inherent gifts.
“Johnny taught me a few chords on the guitar and that was it… Mom talked me out of going to college and into going out on the road with Dad. I spent the next 6 years playing just about every show with him and my brother Abe, Johnny joined us in 2002 and we opened the shows til our first album came out.”
Over the last two decades on the road and in the studio, she and her husband Johnny Irion have created a signature pop-fused folk-rock sound that is appealing and engaging on series of critically-acclaimed albums Exploration, Folksong, Bright Examples and Wassiac Way.
On 2009’s Go Waggaloo she created a family album of original songs (and a few with Woody’s lyrics) that won a Golden Medallion from The Parents' Choice Foundation. The tour that followed in 2010, The Guthrie Family Rides Again, brought it all together as she found herself surrounded by generations of family and friends all celebrating the music of her family.
“Looking back on the years of shows that I have done, its been the shows with my family that stand out the most, that feel bigger than me, the best part of me, the place I shine the most. I am back on the road with my Dad now and remembering what I was made for, these are the songs that make us who we are and I love to sing them.”
Sarah Lee Guthrie now ventures on a road that leads back to the rich culture of her family running through the warmth of her own bloodlines. This is rare opportunity to witness the growth of one of America's finest young folk singers.
Pain, suffering, and loss...
three elements baked deeply into the fabric of love, or rather, a true love lost. These are the things of which the greatest artists of all time have feasted, in through their uniquely experienced and engineered pores, and out to the world après time served within the walls of the artist’s hearts and minds. Such are the autobiographical, painstaking roads traveled by Davin McCoy’s eloquently crafted, individually wrapped soulful pieces of art, his songs, tied together, so ever tightly, by a grief stricken fueled common thread, by cigarette stained fingers avec a not yet finished quarter left high ball. A personal compilation of emotions wrapped with and by a heart-wrenching bow known as McCoy’s sophomore effort Whiskey Sexy.
Godfrey Daniels is one of the oldest and most venerable music institutions
In 1987, the young Minnesota-based Red House Records caught wind of
In 1998, after five successful recordings and seven years at Windham
Now with this, his 11th studio album, he returns to his roots with So Dark
He played Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Hangout Fest and the Voodoo Experience. He performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and toured alongside AC/DC, ZZ Top, Grace Potter, and Kid Rock. His 2010 LP Pardon Me for Atlantic Records with backing band The Northern Lights reached No. 8 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. His songs were featured in such television shows as Boardwalk Empire and Friday Night Lights.
It was everything he thought he’d wanted. It was everything he’d signed up for. But it wasn’t really him.
“I knew what I was getting into,” Tyler says now, removed enough from that whirlwind to have gained some perspective on it. “I knew what would happen when we signed with Atlantic. Then I got over it.”
These days, Tyler really does come off as a changed man – in person and on record alike. He’s more introspective, more focused. His shoulders are less slumped, as if a heavy burden has been lifted. It has: Holy Smokes, his forthcoming third proper LP, finds Tyler shed of major-label constraints, bearing his soul as songwriter who’s seen the top of the mountain and now seeks a different kind of climb, one filled less with flash and more with substance. The album’s an open look into who Tyler is at this very moment – and, most of all, who he feels he’s always really been.
“I’m in this for the long haul,” he says now with certainty -- and Holy Smokes, filled with songs that fill every emotional nook and cranny, very much plays out like a testament to this fact.
LARI WHITE is a must-see performer, an artist with the ability to connect intimately with an audience. Her absolute command as a vocalist lets her deliver powerful, raw emotional moments, and her musicality crosses all boundaries of style and genre, from country to soul to classic American songbook. She has forged a stunningly successful, wide-ranging career as an award-winning recording artist, hit songwriter and history-making producer, as well as indie record label owner and actress.
Her music has earned three Grammys (The Apostle Soundtrack and Amazing Grace 1 and 2: A Country Tribute), and RIAA Gold status (Wishes/RCA Records). The London Times hailed her album Green Eyed Soul as the “best soul album of the year.” Her newest project Old Friends, New Loves, features a number of “old friends,” guest artists including Suzy Bogguss, Delbert McClinton and Lee Roy Parnell, released on her own Skinny WhiteGirl Records.
Lari made music history producing Toby Keith’s platinum album White Trash with Money, becoming the first female producer of a male superstar. Her recent production of Shawn Mullins’ My Stupid Heart album received universal acclaim and hit the Billboard Americana and Rock Album charts. Her interest in producing began as a student at the University of Miami, in the cutting-edge Music Engineering program, where she graduated with honors, the only female in her class. She built her Nashville studio, The Holler, with her husband, hit songwriter and Americana artist Chuck Cannon. Her cuts as a songwriter include Tammy Wynette, Toby Keith, Lonestar and Danny Gokey.
Lari considers acting another important facet of her work as an artist. She starred opposite Tom Hanks in the block buster movie Cast Away, in the famous final scene at the crossroads. Other acting cred its include Country Strong with Gwynneth Paltrow, as well as starring roles on Lifetime TV and CMT. She made her Broadway debut originating the role of June in Ring Of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash and has performed with the NY, Boston, Florida and Pasadena Pops, and the Atlanta and Nashville Symphonies.
She made her debut as a short story author in The Shoe Burnin’ Anthology, a collection of short stories and music that also features her production of the spoken word and music companion CD.
Lari is currently recording in The Holler and playing shows around the country to support the release of Old Friends, New Loves. Follow her at www.lariwhite.com.
Santa Fe-based songwriter and author David Berkeley writes songs capable of both breaking and mending the heart. The San Francisco Chronicle calls him a “musical poet,” and the New York Times praises his “lustrous, melancholy voice with shades of Tim Buckley and Nick Drake.” He’s released five studio albums, one live album and authored a book. Berkeley’s current release is his most exciting and ambitious yet: a novella comprising ten intertwining stories and an album of ten accompanying songs (one for each story).
The album Cardboard Boat features Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) on background vocals and Berkeley’s all-star band, Jordan Katz (De La Soul, Sara Bareilles, Dan Bern), Mathias Kunzli (Regina Spektor), Lex Price (K.D. Lang, Peter Bradley Adams), Will Robertson (Shawn Mullins, Eliot Bronson), Kort McCumber (Moors and McCumber), and Bill Titus (Dan Bern). Recorded by Jono Manson in the wilds of Chupdero, NM, it features Berkeley’s most compelling writing to date. Each song is sung loosely from the perspective of the main character in each story of Berkeley’s book.
That book, entitled The Free Brontosaurus (Rare Bird Lit) is a collection of stories all set in the same fictional city. The characters are all off kilter and struggle to find connection. Each sees (or creates) beauty in strange places. And ultimately it is art and, when they meet, each other, that brings redemption. These are narratives of isolation that, like Berkeley’s songs, manage to uplift in the end. It’s a bit like Olive Kitteredge if authored with the whimsy and humor Miranda July.
“I’m fascinated by the relationship between stories and songs,” Berkeley explains. “What experiences make for a good story? And what is only expressible in song?” Indeed, this was something Berkeley explored with his first book/album combination. 140 Goats and a Guitar accompanied Berkeley’s album Some Kind of Cure (2012). Both were written primarily during the year Berkeley lived on the island of Corsica. Goats tells thirteen stories, the stories that lay behind the writing of the album’s thirteen songs. This unique concept allowed Berkeley to perform in bookstores across the country, as well as his usual clubs and theaters.
“Dashing singer-songwriter David Berkeley delivers his warm, thoughtful songs, along with a reliably hilarious line in onstage banter.” - Time Out New York
Berkeley tours extensively all over the country and world (he spent a month in Europe this summer touring with Peter Bradley Adams and Robby Hecht, and he’s back solo to the UK, Germany, France and NL this month). He’s opened/toured with Dido, Don McLean, Ben Folds, Billy Bragg, Ray Lamontagne, Nickel Creek and many more. He was a Kerrville New Folk Finalist this year and was a finalist at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. He’s performed on Mountain Stage, The World Café, the Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest, XM Loft Sessions, Acoustic Café, to name a few.
Berkeley has also been moonlighting of late as a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac, writing high-ticket personalized love songs, serenades, and songs to accompany wedding proposals. Perhaps inspired by the hilarious tale Berkeley told on “This American Life” of one such private serenade, Berkeley is frequently flown in to perform these songs in the most intimate situations. “It’s been an honor,” Berkeley explains, “to get to play a role in such important moments in other’s lives, but it can also be incredibly awkward. Some of these situations, wedding proposals for example, are really meant to shared between only two people.”
In addition to this curious arm of his career, Berkeley has also made a name for himself in the dance clubs of Europe. He is in high demand by some of the world’s best-known DJs to write and record vocals and lyrics for trance songs. Beatport named Berkeley one of the world’s top 50 male trance vocalists. “It is a bizarre development,” Berkeley admits. “I never really listen to music over 70bpm. Now I’m singing hooks that are more than twice that fast.”
“Berkeley crafts his songs like watercolor paintings. Intimate and introspective, his gentle yet colorful melodies are graceful and resonate long after the last note fades.” – Creative Loafing, Atlanta
David Berkeley’s gift as a songwriter and storyteller is that he sees both the tragedy and comedy in life, managing to both reveal the sorrow at the heart of the human condition and the blazing joy and beauty in the same. It’s a duality that audiences experience at all of Berkeley’s shows as he tells uproarious stories between cathartic songs. It’s also why his fans respond so deeply to his music and why so many look to him to express what they are often unable to articulate. Berkeley’s songs are at once hard and hopeful.
“If you're into literate soulful singer songwriters, David Berkeley is the Gabriel García Márquez of beautiful-voiced troubadours.” – KRUU
Collaborating across multiple genres ranging from Soul-Rock and Pop to Hip Hop and Electronic Dance Music, classifying Daphne Willis in musical terms is no easy task. With infectious melodies delivered with lyrical precision and honesty, the songs and performances of Daphne Willis are sincere, compelling and relevant.
Raised in Chicago and relocated now to Nashville, Willis cites influences as varied as Elvis Costello and Michael Jackson, but her musical output cleverly incorporates such inspirations into a style that is refreshing and contemporary in a way that suits her songs best. Daphne is currently a Pop writer at Sony/ATV and continues to release music and tour as an Indie Artist.
Daphne released her first independent EP Matter of Time in September 2007; in a twist of fate, Vanguard Records head Kevin Welk heard a track on an American Airlines flight. This led to a record deal in 2008 and the release of her second EP, Exhibit A. To record her first full-length album, Daphne headed to the hills of Tennessee. She released What to Say in 2010, which was co-produced by Tim Lauer and Grammy winner Gary Paczosa. Album number two, Because I Can, came out in 2011 and reached the number two spot on iTunes’ Top 40 Singer/Songwriter Chart.
2014’s Live to Try features co-writes with Hunter Davis, Chris Faulk, Angela Lauer, John Oates (of Hall & Oates), Keri Barnes and Tim Lauer, while 2015’s Get It EP kicks off with the track “Done With Bein’ Done,” which Daphne co-wrote with Grammy winner Meghan Trainor.
Thus far, 2016 has been a banner year for Willis. She has released two singles (“Spider in the Roses,” a collaboration with frequent tour mate Sonia Leigh, and “The Struggle is Real,” which advocates mental health awareness) and turned in main stage performances at both LA Pride and Nashville Pride.
Daphne, who currently calls Nashville home, has been featured in or at http://perezhilton.com/, http://www.afterellen.com/, American Songwriter, The Pride LA and The East Nashvillian. She is currently putting the finishing touches on Come Together, an acoustic EP that re-imagines five classic tracks by The Beatles.
For over thirty years, Dan Navarro has written, sung, played and acted his way through a rich and varied career... It was as a songwriter that Dan Navarro started his career, mostly in collaboration with Eric Lowen, for artists as diverse as Pat Benatar (the Grammy-nominated classic “We Belong”), The Bangles, Jackson Browne, Keb’ Mo’, Dave Edmunds, The Tempatations, Dionne Warwick, Dutch superstar Marco Borsato, The Triplets, Austin outlaw legend Rusty Weir and many more... Throughout the 1990s, Dan recorded and toured with Lowen in the acclaimed acoustic duo Lowen & Navarro, until Eric’s retirement in 2009. Dan has since transitioned into a growing solo career, increasingly in demand on the national concert circuit, touring nearly 100 dates per year... He’s moonlighted as a singer and voice actor for over 25 years, in major motion pictures, TV series, video games, commercials and records, including The Book Of Life, The Lorax, 2007 Best Animated Feature Oscar-winner Happy Feet, Rio (on the Oscar-nominated song “Real In Rio”), Ice Age 2 & 3; smash hit video game Fallout 4; TV series Turbo Fast, Prison Break, Family Guy and American Dad; recordings with Neil Young, Andrea Bocelli, Luis Miguel, Jose Feliciano; and commercials for Subaru, Shakey’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Honda, El Pollo Loco, Nationwide and hundreds more... Dan serves on the boards of SAG-AFTRA (Local and National), Folk Alliance International, The Levitt Pavilions LA and is an Advisory Trustee to the Golden West Chapter of the ALS Association, fighting the neuromuscular disease better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which tragically took Eric Lowen’s life in 2012... He has contributed countless hours in Washington on intellectual property, copyright and performer’s rights legislation, including testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Copyright Royalty Board on behalf of the Nashville Songwriters Assn Int’l, AFTRA, NARAS, BMI , SoundExchange and the musicFIRST Coalition... In 2009, after 22 years and 12 albums with Lowen & Navarro, Dan released the spirited “Live at McCabe’s”, backed by his pals from Austin-based Stonehoney. His long awaited next album, “Shed My Skin” — his first true studio album of new material — is still in the oven, and is slated for release later this year. Dan is the father of a 19-year-old son and a known abuser of acoustic guitars.
Peter Case is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and producer, a mighty fine guitarist and a well-reviewed published author and yet, he’s most at home on the stage. For 25 years, Peter, his guitar and his songs have mesmerized audiences from coast to coast, whether holding down a festival crowd, warming up the place for luminaries like Jackson Browne and John Prine or headlining his own nightclub shows—of which he can claimed to have logged thousands.
As leader of the Plimsouls, and as a member of the groundbreaking punk era trio the Nerves and duo the Breakaways, Case earned his four stars a long time ago, while new generations continue to discover his unique amalgam of sound (2010 saw successful reisussues on all three bands). His songs have been featured on the hit TV series True Blood, Friday Night Lights and Parenthood.
Playing a blend of vintage rock ’n’ roll, blues, traditional and contemporary folk, and soul, he remains an original modern troubadour. He’s passionate about writing songs and connecting to real audiences, no matter the size. He regularly tours the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe, and his hardcore fans everywhere bring a deep connection to the songs and to the artist.
Wig! His latest recording for Yep Roc was his eleventh solo album. The Case Files, his twelfth, was a compilation of rare and unreleased studio and live recordings, and was released on Alive/Naturalsound Records.
Peter Case’s songs have been recorded by: James McMurtey, Dave Alvin, Chris Smither, Alejandro Escovedo, Robert Earle Keen, Hayes Carll, The Flaming Groovies, The Goo Goo Dolls, John Prine, Maura O'Connell and many others.
Peter Case has performed live on stage with: John Prine, Richard Thompson, Mavis Staples, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Merle Haggard, T Bone Burnett, Gordon Lightfoot, Sir George Martin, Steve Earle, Los Lobos, John Hiatt, Bobby Womack, Jackson Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Dave Alvin, John Doe, Phil Lynott, Stan Ridgway, and many others.
Here’s what critics and fellow performers are saying about Peter Case:
"Listening to Peter Case’s new album is a deliriously joyous experience." Ben Peterson, Popmatters, 2010
"Peter Case is one of the best songwriters of his generation. As a melodist, he is simply unsurpassable; the apparent ease with which he constructs a song is still boggling. A lot of music has flowed into his style: vintage rock ’n’ roll and soul, the blues, traditional and modern folk. He’s probably the only non-Irish songwriter who can introduce Celtic elements into his music without making me gag. (I vividly remember his early cover of “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” which introduced me, and many others in town, to the Pogues.) The marvel is that all these elements nestle so comfortably against each other. The seams never show in a Peter Case song. - Chris Morris, LA City Paper, 2005
"....consistent excellence." -Robert Palmer, The New York Times, 1986
“I really like Peter Case.
Wisconsin native Cory Chisel first connected with the power of song – and the spellbinding possibilities of live performance – through the music he heard in church. His father was a Baptist preacher, his mother played the organ and Chisel and his sister sang. The gospel’s rich vernacular of loss and redemption also informed his innate poetic sense and lyrical range. Chisel went on to become a critically acclaimed recording artist who was deemed one of 2009’s “Best New Artist’s” by Rolling Stone for his RCA release Death Won’t Send A Letter. His latest release Old Believers came out in 2012. Chisel has played festivals around the world including Glastonbury, Bonnaroo and Newport Folk Festival; appeared on Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with David Letterman and Conan and opened for artists such as Norah Jones, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams and more. His latest recording project seeks to unearth rare soul gems from lesser-known performers of the era and revive them with his soul covers project.
Born in Nashville, TN, September 1995, but spending her formative years raised in England, Lilly Winwood has always shown a strong aptitude for music having started playing guitar at age nine and performing in the school choir.
Lilly’s voice simmers somewhere between soul and Americana. This is hardly surprising given her father Is the British musician, Steve Winwood, known for his ‘Blue-Eyed Soul’ vocals. Like her father, Lilly has the same innate ability to pick up a musical instrument and connect with It. She plays guitar, keyboards and pedal steel guitar.
Jennifer Knapp’s beautifully intimate new album Set Me Free puts her uncommon honesty front and center, solidifying her return to a music career set on her own terms. Set Me Free, out now on Righteous Babe Records, is Knapp’s second mainstream folk rock release after she left her Grammy-nominated Contemporary Christian Music career behind, returning seven years later with the refreshingly straightforward Letting Go in 2010. While her transition away from Christian music and public coming out as a lesbian have made her a lightning rod for controversy, Set Me Free is an album full not of anger but of love, with intimate arrangements providing the backdrop for stories of romance, friendship, and faith. Coinciding with the release of her candid memoir Facing the Music: My Story on Howard Books/Simon and Schuster, this refreshing new album once again demonstrates Jennifer’s uncompromising willingness to be open in the spotlight.
The combined album and book releases have created an expanded platform for Jennifer. In 2015, she toured nationally in support of Set Me Free; presented a musical TEDx talk on LGBT issues of faith at University of Nevada; performed at GLAAD’s Concert for Love and Acceptance with Ty Herndon and Meghan McCain; and wrote about the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality for The Huffington Post.
Set Me Free focuses on how we interact with one another, how we affect others and how other people, places or life events affect us, shaping us into who we are and how we hope to be heard and understood. “Much of this record centers around intimate conversations between two people,” explains Knapp. “Some songs are between lovers, others friends and some who are going separate ways. Each song is a moment of some pivotal point of declaration or need for understanding from one person or one idea to another.”
Since coming out as a lesbian — a noteworthy story that made her the featured interview subject of an episode of Larry King Live — Jennifer’s poised willingness to speak on behalf of LGBT people of faith has created a new role for her as one of their foremost advocates. In 2011, she launched the Inside Out Faith series to engage this social justice dialogue. At these presentations, conducted mainly in churches and universities, Jennifer weaves her narrative with her music while sharing candid revelations of her experiences as a gay person of faith. Her memoir Facing the Music furthers the conversation about the importance believing in one’s own story, whatever that may be.
“an uncommonly literate songwriter” — People Magazine
Following her independent sophomore album release ‘Shuteye’, 25-year-old Logan Brill continues to define herself as one of the most important young artists in Nashville today. With a stunning voice that goes toe to toe with Nashville's finest, the young Knoxville native opts for grit and authenticity over pristine pop in her song choices, drawing comparisons to Bonnie Raitt, Brandi Carlile, and Mary Chapin Carpenter from national press.
Outlets like Billboard, The LA Times, Rolling Stone, The Huffington Post, CMT, Country Weekly, & Pollstar have already shown their support for her refreshingly authentic sound, imbued with a “bluesy American grit” (Southern Living) that sets her apart as “a far cry from the slick pop country of many of her contemporaries” (The Boot). The Huffington Post dubbed ‘Shuteye” a “wake up call for Nashville” and The Knoxville New Sentinel raved her as “one of those country artists who gives you a little glimmer of hope that good commercial country still exists.” Most recently, Rolling Stone placed Logan on their “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” list, Billboard included her as one of “13 Country Artists to Watch,” and Cosmopolitan dubbed her one of “8 Female Country Artists You Should Be Listening to Right Now.”
It seems fans nationwide agree, as Logan has appeared on sold-out bills in markets from Nashville to Chicago to Seattle with legendary artists like Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, & Leon Russell to contemporary mega-stars like Gary Allan, Lee Brice, & The Band Perry. On the same weekend in April of 2015 she made bi-coastal debuts at both the famed North Carolina roots music festival Merlefest, and California’s Stagecoach - the nation’s highest grossing country music festival. A few weeks later, Logan also made her Grand Ole Opry debut, where she continues to appear regularly. 2016 hasn’t slowed down with performances at Joe’s Bar in Chicago, Spring appearances at Taste of Country Music Festival and Country Jam Festivals in Colorado & Montana, and the inaugural Nashville Meets London Festival at Canary Wharf in London.
"From a very young age, I just knew that I was gonna spend my life making music," Sean McConnell states. "I never really questioned it, so I just forged ahead and didn't let anything stop me."
Although his self-titled new Rounder album will serve as his introduction to many listeners, the personable young artist is actually a seasoned, distinctive songwriter and an experienced performer with a quartet of D.I.Y. indie releases to his credit. Having built a substantial grass-roots fan base through tireless touring and old-fashioned hard work, McConnell is primed for a mainstream breakthrough.
