A 13-time Grammy winner and Billboard Century Award recipient, Emmylou Harris’ contribution as a singer and songwriter spans 40 years. She has recorded more than 25 albums and has lent her talents to countless fellow artists’ recordings. In recognition of her remarkable career, Harris was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Harris is known as much for her eloquently straightforward songwriting as for her incomparably expressive singing. Admired through her career for her talent as an artist and song connoisseur, Harris shook up country radio in the 1970s, and established herself as the premiere songwriter of a generation selling more than 15 million records and garnering 13 Grammy Awards, three CMA Awards, and two Americana Awards.
Harris is one of the most admired and influential women in music. She has recorded with such diverse artists as Linda Ronstadt, Daniel Lanois, Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Ryan Adams, Beck, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett and most recently Rodney Crowell. Few artists have achieved such honesty or have revealed such maturity in their writing. Forty years into her career, Harris continues to share the hard-earned wisdom that—hopefully if not inevitably—comes with getting older, though she’s never stopped looking ahead.
A longtime social activist, Harris has lent her voice to many causes. She has performed at Lilith Fair, helping promote feminism in music and organizing several benefit tours to support the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. Harris is also an avid supporter of animal rights and is actively involved in Bonaparte’s Retreat, the dog rescue organization that she founded.
SO YOU WANNABE AN OUTLAW
If you ever had any doubt about where Steve Earle’s musical roots are planted, his new collection, So You Wannabe an Outlaw, makes it perfectly plain. “There’s nothing ‘retro’ about this record,” he states, “I’m just acknowledging where I’m coming from.” So You Wannabe an Outlaw is the first recording he has made in Austin, Texas. Earle has lived in New York City for the past decade but he acknowledges, “Look, I’m always gonna be a Texan, no matter what I do. And I’m always going to be somebody who learned their craft in Nashville. It’s who I am.”
In the 1970s, artists such as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck, Billy Joe Shaver and Tompall Glaser gave country music a rock edge, some raw grit and a rebel attitude. People called what these artists created “outlaw music.” The results were country’s first Platinum-certified records, exciting and fresh stylistic breakthroughs and the attraction of a vast new youth audience to a genre that had previously been by and for adults. In the eighties, The Highwaymen was formed by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings. Their final album “The Road Goes On Forever” released in 1996 began with the Steve Earle song “The Devil’s Right Hand.”
Steve Earle’s 2017 collection, So You Wannabe an Outlaw, is an homage to outlaw music. “I was out to unapologetically ‘channel’ Waylon as best as I could.” says Earle. “This record was all about me on the back pick-up of a Fender Telecaster on an entire record for the first time in my life. The singing part of it is a little different. I certainly don’t sound like Waylon Jennings.”
“I moved to Nashville in November of 1974, and right after that Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger came out. I was around when Waylon was recording [the 1975 masterpiece] Dreaming My Dreams. Guitar Town (Earle’s 1986 breakthrough album) wound up being kind of my version of those types of songs,” Earle recalls.
“This new record started because T Bone Burnett called me and wanted a specific song to be written for the first season of (the TV series) Nashville. It was for the character whose brother was in prison. So I wrote ‘If Mama Coulda Seen Me,’ and they used it. Then Buddy Miller asked me to write another one for the show and I wrote ‘Lookin’ for a Woman,’ which they didn’t wind up using. I’d been listening to Waylon’s Honky Tonk Heroes again, and I decided to start writing in that direction.”
The new songs include the gentle, acoustic folk ballads “News From Colorado” and “The Girl on the Mountain.” “Fixin’ to Die,” on the other hand, is a dark shout from the hell of Death Row. “The Firebreak Line” returns Earle to his pile-driving, country-rock roots. “You Broke My Heart” is a sweet, simple salute to the 1950s sounds of Webb Pierce or Carl Smith. “Walkin’ in L.A.” is a twanging country shuffle. The guitar-heavy “Sunset Highway” is an instant-classic escape song. And the deeply touching “Goodbye Michelangelo” is Steve Earle’s farewell to his mentor, Guy Clark, who passed away last year. “It was written right after me and Rodney Crowell and Shawn Camp and a few other folks had taken Guy’s ashes to Terry Allen’s house in New Mexico,” Earle says. “I was only 19 when I came to Nashville. Guy and Susanna Clark finished raising me. Guy was a great cheerleader for me.”
Earle is backed on the new album by his long time band The Dukes (guitarist Chris Masterson, fiddle player Eleanor Whitmore, bassist Kelly Looney, and new members drummer Brad Pemberton and pedal steel player Ricky Ray Jackson). “We did the Guitar Town 30th-anniversary tour last year,” he said. “And that was perfect to write the last of the songs for this record. Because I had the band out there with me, and we could try out some stuff.”
“Waylon’s Honky Tonk Heroes was the template for the new album. And I’ve always considered that record to be really important. I consider his Honky Tonk Heroes the Exile on Main Street of country music.”
“I knew when I wrote ‘Walkin’ in L.A.’ that I wanted Johnny Bush to sing on it. I’ve known Johnny since 1973 when I was playing a restaurant in San Antonio. Joe Voorhees, who played piano for Bush, and I were stoned and hungry, so we went to Bush’s and raided the icebox in his kitchen. We’re sitting there, and Joe goes white and says, ‘John!’ I turned around and there was a .357 Magnum pointed at the back of my head. So that’s how I really met Johnny Bush. Years later, he signed an autograph to me that said, ‘Steve, I’m glad I didn’t pull the trigger.’”
Steve Earle’s third duet partner on So You Wannabe an Outlaw is Miranda Lambert. The two co-wrote their vocal collaboration “This Is How it Ends.” “I learned from Guy Clark that co-writing might lead me to write some stuff that I wouldn’t write otherwise,” comments Earle. “The song is Miranda’s title, and some of the very best lines in it are hers.”
So You Want To Be An Outlaw is dedicated to Jennings, who died in 2002. The deluxe CD and the vinyl version of the album include Earle’s remakes of the timeless Waylon Jennings anthem “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” as well as Billy Joe Shaver’s “Ain’t No God in Mexico,” which Jennings popularized as well as Earle’s versions of “Sister’s Coming Home” and “The Local Memory,” songs that first appeared on Willie Nelson discs. Nelson is his duet partner on the new album’s title track.
Steve Earle has turned many musical corners during his illustrious career. He has been equally acclaimed as a folk troubadour, a rockabilly raver, a contemplative bluesman, a honky-tonk rounder, a snarling rocker and even a bluegrass practitioner. This definitive Americana artist has won three Grammy Awards, for 2005’s The Revolution Starts Now, 2008’s Washington Square Serenade and 2010’s Townes.
He is also the author of the 2011 short-story collection Doghouse Roses and novel I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Earle has been featured as an actor in two HBO series, The Wire and Treme, and on stage in The Exonerated. His film work includes roles in such respected features as The World Made Straight (2015), Leaves of Grass (2009) and Dixieland (2015). For the past decade he has hosted the weekly show Hardcore Troubadour for the Outlaw Country Channel on SiriusXM Radio and he is a longtime social and political activist whose causes have included the abolition of the death penalty and the removal of the Confederate symbol from the Mississippi State flag.
Earle has collaborated on recordings with such superb talents as Sheryl Crow, The Indigo Girls, The Pogues, Lucinda Williams Shawn Colvin, Patti Smith, Chris Hillman, The Fairfield Four and The Del McCoury Band. His songs have been used in more than fifty films and have been recorded by such legends as Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, and Joan Baez, Carl Perkins, Vince Gill and Waylon Jennings (who recorded Earle’s “The Devil’s Right Hand” twice).
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For further information, contact Rick Gershon at Warner Bros. Records Publicity:
818-953-3473 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Steve Earle:
Ann Wilson of Heart
Ann Wilson of Heart
Ann Wilson of Heart
Ann Wilson has announced her 2017 20-date solo tour. The Ann Wilson Of Heart cross-country trek kicks off Tuesday, March 8 at the Moore Theatre in Wilson’s Seattle hometown before moving on to Los Angeles, Denver, Philadelphia, Englewood, NJ and New Orleans among other cities.
The Ann Wilson Of Heart dates follow the release of Heart’s critically acclaimed 2016 Beautiful Broken album and summer headlining tour with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Cheap Trick, along with Heart solo shows before and after. “Heart is always evolving, changing,” says Ann. “It is a living organism. Right now it’s in a cocoon of metamorphosis, and we will see what emerges when the time is right.”
Ann Wilson of Heart is the next step of Ann's journey. The step that puts it all together. The present meets the past and joins the timeless. All of the songs that make up the essence of Ann Wilson will be on display; Heart songs, songs from Ann’s solo projects, and songs that have influenced and inspired Ann throughout her life. The show, like the woman herself, will know no bounds, Joined - not backed - by a band of true artists Ann’s true voice will be heard.
Musicians on board for the Ann Wilson Of Heart tour include Craig Bartock on guitar (Heart member for a dozen years, who also performed in the Ann Wilson Thing for two years) from San Francisco; Andy Stoller on bass (the Ann Wilson Thing member for two years) from Seattle; Denny Fongheiser on drums and percussion (Heart member in the 1990’s for two years) from Los Angeles.
“The stage is a magical place where I can be beautifully in and out of control, where I can build a fire and then jump into it,” says the esteemed and pioneering Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend who’s known for her force-of-nature vocals. “The stage is where I have always lived; where I've expressed my deepest emotions and supreme joys.” Ann continues: “I suppose I am addicted to it. I’ve never been much good at talking, but I can sing, and when I sing I connect with people in a much deeper, higher way.”
What will fans experience at these shows? “People can expect the unexpected in 2017,” Ann says. “A beautiful, classy set with an elegant, artistic production…The music will be a mix of songs that have powered my life; iconic soul stirring covers, songs from my years of solo work and the unforgettable songs of Heart.” The name for the upcoming tour, explains Ann, “is to give people a point of recognition; to help people understand who I am and where I came from.”
Ann Wilson’s musical gifts are legendary. As a songwriter and lyricist, she has created a truly impressive body of work (“crazy on you,” “barracuda,” “magic man,” “dog & butterfly,” “straight on”, “even it up,” “mistral wind,” and many, many more). However, her greatest gift, and first “calling” is singing. Her voice is considered to be among the best ever, with its vast range, amazing power and sheer musicality. It has inspired legions of great singers, across every genre of music.
“Ann Wilson of Heart is what I have been preparing for all my life” says Ann. “The time is right, and I’m ready.”
The second U.K. band following the Beatles to score a #1 hit in America, The Zombies infiltrated the airwaves with the sophisticated melodies, breathy vocals, choral back-up harmonies and jazzy keyboard riffs of their 1960’s hit singles “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No.” Ironically, the group broke-up just prior to achieving their greatest success – the worldwide chart-topping single “Time of the Season,” from their swan-song album Odessey & Oracle, ranked #100 in Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time.’ To this day, generations of new bands have cited The Zombies’ work as pop touchstones, and the band continues to be embraced by new generations of fans.
Following the break-up of the original band, Blunstone went on to develop an acclaimed solo career, and Argent rocked ‘70’s arenas with his eponymous band ARGENT, but the legend of The Zombies continued to take on a life of its own. By the start of the new Millennium, Blunstone and Argent were inspired to resurrect The Zombies. The media excitedly welcomed their return, leading to a 2011 performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
2013-2016 has marked a major resurgence for the band, with two U.K. and five U.S. tours (including stops at SXSW in Austin, NYC’s Central Park SummerStage, Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival and Milwaukee SummerFest)…the American release of their new album, Breathe Out, Breathe In (Huffington Post’s David Wild called the album “inspired” and said “some songs recall the haunting melodic heights of the group’s 1968 masterpiece Odessey and Oracle.”)… the debut on RollingStone.com & VEVO of their first-ever music video for “Any Other Way”… a PBS Special filmed on the legendary Austin City Limits stage….Eminem’s sample/cover version of “Time of the Season” on his comeback album… the amazing Keira Knightley "She's Not There" campaign for Coco Chanel… The release of 2015’s Still Got That Hunger… and the announcement of their second nomination to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
The first quiet piano notes of the title track of Patty Griffin’s new album, Servant Of Love evoke a sense of mystery. “I want to live by your ocean/Moved by the waves/No one can see.” Go further into this haunting, jazz-steeped meditation, and that sense turns into a spell. With lulling piano, fathoms-deep bowed bass and improvisational trumpet floating above like a swooping gull, Griffin conjures the call of the depths in literal and metaphorical terms (“words from the deep, calling to me…”) and invites us on her odyssey to answer that call.
Very much in the traditions of American transcendental writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, and mystical poets like Rumi and Rainer Maria Rilke, Patty Griffin grounds her themes of love and mystery in the experience and rhythms of the everyday, the stuff of life. Servant Of Love takes on big ideas, but does so in the vernacular of folk tales, blues cants and jazz gestures. Griffin’s characteristic expressive vocals—equal measures passion and poignancy—and her potent songwriting blur the lines between the personal, the spiritual and the political. These songs move and persuade while they dive deep.
In case we think a pilgrimage into mystery is some esoteric undertaking, Griffin pulls us by the collar down into the greasy juke joint of songs like “Gunpowder,” where the most craven desires of the human animal hold sway. “Robbing cradles and the graves/Just realistic, not depraved.../…Draining rivers till they’re dry/I just like to, I don’t know why.” Explore the human heart, Griffin seems to say, and you will find darkness.
Not limited in scope to mere romance, these songs reveal how love underpins all our human movements—our passions, our desires, our mistakes, our neuroses, our greed and our good alike. Griffin embeds her exploration of love in the real, as in “Good And Gone,” an elemental folk song with blues in its DNA. It is Griffin’s powerful reaction to the shooting by police of John Crawford, an innocent man shopping in a Walmart. “I’m gonna make sure he’s good and gone/Gonna make sure he’s good and dead…/…Gonna make sure he knows his place/Wipe that smile off his face.” Never a writer to oversimplify, Griffin implicates more than just a man; she implicates the society which creates such a man. “Rich man has his money/What can a poor man claim?.../…Pawns of another rich man’s game.”
Even in songs which seem to speak from the personal, the connection to broader concerns abides. When, in the intimate “You Never Asked Me,” she cries out, “It was an exercise in catastrophe/It was a dance of destruction/…A flight of fragile wings,” she’s not just talking about a single relationship, but about love’s effects in the world. “Polar ice caps below and above/Conquered and claimed and ruined for love.”
Over nine albums, Patty Griffin has proven herself a writer of uncommon perception, with a genius for character-driven story-telling. On this, her tenth, she brings that genius to bear on her over-arching themes. The same trans-migrated soul seems to inhabit the characters in these songs, all different, yet all walking the same beat, speaking from the same source: the storyteller herself, of course, but also, the album suggests, a greater source. A source we reject at our peril. That melting polar ice cap in “You Never Asked Me”? That’s no metaphor. That’s the real world consequence of our spiritual deficit.
As Servant Of Love travels through different musical terrains—folk and blues, rock and jazz, ancient sounds and modern—a spare, organic quality persists. Patterns and reccurence weave through the album in small ways and large: the drone of open tunings, modal riffs and bluesy moves, images of nature. That lonely trumpet. They create a sense of sonic return that buoys Griffin’s larger message: Love persists. In the dark, in the mud, in disaster, in the sun, there love is. An elemental force.
While any song on Servant Of Love stands alone, each a vivid gem mined from a rich vein, together they create an emotional arc of unusual depth. Patty Griffin might take us into the dark, but she doesn’t leave us there. Instead, she brings the mystery into the light, and by the last song, “Shine A Different Way,” a joyous, tuneful paean to surrender and rebirth, we feel we really have traveled her road with her. Now we end by the sea where we started,, with “…the moon and the glistening waves,” a little more ready, perhaps, as Rilke said, to “live the questions.”
Lee Ann Womack
Lee Ann Womack
Lee Ann Womack
Artists don’t really make albums like Lee Ann Womack’s THE LONELY, THE LONESOME AND THE GONE anymore. Albums that seem to exist separate and apart from any external pressures. Albums that possess both a profound sense of history and a clear-eyed vision for the future. Albums that transcend genres while embracing their roots. Albums that evoke a sense of place and of personality so vivid they make listeners feel more like participants in the songs than simply admirers of them.
Anybody who has paid attention to Womack for the past decade or so could see she was headed in this direction. THE LONELY, THE LONESOME AND THE GONE (ATO Records) — a breathtaking hybrid of country, soul, gospel and blues — comes from Womack’s core. “I could never shake my center of who I was,” says the East Texas native. “I’m drawn to rootsy music. It’s what moves me.”
Recorded at Houston’s historic SugarHill Recording Studios and produced by Womack’s husband and fellow Texan, Frank Liddell (fresh off a 2017 ACM Album of the Year win for Miranda Lambert’s ‘The Weight of These Wings’), THE LONELY, THE LONESOME AND THE GONE marks the culmination of a journey that began with Womack’s 2005 CMA Album of the Year ‘There’s More Where That Come From,’ moving her toward an authentic American music that celebrates her roots and adds to the canon. It also underscores the emergence of Womack’s songwriting voice: She has more writing credits among this album’s 14 tracks than on all her previous albums combined.
Womack had made the majority of her previous albums in Nashville, where the studio system is so entrenched it’s almost impossible to avoid. Seeking to free herself of that mindset, Womack says, “I wanted to get out of Nashville and tap into what deep East Texas offers musically and vibe-wise.”
So Womack and Liddell took a band to SugarHill, one of the country’s oldest continually operating studio spaces. In an earlier incarnation, the studio had given birth to George Jones’ earliest hits, as well as Roy Head’s mid-‘60s smash “Treat Her Right”; Freddy Fender’s ‘70s chart-topping crossovers “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”; and recordings from Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Sir Douglas Quintet, the 13th Floor Elevators and Willie Nelson.
Womack found the lure of East Texas irresistible. "I love local things, and I missed local music,” she says. “I grew up in Jacksonville. It was small, so I spent a lot of time dreaming, and about getting out.” It required only a short leap of logic to view Houston, and specifically SugarHill, as the place to record.
Womack and Liddell found a perfect complement of musicians, players who clicked right away and became a one-headed band. Bassist Glenn Worf (Alan Jackson, Bob Seger, Tammy Wynette, Mark Knopfler and others), drummer Jerry Roe (numerous Nashville sessions and his band Friendship Commanders), guitarists Ethan Ballinger, Adam Wright (Alan Jackson, Solomon Burke and others), and Waylon Payne (son of singer Sammi Smith and Willie Nelson's longtime guitarist Jody Payne) formed the SugarHill gang. Engineer and co-producer Michael McCarthy, known for his production work with Spoon, brought vintage gear from his Austin studio and help capture a sharper sound for sessions recorded entirely to analog tape.
“I got everybody out of their comfort zone and into a new element,” says Womack. “And it was funky there. This place was not in the least bit slick. Everybody there, all they think about is making music for the love of making music. Everyone comes in with huge smiles and positive attitudes. It was much different than what we were used to."
Womack had brought a handful of songs to record, including the gospel-inspired original “All the Trouble”; the poignant “Mama Lost Her Smile,” in which a daughter sorts through her family’s photographic history looking for clues to a long-secret sorrow; and the love-triangle conversation “Talking Behind Your Back,” which she penned with Dale Dodson and Dean Dillon, the writer of several George Strait classics. To make the final cut, Womack and the band had to be able to get to the heart of the songs and shine their light from the inside out.
A trio of long-time favorites found their way onto the album, too. Womack joined a long list of legendary voices irresistibly drawn to Harlan Howard’s “He Called Me Baby,” putting a sultry Southern groove underneath its mix of sensuality and sorrow. On “Long Black Veil,” a tale of betrayal and closely held secrets that became a ‘50s classic as recorded by Lefty Frizzell, she taps into a ballad tradition that runs centuries deep. Womack recorded the album’s final track, a haunting version of George Jones’ “Please Take the Devil Out of Me,” standing on the same gold-star linoleum floor where Jones cut the 1959 original.
Capturing the reality of East Texas music isn't always easy. Being in Houston and at SugarHill helped make that happen, inspiring an approach to the recording process that everyone embraced from the first note played. "Music down there — including Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and all the way through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama — is this huge melting pot,” Womack says. “I love that, and I wanted that in this record. I wanted to make sure it had a lot of soul in it, because real country music has soul, and I wanted to remind people of that."
“When you make albums, and aren’t just going for singles, you really have to treat them with respect,” Liddell adds. “We did that at SugarHill, taking a bunch of like-minded lunatics and seeing what happened."
In Houston — with all its history, its eccentricity, its diversity and its lack of pretense — those like-minded lunatics found a place where they could flourish.
“We all felt we weren’t going someplace just to make a record,” Womack says. “We were going someplace to make a great record.” Don’t just take her word for it, though. Listen. And when Womack and the music take you there, you’ll find you want to stay.
North Mississippi Allstars
North Mississippi Allstars
North Mississippi Allstars
North Mississippi Allstars are back with PRAYER FOR PEACE and couldn’t we all use one of those right about now? Founded in 1996 by brothers Luther (guitar and vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums, piano, synth bass, programming and vocals), the now venerable band are entering their second decade with what is unquestionably the most vital album of their brilliant career. Released by Sony Legacy, PRAYER FOR PEACE sees North Mississippi Allstars continuing to think globally following 2013’s Earth-shaking WORLD BOOGIE IS COMING. That album, the band’s seventh studio recording, proved the planetary sensation its title promised, with The Guardian simply declaring it the North Mississippi Allstars’ “best yet.” Now North Mississippi Allstars weave their bred-to-the-bone musical sensibility with a potent message of positivity, inclusion, family, and hope. As ever, songs like the powerhouse title track and “You Got To Move” – the latter featuring accompaniment from Hill Country Blues guitar hero Kenny Brown and award-winning singer/bassist Danielle Nicole – pay homage to the band’s long lineage of musical heroes, celebrating the blues’ extraordinary legacy while reshaping and pushing it into contemporary relevance with fatback funk, slippery soul, and pure unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll.
The majority of PRAYER FOR PEACE was recorded at Memphis’ famed Royal Studios with the great Boo Mitchell behind the board. The hard-touring band also recorded as they traveled the country, lighting up studios in St. Louis, Kansas City, New Orleans, Brooklyn, Austin, and of course, their legendary father Jim Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch in the Allstars’ own Hernando, MS. A number of old friends join the congregation, among them bassist Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band, Dead & Company), Graeme Lesh (Midnight North, The Terrapin Family Band), vocalist Sharisse Norman, bassist Dominic Davis (Jack White), and singer/fife player Shardé Thomas, daughter of Mississippi blues giant Otha Turner. Simultaneously master curators, expert revivalists and forward-thinking visionaries, the Dickinson brothers have crafted their most daringly creative and provocatively topical collection to date. PRAYER FOR PEACE stands tall as yet another milestone marking North Mississippi Allstars own unique place in the American musical tradition.
Emily Saliers (of Indigo Girls)
Emily Saliers (of Indigo Girls)
Emily Saliers (of Indigo Girls)
Thirty years into one of the most storied careers in popular music, Emily Saliers decided to record her debut album.
"What's a 53 year old woman doing making her first solo record?" muses Saliers, best known as one half of the iconic duo Indigo Girls. "What compels someone like me to follow this strong attachment to rhythmic music?"
Murmuration Nation answers those questions both passionately and profoundly. In this "post-fact" era in which we find ourselves living today, Saliers' fearless voice and insightful perspective feel more vital and relevant than ever before. The songs also reveal a new side of Saliers' artistry, one that even her most ardent fans might not expect to hear.
"It was so freeing to pursue the kind of music I truly wanted to make without regard to what I'd done before or who I'm expected to be," says Saliers. I hope that this record can take people who think they know me already on a journey that'll really surprise them."
While Indigo Girls is still very much alive and well, Murmuration Nation is Saliers' first release under her own name, and it's a surprising journey indeed. The record brims over with life and energy, blurring both musical and geographical boundaries as Saliers breaks down barriers with a bold and infectious spirit of adventure. Recorded with an all-star band—including bassist Tim LeFebvre (David Bowie, Tedeschi Trucks Band), keyboardist Rachel Eckroth (KT Tunstall), and drummers Robert “Sput" Searight (Snarky Puppy) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour)—and featuring guest appearances from fellow luminaries like Lucy Wainwright Roche, Jonatha Brooke, and Jennifer Nettles, the album explores the kind of rhythmically centered, globally inspired music that's always held a special place in Saliers' heart.
"I was born in a predominantly African American neighborhood in New Haven," she explains. "Most of my friends growing up were black, so I was steeped in a musical culture that included James Brown, Otis Redding, and all the great R&B artists of the time. That's the music that really stirred my spirit and made my body want to move. I found myself loving music from West Africa and South America for the same reasons. I think of it all as 'body music.'"
It was folk music, however, that first brought Saliers to national prominence. Indigo Girls released their breakout self-titled album in 1989, and in the ensuing decades, racked up a slew of Gold and Platinum records, took home a coveted GRAMMY Award, and earned the respect of high profile peers-turned-collaborators from Michael Stipe to Joan Baez. NPR's Mountain Stage called the band "one of the finest folk duos of all time," while Rolling Stone said they "personify what happens when two distinct sensibilities, voices,
and worldviews come together to create something transcendently its own," and The New York Times raved that "gleeful profanities, righteous protest anthems and impeccable folk songwriting have carried this duo for thirty years."
Known for their outspoken political activism in addition to their brilliant songwriting, Indigo Girls became a household name and a fixture of American pop culture, but Saliers has never been one to rest on her laurels. Throughout her rise to stardom, she toyed with the idea of recording a solo album that combined her love of folk storytelling with her passion for the grooves and beats of that "body music" she'd always been so innately drawn to. When she met Juilliard-trained violinist Lyris Hung, now a frequent Indigo Girls collaborator, Saliers found that her dream no longer seemed that far fetched.
"Lyris allowed me to imagine a very broad musical world and expand what I was capable of doing on my own," reflects Saliers. "I would write these snippets and send them to her, and she'd work on them in her home studio and send them back. I got so excited when I heard her productions. I realized she could help me make the hybrid record I always wanted, something with that R&B, rhythmic core along with organic instruments and my lyrics. I asked her, 'Would you please produce the solo album I've been talking about for decades?'"
The result is a record that defies easy categorization, with Saliers effortlessly mixing disparate musical traditions underneath poetic lyrics that take their cues from the natural world around us. Album opener "Spider," for instance, brings together hints of heavy metal and Native American a capella music as Saliers weaves an arachno-centric metaphor for geopolitical trickery, while Spanish guitar gives way to orchestral strings and an electronic beat on the slithering "Serpent Love," and the elegant "Fly" draws on avian inspiration for its message of community and cooperation.
"'Fly' is kind of at the crux of the album," Saliers explains. "A murmuration of birds is practically inexplicable to scientists, but it's a very powerful thing to watch, and I see it happening in our country in an amazing way right now. From Black Lives Matter to the Women's March to Standing Rock, there are all these grassroots movements starting to coalesce, and I take great comfort in the way people are instinctually moving together to fight injustice and hate."
In much the same way, Saliers' songwriting and Hung's production reach across divides to a broad and diverse audience. Though the musical setting may be different, Indigo Girls fans who have grown up with Saliers will recognize her trademark passion and perception, while younger listeners unfamiliar with her illustrious back catalog will discover in this record a voice of great clarity and understanding that speaks to these unique and troubling times. By drawing on her love of so many cultures and her insatiable appetite for great songwriting, regardless of genre or era, Saliers has crafted an album that is at once classic and modern, timeless and daring.
On songs like "Train Inside" and "Long Haul," she leans on her vintage country and folk roots, while "Poethearted" and "Slow Down Day Friend" showcase her love of the ukulele (which replaces the acoustic guitar she's so traditionally identified with here), and "Match" and "Sad One" offer beautiful, bittersweet perspectives on the highs and lows of love. Though Saliers' songwriting always comes from a deeply personal place, she isn't afraid to look beyond herself and examine the big picture with her music, tackling America's obsession with guns on "OK Corral," the violent results of religious zealotry "I’m High I'm On High," and our complicated relationship with southeast Asia on "Hello Vietnam."
"There are a lot of heavy, serious topics on this album," says Saliers, "but there's also a lot of whimsical groove and pop to it. That mix is important to me because it's like the ebb-and-flow, peak-and-valley journey of life. I think this record is very reflective of my personality. I need fast and I need slow; I need grooves and I need a little bit of edge."
In the end, it all comes down to balance: artistically, emotionally, spiritually. The album showcases a side of Saliers that few knew she carried within her, but one that burns as bright today as it did when she was just a youngster discovering the wide world of music around her. Thirty years is a long wait for a debut, but with Murmuration Nation, it feels like Emily Saliers is right on time.
Contact: Carla Parisi Kid Logic Media email@example.com / 973-563-8204
Singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins readily admits that several of the songs on his new album, My Stupid Heart, address his perceived relationship failures. In fact, many were written as he was falling out of his third marriage; in the title tune, he actually chides himself for being such a romantic. But it’s also a bit of a joke, he says, because he firmly believes in following his heart — no matter where it leads.
That oh-so-fallible, yet essential part of our being is, it turns out, the guiding force behind just about every song on the album — the theme of which, he says, is summed up most succinctly by another song title: “It All Comes Down to Love.”
In that respect, Mullins says, it’s not all that different from most of his discography — which includes 1998’s Soul’s Core, the album that shot him to fame on the strength of its Grammy-nominated No. 1 hit, “Lullaby,” and 2006’s 9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor, which contained his AAA/Americana No. 1, “Beautiful Wreck.” (He also co-wrote the Zac Brown Band’s No. 1 country tune, “Toes.”) But in the years since his last release, 2010’s Light You Up, Mullins has experienced more ups and downs on his romantic roller-coaster — a ride he’s decided to step off for a while. He’s also stayed busy co-parenting his son, Murphy, with his second wife.
Still, nothing inspires songwriters quite like a breakup, and Mullins confirms, “This record came out of all that; all the feelings, all the heartache.”
He remembers sitting on his porch one afternoon, thinking, “‘I know this is all in my head, but it’d be a lot easier just to blame it on my heart.’ And then I thought, ‘Yeah, it’s my stupid heart.’” Next thing he knew, lines like “my stupid heart it plays for keeps/through hoops of fire it bounds and leaps” just started tumbling out. In the studio, the song took on a classic vibe, with impeccable instrumentation and production that sounds as if George Martin supervised.
In other words, it’s gorgeous. And it carries a momentum that shifts it away from feeling like a woe-is-me wallow in self-pity. Throughout the album, Mullins deftly balances songs of suffering — from the title tune and “Go and Fall,” to the powerful, yet subtle social commentary of “Ferguson” (which contains no mention of guns or police officers) — with songs such as “Roll on By,” co-written with Max Gomez, which strikes an upbeat note of hope.
There’s humor, too. Sure, much of it is wrapped in sardonic cynicism; “It all Comes Down to Love” targets TV preachers, politicians, the NRA, Wall Street and street dealers, and “Pre-Apocalyptic Blues” hilariously lampoons the doom-mongers arming themselves against Armageddon. But the Levon Helm-influenced “Never Gonna Let Her Go” reveals the thrills of riding that afore-mentioned roller-coaster, and even the sigh of resignation that is “The Great Unknown” contains lines so striking, you can’t help but smile at their brilliance and depth. (Example: “They got a mirror back behind the whiskey shelves/Where we don’t dare look back at ourselves.”)