Sean McConnell demonstrates exactly why McConnell has already won such a devoted audience. He writes vivid, forthright, effortlessly catchy songs whose incisive melodic craft is matched by their resonant emotional insight. Such instantly memorable tunes as "Holy Days," "Beautiful Rose," "Bottom of the Sea" and "Best We've Ever Been" are both catchy and personally charged, conveying an unmistakable sense of personal experience while exploring universal truths.
"This record's a bit of a step for me," McConnell asserts. "It's a real storyteller record, and it's pretty autobiographical. I'm learning how to be more honest and understated in my writing, and I wanted to match that sonically and vocally. When I look at this collection of songs, I see a lot of nostalgia, and looking back on sacred moments. I'm kind of nostalgic and reflective by nature."
McConnell recorded the album in his adopted hometown of Nashville with producers Jason Lehning and Ian Fitchuk, who also contributed keyboards and drums, respectively. The recording took place prior to McConnell signing with Rounder, with the artist financing the sessions himself.
"This project started," he explains, "when I went to a cabin by myself for a week, with the intention of writing some songs. In that week, I wrote about half of the songs on the record, and I could see the thread of what this record was gonna be. That was exciting for me, because it normally takes me a year to find an album's worth of songs that belong together. The whole recording process was really fun and liberating, and the energy in the studio was really positive."
Songwriting and music-making have been a part of Sean McConnell's life for as long as he can remember. "My mom was a singer and my dad was a guitar player and songwriter," he notes. "They'd play in coffeehouses and I'd go along and watch them perform, and seeing that lifestyle showed me that music was an option. And seeing my dad painstakingly writing songs had a huge influence on me, and gave me license to feel like I could enter into that world."
By the age of ten, he had become proficient on guitar and was writing his first songs. "I fell in love with the instrument first," McConnell recalls. "Learning guitar gave me a feeling of uncharted territory laid out in front of me. And as I got better on guitar, the songs started to come naturally. At around the same time, we moved from Massachusetts to Georgia, and the first song I wrote was about the feeling of leaving the familiar and feeling lost in a new place. Music gave me a focus and became an emotional outlet for me."
His supportive family background helped to instill the confidence and drive to pursue his muse early on. "I started playing in middle school, doing any gig I could get just to get my chops up," he says. "By high school, I would be doing local gigs and really promoting them, bringing out a couple hundred kids to my shows a few times a month and starting to make a decent living at it. That made me think that maybe I could do this in other towns. So I started traveling around the southeast a little bit, and there was always enough progress to take things to the next level. While I was in college, I did a lot of college touring, just me driving all over the United States in a Toyota Corolla. It was hard work, but it showed me that I could do it."
McConnell was just 15 when he self-released his first album, Faces, in 2000. Followed by 2001’s Here In The Lost and Found, 2004’s 200 Orange Street, 2006’s Cold Black Sky, 2007’s Tell The Truth, 2008's The Walk Around EP, 2010's Saints, Thieves and Liars, 2012's Midland and the 2014 EP The B Side Session.
"I had a guitar teacher in Atlanta who had a home studio, and he was the first one to say 'Hey, you should make a record,'" he says. "If I go back and listen to that first record now, the songs are kind of crude, but at the same time there's a directness about them that I like. My writing has evolved since then, but at the same time I've tried to hold on to some of that directness.”
"I'm really attracted to songwriters who just put it out there honestly, and I feel like I'm getting back to basics and expressing things in a simple, direct way on the new album," he continues. "I'm just trying to learn how to be a more honest storyteller, trying to get my mind in a place where I'm not actually thinking and the music's just kind of happening naturally. When I read interviews with songwriters that I admire, they always say that the best songs are the ones that just kind of happen, like they're operating from the unconscious. That's a place I want to get to."
Having spent much of his life honing his craft and paying his dues, Sean McConnell is eager to launch the next chapter of his career.
"I kind of feel like I've been in a really long boot camp," he concludes. "I'm really grateful for that, because I feel like I've gained enough experience to know the deal and be prepared for anything. I'm excited to see where the next part of the journey takes me."
Originally from the UK Callaghan moved to the USA in summer 2010 to record and tour with Grammy-Nominee Shawn Mullins and has been playing live and building her audience ever since.
Callaghan plays piano and guitar and delivers a stunning vocal which earns frequent comparisons with artists like Sarah McLachlan and Emmy Lou Harris. Her songwriting chronicles the stories, experiences and emotions which are part of everyone’s lives. No Depression recently reviewed her live show as "nothing short of stunning".
A long-time Shawn Mullins fan, she contacted the Atlanta singer-songwriter through MySpace and, after being knocked out by her music, he agreed to produce her debut album. She left her London digs and boarded a plane headed for the American South. Life in Full Colour was tracked in and around Atlanta and released in summer 2012 to a great reaction. The Huffington Post described it as “joyful listening”, while InLiveMusic says “Callaghan’s voice is stunning, clear and perfect for the story telling of her songs”
Since then Callaghan has been on the road touring with artists including Shawn Mullins, Ed Kowalczyk, Matthew Perryman-Jones and more. She’s now headlining shows across the USA and UK.
Callaghan’s second studio album A History of Now was produced in Nashville by Dennis Matkosky. The record showcases Callaghan’s gift for melody and impactful songwriting in a collection which ranges from uplifting, exuberant anthems to poignant, mesmerizing ballads. Since its release in April 2015 it has been earning praise on both sides of the pond.
In The UK BBC Radio 2 have playlisted three singles from the album and BBC Radio London's Gabby Roslin described Callaghan's in studio performance as "breathtaking...absolutely incredible, every hair on my body is standing up" In the US Creative Loafing Atlanta calls the record "tunes to make even the most jaded pop fan grin”.
In summer 2016 Callaghn released her latest live record Callaghan’s Acoustic Coffee House.
For free music please visit www.callaghansongs.com
Jonny Fritz is back— with a new album, a new hip, and a new homebase in Los Angeles, California. When last we met our hero, Jonny had just wrapped up the purgative classic, Dad Country, his call to the rising generation for a renewed lyricism in country music, recorded in Jackson Browne’s personal recording studio and released by ATO records. Now in his newest, Sweet Creep, the lyricism returns, but with a wide hopeful grin. Recorded in Jim James’ makeshift hilltop studio in Montecito Heights, where golden twilight fills up thirsty grass valleys, Sweet Creep reverberates with the same feeling of sunny new vistas. From the empathetic “Are You Thirsty?” to the summer-crushy “Humidifier,” Sweet Creep is a freshly-signed lease on life, with the movers downstairs waiting by the truck.
For the couple years prior, Jonny hobbled around the globe on a hip fractured in an ill-advised marathon run. He bounced between Malibu, New Delhi, Houston, Australia, Montana, Tokyo, Mount Hood, London then back again, looking for the right landing for the album, to no avail. He jumped from town to town and house and house, unpacking and packing up, with characteristic restlessness—until one day, the pieces all snapped together. A doctor looks up from the x-ray and wisely says “son, you need hip surgery.” Jonny finally buckles down in Los Angeles to make music and leatherwork because, as he puts it, “Nashville had gotten too LA for me.” And then with some welcome advice from Jim James, Jonny throws himself into Sweet Creep by stripping things down to the essentials. He gathered up the crew—Nashville’s Joshua Hedley and Dawes’ Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith—and literally recorded the whole album outdoors, in three days, underneath a tent purchased at Home Depot, with half the equipment “borrowed” from Guitar Center. The fresh air, freedom from studio pressures, and strong cups of tea all mix into the music, with ATVs briefly heard in the background and two senior tortoises listening at Hedley’s feet as he fiddles away. If as John Hartford tells us, “style comes from limitation,” Jonny credits Jim James for much of the pared-down and uninhibited sound of Sweet Creep. James encouraged the first takes, the simpler set-up, the outdoors, and the worry-free flow that coasts us from the first to the last of the record.
Born in Montana and raised in Esmont, Virginia, Jonny has passed weeks in nearly every city in the United States, and plenty others overseas, cramming ten lives into one, and half his possessions into the garages of friends and well-wishers. But despite the vitalism and exploits he’s gained a name for, most of his music comes from the smaller moments. He takes a weird little piece of life, unnoticed by most, then steeps it in song until it’s ready for vinyl. The overlooked sorrows of a fellow party goer. The real tedium and pains-in-the-ass of touring life, rather than the mystique. An old residential hotel, once hidden back, but whose uncurtained windows now tell human stories to the drivers-by on a newly built highway. An impromptu songwriting session with a friend’s four-year old daughter that includes the line “I burped in my pants then the party was over” and ends in a cloud of Jonny’s laughter. In contrast to the heartsick Dad Country, the songs of Sweet Creep are, if not always brimming, at least fully accepting of his fortunes. On a song like “I Love Leaving,” Jonny even learns to love his own discontent, surmising “but me I hate talking ‘bout the good old days / I never want go down memory lane / I only want to get into the passing lane, and I’ve always been that way / I guess I love leaving, leaving when I said goodbye.”
Sure enough, for all the anguish it may sometimes bring him, we have this discontent to thank for Jonny’s tremendous creative range—his It’s-a-Fritz leatherwork seen on stars and stages all over, his forays into character acting and hosting his own variety show Who’s That Singin’, his public love of vehicles, country legend, chill animals, and craft of any kind—not to mention the constant stream of deep goofing that turns even his average days into a show well worth watching. Jonny is a torchbearer in that celebrated country music tradition of giant-sized personalities overflowing into song. John Hartford, Roger Miller, Billy Joe Shaver—fans look to these country musicians for more than just music strictly speaking. They look for life, for outrageous legend—for a showmanship on and offstage that Jonny Fritz will never fail to deliver. He might not have shot anybody, or spent any considerable time in prison, but in Sweet Creep, he reminds himself and his fans, that sometimes great lives can also be pretty good ones
Kyle Jacobs moved to Nashville from Minneapolis, MN in 2000 and achieved his first significant success as a writer in 2003 with Kimberly Locke's Top 10 AC single "8th World Wonder." In 2007 Kyle wrote what became the fastest rising single in the history of country music, Garth Brooks' “More Than A Memory”, which debuted at #1 in R&R on 09/04/2007. Kyle also co-wrote Tim McGraw’s Top 10 single, “Still”. Last year he had two songs featured in the pilot episode of the new ABC series, NASHVILLE. He has also produced two #1 singles for Lee Brice, “Hard To Love” and “I Drive Your Truck”.
A staff writer for Curb Music since 2003, Kyle’s songs have been recorded by Tim McGraw, Kellie Pickler, Eli Young Band, George Strait, Thompson Square, Scotty McCreery, Trace Adkins, Clay Walker, Kelly Clarkson, Lee Brice, Randy Travis, Jason Michael Carroll, Josh Kelley, James Wesley, Jason Jones, Craig Morgan, and Jo Dee Messina. Kyle collaborates with many of the industry's top songwriters and artists including Joe Leathers, Phillip Lammonds, Vicky McGehee, Rachel Thibodeau, Billy Montana, Darius Rucker, Kellie Pickler, Clay Walker, David Nail, Lee Brice, and Wynonna. He writes on piano and guitar and is an accomplished vocalist.
Peter John Downing Karp is an American roots/blues singer-songwriter, guitarist and pianist. Known as the songwriter’s songwriter, Peter Karp is a multi-instrumentalist whose Roots Rock style, mixed with Blues and Folk humor, give a unique and unusual look at life’s sometimes happy, sometimes sad reality.
Karp was born in Leonia, NJ a small town just across the Hudson river from NYC. His father John J. Karp was a military pilot and his mother Ruth Downing Karp was a copywriter and avid music fan. His stepmother Ruth Turner was an African American woman from the lowlands of South Carolina. By the time he was 8 years old his biological mother had taken him and his sister into the city to see many of the popular musicians of the day. (James Brown, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Four Tops, etc.) At 9 he lived with his father in a trailer park in Southern Alabama. It was there that he first heard southern “race” radio playing artists like Sun House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf as well as regional country music out of Montgomery and Nashville. Later his love for this music would lead him to Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and the other rock luminaries of the 50’s and 60’s. He started to play the accordion at 7, the guitar and piano at 15.
Peter began his professional music career as a songwriter/keyboardist/guitarist with the critically acclaimed, seminal art-blues-punk band “They Came From Houses,” a mainstay in the stable of “The Underground Music Venue” managed by former Rolling Stones/Yardbird manager Georgio Gramalski. Playing NYC’s lower east side venues like The Mudd Club, Folk City and a favorite of CBGB owner Hilly Crystal (who described the sound as surf-punk-distorted blues, they opened and shared the stage with Marshall Crenshaw, Mink Deville, The Toasters, John Hammond Jr., The Stray Cats, George Thorogood, and David Johanson. While receiving much critical acclaim and offered a recording contract, Karp became disillusioned with the music business and creatively unhappy. He folded the band, walked away and married the lead singer, Mary Lou Bonney.
After leaving a commercially promising music career, he spent the next 10 years raising a family, traveling, and working in the film industry. Along the way, he worked as an editor with some film makers with which he shared a creative connection – most notably, Oscar-winning underground film director, Emile D’Antonio. He also continued working in music, directing, producing and playing with musicians Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Johnson, Van Walls, Don Henley, Michael Brecker, Richie Havens, The Jacksons, Ric Ocasik and Jackson Brown.
While on his musical hiatus Peter also became deeply interested in the rich African American culture that has flourished for over 200 years in South Carolina’s South Sea Islands. Influenced by his stepmother, Ruth Turner, who came from the area and guided by his friends the Pazant family of Beaufort, who are cultural ambassadors of the Gullah heritage and descendants of slaves, he immersed himself in learning about the Gullah and its musical roots, taking trips into and filming parts of the South Sea Islands where the original Geechee language is still spoken. His song “Geechee Geechee Wawa” is based on his experiences in South Carolina and the deep spiritualism of the people he met there.
After wandering, working and musing, Peter returned to performing with the life perspective he was seeking. In 1998 he made “Live At The American Roadhouse” a poorly recorded but exciting live collection of original songs that included “Moments,” a song that would be picked up and re-recorded for a national commercial for JVC. In 2000 Karp released “Roadshow” on the Indie Blues label BackBender. Though a small label with limited distribution, Peter received his first of many positive national reviews as a songwriter. In 2003 Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor became aware of Peter after a DJ had sent him some rough recordings of songs. The result was Taylor flying to the US to play guitar on Peter’s next recording “The Turning Point.” Mick also toured with Peter during that time. “Songwriters like Peter Karp, James Taylor and Bob Dylan embody Americana music – I’m a fan,” says Mick. One of the shows at The Bottom Line in NYC was recorded by Sirius Radio, but wasn’t released until 2016. “The Turning Point” tour brought Peter into the national spotlight and garnered the attention of the Roots Blues label Blind Pig, who signed Peter to a deal. In June of 2007 “Shadows and Cracks” was released and received overwhelming critical success. After a year of heavy touring in support of the album, fate intervened when Peter’s wife of 27 years was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Peter quit the road to spend the last remaining months of her life with her and their children.
While on the road promoting “Shadows and Cracks,” Peter had met Canadian guitarist and singer/ songwriter Sue Foley at The Ottawa Blues Festival. After returning to the road, Karp and Foley had kept in touch only through letters. The struggles of touring, drinking and the death of Peter’s wife were chronicled in these letters which would become the basis and foundation for the album that Peter and Sue would record together called “He Said – She Said.” The album was released in 2010 by Blind Pig Records and immediately went to the top of the Blues/Roots charts as well as entering the billboard charts at #5. Critics unanimously hailed the partnership as unique magic. Their second Blind Pig Release, “Beyond The Crossroads” was also met with rave reviews.
In the midst of a busy touring life, the tapes of the live recording at The Bottom Line in NYC with Mick Taylor turned up and early in 2016, Peter released the tracks on an album called “The Arson’s Match.” The album is part of a charity project that he started in honor of his late wife, Mary Lou, to raise funds for Ovarian Cancer Research. The album has already received radio airplay, award nominations, and positive reviews from around the world. In between tour dates around the US and Europe, Peter has been steadily writing new songs and recording. Final touches are being put on several new releases, the first of which will be out this fall. This first collection of new material will be accompanied by a companion re-release of “The Turning Point,” which was never released nationally. Peter has also recently done some recording with a German artist to be released on an independent label, and has been playing in Italy so frequently that he has another band there called Peter Karp & i Veneziani (The Venetians).
Karp is his own man, an artist who blends roots music styles into something that transcends blues, country, R&B and swamp. John Prine’s wordplay, Joe Ely’s rocking instincts, Billy Joe Shaver’s fatalistic outlook. -J. Poet [AllMusic.com]
"Josh Kerr is a Nashville-based hit songwriter/producer and guitar player. He grew up in Buffalo, New York and moved to Tennessee in 2011 where he signed with Black River Publishing in 2012. Josh co-wrote 4 songs on Black River recording artist Kelsea Ballerini’s debut album The First Time, including the #1 Platinum certified song, “Love Me Like You Mean It” and GOLD certified #1 hit, “Dibs.” He also has hits in Australia with the #1 song “Heartbeat” for Jasmine Rae and iTunes #1 “Disposable” for Tori Darke. Josh has musician credits on Kelsea Ballerini’s album and Black River Christian artist Hannah Kerr’s recently released full-length album, Overflow. His two latest, released singles are Cole Taylor’s “Cold Beer” and Adam Sanders,’ “About To.”"
Peter Holsapple (the dBs)
Peter Holsapple (the dBs)
Peter Holsapple’s first four decades in the music business have provided the world at large with a raft of memorable song craft, recordings of taste and originality, and travels with some of the finest musicians performing. Holsapple has navigated a snaky course through the annals of modern power pop with quality tunes like The dB’s “Love Is For Lovers” (recently featured in Showtime’s new hit series Billions) or Continental Drifters’ “Invisible Boyfriend.” His versatility on sundry instruments has made him the go-to auxiliary player for groups like R.E.M. and Hootie and the Blowfish. He's played the Apollo Theatre and the Ryman Auditorium. His songs have been played and recorded by Syd Straw, Marti Jones, Don Dixon, the Troggs, Claire Lynch, Nada Surf, Bully, the Golden Palominos, Foster & Lloyd and Megafaun. Recently, Holsapple is a charter member of the songwriter collective podcast Radio Free Song Club, where he has turned in a perfect record for submissions over thirty-one episodes since December 2009. Meanwhile, in 2017, after successful appearances at 30A Songwriters Festival, Holsapple is releasing a 45rpm record on his own Hawthorne Curve Records, with further recordings on the horizon.
“Dan Bern is a throwback, a singer-songwriter who marvels at life’s beauty, fragility, and complexity with a fresh, defiantly uncompromising style. In a perfect world, he’d be as beloved as Dylan or Lennon—he’s that good!” So wrote Stereophile magazine contributing editor David Sokol for that publication’s popular Records To Die For feature several years back.
A remarkably prolific songsmith, Dan has released some two dozen studio albums, EPs, and live recordings since his first acclaimed Sony-distributed CD in 1997. Either fronting the prodigiously talented band Common Rotation or as a solo performer, he is comfortable and convincing, funny and topical, with an unassuming tip of the hat to the spirits Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, the Beatles, and young Bob Dylan—all while sounding thoroughly original and 21st-century. Whether writing about stepping back and appreciating the world around us (“Breathe”) or celebrating the venerable voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers (“The Golden Voice of Vin Scully”), Dan’s songs are always literary, sometimes funny, and often cinematic. And it’s not uncommon at a Dan Bern concert to see and hear fans unabashedly singing along to one song after another with no prompting from the stage.
Dan Bern recordings have featured a host of artists ranging from Ani DiFranco to Emmylou Harris, and he’s devoted entire albums to baseball (Doubleheader), politics (My Country II), and little kids (2 Feet Tall). His singular songwriting has led to stints working on such projects as the Judd Apatow features Walk Hard—the Dewey Cox Story (starring John C. Reilly) and Get Him to the Greek (starring Russell Brand). His songs have appeared in numerous TV shows, and he recently penned the theme song for the Amazon cartoon The Stinky and Dirty Show.
Dan’s new full-length studio album, Hoody, is due in early 2015. The album was recorded primarily in Los Angeles at Pehrspace in the Echo Park neighborhood. Featuring one of his most engaging and eclectic collections of songs, with support from Common Rotation, Hoody digs deeply into Dan’s affinity for country, rock, and folk with a punch and poignancy rarely heard these days. And his voice has never sounded richer and more powerful. The record has a warm, organic feel, with the band usually performing together in the same room, at the same time. Beside Dan, who plays acoustic and electric guitars and some harmonica, musicians on the album include Adam Busch (drums, harmonica), Jordan Katz (trumpet, banjo), Eric Kufs (lap steel, vocals), Johnny Flaugher (bass), Eben Grace (guitar), and George Sluppick and Tripp Beam (drums). And Hoody was co-produced by Dan with his old friend Greg Prestopino, whose long list of credits includes co-writing Matthew Wilder’s ubiquitous Top 5 hit, “Break My Stride” from 1983. Says Dan, “The way we recorded the stuff was a bit rough in spots, and Greg was able to massage it really well.”
Hoody is filled with highlights and surprises, including “Lifeline,” a stunning up-tempo country-rocker. The song, which soberly celebrates resiliency, features guest vocals by original Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson and Common Rotation lap-steel guitarist Eric Kufs, who co-wrote the song with Dan. And somehow Dan holds one particularly challenging note for 20 seconds toward the end of the song. Like the thoughtful “Turn on a Dime,” “Lifeline” would sound awfully good on progressive-country radio.
As would “Merle, Hank & Johnny,” which not only pays homage to those country icons but to Buck Owens, Jimmie Rodgers, and George Jones (and is as loving an ode as his tip of the hat to Vin Scully on 2012’s Drifter). The song is powerfully autobiographical, capped off with the sentiment that no matter what music his young daughter ultimately listens to, she’s sure to hear Haggard and Williams and Cash as she grows up.