That song is one of several Mullins penned with his main songwriting collaborator, Chuck Cannon, who happens to be married to the album’s producer, Lari White. They not only introduced him to the song’s third author, Christina Aldendifer, but many of the album’s players as well. (More about them later.) Cannon also co-wrote the title track, “Ferguson” and the deceptively shimmering “Go and Fall.” Gomez is co-credited on the dramatic “Gambler’s Heart”; Patrick Blanchard shares authorship of another character-based song, “Sunshine.”
Whether composing alone or with others — including Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge, his bandmates in the early-2000s trio the Thorns — Atlanta native Mullins has always been a dynamic songsmith. Forging influences from folk and R&B to traditional country and even Broadway musicals (the funky ones, like Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell) with pop-leaning melodic sensibilities, he crafts memorable, affecting tunes best defined as Americana.
Mullins’ maternal grandfather was a big-band bass player who also played Dixieland jazz and polka; his paternal grandfather, a railroad man, loved listening to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. When Mullins was in the womb, his mom serenaded him with “House of the Rising Sun” and “Ode to Billie Joe,” accompanying herself on ukulele. (To this day, he has a thing for Bobbie Gentry.) His dad’s record and reel-to-reel collection ranged from Kris Kristofferson and Leonard Cohen to Little Richard, Ray Charles and Isaac Hayes, plus plenty of rock ‘n’ roll. It all made an impact.
With a supple baritone that still allows him to channel Prince, as well as wail the blues and growl with grit — not to mention rock those talkin’ rhythms — Mullins has been engaging audiences since he won his first high-school talent contest with his own composition. That $100 check lodged a little lightbulb in his brain. It clicked on when he heard a career-class talk by Amy Ray, then an Emory University freshman but already performing with Emily Saliers (just before they became Indigo Girls).
“She played a few songs and talked about being a performing songwriter,” he recalls. “It helped me focus, because she was so engaging and intense and punk, yet able to perform just with a guitar and her voice. I wanted to be just like her.”
Mullins majored in music education at North Georgia College, where he began performing in earnest and released his first album (cassette, actually) of originals. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Army Reserves at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he jumped out of a few airplanes before jumping full-time into music in 1992. Eventually, he formed his own label, and in 1998, he released Soul’s Core. Steve Craig, a DJ at Atlanta’s modern-rockish WNNX-FM, picked up on “Lullaby,” spinning it on his “Locals Only” music show. He took it to program director Leslie Fram, who not only put it heavy rotation, but sent copies to a few dozen fellow PDs. Soon, Mullins was getting regular airplay on at least 15 stations. He went from modestly hoping sales might reach 20,000 units, far beyond his four-digit average, to moving 30,000 copies per week, on his way to platinum status.
Labels that had ignored his earlier efforts to get their attention suddenly clamored to sign him; at least 25 came knocking. Columbia won the bidding war; Mullins spent six years there before moving to Vanguard, which recently joined forces with Rounder/Sugar Hill under the Concord Music Group umbrella.
When Chuck Cannon heard “Lullaby” on a Nashville station, he actually did a U-turn and beelined toward a record store. Cannon, who co-wrote John Michael Montgomery’s Academy of Country Music Song of the Year, “I Love the Way You Love Me,” and several hits for Toby Keith, among other country stars, loved Mullins’ work. But when Mullins heard Cannon was slated to open for him at a Nashville club, he thought the pairing was a total mismatch. Until Cannon played.
“Chuck’s got a lot more edge than a lot of other Nashville songwriters, and a lot more rock ‘n’ roll and R&B,” Mullins says. “There’s a lot more sex in his writing, there’s a lot more devil and God, and he just brings some real basic elements of the human existence more into the forefront. A lot of people don’t have the guts to do it, and I love that about him.”
Cannon wrote “It all Comes Down to Love,” the album’s only cover. It was his attempt to write in Mullins’ style —16 years ago, after he’d heard “Lullaby.” He’d also engineered that opening slot so he could meet Mullins — who didn’t know any of the song’s back-story till he asked about using it for the album. Once he heard it, he was even more determined to include it.
“I usually do one song per record I didn’t write; just a song I like a lot that someone else wrote,” Mullins says. “It motivates me to write more, because it’s something that I wish I’d written.” (That’s Mullins’ kid — and his beagle —on the intro.)
Cannon had even demoed it with many of the same players who perform it on the album. (They include bassist Michael Rhodes, drummer Gerry Hansen, electric guitarists Jerry McPherson and Tom Bukovac, pianist/accordionist Radoslav Lorkovic, pianist Matt Rollings, steel guitarist Dan Dugmore, bouzouki/mandolin player Guthrie Trapp, cellist Austin Hoke, and backing vocalists Tom Ryan, Max Gomez and Cannon, who also plays bouzouki and guitar. Ryan, who co-wrote “Pre-Apocalyptic Blues” while performing with Mullins at the 30A Songwriters Festival, also plays sax on the rousing New Orleans/Dixieland rave-up, next to trombonist Roy Agee.)
In addition to his collaborations for this album, Mullins spent some of his time since Light You Up writing with other Nashville hitmakers; he also contributed to the striking 2012 album, Mercyland: Songs for the Rest of Us. But he admits he’s eager to hit the road again.
“I’m in a new place in my life, a place of freedom, artistically — and a real grounded place of bein’ a dad,” he says. “I’m really excited about the possibilities.”
Though he may be wearing a little more emotional armor this time, he’s also armed with new insights, so many of which are relayed in these songs. And when he steps onstage each night, he sings them with all the passion he’s got in his anything-but-stupid heart.
Charles Kelley (of Lady Antebellum)
Charles Kelley (of Lady Antebellum)
Charles Kelley (of Lady Antebellum)
Stepping outside of one of the world’s most popular groups, Charles Kelley explores new territory with a raw sound that pushes his vocals into a lower, grittier key than what listeners have been hearing from him in a group setting. “The Driver” serves as the lead single from his upcoming first-ever solo release and was born in a ratty studio in the back of producer Paul Worley’s office. His unmatched perspective of hours spent on the road pursuing a life-long dream is present through his impeccable voice. In addition to his success as part of seven-time GRAMMY award-winning trio Lady Antebellum, Kelley has also penned No. one hits recorded by Luke Bryan and Darius Rucker.
Robyn Hitchcock is one of England's most enduring contemporary singer/songwriters and live performers. A surrealist poet, talented guitarist, cult artist and musician's musician, Hitchcock is among alternative rock's father figures and is the closest thing the genre has to a Bob Dylan (not coincidentally his biggest musical inspiration).
Since founding the art-rock band The Soft Boys in 1976, Robyn has recorded more than 20 albums as well as starred in ‘Storefront Hitchcock’ an in concert film recorded in New York and directed by Jonathan Demme.
Blending folk and psychedelia with a wry British nihilism, Robyn describes his songs as ‘paintings you can listen to’. His most recent album is self-titled and marks his 21st release as a solo artist. Out on April 21 2017, the album is produced by Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs). Hitchcock describes it as a "ecstatic work of negativity with nary a dreary groove."
It has received rave reviews from UNCUT, Rolling Stone, Paste, Tidal and more.
"A gifted melodist, Hitchcock nests engaging lyrics in some of the most bracing, rainbow-hued pop this side of Revolver. He wrests inspiration not from ordinary life but from extraordinary imaginings..." - Rolling Stone
"These 10 gems slither, rock, roll, glide and shapeshift, coalescing around Hitchcock’s typically anxious, strained but striking and immediately identifiable vocals." - American Songwriter
"Beloved of everyone from Led Zeppelin to REM, Hitchcock has only enhanced his status with this wonderful outing." - Hot Press
"Witty, moving and seriously catchy, Robyn Hitchcock is a glorious return for a man who wasn’t really gone in the first place." - Paste Magazine
APPALACHIAN: of a wild and beautiful mountain land, a genre of distinctly American music, and for many, the deep roots of family. For Kathy Mattea, it also represents an essential piece of her musical education and heritage.
Calling Me Home is Kathy's new release on Sugar Hill Records, co-produced with multi-Grammy-winner Gary Paczosa. It's a collection of songs that celebrates the Appalachian culture of her native West Virginia, and expands the vocabulary of acoustic roots music that has always served as her artistic center.
Kathy has gathered songs and stories of bravery, pride and grief that further define and describe the life and times of her home place. 2008's Grammy nominated COAL was her first step to discovering this vast and rich genre of music that producer Marty Stuart allowed was "in her blood," taking her back to the lore of family stories and to her place and her people.
Kathy's concerts present her new and most recent material alongside her Top 20 radio hits: from the signature ballad "Where've You Been?" to the bluesy "455 Rocket" to the iconic "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses." Long known as an impeccable songcatcher, her 17 albums are woven through with bluegrass, gospel, and Celtic influences, and have garnered multiple CMA, ACM, and Grammy Awards
Increasingly in demand as a public speaker, Kathy regularly presents keynotes and educational programs at colleges and civic venues across the country, both as a stand-alone and in conjunction with concert appearances. Her long history of activism has led Kathy to bring public attention to several current environmental issues, including climate change and some mining practices in her native Appalachia.
Ed Roland (of Collective Soul)
Ed Roland (of Collective Soul)
Ed Roland (of Collective Soul)
Ed Roland writes music.
He writes musical poems. He writes melodic love letters. Prayers … set to a sound that will stay with you forever. He writes songs that become part of your life. You sing along with Ed in the car. At home. You sing with Ed at Collective Soul shows. You become one of thousands of people, standing together, going word for word with this son of Stockbridge, Georgia.
That’s right, Ed Roland writes those kinds of songs.
He’s been on stage 21 years with his band of brothers. 21 years of sweet, loud Rock and Roll. Recall a show from the 90’s or last week – that’s Ed Roland leaving every ounce of himself up on that stage. His personality, his deep-rooted respect for the audience and the music, comes through in every performance. Every note.
Ed would tell you that he didn’t get into Rock and Roll to sell records, but his stats are pretty darn impressive. How about seven #1 Hits on the Billboard Top 100 list? Eighteen Collective Soul songs have spent significant time on the charts. In Ed’s 21 years of touring the world he’s racked up quite an impressive list of multi-platinum albums. His work appears in movies and on TV. His music is so full of emotion and vivid imagery, filmmakers have been calling on Ed Roland to complete their vision since his first recordings began dominating radio airwaves.
If this is all starting to sound to you like a list of accomplishments that belong in a hall of fame, you’d be on to something. Ed and his Collective Soul band mates are proud members of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame … and Ed was again enshrined in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame’s Songwriters wing.
Ed may have performed his American classics like Shine and The World I Know and December throughout the world, but he’s been known to give back right in his own backyard. Ed donates his time to several causes like the 1st Tee of Atlanta, Big Brothers and Big Sisters … and his annual series of holiday shows at the famed Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia. The long-running series raises money for charities in the Atlanta area.
Ed Roland’s been at this career for 21 years. It’s been a very cool start. He’s right in the middle of it, writing a songs, putting the finishing touches on a new album, and bringing crowds of old fans and new fanatics to their feet.
You might say … so far, so great.
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Aaron Lee Tasjan
East Nashville-based musician Aaron Lee Tasjan has always considered himself a songwriter first and foremost, writing his own off-kilter folk-inflected songs since he picked up his first acoustic as a teen guitar prodigy. “A lot of the stuff I did previously was never the main focal point,” Tasjan explains. “It’s all just been pieces along the way.” His soon to be released Silver Tears (New West Records – Oct. 2016) will offer a glimpse through the eyes of one gifted songwriter and versatile musician. Whether playing guitar in the late incarnation of riotous glam-rock innovators the New York Dolls, the gender-bending, envelope-pushing sleaze n’ tease arena rock band Semi Precious Weapons, the Neil Young-signed alt-country act Everest, British roots rock band Alberta Cross, Southern rock stalwarts Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ or even as frontman of the devilishly cleverly-named Heartbreakers meets Replacements rockers Madison Square Gardeners, offer a glimpse through the eyes of one gifted songwriter and versatile musician.
While those stints may have never been his main destination, each one has been a stepping stone that has uniquely informed his songwriting and made him a compelling, singular artist. Tasjan’s songs, as first heard on his debut solo EP, 2014’s Crooked River Burning, are indebted to great American storytellers like John Prine, Tom Petty, Guy Clark, Steve Goodman, Arlo Guthrie and Todd Snider. They are imbued with wry wit, a sharp tongue and a lot of heart.
Last year’s self-released LP, In The Blazes, received accolades from American Songwriter, Rolling Stone, Nashville Scene and NPR and suggested Tasjan was an artist to keep an eye on. While that album hinted at Tasjan’s enormous potential, it’s his sophomore effort, his New West Records debut, Silver Tears, that best realizes his artistic ambitions and solidifies him as one of the most intriguing singer/songwriters to emerge in sometime. An inspired and confident set of songs, the 12-track album, which features a cover with Tasjan decked out in a reflective suit and Stetson, careens from woozy pot paeans to brooding, cinematic observations to laid back ‘70s country-rock and galloping anthems to introspective folk and rollicking honky-tonk. “I might have made something that will surprise people,” Tasjan admits. “I didn’t completely abandon the recipe, but I really stretched myself and pushed beyond what people might expect from me. Being true as a musician, I’m not just one thing – and a variety of styles is a way to accomplish that. “
As in the song “On Your Side,” which sees Tasjan warble, “I sing jokes/And call 'em songs/Nobody knows where they belong/I've come up short/For far too long/And what felt right/Now feels so wrong,” Tasjan often turns the mirror on himself, never afraid to cast himself in a negative light. “One of the reasons I’ve been able to connect with people is by being honest and saying this is a really realistic picture of who I am,” he says. “It’s not always the good but it’s me.”
"In the past, I've told stories that were mostly inspired by my own life," the former prizefighter and literal son of a preacher man offers. "This time, I've written 10 songs that express more universal truths, and I've done it with a purpose: to make people feel good."
Which explains numbers like the acoustic-electric charmer Don't Let Nobody Rob You Of Your Joy, where Thorn's warm peaches-and-molasses singing dispenses advice on avoiding the pitfalls of life. The title track borrows its tag from a familiar saying among the members of the African-American Baptist churches Thorn frequented in his childhood. "I'd ask, 'How you doin', sister?' And what I'd often hear back was, 'I'm too blessed to be stressed.'" In the hands of Thorn and his faithful band, who've been together 20 years, the tune applies its own funky balm, interlacing a percolating drum and keyboard rhythm with the slinky guitar lines beneath his playful banter.
Thorn's trademark humor is abundant throughout the album. I Backslide On Friday is a warm-spirited poke at personal foibles. "I promised myself not to write about me, but I did on 'Backslide,' " Thorn relates. The chipper pop tune is a confession about procrastination, sweetened by Bill Hinds' slide guitar and Thorn's gently arching melody. "But," Thorn protests, "I know I'm not the only one who says he's gonna diet and just eat Blue Bell vanilla ice cream on Sundays, and then ends up eating it every day!"
Mediocrity Is King takes a wider swipe, aiming at our culture's hyper-drive addiction to celebrity artifice and rampant consumerism. But likeEverything Is Gonna Be All Right, a rocking celebration of the simple joys of life, it's done with Thorn's unflagging belief in the inherent goodness of the human heart.
"I don't think I could have written anthemic songs like this if I hadn't made my last album," Thorn says of 2012's What the Hell is Goin' On?. Like 2010's autobiographical Pimps & Preachers, it was among its year's most played CDs on Americana radio and contributed to Thorn's rapidly growing fan base. And Thorn followed that airplay success with his current AAA-radio hit version of Doctor My Eyes from April 2014's Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne. The latter also features Grammy winners Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, the Indigo Girls, Lucinda Williams, Keb' Mo', Ben Harper and Don Henley.
What the Hell is Goin' On? was also Thorn's first set of songs written by other artists, borrowed from the catalogs of Allen Toussaint, Buddy and Julie Miller, and Rick Danko, among others.
"I lived with those songs and studied them before I recorded that album, and that changed me and made me grow as a songwriter," Thorn relates. "Lindsey Buckingham's Don't Let Me Down Again especially got me thinking. It was a rock anthem with a sing-along hook, and I fell in love with it and the idea of big vocal hooks. So every song on Too Blessed To Be Stressedhas a big vocal hook in it. And it works! We've been playing these songs in concert, and by the time the chorus comes along for the second time people are singing along. I've never seen that happen with my unreleased songs before, and I love it."
It helps that those big vocal hooks on Too Blessed To Be Stressed are being reinforced by the sound of Thorn's flexible and dynamic band, as they have been doing for years in concert. During their two decades in the club, theater and festival trenches, the four-piece and their frontman have garnered a reputation for shows that ricochet from humor to poignancy to knock-out rock 'n' roll. Guitarist Bill Hinds is the perfect, edgy foil for Thorn's warm, laconic salt o' the earth delivery – a veritable living library of glowing tones, sultry slide and sonic invention. Keyboardist Michael "Dr. Love" Graham displays a gift for melody that reinforces Thorn's hooks while creating his own impact, and helps expand the group's rhythmic force. Meanwhile drummer Jeffrey Perkins and bassist Ralph Friedrichsen are a force, propelling every tune with just the right amount of up-tempo power or deep-in-the-groove restraint.
"These guys really bring my songs to life," says Thorn. "A lot of albums sound like they're made by a singer with bored studio musicians. My albums sound they're played by a real blood-and-guts band because that's what we are. And when we get up on stage, people hear and see that."
Thorn's earlier catalog is cherished by his many fans thanks to his down-home perspective, vivid-yet-plainspoken language and colorful characters. It helps that Thorn is a colorful and distinctly Southern personality himself. He was raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, in the land of cotton and catfish. And churches.
"My father was a preacher, so I went with him to churches that white people attended and churches that black people attended," Thorn says. "The white people sang gospel like it was country music, and the black people sang it like it was rhythm and blues. But both black and white people attended my father's church, and that's how I learned to sing mixing those styles."
His performances were generally limited to the pews until sixth grade. "I'm dyslexic and got held back in sixth grade," Thorn relates. "I didn't have to face the embarrassment, because my family moved and I ended up in a new school. There was a talent show, and I sang Three Times a Lady by Lionel Ritchie with my acoustic guitar, and suddenly I went from being a social outcast to the most desired boy on the playground. The feeling I got from that adulation stuck with me and propelled me to where I am today."
At age 17 Thorn met songwriter Billy Maddox, who became his friend and mentor. It would take several detours – working in a furniture factory, boxing, jumping out of airplanes – until Thorn committed to the singer-songwriter's life. But through it all he and Maddox remained friends, and Maddox became Thorn's songwriting partner and co-producer.
Nonetheless, Thorn possessed the ability to charm audiences right from the start. Not only with his music, but also with the stories he tells from the stage. "Showmanship is a dying art that I learned from watching Dean Martin on TV when I was a kid," Thorn explains. "He could tell little jokes and then deliver a serious song, then make you laugh again. And he would look into the camera like he was looking right at you through the TV. That's what I want to do – make people feel like I'm talking directly to them."
That's really Thorn's mission for Too Blessed To Be Stressed, which can be heard as a running conversation about life between Thorn and listeners – a conversation leavened with gentles insights, small inspirations, and plenty of cheer. "I wrote these songs hoping they might put people in a positive mindset and encourage them to count their own blessings, like I count mine," Thorn observes. "There's no higher goal I could set for myself than to help other people find some happiness and gratitude in their lives."
The Sweet Tea Project (feat. Ed Roland of Collective Soul)
The Sweet Tea Project (feat. Ed Roland of Collective Soul)
The Sweet Tea Project (feat. Ed Roland of Collective Soul)
Named after the drink that is a cultural trademark of the band’s home region, The Sweet Tea Project began serendipitously when the veteran singer/songwriter and front man of the multi-platinum rock legends Collective Soul, began reconnecting with the rich club and coffeehouse scene in Atlanta. On random nights, he would invite some of these popular local musicians to his house to jam on tunes he had written that reached outside the stylistic jurisdiction of Collective Soul, including “Going to Birmingham,” one of the highlights from their debut album Devils ‘n Darlins that Roland penned on the ukulele.
Roland enjoyed the loose homespun atmosphere, especially the unexpected energy of co-writing new songs with some of these musician friends. Among the most frequent visitors as the casual Sweet Tea jams took shape were bassist Brian Bisky and Christopher Alan Yates (who also plays banjo and trumpet). The lineup of The Sweet Tea Project also includes guitarist Jesse Tripplet and drummer Mike Rizzi.
More than simply a magical, engaging one off project from Collective Soul, The Sweet Tea Project is evolving into a powerhouse recording and touring unit. Fans can look forward to a second album, Alder Lane Farm, slated for release in August 2017.
Following an award-winning collegiate and NFL career as a linebacker, Mike Reid decided he would rather play music than football for a living. He retired from the Cincinnati Bengals in 1974 and, in 1980, moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting.
Since 1983 when Mike Reid scored his first number one country hit with "Inside" by Ronnie Milsap, he has composed more than thirty top-ten country and pop hits. Twenty-one of those records have gone all the way to number one on the charts.
He has been the recipient of ASCAP's "Songwriter of the Year" award, and Milsap’s "Stranger In My House” earned a Grammy award. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.
Reid has had his songs recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler, Prince, George Michael, Kenny Chesney, Etta James, Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray, Wynonna Judd, Alabama, Joe Cocker, Tanya Tucker, Willie Nelson, Collin Raye, Leon Russell, Tim McGraw, and Adele. Among the songs that Mike has composed are "I Can't Make You Love Me" (Raitt, Michael, Adele, and Prince), "My Strongest Weakness” (Judd), "In This Life" (Raye and Midler), "Forever's As Far As I'll Go" (Alabama) and "Everywhere" (McGraw).
Craig Wiseman is one of country music’s most renowned songwriters. From his early days of writing and drumming in Hattiesburg, Mississippi to being crowned Country Songwriter of the Century by ASCAP, he has created for himself a monumental platform in the history of country music. As the writer of songs including Brooks and Dunn’s “Believe” to Blake Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here”, Wiseman has amassed over 300 cuts, 100 singles, and 26 #1’s.
After moving to Nashville in 1985 to pursue a career in songwriting, he received his first chart success after having co-written “The Only One” from Roy Orbison’s album, Mystery Girl. In 1990, Wiseman signed his first publishing deal. In 2003, Wiseman opened his own publishing company, and within the first year of the company’s operation, Wiseman experienced the first single of the catalog; “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw not only peaked at the top of the charts for ten weeks, but it also was named song of the year by NSAI, the CMA and the ACM and won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song.
After years of success, accomplishments and hard work, Wiseman was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in October 2015.
JAMES McMURTRY RELEASES COMPLICATED GAME,
HIS FIRST STUDIO ALBUM IN SIX YEARS
Celebrated tunesmith's highly anticipated record an elegant
collection “mostly about relationships” and “the big old world”
AUSTIN, Texas: James McMurtry spins stories with a poet’s pen (“Long Island Sound”) and a painter’s precision (“She Loves Me”). Proof: The acclaimed songwriter’s newComplicated Game. McMurtry’s first collection in six years spotlights a craftsman in absolutely peak form as he turns from political toward personal (“These Things I’ve Come to Know,” “You Got to Me”). “The lyrical theme is mostly about relationships,” McMurtry says. “It’s also a little about the big old world verses the poor little farmer or fisherman. I never make a conscious decision about what to write about.”
Complicated Game delivers McMurtry’s trademark story songs time and again (“Copper Canteen,” “Deaver’s Crossing”), but the record brings a new (and certainly no less energetic) sonic approach. First, recall blistering beats and gnashing guitars from his magnum opus Just Us Kids (2008). Now, unplug. “The label head wanted more acoustic,” McMurtry explains. “We built everything as we went so we ended up with more acoustic guitar as we went. We just played whatever sounded right for a given song, but we weren’t necessarily saying this is an acoustic record.”
Exhibit A: “How’m I Gonna Find You Now.” The record’s lead single boasts buoyant banjos and driving drums as endlessly energetic as anything electrified. Whiplash vocals further frenzy the beat. “I've got a cup of black coffee so I don't get lazy/I've got a rattle in the dashboard driving me crazy,” McMurtry effectively raps. “If I hit it with my fist, it’ll quit for a little while/Gonna have to stop to smoke in another mile/Headed into town gonna meet you at the mercantile/Take you to the Sonic get you grinning like a crocodile.”
Such vibrant vignettes consistently turn heads. They have for a quarter century now. Clearly, he’s only improving with time. “James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth and these days he's working at the top of his game,” says Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.” “James writes like he's lived a lifetime,” echoes iconic roots rocker John Mellencamp. Yes. Spin “South Dakota.” You’ll hear.
Further evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched Americana Music Award nominations. Meanwhile, Childish Things scored endless critical praise and spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, Childish Things won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year and “We Can’t Make It Here” was named the rapidly rising organization's Song of the Year.
Of course, Complicated Game doubles down on literate storytelling longtime enthusiasts expect. Recall high watermarks past: “Childish Things,” “Choctaw Bingo,” “Peter Pan,” “Levelland,” and “Out Here in the Middle” only begin the list. (Yes, Robert Earl Keen covered those last two, “Levelland” remaining a live staple.) Just Us Kidsalone includes fan favorites “Hurricane Party,” “Ruby and Carlos” and “You’d a Thought.” High watermarks deliver equal measures depth and breadth and pierce hearts with sharp sociopolitical commentary (“Fireline Road”).
More history: McMurtry critically lauded first album Too Long in the Wasteland (1989) was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill Records. In 1996, McMurtry received a Grammy nomination for Long Form Music Video for Where'd You Hide the Body. Additionally, It Had to Happen (1997) received the American Indie Award for Best Americana Album.
In 2004, McMurtry released the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three on Compadre Records. The following year, Childish Things notched arguably his most critical praise, spending six weeks at No. 1 on the Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005 and 2006. In September 2006, Childish Things and “We Can’t Make It Here” won the Americana Music Awards for Album and Song of the Year, respectively. McMurtry received more Americana Music Award nominations for 2008’s Just Us Kids. This album marked his highest Billboard 200 chart position in more than nearly two decades.
In 2009, Live in Europe was released, capturing the McMurtry band’s first European tour and extraordinary live set. Along with seasoned band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess, and Tim Holt, the disc features special guests Ian McLagan (The Faces) and Jon Dee Graham (True Believers, Skunks). Also, for the first time ever, video of the James McMurtry Band’s live performance is available on the included DVD.
The poignant lyrics of his immense catalog still ring true today. In 2011, “We Can’t Make It Here” was cited among The Nation’s “Best Protest Songs Ever.” “‘We Can’t Make It Here,’” Bob Lefsetz wrote, “has stood the test of time because of its unmitigated truth.”
McMurtry tours year round and consistently throws down unparalleled powerhouse performances. The Washington Post notes: “Much attention is paid to James McMurtry’s lyrics and rightfully so: He creates a novel’s worth of emotion and experience in four minutes of blisteringly stark couplets. What gets overlooked, however, is that he’s an accomplished rock guitar player ... serious stuff, imparted by a singularly serious band.”
I’m a singer-songwriter.
I think “Lovers and Leavers” comes closer to reflecting that than any other record I’ve made.
I didn’t worry about checking boxes, making sure there was something here for everybody, or getting on the radio.
I just took some much needed deep breaths and let them out on tape.
It’s been a while since my last album by some measurements of time. Not “history of the universe time”, or “getting a bill through congress time”, but in the lives of dogs and recording artists, five years and fifty-three days is only a little less than an eternity.
I went through a divorce. I fell in love.
Changes were made, realizations were realized, and life was lived.
But, I kept on writing songs, on my own and with a cast of accomplished characters who combined their own stories and perspectives with mine.
Songs about my friends.
Songs about my son.
Songs about beginnings and endings.
Songs about songs.
Songs about acceptance and regret.
Songs about lovers and leavers.
With these songs in hand, I needed a co-conspirator to help me get them to you.
I called on Joe Henry, a gentleman poet and an elegant artist who seemed a trustworthy steward for my collection.
We recorded this record live in five days, using just an acoustic guitar, a mix of bass, percussion, pianos and organs, and a touch of pedal steel.
I didn’t have one song that I knew would be a sing along or would make people dance. I felt vulnerable in a way that I hadn’t in a long time. But I got what I wanted - a record with space, nuance, and room to breathe. It felt right for my art. It felt right for my life.
“Lovers and Leavers” isn’t funny or raucous. There are very few hoots and almost no hollers.
But it is joyous, and it makes me smile.
No, it’s not my “Blood on the Tracks,” nor is it any kind of opus.
It’s my fifth record — a reflection of a specific time and place.
It is quiet, like I wanted it to be.
Like I wanted to be.
January 1, 2016
New studio album co-written with wounded combat veterans over the last four years via SongwritingWith:Soldiers.
Every single day, which means some days are better and some much worse.
Every day, on average, twenty-two veterans commit suicide.
That number does not include drug overdoses or car wrecks or any of the more inventive ways somebody might less obviously choose to die.
It seems trivial to suggest those lives might be saved — healed, even — by a song. By the process of writing a song.
And yet there is nothing trivial about Mary Gauthier's tenth album, Rifles & Rosary Beads (Thirty Tigers), all eleven songs co-written with and for wounded veterans. Eleven of the nearly four hundred songs that highly accomplished songwriters have co-written as part of the five-year-old SongwritingWith:Soldiers program.
Participants of the program have shared that the experience of songwriting was life changing for them, some even said life saving. Something about writing that song — telling that story — is healing. What program co-founder Smith calls post-traumatic-growth.
Gauthier's first nine albums presented extraordinary confessional songs, deeply personal, profoundly emotional pieces ranging from “I Drink,” a blunt accounting of addiction, to “March 11, 1962,” the day she was born — and relinquished to an orphanage — to “Worthy,” in which the singer finally understands she is deserving of love. Maybe that's where the confessional song cycle ends, for she has midwifed these eleven new songs in careful collaboration with other souls whose struggle is urgent, immediate, and palpable. And none are about her.
Each song on Rifles & Rosary Beads is a gut punch: deceptively simple and emotionally complex. From the opening “Soldiering On” (“What saves you in the battle/Can kill you at home”) to “Bullet Holes in the Sky” (“They thank me for my service/And wave their little flags/They genuflect on Sundays/And yes, they'd send us back”), while “Iraq” depicts the helpless horror of a female military mechanic being dehumanized and sexually harassed by fellow soldiers.
Darrell Scott, returning from one of Smith's first retreats, called and told Mary she needed to participate. “I felt unqualified,” she says. “I didn't know anything about the military, I was terrified of fucking it up. I didn't feel I knew how to be in the presence of that much trauma without being afraid. But Darrell knew I could do it. Turns out, I was able to sit with the veterans with a sense of calmness and help them articulate their suffering without fear. I was shocked by that. And I took to it.”
It has become a calling. “My job as a songwriter is to find that thing a soul needs to say,” Mary says. “Each retreat brings together a dozen or so soldiers and four songwriters, three songs each in two days. We don't have a choice. We have to stay focused, listen carefully, and make sure every veteran gets their own song. And we always do.”