Speaking of Dan’s little one, Lulu (who chipped in a few chirps on 2 Feet Tall) has a short but charming three-letter cameo (singing “JFK”) on “Waffle House,” a hilarious live showstopper delineating one of the true dividing lines in modern-day America: “Red states got the Waffle House, blue states don’t.” On Hoody, the song barely clocks in at a minute-and-a-half, but Dan packs a lot into it. Another gem on Hoody is the harder rocking “Welcome,” a three-minute indictment of our modern-day information overload. With an infectious melody belying the song’s powerfully topical message, Dan poses the question, “What’s in your wallet, and which side are you on?” On a lighter note, there’s a charmingly spirited take on Johnny Cash’s novel 1976 country chart-topper, “One Piece at a Time.” The album closes with one of Dan’s loveliest songs ever. “Sky”— with the timelessness that graces “Soul,” the brilliant closing song on 2003’s Fleeting Days—is a heartbreakingly beautiful love song, not just to a true love, but to life itself. “Long as I can see the sky… nothing can bring me down.”
Reflecting on Hoody, Dan confides, “I feel it’s a really strong record. I think it’s got a lot of elements—old folk, classic country, British Invasion—but it all holds together. It’s the culmination of what I've been aiming at for a long time, and also a jumping off point for everything I'm aiming to do next. I feel like the right radio stations could find a lot here to work with. I was aiming high and knew what I was after, and with a great team was able to achieve it. I hope people will hear it.”
Hoody is fresh and contemporary, and certainly deserves to be heard… a lot. Dan is clearly standing on the shoulders of giants as he observes the world around him and puts all the bustle and the craziness into perspective. He’s a songwriter’s songwriter and a lyrical genius with a huge, optimistic heart, as anyone who’s heard his songs can attest to. (Who else could write songs as diverse and pithy as “The Fifth Beatle,” “Osama in Obamaland,” and “Year-By-Year Home Run Totals of Barry Bonds”?)
Like we said, Dan Bern is a throwback to the days of exemplary songs and extraordinary songwriters. He’s one of the very best, and we sure could use more of his kind these days.
A proper artist struggles to influence life’s signal to noise ratio. Under the right kind of concentration, the static grows quiet. The extraneous and the superficial are pared away. And precious human qualities are held still, carefully turned over and inspected for illuminating details. In Robby Hecht’s case, this effort emerges as music that invites and even induces the listener to a similar place of serenity, clarity and patience.
Across his four indie releases, Robby has distinguished himself as the second coming of James Taylor, a gentler Damien Jurado. But, whatever the comparison, it’s hard to miss that his songwriting is distinct and individual. He doesn’t shy from the obvious rhyme, but manages it with a delicate audacity, placing it only where it best serves the story or the mood. And, there’s something about the way he unfurls a line that feels less like trying to work something out and more like just calling it what it is.
Robby has won many prestigious national performing songwriter awards including the Kerrville New Folk, Telluride Troubadour and the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriting Competitions.
“Songwriting of the highest quality.”
“It’s his ability to capture the oft-inexpressible details in a relationship that make many of his songs really stick with listeners.”
“Pitch-perfect, gutbucket country.”
A native of Memphis, Joe’s “Memphis Thang” influences are diverse and that diversity is evident in his songwriting. Having been awarded numerous BMI and ASCAP awards, some of Joe’s hits include, "Tough" by Craig Morgan, “Where I’m From” by Jason Michael Carroll, Tim McGraw's "Still" and Steve Holy’s “Love Don’t Run.” Joe also landed the title cut to the Kenny Chesney Platinum release “Hemingway’s Whiskey,” and Clay Walker’s “Jesse James.” The critically acclaimed “Nashville Without You” is on Tim McGraw’s Two Lanes of Freedom album and Thompson Square released “I Can’t Outrun You.” Among the artists who have recorded Joe's songs include Trace Adkins, Clay Walker, Lee Brice, Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, Trailer Choir, Halfway To Hazard, Rio Grande, Lisa Brokop, Brian Davis, Thompson Square, Kellie Pickler, Jerrod Niemann, Randy Houser, Gary Allan and others. Joe’s approach to life and the craft of songwriting can be summed up by his own words, “swing hard, you might hit it.”
Brigitte DeMeyer and Will Kimbrough have independently released multiple solo albums. A multi-instrumentalist and the 2004 Americana Music Association’s Instrumentalist of the year, Will has also collaborated with Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knopfler, Buddy Miller, John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider and Mavis Staples. In 2014, Will released Sideshow Love—an in-depth study of all forms of love and a showcase of his incredible guitar chops (awarded the 2014 AMA Americana Top100). Will is also a member of Willie Sugarcapps, a band awarded 2013 Independent Music Award - Best Americana Album. Brigitte brings her very distinctive vocals/harmonies and storytelling expertise to the mix. Is it Southern? It’s definitely Soulful and the chemistry between Brigitte DeMeyer and Will Kimbrough is magical. Will and Brigitte are a—not to be missed—rare and extraordinarily rich blend of talent and passion.
Two-time Grammy nominated Kim Richey is a storyteller “with a voice so pure, arresting and honest, it literally aches with life’s truths”.
Over the past two decades Kim has released six critically acclaimed albums, been listed in the ‘Top 10 Albums of 1999’ in Time Magazine for her album Glimmer, plus received 4-stars in Rolling Stone and named ‘Alt- Country Album Of The Year’ in People Magazine for her album Rise. She has written two #1 singles and had four others hit Top 10. Her songs have been recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Suzy Bogus, Jamie Lawson and Patty Loveless among others. She has sung on albums by Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jason Isbell and many more - even appearing on a William Shatner record produced by Ben Folds.
Most recently, a sublime array of guests feature on Kim’s latest release, Thorn In My Heart, including Jason Isbell, Wilco’s Pat Sansone, My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, and, returning the harmony-singing favor, Trisha Yearwood. Thorn in My Heart was listed by The Associated Press, No Depression and the Boston Globe as one of the best albums of 2013.
Hannah Thomas is bringing her own style of music to the roots rock world with a voice reminiscent of young Bonnie Raitt, grit and bravado that draws comparisons to Melissa Etheridge, and the southern rock soul of Chris Robinson.
The 26 year-old musician has been playing professionally for more than a decade, touring with Indigo Girls and opening for or sharing the stage with Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge, Kristian Bush (of Sugarland), Terri Clark, Lydia Loveless, Chely Wright, Michelle Chamuel, Capital Cities, Shawn Mullins, Michelle Malone, Randall Bramblett and more.
Born and raised in Covington, Georgia, Thomas grew up on classic rock and country music: "my dad introduced me to Aerosmith and Black Sabbath, and with my mom I would listen to a lot of Patsy Cline, Tina Turner and The Judds. Later on I discovered 90s alternative". Thomas (and those close to her) will admit that ever since she was able to walk and talk, she has never wanted to do anything except perform.
Thomas's various influences can be heard on her new album produced by Lester Nuby III (St. Paul and The Broken Bones) in Birmingham, Alabama. "Fault Line" is her first full-length LP since 2012, spanning the gap between Atlanta's eclectic roots rock revival and the soulful, classic rock sound of Muscle Shoals. Thomas is joined by an all-star band comprised of Brandon Bush on keys (Sugarland/Train), Sadler Vaden on guitar (Drivin N Cryin/Jason Isbell), Jimbo Hart on bass guitar (Jason Isbell) and Chad Gamble on drums (Jason Isbell). The LP includes a song co-written with Michelle Malone. Malone plays lead guitar on that single, alongside Gerry Hansen on drums (Chuck Leavell, Randall Bramblett, Shawn Mullins) and Michael C. Steel on bass (Randall Bramblett). The album also features guest vocals by Terri Clark and Amy Ray of Indigo Girls.
Celebrated singer/songwriter Joe Purdy is more aptly described as a troubadour—the term, as archaic as it may seem, refers moreover to the idea of a communicator of folklore through song-- one who travels and tells stories using the effective medium of music. Purdy understands that his own live music tradition has as much to do with commanding captivated, pin-drop silence as it does prompting roars - which it most definitely has - because in those hushed moments, a solemn and crystal-clear voice, the resonance of acoustic guitar strings into the reverberant din of a music hall, his stories are being heard. It is a pure experience. It’s about Joe and his audience.
This direct communication with his fans has, year after year, album after album, translated from the stage to the further dissemination of his folklore. Purdy has chosen to release his albums on his own independent label, Mudtown Crier Records, and with the help of national TV placements and that constant conversation with a strong and evergrowing fan base, he has been able to sell a staggering 1 million direct track downloads in the US on iTunes without ever signing to a label. Joe and those people, all over the country (and beyond) perpetually willing to hear his stories.
Case in point, he released his 11th album 4th of July on the 28th of June 2010 at four o’clock in the morning, because that’s when he finished it.
Joe's writing process is heavily influenced by his environment. His albums act as a travel guide for his experiences. Last Clock On The Wall (2009) was recorded over 6 days at Old Mill Studios, located in a 17th Century mill converted into a live arts theater in Strathaven, just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. Take My Blanket and Go (2007) was recorded in NYC following a UK tour in 2006, You Can Tell Georgia (2006) was recorded outside of London, immediately following a European tour with Tom McRae, while Paris in the Morning (2006) was recorded during a short visit to Paris a few months later. And, in contrast, Canyon Joe (2007) was recorded at his home in California, after being stranded in New Mexico during a blizzard over New Years Eve.
Purdy’s last album, This American, is rich with imagery, haunting and utterly unique, filled with warm American folklore and real storytelling. Reflections of moving about underscore more of the ‘travelogue’ motif (“Highways,” “Oregon Trail”), through plaintive acoustic arrangements perfectly appropriate- with audible count-offs, unedited breaths, whistling, etc and melodies channeled through Purdy’s distinctive yearning voice.
Adding to his arsenal, Purdy has been embraced by a broader audience through Prime Time network television. His song “Wash Away (Reprise)”, from the Julie Blue album, was chosen by J.J. Abrams for an episode of Lost in its first season. Shortly after, Joe’s “I Love the Rain Most” (also off Julie Blue) was featured in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which led to “The City (Only Four Seasons)” being included in the show, as well as on the Grey’s Anatomy Season I soundtrack. Additionally, Purdy landed five more songs in Grey’s … episodes including "San Jose" (Take My Blanket and Go),” “Suitcase” (Only Four Seasons), “Can’t Get It Right Today” (You Can Tell Georgia), and "Rainy Day Lament" (Stomping Grounds), which was featured on an episode of House. “Can't Get It Right Today" was also featured in a national KIA ad, and “Wash Away (Reprise)” was very notably used in a Dawn Soap Wildlife ad, helping to raise a significant amount of money to rescue wildlife and the gulf spill cleanup.
In 2016, Purdy will be heading into the studio to turn more of his experiences into what are sure to be thought-provoking and heart-tugging songs, and back out on the road to be the traveling troubadour for all his fans. As we have come to expect the unexpected with Joe Purdy - a new album (or two?) could be just a day away.
OTHER PERTINENT LINKS:
eTown: Pioneer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8-ds-yutq8
Streaming page: http://joepurdy.com/fourthofjuly.php
"Talk About Suffering" with Pete Townshend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWW5ISPQZCQ
"White Picket Fence" and "Canyon Joe": http://joepurdy.com/videos
And for press inquires, comments or thoughts, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Six decades in, it’s clear that guitarist and songwriter Tommy Talton is still making music for the sheer joy of it. He manages to perform with both the energy of a music-obsessed kid and the restraint of a seasoned veteran – because, at heart, he is both.
Tommy began recording a fifth album of all original songs in Oct. of 2015 for a release date sometime in the Spring of 2017. He continues to tour the southeast of the USA, with occasional visits to Chicago, New York and Europe, as a soloist and with a full band of 3 to 6 pieces.
He began his musical career in Central Florida and in 1966 was a founding member of a group called “We The People.” The group had several top ten hits throughout Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky. Recording with RCA Victor Records, they gained much critical acclaim and are still considered to be in the top three of the most listened to and appreciated “garage band” genre groups of all time. To this day they have re-releases of recordings from the ‘60’s with Sundazed Records from upstate New York, sales being reportedly steady.
In 1970, Tommy Talton, along with Scott Boyer, was a founding member of Capricorn Records group “Cowboy.” From 1971 through 1977 Cowboy recorded 4 albums for Capricorn - “Reach For The Sky", “5’ll Getcha Ten”, “Boyer and Talton: Cowboy” (1974) and “Cowboy” (1977).
Talton also recorded an album titled “Happy To Be Alive/ Talton, Sandlin and Stewart” with producer Johnny Sandlin (Allman Bros., Delbert McClinton). Essentially, it being a solo effort with all but one song being written and sung by Talton. While in Macon, Ga. Tommy was a studio musician recording with artists such as Billy Joe Shaver, Bonnie Bramlett, Martin Mull, Corky Laing (West, Bruce and Laing/ Mountain), Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Clarence Carter, country music legend Kitty Wells, Alex and Livingston Taylor, Arthur Conley of Sweet Soul Music fame, Johnny Rivers, and more. He toured extensively throughout the U.S. with Cowboy and with Gregg Allman’s “Laid Back Tour” as Gregg’s ‘Special Guests’ from Carnegie Hall to Fillmore West in San Francisco and most cities in between. Tommy was also the guitarist on Gregg Allman’s certified Gold “Laid Back” studio album.
Throughout the ‘90’s, Tommy lived and toured in Europe and formed a group there called “The Rebelizers” with members of Albert Lee’s band, Hogan’s Heroes (Peter Baron, drums/Mike Bell, piano). Also at that time, he was guitarist on a Belgian television program, “Sommer Kuren,” and played with numerous European musicians such as Toots Thielemans (jazz harmonica) while working in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Spain.
Before there were Kings of Leon, Keys of Black or Whites of Jack in Nashville, there was Webb Wilder.
Rock 'n' roll, from Nashville. Formed from Mississippi mud, tinged with British mod. Bruised by the blues. Baptized by Buck and Chuck. Psychiatric psycho-rootsy. Sizzling, glistening, uneasy listening. As it has been for three decades, it is now and ever shall be. Webb Wilder.
Mississippi Moderne. Pronounce it however you like, but Webb pronounces it "Moe-durn." Hybridized and improvised.
"I hate to use the word 'mature,'" Webb says. And so we shall not.
Born more than 60 years ago in Hattiesburg, Webb Wilder is not mature. He is the last of the full-grown men, and the last of the boarding house people. He is a unique presence among the peasants. He is a force for good, and a friend to animals.
And he has just made an album of uncommon uncommonness, of unusual unusualness.
Mississippi Moderne. Again, pronounce it however you like. The main thing is to listen, and in your listening you shall hear a marvelous encapsulation of things right and righteous, wistful yet wild, strange at times but always strong. Garage rock and bluster blues. Fuzz-tone and fury, and, in many ways, a full and unbroken circle back to the days when Webb Wilder was a boy possessed of the mind of a full-grown man, listening to The Kinks and The Move, an Anglophile in Mississippi.
"It's a journey, and one thing I've learned about myself is that I haven't grown up," Webb says. "The good news is, I'm a musician. The bad news is, I'm a musician."
The journey has taken Wilder from the Magnolia State to Music City, with some hazily important, 1970s gestation time spent in Austin. Mississippi Moderne reflects stops along the way, and suggests future flights.
"Don't try to tell me I ain't tough enough/ I'll be rockin' 'til the day I die," he sings in "Rough & Tumble Guy," written with John Hadley, the sage who crafted "Poolside," one of the standout tracks on Wilder's groundbreaking 1986 album It Came From Nashville. That album - which came out on Landslide Records, the same label that is home to Mississippi Moderne put a spotlight on Nashville as an ecumenical city of song, not merely as Country Music City, USA.
"Back then, your advisers would say, 'Don't tell 'em you're from Nashville,'" Webb says. "And Bobby Field, (friend and partner in crime) said, 'No, let's tell 'em it came from Nashville.' I'm so glad we did."
On Mississippi Moderne, Wilder sings Field's "I'm Not Just Anybody's Fool," and he sings "I Gotta Move," a song by the Kinks he used to perform with The Drapes, back in Hattiesburg (Field produced that band's EP). He also delivers "Yard Dog," a beautiful obscurity that Biloxi garage rock band The One Way Street recorded in 1966. Explorations of Charlie Rich's "Who Will the Next Fool Be?," Conway Twitty's "Lonely Blue Boy," Frankie Lee Sims' "Lucy Mae Blues" and Otis Rush's "It Takes Time" are dunked in deep blues, and performed with a crew of cohorts that have been delivering Wilder music for years: interstellar bass man Tom Comet, drum daddy Jimmy Lester, and guitar slingers Bob Williams, Joe V. McMahan and George Bradfute. Wilder wrote "Only a Fool" with the legendary Dan Penn ("The Dark End of the Street," "Do Right Man"), and he and Hadley reached back to Mississippi roots to pen "Too Much Sugar for a Nickel," a phrase Webb heard from his mother.
"My mother was from rural Mississippi, and she had a tough time growing up," he says. "If something was too good to be true, she'd say 'That's too much sugar for a nickel.' Hadley and I wrote that one. The song starts kind of Wilbury-esque and ends up Rolling Stones-ish."
That's not to say that Mississippi Moderne is only about looking back. Wilder and Williams spend much of the album weaving future-ready solos and rhythm guitar work, and the singer's mighty baritone sets every melody in the visceral present.
Once again, it comes from Nashville. But it brings a world of swampadelic, Wilderized wisdom, bluster, and mayhem. It's Mississippi Moderne, 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 Darlingside 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.
“Honey, you ain’t got nothing to say. Go out there and live a little—come back to me in 10 years.”
Those stinging words from a Nashville music executive years ago couldn’t have stung more. But Mary Bragg took that blow-off advice into a journey that transformed the south Georgia native from pop-country wannabe into the striking, vulnerable voice she wears on Lucky Strike, the new full-length album due February 24, 2017.
Described as “a magnificent collection of Americana” by No Depression, her earlier releases have also earned praise from USA Today, Performing Songwriter, and CBS New York, while a song she co-wrote with Americana artist Michaela Anne, “Easier Than Leaving,” was praised by the Bluegrass Situation and featured as song of the week.
Winner of the BandPage/Zoo Labs Music Residency contest, and a Kerrville New Folk and Telluride Troubadour finalist, Bragg spent 10 years in New York City before moving back to Nashville in late 2013, this time with plenty to say.
With the lively international release of their debut LP in 2012 “A lil’ Boukou in Your Cup” and the 2015 sophomore release "Let The Groove Ride" gives Boukou Groove the ability to maintain a dynamic tour schedule. The band provides audiences with a genre-bending collective, touching on elements of New Orleans style Funk, R&B, Soul and Blues
Founded on the stage at Tipitinas in NOLA in 2010, Boukou Groove is the brainchild of singer/producer Donnie Sundal and New Orleans guitar luminary Derwin “Big D” Perkins. Sundal, sharing stages and recording with the likes of Sam Bush, Col.Bruce Hampton and Junior Marvin of The Wailers, creates an infectious blend of energy and enthusiasm as he showcases his multi-octave ranging vocals while sustaining his brand of lavish Moog bass lines. Big D (Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentleman, Bonnie Raitt and Dr.John) provides his smooth and funky guitar licks largely based on improvisation and feel alone. Together, no matter what the venue, the band provides their distinguishing style and creates a kinetic environment that’s easily spread throughout the audience.
As they continue to refine their unique style and build upon the momentum of the release of “A lil’ Boukou in Your Cup" with the 2015 release of "Let The Groove Ride", it promises to be an unprecedented year for the band as they continue to log dates at venues and festivals throughout the globe.
"Together, these guys make some beautiful funky music that gets you feeling like takin’ it easy at the guru café. A favorite song of the band is “A lil’ Boukou in Your Cup.” Listening to the groovy song you’ll agree that as far as funk goes, “[They] got just what you need, too much is never enough.” The music has a great rhythm and flow to it that can really give you a kinetic energy to your day" -Alex Diaz Dec '14 Baconandmusic.com
VIE MAGAZINE DOCUMENTARY: http://youtu.be/bjhhaxq5Txk
Features and Festivals
Soul Bag Magazine 2013 France - included on compilation Cd
Brian Hurst Collection 2013 - UK JazzFm.com
Blues and Soul Magazine 2013- Japan New Orleans Feat. Included on Compilation Cd
Bacon and Music Review : Dec 2014 http://baconandmusic.com/?p=1462
Downtown Crowd Magazine August 2015
LivefoLiveMusic.com Full Length Live Video "Let The Groove Ride" Nov 2015
Spotify.com 2015- Boukou Groove's original "Two To Tango" - "A Lil Boukou In Your Cup" Cd - 516,000+ plays
30A Songwriters Festival 30A Fl 2010 -2015
Bayfest Mobile Al 2013 & 2014
Riverbend Festival Chattanooga Tn 2014
Destin Seafood Festival 2013 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Disc Jam Series Live Oak Fl 2013
Peter Barakans Live Magic in Japan 2014 and 2015
Blue Note Tokyo 2 Shows Oct 2015
Peter Barakan's Live Magic Extra - Matsue Japan Oct '15
LivefoLiveMusic.com Full Length Live Video "Let The Groove Ride" Nov 2015
Boukou Grooves song "Stay Broke" was voted 2014 Song of The Year by Peter Barakan in Tokyo Japan.
Michael McDermott burst onto the scene in his early 20’s with his exceptional debut, 620 W. Surf and subsequently found himself touted as Rock’s ‘Next Big Thing’. MTV, Rolling Stone, The New York Times and even author, Stephen King added their appreciative nods and having the backing of Giant Records and prestigious producers like, Brian Koppelman and Don Gehman, seemed to go a long way towards assuring his success - overnight success.
The missteps and failures that followed, the collapse of an industry that once embraced him as its next sensation, are troubles and travails that either ruin a person completely, or they force a change of attitude and staunch determination to gather one’s resolve to not only survive, but overcome. McDermott vowed to do both. Ten albums in, it’s resulted in Willow Springs (Pauper Sky, June 17, 2016), one of the most honest, daring and defiant recordings of McDermott’s career. Named for the small town where he now resides with his wife and young daughter, it reflects a certain circumspect about his life, the situations he’s encountered, while realizing that ultimately, his fate resided in his own hands.
“This is an album of reckoning I suppose,” McDermott reflects. “There was a real cacophony of change going on in my life at the time... being a new father, losing my own father, leaving the city for the country, dealing with sobriety, grief, death, mortality, shame and forgiveness. It was a veritable emotional tsunami and yet somehow I had to navigate through it all. That journey is reflected in these songs. Willow Springs is the name of the place where I took refuge and had to confront a lot of things”.
Recorded at his home in the country and fan-funded, Willow Springs finds McDermott behind the boards as producer for the first time with longtime producer and collaborator, Lex Price doing the mix. Having enlisted a stellar support group of musicians -- including multi-instrumentalist, Price; guitarist, Will Kimbrough; keyboard player, John Deaderick and McDermott’s wife, Heather Horton on backing vocals - McDermott found himself able to craft the unassuming yet cutting sound he envisioned.
Indeed, the results bear out the fact that Willow Springs is the most honest and expressive album of McDermott’s extraordinary 25 year career. Songs such as, ‘These Last Few Days’, ‘Getaway Car’, ‘Half Empty Kinda Guy’, ‘One Minus One’ and the title track, convey all at once, a sound that’s both reflective and confessional - borne by stark emotion and a tattered, battered delivery that’s both sobering and sublime. McDermott remains more determined than ever, and Willow Springs is the result. “My enthusiasm is only matched by my desire to continue to evolve as an artist” he insists.
Accolades and kudos can be accumulated one minute and quickly dissipate the next. After all, the music biz is a fickle beast and it doesn’t matter how much you pleased the masses last year, last month or even last week, but rather, about what you offer today.
Today, McDermott has offered his best.
Kudos to Michael McDermott - overnight success.
For more information, please visit www.michael-mcdermott.com
As heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, Nashville singer/songwriter Becky Warren’s debut solo album War Surplus relays the affecting, gritty and candid tale of the relationship between an Iraq-bound soldier named Scott and his girlfriend, June.. As the story unfolds, the two meet, fall in love, and struggle to hold it all together when he returns from his deployment a changed man living with the echoes of PTSD. From the record’s award-winning lead track “Call Me Sometime” straight through ‘til the last note, Warren’s potency as a songwriter is on full display, as she weaves a compelling musical narrative rooted in her own life experiences and the rich sounds of Americana and rock & roll.
Part of the reason War Surplus hits with such impact is the very personal, almost autobiographical nature of Warren’s material. Just like the June character she created, Warren married a soldier back in 2005. A week later, he was deployed to Iraq and eventually returned home with PTSD. After four tumultuous years of trying to work through the fall out, they eventually, amicably, split. So while Scott and June are characters, and their story is a fictional account, Warren has the advantage of knowing what it’s really like—of being able to draw from a deep well of personal experience, and it lends the record a powerful authenticity and empathy. A record concerned with real human stories, War Surplus is also refreshingly devoid of political posturing, and deeply respects the experiences of veterans and their friends and family. “The album deals with some heavy themes,” Warren says, “but it was also important to me that it be catchy and fun to listen to.”
Long before Warren struck out on her own as a solo artist, all the way back in 2003, she played in Boston alt-country outfit The Great Unknowns, who signed to Amy Ray’s Daemon Records, toured with the Indigo Girls, and were praised by everyone from Maxim to No Depression. The band released the first of its two albums, Presenting The Great Unknowns, in 2004. But it wasn’t long before Warren’s struggles with her husband’s PTSD led her to take an extended break from music.
Within a month of her divorce, though, she was writing again, and would eventually record a second Great Unknowns album, 2012’s Homefront. Though her old bandmates were now scattered across the country and unable to tour, Warren kept cranking out powerful songs, including “Call Me Sometime,” which won her the 2014 Merlefest Songwriting Competition and the 2015 Kerrville New Folk competition. It’s an impressive feat when you consider the past winners of these contests—career artists like Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett and Gillian Welch.
Warren has been touring widely in support of the release, including a full-band stint opening for the Indigo Girls. She hopes the record will resonate with a wide range of fans while raising awareness about veterans and PTSD.
Led by a modern-day Linda Ronstadt, Granville Automatic writes songs the Associated Press calls “haunting tales of sorrow and perseverance.” With influences as diverse as Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams, The Smiths and Dawes, Granville Automatic has created a quiet and lyrical sound that revolves around their passion for storytelling. The duo, comprised of BMG Nashville songwriters Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins, is named after a 19th-century typewriter.
The girls’ devotion to the project has proved a chaotic road of back-breaking touring, interpersonal tension, former-day-job balancing, other-band leaving, and a love-hate dynamic that brought them from Atlanta to Nashville. Theirs is a creative partnership reminiscent of Lennon-McCartney, a dreamer-doer, accessible-obtuse, country-rock collision of two polar opposites. What the two share, however, is a love for nostalgia: old records and antiques, tarot cards and dusty books, ghosts on battlefields and lost stories from the past. That common ground has produced three albums widely praised from The New York Times to an Editor’s Pick in No Depression.
Currently, Granville Automatic is hard at work on their forthcoming studio album, RADIO HYMNS. The project, similar in approach to the lauded 2015 record AN ARMY WITHOUT MUSIC: Civil War Stories from Hallowed Ground, will focus on the city of Nashville and the historic buildings and spaces that are being threatened by the area’s unprecedented growth. By focusing on the little-known stories that make those vanishing landmarks sacred to Nashville, the girls hope to unearth a new perspective on an area that was forging a unique identity long before it became known as Music City. Conversations are currently underway with prominent Nashville songwriters and producers who have expressed interest in leaving their thumbprints on what will be a heartfelt love letter to the history of the city they call home. In a town where the songwriting bar is set high by their heroes John Prine, Jason Isbell and Jim Lauderdale, Granville Automatic believes they can leave a unique mark on Americana music.
Olivarez and Elkins have written songs recorded by country stars Billy Currington (the single “Drinkin’ Town With A Football Problem”), Sugarland, Wanda Jackson, Angaleena Presley and numerous others. Their songwriting led them to a coveted Composers in Residence spot at Seaside, Fla.’s Escape to Create program. They’ve appeared on PBS’ Sun Studio Sessions and WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. You may have heard their songs on ABC’s American Crime and The Lying Game, as well as Netflix’s The Ranch. Their tour schedule has been as frenzied as 200 shows a year, including stops at SXSW, the Key West, Island Hopper and 30A Songwriters festivals and Tin Pan South. They’ve played at venues from the legendary Joshua Tree roadhouse Pappy & Harriet’s to Texas’ haunted Gruene Hall to listening rooms such as The Tin Angel (Philadelphia), Club Passim (Boston), Eddie’s Attic (Atlanta), The Station Inn and Music City Roots (Nashville) and Rockwood Music Hall (NYC).
Steve Poltz is not normal.
He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) but has lived most of his life in Southern California and those geographic poles are quite likely responsible for his unhinged genius. He is a dual citizen - Canada/USA - but has often said that, "should a hostage situation arise, I become conveniently Canadian."
Over the course of his life he’s met Elvis Presley (who hugged his sister for far too long), trick or treated at Liberace’s house (each finger had a diamond ring), was Bob Hope’s favourite altar boy (according to him), bravely traveled the world busking before he knew how to do it, famously co-wrote “You Were Meant For Me” with Jewel, pissed off David Cassidy and can count some of the world’s coolest people as fans.
He’s also an ex high school wrestler (98 pound class), an obsessed baseball fan, a yoga practitioner, a hopeless romantic, a smart-ass philosopher and a child-like adventurer/observer with an absurdist’s view of this crazy world and the various life-forms that inhabit it. He's interested in it all - the big and the small, the sublime and the ridiculous, the terrestrial and the cosmic. He doesn't just love life, he rides it bareback, naked, at a full gallop with one hand clenched deep in its mane and the other waving to anyone watching as he flies by. Time is ticking and he has work to do...
As a recording artist, he’s fronted the semi-legendary Rugburns and is responsible for a critically lauded body of work on his own: One Left Shoe, Chinese Vacation, Answering Machine, The Barn (a children's album), Tales From The Tavern (a performance DVD), Traveling, Unraveling, Dreamhouse, Noineen Noiny Noin and most recently the soundtrack for the acclaimed Sundance-screened documentary film, Running Wild - The Life of Dayton O. Hyde.
As good as his albums are (and they're very, very good), Steve positively owns a crowd when he's on stage, where the proverbial rubber hits the road. His shows are the stuff of legend – no two are alike – and can take an unsuspecting audience from laughter to tears and back again in the space of a single song. He is a master of improvisational songwriting and works without a set list to be free to react instantly to the mood of a room. It's also worth mentioning that he is an astonishing guitar player on top of everything else. He is quite possibly the most talented, and engaging, solo performer on this planet. That's what 250+ shows a year on three continents will do for you.
Whether he's Canadian, or American, or simply from space there's no denying there's only one Steven Joseph Joshua Poltz and to know him is to love him.
Compared to most musical artists in the Americana genre, Michelle Malone seems like a pair of distressed blue jeans amidst a sea of pantsuits. Unlike the surplus of self-professed rootsy rebels, one listen to this woman from Dixie and you know you’re hearing the real thing. Her new album, Stronger Than You Think, is her strongest effort yet. Malone’s unforced, soulful voice and slide guitar playing take the blues and turn them into supremely-hooky roots rock songs that will make you wanna trash a juke joint and hi-five yourself after crying in your beer!
Malone comes by her independence and eclecticism naturally. “I started singing in church when I was about 4,” says the Atlanta-born Malone, “And my mom, a single parent, supported the family by singing in clubs and bars, doing everything from the hits of the day to jazz and blues standards. So I grew up being exposed to all kinds of music.”
After being an Arista artist and making a record for them produced by Patti Smith guitarist, Lenny Kaye, Malone became a pioneer of the indie movement. She started her own record label, SBS Records, in 1992 and began making her way down an independent musician’s rocky road. She’s now fortified with experience, having already released 13 studio recordings, played 1000’s of shows around the globe, and had songs used in TV shows like True Blood and Dawson’s Creek. For the last year, she’s been a part of the touring band of Kristian Bush, singer for Country supergroup, SugarLand. In between, she’s duetted with Gregg Allman, been backed by keyboard legend, Chuck Leavell and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and played everywhere they allow music. In short, Malone has paid her dues.
Her new record, though, Stronger Than You Think, stands apart from these impressive accomplishments. It has to do with looking around at her friends and contemporaries these past few years and seeing the toll that life can take. Hard times often make for great art, and this new record by Malone is no exception. She made this unforgettable album for her friends, her fans and anyone else who’s struggling or suffering. That’s many of us, and we won’t soon forget this music.
“I didn’t plan for so many of the songs to be about people overcoming obstacles. It happened organically. Part of my inspiration had to do with several friends who have been fighting cancer and other illnesses. Then there are people whose parents are aging and dealing with Alzheimer’s, so the songs are for the caretakers, too. These songs are my attempt to inspire folks dealing with difficulties. I want to empower them to continue to put one foot in front of the other, to keep on keeping on through their obstacles, whatever they are. I want them to know that they’re stronger than they even know.”
God knows, musically, Malone did her job perfectly. Everyone who hears ‘Stronger’ will be delighted. Take the disc’s kickoff kickass tune, Stomping Ground, which Malone calls one of her “favorites.” It’s got an insistent rocking beat, courtesy of drummer and co-producer Gerry Hansen, the right amount of lonesome harmonica and a chorus that just won’t quit. Also, it’s so damn universal. The narrator returns to a place where she use to live, where wonderfully-illicit coming of age acts went down, and it’s changed, flattened, wrecked. Malone’s heart hangs heavy as she sings about a magical spot from adolescence that’s empty-except for memories, but the slamming beat and her defiant voice keep it from being anything but maudlin.
As a self-professed Keith Richards fan, it’s kinda kismet that another satisfying track, My Favorite T-shirt, graces this punchy record. The song, of course, isn’t any more about the T-shirt than Wild Horses is about being a cowboy. It’s an excuse for Malone to let loose with a first-rate rant about an emotionally abusive relationship. As honest as most Americana singers are veiled, this tune uses that T shirt to confess why she stayed. It’s so open and honest, it’ll put you in mind of Chrissie Hynde, another great female truth-teller. Musically, however, it’s all Malone.
This is the 3rd record that Malone has made with producer / drummer Gerry Hansen (Chuck Leavell, Shawn Mullins, Randall Bramblett), and their mind-melding is obvious in the groove. A few of Malone’s other high profile Atlanta friends who dropped by to lend their backing vocals are Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) on I Dont Want To Know, co-written with Malone, and Kristian Bush (Sugarland) on When I Grown Up, also co-written with Malone.
So before she starts touring, what are her final thoughts about her new record? “I write for myself first, because I need to believe in what I’m singing. I wouldn’t aim it at any demographic, even if I knew how. I just write what moves me. I believe if the songs resonate with me, they’ll connect with other folks and bring them joy and strength, as well.”
Tired of all the prissy performers out there? Girls who might as well be twirling parasols and giggling shyly? Just give a listen to the new disc by singular songwriter, inveterate road warrior, Michelle Malone. Maybe you’re feeling a little tired, a little broken, like you can’t take another step. Hearing this soul sister from the South may be just what you need. Plus, she’s got something you’re probably dying for someone to tell you. You Are Stronger Than You Think. And you are.
Murray Attaway (Guadalcanal Diary)
Murray Attaway (Guadalcanal Diary)
Murray Attaway was the lead singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist for the legendary Guadalcanal Diary. He released a highly acclaimed solo outing "In Thrall" and scored a number of films, as well as guesting on numerous other projects. When Murray performs solo, he follows no particular agenda. He might bake a pie or attempt to raise an army of homunculi instead.
This Nashville-based powerhouse duo consists of Pennsylvania bred, music theater geek Steevie Steeves and straight-from-Kentucky, former bassist for punk-rock band, The Pink Spiders, Jon Decious. The two talents unexpectedly crossed paths at Skip Ewing’s Horse and Writer Seminar in Wyoming where they immediately connected musically. Not long after they met, they realized they both lived behind the liquor store on 8th in the heart of Music City, yet they had to travel thousands of miles to find out they were meant to make music together.
When they began writing together, TOWNE’s sound started taking shape. The power and passion behind their harmonies and lyrics was incomparable to anything they had experienced as musicians. Although Steeves and Decious have traveled two different paths, the forks in their roads eventually had them heading in the same direction.
Both Steevie and Jon grew up in small towns where the radio was their only refuge. Music gave them the escape they were yearning for.
Steevie started writing songs at 10 years old and became highly involved in opera and musical theater. In her world, life was a musical and the classroom was her stage. She later switched gears to singing in classic rock cover bands, as well as performing R&B and Jazz shows on the Pittsburgh river boat, the Gateway Clipper, before moving to Nashville at 22.
Jon and his family made the move to the city from the houseboat capital of the world when he was 14. Soon after, Jon began writing songs and started immersing himself in music any way he could find. His talent was showcased when he traveled the world for nine years with the punk-rock group, The Pink Spiders (Geffen Records). Jon recently got a cut with What A Woman Wants To Hear on Anderson East’s debut album, Delilah, produced by Dave Cobb, and on Caitlyn Rose’s debut album, Own Side Now called Comin’ Up. The pair has finished the recording of their debut EP, Games We Play. This project came to life with the help of producer Evan Hutchings (Joey + Rory) who also doubles on the drums, Rob McNelly (Kacey Musgraves, Parmalee) who lends his guitar skills on the EP, and Chris Gelbuda, who produced Meghan Trainor's "Like I'm Gonna Lose You,” and co-wrote "All About Us" and "The Rest" with Steeves and Decious.
Their unique sound mixes homegrown sentiment with dive bar rock-n-roll. The organic blend of their soulful edge with Americana southern roots makes them extremely unique. The iconic 60’s influences of Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, and Carole King shine through their voices in every performance. Steevie and Jon’s musical fate finally caught up to them, and the result is both enchanting and wicked; in the words of Decious, “You can outgrow your boots, but you can’t outrun your boots, or at least that’s what I think they say.”
When he's not raving about himself in the third person for his artist bio, Blake Guthrie lives in rural Georgia and roams the country as a singer/songwriter and travel journalist.
A native of Birmingham, AL, Guthrie has been playing professionally since the mid '90s. One of his first gigs was at the famed 40 Watt club in Athens, Georgia, in 1996 opening for alt-rock legend Frank Black. It was an odd match, the solo singer/songwriter with his quirky and romantic songs standing in front of Black's wall of amps, singing to an initially indifferent audience, but it worked. Guthrie won the crowd over with his honest approach, keen sense of humor and rough-hewn style, like an unexpected mix of Jonathan Richman meets Bruce Springsteen - and he's been doing it under-the-radar like that ever since.
When he was still wet behind the ears as a newcomer on the Atlanta music scene in the late '90s, Guthrie won the Critics Choice award for "Best Acoustic Act" in Atlanta from Creative Loafing, the largest alternative newsweekly in the Southeast. A year later he won the award again – a two-peat. Guthrie was then asked to write for the newspaper, thus being disqualified from ever winning the award again. There would be no three-peat.
He also shared the stage at this time with another up-and-comer in Atlanta, John Mayer. The two young songwriters worked the door together at the famed Eddie's Attic nightclub, where they staged the tongue-in-cheek, all-male concert Willis Fair in response to the estrogen-fest Lillith Fair. Guthrie will gladly share his VHS tape of the evening (which also included Kristian Bush from Sugarland) if you are nice to him and still own a VCR.
Since those early days, Guthrie has fine-tuned his craft, becoming a respected professional on the local scene and continuing to spread out regionally and nationally. For some reason, people in Australia, Canada and Belgium keep downloading songs from his latest CD, "Til I Reach The Light," which Guthrie finds odd because he's never been to these countries and doesn't know anyone there. Guthrie is currently at work on a new batch of songs for his next album, which he hopes will be released sometime this century.
Don Dixon & Marti Jones
Don Dixon & Marti Jones
Marti Jones and Don Dixon have been singing together since the mid 80s. With over 20 albums between them, they cover a lot of territory. They had separate record deals back then but now in this new, egalitarian era they are able to make records together. In 2011 they released a proper duet record called Living Stereo.
Marti's most recent recording is You're Not the Bossa Me, while Dixon has a new six song recording entitled I Lived in the Time of Organ Grinders.
Here are a few facts:
MARTI JONES - Grew up in Uniontown, OH; studied painting at Kent State University; sang at local lounges in the ‘70s; fronted an Akron band called Color Me Gone in the early '80s; released a string of finely crafted solo albums on A&M and RCA that got rave reviews in Rolling Stone; found a large fan base on the Eastern Seaboard; performed “Tourist Town” on the David Letterman show in 1988; made music videos with D.A. Pennebaker and Jesse Dylan; has toured extensively around the US & Europe including long stints with Chris Isaak and Richard Thompson; gradually (and successfully) returned to oil painting as her main creative outlet and still sings from time to time.
DON DIXON - Grew up in Lancaster, SC; played Cole Porter songs in a tuxedo-clad combo called the Cavaliers while still in junior high; later recorded major-label albums with his college rock band called Arrogance; produced seminal albums by R.E.M., the Smithereens and Marti Jones; scored an MTV hit with “Praying Mantis”; released a string of clever-soulful solo albums and continues to do so; starred in an off-Broadway musical (”King Mackerel and the Blues Are Running”); played an embittered alcoholic Broadway composer in an indie film (”Camp”); has written songs that have been recorded by Joe Cocker, Counting Crows, Ronnie Spector and Marti Jones; has recently been touring bassist with longtime friend Mary Chapin Carpenter.
- Dan Kane
Will Sexton, whose writing credits range from work with Waylon Jennings and Stephen Stills to Joe Ely and Bill Carter, is shaped by the unique diversity of the Austin music scene. Fate and his own sheer talent placed him on stage with local legends before he’d lived out his first decade. Will and his big brother, Charlie, started playing together at the Continental Club when Will was 9 and Charlie was 11. Many of the sounds of his childhood still resonate in his current work. Will received early success in Austin and was signed by MCA at age 16. He has survived in the tough Austin music scene by playing gigs with a variety of notable artists. It is never unusual to go out to catch a show featuring an Austin singer/songwriter and see Will onstage.
Will’s credits as producer and songwriter range from collaborations with Waylon Jennings to psychedelic pioneer Roky Erikson to Steve Earle and punk legend Johnny Thunders. Will has written for MCA and Almo Irving and recorded for MCA, A&M, and Zoo Entertainment. Will was in the New Folk Underground with David Baerwald, which resulted in the co-produced (w/ David Kitay) Lost Highway release Here Comes the New Folk Underground. Will names Terry Allen and Sheryl Crow hitmaker David Baerwald among his favorite writing partners. 2009 marked the completion of new production credits, including Randy Weeks’ Going My Way, and Ruby James’ CD, Happy Now, co-produced with his brother Charlie Sexton. Will also enjoys performing with Charlie Faye, Sahara Smith, and Shannon McNally.
Will has amassed an impressive collection of songs over the years, releasing his first independent album, Scenes From Nowhere, in 2001, which received a four-star review and was honored in the Top 5 Releases of 2001 by the Austin American-Statesman. Bus Stop Gossip, a previously unreleased recording from 2004, was unearthed and released in 2009 and was followed up by Move the Balance in 2010.
Things came to a temporary halt in December 2009 when Will suffered a mild stroke. Though he had a remarkable recovery, he was unable to remember much of the music he had written and played almost daily as a working musician. For him to be unable to connect with those songs mentally since the stroke was a setback few musicians could even imagine. The Austin music community has always been known for taking care of its own and came out in full force for a music benefit in honor of one of Austin’s golden sons to raise money for Will’s living expenses and medical bills.