“None of the veterans are artists. They don't write songs, they don't know that songs can be used to move trauma. Their understanding of song doesn't include that. For me it's been the whole damn deal. Songwriting saved me. It's what I think the best songs do, help articulate the ineffable, make the invisible visible, creating resonance, so that people, (including the songwriter) don’t feel alone.
The impact of these songs becomes visible quickly, unexpectedly.
Featured in the TV series “Nashville,” the Bluebird Cafe now prospers as a tourist destination. The room fills twice a night with people thrilled to be in the presence of real live Nashville songwriters.
Who, in turn, are thrilled to be in the presence of a paying audience that can do nothing to advance their careers, save give a genuine response to their songs.
The gentleman at the next table has handsome white hair and a hundred-dollar casual shirt, and almost certainly had no idea who Mary Gauthier was, nor what her songs might be about, when he came out of the sunlight into the darkened listening room. He knows, now. Thick, manicured fingers cover his face, trying to catch his slow tears. His wife sits close, watches carefully, but knows better than to touch him.
He is not alone in that small audience.
Every day we are touched by the veterans in our lives, whether we know it or not.
Every single day. Even if it's only the guy on Main Street, in the wheelchair, with the flag.
Every single day
And, yes, a song may be the answer.
“Because the results are so dramatic, this could work for other traumas,” Mary says. “Trauma is the epidemic. You say opioid, I say trauma epidemic. As an addict, I know addiction is self-medication because of suffering, and beneath that pain is always trauma. Underneath so much of the problems in the world is trauma, it's the central issue humanity is dealing with. We've found something powerful here, that brings hope to people who are hurting. So they are truly seen, and know they are not alone.”
“It’s nice to be alive,” Bob Schneider sings on Katie, the second song off of his new record “Blood and Bones”, his 6th since his 2001 solo debut Lonelyland. While this might sound like naivety or blind optimism, for Schneider, one of Austin’s most celebrated musicians, this observation was earned through experience. “Most of the songs are about this phase of my life,” he admits. “I’m re-married, I have a 2-year-old baby daughter who was born over two months premature because my wife had life threatening preeclampsia. So dealing with that traumatic event while getting older and looking at death in a realistic, matter of fact way, experiencing the most joy I’ve ever experienced along with feelings of utter despondency in a way that would have been impossible to experience earlier in my life all comes out in the songs. My relationship with my wife is the longest committed relationship I’ve ever been in, so there was a lot of unchartered territory there to write about.”
The songs on Blood and Bones reflect this. Recorded quickly with producer Dwight Baker, who has worked on Schneider’s last 6 releases, the album highlights the chemistry that Schneider and his backing band of Austin’s very best musicians have developed while relentlessly playing live, most notably at the monthly residency Schneider has held at Austin’s Saxon Pub for the last 17 years. “I didn't want to overthink the songs,” Schneider says. “I really respect Dwight’s ability to make great calls when it comes to what works and isn't working when we are recording the songs. I felt pretty good about the quality of the songwriting, so I figured that would come through in the end if we just went in and played them the way I do live.”
While the performance and production are stellar, the songwriting finds Schneider in a particularly reflective mode. Sure, there are live favorites like “Make Drugs Get Money” and “Texaco” that will get even the most reserved crowds dancing. But more often the album finds Schneider reflecting on marriage, parenthood and mortality. “I wish I could make you see how wonderful everything is most of the time, but I’m only blood and bones,” he sings on the title track, a meditation on the beauty and the limits of marriage. Later, on “Easy” he tells his daughter “it’s always been a scary thing to do, to let my heart fall down into the endless blue, but it’s easy with you.” Through it all, there is a clear sense of mortality, of just how fleeting all of this is. “The hours and days stack up in the mirror,” he sings on “Hours and Days”. “We’re just snowmen waiting for the summer” he signs on “Snowmen”, before adding “we can’t bring them back, can’t bring nothing back.”
One thing Schneider has excelled at in his career is bringing audiences back. Though he has received little national press or major label support, he has managed to become one of the biggest acts in Austin, if not Texas. His fans, who often discovered him after being brought to his shows by their friends, are fiercely loyal. Many have attended dozens or even hundreds of shows. Thanks to these fans, Schneider has won more Austin Music Awards than any other musician, including Best Songwriter, Best Musician, and Best Male Vocals.
In retrospect, it appears inevitable that Bob Schneider would become an artist. He was born in Michigan and raised in Germany, where his father pursued a career as a professional opera singer. As a boy, Schneider studied piano and guitar, often performing at family parties and backing his father on drums at nightclubs throughout his youth in Germany and Texas. He went on to study art- his other primary passion and avocation- at the University of Texas El Paso, before moving to Austin and establishing himself as a musician. He performs relentlessly, writes songs compulsively, writes poetry and regularly shows his visual art in galleries around Austin. With Blood and Bones, Schneider further cements his reputation as one of the most versatile, inventive and engaging songwriters working today.
The Secret Sisters
The Secret Sisters
The Secret Sisters
There are two ways of handling a dangerous, raging river: you can surrender and let it carry you away, or you can swim against the flow. For The Secret Sisters, there was a point after the release of their last record when they could have chosen to do neither – instead, sinking to the bottom as the weight of the world washed away their dreams. They went from touring with Bob Dylan to losing their label, purging their team, filing bankruptcy and almost permanently trading harmonies for housecleaning. But there’s a mythical pull to music that kept sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers moving forward, and they came out with a biting and beautiful third LP, produced by Brandi Carlile, You Don’t Own Me Anymore. Their first as New West signees, it’s a document of hardship and redemption, of pushing forward when it would be so much easier to drown in grief. And it’s a story about how passion and pure artistry can be the strongest sort of salvation – how art is left, like perfect grains of sand, when everything else has washed away.
“We are more proud of these songs than we have ever been,” says Laura. “Some of the songs are a little more cryptic, but some of them are very pointed and honest and direct. And we had to let those songs happen. We had to let ourselves be angry again, and bring up things we wanted to forget.”
It certainly would have been easier to just try and forget the past few years of The Secret Sisters’ life. After their second album, Put Your Needle Down, didn’t perform according to their label’s expectations – however unrealistic they were in this day and age – the duo was dropped, leaving them with barely enough money to stay on the road and keep making music. So they retreated home to Alabama, worn and weary from experiencing the devilish side of the industry first-hand, scraping together whatever they could while trying to embrace what seemed to be a future without music. But when Carlile – someone whom The Secret Sisters have admired for years and one of our truest talents – offered to produce their record, it made them think that a future was possible. Soon, a PledgeMusic campaign that completely exceeded their hopes and dreams made it fiscally so.
“It was a nightmare that every day seemed to worsen,” says Laura. “We went through things we literally never thought we would come out of. “Adds Lydia, “it had just gotten so bad, the only option was to file bankruptcy.”
Even once Carlile gave The Secret Sisters some renewed hope, things weren’t instantly easy: what they went through left huge, gaping wounds that needed to heal before they could pour themselves into songwriting. But when they did, everything changed. Laura and Lydia found themselves in a more creative and honest space than ever, with their experiences flowing and morphing into collective tales of triumph, rage and the indefatigable human spirit. The resulting songs of You Don’t Own Me Anymore are about life when everything you think defines you is stripped away: from “The Damage,” as gorgeous as it is haunting, that speaks directly to those that did them wrong, to the first single “Tennessee River Runs Low,” that imagines the willful flow of a powerful river. These are journeys as poetic as they are confessional, always anchored by the timeless, crystalline ring of Laura and Lydia’s voices in sweet unison.
“This record is deeply personal because of what we endured,” says Lydia. “But it’s important as a songwriter and artist to talk about the times things weren’t great. This is a hard business, and it’s not all roses and rainbows. What we came out with is more honest than ever, and we couldn’t help that a lot of it is about the darkness.”
In the beginning, before that darkness moved in, things were a little like rainbows and roses for the sisters, who rose quickly through the music universe. An open audition in Nashville in 2009 lead them to a major label deal and a debut record produced by T Bone Burnett and Dave Cobb, followed by a tour with Levon Helm and Ray LaMontagne, a feat for any artist, let alone two that had just gotten started. From there, they opened for the likes of Dylan, Willie Nelson and Paul Simon, appeared on numerous late night shows and released a second album with Burnett. But the tides turned quickly – things can change in an instant, both for the good, and the bad. And when the clouds started to lift, Carlile was there to help usher in the sunshine.
“Brandi, Phil, and Tim had never produced a record for anybody but themselves,” says Laura about their experience in the studio. “We are all artists, and we could include our opinions. I felt like everyone was an equal force in the room. It is often lost on producers that you actually have to go perform your song on a stage – it’s easy to get so caught up on the production that you don’t discuss how this all will translate – but Brandi innately understood that.” The end product finds the sisters taking their music to new places, with soulful, gospel grooves and stirring vocal deliveries that never seek perfection over power. From murder ballads to skewering roasts, it’s a guidebook for survival.
After all, sometimes you have to lose everything to get a renewed version in return. Like the Tennessee River they sing about, only after a drought does fresh, new water come rushing in. The same could be said for The Secret Sisters, who were scraped dry and put through hell, coming out with their finest record, You Don’t Own Me Anymore. “The only way we could have completely healed was to have written an entire record,” says Laura. “I think we were just in the wrong parts of the machine,” says her sister. “We feel like we have learned where not to be, and where to go.” And that’s to never let anyone or anything own them again.
"His words and voice hold down center stage with a craft so deeply in the artistic pocket that it obscures anything outside"
- No Depression
It's the truth behind what an artist does and the way they choose to do it that defines their art. And while the ways in which audiences get their music has changed, the reasons why a certain kind of artist makes music have remained the same. Call it an uncompromising commitment, an inspired motivation, or just the need to share with and connect to those who listen. For Jeff Black, it is his life's work that has driven him to build a career like few other singer/songwriters in the business. 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. Although flying below the radar as a performer himself, 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.
Levi Lowrey’s two-disc Roots and Branches is a majestic record. In the best of all possible worlds, it would be heard in an acoustically perfect concert hall by an audience that sits undistracted in the dark listening intently to its exquisitely sculpted lyrics, transcendent melodies and intricately woven instrumentation. But it’ll work just fine in your car stereo, too.
Lowrey is a former opening act for the Zac Brown Band and co-writer of the ZBB hits, “Colder Weather,” “The Wind” and “Day for the Dead.”
The Roots of the album’s title refers to 11 songs made famous in the late 1920s and early ‘30s by Lowrey’s great-great grandfather, fiddler Gid Tanner and members his celebrated band, the Skillet Lickers. During that era, Tanner eclipsed or stood shoulder-to-shoulder in popularity with the now legendary Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. In reviving these classics, Lowrey—a commanding fiddler and guitarist in his own right—is backed by the current edition of the Skillet Lickers, a self-regenerating assemblage of virtuosi that includes Phil Tanner, Russ Tanner, Fleet Stanley, Larry Nash and Joel Aderhold.
The Branches disc spotlights Lowrey’s astounding skills as a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, bandleader and producer. Of the 10 songs here, the Dacula, Georgia native wrote or co-wrote eight, each a cinematically luminous glimpse of adult life. “I try to make my lyrics as relatable as possible,” he says. “Obviously, I’m one man going through my own set of failures and successes, my own story. But the core of these emotions are experienced by everyone. I’m not afraid of being human.”
That humanity is forged and tempered in what one song calls “the side effects of living.” And, thus, we hear in Lowrey’s lyrics meditations on fate, regrets, guilt (both personal and cosmic), self-effacement, world-weariness, immortality, restlessness and the magnetic lure of home. If that sounds like too heavy an agenda for mere music, fear not—Lowrey leads us through these emotional rough spots with a savior’s touch.
In Lowrey’s universe, music and a sense of community are inseparable. He recalls his grandparents taking him to jam sessions every Friday night at the “Chicken House” on Gid Tanner’s farm. It was just that—a converted chicken house—in which local musicians gathered for joy, relief and companionship.
“That was the beginning of music,” he says. “Before you had records being sold and the commercialization of music, it was primarily a get-together. That was the reason for it. It always belonged in a community. I feel we’ve lost sight of that. Now it’s about record sales and touring and concerts and things of that nature. I don’t get quite as much fulfillment from that as I do sitting around on the front porch playing with a bunch of guys.”
In the sixth grade, Lowrey began taking classical violin lessons and soon moved on to playing fiddle music, taking in and assimilating all the instrumental techniques and flourishes he saw on display at the Chicken House. Even so, he stayed in the school orchestra throughout high school. In his sophomore year, he joined a rock band, playing lead guitar, and performing at fairs and clubs in Atlanta, Athens and the surrounding areas.
“We never really did anything big, never really got anywhere with it,” he says. “We just enjoyed it. It was some of the best times I ever had playing music.”
His next move was to join Sonia Leigh’s band as a fiddler. “All the while I was writing my own stuff,” he recalls, “coming up with my own voice and kind of figuring out what I had to say. About two years after I went with Sonia, I started playing out on my own and doing my own thing a lot more. I eventually decided to make music my full time profession. I was working construction at the time as a framer. So I quit my job and played just as much as I possibly could. I think one year—between my gigs and hers—we did over 285 shows. It was the only way we could make any money. You just kind of went up there and busted your ass, maybe for $25 bucks, especially in Athens. In some joints you got paid your bar tab.”
After touring with Leigh for years, Lowrey found himself playing on the same bill with Zac Brown at the Dixie Tavern in Marietta, Georgia. “Zac’s star was rising and he ended up forming a record label,” Lowrey says. “Sonia and I both signed to it on the same day. About then, Sonia and I went our separate ways. With my obligations as a recording artist, I couldn’t play with her fulltime. I hit the road with Zac and toured with him for several years. And I wrote a bunch of good songs with him. When the label folded, I went completely independent and put out My Crazy Head in 2015. Roots and Branches is my second independent release.”
It was while touring with Brown that Lowrey realized it was time to choose what he wanted to achieve with his music. He and Brown were sitting on the bus before a show “either in Greenville, South Carolina or Greensboro, North Carolina” when Brown asked the crucial question. “Zac said, ‘Do you want to be me—to follow this path that I’m on [to stardom]—or do you want to be Darrell Scott?’ Darrell Scott’s my heroin that he found something to say and a voice to say it with and the determination to control what he will and won’t do. And I chose then and still choose to this day ‘to be’ Darrell Scott.”
But he loved the songwriting that came from his time with Brown. “We were writing all the time,” he says. “Zac used to write almost every night. Everybody who was on that tour wrote a bunch of songs. We had a joke that the ones who could stay up the longest were the ones who got the songwriting credit. We all contributed so much.”
Being the heir to a distinguished musical dynasty hasn’t been all that intimidating, Lowrey says. “First of all, the family is not as well known as you’d think it is or it should be. The only time I feel pressure is when I get around people who know more about Gid Tanner than I do.” That happened earlier this year when Lowrey was invited to perform at the International Country Music Conference in Nashville. Made up of scholars and country music enthusiasts to whom the name “Gid Tanner” is magical, the conference welcomed Lowrey like a celebrity, rushing out afterward to buy his albums and ask for autographs and pictures. It was a display of affection and respect Darrell Scott might have envied.
As it turns out, Lowrey’s musical role model isn’t Gid Tanner, but rather his son, Gordon. “He passed away before I was born,” Lowrey says, “but I used to sit down and listen to old tapes of him playing fiddle for hours on end and try to copy everything he did. So the way I play ‘Down Yonder’ or ‘Listen To The Mocking Bird’ or ‘The Old Spinning Wheel’ or ‘Out Of My Bandage’—that’s all from Gordon. For my two cents, there was no better fiddle player in that family.”
I didn’t grow up singing or playing music. I’ve never had voice lessons, and it wasn’t until after college that I started teaching myself how to play guitar. So, if you’d told me then that I’d end up making a living as a singer-songwriter, I wouldn't have believed you. Even now, after the release of my fourth studio album, Dear Amanda, I can barely believe it.
Music has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. It’s taken me to parts of the world I would’ve never seen and connected me with people I would’ve never met. It’s given my life purpose. Without music, I may have never met the two greatest loves of my life, my wife, Amanda, and my daughter, Annabelle Rose Baker. However, at the same time, music almost tore my life apart.
I wish I could say that the road here was easy, but it wasn’t. In fact, there was a time when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever record another song, but as it turns out, the day that I decided to stop making music, was the day a new chapter in my music career began.
From 2010 through 2013, I spent over 200 days a year on the road touring. I was traveling all over the world, sharing the stage with amazing artists like John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Gavin DeGraw, Heart, Grace Potter, the Goo Goo Dolls, and more. By many standards, I was living the dream. What I couldn't see at the time though, was that every step forward in my career, was a step away from my family.
At home, waiting on me, was the life that I’d dreamed of, and I was missing it. First words were being spoken, first steps taken, and it was all passing me by like road signs on the highway. Sadly, the two people I was working hardest to protect, were the ones getting hurt the most.
Then one day I walked into an empty house and found my wife’s wedding ring on the kitchen table along with a note that read, “I will not be sorry for the choice YOU made.” Suddenly, success as a singer-songwriter didn’t seem nearly as important if it meant failing as a husband and as a father.
Thankfully, I made the choice to refocus on my family. I stopped recording and touring, and traded the stage lights for front porch lights.
So, you may be wondering, why in the world would I want to continue making music and risk the chance of driving down those same roads again? The answer is easy. One of the things my wife and I have realized is that few find what they are truly meant to do in this life. So, despite our struggles, I look at myself as one of the lucky ones, because I know that a big part of my purpose in this world is to write songs and to sing them. We just had to figure out how to make music as a family.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that you get what you give in this life. 4 years ago, I GOT a second chance, and everything that’s happened has GIVEN me this moment. My songs belong to every right turn and wrong turn that has led me here, and they are not only a message to my family, but a message to anyone who is battling for balance in their life.
Today, I am a better husband. I’m a better father, and hopefully, a better songwriter. Music may have tried to tear us apart, but graciously, it’s now helping bring us back together, and not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks for that old wood box with six strings.
Jesse Terry is a prolific, independent, New England based artist who left a writing gig at a Nashville publishing house to release his own albums and tour the world, frequently accompanied by his wife and their dog, Jackson Browne.
Inspired from a diverse pool of influences — from vintage Jeff Lynne-produced pop to the Roy Orbison of “In Dreams” to The Man Who-era Travis, his most recent album “Stargazer” (his fourth full length) has garnered rave press reviews, strong airplay and support from Starbucks and Amazon.
Ken Brown of Fatea Magazine wrote “There is a vast, sprawling musical landscape that is encompassed by his writing, and it's a landscape that is breathtaking in its vision and execution.“
Jesse’s next album “Natural” is a gorgeous acoustic record that will come out March 2018. The album includes special guests such as Dar Williams, Cary Ann Hearst from Shovels and Rope, Sarah Darling, Liz Longley, Kim Richey and others.
Airpark makes forward-thinking pop music.
Inspired by melody and groove-heavy percussion, Michael Ford, Jr. and Ben Ford debuted the duo in 2016. Their new musical approach was born after The Apache Relay, a six-piece band armed with a thick, wall-of-sound approach, quietly called it quits.
Airpark's latest EP release, Early Works, Volume 2, will be released on September 15, 2017. The release arrives six months after their debut, Early Works, Volume 1, which showcased the duo's ability to create evocative moments with the most minimal of instrumentation.
Airpark’s musical evolution targets the feet and the head. It's pop music for thinkers. It’s the sound of two brothers continuing to create art with little outside help, pairing their own ambition with musical chops to match.
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.
Alex Guthrie is an Atlanta-based soul singer, songwriter, and guitarist. His powerful, soulful voice and insightful lyrics have established him in the Southeast as a must-see artist. Combining influences from classic soul and rock, blues, and folk, Alex has a sound that bridges genres and connects, emotionally, to the music lover in everyone. After traveling much of the country in a beat-up, old camper van, playing for and with all that he met along the way, he’s found his calling in life: bringing people together with open arms, a smile, and a song.
Jemina & Selina
Jemina & Selina
Jemina & Selina
Jemina & Selina
Finnish sisters Jemina and Selina Sillanpää are performing at the 30A Songwriters Festival for the fourth time, singing and playing original songs and some traditional music with strong emotion and edge.
Soulful, energetic and lyrically rich, these sisters’ roots stem from the American folk, roots, gypsy and Finnish traditional music the two grew up around as children. Jemina and Selina are both strong singers with a 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 ́ 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 playing a number of sold-out shows and receiving great reviews.
Besides their music career, Selina has worked as a lecturer in several universities and Jemina has worked as an actress in film and theater in Finland. Last spring, they collaborated on a performance for the Finnish National Theatre with over a hundred performers which Jemina directed and Selina composed and arranged the music for.
Currently Jemina & Selina perform as a duo, trio and full band in Europe as well as in the States and are working on a new recording that will be released in 2018.
For more information on Jemina and Selina go to: https://www.facebook.com/Jemina-Selina-764617553657737/
For seasoned Americana artist Mary Bragg, her rawest, most personal album to date—Lucky Strike—appeared when she hadn’t even been planning to record a new album. After finding success writing for and with other artists (her co-written song “Easier Than Leaving” appeared on Michaela Anne’s recent release and was featured in Rolling Stone), Bragg had begun to consider devoting herself solely to songwriting.
Then, Lucky Strike co-producer Jim Reilley (of indie stalwarts The New Dylans) heard a few of Bragg’s songs and insisted that they be recorded. She agreed—but only if she could skip the fancy studios (and budgets). “Lucky Strike was recorded in a backyard barn studio, where the microphones are old, not expensive-vintage-old, just old. Where the pop filters have holes in them. Where the vocal booth is unfinished because real walls never got built. It’s where ‘recorded live’ is for real recorded live, and everything is exposed.”
The result is a stunning collection of songs that speaks to our common humanity with uncommon honesty.
Bragg was born and raised in Swainsboro, Georgia, a small town where family and church are primary pastimes. “As the youngest of four children, and with 21 first cousins on one side, there was not a lot of empty sonic space for me to fill. I grew up listening by default which made me a great observer, but it also made me hesitant to ask questions – out loud, at least.” It was in this context that Mary developed the ability to keenly study, describe and interpret her surroundings in ways that awaken powerful emotions.
“It took me a long time to actually give credence to my own ideas,” she explains. “Even in a loving family, you can tend to fall into habits. For me that was watching, listening and doing what I was told.” Bragg needed to step out of her beloved small town and tight-knit community to find her own space to grow, hone her songwriting craft on her own terms and discover the fullness of who she could become.
A trip to New York City would change her life. With their deep southern accents and matching neon t-shirts, her hometown youth group worked in the city’s soup kitchens. “I was fascinated by the chaos of the city, and for the first time, I was hungry to learn and explore. I knew I’d be back some day.”
Against this backdrop, Bragg’s latest record Lucky Strike was born. After college, she headed back to the big city to nourish her dream of launching her music career, but she was quickly dealt a big dose of humility. “There’s this feeling – no matter the dream – this desire to be seen, acknowledged; like you’re just waiting on that one thing that will get you to where you want to be,” Bragg explains about the title track of her latest album. She sings, “I’m counting on a lucky strike to pull me out from the back of the line, make it easier to climb the mountain, and put me up on top.”
“The song ‘Lucky Strike’ is bit of a sarcastic poke at hopefulness,” Bragg says. “Because it might feel like there’s just one thing holding you back, but it’s never that simple is it? And- it might even be your own subconscious hangups standing in the way.”
Themes around coming of age and leaving home for new beginnings run throughout the record. In “Comet,” co-written with Becky Warren, she sings of the intimate journey a young girl and her mother take moving through loss, sadness and uncertainty together. Bragg’s vocals soar while the lyrics probe the small and tender moments that connect us to one another.
“Wildfire,” co-written with Liz Longley, captures the desire to be consumed by an undeniable passion, to tap into the irrepressible need to experience a deep connection to another person. This drive to refuse to settle for less is propelled by an unforgettable chorus that insists, “There’s nothing like a wildfire, feeling you can’t put out, loving that you can’t turn down, I want a wildfire.”
With candor and subtlety, Bragg’s songs probe this common journey to discover our truest selves, outside of our families and communities in which we are raised. That’s how she approaches the craft of songwriting as well. “I truly believe that a good song will make people feel something — even prompt people to ask themselves questions that I ask myself when writing the song. I can tell stories most effectively when I shake off that resistance to honesty, because that’s when the songs best resonate with my audience.”
Since she made Nashville home in 2014, Bragg has become a staple in Music City’s songwriting circles. For Lucky Strike, she wrote with several rising stars in the Americana scene. In addition to Warren and Longley, she worked with Robby Hecht, Stephanie Lambring, Bruce Wallace, Liz Poston, and Vince Constantino.
Bragg brought together her long-time collaborators Rich Hinman (electric guitar, pedal steel) and Jimmy Sullivan (bass) for the new album, along with Bryan Owings (drums), Eric Fritsch (engineer) and Jim Reilley (co-producer).
Her previous studio recordings include Edge of This Town (2015), recorded in a West Oakland, CA studio after winning the Zoo Labs music residency contest, Tattoos & Bruises (2011), recorded in Manhattan in Norah Jones’s home studio and produced by Lee Alexander, and Sugar (2007), recorded in Brooklyn and produced by Darius Jones.
Winner of the 2017 MerleFest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, she has also been honored in such prestigious songwriting contests as Kerrville New Folk, Telluride Troubadour, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Wildflower! Festival, and the International Songwriting Competition.
Josh Osborne is a multi-platinum, GRAMMY Award winning songwriter based in Nashville, Tenn. who has notched 13 No.1s on the Country charts. Originally from Kentucky, Osborne moved to Nashville to hone his craft, earning his first No.1 with Kenny Chesney’s “Come Over” in 2012. Since the Platinum selling hit, Osborne has received countless cuts by Country’s hottest artists including Sam Hunt, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and more. In 2015, Osborne joined frequent collaborator Shane McAnally’s company, SMACKSongs, as a partner and songwriter. Osborne has been nominated for ten awards by the Academy of Country Music, American Country Awards, ASCAP, Country Music Association, Music Row and NARAS. Kacey Musgraves' “Merry Go Round,” written by Osborne, Shane McAnally and Musgraves, earned Osborne four nominations and won Song Of The Year at the 2013 Music Row Awards and Best Country Song at the 2014 GRAMMY Awards. Also in 2014 Josh was honored by having his name added to the prestigious Country Music Highway which runs through the state of Kentucky and near his hometown of Virgie. RIAA Certified Double Platinum No.1 hit, “Take Your Time,” recorded by Hunt and written by Osborne, McAnally and Hunt, earned Osborne a nomination for Song of the Year at the 2015 CMA Awards and an award for 2015 ASCAP Songwriter of the Year. In 2017, Miranda Lambert’s “Vice,” written by Osborne, McAnally and Lambert, was nominated for Best Country Song at the 2017 GRAMMY Awards and Song of the Year at the ACM Awards. Osborne has been nominated twice for Songwriter of the Year by the ACM and has received multiple CMA Triple Play Awards for having three No.1 songs on the charts in a 12 month period. Osborne is currently enjoying the success of fastest selling song to date with Sam Hunt’s release of “Body Like A Back Road.” The smash hit, written by Osborne, McAnally, Zach Crowell and Hunt is RIAA Certified Triple Platinum and has held steady at the No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for 33 weeks and counting - making it the longest reigning Country song in the chart’s history.
Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Jaren Johnston has always been surrounded by music. He got his start playing drums at a very young age, and when he was 13, his dad bought him his first guitar. Influenced by diverse artists such as Nirvana, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Tom Petty, Johnston began to explore the craft of writing songs in his teens and is now lucky enough to call it a career.
Jaren celebrated his first number one with “You Gonna Fly”, recorded by Keith Urban, and has had other 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."
In addition to being the primary writer and lead-singer for his band The Cadillac Three, which tours more than 200 days out of the year, Jaren is a dedicated and diverse songwriter with singles and album cuts in the rock, pop, and country genres.
Mark Irwin co-wrote Alan Jackson’s first number one hit “Here In The Real World”, two time CMA Song of the Year nominee and winner of the Music City News’ Award for Song of the Year 1990.
As well as having songs on Alan Jackson’s recent CD “DRIVE” and Garth Brooks’ “THE LOST SESSIONS”, Mark co-wrote the singles, “Bama Breeze” for Jimmy Buffet and That’s How They Do It In Dixie” for Hank Williams Jr.
Recently, Mark co-wrote the Tyler Farr number one single “Redneck Crazy” and the Tim McGraw number one hit song “Highway Don’t Care”, featuring Taylor Swift on guest vocals and Keith Urban on guitar.
Mark also co-wrote Tim McGraw’s recent single “Looking For That Girl”, Blake Shelton’s number one hit single, “Neon Light” and Chris Janson’s “Power of Positive Drinking”
Mark also had songs recorded by Randy Travis, Martina McBride, George Jones, Faith Hill, Lee Brice, Thomas Rhett, Bomshel, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jessie James, Tracey Lawrence, Sammy Kershaw, Chely Wright, Patty Loveless, Highway 101, The Whites, Chris LeDoux, Bucky Covington, Glen Campbell, Neal McCoy and The Dirt Drifters
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow also recorded one of Mark’s songs for her movie “Country Strong”
Currently Mark has the song “Bet You Still Think About Me” on Blake Shelton’s CD “If I’m Honest”
Originally from Jackson, Tennessee, Jonathan Singleton’s gritty guitars and blues-saturated vocals draw heavily from his Western Tennessee roots, while the stories and lyrical craft are pure Music City. Singleton drove to Nashville every chance he could during college to write and network and eventually landed a publishing deal. He made the move to Music City and in 2009, founded a band called Jonathan Singleton & the Grove in which he sang lead vocals. They signed to Universal South Records in March 2009.
As a songwriter, Jonathan has written hits such as “Watching Airplanes” by Gary Allan, “Red Light” and “Let It Rain” by David Nail, “Why Don’t We Just Dance” by Josh Turner, and “Don’t” by Billy Currington. More recent singles include the #1 hit “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” by Tyler Farr, the top 5 Grammy-nominated hit “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” by Tim McGraw, and the latest #1 smash, “Yours If You Want It” by Rascal Flatts. Other cuts include songs by Blake Shelton, Darius Rucker, Chris Young, Little Big Town, Ronnie Dunn and more. His latest independent album The Getaway can be found on iTunes.
Naperville, Illinois native Matt Dragstrem moved to Nashville with dreams to pursue a career as an artist. He attended Belmont University; however, during his attendance, he realized that songwriting was instead the direction in which he wanted to take his talents, and at the end of 2013, he signed his first publishing deal with Big Loud Shirt.
Prior to being signed, his song “Typical” by Amy Stroup was featured on ABC’s Pretty Little Liars. However, his talents continued to blossom, and in early 2014, only months after having been signed, his first major cut came with Kenny Chesney’s track, “Rock Bottom”. The following year, he achieved his first #1 single, “Sippin’ On Fire”, by Florida Georgia Line, and in 2016, Justin Moore’s “You Look Like I Need A Drink” topped the charts. He has also had cuts by various artists including Jake Owen, Blake Shelton, and Tim McGraw.
When asked his influences, Dragstrem stated that artists who inspire him include Billy Joel, Nirvana, Justin Timberlake and Drake. Additionally, Max Martin, Stargate, Pharrell Williams, and Craig Wiseman have been instrumental to him in regards to songwriting.
Dragstrem continues to develop at an exponential pace and sets no boundaries or genre for his creativity.
Loving music from an early age, Jacob Davis learned how to play guitar at 15-years old and began performing publicly while he was in college. Upon graduation from LSU with a degree in environmental science, the Shreveport, Louisiana native spent a year working before realizing that his true calling was music. Soon after, he made the move to Nashville. In May of 2016, Davis signed a deal with Black River Publishing. One month later, Black River Entertainment surprised him during a private event by offering him a record deal and welcomed Davis as a Black River Entertainment recording artist.
Having already shared the stage with artists including Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, Sam Hunt, Billy Currington and Kelsea Ballerini, fans have had a taste of the forthcoming album on Black River Entertainment.
Austin Jenckes was born & raised outside of Seattle in the small town of Duvall Washington.
He relocated to Nashville, Tn. in January 2012 & now calls Nashville home with his wife Brittany & their one year old daughter Ravenna where they live on a quiet 2 acres of land on the outskirts of town.
To hear Austin sing could be equated to being taken to church, his songs are laced with dynamic soaring melodies, introspective life lived lyrics & stylistically his music makes you long for a simpler time when the world moved a little slower & things felt a bit more pure.
He is a man made for the stage. Whether he’s sitting on a bar stool in the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Ga. performing for 1000 people by himself or back in the Northwest playing with a full band his shows are captivating, inspired & leave those that know him feeling like they are witnessing one of the true under the radar talents in the country & those that are hearing him for the first time struck by the thought of “who the hell is this guy”?
Dead Rock West
Dead Rock West
Dead Rock West
Dead Rock West
“These are difficult days and we need more and more love,” says Frank Lee Drennen, songwriter, guitarist, and singer with Cindy Wasserman in the band Dead Rock West.
More Love, the pair's fourth album and first for Omnivore Recordings, was made under the California sun with producer John Doe and a studio full of special guests, yet Frank and Cindy's wraparound vocals remain the focal point over the course of its12 heartstrong songs.
“Frank played me the song 'More Love,' and I was so blown away, I thought, that's it!” says Cindy. “It became the inspiration for the harmonies and the song ideas for the entire record.”
The album was recorded, mixed, and mastered in LA by Grammy-winner Dave Way, with David J. Carpenter on bass, D.J. Bonebrake on drums, multi-instrumentalist Geoff Pearlman, keyboardist Phil Parlapiano, special guests Elliot Easton and Greg Leisz on guitars, and Mike Bolger on horns.
“This was a group effort; band, singers, engineer, producer all equal, all working toward a common, honest goal,” says Doe. “All of us in a room making real music, from the heart, from intuition, from aching and wanting, from beauty and the desert.”
From the opening love-affirming title song and throughout its passionate performances (including a surprising country-soul finale, Sam Cooke's “Bring It On Home To Me”), love is the tie that binds, though Frank counters, “For me, it's totally a non-concept album.” But whether it's their honeyed voices rubbing against the hard won guitar strums as on “Boundless Fearless Love,” or the whispers between lines of “Radio Silence,” the duo have an undeniably entwined singing style. Locked in, like all great vocal duos, their sound was characterized by the Los Angeles Times as “bent notes in tandem, musically summoning a flawless union.” (July 17, 2015)
“They are a modern day Gram and Emmylou singing songs that Otis and Carla would sing,” says Doe. "Somehow Cindy and Frank connect the dots between ’70s country and ’60s soul music."
The jingle jangle of the Byrds and the lyrical economy of Buddy Holly, Merle Haggard and Lou Reed inform Frank's writing style while Cindy loves American classics, from anonymous down home singers to the more sophisticated song styles of Smokey Robinson and vocal teams like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. When paired with Doe and their family of collaborators, the result is positively transcendent and soul-stirring rock magic– the golden harmonies, the unbroken melodies that sound like love in action and that could only have been made in California.
Frank and Cindy's shared love of country, rock, and soul singing and songwriting has only grown deeper through their ongoing collaborations with three California songmen: Doe (of X, the Knitters, and the John Doe Band) Dave Alvin (of the Blasters and the Guilty Men and Women) and Peter Case (formerly of the Nerves and the Plimsouls and producer/arranger of Dead Rock West's second album, Bright Morning Stars).
“We call them the Holy Trinity,” says Cindy who sings on the road and in the studio with Doe, while Frank claims an early enounter with Case guided him toward finding his own spiritual style of secular songwriting.
“Peter's songs embraced regular people in common circumstances, yet they were personal, heartfelt, and deeply spiritul,” says Frank.
"Each one of them hits a spot where it's so exciting,” says Cindy. “They're all so different but the thread that connects them is they are amazing writers, such wordsmiths, and that they came from punk rock and turned that energy into incredible artistry.” Call them mentors or big brothers, “That they've taken us as their own is like a dream," says Cindy.
The dream started for Frank and Cindy on the Southern California club scene. Debuting in 2007 with the independent Honey and Salt, they followed with the aforementioned California spirituals collection, Bright Morning Stars, then received critical raves for 2015's It's Everly Time!, an homage to pioneering rock vocalists and songwriters, the Everly Brothers.
With More Love, Dead Rock West returns to original music with an indie/Americana bent. Pulling the songs together with a method he borrowed from songwriting legend, Guy Clark, Frank says, “I don't care how many years it takes me, I just wait until I have ten songs I want to put on a record.” As they developed the repertoire, “Cindy and I deconstructed the songs,” he explains. Switching roles as written in the verses and choruses, “There's something about that dynamic that allows for a deeper contrast than when you hear the traditional male/female parts sung," says Frank.
The added dimensions of road and recording experience contributed to the making of More Love as did an appreciation of the brevity and preciousness of life itself. Between records, both band members lost close family members – Frank's mother Nelda Gunn-Drennen and Cindy's brother, Rob Wasserman, the noted bassist. Music became a lifeline during the grieving spell.
”I just wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for Rob, honestly I wouldn't,” says Cindy whose brother introduced her to his collaborators like Lou Reed, Brian Wilson, and Stéphane Grappelli (who played with guitarist, Django Reinhardt). All these encounters made their imprints on Dead Rock West's own commitment to excellence, and to love, at all costs.
"More Love is heart and soul from two deeply original singers and songwriters,” says Doe, a true believer who's been witness to Dead Rock West's process as it continues to unfold.
“As Willie Dixon said to me when I was blessed to meet him some years ago,” says Cindy. “Happy or sad songs, they are all about love--more love.”
If you think Wonder Woman is a badass, you’ll definitely want to meet Sarah Peacock. 1.2 million miles, 2,800 shows, and fourteen years of nonstop crushing it while flying solo is one heck of a road trip. Sarah bridges gaps between Country, Blues, Americana, and Rock-N-Roll. Her music is raw and truth telling, sometimes with kindness, sometimes with a dark side, but always fiercely unique. Essentially, at all times, Peacock is victoriously defeating the forces of evil with glorious Amazonian strength, passion, and determination.
Held hostage by a record label at 21, the troubadour life came with a rude awakening for the young Georgia native. Peacock made her home in a ‘92 Volvo with her dog and a guitar, and for nearly seven years earned a living in the corner shadows of American dive bars.
In 2017, she signed with In Tune Entertainment and American Roots Records. Peacock is sponsored by Taylor Guitars, Fender, 1964 Audio, Strymon, and Mississippi Cold Drip Coffee. Her upcoming EP, “Hot Sheet Motel,” is a collection of 5 songs that reveal the secrets of one woman’s journey through the shadows.
When she’s off the road, Peacock is active in the anti-bullying and animal rescue communities. She helped start a rock school for kids and recently formed her own 501(c)3, The Band Waggin,’ benefiting animal health and rescue programs.
Alternative singer-songwriter Matt Hires will release American Wilderness (Rock Ridge Music), his third, full-length album on October 14th. At 30-years-old, Hires finds himself at a crossroads contemplating life, growth, faith, culture and his own place in the world. In search of a new beginning, Hires takes an artistic and introspective look into his journey thus far and the road ahead, while unveiling a deeply personal, self-revealing set of songs.
Hires recent path began with the crucial decision to move from his home base in Tampa, FL to Nashville, TN. It was there, in Music City, where he quickly linked up with like-minded creatives who inspired him to set aside pre-conceived notions of who he was as an artist and tap into his own instincts and intuition. Setting his writing into overdrive, Hires unexpectedly found himself questioning many of life’s uncertainties, the noise and commotion of modern culture and society, and his upbringing in the church. In the process of self-analysis and looking at all that led him to this point, Hires discovered his new ‘voice’, driven by personal conviction and an unwavering honesty.
On songs such as, “Fighting A Ghost,” Hires asks if everything ‘we’ are fighting for in life is worth it. Dropping personal illusions from his past, he sings “Holy War,” a battle with himself about the foundation of his religious upbringing. Searching for strength, he calls for a revival with “Glory Bound” and continues on to discover more about the universal and individual pursuit of the American dream in “The Wilderness.” Closing out the compelling, 10-song collection, “Don’t Let Your Heart Grow Cold,” is a hopeful message of new beginnings.
American Wilderness was recorded in Nashville and produced by Randall Kent. The album is the follow up to two previous, major label releases including This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend and Take Us To The Start, which hit the Top 10 on iTunes’ overall Top Albums chart. Hires songs have been heard in TV series; Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Cougar Town and more. Look for an upcoming tour announcement to come this fall.
David Robert King
David Robert King
David Robert King
While trading songs at a songwriter gathering in Nashville, TN, Idaho native and school teacher David Robert King's boneyard truth telling, worn and vulnerable voice, and magnetic melodies were overheard by legendary singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier who told King "I have a feeling we will get together someday." This speculation led to King and Gauthier gracing stages throughout North America. David has also shared the stage with Josh Ritter, The Mark O'Connor Band, Tim O'Brien, Loudon Wainwright III, Darrell Scott, and Over The Rhine, and has collaborated with Emily Saliers of The Indigo Girls and Jonatha Brooke.
King's dark, sometimes humorous songs, are unapologetically personal while grounded in the arid soil of his native Idaho. His songs reverberate with the sting of the high desert and the hidden power of the Snake River. This combination led to a top 40 song on folk and roots radio, wide critical acclaim, and featured spots at the legendary Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, TN, The Targhee Bluegrass Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, and Strawberry Music Festival. He is currently recording a new album with producer Darryl Neudorf (Neko Case, Sarah McLachlan, Blue Rodeo) due out in early 2018.
In the tightknit musical community of Austin, Texas, it’s tough to get away with posturing. You either bring it, or you don’t.
If you do, word gets around. Praises are sung. And one day, you find yourself duetting with Bonnie Raitt, or standing onstage with the Allman Brothers at New York’s Beacon Theater and trading verses with Susan Tedeschi. You might even wind up getting nominated for a Best Blues Album Grammy — three times in a row. And those nominations would be in addition to your seven Blues Music Awards, three Austin Music Awards, the Grand Prix du Disque award from the Académie Charles-Cros in France, and a Living Blues Critics’ Award for Female Blues Artist of the Year.
There’s only one Austinite with that résumé: Ruthie Foster. And with the release of her latest album, Joy Comes Back, the Recording Academy might want to put its engraver on notice. Because every note on it confirms this truth: It’s Ruthie’s time.
The small rural town of Gause, TX had no chance of keeping the vocal powerhouse known as Ruthie Foster to itself. Described by Rolling Stone as “pure magic to watch and hear,” her vocal talent was elevated in worship services at her community church. Drawing influence from legendary acts like Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin, Ruthie developed a unique sound unable to be contained within a single genre. That uniqueness echoes a common theme in Foster’s life and career - marching to the beat of her own drum.
Joining the Navy was one way for Ruthie to stake out her own path. It was during her time singing for the Navy band Pride that her love for performing became apparent. After leaving the service, Ruthie signed a development deal with Atlantic Records and moved to New York City to pursue a career as a professional musician.
A deal with a major label would seem to be a dream come true for a budding artist. But the label wanted Ruthie to hand over her authenticity in exchange for being molded into a pop star. In another bold move, she walked away from the deal and returned to her roots, moving back to the Lone Star State.
Returning to Texas, Ruthie solidified her place as an up-and-coming singer/songwriter and began a musical partnership with Blue Corn Music. Her studio albums for the label began with Runaway Soul in 2002, followed by The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster in 2007, The Truth According to Ruthie Foster in 2009, Let It Burn in 2012 and Promise of a Brand New Day in 2014. Her live shows, which she has referred to as a “hallelujah time,” have been documented on the album Stages in 2004 and the CD/DVD release Live at Antone’s in 2011.
Now comes Ruthie’s latest - Joy Comes Back - again on Blue Corn Music. When she recorded this album, Foster wasn’t merely singing about love and loss; she was splitting a household and custody of her 5-year-old daughter. Music was her therapy.
In the warm confines of Austin producer and former neighbor Daniel Barrett’s studio, she found a comfort level she’d never before experienced while recording. It gave her the strength to pour the heartache of her family’s fracture and the cautious hope of a new love into 10 incredible tracks, nine of which are by a diverse array of writers ranging from Mississippi John Hurt, Sean Staples and Grace Pettis (daughter of renowned folk singer Pierce Pettis), to Chris Stapleton and Black Sabbath. Yes, Black Sabbath: Foster reimagines “War Pigs” as a jam session with Son House. She also covers the Four Tops’ “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever,” written by Ivy Jo Hunter and Stevie Wonder.
And she makes each one hers, aided by some special guests. Derek Trucks drops slide guitar into the title tune; bassist Willie Weeks (Bowie, Clapton, George Harrison) plays on the Foster-penned “Open Sky”; and drumming legend Joe Vitale (Crosby, Stills & Nash; Eagles) appears on several tracks. Local hero Warren Hood (“Champ Hood’s boy,” as Foster calls him) lays fiddle and mandolin on Hurt’s bluegrass-tinted “Richland Woman Blues.” Barrett plays guitars, drums and percussion; other contributors include the core members of Ruthie’s touring band, Samantha Banks and Larry Fulcher.
At one point, Barrett described the album to Hood as “some blues, some folk, some soul, some rock, some gospel.” Hood replied, “Sounds like Ruthie Foster music.”
Collaborating across multiple genres ranging from Roots-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.
Tommy Talton/ “Somewhere South of Eden”
Tommy Talton is a familiar name to many music aficionados, especially fans of Southern rock. Talton figured heavily into that part of music history co-founding the band “Cowboy” who was signed by Capricorn Records. Seems they were discovered by none other than old friend Duane Allman, who, as legend has it, banged on their door at 7 a.m. one morning and asked to hear some new songs. It's clear that 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! On this latest collection, Tommy has gathered together some great musicians, both old and new friends, to help bring to life these songs that have in his words, been “pulled from the sky as they were floating by.” Lots of musical territory is covered in these 11 cuts, from Latin- flavored instrumental “Poblano,” to Bluegrass-funky “Don't Go Away Sore,” through the novelette title track “Somewhere South of Eden.”
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, jazz, 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, fiddle, 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, Sonny James, Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Rosanne Cash, and Rodney Crowell, and has written / co-written songs recorded by Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam, Kenny Rogers, Pegi Young, Lee Greenwood, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, to name a few. 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.
Sugarcane Jane newest studio album, Ladders and Edges – an album they conceived with the legendary Colin Linden, Canadian musician, songwriter and record producer, musical director of Nashville, and member of the group Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. The album is being released via Crawford's Admiral Bean Records on May 26, 2017. Recorded at Anthony Crawford's own Admiral Bean Studio, in Loxley, Alabama, this cave man groove, thought provoking album delves into present times with positive messages and insight.
“This album has been a long time coming. These are all our own songs and really give more insight as to who we are and what we believe in. Family is everything to us and we are trying to give our kids some guidance and advice in a song, without having to necessarily tell them everything,” says Anthony. “These songs go deeper than some of our previous albums. We really just laid our hearts out on our sleeves.”
Savana Lee -
Savana was raised along Alabama's Gulf Coast and although she's ventured off at times (New Orleans, Nashville), the coast is her home.
In Music City Savana began her Nashville recordings; six songs titled Untamed produced by Loretta Lynn's sound engineer, Tim Townsend. The songs were never officially released but Townsend was so impressed that he made sure everyone in his circle knew who she was, the girl with the golden tone.
While living in Nashville, she spent time writing and performing at the world renowned Bluebird Cafe, Broken Spoke, and Douglas Corner. Savana's dreams of being an artist were temporarily sidetracked while co-owning and managing a well-respected vintage analog studio in Nashville, TN: Deepfield Studio.
Deepfield Studio recorded many major label artists, including Lucinda Williams whose work there was nominated for a Grammy (Hank Williams Tribute Album ‘Cold Cold Heart’), Rodney Crowell, Bruce Cockburn You’ve Never Seen Everything, Emmylou Harris, Terri Clark, Lee Anne Womack, Jack Ingram, Keb Mo, Colin Linden Big Mouth, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, and most importantly, Anthony Crawford.
Savana met Anthony while he was recording his own tracks at Deepfield Studio. He recruited her to sing a few demos for him and they began an everlasting friendship and brotherhood. "I was an immediate fan of Anthony's writing and musicianship. I fell in love with him as an artist and then as a human being. He is an amazing person and my soul mate." Creating harmonies typically heard only from siblings the two decided to record their first album together, Redbird.
The music, as well as family and a budding romance led them back home to the Gulf Coast forming the popular band, Sugarcane Jane. While making frequent stops at Cathe Steele's Blue Moon Farm (The Frog Pond), the couple was placed in a round that would once again change their direction. Will Kimbrough, Grayson Capps, Corky Hughes, and Sugarcane Jane. It has molded into what is now known as Willie Sugarcapps, a band who's debut album won Americana Album of the Year (IMA's-2013). Willie Sugarcapps' sophmore effort, Paradise Right Here was released in April 2016. Visit www.williesugarcapps.com for more info.
Anthony Crawford -
Anthony Crawford, born in Birmingham, Alabama, has thrived in the music business working alongside Neil Young, Steve Winwood, and Dwight Yoakam as well as carving out his own solo career, a duo with wife Savana Lee in Sugarcane Jane, and in Americana supergroup Willie Sugarcapps. He currently juggles a multitude of creative outlets including his own recording studio in Loxley, Alabama, Admiral Bean Studio, producing many national acts as well as creating an independent record label, Baldwin County Public Records, with music connoisseur, Jeffrey Zimmer.
"Anthony Crawford is a very talented guitar player, which, when combined with his soaring vocals, makes him someone to watch. He has the ability to turn his hand to almost any instrument and make it sound good."
~ Steve Winwood
He's had the kind of career that most artists only dream about. The Forrest Gump of the music business is what is often joked about in the Crawford house. From the age of 18 after graduating high school in Birmingham, Alabama Anthony went from Opryland to the Grand Ole Opry w/Roy Acuff, to being on tour with Sonny James, Neil Young, then Steve Winwood, Vince Gill, and Dwight Yoakam. He's had appearances on Hee Haw, Austin City Limits, Live Aid, Farm Aid, Showtime, the Late Show with David Letterman, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Today Show, Grammy Awards Show, made music videos (Wonderin-Neil Young, Gone-Dwight Yoakam as well as his solo videos), been in movies (Heart of Gold-Neil Young, Neil Young Trunk Show-Neil Young, Blackhawk DVD). He's played on stage with Paul McCartney with Neil Young at Hyde Park. He's taken cover photos on albums like Neil Young's Chrome Dreams II and Pegi Young's Foul Deeds.
The last decade has been an intricate part of Anthony's ultimate direction. After marrying musical partner Savana Lee and settling down in the rural southern Alabama town of Loxley, and having three children, Anthony is well planted in fertile soil. His focus now lies in his family which led him to create Admiral Bean Studio. It is what now drives him as well as enables him to spend more time at home while continuing to explore all creative avenues.
The Mulligan Brohers
August 26, 2016
Listening to Liz Longley is like diving into a vivid dream, moody and somehow both familiar and strange. At first, the dream belongs exclusively to Longley. But as she sings what she’s trying to know––her lovers, her place, herself––her fierce candor shatters any walls that may have separated us, and the dream we’re swimming in becomes more than just Longley’s. It becomes ours.
“I’ve found that people respond most to the songs I’ve been most open and honest in,” Longley says. “When I write, I want to put my own story in it and make sure others hear their own in it, too.”
That winning transformation of the personal into the universal plays brilliantly on Weightless, the highly anticipated follow-up to Longley’s eponymous 2015 Sugar Hill Records debut, which garnered praise from American Songwriter, Huffington Post, CMT Edge, and more.
Weightless luxuriates in bold, thick pop with rock-and-roll edges. Crunchy, percussive guitars cushion the defiant songbird melodies Longley uses to deliver her bittersweet punches that explore the complexities and even dysfunction of relationships rather than the fairytale. “I grew up listening to music of the 90s, and this record feels more like the Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette in me,” Longley says. “All those powerful chick singer-songwriters I grew up loving.”
The Pennsylvania native attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music and gained her first national traction in television, which recognized her ability to frame a scene early. Longley’s “This is Not the End” was featured in the 2012 season finale of Lifetime’s Army Wives, while “Rescue My Heart”––re-recorded for Weightless ––made its way onto ABC’s Switched at Birth and MTV’s Scream: The TV Series. A growing audience noticed and began following Longley’s career, craving more.
Weightless delivers the more everyone has been waiting for. Longley recorded the 10-song collection in Nashville with Bill Reynolds, the bassist and producer of Band of Horses as well as acclaimed projects from the Avett Brothers, Lissie, and others. Reynolds and Longley took their time in the studio, stretching the process out over three months. “It was such an amazing feeling to work with someone who was so invested in the record,” Longley says of Reynolds’ production. “Bill encouraged the exploration of different sounds and approaches until each song found its way. We never settled. Making this record was a creative process. It wasn’t made overnight.”
While the new album’s triumphant embrace of lush pop-rock marks a musical evolution for Longley, the starkly personal lyrics and clear vignettes that have defined her songwriting to date remain. “The songs I am drawn to singing every night are the ones that carry the most truth, the ones that I relate to no matter where I am in my life,” she explains. “This record is made up of those kinds of songs.”
“What’s the Matter” saunters into dicey relationship questions with confidence, crackling with electric guitar and vocals that are somehow angelic and menacing at the same time. “It’s just a matter of time till what’s the matter with me is what’s the matter with you,” Longley cries, pointing to the challenges of perspective and timing that arise even––or maybe especially––when partners are in sync. “I’m usually inspired by the darker moments,” she says with a laugh. “It’s something I can’t seem to get away from.”
Longley is exceptionally good at describing feelings and situations in new ways that only enhance our understanding. Songs “Weightless” and “Swing” capture two distinct yearnings for freedom. Longley wrote “Weightless” in her head while driving around in LA, longing to cut ties with a love that had soured. “I’d just gotten out of a relationship, and we’d been arguing about who was going to get what when we parted ways,” she says. “I just wanted to feel free and light again. And as soon as I wrote that song, I did. It helped me realize that there are so many important things in life, but none of them are the couch or the diamond ring.” One of three tracks written with Ian Keaggy, album opener “Swing” delights in refusing to settle down. The chorus soars like the pendulum it praises, with layered instrumentation that helps create an ambrosial ode to moving and self-reliance.
“Never Really Mine” lets Longley’s supple voice do the heavy lifting. She relies on sparse keys and guitar as punctuation as she hauntingly conveys the abject heartbreak of realizing you never had what you just lost in the first place. Longley finished the forlorn “You Haunt Me” alone in a dodgy hotel room with a paranormal vibe. “The song is about what was an unresolved situation in my life,” she says. “Someone from my past just kept appearing in my dreams. It was almost like my mind was saying, ‘You need to figure this out.’” She pauses then adds, “It’s resolved… now all that’s left is a song about it.”
Rolling “Say Anything” delights in following a chosen path, no matter what detractors say, while “Electricity” explores love’s invigorating and maddening buzz. Delivered over plaintive piano, “Rescue My Heart” pleads for a savior. “This song leaves the listener to decide a lot of things,” Longley says of the intentionally ambiguous snapshot of a desperate soul reaching up for either human or divine help.
Written from the point of view of someone “crossing over to the other side,” “Only Love” imagines the different choices we’d make if we could give life another go, acknowledging brokenness alongside newness and hope. Album closer “Oxygen”––written with Sarah Siskind––celebrates the resuscitative quality of a budding relationship over heartbeat percussion. “When you meet someone new and you feel like you’re taking in a breath of fresh air, like you’re brand new again ––I just felt brand new again,” Longley says. “The song came out of Sarah and I talking about new love and how it can almost bring you back to life.”
By vulnerably digging into her own stories, Longley keeps giving the rest of us the words and melodies to share what we feel but struggle to express. “In the process of writing these songs, I felt empowered and re-focused on what is important in life,” she says. “Songwriting is the cheapest form of therapy. It helps make sense of situations and emotions that aren’t yet understood. Then the hope is that it helps someone else, cause everything feels better when you can sing about it.”
Though still only in his twenties, Max Gomez has always had the heart of an old soul. As a child, the first songs he learned to sing were originally recorded in the 50s by Johnny Cash. As a teenage guitarist he adopted Big Bill Broonzy as his blues master. And as a budding performer, he apprenticed in the rarefied musical climate of northern New Mexico, where troubadours like Michael Martin Murphey and Ray Wylie Hubbard helped foster a folk and Western sound both cosmic and cowboy. You’ll find his hometown of Taos and nearby Red River right there between Colorado and Texas on both your sonic and Google maps. Splitting his childhood between there and a farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Gomez is at home in the heartland, too.
The youngest of five brothers, by several years—“That’s why I got into ‘old’ music”—Gomez got a children’s guitar for Christmas when he was 10. The family moved from Santa Fe to Taos in the ’80s, and his father, Steve, became a furniture craftsman. “There’s a similarity between my dad’s work and mine,” says Gomez. “He really studied what he did; there were always a lot of books on old furniture in his studio.”
Gomez reports that growing up in Taos was “wild. It’s still the Wild West compared to any city or suburb. You can get away with just about anything there, and we were turned loose as kids.”
At 14, when Gomez performed at a benefit concert, he played “Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down”—the down-and-out classic by future labelmate Kris Kristofferson. Soon thereafter he was playing at a late, lamented institution of a venue called the Old Blinking Light. “The school I went to was playing in that bar,” he says. Country greats like Mentor Williams and Lynn Anderson frequented the place that led them to become fans of his music.
Gomez moved to Los Angeles at 18 to pursue his music career and began writing songs and performing around the city at many notable clubs. He wrote some songs with Shawn Mullins, who later recorded them. “That’s when I began taking it all a little more seriously and turned my music into a job,” says Gomez.
In his early twenties he began recording his own songs with producers in New York, L.A., and Nashville. His debut album, Rule the World, was released in 2013 by New West Records, home to the likes of John Hiatt, Buddy Miller, and Steve Earle. Soon after, Kiefer Sutherland directed the music video for the single “Run From You.”
Gomez grew up in a rich musical environment, but represents more than the sum of his influences—he’s got that ineffable and instantly recognizable x-factor called talent. Melodies that flow naturally. Trenchant lyrics that express wise-beyond-his-years observations on the ways of the heart. Laconic phrasing in a cafe mocha timbre, and guitar skills that can stand alone. In short: the whole package.
Judging by the company he keeps, Gomez is there positioned to emerge as a prominent voice of Americana’s next generation. Since the release of his debut album, Rule the World, in 2013, he’s shared billing on hundreds of stages with stalwarts of the genre like Shawn Mullins, James McMurtry, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Patty Griffin, and John Hiatt.
“I first saw Max perform when he was 17, about 10 years ago,” says songsmith and sideman extraordinaire Keith Sykes. “I sensed he had something even then. When I saw him last year, I was pleased to see, and hear, something has turned into it. Listen and you'll see, and hear, what I mean. He's among the best of his generation.”
Gomez’s career is being steered by the veteran A&R man Gary Briggs, who signed him to New West and has now assembled an industry A-team around him as the first signing of the newly formed Brigadoon Records. Neil Young’s managers Frank Gironda and Elliot Roberts are on board, and Frank Riley is handling booking.
Jim Scott—who’s worked with Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, and Lucinda Williams—produced Gomez’s new EP Me & Joe, which features Williams collaborator Doug Pettibone on guitar and Eric Clapton and Jackson Browne accompanist Greg Leisz on pedal steel. The soundscape is acoustic and warm, a comfort zone for Gomez’s buttery vocals. “Senseless Love” and “Make it Me” reflect on love lost and, perhaps, found, while “Sweet Cruel World” sounds like it could find its way onto a Taj Mahal album. “Rule the World (Reprise)” revisits and re-works the title song of his debut album, which—like the new “Make it Me”—has the ring of a neo-classic. The surprise tune here is “Joe,” written by Max’s musical compadre Jed Zimmerman. The song is sung from the point of view of a regretful character who compares cocaine to coffee and pain to cash in a powerful twist of emotion laid on a rich bed of steel guitar and swirling cellos. Gomez considers the track "lightning in a bottle. It took us 15 minutes to make that record. Jim Scott would always say, ‘You know how long it takes to make a hit record? Three minutes.’ "
"I asked Max to try the song and he nailed it," says Briggs, the executive producer on the recording. “Max's passion and pursuit for the perfectly written song has always inspired me. He’s always been a great singer and as a self-taught performer he’s been surrounded by headliners and learned from the best. He’s on the verge of finding his audience.”
Based in Minnesota, but with roots in Tennessee, Chastity grew up surrounded by country and soul music. In the full gospel church of her childhood, she played saxophone and drums and found her singing voice and a passion for music. Her first show was in Knoxville, TN, and then it was on to Minneapolis. Since then, she’s been featured on NPR’s “Favorite Sessions,” CMT, American Songwriter, the London Times, Paste Magazine and others. Chastity has toured the U.S. and abroad, appearing on the U.K.’s Later…with Jools Holland. For much of 2016, she toured alongside folk icon/activist Ani Difranco.
“What I’ve realized is that the personal is political,” Brown said in a recent interview. “Just by me being a bi-racial, half-black, half-white woman living in America right now is political. Just being a person of color, a queer woman of color, for that matter, is freaking political. My focus, as far as this record, I guess it’s really been psychological. I’m really intrigued by the perseverance of the human spirit and the complexities and contradictions that we embody as human beings."
"Silhouette of Sirens is comprised of snapshots of memory, both lived and imagined. Not all of these tunes derive from this, which is why I say, ‘both lived and imagined.' Some are love/sex/relationship-inspired, which in my opinion make the pain one might experience more bearable. In James Baldwin’s essay, ‘The Artist Struggle for Integrity,' he says, 'I tell you my pain so that I might relieve you of yours.'"