While Will was working through the recovery process, Move The Balance was released two months later without much notice and to very little fanfare. This is an album not to be overlooked. It includes eleven new songs recorded by Mark Hallman and Andre Moran in twenty-two hours at Congress House studios in South Austin. Musicians on the CD include Will Sexton on vocals, guitar and bass, Mike Thompson on piano, guitar and trombone, Bukka Allen on B3 and accordion, Dony Wynn on drums and percussion, Ray Bonneville on harmonica, and Bill Carter on additional bass. Additional guest vocals were provided by Mark Hallman, Ruby “Red” James, Charlie Faye and Nöelle Hampton.
Boston’s WUMB listeners voted Jeff Black as one of the top 100 most important Folk artists of the last 25 years. Black’s songs have earned GRAMMY® recognition, radio chart-topping stats and numerous BMI awards. He has been recognized by NPR as a musical pioneer in the digital age and his catalogue of critically acclaimed albums continues to grow. Composing music for film and television, his credits include numerous indie-film soundtracks and a repertoire of songs cut by artists as diverse as Alison Krauss & Union Station, Waylon Jennings, BlackHawk, Dierks Bentley, Jon Randall, John Oates, Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush. Black has forged a reputation as a true folk troubadour entertaining audiences globally for over three decades. A master songwriter and performer in the tradition of the great storytellers, his passionate, soul driven live performances of songs from his vast catalog are not to be missed. His new album is set for release in spring 2017.
Brent Anderson is described by his co-writers as a “creative force”- a songwriter that can play anything, sing anything, and write anything – and he’s just getting started. A Pascagoula, Mississippi native, Anderson’s love for performing and writing songs developed early and by age 13, he had already started his own band. With the support of his parents, Anderson relocated to Nashville and landed his first publishing deal when he was only 15-years-old. Then, in 2009, he signed with Sea Gayle Music Publishing and has since had cuts with Brad Paisley, Tyler Farr, Florida Georgia Line, Dustin Lynch, Maddie & Tae, The Cadillac Three, Danielle Bradbery, and Randy Rogers Band. His credits also include the #1 hit “Lonely Tonight” by Blake Shelton featuring Ashley Monroe and other singles, “Getting Over You” (Jackie Lee), “Cold Beer With Your Name On It” (Josh Thompson) and “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely” (Sheryl Crow). As a producer, Brent’s credits include Chris Jansen for Warner Brothers including the breakthrough hit “Buy Me A Boat”, CJ Solar’s debut EP on Sea Gayle Records, as well as several other upcoming project releases.
Think of Will Kimbrough as the Sherlock Holmes of songwriting — a sharp-eyed observer of humanity who notes every detail and spares nothing in his analysis. His new case study is Sideshow Love a dozen songs that play out like a collection of smartly crafted short stories, laden with generous melodies and arrangements that balance virtuoso playing with just the right amount of space to let each of the characters within them breathe.
The theme is a familiar one: love. But what’s novel is the telling. Kimbrough’s perspective shifts effortlessly between sharp- and misty-eyed, from laughter to tears, as he weaves an arc through the stages of a romance over his eighth solo release’s course.
“A good album really should be like a volume of short stories,” Kimbrough affirms. “It should have a beginning and an end, and what happens in between is up for grabs, as long as it fits the theme. The idea of this album is that everybody wants somebody to love and somebody to love them, and what you get when you find that is a lot of responsibility. If it’s going to succeed, you’ve got to work it out over the long haul.”
Kimbrough found the axis for Sideshow Love in the song “Home Economics,” a cynical, tongue-in-cheek take on the differences between men and women inspired by a friend’s divorce. The tune employs a 1920s New Orleans string band jazz sound conjured by Kimbrough’s banjo and slide guitar and Paul Griffith’s dusty snare drum. Lisa Oliver Gray, who completes the album’s core trio, adds her sweet ‘n’ salty voice to the mix.
“When I wrote that song I knew that I really had something. It felt like an album could be built around it,” Kimbrough explains. “So I started going through the 50 or 60 songs I’d written over the past few years and began pulling together the ones that seemed to fit.”
Kimbrough had accumulated those songs while he was authoring a new chapter in his distinguished history as a sideman, playing guitar in Americana icon Emmylou Harris’ band. He’s also accompanied such songwriting luminaries as Rodney Crowell, Kim Richey and his longtime friend and accomplice Todd Snider — all the while never letting his own pen-craft lag.
As Kimbrough assembled Sideshow Love’s tunes, musical themes began emerging, too. “The songs I was culling combined elements of blues and country, and there was a vein of soul music running through a lot of them, which all made sense to me, because I’ve always been eclectic and I enjoy those styles a lot. Between that music and the Beatles is where I usually gravitate.”
He chose “When You’re Loving Comes Around,” with his blues guitar licks and whispered-gravel singing, to set the album’s musical and conceptual tone as the opener. A celebration of the “empty magic moment” when love ignites, it begins the disc’s arc, which traces a romance through the stages of limerence, dissatisfaction, acceptance and, perhaps, at the conclusion, new hope. “I didn’t want these stories to have an unhappy ending, so I chose ‘Emotion Sickness’ as the last tune,” Kimbrough relates. It’s a country song with a strong soul feel conjured by the gentle tremolo of Kimbrough’s electric guitar, an airy arrangement and a molasses pace that underscores the promise of heartbreak’s passing.
Kimbrough produced and recorded most of the album in his home studio, which he’s primarily used for demos in the past. He played acoustic and electric guitars, banjo and mandolin. In addition to kit drums, Griffith added Indian clay pot to “Let the Big World Spin,” a smoldering riff-mad blues about lust and sex. Griffith is a frequent collaborator of Kimbrough’s who has played on all of his albums since 2006’s Americanitis and a fellow member of the band DADDY. He has also joined Kimbrough on stage or in the studio with Harris, Snider and many others. Lisa Oliver Gray, who completes the album’s core trio, lends her sweet ‘n’ salty voice to the mix. And Chris Donohue, who is also a member of Harris’ band, added bass to “When Your Loving Comes Around” and “I Want Too Much.”
Although Kimbrough’s previous album Wings was released nearly four years ago, he’s been working like a locomotive. His exceptional abilities as a player, singer and performer have kept him in-demand. Until early this year, when Kimbrough decided to redirect his energy into his own projects, he’d spent most of the time since early 2011 traveling the world with Harris. He’s played guitar on tour and in the studio with Crowell, Richey, Gretchen Peters, Marshall Chapman and a host of others, plus Snider, with whom he still writes and plays. Kimbrough has also provided plenty of self- and co-penned cuts for a list of artists that includes Little Feat, Jack Ingram and a dozen numbers cut by Jimmy Buffett.
“To have an ongoing relationship at that level in this business is really a gift,” Kimbrough says of his writing for fellow Gulf Coast native and entertainment world powerhouse Buffett. He also notes that his experience as a touring sideman has provided invaluable lessons.
“I’ve learned a lot about how to conduct myself in front of an audience,” Kimbrough relates. “I’ve seen stars backstage totally freaked out about not knowing the lyrics to a song, and then step into the spotlight looking totally cool and collected. You’ve got to take away the fear. And Rodney taught me that you’ve got to write every day — even on the days when you can’t sit down in a room by yourself with a note pad for three hours. You’ve got to keep your eyes and ears open 24/7, and when something interesting happens or gets said, write it down. I try to write a song first thing every morning, just to keep my chops up.”
Kimbrough’s chops have been up for a long time. He traces the beginning of his rich and varied career back to his twelfth birthday, in 1976. That year his parents bought him a $20 electric guitar and amp and a ticket to see Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” tour at the local theater in his native Mobile, Alabama.
“That was a big deal, because my mom and dad had spent $32.50 on my presents, which was a lot for them, and from that day on I’ve never had a job except for playing guitar and writing songs,” Kimbrough says. “They probably figure that was the best or worst $32.50 they every spent.”
As a budding guitarist he embraced KISS as much as Dylan, plus the Allman Brothers, Springsteen and a host of others who blended instrumental prowess with well constructed songs. Within six months of first plugging in he was playing paying gigs at skating rinks and high school auditoriums. At 16 he dived into the punk and post-punk sound, learning tunes by Television, the Clash and Talking Heads, and then logged years in cover bands along the Gulf Coast.
“One of the reasons I’ve been in demand for sessions and touring is that I learned to be able to ape any playing style,” Kimbrough offers. In addition he’s developed a uniquely textural approach that allows him to extend his guitar’s tonal palette, which explains why the battered $30 Silvertone acoustic he plays on “Home Economics” sounds like an expensive vintage electric arch top. In 2004 the Americana Music Association presented Kimbrough with its Instrumentalist of the Year Award. Other recipients include Dobro giant Jerry Douglas and the genre’s proverbial MVP Buddy Miller.
In the early ’80s Kimbrough moved to Nashville with his first original band, Will and the Bushmen, and was quickly signed to a major label deal. “We were swallowed up and passed out the other side,” he says, chuckling. Next came the Bis-quits, with fellow songwriting kingpin Tommy Womack, who released a CD on John Prine’s Oh Boy! label in 1993.
Kimbrough met Todd Snider on the same night the Bis-quits signed their record deal. They quickly became co-writers and musical compadres. Their collaboration has yielded a host of songs and two Kimbrough-produced Snider albums, East Nashville Skyline and The Devil You Know.
Kimbrough began his string of solo albums with This, released in 2000. Since then he’s formed another band with Womack, the critically heralded DADDY, that’s cut two albums. The DADDY tune “Nobody From Nowhere” drew Buffett’s attention, and the world’s most famous beach bum recorded that number and three more of Kimbrough’s tunes on 2009’s Buffet Hotel, including “Wings,” the title track of Kimbrough’s 2010 album.
Kimbrough’s recently added another band to his resume. Willie Sugarcapps, an aggregation of all-star indie songwriters that also features Grayson Capps, Corky Hughes, and Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee of the duo Sugarcane Jane, was formed last year after a particularly fertile meeting at a songwriter’s night at the Frog Pond in Silverhill, Alabama. The group released a debut album, called Willie Sugarcapps, in August.
“I have a lot going on and I work really hard, and I value the time I have with my family,” Kimbrough reflects. “But I think that if I worked in an office at a day job somewhere I’d work just as hard at that. So when it comes to taking on new projects like Willie Sugarcapps or playing with artists of the stature of Emmylou or working on new projects with Todd, I consider all of those things opportunities — to write new songs, to grow, to make new albums. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
“A sure thing reduced to a dream, and now its a dream come true” is how Chris Stills describes the evolution of his self-titled album, which is finally seeing its belated American release.
The album’s circuitous journey started off easily enough, when Stills’ manager mentioned his name to V2 exec Alain Artaud, who was a big fan. The next thing Stills knew, he was flying to Paris and signing with the label. Chris Stills got released in France, and then across Europe and Canada, in 2006. With advance critical buzz touting the disc as “melodic and beautifully executed album” and “sparkly, summery unkempt music,” Stills was anticipating its U.S. release earlier this year when V2 shuttered its doors in America.
Stubbornly the determined Stills couldn't and wouldn't, let this album die. The songs were much too close to his heart to get lost in yet another record label implosion. “...these songs grew out of an intensely important time for me just before I was signed to V2. I was about to throw in the towel on my musical career. I’d just spent the last few years shopping for a new deal and no matter how good I felt about all those shows....with all the love and support....I just wasn't catching a break.” But then Chris, rediscovering his Muse Heidi, saw his life changing for the better. “I remember sitting on the couch, so happy to be with her again. I said, ‘You’re going to bring me luck.’ Literally in the next breath, the phone rang and it was my manager saying, “We’re going to Paris.”
It makes sense then that the resulting album, Chris Stills, is a richly romantic affair, conveying both the ache and elation that love can bring. The songs capture, as Stills calls it, “the moment when you realize that you're falling in love while desperately trying to catch your breath”
In the opening track, “Landslide,” he describes love as “the best kind of pain/so don’t take it away.” The hurt that love brings also surfaces in songs like “The Story of a Dying Man” and “When The Pain Dies Down.” Stills calls the latter tune “a proud moment in songwriting for me.”
Stills also exalts the joyfulness of love on this disc. Tunes like the hooky, Steve Miller-ish “Flying High” and the percolating “Fool For You” are blissful slices of happy-go-lucky pop rock. Another straight-from-the-heart love song, “For You,” arose from a party encounter with Ryan Adams. Stills, who appeared on Adams’ Gold and Demolition discs, played at a piano while Adams chimed in lyrics. “It was a very Ryan moment. He’s just so frickin’ prolific.” Stills’ lyrics were about Heidi, who he wasn’t with then, and he only finished the song as they were getting back together.
Stills, seeking to break out of his more classic folk sounding ‘98 Atlantic Records debut....enlisted the services of producer Hod David, whose work with Maxwell he admired, drummer Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright) and Mixer Juan Patino (Lisa Loeb, Jewel). Such combined talents spawned an album that helped to frame Chris’ songs in a surprisingly fresh Top 40/Rock landscape.
Music runs deep in Stills’ gene pool. While his father, Stephen Stills is celebrated for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, his mother Veronique Sanson is a pop legend in France. He credits her for instigating his love of music. Chris recalls the night Veronique had received a huge Beatles box set for performing in a Paris Beatles tribute concert. She returned home and sternly suggested “listen to to this.” “Their songwriting was just so huge to me,” he says “I definitely rip pages out of their book.”
Stills showcases his French heritage on the disc, singing two songs en français. He calls the songs “experiments” that allowed him the opportunity to work with some French songwriters he admires. “Demon” is a twisted love song penned by Philippe Dijian and Steven Eicher, while “Kitty Kathy” (his favorite French track) enabled him to collaborate with one of his songwriting idols, Jean-Louis Murat, whom Stills hails as the Neil Young of France.
Stills’ fluency in French reflects his teenaged years that he spent living there with his mother.
Stills, who spent a good part of his childhood living in France and Southern California, has put down his roots now in Los Angeles. However, his musical interests still have a wide-ranging scope. While working on songs for his next album, he has been collaborating with such musicians as Nashville tunesmith Skip Ewing, electronica artist Victoria Horn and New York songwriter Jeff Cohen.
Although his future music projects intrigue Stills, forefront on his mind is his eponymous album’s upcoming American release. Having taken such a long time for it be released here, Stills is thrilled that it’s finally coming out and plans to hit the road to keep this music alive.
Touring Artist, #1 Songwriter, Award Winning Producer. These are just a few of the words that describe the career of respected music industry veteran Brian White. One of Nashville’s most sought after hit-makers, White has experienced success at every level and in every genre of music. He spent 15 years fronting the Christian rock band “Brian White & Justice” before coming off the road to write full time. In addition to his 15 #1’s as a songwriter, he has won 2 Dove Awards, 2007's SESAC Country Song of the Year, Billboard’s most played country song of the year, and most recently “Watching You” recorded by Rodney Atkins was named "Most Played Song of the DECADE", as well as landing at #37 on BILLBOARD'S "100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.". He has had songs recorded by artists all over the globe including Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins, Gary Allan, The Swon Brothers, Earl Scruggs, Kix Brooks, Sir Cliff Richard, The Shires, Mandisa, Jaci Velasquez, Danny Gokey, Kutless and many others. Brian makes his home in Nashville, TN and is married to award winning CCM recording artist Karyn Williams.
There are many words that describe Karyn Williams but it can all be summed up in one: REAL. Her faith, her smile, her heart and her music have made her one of the industry's most in-demand artists. A dynamic woman with a powerful life story, Karyn is a #1 songwriter, a 9-time marathoner, author of the best selling book “The Takeaway” and she was named by BILLBOARD Magazine as a “Best Bet” for new music. She recently appeared as a guest vocalist with Mac Powell on the new Third Day record as well as releasing her sophomore album “Letting Go of Perfect”. The eldest daughter in an international family of 19 children, Karyn spent 2016 touring with Christian comedian Chonda Pierce as well as filming her second movie. She makes her home in Nashville, TN and is married to award winning songwriter Brian White.
Connor Garvey is an award-winning singer-songwriter from Portland, Maine, with the amiable presence of an entertainer, the lyrical depth of a poet, and the enchantment of a storyteller.
Garvey leaves audiences uplifted and inspired through a positive message delivered in a way The Portland Press Herald says proves you can be optimistic and self-aware without being boring. His unique sandy tenor and masterful blend of rhythm and melody draw comparison to Paul Simon and contemporaries Josh Ritter and Jason Mraz. He wins song competitions. He fills rooms. But most of all he moves people.
First time listeners often are drawn to Garvey's engaging performance style, accomplished musicianship, and memorable melodies. But his lyrics project a depth and sincerity that allow the observant listener to find meaning beyond the catchy hook. Meanwhile, the intricate production of his albums adds emotional depth and keeps the songs fresh play after play.
This combination of songwriting and performance strength has earned Garvey numerous awards including being named winner of the Kerrville New Folk, Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, SolarFest, Wildflower Art and Music Festival and Maine Songwriters Association songwriting competitions, voted as Most Wanted artist at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, nominated for Best Male Performer in the New England Music Awards, and a top new singer songwriter by Sirius XM's The Coffeehouse.
On his latest release, Meteors and Beating Hearts, Garvey shows further maturity as a songwriter, addressing personal and universal themes through a series of lyrical stories. Many of the songs were written as assignments for a weekly songwriting group. The challenge of writing a new song each week and presenting it to a group of artists he admires challenged and pushed Garvey to try a new approach to his songwriting.
Garvey's interest in music and writing began at a very young age. Both his parents are educators and his father was a songwriter. Growing up in such a musical environment in the artistically rich Northeast, Garvey developed the firm belief that songwriting is a method for bringing community together and a way for people to explore a greater depth within their own lives.
Originally a drummer, he picked up the guitar in his teens, in part because his best friend was better with the sticks and together they could start a rock band. But this rhythmic background remains at the core of his musical style. He merges syncopated bass lines with melodic leads to create a full sound from his acoustic guitar.
The themes of community and living with intention run deep for Garvey, from the musical memories of his youth to his ease in developing relationships with audiences and fellow artists. He builds upon on the energy of live performance to deliver a memorable experience in a way that has led folk stalwarts Vance Gilbert and David Wilcox to proclaim the tradition of acoustic music is in good hands with Connor Garvey.
Josh Kear is a Nashville-based songwriter who has become known as one of the country genre’s most consistent hit makers. He has spent nearly thirteen years writing for independent powerhouse Big Yellow Dog Music.
In 2007, he had his breakthrough number one song with Carrie Underwood’s massive hit “Before He Cheats” which spent five weeks at the top of the charts. Josh recently celebrated his 11th number one song "Drinking Class” by country star Lee Brice, , which was the most played country song of 2015 according to the Billboard country airplay chart.
“Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum might be considered the signature song of Josh’s career so far. “Need You Now” spent five weeks at number one on the country chart and 14 weeks at number one on the adult contemporary chart. The song went on to earn Josh two of his four Grammy Awards, winning for both Country Song of the Year and Overall Song of the Year in 2011. Josh also won Grammy Awards for Country Song Of The Year for “Before He Cheats” and “Blown Away”. Josh remains the only country songwriter to win Country Song Of The Year Grammy three times.
Other number one songs include “Highway Don't Care” by Tim McGraw (featuring Taylor Swift and Keith Urban), "Drunk on a Plane” by Dierks Bentley, "Neon Light” by Blake Shelton, both “Blown Away” and "Two Black Cadillacs” by Carrie Underwood, “Helluva Life” by Frankie Ballard and “Drunk On You” by Luke Bryan.
Other notable hits include “(Kissed You) Good Night and “Wild At Heart” by Gloriana, “Dancin' Away with My Heart” and “Goodbye Town” by Lady Antebellum, and “Redneck Crazy” by Tyler Farr.
Josh has received 14 ASCAP country airplay awards, 2 ASCAP pop airplay awards, and three ASCAP country Song of the Year awards for “Before He Cheats”, “Need You Now” and “Drunk On You”. In 2013 he also took home the coveted award for Country Songwriter of the Year.
Josh has been an advocate for songwriter’s rights now for several years. He has made multiple trips to Washington D.C. to lobby congress on behalf of all songwriters. He also performed for the Library Of Congress in 2014 as part of ASCAP’s “We Write The Songs” series along with Randy Newman, Carly Simon and Heart. Josh also helped write the theme song for ASCAP’s 100th Anniversary, “More Than The Stars” collaborating with such diverse writers as Ne-Yo, Dan Wilson, Stargate, Bill Withers and others.
Dave Franklin is the renowned singer-songwriter from the Atlanta music scene, former member of the legendary Atlanta alternative rock band, hollyfaith. Franklin has also toured and recorded with Drivn' n' Cryin', Kristen Hall, Billy Pilgrim, and opened for the likes of Johnny & June Carter Cash, Sinead O'Conner, and Jewel. Franklin resides in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta and is considered one of the most under rated, best singers and players by music critics and fans that are “in the know”. Dave Franklin’s first recording, the critically acclaimed “Bones and All”, was released in 1991 on Sister Ruby Records and was proclaimed by Eddie Owen (Eddie’s Attic) “the best CD to ever come out of Atlanta”. Because of touring with rock bands, Franklin waited nine years to release his follow up album, “Gutterbound For Glory” on his own FrampTone Records in 2000. The record was another critically acclaimed collection of Franklin’s eclectic, yet classic American reflections. Franklin released his third album in late 2010 titled “Lost in the Middle of the Long Way Home”. The newest record, produced by Tim Nielsen (Drivin’ N’ Cryin’), features ten new compositions and guest musicians Kevn Kinney, Abby Owens, Leah Calvert, and Kevin Morrison (hollyfaith). Franklin was inspired to make the new album by Kristian Bush (Sugarland), who insisted that Franklin record after hearing him perform his new songs live at Eddie’s Attic. Now, Franklin is ready for the next chapter to reveal itself, while he continues to take the long way home.