Light is a central character on Silhouette of Sirens. Even the title speaks to this push and pull between danger and safety, shadows and shiny lights, and the things we can reach out and touch as opposed to the things we only hear in the distance. “What is even happening? One can only guess,” Brown sings in the opening track “Drive Slow,” embracing an uncertainty and sense of wonder from the beginning of the record. By the third track, she’s carrying us along with her on a journey inward. Like many masterful songwriters, she has the ability to make her stories feel intensely personal yet open-ended; even in “Carried Away,” it’s hard to tell whether she’s singing about a romantic rift, an abusive friendship, or the havoc that anxiety and depression can wreak on an unguarded mind. " “Don’t leave me here all alone / For so long you’ve been my light in the dark,” Brown sings on the album’s centerpiece, “My Stone,” while the sexy, Prince-channeling acoustic funk jam “Whisper” beckons the listener to come closer, to dance with her in the dark, to “whisper in my ear all that you need."
“I think it’s about different types of heartbreak, and how one deals with it,” Brown says of the album. “And not the heartbreak of a coupled relationship; just living life, and the experiences that break your heart. There are these moments on the album where it’s like, ‘this is intense.' And then hopefully, there are moments where it’s alleviated — as I feel like life is. Life is hard. Every tree, every plant, everything you see in the natural world, just through a growth process, you see how hard it is to grow and bend towards the light."
"Sexy, funky-as-hell, pop music" is what critics are saying about Gurufish (Ear Magazine). Electrifying audiences everywhere with their own provocative blend of pop, funk and soul, Atlanta's Gurufish is best known for their high-octane live show, fueled by irresistible melodies wrapped around hypnotic, funky grooves. After a great start to the year with a sold out showcase at SXSW, Gurufish was listed by PASTE Magazine as one of the 25 Georgia Bands You Should Listen to Now. They were also honored with the distinction of being recognized by the GA Music Awards as Georgia's Best R'nB/Funk Band and recently appeared as featured performers on the WB network's "The Originals". Founded by singer/songwriter/producer Jimmy St. James, Gurufish performs live as an 8 piece ensemble with Matty Haze on guitar, Steve Dixon on drums,Trey Williams on bass, and a full horn section.They are currently playing dates in support of their critically acclaimed release,"Mohair Supreme", while recording and preparing for a new release in the spring of 2018. Gurufish has shared the bill with such prestigious acts as: Meaghan Trainor, Colbie Caillat, The Brand New Heavies, Mother's Finest, Parliament/Funkadelic, The Flaming Lips, Cowboy Mouth, Nikka Costa, Derek Trucks, Galactic, Cypress Hill, Ghostland Observatory, P.M. Dawn,The Spin Doctors, The White Stripes, LMFAO, KC & the Sunshine Band, The Isley Brothers, and Foreigner.
While Caroline Spence may not look like one of the road-hardened troubadours of America's past, with the release of Spades & Roses, the young songwriter from Charlottesville Virginia proves she is every bit as serious. Having won numerous songwriting awards from industry mainstays like the Kerrville Folk Festival and American Songwriter Magazine, and garnered nods and admiration from both Miranda Lambert and her fellow writers in the Nashville underground, Caroline has delivered a record to meet the expectation: Quite simply, 11 songs of gorgeous Americana that remind us of why we fell in love with the genre in the first place.
It’s is a rare but unmistakable authenticity and emotional resonance that can't be faked, all delivered from a voice that somehow manages to be both ethereally pristine and yet profoundly raw and human-- a disarming union of self-assuredness and vulnerability that runs throughout the record. Under the guidance of Producer Neilson Hubbard, "Spades and Roses" strips away all of the sonic barriers that might stand between Caroline and her listener, allowing her fragile melodies and first person confessionals to do their work-- reaching out and empathizing, providing a soundtrack to our own hidden stories. Every song on the record--whether pop or meditative, glib or heartbreaking-- asks the essential question of whether or not the listener can recognize himself.
Whether it’s a song like "Southern Accident," a strikingly personal and heartbreaking account of the lingering effects of her parents divorce on her own search for love and commitment, or "Softball," an extended anthemic metaphor for the all-to-real injustices of the gender gap in modern life, Spades and Roses is Caroline's unflinching testimony and reminder as to why songs are important: It’s about paying attention. It's about whether you can take a handful of chords and find those still points of peace and clarity and joy amidst the basic confusion, struggles, and emotional wreckage of our everyday lives. Most importantly, it’s about finding a way to make it beautiful.
NPR dubbed Caroline “one to follow” and American Songwriter Magazine called her latest album, Spades & Roses "an album of stunning beauty and lasting impact.” Rolling Stone named Caroline as one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know.” Caroline has spent much of the past few years on the road headlining shows, opening for the likes of John Moreland, Jim Lauderdale, Tyler Childers, and Peter Bradley Adams, and making appearances on NPR’s MountainStage and at AmericanaFest. Caroline lives in Nashville, TN where she is currently working on her third album.
Don't bother asking The Mastersons where they're from. Brooklyn, Austin, Los Angeles, Terlingua; they've called each home in just the last few years alone. If you really want to get to know this husband-and-wife duo, the better question to ask is where they're going. Perhaps more than any other band playing today, The Mastersons live on the road, perpetually in motion and always creating. Movement is their muse. On tour, in the unpredictable adventures and characters they cross, in the endless blur of skylines and rest stops and dressing rooms and hotels, that's where they find their greatest inspiration, where they hone their art, and where they crafted their brilliant new album, Transient Lullaby.
"When you travel like we do, if your antenna is up, there's always something going on around you," reflects guitarist/singer Chris Masterson. "Ideas can be found everywhere. The hardest thing to find is time."
For the last seven years, The Mastersons have kept up a supremely inexorable touring schedule, performing as both the openers for Steve Earle and as members of his band, The Dukes, in addition to playing their own relentless slate of headline shows and festivals. It was Earle, in fact, who pushed the duo to record their acclaimed debut, Birds Fly South, in the first place.
"Before we hit the road with him in 2010, Steve said, 'You'd better have a record ready because I'm going to feature you guys during the show,'" remembers fiddler/tenor guitarist/singer Eleanor Whitmore. "We didn't even have a band name at the time. We were going through all these ideas and Steve suggested, 'Why don’t you just be The Mastersons, and that was that."
Upon its release in 2012, Birds Fly South was a breakout critical hit on both sides of the pond, with Uncut awarding the album 9/10 stars and Esquire dubbing The Mastersons one of the “Bands You Need To Know Right Now”. Two years later, they followed it up with Good Luck Charm, premiered by the NY Times and praised by Mother Jones for its "big-hearted lyrics, tight song structures, and sweetly intertwined harmonies." Pop Matters ranked it "among the top Americana releases of 2014," while American Songwriter called it "a perfect soundtrack for a summer of warm nights and hot, lazy days," and the Austin Chronicle praised the band's "spunky wit and rare measure of emotional maturity." The album earned The Mastersons slots on NPR's Mountain Stage and at festivals around the world, from San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass to Australia's Byron Bay Bluesfest.
With endless touring came new levels of comfort and confidence, and when it was time to record Transient Lullaby, The Mastersons knew they wanted to take a different approach than their first two releases. The band set up shop at Arlyn Studios in Austin, TX, where Chris shared production duties with longtime friend and collaborator George Reiff (Ray Wylie Hubbard, Band of Heathens). Together, they chased a sound that was subtler and more evocative, deeper and more contemplative.
"A lot of what we listen to when we have some rare time off is what we consider late night music," explains Chris, who previously played guitar with Son Volt and Jack Ingram among others. "The last record was bright and jangly and we wanted this one to be vibey and dark. A lot of the stuff is very performance-based and not at all fussed with. We've grown so much more comfortable in our skin that we really weren't trying to sound like anyone other than ourselves this time around."
"We've had a lot of time and a lot of miles to refine our sound and our style of singing," adds Eleanor, whose resume includes work with Regina Spektor and Angus & Julia Stone. "I think the depth of our songwriting has really grown, too. Part of the time we're writing on a tour bus with Steve Earle, and the bar for poetry is pretty high when you're within earshot of one of the greatest songwriters alive."
Rich with Eleanor's stirring string arrangements and Chris's masterful guitar work, the songs on Transient Lullaby more than live up to the challenge. The album opens with "Perfect," a loping duet written partially in Washington, DC, and partially in Newcastle, England, that paints a portrait of two broken lovers who still manage to find a strange optimism in this challenging world. Spare and affecting, the song puts the spotlight on the duo's intoxicating vocal harmonies and makes for an ideal entry point into an album full of characters facing down difficulty and darkness with all the grit and humility they can muster. "Fight," written in a downtown Cleveland hotel, is a wry wink at the battlefield of marriage ("I don't wanna fight with anyone else but you"), while the fingerpicked "Highway 1" twists and turns on a California road trip through an emotional breakup.
"Life's not easy," reflects Chris. "It's hard for everybody, and I don’t see it getting any easier. All you can hope for yourself is grace when walking through it, and someone to prop you up when you need a little help."
Though it's a deeply personal album, Transient Lullaby is not without its political moments. The Mastersons found themselves on tour in Lexington, KY, during the height of Kim Davis' obstinate stand against the Supreme Court's same sex marriage decision, and so they penned the infectious "You Could Be Wrong" in a dressing room before taking the stage with "Love Wins" draped across their guitars. "This Isn't How It Was Supposed To Go"—a cosmic country duet written in Cologne, Germany—has taken on new layers of political meaning in 2017, while "Don't Tell Me To Smile" is a tongue-in-cheek feminist anthem, and the gorgeous, slow-burning "Fire Escape"—which came to life in a hockey rink locker room in Alberta, Canada—suggests that the only solution to a polarized world of fear and distrust is to find strength and guidance in our loved ones.
"As we look at the world political landscape, global warming, a refugee crisis and the uncertain times we’re all living in, rather than lose hope, we look to each other," Chris says. "It’s a little brighter than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but not much."
Ultimately, the road is at the core of everything The Mastersons do. "Happy When I'm Movin'" reflects their constant need for forward momentum, both physically and emotionally, and the title track paints the pair as "pilgrims of the interstate" on an endless voyage. "No I don’t unpack my bag / Traveling from town to town," they sing in beautiful harmony. "Set ’em up and knock ’em down / Where there’s work and songs to sing / You’ll know the place where I’ll be found / If you don’t want to be alone / Then come along."
For The Mastersons, all that matters is where they're headed, and the songs they'll write when they get there.
Texas songwriter Vanessa Peters has released 10 albums in the last 12 years and has played over 1000 shows in 11 countries as an independent artist. She has been called “the best kind of singer/songwriter,” was nominated as Best Folk Artist by The Dallas Observer, and has built a strong fan base throughout Europe thanks in part to the albums she made with her former Italian band, Ice Cream on Mondays, and the hundreds of shows she has played overseas. Her albums are consistently found on “best of” lists, and her latest, "The Burden of Unshakeable Proof," has been called "fully realized, written with elegance and imagination." It is a timeless album, anchored by strong melodic hooks and meditations on modern life that are poignant without being too pointed. No Depression lauded its “metaphor-rich songs” and “the depth and substance of her skillfully-crafted lyrics,” while Fort Worth Star Telegram called it, “10 gorgeously-sculpted tracks, a blissful shuffling of folk, pop, and jazz bound together by Peters's peerless voice.” She has been crowdfunding her albums for a decade, long before Kickstarter ever existed, and she is currently working on her next album, slated for release in mid-2018.
Shannon LaBrie: War & Peace
Music by Nashville chanteuse Shannon LaBrie defies genre and brings to life insightful stories of a woman who remains true to herself in a life where uncertainty is certain. The Lincoln, NE native instantly became a favorite among music fans and critics alike with her powerful 2016 album War & Peace. With lead singles, “Alcohol,” and “It’s Political” the independent release reached inside the Top Ten on iTunes, Spotify’s US viral chart and Triple A Radio charts. Famed music blogger Bob Lefsetz wrote, “This track affected me. Made me believe like the great singer-songwriters of yore, maybe this woman has something to say. That in this crazy, mixed up, shoot-up world she can illuminate her story and people can relate.”
Tracked live at Nashville’s House of Blues Studio D with producer Tom Michael, War & Peace is an emotionally-charged collection of deep Americana soul that gives voice to the love and loss LaBrie experienced throughout her life.
The title track “War & Peace,” is inspired by the unwavering love and commitment she experienced while dealing with a tragedy that continues to shake LaBrie’s heart to this day. “I feel very fortunate that I made it through the past five years.” LaBrie continues to explore love in the stirring rocker “It Took My Whole Life.” The smooth and steady “Crumble” addresses how consuming love can feel, and the soulful “Ain’t Just a Feeling” captures the solace love provides. “There was a time when love was a far-off dream,” she says. “Feeling good, feeling like a woman, feeling beautiful wasn’t something that came easily.” ‘Ain’t Just a Feeling' came from a moment when I was able to step out of the sadness and just be happy.”
LaBrie calls out American politicians in the fiery opener “It’s Political,” while “American Dream” celebrates feeling thankful to live in a country that offers its citizens a life of endless possibility as a basic human right. Anchoring the soul of the album are the deeply emotional “Alcohol” and “Heaven Crashed Down.” “Alcohol” is a moving ballad about trying to save a loved one from a life of addiction, but in trying, only kills the savior. In “Heaven Crashed Down,” LaBrie gives a visual account of the painful loss of her father to cancer when she was only 13.
Rolling Stone compares LaBrie to the great late Jeff Buckley saying, “...her songs unfold with style and subtlety, coasting over the albums lush arrangements via LaBrie’s gorgeous voice. It’s as if Jeff Buckley and Norah Jones started a band that went a tiny bit country.” CMT says, “She’s part Tom Petty, part folk goddess, with Dylanesque lyrics.”
With over 6 million streams on Spotify and Apple Music, she has toured over 500 dates. Amongst those she has opened for Gabe Dixon, Phoenix, ZZ Ward, Rayland Baxter, Robert Randolph, The Head and the Heart, The Wild Feathers, Billy Bob Thornton, Michael Franti and Valerie June. Her resume now includes her first album cut, which is the lead single on Robert Randolph’s newest album, “Got Soul.” The album just received a Grammy nomination for “Best Contemporary Blues Album."
The Tall Pines
The Tall Pines
The Tall Pines
The Tall Pines are a shack-shakin’, foot–stompin’ folk-rock duo 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. Recently featured on WFMU’s Gaylord Fields’ radio show, and currently working on a new album with multiple Grammy nominated Producer Joel Hamilton, The Tall Pines music originates from the spirits of the late 1960s and early 1970s Country-Soul, and Swamp-Rock scenes, while creating a new route to take the sounds they love beyond history and into the next wave of North 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 Ray of The Indigo Girls, and many more great folks. They produce a 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. 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. Their new record will be released in late Spring, 2018. Their goal is transcendence.
"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.” ~ Meredith Ochs: NPR
“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.” ~ Glide Magazine
“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 Shotgun Seat
“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
Upholding a time-honored songwriting tradition, Michigan Rattlers recount human stories through a soundtrack of Americana punctuated by countrified rock ‘n’ roll and folk. The subjects of their 2016 self-titled debut EP practically live and breathe between Graham Young’s rustling guitar and Adam Reed’s percussive upright bass. Born in Petoskey, MI and based in Los Angeles, the duo’s music plays out like a film.
“All of my favorite songs tell stories,” says Graham. “It’s the most important part. They’re about people trying to overcome life’s obstacles. That’s what it always comes back to.”
Lifelong friends Graham and Adam began writing music and performing together in their Northern Michigan high school. Residing in a quiet tourist town of 6,000 located on the banks of Lake Michigan, the pair regularly played every bar, café, and stage in town, developing an inimitable musical chemistry informed by the likes of AC/DC, Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and more. Adam headed to Ohio for college as Graham went to Illinois, but upon graduating, Graham beckoned Adam to move out to Los Angeles so they could start a band. A four-day cross-country road trip gave birth to Michigan Rattlers.
“We had been in bands together for a long time, so we knew what we wanted to do,” Adam explains. “I was going to play upright bass, and we were going to do a project with just the two of us. We wanted to be lean and mean on tour. As soon as Graham called, I went for it. If you get a music degree, you might as well play music!”
Settling down in Los Angeles, the boys recorded a short demo and began playing locally. The demo found its way into the hands of super producer Johnny K [Plain White T’s, 3 Doors Down], and they cut the bulk of their first EP at NRG Studios in just one day.
“My favorite music is recorded that way,” continues Adam. “You get in a room, plug in, and cut as many songs as you can live.”
The first single, “Illinois Sky,” rolls from an energetic acoustic guitar into an expansive refrain that’s immediate and infectious, following “Midwestern boys out on our own headed for a life of treasure.”
“I started writing it when I was living in Chicago, and I finished it when I got to L.A.,” recalls Graham. “It was something I’d been working on for a while. It sort of covers the journey. It’s really sad, but it’s also upbeat. I look at it as a love letter to living in Chicago and that time. You’ve got the image.”
Culminating on a lyrical guitar lead, “Sweet Diane” weaves a narrative of newfound love in the aftermath of loss driven by Graham’s robust delivery. “That was totally fiction,” he continues. “It’s a straightforward story. A guy knows this girl. The girl lost her husband. He gets the courage to ask her out from there.”
“Strain of Cancer” recounts a heartbreaking tale he witnessed firsthand. “I used to work at Starbucks, and I wrote it about this guy I worked with,” he goes on. “He had a kid with this girl. Things didn’t work out. He only saw his son twice a month or something. He was always meeting with his lawyer about child support. He was just losing everything. It was a horrible situation. I felt for the guy. I thought about him and put it into song.”
As for their moniker? It's a name that lets you in on where they're from and who they are. "A Michigan Rattler is an actual snake," Adam explains. "There aren't a lot of them, and they're hard to find." As the duo gets ready to share their tales with the world, listeners far and wide will soon find that like the elusive reptile, a sound like theirs is hard to find.
Folk-pop duo Chasing Lovely combine haunting harmonies, powerful melodies, and insightful lyrics to create a truly captivating acoustic performance. With their latest EP, "Things We Don't Talk About" (July 2017), Chloe and Taylor candidly open up about both personal and cultural conflict, addressing subjects normally considered taboo. The Korean-American sisters grew up in the frozen tundra of Minneapolis, MN, and have been nearly inseparable since birth. Chloe has always had a knack for singing and playing just about any instrument she picks up, while Taylor is a word-nerd whose melodramatic tendencies make for good lyrics. They moved to Nashville in 2011 and spent six years cutting their teeth in Music City before relocating to Atlanta in April 2017.
Chasing Lovely has been touring across the U.S. since June 2013 and have had the privilege of working alongside producers and musicians who have worked with Mumford & Sons, Joy Williams, Ingrid Michaelson, Meghan Trainor, Gungor, and Ben Rector. When they're not harmonizing or touring in their tiny '08 Hyundai Accent, Chloe and Taylor are probably stalking Theo Bonaparte on Instagram, laughing at poop jokes, dreaming of one day owning a self-sustaining Earthship home in Hawaii, or making homemade bread and soymilk while trying to live a #zerowastelife. But all you really need to know is: they're a folk/rock/pop/soul duo (with obvious genre commitment issues). Think: The Civil Wars meets James Bay meets Adele.
Chloe and Taylor firmly believe there are few problems freshly baked chocolate chip cookies can't solve. They also believe in promoting understanding, provoking critical thinking, changing your mind and working towards positive change. They're driven by a deep curiosity for the world around them and the people in it. Their songs are a reflection of the strangely wonderful (and at times, equally tragic) human experience and their attempt to understand it all. Chasing Lovely's mission is to provoke thought, promote understanding, and capture both glimmers of light and darkness as they share the deeply moving human experience through song.
Atlanta, GA based Americana duo The Ormewoods are Don McCollister and Claire Pearson.
Don and Claire bring dynamic individual musical histories to their remarkable partnership.
Don’s 25 year career includes work with Sister Hazel, Shawn Mullins and Third Day. He also
produced tracks for Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush before they formed the superstar duo
Sugarland. Artists that Don McCollister has worked with have collectively sold over 15 million
albums, been nominated for 85 major music awards, of which they have won 47, had 34 #1
billboard hits and charted singles. Often dubbed "the artist's" producer because he himself is a
multi-instrumentalist who continues to perform live.
Claire Pearson (previously performed as Pearson Perry but dropped the Perry moniker after
divorce) is an Atlanta based singer-songwriter whose song "Love is a Mountain" (co-written
with Heidi Higgins) charted #37 on on the top 100 list of most played singles on independent
radio in 2014. She was also one of the top 5 most played pop artists on independent radio in 2014
according to Roots Music Report. She founded Atlanta Intown Songwriters in 2011 to build the
Atlanta artist network for aspiring songwriters.
In 2016, they quickly built a base of fans as they toured the Southeast and Mid-West promoting
their debut album "The Bedroom Sessions". The album continues to receive strong Americana
radio support across the country thanks to their #1 single "HeyBabe" (RootsMusicReport) which
hit #1 in the summer of 2017.
The Bedroom Sessions saw Claire (the duo’s chief songwriter) drawing lyrics directly from
entries in her diary detailing the first 90 days of the duo’s re-connection after many years. The
duo decided the best way to capture the intimate nature of the songs was to turn her bedroom into
a recording studio. Don set up his gear, and the album was recorded in a series of literal bedroom
sessions. While recording and gearing up for the official roll-out of their album, The Ormewoods
scored a unique coup, with the key track “Year of Mercy” being named runner up for Best Folk
Song 2016 by Song of the Year Songwriting Competition and nominated as Best Folk Song of
2016 by the American Songwriting Awards. The dynamic of the what some have called “the
happy Civil Wars” is further reflected on songs like the sly and soulful “Hey Babe,” about the
tension between not wanting to be tied up again and those feelings of falling in love; the playful,
high energy “Back To You,” about finishing what they started so many years ago; and “Sleep
Like Strangers,” about those occasional moments of doubt and distance.
The duo has just released their sophomore album “Not Your Mama’s Folk” which shows them
further defining their modern day folk sound with the addition of Claire on a stompbox Don built
for her and the use of more electric guitar tones. The Ormewoods enjoy nothing more than
loading up gear and hitting the road for live shows where they can share their authentic take on
love and life with all ages and fans of all genres.
Patterson Barrett moved to Austin shortly after appearing on Jerry Jeff Walker’s first release on MCA records, playing pedal steel, dobro, and guitar (including the song “L.A. Freeway”). Not long after arriving in Austin, he formed the band Partners In Crime, which included Buddy and Julie Miller, releasing one album on their own label, Criminal Records. In the years since, Patterson produced some of Hal Ketchum’s earliest demos, served in Al Kooper’s back-up band, and performed before 10,000 festival-goers as Chuck Berry’s pianist. He accompanied Nancy Griffith on Austin City Limits, legendary Austin singer Lou Ann Barton in music clubs around the country, and Buddy Miller on several records including his recent collaboration with Jim Lauderdale, Buddy & Jim. Patterson's discography includes three solo endeavors—I Must Be Dreaming (2007), "When I Was Your Age…" (2012), and the 2018 release, Give ‘Em What They Want. He cites Neil Young and country-rock pioneers Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers as his early influences, as well as soul stalwarts such as Sam and Dave, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye. His music has been compared to John Hiatt, The Band (whose song “Sleeping” he lovingly covers), and Ryan Adams.
As in his two previous solo outings, Barrett makes much of the music on Give ‘Em What They Want himself, but there are plenty of guest appearances by friends and peers. Featured performers include Jim Lauderdale, Walt Wilkins, and Stuart Duncan, plus Gurf Morlix and Buddy Miller sharing vocals with Barrett on the single “3 Young Alleycats.” Credited to “3 Old Alleycats,” the song is a reminiscence of the days gone by when Morlix, Miller, and Barrett were knocking around Austin. In it, the three declare wistfully, “The universe will never be the same again,” but then muse “How long we can howl at the moon, no one can tell.”
The music is solidly Americana, with nods to influences as diverse as The Band, Little Feat, and Gram Parsons, all of whom Barrett cites as inspirations. At times the songs lean toward the country side of things, as in the slyly humorous, two-step inducing “Elephant In The Room” (with Lauderdale on harmony vocal.)
But there are also introspective singer-songwriter moments, notably in “If I Only Knew How,” with Barrett finding himself unable to help those close to him who need it the most.
Barrett may be best known for his sideman work (everyone from Chuck Berry to Jerry Jeff Walker to Buddy & Jim), but he’s amused by the notion that the CD represents some sort of debut as a front man. “…yeah, that’s…interesting, since I’ve been writing, recording, and performing my own songs for…well, really, since I was a teen”.
Patterson intends to spend the bulk of 2018 touring behind the record. “It’s really about the songs; these songs show up, and I feel obliged to give them a chance to find an audience. So it’s sort of like, ‘The Songs of Patterson Barrett on Tour (accompanied by Patterson Barrett)’ If I don’t sing ‘em, who else will?”
Atlanta-based singer/songwriter Carly Burruss is one of the new faces of traditional country music. With a longstanding country career in her sights, she attended the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program at Kennesaw State to learn the ins and outs of the business. There she met early collaborators, began recording, and met her manager. Carly found her niche when Kacey Musgraves and other female artists re-introduced the clever and witty side of the genre, sending her into the world of Nashville songwriting and cutting her teeth in bars and venues across the Southeast.
Paired with her wit, humor, and grit, Carly's infectious melodies and memorable one-liners are reminiscent of her influences like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Kacey Musgraves. As an artist, Carly's performed alongside and opened for the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Keith Urban, Ellie Holcomb, Florida-Georgia Line, and Will Hoge. Last year, Carly was runner-up of the Chris August Songwriting Contest at Merlefest. Her songwriting cuts have made their way to Australia and all over the US, and Carly's self-titled debut EP is available now, featuring the single "Ain't Trying to Please."
Ian Fitzgerald is a folk singer and songwriter. Known for his storytelling and skillful use of language, Ian has independently released five albums of original material while touring throughout the country. Performer Magazinecalled Ian "a polished songsmith who is high atop a field of great artists breaking through to festival and folk concerts throughout the States." To that end, Ian performed a solo set as part of the Wildwood Showcase at the 2015 Newport Folk Festival and a full-band set at the 2016 Newport Folk Festival.
Ian hails from a small town in southern Massachusetts and now calls Providence, RI his home base. From there, he travels throughout the country, filling his increasingly busy touring schedule with over 100 shows each year. He has opened for such acclaimed artists as Iris DeMent; Willy Mason; Joan Shelley; Darlingside; The Ballroom Thieves; Jonathan Edwards; Tracy Grammer; and many more. Ian released his most recent album, You Won't Even Know I'm Gone, in November of 2016. He plans to return to the studio with a new set of songs in 2018.
Chris Alvarado is an award-winning singer/songwriter and recording artist who calls the beaches of 30A his home. This year marks Chris’ 8th appearance at the Festival. In 2013, he was invited to perform at the 40th annual Telluride Bluegrass Music Festival in Colorado where he placed 3rd in the Telluride Troubadour Competition. In May of 2013, Chris competed in the Wildflower Music Festival's Songwriting Competition in Dallas, Texas and walked away with top honors as the Michael Terry People's Choice Award winner. In 2012, he won the National Recording Academy’s Florida GRAMMY® Showcase.
Chris’ music is featured on Pandora Radio and has seen airplay on national web radio programs. He performed on NPR’s, “Radio Live” in 2014, and receives regular airplay on NPR radio WUWF.
Chris Alvarado also owns and operates Driftwood Guitars, a boutique handcrafted acoustic guitar company. His guitars can be found in the hands of Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley, and he is currently building guitars for this years GRAMMY awards. One of the guitars will be given to Fleetwood Mac to commemorate being named the Grammy’s MusiCares Person of the Year. It will be presented during a ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, while the other guitar will be auctioned off to benefit the Recording Academy's MusiCares charity program. This year Chris designed and handcrafted the 2018 30A Songwriters Festival Commemorative Guitar which will be auctioned off to benefit the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County. He takes great pride in performing his original music on instruments of his own creation.
SERA CAHOONE – FROM WHERE I STARTED BIO
The world of American roots music is no stranger to Seattle songwriter Sera Cahoone.
Even though her last three albums were on Sub Pop Records and she spent years at
the top of the indie charts, she’s always had a streak of Americana that ran through her
music, a love of the humble folk song that bolstered her art. She’s returning now to
these earliest influences with her new album, From Where I Started (to be released
March 24, 2017). Growing up, Cahoone first found her voice in Colorado dive bars,
backing up old blues musicians at age 12 on the drums. Her father, a Rocky Mountain
dynamite salesman, took the family along to mining conferences and old honky-tonks in
the state. The sounds she heard there—the twang of country crooners, cowboy boots
on peanut shells—have stayed with her all the way to Seattle, where she lives now, and
the seminal indie rock bands she’s been a part of in the city (Carissa’s Weird, Band of
To make From Where I Started, her first new album since 2012’s Dear Creek Canyon,
Cahoone traveled south to Portland to work with producer John Askew (Neko Case,
Laura Gibson, Alela Diane). Askew brought together key Portland musicians like Rob
Burger (Iron and Wine, Lucinda Williams), Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie) and
Annalisa Tornfelt (Black Prairie) with Cahoone’s Seattle bandmates - Jeff Fielder
(Mark Lanegan, Amy Ray) and Jason Kardong (Son Volt, Jay Farrar). The band lays a
deep bedrock beneath Cahoone’s songs, supporting her arcing vocals and innovative
guitar and banjo playing. The album is driven by a strong rhythmic sensibility, owed to
Cahoone’s background as a drummer for indie rock bands. “A lot of my songs start as a
beat, I add guitar, then lyrics at the end,” she says. “When I write songs I usually sit at
my drum kit playing both drums and guitar at the same time.”
From Where I Started plays on the rougher, darker edges of the traditional love song.
Like any good country album, the songs here deal with love and loss, but Cahoone also
knows how to surround loss with hope, to temper a sad song with a turn in the major
key. The optimism of the love song “Up To Me,” buoyed by fingerpicked guitar and
banjo, gives way to the weary resignation of “Taken Its Toll,” with its plaintive pedal
steel and echoing vocal harmonies. “Ladybug,” is a poignant song that followed the
tragic death of Cahoone’s cousin Tawnee.
From Where I Started represents a refocusing for Sera Cahoone. It positions her as a
songwriter beholden to the old country sounds she grew up with, a songwriter who’s
always been able to deftly translate a personal perspective into a universal view. It’s an
album about falling in and out of love, finding new hope, and learning that the best way
to move forward is to remember where you began.
First and foremost a creative thinker, Clarence Bucaro aims to tell a story through his lyrics.
His tenth studio album Tableau is a vivid set of compositions with indelible audible imagery and heartfelt intimacy. A tableau depicts a scene from a story. It’s a picture, a painting or an image. Throughout his fifteen year career, Clarence has earned a reputation for his storytelling and open hearted lyrics.
Like a painting, there are many moments of darkness and light in his new record. In Lord, Light Me a Candle, Clarence looks for an eternal light, while reminding others to face their fears in the hypnotic Afraid of the Dark. In Cold Dark Night, he contemplates the system that creates senseless acts of violence like the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013.
"Bucaro excels in delivering penetrative and excitingly melodic observations.” - Rolling Stone
In the transparently truthful Your Love’s Not Close Enough and the thoughtful Timeless, these observations have never been more artful. Co-produced with industry vet Tom Schick, (Wilco, Ryan Adams, Norah Jones) Tableau is a searingly soulful body of work.
Over the years, the Cleveland, Ohio native has wowed crowds across the world with his unique folk-pop style. He has been featured on Sirius XM, NPR, Rolling Stone and the New York Times. Clarence has shared the stage with acts like Los Lobos, Suzanne Vega, Chrissie Hyde, Marc Cohn, Aaron Neville, Blind Boys of Alabama, Rodney Crowell, Richard Thompson and many others.
Folk duo The Mosleys are excited to return to the 30a Songwriters Festival after recording their first full album, Ordinary Time. They were privileged to work with Grammy nominated and 30a Songwriter Festival regular Phil Madeira who has also worked with Emmylou Harris, the Civil Wars and LeeAnn Womack among others. Joined by Jimmy Abegg on guitar and bass and Dennis Holt on drums with Flemming and John rounding out the project adding background vocals and mixing, Ordinary Time is "full of soulful folk goodness and far from ordinary" and "packs an emotional wallopth sure to fill that alt-country/americana craving."
Since debuting their first EP Beneath the Trees and Stars and securing a spot at the 30a Songwriters Festival in 2014, The Mosleys have gone from winning open mic nights at the acclaimed Eddie's Attic to playing Chastain Park Amphitheater in Atlanta where they had the time of their lives opening for Air Supply. They were Featured Artists on NPR's Folk Alley and New and Notable Artists on Noise Trade. The Mosleys are excited to share songs and stories grown out of their sixteen years of marriage, life with five small children and all of the craziness that comes with making music in the midst of the chaos of ordinary days.
If you read the liner notes on Nashville’s biggest albums, you’ll come across a name that is impossible to mistake: Mando Saenz. He’s become one of the most notable songwriters in country music and is establishing a sound uniquely his own. Hailing from Texas, Saenz is able to balance outlaw influences with melodic harmonies that are destined to be stuck in your head. There’s no question as to why he has over 50 cuts from some of today’s biggest artists (like Lee Ann Womack and Miranda Lambert). If there’s one thing that is definite about Mando Saenz, it’s his ability to be completely versatile, yet uniquely Mando.
From the age of three months old, Saenz lived the nomadic life of a self-described ‘army brat’. After his father joined the military, his family moved from his birthplace of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, to Fort Bragg, North Carolina; shortly after, to San Francisco, and lastly, to a small town in Oklahoma, before finally settling in Corpus Christi — all before the beginning of his fourth grade year. Around the same age, he began taking guitar lessons but didn’t stick with it. However, after a decade-long hiatus, Saenz picked the instrument back up again as a teen with a much different mindset. “I was kind of an MTV kid, so I was influenced by anything that was popular at the time. But my dad was always playing The Eagles, Bob Dylan, a bunch of the classics. I didn’t start getting into Texas music until college.”
It was then, while studying for an MBA in San Antonio, Texas, that a shy Saenz finally started playing in front of his peers. After college, he moved to Houston where his brother Marco owned a recording studio, AZTLAN studios. Soon after, he met his mentor (and future producer of his debut record, Watertown) John Egan, who convinced him to ditch his job at Whole Foods to focus on his music. “It was a good time to be a musician in Houston. A lot of us, like Hayes Carll and John Evans, were there together. I was in inner-city Houston, and it was just so cool—huge and unlike anywhere I’d ever lived.” The city would also become the place where Saenz would be discovered by Frank Liddell, award-winning producer and owner of Carnival Music.
After signing on as one of Carnival’s first musicians to possess both a publishing and recording deal, Saenz began writing full-time and eventually released Watertown. The 2005 album marked a pivotal time in Saenz’ life, “The first record was influenced by Texas and made in Texas, by a Texas producer, all of which you can definitely hear.” However, even as a deep-rooted Texan, Saenz started to feel the pull between work and home. So in 2006, he decided to pack up and move closer to Carnival headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee — where he started working on his sophomore album with Grammy-nominated producer R.S. Field, Bucket. While the album supported the sound of Watertown that was unmistakably Mando, the move naturally gave the album a more engineered sound, “The second record was more heavily produced, and being in Nashville, I had completely different songwriting influences.”
Saenz’ last release, 2013’s Studebaker, took notes from both. The album was named as one of Chron’s “50 Great Texas Singer-Songwriter Albums”, alongside classics like Guy Clark’s Old No. 1 and The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. The 12-track album, produced by Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Bobby Bare, Jr., Andrew Bird), is Saenz most lengthy project to date in his words, “the most band-driven record”.
Since the release of Studebaker, Saenz has focused on writing and adding to his list of cuts, one of the most recent being “Bad Boy” from Miranda Lambert’s newest album, The Weight of These Wings. He also co-wrote Jack Ingram’s “Midnight Motel”, Aubrie Sellers’ title track from her newest record, “People Talking”. He’s also co-written and associate produced two Stoney LaRue projects with Frank Liddell, Velvet (2011) and Aviator (2014).
Currently, Mando is working on his latest project, an EP produced by Grammy-nominated (and original founding member of Wilco) Ken Coomer, that will be the predecessor to the release of his fourth full-length studio album. While the EP is likely to be a mix of originals and his take on obscure covers, Saenz is focused on making the full-length his most versed album to date. “The new record is going to be different, just like the others all differ from each other. I’m drawing from everything I’ve done and everything I’ve learned — but expanding it.”
Max's professional career would begin literally at Zero …. Mile Marker 0 . Thirty years ago, the southern-most place in the US is where you would have found Max peeling shrimp by day and playing blues at night. It is in Key West that he would craft his skills of writing and performing that would lead to a stream of original songs amounting to five, self-produced full length original recordings including the new release, “30A Amigos”. The album contains songs that range from, promoting freedom of mind and soul to the karma of a four-way blinking light. Written and recorded while living in Santa Rosa Beach, the music described as “Beach Mountain Blues” is the product of , beach and mountain living with a deep respect for blues. All combine to create a soulful blend of fiery, passionate guitar and vocals, highlighted with foot stomping feel good rhythms. McCann's creativity has paved the way for many notable successes, prestigious awards and years of touring Europe and the US, while performing alongside some of the finest musicians. Recent highlights include stand out performances at the International Blues Challenge and again to be a part of the 30A SWF!
Sonically Nashville. Soulfully Alabama. There’s an exciting new voice making waves in musical storytelling.
Born and raised on Alabama soil, Wyatt Edmondson is a young rock/folk singer-songwriter based in Nashville, Tennessee. With two strongly praised demo projects under his belt and a wide array of shows across the southeast, Wyatt hasn’t looked over his shoulder since moving to Nashville from Montgomery, Alabama in 2017, and Music City is quickly taking notice.
Wyatt’s alluring vocals and elegant songwriting make for a powerfully intriguing troubadour full of raw talent, passion, and unapologetic honesty. No stranger to the big stage, Wyatt’s music combines the classic sounds of driving rock with smooth folk resonance. Captivating grooves like his first radio single “The Way You Move” and narrative love song “Lovers Lake” prove that Wyatt’s musical canvas is deeply layered. Whether in the studio or on the stage, each performance sparks intense emotion and makes for a compelling experience that is heartfelt, memorable and purely Wyatt Edmondson.
23-year-old Wyatt Edmondson blossomed in the heart of Montgomery, Alabama into an already locally acclaimed musical family. Inspired by his father, who performed in several top regional bands during his youth, and his grandfather, a revered blind piano tuner extraordinaire Wyatt gained a passion for music at the young age of twelve. Like his grandfather, Wyatt faces a challenge with a form of progressive blindness known as Retinitis Pigmentosa, but the condition has only made his vision for music that much clearer, and for Wyatt, the future looks brighter than ever.
It’s no secret and it’s been said before: sometimes, you’ve got to leave a place to appreciate that place. Sure, plenty of Southerners have left the South and returned with something to say; music and literature is peppered with such instances. It can’t be stressed enough, though, that leaving a place, can create in a person a certain yearning that the word ‘homesick’ could never define; it’s hard to put a finger on it, when you don’t know what it is your hurting from or missing in life. Forget your preconceived notions, though: if you haven’t been there lately, the South is a land as lush in culture, paradox, pride, sweetness and darkness as it is in humidity and kudzu…and it’s constantly evolving. Kristina Murray’s music, steeped in troubadour storytelling, southern rock grit, and the audible legacies of country queens of yesteryear, wonderfully exemplifies this tension.
Born and raised in the Empire State of the (Dirty) South, and after an almost six year stint making a unmistakable mark on the Americana and Country music scene in Colorado, Murray returned home to the Southland in 2014, this time to Nashville. And that yearning for place and identity—the leaving, then rejecting, then painful longing —is exemplified in the voice of this refreshing songwriter, who Country Music People UK calls “quite sensational…the whole package.”
Murray's late 2013 acclaimed all original debut album, Unravelin’, which the Denver Westword notes as a collection of “eleven tracks [that] reveal a honeyed and spirited vocalist with a distinct style,” Murray is immersed in the Americana and Indie Country scene of Nashville and the greater Southeast, resonating her unmistakable songwriting style and impassioned, honest voice.
Her forthcoming sophomore LP, to be released in 2018, showcases a writer and vocalist with indelible depth, and a poignant, timely perspective on the current American landscape.
Music for the soul. That’s an easy way to describe the immense talent of Reed Waddle. An award-winner singer-songwriter, Reed effortlessly switches between the genres, mixing complex chords with his soulful and smooth voice. Raised a stone’s throw away from the Emerald Coast’s pristine beaches, Reed now spends his time in Music City writing tunes for Nashville’s Bandwagon Red publishing company. His songs have caught the attention of Grammy award winners Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, John Oats and countless others. Ever the troubadour, Reed has toured across the country bringing his music to the masses. He’s taken home the top prize at the prestigious Telluride Troubadour Contest as well as winning trophies from the International Acoustic Music Awards, Independent Music Awards, and New York Songwriters Circle Competition. Reed’s songs have appeared on television shows around the world. He is currently working on his 6th album and Is releasing a side project EP in early 2018. His latest album ‘Creatures of the Heart’ is available on streaming services and his website www,reedwaddle.com
The Wide Open
The Wide Open
The Wide Open
The Wide Open are not trying to fit into a mold anyone else has cast. Crisscrossing the country
in their 32-foot Winnebago armed with their blues-drenched Americana, the duo has discovered
their calling––and fans of honest music are grateful for it.
“I just want you to have all of me when I sing a song, so if it’s real to me then it will be real to
you,” says singer-songwriter and award-winning harmonica player Allen Rayfield, who with
fellow power vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Season Ammons, forms duo The Wide Open. “I
love the authenticity of Robert Johnson and all the old blues, folk, and roots music. I like to sit
down with my guitar and write the song that needs to be written at the time,” says Rayfield. For
Ammons, creating is deeply personal. “I love melodies and usually will form a melody around a
phrase or hook,” she explains. “Then, I’ll pick up an instrument and hash out more music and
phrasing to create a story based on some aspect in my life that is or once was true.”
The pair’s sophomore release Long Road Home pulses with the kind of raw immediacy Rayfield
praises and craves. A tight collection of original songs driven by Ammons’ and Rayfield’s gritty
chemistry, the anticipated record is the follow-up to 2015’s We’ll Get By, which netted the pair an
Independent Music Award nod for Best Americana Album and was soon followed by an
acclaimed appearance on Destin, Florida’s PBS affiliate.
Confident and often downright virtuosic, Long Road Home clearly benefits from the miles the
road-dogging duo logs each year: at least 200 dates in roadhouses and listening rooms across
the country. The Wide Open recorded the album on analog tape at Yellow Dog Studios in
Wimberley, Texas, producer Dave Percefull’s Blanco-River lining vintage studio. “Dave was
great in the studio and knew exactly how to capture the sound we wanted, as well as exactly
how to get the performance he wanted,” Ammons says. “It was fun and intense and exciting.”
For fans of The Wide Open, such a triumphant record is cause for celebration but far from a
surprise––a beautiful new chapter for two people who can’t help but inspire one another and just
about everyone else who knows or merely hears them. After meeting on stage in Florida, the
two began collaborating, not expecting anything more than great songs. “Neither one of us was
looking for romance, but the love we shared on and off the stage became undeniable,” Rayfield
Ammons and Rayfield both traveled unique roads to get to one another. Dallas native Ammons
cut her teeth on the Texas opry circuit before moving to Nashville to focus on songwriting. A
warm reflection of the country, jazz, and blues vocalists she grew up loving, Ammons’ voice
demanded attention. She was a regional finalist on talent-scouting machine Nashville Star and
released a solo debut in 2011, a standout that garnered a Texas Music Awards nod, before
moving to the Fort Walton Beach area in Florida the following year. Ammons’ second solo
record turned heads and clinched nominations throughout Texas and Florida.
Gig after gig, album after album, Ammons became well known and beloved on the Emerald
Coast as a solid guitarist, magnetic performer, and gifted writer. Then she met Rayfield.
A St. Louis native, Rayfield was known as a songwriter and gifted harmonica player within the
blues community––he’d later go on to win three consecutive Best Harmonica Player trophies at
the annual Beachcomber awards not long after moving to Florida in 2013. He relocated with the
intention of giving songwriting and performing a wholehearted effort after weathering
devastating news: in 2007 at just 30 years old, he was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, an
incurable neurological disease that affects his muscles, coordination, and causes spasms. Not
even a year later, he was in a wheelchair. “I decided to do something about it,” Rayfield says.
He spent two months riding 1,486 miles from St. Louis to the East Coast on a hand-powered
recumbent bicycle to raise awareness about the disease. When he arrived in Ocean City,
Maryland, the mayor greeted him with a key to the city.
Rayfield has since experienced a miraculous regression in the disease and regained his ability
to walk. He attributes the process to his advocacy, alternative medicine, healthy diet, prayer and
meditation, yoga, and staying passionate about life.
Ammons and Rayfield cut fierce figures––and more than music aficionados have noticed. New
York Times bestselling author Paige Tyler based two characters in her book Wolf Unleashed:
SWAT: Special Wolf Alpha Team on the couple.
Long Road Home’s title track is a perfect example why. Also the album’s lead single, the song
gleefully incorporates sly banjo licks into a winking ode to doing things your own way. “It’s a fun
song about taking chances and having fun––and possibly doing the wrong things for the right
reasons,” Rayfield says. The pair’s muscly harmonies buoy the mood alongside playful strings.
“Feel Alright” blithely captures brash desire, while “Walton County Jail” is a bluesy masterpiece,
fueled by Rayfield’s gravely lead vocals and meaty harmonica. Moody “Raining in Memphis” is a
winsome stroll through regret and longing, while “Ol’ Missouri” nods to bluegrass in a sweet
singalong. Haunting album standout “Rainy Day Serenade” is a hushed meditation revolving
around Ammons’ stunning vocal delivery and perfect punctuations from Rayfield’s harmonica.
“I will obsess over the words and chords until I have a solid song working,” Rayfield says of his
composing process. “I will usually finish it even if it takes hours because I struggle walking away
from the moment I am having with the song.”
Ultimately, for both members of The Wide Open, the toiling through the years, miles, and
heartbreak that had to unfold in order to create Long Road Home has been worth it. “Long Road
Home captures an emotional roller coaster of real passion and truth,” Rayfield says. Ammons
says “The pain and joy it took to follow our love for each other and our love of music was both
transforming and overwhelming.” She pauses, then breathes deeply as she adds, “This album
helped us both heal and grow in ways we never imagined.”
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 Oats, 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, Jewel, 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!"
For more than two decades, Paul Burch's modern fusion of American roots music has attracted characters and collaborators from punk to honky tonk. “At the risk of being impeached by the bluegrass purists,” wrote legendary Rolling Stone music critic Chet Flippo, “I think Burch is the best duet partner Ralph Stanley has found since his brother, Carter Stanley, died in 1966.”
Paul Burch’s latest album Meridian Rising is an imagined autobiography of American music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers and features Burch's WPA Ballclub along with Billy Bragg, Fats Kaplin, Tim O'Brien, Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers), William Tyler, and Garry Tallent of the E Street Band.
Meridian Rising was named among the Best Albums of the Year (2016) by All Music and was featured in Rolling Stone, NPR, Magnet, Nashville Scene, Oxford American, and the Guardian. And Pop Matters calls Burch as “one of the finest contemporary roots performers – not to mention one of the best damn songwriters – operating today.”
Paul Burch was first singled out in a 1996 Billboard cover story about the new genre of Americana and cited his debut Pan American Flash as “extraordinary … establishing Burch as a leader in marrying country’s roots tradition with a modern sensibility.” Pan American Flash made No. 5 on Amazon.com’s Best Country Albums of the Decade, and all of Burch’s subsequent albums have landed on pop, rock and country “best of” lists in the U.S. and U.K.
In 2015, Burch performed at the White House with Hip Hop for Public Health as part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign with Chuck D and Doug E. Fresh. And his salute to Buddy Holly, Words of Love, found a fan in Holly’s widow, Maria Elena: “Paul has everything Buddy wanted to hear in an artist — his own style and his own sound.”
Peter Guralnick, author of biographies of Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley, and Sam Cooke, says: "I'm a Paul Burch fan. How could I not be? His music never fails to achieve its purpose, what Sun Records founder Sam Phillips has deemed the unequivocal purpose of every kind of music: to lift up, to deepen, to intensify the spirit of audience and musicians alike."
MISSISSIPPI-BRED SINGER PAUL THORN CRAFTS AN ORIGINAL SET OF ROCK ANTHEMS FOR HIS LATEST ALBUM TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED, ON PERPETUAL OBSCURITY/THIRTY TIGERS
Heralded songwriter follows up his most successful release to date — plus his AAA radio airplay-winning contribution to the
Jackson Browne tribute disc — with 10 feel-good numbers that already have audiences singing along
MONROE COUNTY, Miss. — Paul Thorn’s latest album Too Blessed To Be Stressed stakes out new territory for the popular roots-rock songwriter and performer. “In the past, I’ve told stories that were mostly inspired by my own life,” the former prizefighter and literal son of a preacher man offers. “This time, I’ve written 10 songs that express more universal truths, and I’ve done it with a purpose: to make people feel good.”
Which explains numbers like the acoustic-electric charmer “Rob You of Your Joy,” where Thorn’s warm peaches-and-molasses singing dispenses advice on avoiding the pitfalls of life. The title track borrows its tag from a familiar saying among the members of the African-American Baptist churches Thorn frequented in his childhood. “I’d ask, ‘How you doin’, sister?’ And what I’d often hear back was, ‘I’m too blessed to be stressed.’” In the hands of Thorn and his faithful band, who’ve been together 20 years, the tune applies its own funky balm, interlacing a percolating drum and keyboard rhythm with the slinky guitar lines beneath his playful banter.
Thorn’s trademark humor is abundant throughout the album on Perpetual Obscurity/Thirty Tigers. “Backslide on Friday” is a warm-spirited poke at personal foibles. “I promised myself not to write about me, but I did on ‘Backslide,’” Thorn relates. The chipper pop tune is a confession about procrastination, sweetened by Bill Hinds’ slide guitar and Thorn’s gently arching melody. “But,” Thorn protests, “I know I’m not the only one who says he’s gonna diet and just eat Blue Bell vanilla ice cream on Sundays, and then ends up eating it every day!”
“Mediocrity Is King” takes a wider swipe, at our culture’s hyper-drive addiction to celebrity artifice and rampant consumerism. But like “Everything Is Gonna Be All Right,” a rocking celebration of the simple joys of life, it’s done with Thorn’s unflagging belief in the inherent goodness of the human heart.
“I don’t think I could have written anthemic songs like this if I hadn’t made my last album,” Thorn says of 2012’s What the Hell Is Goin’ On? Like 2010’s autobiographical Pimps & Preachers, it was among its year’s most played CDs on Americana radio and contributed to Thorn’s rapidly growing fan base. And Thorn followed that airplay success with his current AAA-radio hit version of “Doctor My Eyes” from April 2014’s Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne. The latter also features Grammy winners Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, the Indigo Girls, Lucinda Williams, Keb’ Mo’, Ben Harper and Don Henley.
What the Hell Is Goin’ On? was also Thorn’s first set of songs written by other artists, borrowed from the catalogs of Allen Toussaint, Buddy and Julie Miller, and Rick Danko, among others.
“I lived with those songs and studied them before I recorded that album, and that changed me and made me grow as a songwriter,” Thorn relates. “Lindsey Buckingham’s ‘Don’t Let Me Down Again’ especially got me thinking. It was a rock anthem with a sing-along hook, and I fell in love with it and the idea of big vocal hooks. So every song on Too Blessed To Be Stressed has a big vocal hook in it. And it works! We’ve been playing these songs in concert, and by the time the chorus comes along for the second time people are singing along. I’ve never seen that happen with my unreleased songs before, and I love it.”
It helps that those big vocal hooks on Too Blessed To Be Stressed are being reinforced by the sound of Thorn’s flexible and dynamic band, as they have been doing for years in concert. During their two decades in the club, theater and festival trenches, the four-piece and their frontman have garnered a reputation for shows that ricochet from humor to poignancy to knock-out rock ’n’ roll. Guitarist Bill Hinds is the perfect, edgy foil for Thorn’s warm, laconic salt o’ the earth delivery — a veritable living library of glowing tones, sultry slide and sonic invention. Keyboardist Michael “Dr. Love” Graham displays a gift for melody that reinforces Thorn’s hooks while creating his own impact, and helps expand the group’s rhythmic force. Meanwhile drummer Jeffrey Perkins and bassist Ralph Friedrichsen are a force, propelling every tune with just the right amount of up-tempo power or deep-in-the-groove restraint.
“These guys really bring my songs to life,” says Thorn. “A lot of albums sound like they’re made by a singer with bored studio musicians. My albums sound they’re played by a real blood-and-guts band because that’s what we are. And when we get up on stage, people hear and see that.”
Thorn’s earlier catalog is cherished by his many fans thanks to his down-home perspective, vivid-yet-plainspoken language and colorful characters. It helps that Thorn is a colorful and distinctly Southern personality himself. He was raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, in the land of cotton and catfish. And churches.
“My father was a preacher, so I went with him to churches that white people attended and churches that black people attended,” Thorn says. “The white people sang gospel like it was country music, and the black people sang it like it was rhythm and blues. But both black and white people attended my father’s church, and that’s how I learned to sing mixing those styles.”
His performances were generally limited to the pews until sixth grade. “I’m dyslexic, and got held back in sixth grade,” Thorn relates. “I didn’t have to face the embarrassment, because my family moved and I ended up in a new school. There was a talent show, and I sang ‘Three Times a Lady’ by Lionel Ritchie with my acoustic guitar, and suddenly I went from being a social outcast to the most desired boy on the playground. The feeling I got from that adulation stuck with me and propelled me to where I am today.”
At age 17, Thorn met songwriter Billy Maddox, who became his friend and mentor. It would take several detours — working in a furniture factory, boxing, jumping out of airplanes — until Thorn committed to the singer-songwriter’s life. But through it all he and Maddox remained friends, and Maddox became Thorn’s songwriting partner and co-producer.
Nonetheless, Thorn possessed the ability to charm audiences right from the start. Not only with his music, but with the stories he tells from the stage. “Showmanship is a dying art that I learned from watching Dean Martin on TV when I was a kid,” Thorn explains. “He could tell little jokes and then deliver a serious song, then make you laugh again. And he would look into the camera like he was looking right at you through the TV. That’s what I want to do — make people feel like I’m talking directly to them.”
That’s really Thorn’s mission for Too Blessed To Be Stressed, which can be heard as a running conversation about life between Thorn and listeners — a conversation leavened with gentles insights, small inspirations and plenty of cheer.
“I wrote these songs hoping they might put people in a positive mindset and encourage them to count their own blessings, like I count mine,” Thorn observes. “There’s no higher goal I could set for myself than to help other people find some happiness and gratitude in their lives.”
# # #
On September 25, 2015, David Berkeley releases his crowning achievement to date: a set of interwoven stories offered in his second book, The Free Brontosaurus, and a batch of accompanying songs on his sixth studio album, Cardboard Boat. The songs are sung from the perspective of each story’s main character. The releases are a rare compliment to each other, but with a degree in literature from Harvard, over a decade of touring under his belt and a stage show that melds profound songs and hilarious anecdotes, Berkeley is uniquely positioned to be able to pull off such an ambitious project.
Berkeley has amassed a dedicated and widespread following who fully funded the creation of this new album and book. He’s been a guest on This American Life, Mountain Stage, World Café, CNN, XM Radio’s Loft Sessions, WFUV, NPR’s Acoustic Café and many more. He won the 2015 Kerrville New Folk competition and ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Songwriting Award. Called “a musical poet” by the San Francisco Chronicle, “sensational” by the Philadelphia Inquirer and “spellbinding” by Blurt, critics praise Berkeley’s carefully crafted philosophic lyrics and soulful baritone, which at one moment resonates richly only to swoop into a fragile falsetto in the next.
Though he now calls Santa Fe home, where he lives with his wife and two young sons, his explorations have taken him from busking in Harvard Square to the mountains of Corsica, from the back roads of Alaska to the crowds of New York City. Each port of call opened him to new experiences, as a public school teacher in Brooklyn, a river rafting guide in Idaho and, always, a chronicler of life as he observed and embraced it.
This isn’t the first time Berkeley has paired songs and stories. In 2010, upon returning from a year on the island of Corsica, Berkeley released his initial book/album combination: 140 Goats and a Guitar. That book comprises thirteen stories, each of which sets up a song on his fourth album, Some Kind of Cure. “With Goats,” Berkeley explains, “I told the stories that led to the writing of that album’s songs. The book is a lot about becoming a new father and the craft of songwriting. My new project, though, feels like the proper way to weave stories and songs.” From the start Berkeley envisioned the book as a "fictional story cycle," with different narratives overlapping, intertwining and emerging as the brontosaurus moves between characters, and as minor characters in one story become major characters in another.
The central musicians on Cardboard Boat -- guitarist Bill Titus (Dan Bern, Brother Ali), trumpet and banjo player Jordan Katz (De La Soul, The Indigo Girls), bassist/keyboard player Will Robertson (Shawn Mullins) and drummer Mathias Kunzli (Regina Spektor) -- found the recording experience transformational, according to Berkeley. "If you go about 20 minutes north of Santa Fe, up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, you come to a little village called Tesuque, which has just a post office and a restaurant inside a general store," he says. "Then you go further into the hills to an old adobe that Jono Manson has turned into a studio. It has great gear, but it feels like you're in an old Mexican house, with vega-beamed ceilings, out in the middle of nowhere. I've been out here for a few years and have begun to get used to the New Mexican palette, but for the rest of the team to live with that scenery and under those skies, it felt like being in a monastery somewhere. There's something about the light and the landscape and the calm and the quiet that's so inspirational."
The results are magical. Very few contemporary albums combine profound songwriting and such an extraordinarily empathetic performance at this level of eloquence. Complex issues unfold, brought to life by Berkeley's insight drawn from literature, poetry and his own experiences. There are references to Moby Dick in “Setting Sail” and Norse mythology in “The Wishing Well.” One of the standout tracks, “To the Sea,” is an elegy for an estranged father sung by a prodigal daughter. It’s a prayer for second chances as Berkeley and Watkins sing together “let me be like the leaves on the trees. / They come back in the spring, gold to green. / Or let me be like the stream full of rain. / It comes back eventually to the sea.”
Cardboard Boat stands on its own as a masterwork. It confirms the plaudits earned by Berkeley already, from No Depression ("Berkeley's songs are supremely melodic in ways only the most skilled singer/songwriters are able to convey") and Creative Loafing ("Berkeley crafts his songs like watercolor paintings") to legendary New York Times critic Jon Pareles ("Berkeley sings in a lustrous melancholy voice with shades of Tim Buckley and Nick Drake").
Juke Joint at the Edge of the World is the eleventh studio release from esteemed singer-songwriter Randall Bramblett, a multi-instrumentalist musician with a career spanning four decades. Highly sought-after for his creativity as both a collaborator and skilled touring sideman, the legendary Georgian’s talent has earned him the respect of his peers and many of rock’s finest luminaries. While having shared stages with artists such as Steve Winwood, Bonnie Raitt, The Allman Brothers and Widespread Panic, among others, it’s Bramblett’s own career as frontman where his artistry is truly on full display.
Deep into his self-described second act of his solo career, Bramblett aims to recreate the literature of the blues with music about nowhere people in nowhere lands. Conjuring equal parts Tom Waits, William Burroughs, and hallelujah chorus, his music again comes alive with this new collection of songs. With a commitment to the story of his characters and the necessary mutation of music, Bramblett has kept his solo career as fresh as the day it began.
This evolving engine of creativity is due, in large part, to the familiarity and bond shared with his bandmates.
“Juke Joint at the Edge of the World is a record that reflects the freedom that my bandmates and I have found in the last few years of playing together.” With an approach that he calls out for being “less analyzing and more fun,” it gently balances the technical prowess along with the passion held in the hearts and hands of each musician.
Moving with mellow evenness and jazzy dissonance, Juke Joint at the Edge of the World impressively combines elements of soul and funk, marrying profound lyrics with toe-tapping melodies — a union which was inspired by Bramblett’s many trips through southern music clubs. “Some of the places we play are like the old juke joints where people dance and shout. From these people and places we find the energy we need to be free to shake the music up.”
An integration of his own history as well as an integration of sound, Juke Joint at the Edge of the World rides in the wake of Bramblett’s previous release, the darkly soulful Devil Music, and finds, especially in its lyrics, a sort of kinship with its older brother. The songs on Devil Music were inspired by addiction, redemption, black music, and gospel and these same themes appear in Juke Joint at the Edge of the World, ringing with clarity and light, an illuminated manuscript in the hands of a fevered storyteller. But this record has more of a live in-the-studio feel to it. “The music is a little freer this time, rooted more in the soul and R&B dance music I grew up listening to and playing. The songs will take you places that make you dream and dance.”
Songs like “Pot Hole on Main Street” feel like an excerpt from one of Bukowski’s more autobiographical pieces while the transporting, deeply sensory “Mali Katra” feels like a scatter-brained dream rich with symbols portending doom or ecstasy. The deep, twisting vortex of nightmare; the dizzying climb towards salvation; and the long, gnarled streets of poverty and affliction are the paths this record travels, finding light to fill the darkness, and darkness to drown the light.
Bramblett’s solo career began in the 70’s with a pair of albums on Polydor Records. Joining the rock-jazz fusion group Sea Level he wrote/co-wrote a number of the group’s songs, including the Billboard single “That’s Your Secret.” Bramblett was approached by Traffic co-founder Steve Winwood in 1988 and spent the next 16 years touring in his band. It was on the road that he wrote new material with reinvigorated confidence and inspiration. Teasing his listener with unexpected humor while fleshing out fully lived-in characters with human ambition and godly stature, Bramblett continued his storied career with a continual pageant of reinvention and true conviction.
Juke Joint at the End of the World is being released July 7 on New West Records.
John Driskell Hopkins
John Driskell Hopkins
John Driskell Hopkins
John Driskell Hopkins has walked the musical path for the last 20 years. As a bass player, guitar player, singer and songwriter for several bands of the rock variety, Hopkins rooted himself in the Atlanta, GA music scene in 1995, producing records and touring with his band Brighter Shade.