Sugarcane Jane, the Alabama Gulf Coast-based husband and wife duo has amassed an extremely loyal following. Anthony and Savana Lee Crawford purvey what they proudly call “Organic Music at its Finest.” Rich, homegrown, and natural, their brand of Americana draws from a deep well of roots influences, interwoven with inflections of gospel, country, and rock. Listeners can expect mostly acoustic sounds, and some of the freshest-sounding vocal harmonies they will ever hear. Both virtuosos in their own right, Anthony is a songwriter who plays acoustic guitar, mandolin, and a bass drum (which he plays while strumming his six-string) and Savana Lee deftly dances between rhythm guitar and snare drum.
Multi-instrumentalist Anthony Crawford is known in most circles as a sideman to the stars. Over the course of the last 25 years, he has performed with Neil Young, Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Sonny James, and has written songs recorded by Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam, Kenny Rogers, Pegi Young, Lee Greenwood, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Oak Ridge Boys, Lorrie Morgan, and others. Yet, even with his history of working with heavyweights, Crawford feels Sugarcane Jane – his musical venture with multi-instrumentalist wife Savana Lee Crawford, is his life’s calling.
Their new album, Ladders and Edges, to be released March 2017 will be available for Pre-Order on December 2, 2016. Co-produced by well-known producer/musician/music director, Colin Linden, at Anthony's Admiral Bean Studio, Ladders and Edges brings Sugarcane Jane's sensitivity level to its highest with heartfelt lyrics of life's lessons with '13th Believer' to pure groove drawn tracks like 'Train of Information''. Visit www.sugarcanejane.com for updates.
“An album that deserves to be at the top of critics’ lists” and “One of the best duos since Johnny and June” - The Washington Times
“Indeed, every move these two make, whether as Sugarcane Jane or as a part of the Americana group from Lower Alabama, Willie Sugarcapps, they seemingly cannot put a musical foot wrong.” - Exclusive Magazine
Ben Glover is a 2 time Grammy award winning songwriter and producer hailing from Loveland, Colorado, a small city on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. Glover moved to Nashville in 2000 after signing his first deal the year prior. Originally getting his start as an artist, Glover spent the early part of his career touring, but quickly discovered he preferred the lights of a studio to the ones on a stage so he chose to get off the road and focus his attention on the craft of writing and producing songs. The results of that decision proved successful as he has penned over thirty-five #1 hits in multiple genres of music and was named ASCAP’s Christian songwriter of the year in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016. Glover wrote the hit country songs, "Hard to Love" by Lee Brice and "Love Don't Run" by Steve Holy along with numerous hits in Christian music including, "All This Time" and "The Lost Get Found" by Britt Nicole, “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli, and Mandisa’s songs ”Stronger" and “Overcomer,” the latter of which won a Grammy award. Along with his credits as a songwriter, Glover has also achieved some notable success as a producer, writing and producing the songs, “Busted Heart” and “The Proof of Your Love" by the band For King & Country, and the song, “Greater” by MercyMe. Glover has had over 400 songs recorded in multiple genres of music by artists such as Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Crowder, Trace Adkins, Gloriana, Thompson Square, The Backstreet Boys, Amy Grant & James Taylor, Marc Broussard, Clay Walker, Joy Williams, Brandon Heath, Josh Wilson, The Afters, Colton Dixon, Newsboys, Kari Jobe, and many others.
The Tall Pines
The Tall Pines
The Tall Pines are a shack-shakin’, foot–stompin’ folk-rock band featuring Connie Lynn Petruk, singing her heart out, playing drums on her alligator skin suitcase, and shaking her tambourine. Her partner Christmas Davis, plays guitar, writes the songs and howls along. The Tall Pines originate from the spirits of the late 1960s and early 1970s Country-Soul, and Swamp-Rock scenes, while working hard to take the sounds they love beyond history and into the next wave of American Music. Their first self-titled album was voted one of the top ten best records of the year by NPR's Meredith Ochs. They’ve performed live with Country music great Charlie Louvin (RIP) at the CMJ music festival, with Norah Jones and Puss N Boots, Justin Townes Earl, Kevn Kinny of Drivn’ and Cryin’, Amy Helm, and many more great folks. They produce a monthly live music series in New York City called The Tall Pines Revue. The Tall Pines were dubbed a buzz band by American Songwriter Magazine for their performances at the 30A Songwriter’s Festival, and they have received critical praise from many blogs and magazines. Their most recent EP – “Fear Is The Devil” – was released in the Fall of 2015. You can stream it HERE. A new release is currently being recorded with Grammy nominated Producer Joel Hamilton at Studio G, Brooklyn. The Tall Pines are on a mission to remind a world increasingly made of concrete, glass and steel that some music still burns like raw timber.
"Connie Petruk looks like she stepped out of late ’60s/early ’70s Nashville and sings like the lost sister of Bobbie Gentry or Dusty Springfield. Her honeyed alto will melt the frost off your windshield. The Tall Pines are equal parts soul and twang, molasses and moonshine, sass and skill. The songs, all written by Christmas Davis, evoke the heyday of the country-soul hybrid without ever sounding unoriginal, a difficult feat.”
“If a duo ever sounded bigger than its parts, The Tall Pines sound it with undeniable choruses and songs full of intriguing narratives, reflect the 60’s wizardry of The Zombies and the modern biting edge of The Kills. Soul, country, swamp, heartache and neo-blues are just some of the sounds coming off their voices and instruments.”
“In a world where we are so often overpowered by all that is around us, The Tall Pines strip things back and bring with them, through their music, a much needed reminder that sometimes, simpler is better – it certainly is here.” ~ Popwrapped
“Given the success enjoyed by bands like The Alabama Shakes and Shovels and Ropes, this deserves to be huge. We can’t give this EP (Fear Is The Devil) any higher praise than confirming that we loved it so much that we immediately asked for more releases to review…” ~ The Soul of a Clown / UK blog
“Allow us to introduce you to The Tall Pines, a shack-shaking, foot stompin’ Americana masterpiece bringing folk back to the heart of the New York boroughs.” ~ East of 8th
“Connie Lynn Petruk and Christmas Davis deliver gritty yet soulful folk music that gets your hands clapping and your feet stomping. It’s unlike anything else coming out of Brooklyn—or anywhere, for that matter.”
“The Civil Wars are certainly civil compared to The Tall Pines. They do not fear to tread where more tender souls would be burned to a crisp.” ~ Amos Perrine: No Depression
Hold on to your preconceptions and prepare for a big and very pleasant surprise. It isn’t that The TPs can’t kick up a little sod with the best of them (“Good Woman”), or that their music isn’t highly Country/Bluegrass influenced (“If The Devil Knows You By Name”) But this band’s music has a big streak of White Stripes wildness running through it. ~ R.A . Vintage Guitar Magazine
(The) Tall Pines, a knowing, ass-kicking ’70s Nashville revamp fronted by bodacious Connie Lynn Petruk. ~ Richard Gehr: The Village Voice
Derek George grew up in the small southern town of Philadelphia, MS. Birthplace of the country music super star Marty Stuart and highly recruited Oklahoma running back Marcus Dupree. He started playing guitar when he was thirteen years old and in high school was voted most likely to succeed. He signed his first record deal during his senior year. He graduated with Honors and climbed on a tour bus in 1992 with his band Pearl River. They recorded two albums for Capitol records and toured with many country artists in the early 90’s.
After his run with Pearl River he hooked up with one of country music’s greatest talents, Asylum Records’ Bryan White. Derek was Bryan’s bandleader and songwriting collaborator all through Bryan’s career. He wrote Some of Bryan’s biggest hits, “So Much For Pretending” #1, “Look At Me Now”, and “Bad Day To Let You Go”. He later went on to produce 2 of Bryan’s albums. He served as a staff writer for Glen Campbell Music for 8 years and played and sang on some of country’s biggest records in the 90’s. Derek also had songs recorded by other country music artists during this period. “Imagine That” (#3), recorded by Diamond Rio, was one of the most played songs of 1997.
In 1999 Derek took a break from touring and signed on to write for Windswept Pacific Music. Derek wrote there for 8 years among a cast of world-renowned writers such as, Jeffery Steele and Al Anderson. During his term with Windswept, his songs were recorded by; Rascal Flatts, Wynonna Judd, Josh Gracin, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Hannah Montanna, among others...
In January 2009 Derek started Wide Open Music Group, his first venture as a music publisher. As President of Wide Open, he managed the day-to-day operations and has signed and worked closely with writers such as, Lonnie Wilson (Luke Bryan’s “All My Friends Say”), Chuck Jones (John Berry’s “Your Love Amazes Me”), and Tim Owens (Brad Paisley’s “Ticks” and Sugarland’s “Settlin”). While at Wide Open, Derek had songs recorded by Jake Owen, Laura Bell Bundy, The Farm, Randy Houser, and Love and Theft.
In 2013-2016 things began to really take off for Derek as a Writer and Producer. He Signed to Warner Chappell Music Publishing and went on a run producing Randy Houser’s How Country Feels Album which yielded 4 top 5 Singles (How Country Feels #1, Running Outta’ Moonlight #1, Goodnight Kiss #1, and Like a Cowboy #3) along with the lead single off Houser’s follow up album Fired Up (We Went #1) He produced Joe Nichols’ comeback hit “Sunny And 75” #1. He co-wrote Jerrod Niemann’s #1 comeback hit “Drink To That All Night”. He also produced and co-wrote new up and coming artist Chase Bryant’s “Little Bit of You” #3 and “Room To Breathe” which is currently climbing the charts. Currently, Derek has had songs recorded by Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker, Randy Houser, Trace Adkins, Adam Craig, Drake White, Randy Rogers, Kristian Bush and more…
Derek has over 40 “cuts” and 25 years of experience in the music business. He has worked in almost every facet of the industry; managing his own recording studio, being an accomplished session singer and guitarist, writing hit songs, producing major record label releases and, running an independent publishing company.
Falling Upside Down (Rascal Flatts, I Melt, Lyric Street Records)
Look At Me Now (Bryan White, Asylum Records) #23
So Much For Pretending (Bryan White, Asylum Records) #1 for 2 weeks
Imagine That (Diamond Rio, Arista Records) #3
Call Me Crazy (Bryan White, Asylum Records)
Amen (Love and Theft, Sony Records & Williams Riley, Golden Music)
Fresh Off the Farm (Lo Cash Cowboys & The Farm, Warner Bros.)
Settin’ The World On Fire (Jake Owen, Barefoot Blue Jean Night, Sony Records)
Let’s Do This (Hannah Montanna, The Movie, & the Soundtrack, and Songs from Hannah Montanna the TV Show)
Sometimes I feel Like Elvis (Wynonna, What the World Needs, Wynonna Live, Curb Records)
Sweet September (Josh Gracin, Lyric Street & Williams Riley, Golden Music)
You’ll Always Be Loved (Bryan White, Asylum Records)
Does She Need Me (Pearl River, Capitol Records)
You Know How I Feel (Bryan White, Asylum Records)
I Can’t Wait Til Christmas (Bryan White, Dreaming of Christmas, Asylum Records)
Coming From You (George Canyon, Somebody Wrote Love, Universal Canada)
I’m Still Me (Williams Riley, Golden Music)
Wish I Would’ve Said That (Williams Riley, Golden Music)
Can I See You (Hootie and the Blowfish, Looking for Lucky, Vanguard)
Missing Me Yet (Laura Bell Bundy, Universal Records)
Makes Me Go La La (Williams Riley, Golden Music)
Because You Love Me (Williams Riley, Golden Music)
Country Livin’ (Williams Riley, Golden Music)
Different Kind Of Country (Williams Riley, Golden Music)
Bad Girls Go Everywhere (Laura Bell Bundy, Universal Records, GCB Tv Sync on ABC)
Buckle Bunny (Laura Bell Bundy, Universal Records, GCB TV Sync on ABC)
That Makes Two Of Us (Jordyn Shellhart, Sony Records)
When You Come Around (Bryan White, DustBowl Dreams, Covenant Records)
Get It Together (Bryan White, DustBowl Dreams, Covenant Records)
Beautiful Place (Bryan White, DustBowl Dreams, Covenant Records)
Never Get Around (Bryan White, The Right Place, Asylum Records)
Paycheck Man (Randy Houser, Universal South)
The Staying (Bryan White, How Luck I Am, Asylum Records & Scott Emmerick, The Coast Is Clear, DreamWorks Record)
South of Heaven (Blake Shelton, Bringing Back the Sunshine, Warner Bros. Records 2014
Drink to That All Night (Jerrod Niemann, Sony Music, 2014)
I’m Feelin’ You (Tim McGraw, Big Machine, 2014)
Little Bit of You (Chase Bryant, Red Bow Records, 2014)
Room to Breathe (Chase Bryant, Red Bow Records, 2016)
It feels Good (Drake White, Spark, Dot Records, 2016)
Lit (Trace Adkins, Wheelhouse Records, 2016)
Reckon (Adam Craig, Stoney Creek Records, 2016)
Before Midnight (Randy Houser, Fired Up, Stoney Creek Records, 2016)
Neon Blues (Randy Rogers Band, Neon, Tommy Jackson Records, 2016)
How Lucky I Am (Bryan White, Asylum records)
Dustbowl Dreams (Bryan White, Covenant Records)
Laura Bell Bundy (Bad Girls Go Everywhere & Buckle Bunny for Universal GCB ABC TV show)
Williams Riley (Different Kind Of Country, Golden Music)
Amazing Grace II (Gospel Compilation. Bryan White (Won a Grammy!)
How Country Feels (Randy Houser, Stoney Creek) 2013
Fired Up (Randy Houser, Stoney Creek) 2016
Crickets (Joe Nichols, Red Bow Records) 2013
Chase Bryant (EP, Red bow Records) 2014
Adam Craig (EP, Stoney Creek) 2016
Guitar and Singing Discography
Bryan White (Asylum Records)
Bryan White (Between Now and Forever, Asylum Records)
Bryan White (The Right Place, Asylum records)
Bryan White (How Luck I Am, Asylum Records)
Bryan White (Dustbowl Dreams, Covenant Records)
Scotty Emerick (Coast Is Clear, DreamWorks Records)
Mac McAnally (Word Of Mouth)
Sawyer Brown (Greatest Hits)
Williams Riley (Different Kind Of Country, Golden Music)
Steve Wariner (Two Tear Drops, Capitol Records)
Steve Wariner (“Brickyard Boogie”, No More Mister Nice Guy. Steve, Derek, Bryan White, and Jeffery Steele. Nominated for Grammy!)
Randy Houser (How Country Feels, Fired Up (Stoney Creek Records)
Joe Nichols (Crickets (Red Bow Records)
Chase Bryant (EP, Red Bow Records)
Adam Craig (EP, Stoney Creek Records)
Jerrod Niemann (High Noon, Sony Records)
Trace Adkins (Lit, Wheelhouse Records)
With the lively international release of their debut LP in 2012 “A lil’ Boukou in Your Cup” and the 2015 sophomore release "Let The Groove Ride" gives Boukou Groove the ability to maintain a dynamic tour schedule. The band provides audiences with a genre-bending collective, touching on elements of New Orleans style Funk, R&B, Soul and Blues
Founded on the stage at Tipitinas in NOLA in 2010, Boukou Groove is the brainchild of singer/producer Donnie Sundal and New Orleans guitar luminary Derwin “Big D” Perkins. Sundal, sharing stages and recording with the likes of Sam Bush, Col.Bruce Hampton and Junior Marvin of The Wailers, creates an infectious blend of energy and enthusiasm as he showcases his multi-octave ranging vocals while sustaining his brand of lavish Moog bass lines. Big D (Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentleman, Bonnie Raitt and Dr.John) provides his smooth and funky guitar licks largely based on improvisation and feel alone. Together, no matter what the venue, the band provides their distinguishing style and creates a kinetic environment that’s easily spread throughout the audience.
As they continue to refine their unique style and build upon the momentum of the release of “A lil’ Boukou in Your Cup" with the 2015 release of "Let The Groove Ride", it promises to be an unprecedented year for the band as they continue to log dates at venues and festivals throughout the globe.
"Together, these guys make some beautiful funky music that gets you feeling like takin’ it easy at the guru café. A favorite song of the band is “A lil’ Boukou in Your Cup.” Listening to the groovy song you’ll agree that as far as funk goes, “[They] got just what you need, too much is never enough.” The music has a great rhythm and flow to it that can really give you a kinetic energy to your day"
Alex Diaz Dec '14 Baconandmusic.com
Critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Billy Montana’s talent for tapping into powerful emotions in the songs he writes has led to a string of hits and awards for him and some of country music’s biggest stars. Montana’s "Number 1" credits include Garth Brooks’ record-breaking single “More Than A Memory,” Sara Evans’ smash “Suds in the Bucket,” the Grammy-nominated “Bring On the Rain,” recorded by Jo Dee Messina with Tim McGraw, and his most recent chart topper "Hard To Love," the title cut from Curb recording artist Lee Brice's 2012 CD.
Country radio is not the only place you'll hear Montana's compositions. ABC's hit television series “Nashville” picked up “What If I Was Willing,” a song Montana wrote with his son, Randy, and country rocker Brian Davis. The song played a major role in the script for the 2013-14 season, was performed by both Sam Palladio (Gunnar) and Chris Carmack (Will), and appears on the Music of Nashville (Original Cast) soundtrack for Season 2.
Once an agriculture major at Cornell University who dreamed of owning and operating a farm in upstate New York, Montana elected to sow seeds of a different sort: melodies and lyrics. The result has been a diverse crop of artists who've had great success with Montana-penned songs, including Garth Brooks, Sara Evans, Jo Dee Messina, Lee Brice, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, David Nail, Sister Hazel, Lee Ann Womack, Kellie Pickler, Trace Adkins, BlackHawk, Kenny Rogers, Pat Green, Bill Anderson, Randy Montana, Guy Penrod and many others.
As a recording artist, Montana's 1995 Magnatone Records album No Yesterday garnered special recognition from USA Today, which characterized him as "a wonderful songwriter." Country Weekly described his music as "a common man's wisdom voiced in an uncommon manner." Montana draws heavily from his rural background for inspiration, resulting in music that is refreshingly eloquent, simple and honest. Montana fronted a group that was signed to Warner Bros. Records Nashville in the mid-1980s, but Billy Montana and the Long Shots' singles deal only yielded moderate success, and a full album was never released. So, in 1989, Montana moved from upstate New York to Nashville to persue a career in songwriting. He got his first big break when Jo Dee Messina recorded “Bring On The Rain” in 2000. The song, however, was released as a single on September 10, 2001, and the very next day, the events of September 11, 2001 occurred. For Montana, like most Americans, priorities dramatically shifted, and having a song on the radio became the very least of his concerns. A stunned and reeling America turned its focus from being entertained to the more important issues of national security and reaching out to those who had lost so much. Music radio, for a few days, was replaced with news, information and talk. But the message of encouragement that speaks through "Bring On The Rain" seemed to resonate with a country in need of healing and strength, and so the song began to serve in that capacity. “The first time I heard 'Rain' on the radio was a couple of days after the 9/11,” says Montana. “I was pulling up into our driveway under our American flag. Someone had taken the song and interwoven it with sound bites: news feeds from Ground Zero, rescue worker interviews, President Bush addressing the nation, expressing the need for all of us to keep faith and persevere through the terrible tragedy. To hear the song used in that context was completely overwhelming to me. I just broke down.” “Bring On the Rain” went on to become both a country and AC hit, peaking at #6 on the Adult Contemporary chart in the fall of 2002. It was also the title of one of the popular “Touched By An Angel” episodes that aired on CBS television. Says performer Jo Dee Messina, “It’s one of my favorite songs…with hope hidden under layers of trouble…these guys [Montana and Helen Darling] put their guts on a piece of paper and it just hit home for so many people."
Montana scored his second #1 with Sara Evans’ smash “Suds in the Bucket”, the most performed song by a female artist in 2004. “My co-writer, Jenai, and I were looking to write an up-tempo, fun, traditional sounding story song. The title sort of fell out of the sky,” says Montana. "One of my favorite things about 'Suds' is that we really got inside the heads of our characters. I think we really captured their thoughts and their language." Montana continued to showcase his writing skills with Garth Brooks’ record breaking single “More Than a Memory”, which he wrote with Lee Brice and Kyle Jacobs. The song entered the Billboard and R&R country singles charts at #1, the only time in history that has occurred. “I don’t think in my lifetime, I will ever be part of something like that again,” Montana says as he shakes his head and grins. “Everything had to work just perfectly for that to happen.” Lee Brice recorded Montana's fourth #1 single, “Hard To Love,” written with Ben Glover and John Ozier. “Lee already had the songs picked for his sophomore project, but he wanted a few of us to go on a writing retreat to make sure he had the strongest songs possible,” Montana explains. “Ben, John and I were in the living room writing while Lee and Kyle [Jacobs] (Brice's co-producer) were outside. They came in and asked us to play what we'd been working on. As soon as they heard 'Hard To Love' they knew it was right for Lee. The 2nd verse is one of my favorites of any song I've been a part of writing.”
Grayson Capps and Corky Hughes
Grayson Capps and Corky Hughes
Grayson Capps' fifth studio album, The Lost Cause Minstrels finds the Mobile, Alabama-based singer-songwriter coming of age. This doesn't mean, however, that his oft-unholy tales of the Southern Gothic have lost any sting. Quite the contrary, Capps' Tao-tinged, philosophical reflections—revealed deep inside songs shuddering with spit, stomp and snarl—are as potent as ever. It's just that this time his bark and bite is more conciliatory towards the unanswered questions mucking up the universe, while country soul-tinged textures and gospel harmonies ease the raw edges.