Hopkins met Zac Brown in 1998 at an open mic hosted by Hopkins. Over the next several years, they remained friends and with Hopkins lending a production hand, they released the first Zac Brown record, “Home Grown,” in 2004.
Hopkins became a founding member of the Zac Brown Band in 2005 and has enjoyed engineering and songwriting credits on hit songs such as “Toes,” “It’s Not OK,” and “Sic Em On A Chicken,” from the triple-platinum selling record “The Foundation,” as well as “Nothing,” “I Play The Road,” and “Settle Me Down,” from the platinum selling record, “You Get What You Give.” Hopkins also co-wrote the second single from the Zac Brown Band’s third platinum album, “Uncaged,” entitled “Goodbye in Her Eyes” which was the group’s ninth Billboard number one single.
As the ZBB continue to garner critical and public success through numerous awards, including 3 Grammy Awards, 1 CMA, 2 ACM and 2 CMT Awards, Hopkins continues to share the spotlight on stage with his band of fellow songwriters and friends. He has added the title of multi-instrumentalist to his ZBB resume, playing Banjo on the single “Homegrown,’’ which became their 11th number one on Billboard Country charts in March, 2015, from their album “Jekyll and Hyde. Hopkins is also a contributing writer on that album’s second single, “Heavy Is The Head” featuring Chris Cornell, which debuted at No. 37 on Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, marking their first appearance on that chart. The band played both singles as musical guest on Saturday Night Live, March 7, 2015.
Hopkins can be seen and heard in the 2015 internationally-released film “Careful What You Wish For” featuring Nick Jonas, Paul Sorvino, & Dermot Mulroney, produced by Elizabeth Allen. And in 2016, he provided original music for and appears in the upcoming film, “Adolescence” featuring Tommy Flanagan, directed by Ashley Avis.
When off the road, Hopkins works in his home studio, songwriting and producing a growing crop of regional talent; he often shares these tracks with BMG/Chrysalis Nashville, whom he’s partnered with in an administrative deal since 2011. He continues to perform at music festivals and venues across the country with his band Brighter Shade, and also collaborates with other musicians as often as possible.
In 2015, Hopkins was elected as an advisor to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Atlanta Chapter, and was subsequently voted in to a Governor Seat for the 2015-2017 term.
In late summer, 2015, Hopkins fulfilled a dream when he collaborated with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra on a Christmas album, titled “In The Spirit: A Celebration of the Holidays,” recording 12 tracks of timeless holiday tunes with soaring arrangements and wonderful special guests such as the Indigo Girls, Balsam Range, and actress/singer extraordinaire, Laura Bell Bundy. The album was released in November, 2015, and Hopkins now joins the APO for holiday shows around the southeast each holiday season, and in 2016, released In The Spirit as a double vinyl LP with bonus tracks.
In November 2017, John released his second holiday album, “You Better Watch Out,” a collaboration with the Joe Gransden Big Band. So he’s spending his December playing shows with both the APO and the Big Band, celebrating the holidays and his brief down time with the ZBB before they head out again late January, 2018.
You can catch 11 episodes of Hopkins’ ongoing Podcast , “Under The Influence with John Driskell Hopkins” on iTunes, most of which were recorded while on the road with other band-mates or fellow tour-mates. Another favorite activity during any touring downtime is taking his Harley out for a lap of the city du jour.
He shares his life on and off the road with his amazing wife and three beautiful daughters.
Picture a street in working-class Baltimore some 30 years ago. Kids play in the shadows of the row houses that line the sidewalks. Their parents sit on the stoops leading up to front doors. It all seems normal at first glance.
But zoom in on one of these homes — that old duplex built back when this part of town was still mainly open fields. Inside is a completely different community, where fundamentalism, hippie values and volatile, unpredictable emotions coexist and collide. Escape is difficult: the only way out is to pass through the bedrooms of people you might be trying to get away from.
This is where Eliot Bronson grew up. Yeah, he often wanted to slip away from there, but the first thing he saw once he exited was the Pentecostal Church across the street where his father and grandfather had preached and where congregants spoke in tongues.
So Eliot looked inward instead.
“For better or worse, I’ve always been a weirdo,” he remembers. “I was reading about Zen Buddhism when all my friends were getting high and drunk in high school.
“Of course,” he adds, “I did all that stuff later.”
He also observed. In this kaleidoscopic family, where glossolalia and, on occasion, alcohol-fueled ravings, sometimes bled into each other, Bronson found shelter in music. At age 15, he got his first guitar and started teaching himself to play. “Right away, I wanted to write my own songs,” he says. “My house was pretty chaotic, crazy, and unhealthy, so I took to music like it was a life raft. It was something I could do to keep myself alive.”
Punk rock was his shelter at first. Then one day his dad put on a few of his favorite LPs — Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, something by Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. Eliot had heard these albums a thousand times before. This time, though…
“… it resonated with me,” Eliot says. “It wasn’t just in the background. I tuned into it for the first time. There was a magic and a power there. It didn’t talk down to the listener but it was also high art. It asked you to be smart and to become a better version of yourself. For me, this was a moment when it became my music, not just my parents’ music.”
From local coffee houses and venues beyond Baltimore, Bronson sharpened his writing and performance. He cultivated a working approach that involved singing to himself as ideas came to him and never jotting down chord changes or lyrics once he had committed the finished version to memory. A local following grew. Astute observers saw something different in the young artist’s work. The Baltimore Sun even anointed him “a folk singing wunderkind.”
Expanding his range, Bronson toured as one-half of a duo. They moved to Atlanta and picked up a gig in a room frequented by The Indigo Girls, John Mayer, Shawn Mullins and other discerning clientele. When his partner quit to take a sensible non-musical job, Bronson persisted on his own. His songs won first-place honors at MerleFest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and Eddie Owens Presents “Songwriter Shootout.” He issued several solo albums, including a self-titled release in 2014 that prompted Glide Magazine to describe him as “a gorgeous, magnificent hybrid of (Ryan) Adams, Jason Isbell and Jim James.” Bop n Jazz upped that ante by heralding him as “maybe the best singer/songwriter since Dylan.”
Writers may have trouble topping these accolades, though that’s what Bronson’s latest album merits. Scheduled to release Aug. 25 on Rock Ridge Music, James offers songs that are more like pictures than movies, capturing moments and digging deeply into their meanings. A stomping beat, raw harmonica and searing electric slide drives the opening track, “Breakdown In G Major,” followed by a selection of songs that only confirm Bronson’s restless, escalating excellence.
“Good Enough,” for example, captures a relationship in its final stage — a stage that may end tomorrow or stretch on for years. Bronson sings it sorrowfully, asking the rhetorical question of whether “‘good enough’ is good enough for you” from this point. “When I stumbled onto that line, I was like, ‘That’ll probably stick,’” he says. “But I think the song really came from the first line, ‘Were we really that young?’ Sometimes it takes just one line to resonate with me and get me to start writing.”
Then there’s “The Mountain,” whose elusive grandeur delivers a powerful message but leaves it to the listener to parse its meaning. “There’s a very literalist current in writing and music right now,” Bronson observes. “There aren’t a lot of layers to lyrics these days. It’s just what you see on the page. So when you don’t write that way, you get, ‘What are you hiding?’”
He laughs and then concludes, “I don’t look at it that way. For me, it’s more about how you feel when you hear it. What does it do for you? That’s the message!”
One more, “Rough Ride,” is a departure for Bronson. Here, the meaning is clear: When 25-year-old Freddie Gray fell unaccountably into a coma in the back of a Baltimore police van, much of America expressed shock and outrage. So did Bronson, but he channeled those emotions into this song.
“I had mixed feelings about writing this because I don’t like inserting my political or social beliefs into art,” he explains. “Art should be about connecting people, not drawing lines between them. But I was listening to Dylan’s Desire album at the time, especially ‘Hurricane.’ I always wanted to write a song like that. It was like, ‘How can you tell a story almost journalistically with great emotional impact and yet not come off heavy-handed?’ I wanted to see if I could do it. Now I’m glad I did.”
Known for his empathetic work with Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and other utterly original artists, producer Dave Cobb played a critical role in bringing James to fruition. “His honesty and old-fashioned vibe were so appealing to me,” Bronson says. “They leant themselves to the way I created. And, of course, it was a huge boost to have this great artist/producer at your back.”
They had worked together previously on his 2014 release, Eliot Bronson. “But this album is different,” Bronson points out. “It’s more sparse and economical. My voice is stronger. And I think it’s a step away from the purely Americana vibe of the last one in a direction that I have a hard time defining. I’m excited to discover how this music will define itself.”
Wherever he’s bound, Bronson promises to write and sing the truth as he sees and feels it. “For the really great artists, like Dylan or Paul Simon, you never quite find what you’re looking for,” he says. “As you get closer, it changes. It stays elusive. What I want to do now isn’t the same as what I wanted to do five years ago. And that’s what keeps me going.” And it’s that shift that drives Bronson to continue to refine his art.
For more information, please contact:
Krista Mettler, Skye Media & Rock Ridge Music
Vulnerability and carnal desire go head-to-head on Elise Davis’ The Token (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 about 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.
The album was produced by Sam Kassirer of Josh Ritter's band (who has also produced Ritter, Langhorne Slim, Lake Street Dive etc). It also features a great band with Josh Kaufman (Aaron & Brice Dessner of The National's collaborator for Day Of The Dead) on guitar, Bradley Cook (Sharon Van Etten) on bass, and Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver, Hiss Golden Messenger) on drums.
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.
The Token received coverage in Noisey, Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone Country, The Nashville Scene, American Songwriter, BULLETT, Elmore Magazine (95/100) and many more.
"...proof that women are only really permitted to be angry or in love if they want to make it big in the industry. Instead, Davis writes songs about being in love, losing love, wanting and being wanted, and sometimes just wanting something casual." - Noisey/Vice Top Albums List of 2016
"Sounds like: Saturday night turning into a kiss-and-run Sunday morning, as sung by a suicide-blonde honkey tonk angel." - Rolling Stone
"Davis' style leads listeners through relational crises of the modern female." - Nashville Lifestyles
"A rich and highly personal sonic tapestry focusing on her path to the present, The Token is at the same time a steady rocking (“Benefits”), passionate (“The Token”) and honest (“Pretty Girl”) are bound to make an impression." - TIDAL Rising Editorial Feature
In June of 2017 Elise recorded her second full length record in Nashville with producer Jordan Lehning. Exciting details of its release will be coming very soon!
Australian award winning Singer/Songwriter Tamara Stewart has long been a celebrated part of the Australian Country Music scene, renowned for her unique songwriting talent and warm sultry vocal.
Signing her first record and publishing deal with Universal/ABC and launching onto the music scene with her debut album in 2001, Tamara was well on her way to what has continued to be a very successful career in Australian Music.
After a decade of touring as a recording artist and multiple TV performances and as well as TV presenting guest hosting, including in the UK, Tamara’s most recent release ‘Apple Seed’ resulted in Tamara’s most successful chapter to date. Tamara has also long been a sought after writer and co writer on many chart topping songs by multiple artists in Australia, establishing herself as a much sought after collaborator in the Country Music and Americana genre.
In 2012, Tamara took home a CMAA (Country Music Association Australia) award in 2012, multiple finalist places and her album producing four #1 radio singles.
Tamara’s first trip to Nashville was in 2001, as a result of winning the Australian Country Songwriter of the Year (APRA Developmental award) and over the course of her career, Tamara returned multiple times to write and perform, and finally made Nashville home early in 2015.
Tamara’s long awaited fifth album, her first USA release, is due in early 2018. Once again Tamara in the producer’s chair, it has been recorded at Zac Brown’s prestigious Southern Ground Studios on Music Row, it is set to open a very exciting chapter to Tamara’s USA career.
Don has released 5 studio albums and 1 full-length score for the motion picture “Ranchero.” His last album, ‘Magnificent Ram A’, (One Little Indian/Velvet Elk) was “DiLego’s Masterpiece” if you are to believe No Depression, and a “Stunner of a record”, if you’re willing to concede that opinion to Paste Magazine. Either way, Don was quite pleased with the album title, which he scribed after his umpteenth trip to The Museum of Natural History, in NYC, where he currently resides, on Avenue C.
Before releasing his last record, he produced albums for Jesse Malin and Hollis Brown, among others, and continues to write with the electro-twang side project Beautiful Small Machines which he started with Bree Sharp after David Duchovny stopped issuing restraining orders on her.
DiLego and Malin started Velvet Elk Records a couple years ago (after their black mold basement studio project flooded out) which released both artists along with the single “Run Right To You” by Hollis Brown, which Don produced in his studio in the woods that he never mentions the location of for some odd reason. Oh, Don has won several songwriting competitions, including one in Australia (International Song of the Year), where they had dancers on stage as they announced it and they LITERALLY called him from a cell phone on stage back to Boston to accept the award…at 6am his time while he was eating scrambled eggs and the waiter thought he was very strange to be thanking his eggs for some songwriting award. Anyway, you should’ve been there I guess.
Don’s dad had a train station bar when he was growing up in Western Massachusetts and his first record was a 45 of “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell…who he would often mix up with The Lone Ranger, which makes kind of a lot of sense if you think about it. Since then, he has purchased other non-Rhinestone Cowboy related records, but still pines for the “good ol days” when you could wear “something bejeweled and sparkly” while singing country songs.
In Sept of 2017, Don will release his new single, “Different Man,” an ode to his far East Village neighborhood, on Velvet Elk / One Little Indian…really on the hopes of buying some time to finish his next full length record which he already has the name of but doesn’t know if anyone pays attention to album titles any more. Still, he will obsess over the order of the songs relentlessly nonetheless. Oh, and currently he’s insanely covering a song every single day for a year and posting to his social media sites because what else should he do there, and he’s to prideful to admit that he should’ve just promised “a song a week for a year!” He may have been drunk.
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, Brooks and Dunn and Jamie Lawson 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.
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.
Texas native Blake Bollinger came to Nashville in 2008. Since then he has landed cuts with Jason Aldean (featuring Kelsea Ballerini), Darius Rucker, Justin Moore, Rodney Atkins, Parmalee, Swon Brothers (featuring Carrie Underwood), Casting Crowns, Danny Gokey, High Valley, Dallas Smith, Mickey Guyton, Colt Ford, and others.
In addition to songwriting, Blake is co-producing acts Rodney Atkins and Jessica Mitchell.
Blake has also had songs featured on CBS and MTV.
From Ithaca, NY…
Joe Crookston is a songwriter, guitarist, painter, fiddler, eco-village member and believer in all things possible. Named 2016 Folk Alliance International Artist-in- Residence and signed to Tamulevich Artist Management. He’s not afraid to walk outside trends and create his own version of magic. His recording Able Baker Charlie & Dog was awarded Album of the Year by Folk alliance International. He will surprise you and he’ll awaken the cynics. His songs are being made into films and are being printed in songbooks. Joe’s live performances are multi-media celebrations of art and possibility with looped fiddle, video, slide guitar and SONGS. He’s a bard in the modern world plumbing for lyrical gold like a social archeologist. His story songs are universal, his slide playing infectious, and on stage he’s funny as hell one moment and transcendent the next.
Come to a show. Travel mystical, historical, and humorous roads, and twist through lush sonic landscapes along the way. Oklahoma towns, rattlesnake tails, Taoist parables and drunk roosters. At the end of the night, you’ll leave inspired. The Long Note in Irish culture is that place of resonance and transcendence where the music, the voices, the instruments, and the community ALL come together and unite. There IS a “Long Note” and Joe is courting it fiercely.
Watch a YouTube video. It’s good, but it’s not the same.
You gotta come to the show.
In February 2016 Joe was invited to be the Artist in Residence at the Folk Alliance International Conference. He collaborated with the World War I Museum in Kansas City researching its archives of letters, field recordings, photographs and collection to write an original song and create a painting. The work The Letters of Florence Hemphill tells the story of a nurse from Kansas who was a courageous medical presence during some of the most intense fighting of the war. The song, told from Florence’s perspective, allows her voice to be heard and her strength to be seen… to not be lost and forgotten.
2017 ~ His song “Brooklyn in July” is being made into a short film by NYC based DelanoCelli Productions and Joe’s song “Blue Tattoo” is the inspiration for “Blue Tattoo,” a documentary film that relates how Crookston and Holocaust survivor Dina Jacobson of Elmira, NY came together to form a unique friendship with a common sense of purpose. The documentary recently premiered at the Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival.
“Georgia I’m Here, released in April 2014 is a beautifully crafted sonic sculpture. As a listener, you are IN the song. You ARE the window washer on the 42nd floor.
The newly released volume of Rise Up Singing includes three of Joe’s songs. Fall Down as the Rain, Good Luck John and Bird by Bird, along with 1200 new songs, will become part of the canon of American Folk Music.
Joe’s CD, “Able Baker Charlie & Dog” received the most airplay of any folk acoustic recording and was awarded: “Album of the Year” by the International Folk Alliance in Memphis, TN.
He is signed to Tamulevich Artist Management with fellow songwriters, John Gorka, Red Horse, and Peter Yarrow.
He received a year-long songwriting grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to travel throughout New York State, collect stories, and write original songs.
Joe made the Top 10 Artists of 2014 list on the Folk DJ charts, along with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, John McCutcheon, John Gorka and the Stray Birds.
His favorite quote about his music is:
“I hate folk music, but I absolutely LOVE Joe Crookston’s music!”
But, for Joe, it’s less about awards and quotes, and it’s more about this:
“I am learning to trust that my voice as a songwriter is a combination of my conscious and unconscious mind. More and more I find that when I tell my story from both of these realms, it has wider breadth, deeper impact, and resonates more clearly.
After years of creating, I do feel as though I've honed a way of writing and performing that has identifiable themes and expresses my quirky uniqueness.
There is a Georgia O'Keeffe quote that I love, and I'm paraphrasing: "The parts of ourselves that we are most self-conscious of, are the parts of ourselves that are most uniquely true to who we are!"
I see my job as an artist to have the confidence to sing, play and perform from this deep/true place inside of myself despite what is hip and cool at the moment.”
I have been remembering this quote by Woody Guthrie: "A SONG has to be more than GOOD.....it has to be GOOD for SOMETHING." When my songs are played at births, funerals, Quaker retreats, grade school history classes, weddings, and are being placed in museum exhibits and films...I feel like I'm making Woody proud.
Grayson Capps is relaxed. You can hear it in the tone of his voice when he speaks, in the thoughtful, laconic way he reflects on the sometimes-tumultuous course of his life and work. It’s not the sound of complacency or comfort, but rather of personal growth and understanding. Capps is not without worry or darkness in his life, but he’s reached a kind of peace with it, an unhurried acceptance that enables him to write with unflinching honesty and remarkable humanity. His long-awaited new solo album, ‘Scarlett Roses,’ is his first in six years, and it showcases the kind of understated brilliance that can blossom when creativity is detached from expectation, when songs are truly given the space and time to find their writer. Grayson Capps is relaxed, but it wasn’t always this way.
“Up until 2011, I was expecting myself to come up with a new record every year,” says Capps, “but then something just clicked. I told myself, ‘Man, you don’t need to worry about the timing. Just let these songs and your career catch up with you.’”
The Alabama native moved back to his home state with his wife, the Grammy Award-winning engineer/producer Trina Shoemaker, and cut himself loose from the self-imposed deadlines he’d been adhering to for the better part of a decade. He built a writing shack in his backyard and christened it a sacred space for creation without targets or schedules. There, he tapped deep into his subconscious, channeling the songs that would become ‘Scarlett Roses’ from a trance-like state in which the music practically bubbled up out of him like water from a spring.
“A lot of these songs came to me the way dreams do, where all these different bits and pieces from all these different parts of life come together,” says Capps, who documented his streams of consciousness with the voice memo app on his phone. “I would sit back there in that shack and just play, and things would come to me because I wasn’t actually trying to make a record. Nothing was forced. It made me relax.”
Hailed by NPR’s Mountain Stage for his “unbridled energy and authenticity,” Capps first emerged as a solo artist in 2005 following stints in the New Orleans thrash folk band the House Levelers, which he joined while still a student studying theater at Tulane, and his subsequent blues-rock group, Stavin’ Chain. His proper debut release under his own name, ‘If You Knew My Mind,’ earned rave reviews, with the New Orleans Times Picayune writing that “his character-based narratives are guaranteed to make you ache and exult” and Exclaim! calling it “a Southern gothic tour de force.” After Hurricane Katrina forced Capps to relocate to Franklin, TN, he went on to release a string of similarly exalted albums that earned him devoted followings in both the US and Europe, including 2006’s ‘Wail & Ride,’ which JamBase said “hums with quiet wisdom and unforced momentum;” 2007’s ‘Songbones,’ described by All Music as “poetry filled with the bloody glory and taut acceptance of real life on the bottom;” and 2008’s ‘Rott & Roll,” an album that prompted American Songwriter to declare, “Take the poetry of Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt, combine with Steve Earle’s edgy attitude and stir with a little cup of the bayou-blues (think Howlin’ Wolf) and you start to get a taste of Capps’s scrumptious gothic gumbo.” He followed it up in 2011 by assembling a crew of Gulf Coast all stars to back him on ‘The Lost Cause Minstrels,’ a record which found him more than living up to the “Tennessee Williams-meets-Charles Bukowski” tag he’d earned from Blurt, and upon returning to Alabama, he teamed up with Will Kimbrough, Sugarcane Jane, and Corky Hughes to host a weekly songwriters’ night that proved to be so much fun it resulted in a pair of collective albums released under the name Willie Sugarcapps.
While working at such a prolific pace has its benefits, it can leave precious little time for experiencing the life you’re writing about. Capps found himself undergoing immense personal changes during this period, and only through slowing down was he able to process what it all meant.
“The songs on ‘Scarlett Roses’ really chronicle me discovering my position in the world,” says Capps. “It was a process that felt like gaining something and losing something at the same time.”
Recorded over the course of two whirlwind sessions (one at Dockside Studios in Maurice, LA, and the other at Dauphin Street Sounds in Mobile, AL), the album tackles heavy issues: separation from loved ones, the weight of fatherhood, the mortality of our parents, self-medication. As serious as the topics may sound, Capps manages to write with an eye towards beauty and humor, extracting hard-won catharsis and even genuine joy from pain and loss. The songs were cut live with just a few takes in order to capture the magic of the band discovering the music as they performed it, and their infectious chemistry is an ideal match for Capps’ gravelly voice and keen insight.
Produced jointly by Shoemaker, Capps, and Hughes, ‘Scarlett Roses’ opens with its title track, which builds from a gentle acoustic strum to a full steam Southern rocker calling to mind the early days of Jay Farrar and Son Volt. The song envisions a ship departing with a loved one onboard, leaving behind only the scent of perfume and the whisper of a nearly forgotten melody as the narrator seeks closure.
“That song came to me in that whole whirlpool of dreams, mixing emotions about old love and daughters and sons and aging parents,” reflects Capps. “It’s an interesting thing that happens when you let yourself enter that relaxed, hypnotic trance state. You start singing and all these lyrics just start coming from all these different places.”
That uninhibited sense of creative freedom proved to be key to Capps’ writing process on the album. The eerily intense “Taos” grew out of experimentations with drum loops in his wife’s studio space, while the funky blues of “Hold Me Darlin” was inspired by a day spent fingerpicking like Keb Mo’ and Mississippi John Hurt. On “You Can’t Turn Around,” Capps serves up a lively slice of Southern noir about pressing on through regret, and the Drive-By Truckers-esque “Bag Of Weed” offers a tongue-in-cheek response to the simplified and sanitized world of modern pop country. Perhaps the album’s most powerful moment, though, arrives with the tender and atmospheric “New Again,” which features gorgeous harmonies from fellow songwriter Dylan LeBlanc.
“I wrote that song after my dad’s open heart surgery, when I didn’t know if he was going to make it,” says Capps. “I’m a father and a son now, and when you’re both at the same time, it’s a balancing act to maintain your own sanity and to try to be the best you can be for both worlds.”
If there’s anything Capps has learned from this process, it’s to slow down and simplify, to eliminate the pressure of expectation and the fear of loss in order to truly connect with yourself in a deep and meaningful way. As a result, ‘Scarlett Roses’ is the most sophisticated, mature, and resonant collection of music he’s ever recorded. It’s a rock and roll album the Buddhists might call Zen. Grayson Capps, however, just calls it relaxed.
PETER KARP - NEW CD Blue Flame
featuring Mick Taylor, Kim Wilson
(Americana / Blues, Nashville, TN)
“PETER KARP IS A STAR. From his muscular slide guitar soloing to his observational and oh-so-true songwriting and, most of all, that soulful expressive voice of his, dripping with innuendo. Dude’s entertaining as hell.” - GOLDMINE MAGAZINE
Songwriter. Guitarist. Singer. Pianist. Bandleader. Peter Karp’s dazzling musical ability is evident throughout "The Blue Flame" the phenom’s 9th full-length LP and third on Rose Cottage Records. Operating within the fiery brand of American roots/blues music that Karp calls "soul-influenced Americana - Blues rock," the album highlights Karp’s gorgeous, rough-hewn vocals and soaring guitar and piano work. But most of all it is his heartfelt, critically acclaimed songwriting amidst a group of masterful musicians that make this record and his live show one of this country’s most sought after live acts.
“Guys like Peter Karp, James Taylor and Bob Dylan embody Americana Blues, and us English guys are inspired by it.” - Mick Taylor, The Rolling Stones
As a songwriter Karp first saw national attention when guitarist Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones recorded and toured with Karp on his third release, The Turning Point. The momentum continued with the Blind Pig Records release Shadows and Cracks, a record that cracked the top 10 on the Billboard and Blues charts. In 2008 Karp formed The Karp Foley Band with Canadian blues guitarist Sue Foley. With Karp as the principle songwriter, they released two CDs, He Said She Said and Beyond The Crossroads on Blind Pig that went to #1 on the Blues Chart. In 2016 Karp released “The Arson’s Match” a live show with Mick Taylor recorded by Sirius radio at The Bottom Line in NYC, part of a charity project that he started for Ovarian Cancer Research. This was nominated for 2 Blues Blast Awards in 2016 and Best Live Album from Blues 411 Jimi Awards. 2017's "Alabama Town" was in the top 10 on the Blues Charts and has garnered many "Best Of" awards.
“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
Going beyond the southern textures of 2017’s, Alabama Town, Karp broadens his sound with the release oh Blue Flame. Inspired by a conversation with blues songwriter Willie Dixon, Blue Flame Karp masterfully crafts his music by infusing genuine emotion, humor and candor with some funky R&B, southern soul, Americana storytelling and with some rock blues. His band gets in on the action too, with special guest Kim Wilson playing some soulful harmonica on the tracks You Know and Rollin On A Log. Mick Taylor contributes some fine guitar work on The Turning Point. Karp’s core band stacks the record with blasts of swirling organ, soaring harmonica and a lock-step rhythm section second to none.
"One of the most well-respected songwriters in America.” -Blues Blast Magazine
Ever the multi-tasker, Karp bounces between several instruments, handling electric resonator slide guitar, acoustic guitar — as well as harmonica and piano. Each track driven home with his soulful voice and original songwriting style. On this record, having spent the past year tirelessly playing ever-larger venues and festivals to a burgeoning fan base in Europe and the US The Peter Karp Band continues to carve out his own unique niche, with a sound born in the swamps of New Jersey and the trailer parks in southern Alabama.
"Fans of resonator and slide guitar will surely appreciate Karp’s skillful bluesy touch...beautifully weave touches of folk, country, rock and pop, along with blues... His writing has been compared to that of John Prine and John Hiatt and is impressively backed up by his ability as a musician. This is blues material its finest…" - Chicago Blues Guide
The Peter Karp Band is:
Peter Karp: Vocals, Guitar, piano, harmonica
Thea Florea Drums
Niles Terrat: Bass
Sebastian Stoltz: Bass
Paul Carbonara: Guitar
• 2016 – RMR Top 50 Blues Rock Song Chart – 7 Songs from “The Arson’s Match”
• 2016 – RMR Top 50 Blues Album & Blues Rock Album Charts – “The Arson’s Match”
• 2016 – Nominee – Blues Blast Music Awards (Best Rock Blues Album & Best Live Blues Recording)
• 2016 – Nominee – Independent Blues Awards (Best Independent Blues Live CD & Best Contemporary Blues Song – “I’m Not Giving Up”)
• 2010 – #10 Billboard Blues Album – He Said She Said (Peter Karp & Sue Foley)
• 2010 – #1 for 6 weeks on the National Blues and Roots Charts – He Said She Said (Peter Karp & Sue Foley)
• 2010 – #1 Roots Music Report Blues Chart – He Said She Said (Peter Karp & Sue Foley)
https://youtu.be/LATIxM7ziBI - The Arson’s Match (with Mick Taylor – Rolling Stones)
https://youtu.be/OiKWlLTzAms - “Turning Point” (with Mick Taylor)
https://youtu.be/bBudvE6JiW8 - “Dirty Weather”
https://youtu.be/vtmGnyf18vE - “Strange Groove”
https://youtu.be/6Elh1_cH4NM - “You’ve Got a Problem” (w/special guest Sue Foley) in Germany Nov. 27, 2015
"Karp's voice is immediately convincing, a big, bold, soul-drenched instrument that makes even his most troubadour-influenced material sound bluesy. In addition, he’s a terrific keyboard player and an elegantly stylish slide guitarist." Steve Pick - AboutBlues.com
"Karp's gruff vocals and bemused, quasi-philosophical writing gives this agreeable platter emotional depth." - Pasadena Weekly
Bradley Cole Smith
Bradley Cole Smith
Bradley Cole Smith
A fixture on the Atlanta music scene since the early 1990’s, the former leader and songwriter for Southeastern stalwart, Doublewide, cut his first solo album “Beggars and Bankers” in 2001. His latest release, “The Hilltop EP” (a collaboration with Nelson Nolen and producer Paul Warner) features a lush, rootsy landscape with more diverse instrumentation than prior releases. As a songwriter, Bradley has been featured in films and television. As a performer, he has shared the stage with numerous artists including Sheryl Crow, Blues Traveler, Sister Hazel, Edwin McCain, Taj Mahal, Dwight Yoakum and Jerry Jeff Walker. His songs characterize the human experience, giving them timeless and ageless appeal.
Drenched in sun-kissed natural beauty both inside and out, Deana Carter didn’t take a seemingly easy route to stardom, but instead chose to defy the conventional expectations of the typical Nashville artist blueprint and make her own mark. And she did, undeniably taking the industry and fans by storm with her wildly successful multi-platinum international debut Did I Shave My Legs For This? more than a decade ago. Anchored by the dreamy super hit” Strawberry Wine” , Carter showcased her own blend of country and retro-rock sprinkled with the folksy singer/songwriter qualities that have garnered Deana Carter well-deserved respect and wild acclaim.
Today, as she readies her latest bundle of uniquely crafted tunes for upcoming release on Southern Way of Life , Carter explores many subjects commonly shared over a quaint dinner, afternoon coffee or a sunny day hike with a good friend.