Occasionally, even a celebratory mood prevails like the horn-fueled romp "Ol' Slac," an ode the rebirth of the Mobile, Alabama Mardi Gras; or "Coconut Moonshine," a character sketch based on Mr. Jim who inhabits the hallowed roadside barbecue joint in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
As well, two rare, but classic, American roots' numbers are born again here: Taj Mahal's country-blues paen "Annie's Lover" and Richard “Rabbit” Brown's jaunty "Jane's Alley Blues," (the original recording preserved on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music).
Grayson Capps' real life situation has evolved since his previous release Rott 'n' Roll, and those developments are felt in both the album's sound and spirit. In 2010, he dissolved his band The Stumpknockers, re-assembling a new cast of musicians, fittingly dubbed The Lost Cause Minstrels. The line-up features a who's who of the finest players on the Gulf Coast music scene, including Corky Hughes on guitars, Chris Spies on keys, Christian Grizzard on bass and John Milham on drums.
In the middle of recording the album, Capps moved back to Alabama where he was born and raised. He'd been residing in Nashville since 2007 after leaving his longtime New Orleans' home following Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, Capps co-produced the effort with his partner and Grammy Award-winning engineer/producer Trina Shoemaker (Queens of the Stone Age, Dylan Leblanc, Sheryl Crow).
All of these factors coalesce into a collection of songs timeless in their pursuit of truth yet well aware of how hard the truth is to find in these times. The Lost Cause Minstrels is the highly anticipated next chapter from one of the finest Southern troubadours of the day.
Grayson Capps first discovered music in Alabama where he was born and raised. His father and friends would sit around the house getting drunk, telling stories and strumming acoustic guitars. They’d run down songs by Hank Williams, Tom T. Hall, Glenn Campbell and Woodie Guthrie to name but a few. The idealism of those “Cannery Row” experiences would come to define his outlook on the world. Heading off to Tulane University as a theater major on scholarship, Grayson also took up playing music.
Over the course of four critically acclaimed studio albums and cameo appearance in the Golden Globe Award-nominated film A Love Song For Bobby Long, one will find a stunning depth to his discography, authenticating Grayson Capps as a rare American gem, equal parts country singer, bluesman, rock star, philosopher and poet. As Jambase recently declared, "New Orleans' marvel Grayson Capps is alive and well and slowly building one of the most phenomenal songbooks in America today. Grayson Capps is currently touring internationally with Corky Hughes, solo, or with his band Willie Sugarcapps.
Corky began his professional career playing throughout the South in the 70’s with R&B artist Theodore Arthur Jr. and then later with his own rock group, Excalibur. In 1984, he became lead guitarist for legendary rockers, Black Oak Arkansas and toured throughout the U.S. Currently he tours with Grayson Capps and/or with his Awarded Americana band Willie Sugarcapps.
SURVIVING TWO NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES INFORMS REAL-LIFE MOMENTS TOMMY WOMACK CAPTURES ON NAMASTE, RELEASED JUNE 24
Beloved singer-songwriter invokes God, Beatles and other icons as he examines approaching “the back nine”
It’s true, every picture does tell a story. But the photo gracing the cover of Tommy Womack’s new album, Namaste, released June 24, 2016, silently hints at a lifetime of stories. Stories Womack is glad he’s still here to tell.
The black-and-white image, by Anthony Scarlati, depicts Womack in profile, head bowed toward pressed-together palms. He is, unquestionably, giving thanks. Thanks to those who showed up to support him that particular night, a fundraiser to help him through recovery from a devastating 2015 car accident. Thanks to whatever powers kept him alive long enough to get clean in 2012 after years of addiction. And thanks for life itself — which he no longer takes for granted, not even for a minute.
But there’s something else the photo conveys, too, in the suggestion of a smile and the crinkled crow’s feet almost hidden behind the frames of his glasses. As only the best singer-songwriters can, Womack has always managed to navigate us through his world with a deft balance of humor and pathos, snarky cynicism and occasionally, sweet, unabashed optimism. Like John Prine and Womack’s pal Todd Snider, he’s the rare artist who can regale us with songs such as Namaste’s “Comb-over Blues,” “Hot Flash Woman” and “When Country Singers Were Ugly” (not to mention such semi-classics as “Play That Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick Play” and the existential rant “Alpha Male & the Canine Mystery Blood”), then hit us with the anvil of “I Almost Died,” a harrowing recounting of the time in 2007 when he woke up in an ambulance after his meth- and coke-stressed heart apparently stopped.
Womack had just released his fourth solo album, There, I Said It!, which was supposed to be his music-career swan song after years of frustration, but instead elevated his profile higher. Two weeks after his collapse, he recalls, “I was on the cover of the Nashville Scene and I was the toast of the town. And nobody knew.”
It would take another five years before he felt ready to tackle his addictions, through rehab, AA and the higher power he addresses via a “fuzzy Buddhist Methodist” belief system formed from the vestiges of his preacher’s-kid upbringing in Kentucky.
In fact, death and religion would seem to be two of Namaste’s recurring themes — except that Womack, who’s fascinated by the topic of Jesus the historical figure, not the biblical one, doesn’t exactly embrace the Christian notion of worship. In “God Part III,” he sings, “He’s Jesus with a J now, Lord, Christ The King/A bestselling author with advice on everything. He never wrote a word, never started no religion/Maybe never dreamed he’d ever be in this position. My Daddy was a preacher and so am I/I believe in God but now and then I wonder why/I choose to picture Jesus in the clouds up above/I believe in Beatles. I believe in love.”
Oh yeah, Womack makes more worshipful references to the members of that band and other musical touchstones than he does traditional saviors — whether in that song’s outright declaration (and its title, which harks back to the original John Lennon tune and infamous lyric, and U2’s one-upped take), or in slyer twists of lyrical phrase such as “Plasticine porters with looking glass bolo ties” (from the Beat-poetry-styled “Nashville,” his love-hate letter to Music City). In “Darling Let Your Free Bird Fly,” he name-checks assorted icons, including Sting, Geraldo and Chevy Chase, who “were all considered cool at one time.”
Womack himself has always been considered cool, from his days in Bowling Green, Ky.’s next-generation punk-rock band Government Cheese to the Bis-Quits, his first Nashville outing with musical brother and Daddy co-founder Will Kimbrough, who plays guitar on Namaste. Womack built further cool cred with his book, The Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock ’n’ Roll Band You’ve Never Heard Of.
Along the way, he honed his folky twang and Replacements-influenced rock edge into a sound that’s all Americana, filling seven solo albums and writing songs recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Jason Ringenberg and others, including sometime co-writer Snider. He’s also earned two “Best Song” awards in the Nashville Scene critics’ poll, and entertained the community with his Clash cover band, Tommy Gun, and an occasional event he and co-conspirator Bill Lloyd called the Alphabetical Kinks.
If the tables were ever turned and Ray Davies did a Womack tribute, he’d likely get a particular kick out of ”End of the Line.” Co-written with Rich McCulley — and technically, by album producer Brad Jones, who didn’t want a credit — Womack says, “That song is about pursuit of your dream, and I’ve been pursuing mine for 31 years. It’s been like Ahab chasin’ the whale ever since — and knowing that the end of the line is comin’; I’m on the back nine, as a golfer would say.”
Yes, he looks at life differently now that he knows how quickly it could end. And that it’s going to someday, even if he manages to continue avoiding a hastened demise. That’s why the album’s benediction, “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” co-written with John Hadley, sounds so much sweeter. In it, he sings, “I once had the devil hold on to me so/I asked him to free me. He wouldn’t let go/But miracles happen, is all I can say/It’s a beautiful morning. It’s a beautiful day.”
“It’s a song of gratitude,” Womack explains. “God likes prayers that are basically like a thank-you note, being grateful for what you’ve got. A lot of prayers I’ve offered in my years were more like obscene phone calls or ransom notes.”
As Allmusic.com’s Mark Deming once noted, “Womack writes rock ’n’ roll songs about everyday stuff — falling in love, trying to stay in love, life’s ups and downs of all shapes and sizes — with good humor, a strong dose of common sense, and the smarts to understand when this stuff is funny and when it isn’t.”
That’s why his friends turned out that night at Music City Roots in Franklin, Tenn. That’s why his head is bowed in a prayerful pose of thanks. And that’s why he titled the album — completed in six days, coincidentally — with that spiritual Sanskrit greeting.
As he sings in the closing tune, “I don’t know what’s coming this afternoon/If I think about it, it’ll get here too soon/Why worry what’s coming, it’ll come any way/It’s a beautiful morning. It’s a beautiful day.”
For more information about Tommy Womack or Namaste, please contact Conqueroo: Cary Baker • (323) 656-1600 • email@example.com
Producer, composer, musician, singer Phil Madeira has made a life for himself in the arts. Whether writing songs for artists like Alison Krauss and Garth Brooks, touring with Emmylou Harris, or playing any number of instruments on hundreds of records, Phil is no stranger to creativity.
Madeira’s associations are varied and deep. He is a member of Emmylou Harris’ band The Red Dirt Boys, putting him an elite group of amazing bands that the legendary Ms Harris is known for assembling. He has recorded and performed with hundreds of artists including The iconic Civil Wars, Buddy Miller, jazz legend John Scofield, Amy Grant, Keb’ Mo’, Mavis Staples, Mumford and Sons, and young heart throbs The Band Perry.
Phil has written and produced 2 volumes of Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest Of Us, featuring singers Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Civil Wars, John Scofield, Shawn Mullins, The Lone Bellow, The McCrary Sisters, Buddy Miller and other high profile artists. The project of new spirituals was created to offset what Madeira and his collaborators believed to be a toxic gospel, touted by warmongers and hate wagers.
The reviews are in on Phil’s Mercyland project:
“Gorgeously lyrical” – The Nashville Scene
“Exquisitely produced”- Folk Alley
“Every human being on the planet should
listen to this and take heed …” – Maverick, UK
Phil has 3 recent solo projects- PM, Motorcyle, and Original Sinner. Introspective and dark, Madeira trawls the river of life and comes up with a very human string of pearls. Loss, the blues, brokenness, and a little hope thrown in make for a compellingly real record.
As if writing songs isn’t enough, Madeira is a published author with his spiritual memoir from Jericho Books, God On The Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith.
Phil appears in Nashville regularly at the world famous Station Inn, holding court with an amazing array of musicians and guest singers.
A Phil Madeira performance is a rich experience, as Phil weaves stories and song with masterful musicianship, whether he appears as a soloist or with a backing band. His masterful guitar playing will take you from the Delta blues to Hillbilly Heaven with nods to Bob Dylan and George Gershwin en route. Phil is funny, poignant, direct, and at times jarring- and always entertaining.
It’s hard to deny the pure talent and passion for her craft that is clearly the driving force behind many of artist Bridgette Tatum’s high profile career milestones.
While Bridgette continues to create music, she balances it with her charitable work within The Charley Foundation (www.charleyfoundation.org), and donating her time and talents to various charities around the Middle Tennessee area.
“If it's real and you are making it honest, that's what people want to hear.” With unfailing honesty and a penchant for risk-taking, Bridgette Tatum is storming the scene on her own terms and winning fans at every turn.
Jemina & Selina
Jemina & Selina
Finnish sisters Jemina and Selina Sillanpää are performing at the 30A Songwriters Festival for the third time, singing and playing original songs and some traditional music with strong emotion and edge. Their music has been influenced by Finnish folk music and gypsy music but also American roots music they listened to and learned while growing up. Jemina and Selina are both strong, soulful singers with captivating stage presence. When they sing harmonies, it’s easy to hear that they have been singing together all their lives.
Jemina and Selina have released many albums. The latest one, ́Rajamailla ́ came out in 2012. The album contains original songs and was produced by New York- based Tim Ries (The Rolling Stones). After the album was released, Jemina and Selina toured in Finland, USA, Canada and England and received great reviews and sold‐out shows.
For more information on Jemina and Selina go to:
The Mulligan Brothers
The Mulligan Brothers
The Mulligan Brothers is an Americana Folk-Rock band from Mobile, Alabama. In golfers’ terms, a “mulligan” is a second chance, and the band represents a second chance for each member of The Mulligan Brothers. Veterans of other bands, this is where they found the music they always wanted to play.
The songwriting and warm, honest, straight-to-the heart voice of lead singer of Ross Newell draws listeners into the group’s signature sound, where the harmonies of Greg DeLuca, Ben Leininger and Melody Duncan make the songs soar or haunt from the shadows. De Luca plays drums and Leininger is on the suitcase bass which Newell made out of two suitcases, a smoke alarm and his grandmother’s walking stick. Fiddler Melody Duncan recently joined the band, bringing a female voice and perspective.
The group’s new single, “Divine Design,” is about being taken advantage of by the person you love. “The offender doesn’t see it as hurting someone else, but as helping himself or herself,” says Newell. “It is a terrible feeling and I want the song to create an awareness of what it is like to be treated that way, whether it is intentional or not. I want the listener to think if this is a song about them or the people around them. If this is divine design, then divine design is behind the times.”
I feel like a suit of second-hand armor. It can protect you but may never wear a shine. Every time you see me you know I’ll be there when you need me, never thinking of the dead man left inside. Pay no mind to the dead man left inside. - “Divine Design”
“Writing songs is one of my favorite things, but I take a while to write a song,” says Newell. “If a line seems forced or anything but honest, then I have to scrap it. I have to live through something or feel strongly about it to add authentic details. I have to sing these songs hundreds of times a year and it is important to me to identify with that song every time. Fortunately the songs take on a life of their own and people are willing to listen and read more into the lyrics that what was said.”
“We have to make music that stays true to ourselves.”
The Mulligan Brothers have released two albums, The Mulligan Brothers and Via Portland (recorded in Portland with Grammy-winning producer Steve Berlin) and will soon begin working on their next album.
Originally from Columbus, Georgia, Cale Dodds has opened for Sam Hunt, Brett Eldredge, Billy Currington, and Canaan Smith. He released his People Watching EP in March 2016, produced by ACM Nominee, Corey Crowder (Chis Young's "I'm Comin' Over"). Songs off the EP including the title track "People Watching" and "Lying" have been streamed over 5 million times. His song “Acting Our Age” off his Spring 2016 EP was selected for the EA Sports Madden ’17 soundtrack, alongside Blake Shelton and Brantley Gilbert. Dodds has had recent songwriting success with his song “Drunk Dial,” which was recorded by country music group A Thousand Horses and broke the Top 25 on U.S. Country Airplay charts. Cale signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music Nashville in 2015 and is one of the newest additions to Warner Music Nashville’s artist roster.
With influences spanning from Dolly to Aretha; to Eric Church and Tom Petty, one might describe Hannah Dasher's sound as, “Hot Chicken…with Honey."
Hannah is the newest writer on Nashville's Sony/ATV roster. Earlier this year, she scored her first cut on Brad Paisley’s upcoming album. (You’ll hear her lending background vocals to the track).
Over the past year, Hannah has made appearances with Jon Pardi, Eli Young Band and the Cadillac Three. She is currently working on her debut album with producer Jaren Johnston, a multi-platinum hit-songwriter, rock singer, and frontman of the Cadillac Three.
Way down in lower Alabama, almost every weekend for the past two years, folks have been coming together for a music gathering called The Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm. One part house concert, one part Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble, the affair has hosted some of the country's finest songwriters, pickers, bluesman and troubadours ranging from Mary Gauthier to Alvin Youngblood Hart, Malcolm Holcombe to Randall Bramblett, Sergio Webb to George Porter, Jr. It was here that frequent encounters between reoccurring artists—Grayson Capps, Will Kimbrough, Corky Hughes and the duo Sugarcane Jane featuring Savana Lee and Anthony Crawford—led to the birth of a band, the aptly named Willie Sugarcapps.
At first it was simply songwriter-in-the-round and jam session-styled collaborations, but it quickly grew to become something more. There was chemistry between the five distinct musicians that inspired a repertoire of songs demanding to be documented. They recruited Capps' longtime partner and Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer Trina Shoemaker to record them, which resulted in the self-titled, debut album, Willie Sugarcapps. The collection presents ten impeccably crafted songs imbued by relaxed performances, angelic harmonies and country Zen sentiment. Band members often take turns singing lead as they switch up between fiddle, banjo, mandolin, lap steel, bass and even ukulele.
“Willie Sugarcapps is a homecoming for all of us,” explains Will Kimbrough. “It’s coming full circle back to the beginning of why we do this in the first place and the joy of what happens when you play and sing with people who are alike in spirit and mind.”
Their collective musical experiences mingle together to create a new kind of organic and artisanal music. It's laid back, it rocks, it comes from classic country, from the blues, from New Orleans and from the best kind of rock 'n' roll. It tells a story through five individual voices full of character and experience with humanity, energy and soul. It's comforting to know that music in the hands of these five artists still happens for no other reason than purely the sake of the music itself.
Press Quotes: “Willie Sugarcapps takes some of coastal Alabama’s biggest talents and puts them together in a format that preserves their individual gifts, adding a group dynamic that makes them seem even better. Remember the 1988 debut of the Traveling Wilburys, that miraculous project that pooled the talents of George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison? Here is Lower Alabama’s answer.” -Mobile Press Register
Smokin’ Novas debut album masterfully fuses together the world of Americana, Folk and classic southern rock n' roll, a unique and engaging hybrid of styles that sounds nostalgic and new all at once. “The entire album is rich, full and lush. One that fully activates the senses…” Target Audience Magazine.
The band consists of Andrew Hyra and Brian Bristow, veterans of the Atlanta music scene. Prior to forming Smokin’ Novas, Hyra, with Kristian Bush of Sugarland, comprised Atlantic Records recording artist Billy Pilgrim. The duo enjoyed both national and international acclaim and received a four star review in Rolling Stone for their debut album. Bristow was a founding member of regional favorites The Tastemakers and most recently Athens, GA based The Highlanders, which released an all-star laden album in 2010.
Veterans of the stage, their incendiary live performances showcase their unique chemistry and are not to be missed. The Novas are frequently joined on stage by Athens legend and multi-instrumentalist John Keane (REM, Indigo Girls, Widespread Panic) and drummer Kevin Leahy (Shawn Mullins, the BoDeans, Billy Pilgrim). The band is currently recording their follow up to "Smokin' Novas" which is due out in 2017.
In an ever-changing and diverse environment such as the music industry, Donnie’s career has been as unique and eclectic as the immense portfolio of songs he has written, performed and produced. Providing audiences with a voice and sound that is soulful, funky and always on point, Sundal creates an infectious blend of enthusiasm that is easily spread throughout the stage and audience regardless of the venue.
After attending Berklee College of Music, Donnie immediately began touring throughout the U.S. and Canada - eventually settling in Destin, Fla., where he opened Neptone Recording Studio in 2006; a full-service music recording and production facility. Upon the establishment of Neptone, Sundal began his current collaboration, Boukou Groove, with New Orleans guitar luminary Derwin “Big D” Perkins. While on tour, sharing stages with the likes of Sam Bush, Col.Bruce Hampton and Junior Marvin of The Wailers, Donnie caught the ear of Moog Music and gained an endorsement in 2010. In 2014, he toured with Boukou Groove on Peter Barakans Live Magic in Japan. The sophomore Cd for Boukou Groove "Let The Groove Ride" was released in Oct 2015, during their Japan tour that included Peter Barakans Live Magic, Live Magic Extra in Matsue and 2 shows at the Blue Note Tokyo.
Currently, Sundal spends splits his time as a producer at Neptone Recording Studio and touring the U.S. in support of Boukou Groove's "A Lil' Boukou in Your Cup.” and "Let The Groove Ride".
Donnie Sundal and Derwin "Big D" Perkins original song "Two To Tango" has had 518,000+ plays on Spotify.
Jonathan Mitchell’s love for music started at a young age. His family speaks of him singing harmonies at the age of 5, far before he knew the meaning of it. Raised the son of a preacher, music was a monumental part of his life, first beginning with an affinity for old hymns and later finding influence in the music of Tom Petty, The Band, Hall and Oates, and his sister, Aslyn, also a recording artist. Jonathan began writing and touring in college with several bands, his travels expanding the US into Europe. After playing 4 years of college golf and graduating, he moved to Atlanta to further pursue songwriting and within a year, joined forces with his brothers to form a band called Georgia. The band landed a record deal with Atlantic Records and began recording their debut album, Slow Down Easy with Mike Daly (Whiskeytown) and Joe Chiccarelli (Brandi Carlile, My Morning Jacket, The White Stripes). Jonathan has toured and shared the stage with Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Need to Breathe, Zac Brown Band, Ryan Bingham, Better Than Ezra, Ed Roland, Cold War Kids, to name a few. In 2011, Jonathan moved to 30A to create Ohana Records. Ohana Records is a modern music program for students at Ohana Institute in Rosemary Beach, FL. The students form bands and experience inspiration, growth in confidence and team building through the medium of music and songwriting. In 2015, Jonathan created a new program called Rock On The Road, the first ever student led rock tour. In this program, students take on all the roles connected with a tour and travel around the country planting the seed of music. Jonathan is also the worship leader for the Chapel at the Beach in Rosemary Beach. Jonathan's songwriting falls in the country meets pop/rock category with an emphasis on the hook. Bryan Kennedy, writer of numerous #1 hits said, "I rarely meet someone so talented, humble and more generous with their gifts than Jonathan Mitchell. He's a hidden treasure. What a great singer/songwriter, teacher and human being. I'm a Jonathan Mitchell fan!"
If it were not for a freak accident involving a bolt of lightning, a concrete block, and a slimjim, then ESOEBO might not exist today.... but more about that another time.
ESOEBO is singer/guitarist/songwriter Chuck McDowell and singer/cellist/songwriter Gail Burnett. 10 years ago the two were randomly paired at church to play a song together and the rest is history. Channeling the musical influences of the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 21st Century through a filter of folk, rockabilly, hillbilly, blues, jazz, boogie-woogie, and TV show tunes to merge in to a style of music the world now knows as ESOEBO. For reasons unknown to modern medicine, opera was the only genre omitted from the transformation which took place after the accident.
ESOEBO has become a popular choice in the Southeast Region for corporate events, private parties, festivals, outdoor events, weddings/receptions, and worship concerts, not only for their eclectic "everything but opera" setlist, but also for their musicianship and spontenaeity on stage. No two shows are the same and no song is performed the same way twice. Re-imagining songs from Hank Williams to The Civil Wars, from Johnny Cash to Alison Krauss, from Leon Redbone to Pasty Cline as well as well crafted original material, their show is unique, fun and wonderfully engaging.
Their second release, titled ESOEBO: Live and Overboard, is an eclectic and broadly appealing collection of live performances of roots/gospel music. Their most recent release, The Journey (2015), is garnering interest further and wider and opening up new performance opportunities. "Chuck's songwriting is as deep and wide as the Mississippi River. Optimistic and sharply perceptive - it's just great stuff."
CHUCK McDOWELL - In the 2nd grade, Chuck was star struck by the Beatles and amazed by the effect the guitar slinging songsters had on the girls. Chuck decided it was time to pick up the guitar for himself. When it was time to get serious about life and start a family, his music was relegated to his basement and occasional church services. Recently he's discovered a new passion and committment for music and the wonderful connections it creates between people. Chuck is currently writing material for two new albums.
GAIL BURNETT - Gail Burnett is a professional cellist/vocalist with a Bachelor of Arts in music. In addition to performing with ESOEBO, she is a studio musician and freelance cellist. Gail is also passionate about educating and entertaining young children and her band, Miss Gail and the Jumpin’ Jam Band, is #1 on the children’s/family charts in the SE. With five all-original CD’s, the band’s mission is health, fitness, and fun.....and their dancing, jumpin, interactive live shows are a blast for even the youngest of kids at festivals, events, schools, and camps!
Gail is also an educator, speaker at preschool conferences, and a Center Director for Music Together, a program to help kids get the right start on their life-long musical journey! She is a founding member of ESOEBO along with Chuck McDowell and Jonathan Cullifer.
Wyatt Edmondson (22 years) is an American singer/songwriter from Montgomery, AL. Born into a musical family, Wyatt was encouraged to explore music from an early age. Writing and performing music has been a passion of Wyatt’s since his teenage years, and he spent many weekends as a high school student playing gigs and writing songs. Wyatt also furthered his music studies as a member of the Saint James School Marching Band from 2009-2012. In 2012, Wyatt began studying at Troy University and John M. Long School of Music as a Music Industry major. While studying at Troy, Wyatt released his debut EP Higher Ground on March 20, 2015. From the stage to the studio, his popularity has grown rapidly as a performer, and his latest EP Lovers Lake to be released December 2016, is a testimony to his continued growth and success. Along with his own music, Wyatt enjoys writing, producing, and collaborating with other artists, and has been a part of 6 studio projects (3 as the producer as well as an artist). Although not known by many, Wyatt is visually impaired and was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 5; a retinal degenerative disease causing progressive blindness. Despite this, Wyatt continues to excel in his passion for music and live performance, and consistently pushes the envelope for entertainment. For more about Wyatt Edmondson, please visit www.wyattedmondson.com
Hailey Whitters has an endearing habit of suggesting she’s perennially late to the party. “I’ve always just felt like a late bloomer,” she says, with a sigh that turns into a laugh.
She’s awfully hard on herself.
Whitters grew up in Shueyville, Iowa, population just shy of 600. “It’s such a little town. It’s getting bigger, but we don’t even have a post office,” she says. “We have two bars, a wine cellar, and a church.”
The oldest of six children born to a large Catholic family, Whitters grew up a determined but unexpected artist, drawn to songs and singers but unsure why. “I didn’t grow up in a super musical family,” she says. “I just had a weird inkling to do music.” The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, and other women who drove 90s country radio were her gateway heroines, which led to a deep dive into classic country, and ultimately, Americana storytellers such as Patty Griffin, John Prine, and Gillian Welch.
“I took my first trip to Nashville when I was 16 and fell in love,” Whitters says. “I immediately knew I wanted to move here.” A year later, she did. She also enrolled in college, and paid her proverbial dues as a nanny, waitress, and salon receptionist before signing with left-of-center lighthouse Carnival Music in 2012.
“When I was younger, I just mimicked people that I admired,” Whitters says. “I learned how to tell a story.” With an arresting voice effortlessly rooted in honky tonk’s long tradition of angelic sopranos who are equally comfortable mourning and raising hell, she has spent the last several years discovering that she has something of her own to say -- along with a unique way to say it.
Whitters writes and sings songs that detail the search for and acceptance of her own life -- sometimes dreamily, other times with rollicking irreverence.
“Black Sheep,” written with the Wrights’ Adam Wright, moodily canvasses the rewards and frustrations of sticking out, and ultimately offers a defiant resolution keep going her own way. “I feel that way a lot, especially in this town,” she says. “To do what nobody’s doing...it’s kind of cool, fuel for the fire. It’s invigorating to be different.”
The guitar-soaked stroll “Late Bloomer” is an autobiographical ode to lollygagging in a variety of situations. “I was the oldest of six, so I was very naïve, I felt like,” she says. “But I finally came to accept that it’s actually okay to figure out who you are and what you want later in life.”
Whitters penned live-show standout “One More Hell” alone after her little brother was killed in a car accident. “He was 19. It was awful,” she says. “I went home to be with my family, and we went out West that summer. We had no plan, just got in the car and drove. It was really therapeutic and good being all together -- we all just kind of disappeared for a month.”
She sat down to write when she got back to Nashville, and “One More Hell” came quickly. “The first time I ever played it live, this stranger in the front row was bawling,” she says.
“It’s a sad song, but it’s kind of a happy song, I always say -- people just feel it.”
In her late teens and early 20s, Whitters performed almost exclusively around Nashville, starting with dive bars and storied Lower Broad honky tonks, singing cover songs for tourists and tips. At local writers’ nights, she began ditching others’ songs in favor of her own. The town noticed: Music Row critic Robert K. Oermann praised her, urging, “Keep your ears on this newcomer,” while the Nashville Scene declared Whitters “summons the space-country aesthetics” of 90’s Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson.
Winning over a crowd delivers an inimitable high for Whitters, who relishes connecting live. “I love performing ‘One More Hell,’” she says. “You think no one’s listening, and then the middle of that song, you see them raise their beer glasses in the air and know that they’re listening and that you’re all on the same page.”
Lately, Whitters’ taken to gigging all over the country. She’s opened shows for a broad range of big draws, including Chris Knight, Randy Houser, Josh Thompson, Jana Kramer, Granger Smith, Casey Donahew Band, Jo Dee Messina, Sean McConnell, and Shenandoah, and is sincerely grateful for every opportunity. “I will play just about anywhere,” she says with a laugh. “There’s something about getting out on the road and traveling that I just love.”
When she’s not touring or writing, Whitters is in the studio, hard at work on her debut album.
“I’m a risk taker,” Whitters says. “My friends always laugh because I’m kind of one extreme or the other. I’m not really a middle ground kind of person. You take these risks, and then the reward is just...” She trails off for a moment. “I feel like the part that feels so awesome about it afterwards is knowing that you were scared to do it, but then you did -- and it paid off.”
After studying at Belmont University and University of Miami, Abe Stoklasa began a career as a touring musician. A savvy, quick-witted instrumentalist, he played sax and pedal steel, among other things, for David Nail and Billy Currington before becoming a full time staff writer at Big Yellow Dog Music. Some of his cuts include "Fix" by Chris Lane, "Brand New" by Ben Rector, “Portland, Maine” by Tim McGraw, “A Girl” by Blake Shelton, and “Lie With Me” by Lady Antebellum. Recently, he has worked with Charles Kelley on his solo project and wrote 4 songs for the project, as well as toured with him. Recent cuts include songs by Martina McBride, Charlie Worsham, Kelleigh Bannen, and David Nail. Abe is a cross between James Taylor and Ray Charles. His unique songs blend soul and folk into a style that is completely original.
Rogers is a graduate of Sumter High School in Sumter, SC (1990) and Belmont University in Nashville, TN, (1994).
In 1995, Rogers went to work for EMI Nashville Productions where he rose to position of Vice President. While at EMI, Rogers signed and produced artists including Brad Paisley, Darryl Worley and Josh Turner.
In 1999, Rogers opened up Sea Gayle Music with Paisley and Chris DuBois. The successful publishing company has had over 650 cuts and 40 Billboard Number One songs, including the 2003 Grammy Best Country Song, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”. In 2010 and 2011, Sea Gayle Music was named ASCAP Country Publisher of the Year. This was the first time since 1982 that an independent music publishing company won this award. Songwriters who have written for Sea Gayle Music, in addition to Paisley, Rogers and DuBois, include Chris Stapleton, Brandy Clark, Don Sampson, Radney Foster, Brent Anderson, Lee Thomas Miller, Jerrod Neimann, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, among many others.
In 2009, the three partners formed Sea Gayle Records, who’s roster has included the likes of Sheryl Crow and Jerrod Niemann.
Rogers has produced hits for many prominent country music performers since 1999. His work has resulted 39 Number One songs, over 70 Top Twenty songs and multiple RIAA certified multi platinum, platinum and gold records. He has received 18 Country Music Association (CMA) award nominations (with one win) and 27 Academy of Country Music (ACM) award nominations (with five wins). He has been named Billboard magazine's No. 1 Hot Country Producer Award five times (2006–2010) and MusicRow Magazine Producer of the Year four times (2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009). He has produced 17 Grammy nominated songs or albums including 4 Grammy winners. He has produced records for Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Josh Turner, Trace Adkins, Scotty McCreery, Phil Vassar, Granger Smith, Darryl Worley, Joe Robinson, and The Jompson Brothers to name a few. Other artists he has recorded include Allison Krauss, Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, BB King, Vince Gill, Lady Antebellum, Don Henley (The Eagles), Dolly Parton, Snoop Dogg, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), George Jones, Buck Owens, Colbie Callet, Clint Black, Matthew West, and Chris Stapleton among others.
As a songwriter, Frank has had over 80 songs recorded by artists such as Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Josh Turner, Trace Adkins, Granger Smith, Kenny Rogers, Leona Lewis, Maddie and Tae, Julie Roberts, The Swon Brothers, Montgomery Gentry, Steve Holy, among others.
Frank’s songwriting credits include four Billboard Number One songs: "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)" by Brad Paisley, "Alright" and "This" by Darius Rucker and “Backroad Song” by Granger Smith. Other singles that Rogers has written include Paisley's "Who Needs Pictures" and "Me Neither," Rucker's "History in the Making, Scotty McCreery’s “Feelin’ It”, Trace Adkins' "Don't Lie" and "Swing," Steve Holy's "Don't Make Me Beg," and "He Will, She Knows" by Kenny Rogers.
Rogers has written and recorded many songs for movies and TV including songs for Disney Pixar’s Cars, Cars 2, Monte Carlo, Kit Kittredge An American Girl and the theme song for the TruTV series “Black Gold”.
In 2016, Frank opened Fluid Music Revolution in conjunction with Spirit Music Group.
With his simple yet poignant way of capturing universal feelings, Cole Taylor has quickly become an in-demand country songwriter, with Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Chase Rice and others lining up to record his songs. But since no one can truly sing a Cole Taylor song quite like he can, the Georgia native has developed a reputation as an artist with a unique knack for singing timeless truths with a fresh melodic twist.
Indeed, the Georgia music industry named him Georgia Artist of the Year and Male Artist of the Year at the 2012 GeorgiaCountry.com awards following the release of his two acclaimed albums-- 2009’s That Will Always Be Home to Me and 2011’s Cab of My Chevy. “It was awesome getting the recognition for that. That’s what made me think it could happen for a living,” says Taylor, who began songwriting at 14 and performing shows at 16. “I got to working on that and really busted my butt and played a lot shows.”
Nine months after moving from Cuthbert, Georgia, to Music City, Taylor signed a publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Nashville in November 2013. He had set a goal of landing a deal within a year, so he achieved his dream with three months to spare.
Since then, he has released two of his own EP’s and had two songs reach #1 on the country music charts; “Sippin’ On Fire” by Florida Georgia Line and “Home Alone Tonight” by Luke Bryan featuring Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. Colehas found success writing with top songwriters such as Jimmy Robbins, Rodney Clawson, Ryan Hurd, Matt Dragstrem and Andrew Dorff.
His melodies and phrasings simultaneously fit in and stand apart from what is topping the country charts today. Like many in his generation, the 23 year old was raised on Garth Brooks and Maroon 5, Travis Tritt and Usher. Therefore, his melodies and rhythms defy traditional boundaries and expectations, but still rest comfortably within the edgier pop-leaning sound that dominates the genre.
As he’s crossing things off of his bucket list after accomplishes them at such a young age, he’s having to quickly come up with new goals. “Having a publishing deal and getting songs on other people’s albums has been something I have dreamed of forever,” he says. “Now the next goal is to land a record deal somewhere and get on the road touring and keep building that fan base and writing greater songs. I want to take advantage of the opportunities when they call me and not let them slip by.”
It’s only a matter of time until Hollywood snaps up the story of how singer-songwriter Bonnie Bishop connected with Dave Cobb, one of the hottest producers in the business, to unlock her inner soul singer and record the best album of her career: “Ain’t Who I Was” (May 27; Thirty Tigers/RED).
Even though Bishop can barely believe it herself, it’s a story that will need no dramatic embellishment, because every twist of fate — and faith — is absolutely true.
Before landing with Cobb, whose credits include Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, Bishop had thrown in the towel on her country-leaning career, too frustrated, beat-up and broke to go on after 13 years, five albums and one failed marriage. It landed on the rag pile despite monogramming by her idol, Bonnie Raitt, who recorded a Bishop/Big Al Anderson co-write on her comeback album, “Slipstream.” The song, “Not Cause I Wanted To,” topped the New York Times’ year-end best-of list, then “Slipstream” won 2012’s Best Americana Album Grammy. Bishop also popped onto iTunes’ country chart in 2013 with a song delivered by Connie Britton, the star of ABC-TV’s hit series “Nashville.”
But a girl can only live so long on accolades and exposure. After spending 200 nights a year on the road — loading her own gear, running her own sound and sleeping in her van — and still not earning enough to afford Christmas presents for her family, Bishop knew she’d hit a dead end.
“I started to break down mentally and physically from the stress,” she confesses. When a panic attack sent her to a Nashville emergency room, she was told to take a rest. So Texas-raised Bishop, who’d moved to Nashville in the hopes of writing Raitt-worthy songs, retreated to her parents’ ranch in Wimberley, outside of Austin. Feelings of failure and despair gnawed at her psyche; she went into mourning for the death of her dream.
“I spent three months crying and feeling sorry for myself, then decided I had to figure out what to do,” explains Bishop, her voice bright and cheerful. “I had all these amazing stories from the road, and I started writing them down as a way of healing. Then stories from childhood started coming out, and I started seeing these threads in my stories in a way that allowed me to celebrate what I had done, instead of beating myself up for having failed. I thought maybe I could make a career doing that. So I applied to graduate school.”
But before leaving Nashville, she called Thirty Tigers co-founder David Macias, whose multi-faceted entertainment company handles Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, Simpson and Isbell — whose Cobb-produced release won 2015’s Best Americana Album Grammy.
“David always believed in me,” Bishop says. “I told him what was going on in my life, and he said, ‘I don’t think your music career is over. You just need to make a great record with a real producer.’”
He sent Cobb some demos. Cobb invited her to lunch. At the time, he was working with Stapleton, recording what would become 2015’s Best Country Album Grammy winner and 2016’s ACM Album of the Year.
Bishop flew to Nashville to meet him. Cobb told her she should be singing soul, not country, and that he’d been wanting to record a soul album.
She was thrilled. As a child in Houston, she’d heard her surgeon father, a former musician, playing blues piano, and her cellist mother spinning Motown singles. After they split, her mother married football coach Jackie Sherrill, who took a coaching job at Mississippi State.
“I am from Texas, but there’s a lot of Mississippi in me,” Bishop offers. “I definitely got my soul from hanging with all the black girls in choir there. That’s how I learned to sing.”
She credits her late songwriter friend Tim Krekel with helping her rediscover her “bluesy voice.” Krekel had also written with Stapleton, and when Cobb mentioned to Stapleton and his wife, Morgane, that he was meeting Bishop, Morgane said, “I love Bonnie Bishop’s voice! You have to do this record!”
Bishop didn’t even know Stapleton had co-authored her favorite Krekel song, “Be With You,” when she added it to her setlist after singing it at his funeral (he passed away from cancer in 2010). It’s one of several standout tracks on the album. But before she recorded it — or any others — she had to face another series of panic-inducing challenges.
“It was very scary for me to make the mental space for hope to live again, because I was so afraid of getting my heart broken by music,” she admits. “I had doubts about whether or not I could still even sing. I was nervous as hell.”
Plus, she had no idea what Cobb actually had in mind. “I just had to trust this person,” Bishop notes. “At the same time, I’m having this huge mental battle because I’d worked so hard to kill this dream, and then here I am … it required complete faith that there was a purpose to this.”
She also had debt from the semester she’d just completed in the graduate creative writing program at Sewanee University of the South, outside of Nashville. (Bishop earned her undergraduate degree in sociology and musical theater from the University of Texas.) When her album investor bailed at the last minute, her good friend, Dave Claassen, had to talk her down from another freak-out, reassuring her that it would somehow work out. (His motto, she says, is “just show up.”)
Cobb picked six songs from her list of 36, including six she co-wrote, and they found two more. One is “Done Died,” a spiritual he discovered on YouTube, sung by an old Mississippi bluesman named Boyd Rivers. Cobb had been saving it for someone special; when she heard it, she cried.
“That’s totally how I feel, like I died and I’m coming back to life,” she explains. “I’d already had that spiritual transformation years before, but now I’m having it again musically.” In Bishop’s version, which slinks like a full-bellied crocodile from gutbucket blues to raw, unfettered soul, her sandstone voice captures the frenzy of a born-again believer as it rises to the heavens.
“[Cobb] knew that I had a deep story that I wanted to tell and he really helped me do that,” Bishop says. It’s a story of transformation, expressed in lyrics of longing, loss, loneliness and finally, resurrection.
“The record is called ‘Ain’t Who I Was’ because I’m not the same person I was, personally or musically,” says Bishop. “I was at a point where I just didn’t know anymore. I didn’t even have a vision, and this amazing producer came alongside me and believed in me and pulled my voice back out and made me get back up and sing.”
She chokes up while describing the experience, but one thing is clear: Her vocal prowess was never an issue. She just hadn’t worked with someone who knew how to unleash its full power. On this release, she gets right to it with the funky opener, “Mercy” (recorded as “Have A Little Mercy” by Ann Sexton), answering wah-wah guitar licks with a gritty groove. Then she gets soft and whispery on “Be With You,” creating a sound so intimate, it’s almost as if the listener becomes the lover she’s singing to.
On “Not Cause I Wanted To,” she confesses to her ex how much pain she carries after leaving him; if the ballad, which takes us to church with a Wurlitzer-filled bridge, somehow sounds even more soulful than Raitt’s version, it’s because this writer lived it.
Bishop again laments that hurt, but with a completely different approach, on “Too Late,” a co-write with Ford Thurston. Here, she conjures Dusty and the Supremes while dancing through a storm of needle-sharp guitar notes.
“It was simple arrangements and cool grooves, and I loved the sounds I was hearing as we recorded,” Bishop says. “It’s the record I always wanted to make and didn’t know how. And Dave did. Without having ever seen me live, just hearing three acoustic demos, he pulled it out of me when I thought was dead. It was such an incredible thing.”
But she really gets to the heart of the matter with “Broken,” one of three she penned with keyboardist Jimmy Wallace. It’s a sweeping, emotion-filled ballad, tailor-made for playing over a movie’s closing credits. When Bishop lets loose on the chorus, singing, “I don’t wanna be /Broken anymore/Don’t wanna see pieces of me/Shattered on the floor,” you can hear every tear she spilled while writing those lines. It truly is a knockout performance.
When Macias heard it, along with the other tracks they’d done, he announced Thirty Tigers would pay for the album and help get it heard.
“All these David’s believed in me and brought me back to life,” says Bishop. “I feel like I’m truly living a fairy tale. All I do on a daily basis now is get up and say thank-you, Jesus that this is all going on and show me how to show up today. Show me how to show up and not think too hard about it and not beat myself up and not allow what happened in the past to affect what I do today. … That is the gift that Dave Cobb gave me. And I’m so grateful and so excited.”
She’s also thankful she recorded with Cobb when she did; his work is winning so many awards, he’s more in demand than ever.
If Bishop and Cobb should share an award someday, that’ll be icing for the movie. But with or without that scene, she knows the message she wants it to convey: That dreams do come true. As long as you keep believing.
“Dreams are lifetime visions,” Bishop says wisely. “And life is valleys and mountains. And if you can accept that, you’ll be fine.”
'Ain't Who I Was' Track Listing:
Unapologetically Alabama. There’s a new force making major waves in country music. Natives of Mobile Alabama, Gary Stanton and Charlie Muncaster came together to form Muscadine Bloodline in early 2016. With three single releases under their belt and a schedule full of shows spanning from coast to coast, they’ve hit the ground running from day 1. Nashville took notice the first time these two stepped on the stage and it’s no surprise the rest of the music world is quickly catching on. Charlie’s [contemporary] vocals complimented by Gary’s harmonies and masterful guitar licks, MB is a powerfully refreshing mix of talent, passion and unfiltered authenticity.
Infamously undaunted by the big stage, their sound intertwines the brash irreverence of early southern rockers with the seductive quality of 90s country love songs. Captivating hooks heard in songs like “Porch Swing Angel” and the aggressively anthemic “Shut Your Mouth” stand as a testament to MB’s wide ranging music-making capability. Every song and every show is a moving experience but at the same time, unmistakably Muscadine Bloodline.