The songs weave through the sometimes rocky terrain of adulthood, including loss of love, relationships on many different levels, trials, tribulations and simply put – life. Instinctively autobiographical, the subject matter mimics the interesting ride of Carter’s own life – so far.
The daughter of famed studio guitarist and producer Fred Carter, Jr., Deana grew up exposed to the wide variety of musicians her father worked with, including Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, and Simon & Garfunkel. Their strong influence would eventually seep into Deana’s own country-pop style, which reflects qualities that can also be heard in similar artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter and Sheryl Crow.
Developing her songwriting skills by trial and error at writer’s nights throughout Nashville, Carter eventually signed a writing deal with Polygram and soon after a record deal with Capitol Records. One of her demo tapes happened to fall into the hands of none other than Willie Nelson, who remembered Deana as a child. Impressed with how she’d grown as a songwriter, Nelson asked Deana to perform along with John Mellencamp, Kris Kristofferson and Neil Young as the only female solo artist to appear at Farm Aid VII in 1994.
Her debut album, Did I Shave My Legs For This? boasts six songs co-written and co-produced by Carter and was released to strong reviews in late summer 1996. By the end of the year, the record had climbed to the top of both the country and pop charts, quickly achieving multi-platinum status. A “first” for the genre, Deana’s celebrated debut held this distinction for more than 5 years. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright followed in late 1998 and in 2001 Carter realized her dream of performing with her dad on a holiday album aptly titled Father Christmas. Making a strong move towards adult pop Carter released I’m Just a Girl on Arista Records in 2003, the same year Capitol Records released a Greatest Hits compilation. Follow-ups The Story of My Life in 2005 and The Chain in 2007 were both released on Vanguard Records. In an effort to pay homage to her musical roots and preserve her legendary father’s label Nugget Records, that famously presented some of the best in country music some 40 years ago, Carter recently opened her own label, Little Nugget Records, on which her latest album Southern Way of Life will be released.
Carter now divides her time between Los Angeles and Nashville, writing and producing for both the pop/rock and country markets when not on the road touring. Her superstar success continues to be evident as last year’s chart topper “You & Tequila” , co-written with Matraca Berg and recorded by Kenny Chesney, was nominated as CMA’s “Song of the Year”, as well as two Grammy nods, notable the coveted “Song of the Year” , and, also, received a nomination as ACM’s “Song of the Year”. Carter also recently co-wrote and produced a new album for recording artist Audra Mae while putting the finishing touches on her own Southern Way of Life .
Singer, songwriter, producer – Deana Carter continues to defy conventional expectations, making waves as she makes great music.
The War And Treaty
The War And Treaty
The War And Treaty
The War and Treaty: the name itself represents the pull between trauma and tranquility, music inspired by darkness and despair that ultimately finds a higher spiritual purpose. It’s a sound manifested on the group’s upcoming EP, Down to the River.
“The War and Treaty had the most infectious onstage presence.” — KATIE GABB (DC MUSIC DOWNLOADS)
For Michael Trotter Jr., the journey began in 2004, when he arrived in Iraq, an untested soldier stricken by fear and self-doubt. His captain made it his personal mission to see to Trotter’s survival. The unit was encamped in one of Saddam Hussein’s private palaces, and in a forgotten corner in its basement, they found a black upright piano that once belonged to the dictator himself. When Trotter shared the fact he could sing, he was encouraged to teach himself to play piano on that confiscated keyboard. “I wrote my first song after that captain was killed,” Trotter recalls. “I sang it for his memorial in Iraq.” Soon after it became his mission to sing at the memorial services for those that had fallen. For the next three years, he sang songs that brought solace and comfort to the members of his unit. His efforts eventually garnered wider recognition as well. He came in first place in “Military Idol,” the army’s version of “American Idol,” during a competition held in Baumholder, Germany. Following his discharge, he was featured on the Hope Channel program “My Story, My Song.”
“The War and Treaty takes listeners through a soulful yet folksy journey” — SUSAN DIRANIAN (CBS DC)
Then he met Tanya Blount. Blount, a seasoned performer whose musical influences include Mahalia Jackson, Dolly Parton, Sister Odette and Aretha Franklin, was amazed by Michael. "His personality drew me in initial and then the sparks started to fly. I knew that I was hooked". recalls Tanya. The two fell in love, got married and used the experiences they had gained to create a new musical collaboration.
“if your heart is thirsty for some warm comfort in a newfangled flask...lay your soul down here. This offering from The War and Treaty is pure joy” — LISA FISCHER (GRAMMY, OSCAR WINNER)
The couple then secured the services of musicians whose skills add a distinctive sound to The War and Treaty’s blend of roots music, blue grass,folk, gospel and soul. Recorded in Albion, Michigan, Down to the River boasts a sound that’s both stirring and sensual, driven by joy, determination and an unceasing upward gaze. The music is visceral but never morose, flush with emotion but void of despair… a style that touches on a variety of genres, but never finds itself confined to anyone. The arrangements are uncluttered– harmonies, basslines, guitar and mandolin licks, settle drum patterns and keyboards create an immensely moving soundscape — but the sentiments and emotions are fully realized and soar with a steady, chilling assurance. “The recording process wasn’t like anything I ever experienced,” Tanya recalls. “This EP has allowed me to breathe musically. I feel like all I have wanted to express for the past ten years has come forth with what we’ve done. The combination of heart, soul and the overwhelming amount of love that Michael and I have for one another comes across in this record. “
“The War and Treaty, took the Red Clay Music crowd on an emotionally charged ride with stunning songs about love, loss, grief, heartache, redemption and love.” — JIM SIMPSON (NO DEPRESSION)
"I was sitting on the banks of the Euphrates River in Baghdad dreaming about one day being able to play and sing professionally for people all around the world,” Michael reflects. “As we recorded our music, I constantly had flashbacks of those desert dreams. I thought to myself that this is actually the perfect ending to usher in a new beginning in my life.”
“From the first moment I heard the voices of Michael and Tanya Trotter I was a believer in their enormous talent. Their music feels steeped in the rich history of the blues, their stage presence is undeniable and together their voices are a force of nature. Those first few seconds of hearing them will grab a hold of you in the most exciting possible way” — ANN DELISI-WDET 101.9 FM
That beginning can be heard in the album’s first single “Hi Ho,” a WMNF hit that is now being heard on radio stations throughout the country. Still, for all their optimism and initial intent, The War and Treaty, knows that as their name suggests, perseverance is key to success. They continue to tour, their son in tow, hoping to share songs of reconciliation and humanity.
“Great Album!” — PETE BRUINSMA- WYCE 88.1 FM
Dave Franklin is a renowned singer-songwriter from the Atlanta music scene, and former member of the legendary Atlanta alternative rock band, hollyfaith. Franklin has also toured and recorded with drivin' n' cryin', Kristen Hall, Billy Pilgrim, and opened for Johnny & June Carter Cash, Sinead O'Connor, and Jewel. Dave has released 3 full-length critically acclaimed albums and is currently working on his fourth.
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 stress-free 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.
Emerson Hart (of Tonic)
Emerson Hart (of Tonic)
Emerson Hart (of Tonic)
Beauty in Disrepair
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 Sundogs and The Haraway Brothers
The Sundogs and The Haraway Brothers
The Sundogs and The Haraway Brothers
Brothers Lee and Will Haraway started performing together as children in Millington, Tenn., having learned to sing and play from their parents’ Beatles, Stones and Creedence records. They formed The Sundogs in Atlanta, GA in the early 2000s and quickly earned attention for the melodic Americana Rock and Roll sound of their records and especially for their high energy live shows.
The Sundogs released “BB Gun Days” in 2004, “Instrument of Change” in 2007 and “Cut & Run” in 2015, which was the first release from The Sundogs to also feature songs from colead guitarist Jon Harris, former leader of Jon Harris and the Sin Hounds.
The six-piece lineup also includes renowned Atlanta gunslinger Benji Shanks, ace Hammond keyboardist Kevin Thomas alongside drummer Will Groth. Collectively, The Sundogs have shared stages with Jason Isbell, Zac Brown Band, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, Widespread Panic, Sugarland, Shawn Mullins, The Wailers, The BoDeans, Burning Spear, Gatemouth Brown, Chuck Leavell, Bill Kreuztman, Blackberry Smoke, Bloodkin, Lucero, The Wood Bros. and Ike Stubblefield.
Having long been compared to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, the band started performing The Sundogs Present ‘The Tom Petty Show’ in 2011, and have played a complete Petty tribute every December thereafter at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta.
In May of 2017, the Haraway Brothers released a solo (duo?) record, “The Haraway Brothers Wish You Love & Luck in the World” with Shanks producing from Kristian Bush’s (Sugarland) Projector Room Studios in Decatur, Ga.
The record is exactly what the title describes-- a sincere wish and a shot of good, positive vibes for everyone that lets their music into their ears and their hearts. Smart, funny and occasionally sad songwriting is buoyed by brilliant brotherly harmonies, silky pedal steel from Lee Haraway and guitar leads from Shanks that would make the late great Waylon Jennings cry. The Haraway Brothers Wish You Love & Luck in the World is a beacon to music fans searching for meaning, melody and storytelling.
You can find all music from The Sundogs and The Haraway Brothers on iTunes and your favorite music streaming service.
For over thirty years, Dan Navarro has written, sung, played and acted his way through a rich and varied career...
Dan’s started as a songwriter, most often with Eric Lowen, for artists as diverse as Pat Benatar (the Grammy-nominated “We Belong”) The Bangles, Jackson Browne, Dave Edmunds, The Temptations, Dionne Warwick, The Triplets, Dutch star Marco Borsato, and Austin outlaw legend Rusty Weir.
In the 1990s and 2000s, he and Eric recorded and toured as the acclaimed acoustic duo Lowen & Navarro until Eric’s retirement in 2009. Dan has transitioned smoothly into a busy solo career over the past decade, touring nationally almost constantly.
He has a parallel career as a voice actor and singer, in films like Pirates of the Caribbean 5, The Book Of Life, Rio (on the Oscar®-nominated “Real In Rio”), Happy Feet, The Lorax, Ice Age (2 & 3); TV series Turbo Fast, Prison Break, Family Guy and American Dad; records with Neil Young, Andrea Bocelli, Luis Miguel, Jose Feliciano, Janiva Magness, and Jon Anderson of Yes; hit video games Fallout 4 and Uncharted 4, and hundreds of TV ads for Subaru, Shakey’s, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Honda, Nationwide and more.
He has appeared in Washington on artists’ rights and intellectual property issues, on behalf of Nashville Songwriters Assn Int’l, SoundExchange, SAG-AFTRA, musicFIRST Coalition, BMI and NARAS, including testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Copyright Royalty Board. Dan also serves on the boards of SAG-AFTRA and The Levitt Pavilion Pasadena.
In 2009, after 22 years and 12 CDs with Lowen & Navarro, Dan released the spirited “Live at McCabe’s”, backed by his pals, Austin’s now-disbanded Stonehoney. His next album,“Shed My Skin”, releases this year.
He is the father of a 20-year-old son and a known abuser of acoustic guitars.
Like many artists, Wyatt Durrette found his inspiration as a child. Listening to country and bluegrass music with his father, young Wyatt connected to something in the rhythm and vibrations of music and a sound that became inextricably tied to his childhood. At age eleven, Wyatt tried his hand at adding to that soundtrack by writing his first song.
Wyatt’s interest in music continued into his college years where his influences expanded to Jimmy Buffett, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles and Steve Miller. But coming from a large Virginian family – he is one of eight children – Wyatt understands the importance of roots and so he held onto his by combining the country/bluegrass music of his past with the island music of his present, creating the unique sound in his songs.
While bartending and managing in the local bar scene, Wyatt eventually settled in Atlanta, GA where he managed The Dixie Tavern. It was at this local Atlanta hangout where Wyatt met Zac Brown who was part of The Dixie’s weekly entertainment. The two have been writing songs that have been entertaining and inspiring fans ever since.
Wyatt’s collaboration with Zac has resulted in a collection of songs that celebrate life and the simple joys of living...and what a record-setting collection that is. Forty total song collaborations led to twenty two million singles sold, eight million albums sold and twelve #1 hits, to be exact.
Hot off the heels of a Grammy win for the Zac Brown Band as “Best New Artist,” the band made history as the first artist to achieve four #1 songs in a row from a debut album—all four of these songs co-written by Wyatt, including #1 platinum hits “Chicken Fried,” “Toes,” as well as “Whatever It Is,” and “Highway 20 Ride.” The number “1” has been a recurring number for these songs, reaching top status on numerous charts including Billboard, iTunes, Mediabase, R&R/BDS, CMT and GAC. With Zac Brown Band’s debut album, The Foundation, surpassing two million in sales, this album has amassed a staggering eight million in digital sales to date, as well as a Billboard Top 20 Album of 2010. Wyatt was also presented with the incredible honor of the CMA Triple Play Award, as “Chicken Fried,” “Whatever It Is,” and “Toes” were all chart topping hits within a twelve month period. Zac Brown Band’s second major label studio album You Get What You Give, is another winning collaboration, with Wyatt co-writing eleven of the fourteen and repeating the magic of another four #1 songs including singles “As She’s Walking Away” featuring Alan Jackson, “Knee Deep” featuring Jimmy Buffett, “Colder Weather” and “Keep Me In Mind”. Released in September 2010, this album followed the same path of success, garnering a #1 Billboard Top 200 and Country album, another Grammy win for the group, as well as becoming certified Platinum. Wyatt also received Grammy and Academy Award nominations in 2010 for “Where The River Goes”, a song written for the motion Picture Footloose. 2012 brought the release of Zac Brown Band’s third major label studio album Uncaged and unbelievably, Wyatt’s second CMA Triple Play Award for “Highway 20 Ride,” “As She’s Walking Away,” and “Colder Weather.” Uncaged continued the sensation winning Best Country Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards. With Wyatt co-writing every song but one on this album, it hit #1 on the US Billboard 200 chart as well as #1 on the US Billboard Top Country Albums chart, with over one million records in sales. Two years later in 2015, Jekyll + Hyde was released, marking Zac Brown Band’s fourth major label studio album. This album had Wyatt’s touch on it with co-writing on eleven tracks, including “Heavy Is The Head” featuring Chris Cornell. This album debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200 album chart, making it Zac Brown Band’s third #1 album on the Billboard 200 chart. Furthermore, the song “Homegrown” appearing on this album and co-written by Wyatt, was named Song of the Year by SESAC in 2015.
Just as Wyatt’s musical roots can be traced back to memories with his father, so too can the music he creates today. Now a father himself, Wyatt’s writing is influenced by the love he has for his son. Knowing how one song can make a difference in someone’s life, he strives to make music that touches you deeply, yet hits you like a warm tropical breeze. They just make you feel...good.
Kyle LaMonica is an acoustic singer songwriter who grew up just west of the beaches of south Walton in Niceville, FL. Since 2002 while majoring in music at Florida State University, Kyle has performed as a solo musician throughout the region and especially the local area around Destin, FL. Kyle’s music has a feel similar to popular rock bands like Dave Matthews Band, Guster and David Gray. You can always expect Kyle's music to showcase a major emphasis on his vocal melodies and dynamic acoustic guitar playing. Kyle has released two albums (Matter of Time-2003 and Egoliath-2005) as a member of Free Monica, a band that he co-founded in 2003 with his friend and fellow musician, Ben Friedman. Free Monica continues to perform locally along the panhandle beaches. Kyle has been nominated multiple times for the annual 30A.com Hotspot Awards “Hottest Local Musicians/Bands” category. He has also been nominated for the annual local Beachcomber Music Awards multiple times, specifically for the Musician of the Year and Best Solo Artist categories. This marks the eighth year that Kyle has performed at the 30A Songwriters Festival. You can find out more about Kyle and purchase Free Monica’s album, Egoliath, at www.KyleLaMonica.com.
is an acclaimed artist/songwriter/producer/engineer/guitarist and world-class studio owner. As a hit songwriter and publisher, Sandford is the recipient of 12 ASCAP "Most Performed Songs" awards, including the multi-platinum hits "Missing You" by John Waite, "What Kind of Man Would I Be" by Chicago and "Talk To Me" by Stevie Nicks. His songs have been recorded by: Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Melanie, Roger Daltrey, Berlin, Millie Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Alison Krauss, Rick Springfield, Sammy Hagar, Jimmy Barnes, Don Johnson, David Wilcox, Tyler Hilton, Sheila B. Devotion and many others. Chas is now a BMI writer/publisher.
The most recent check of airplay for "Missing You" alone has over 8,000,000 documented plays, making it one of the most played songs of all time.
As a producer, Chas has worked with Chicago, Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, Roger Daltrey, Berlin, Willie Nelson, Ron Wood, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gene Loves Jezebel, Jimmy Barnes, Dan Hill, Gina Schock, Don Johnson and others.
Live highlights include opening for The Eagles on their "Hotel California" European tour, appearing in and recording live in the Robert Altman film, "A Perfect Couple" (including a show at the Hollywood Bowl with the L.A. Philharmonic); two months on Broadway in "Divine Madness" with Bette Midler (appearing in the film of the same name); and playing with the late, great James Brown for a charity concert at The James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia.
Sandford also owns Secret Sound a world-class recording facility.
A partial alphabetical list of artists who have worked at Secret Sound would include:
Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Berlin, Belinda Carlisle, Tracy Chapman, Chicago, Joe Cocker, Roger Daltrey, Bo Diddly, Celine Dion, Def Leppard, DC Talk, Divinyls, Deep Purple, Melissa Etheridge, Amy Grant, Faith Hill, Jars of Clay, KISS, K.D. Lang, Madonna, Richard Marx, Michael McDonald, Tim McGraw, Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville, Harry Nilsson, Jeffrey Osbourne, Dolly Parton, Queen, Restless Heart, Rod Stewart, Take 6, Tina Turner, Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Ron Wood & Wynonna.
Chas latest CD, “Wag More, Bark Less” has received rave reviews from the L.A. Examiner Entertainment Section, Music Connection Magazine, Music Row Magazine, Artist Direct and many others.
“Wag More, Bark Less” is available from all major digital outlets as well as CD Baby.
Within seconds after a guitar plays the intro to her song “Aden,” Jade Jackson’s voice, illuminated by experience, sings: “I grew up my father’s daughter. He said don’t take no shit from no one. You’ll never see me cry …”
And it’s with that voice and those lyrics that imply a thousand stories, this singer/songwriter hints at what she is capable of crafting, of how many tears she can stir in recounting her rambles to the far corners of her imagination, further even than she has actually travelled.
For Jackson has spent much of her time in a small California town, working in her parents’ restaurant, jotting down verses and picking out chords during breaks, then venturing eventually to more formal music studies in college before coming back home and startling listeners with the depth and intensity of her music.
Released in May on Anti- Records, Gilded introduced her preternatural writing and raw, roots-rough sound. Surrounded by the close friends and gifted musicians that constitute her band, Jackson finds the perfect twist of phrase again and again, to express regret (“Let me walk over the bridges I’ve burned,” on the mournful “Bridges”), foreboding (“He kept his shiny blue gun underneath his dash/Deep inside she knew their lives were gonna crash,” a doomsday premonition set to a galloping beat and spaghetti-Western guitar on “Troubled End”) and freedom (“I feel my boot heels sink in quicksand, baby, every time we kiss,” she tells her baffled lover on “Motorcycle.” “Ah, understand, boy, it’s been fun, but my motorcycle only seats one.”)
How did Jackson develop this command so young? First, of course, she was born with talent, which her home life nurtured. Though neither parent was a musician, both of them — especially her father — listened constantly to a range of artists, from Johnny Cash and Hank Williams to The Smiths, The Cure and assorted punk outfits.
“There was always music at home,” Jackson remembers. “In fact, it weirded me out when I’d go to a friend’s house and we were supposed to be quiet.”
Just as important, she had a compelling reason to develop her talent from an early age.
“I was just bored!” she insists. “That’s why I started playing guitar. I’d grown up in a really small house in a small town. I shared a room with my brother and sister until I was 12. Then when I was 13 we moved about 30 miles away to Santa Margarita because my parents wanted to open a restaurant there. So there were more people around but I didn’t know anybody. That summer it was 118 degrees and we didn’t have air conditioning. I didn’t have any friends. My parents were kind of anti-technology, so I grew up without the Internet.”
So she found escape on her own. “Even before I picked up the guitar, my favorite thing was to tell stories. I was so in love with poetry: I would watch how people reacted when I read something I wrote … and then I’d put myself in their shoes and try to imagine how it felt to be them because I was kind of sheltered.”
She wrote prolifically — still does, in fact. “I couldn’t stop,” she admits. “I would write on whatever I could grab. If I was in the car, I’d write on a piece of trash. If there was no trash, I’d write on cardboard. In my junior year of high school, the local newspaper did a story that said ‘Jade Jackson writes a song every day!’ They had me count all the songs I’d written by then and I think I was up to 375.”
The numbers grew. Through hard work and a willingness to challenge herself with each new effort, the quality of the music grew too. At the same time, Jackson began thinking about music as possibly something more than a private escape. This epiphany dates back to the night she went to a concert for the first time without her parents; the headliner that night was one of her favorites, Social Distortion.
“When I watched Mike Ness walk onstage and felt the energy from the crowd, it ignited something in me,” Jackson says. “I wanted to be on that stage too. I never knew I wanted to perform until that day. That shifted all the gears in my life.”
She began by playing every Sunday at a coffee shop in Santa Margarita. “They had a guitar hanging on the wall, so I’d take it down, spread all my lyrics out on the floor, sit on the couch and read them from there,” she says, with a laugh. “But then this musician named Don Lampson saw me playing. He asked if I wanted to open for him. So I memorized four or five of my songs and for the first time in my life, sang through a microphone. I connected with that energy of performing. I loved it when I could make people feel emotions through my songs.”
Her following, like her catalog, grew steadily. By the time she’d completed high school, Jackson’s work had become impressive enough to persuade Cal Arts to accept her into its music program. There, she had her first formal music instruction as well as some more personal struggles and applied both to finessing her craft even further.
“When I was little and listening to Johnny Cash, his songs were so sad, kind of slow and melancholy,” she says. “I didn’t understand what the words meant but I understood how they made me feel. In college, when I had my first taste of real depression, all of a sudden his songs and Hank Williams’s stories came true. I was like, ‘Holy shit! Now I actually know what those words meant!’ It was like a circle completing itself.”
One more circle led Jackson to her most critical step forward, when she and Mike Ness began working together. Jackson’s mother and Ness’ wife had been friends in high school, which brought the two artists together. A short while after hearing her perform, he offered to mentor her. They assembled the band that’s been by her side since they came together. He agreed to produce Gilded as well.
“He gave me homework,” she points out. “He made me listen to Lucinda Williams’s Car Wheels On A Gravel Road and told me to listen only to that album for the next three or so months. That was the template of the album he wanted to create with me, so I picked from songs of mine that had a similar feel. If I didn’t have him, Gilded would have been a lot more scattered.”
That’s the key, right there. Gilded is a closed circuit, a masterwork of emotional honesty, of epic tales and intimate confessions. What’s scattered beyond, in songs long completed and many more yet to come, is a promise of more circles, more unique perspectives on hard lessons learned and too soon forgotten.
This is just the first you’ve heard from Jade Jackson. So much more lies ahead, for her and for us.
In 2015, Lilly Winwood needed a vacation. The countryside of her native Gloucestershire, England felt too familiar, and London was, in her own words, “so big, so expensive, and reeked of havoc and loss and all that good stuff.” So Winwood hopped on a plane to Nashville, where she’d spent childhood summers visiting her mother’s family. The plan was to come back to England after a few weeks—but the vacation never ended.
Silver Stage, the debut EP from Lilly Winwood (daughter of classic rock legend Steve Winwood) chronicles this journey through earnest coming-of-age narratives and a sound that—much like her father’s work—offers an English take on traditional American roots music. Backed by Nashville-via-Australia producer Joshua Barber (Gotye, Archie Roach), the songs on “Silver Stage” blend Bonnie Raitt’s world-weary vocals, My Morning Jacket’s ethereal twang, and Brittany Howard's no-bullshit bravado to create an EP that pays homage to Lilly’s singer-songwriter idols (like John Prine) and establishes the twenty-one-year-old as a writer that’s wise beyond her years. For evidence, look no further than standout track “Safehouse,” a slow-burning, soulful meditation on adolescence that explores the bittersweet nature of growing up.
It’s no surprise that Lilly sounds at home on Silver Stage, though, considering she’s played music for most of her life. She’s written songs since her early teens (she wrote “London,” a song about an ex moving to the city, when she was fifteen), and she grew up playing in bands with her brother, Cal. Shortly after she began touring at age sixteen, and in 2016, she recorded a duet of “Higher Love” with her dad for a 2016 Hershey’s commercial, which Adweek lauded as “a true anthem spot.” This February, Lilly will hit the road as the support act for Steve Winwood’s Spring 2018 Tour. Silver Stage had a Spring 2017 release, with a full-length to follow in fall 2018.
Raelyn Nelson Band
Raelyn Nelson Band
Raelyn Nelson Band
As an emerging female country artist in Nashville, history suggests that the quickest path to success is somehow aligning oneself with one of the major publishers, producers, songwriters, labels, or managers that are the heart of Music Row. So what do you do if you are an emerging female country artist in Nashville, and also happen to be the granddaughter of musical icon, Willie Nelson?
You hook up with an independent producer and veteran of the rock/punk scene, write some songs that are part Loretta Lynn, part Cheap Trick, and form the Raelyn Nelson Band.
Raelyn Nelson has been singing since she can remember. Having been raised on a steady diet of traditional country and gospel music, a gift from her grandpa in the form of a guitar during her teenage years was the inspiration she needed to begin writing her own country and folk songs.
Looking for a place to record these songs, a mutual friend suggested JB (Jonathan Bright), a veteran of the underground rock scene and independent producer. After recording some of these early songs, they decided to try to write some things together and see what happened. The result? A completely fresh and original sound, a true hybrid referred to by some critics as "Country/Garage Rock."
When they aren't recording their songs or making music videos, they are on the road taking their high energy live show to the people. Having shared the stage with such diverse musical acts as country superstar Tim McGraw, indie rock icons Drivin' n Cryin', and jam band supergroup Hard Working Americans, the RNB is proving that you don't have to fit neatly into any particular "genre" to find success.
"I don't really have any desire to be a 'solo-artist'. Everyone in my family who plays music has always placed a lot of importance on band chemistry, on stage, off stage and in the studio. Our band can almost read each other's minds. Why would I mess with that? We try to keep it simple: Write songs we like, record them, make a video, then go out and play them for people."- Raelyn Nelson
Crystal Bowersox, a northwest Ohio native currently calling Nashville home, has built her life around music. Crystal’s love for music developed at an early age from a need to find peace in a chaotic world. Through art and creation, Crystal was able to direct her energy and emotion, finding a way to mend a mind in turmoil. For her, music was always the most effective form of catharsis, and she would play for anyone, anywhere. In her own words, “my guitar was an appendage. I couldn’t live without it.”
Dead set on a career in music, Crystal moved to Chicago as a teenager, where she spent her days performing underground on subway platforms in between working odd jobs. While in the big city, she broadened her musical horizons and shared her talents with a variety of venues, ultimately auditioning for the ninth season of American Idol. Crystal’s time on the show proved to be well spent, as she immediately left the the soundstage for the recording studio. Since her introduction to the world through television, Crystal has released two LP’s, two EPs, and several singles. Additionally, she has used her talents to benefit several causes close to her heart, and has become an advocate and inspiration for people living with Type 1 Diabetes.
However, it is what’s in front of her, not what’s behind her, that will define Crystal’s personal and professional evolution. The accomplished singer-songwriter is set to release a new project – a live album, recorded at the Kitchen Sink Studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, cleverly titled Alive. Not only is the title a play on words, representing the rawness of the tracks, but it pertains to the place where Crystal currently is in her life. That place is one of joy, fulfillment, and stability for Crystal and her eight year old son, Tony.
To create her newest project, Crystal called on her “chosen family” of musicians. The combination of keeping those she cherishes close to her and taking an honest look at life has resulted in the truest music she has released to date. Crystal has drawn on her various influences — across folk-pop, classic rock, soul, blues and country — to make the kind of music that resonates with her spirit. It is both tender and tough, rough yet polished, and it encompasses many genres without falling neatly into one category. As one of her songwriting partners describes it, Crystal has “a voice like dirt and diamonds.” Her music is intended to bring a positive message of love and light to the world – things that folks will be able to take with them on their own journey, so that they, too, can feel truly alive.
Similar to her beginnings, Crystal intends to make music that has healing power, but at this point, she sees far beyond her own troubles. Her live show is a safe space for concertgoers. Attend a Crystal Bowersox show, and you just might see a grown man cry and a child dance simultaneously. You’ll also likely get the chance to meet her personally; Crystal is typically the first one to arrive and the last one to leave the venue. Meeting with the fans and hearing their personal stories is something Crystal considers a blessing in her life.
By reliving her own painful moments in song, Crystal hopes to transcend that pain, lifting herself and her audience to a higher place. In the opening lines of “A Broken Wing” she sings, “I know there’s beauty in the burden / And even on my darkest day that sun will shine.” Crystal’s story is one of resilience and perseverance, and it’s evident in every note of her newest release, Alive.
The AJ Ghent Band
The AJ Ghent Band
The AJ Ghent Band
Welcome To The World Of Ghent [J-ent]
AJ Ghent [j-ent], constructs a musical sound that can be heard howling from the church to the streets to the clubs. His style can be defined as fresh, nostalgic, electrifying and roots rock, -- fusing blues, funk, rock, and pop, mashing it into a genre he likes to call, NEO BLUES.
The energy and passion which resonates from AJ’s music, from the strum of the guitar and the conviction of the vocals, the pounding rhythm of the drums, to the thought provoking lyrics, is sure to be felt by any crowd. AJ aims to create an unforgettable experience for music lovers, with the hopes of taking them to a musical paradise. A little hip-shaking, finger snapping, head nodding is all you need for this tuneful travel excursion.
He calls James Brown, Prince, and his family heritage as influences. He can be heard picking, sliding and strumming all over those strings, whether it’s one of his custom built 8-string lap steel hybrids or his acoustic resonator.
What is different from most lap steel players is AJ performs standing upright like a guitar player, using his over handed technique to play slide, so that he can dance, and have more mobility during his live shows. AJ was born to fly!
AJ Ghent [J-ent] is a musician hailing from Fort Pierce, Florida and growing up was all about the music. Music has truly been running through his family for generations; such as his great uncle Willie Eason, the creator of the “Sacred Steel Tradition,” and his grandfather Henry Nelson, the founder of the “Sacred Steel” rhythmic guitar style. This style is played by many names today, such as Robert Randolph, The Campbell Brothers, and more.
“Forged in the congregational hotbox of the Southern Pentecostal House of God church, sacred steel music is an electrified rhythm, punctuated by sharp blasts of soaring solos, played on amplified lap steel guitar. It's an open tuning, on an eight-stringed instrument, and sometimes it can sound like the roaring, whooping and hollering voice of God himself has joined the gospel fervor.” (reference Connect Savannah, 2013)
So around 12 years old, the young AJ got a hold of something special; "it was one of the first sacred steel CDs, with my father, my grandfather and my great uncle on there. At that point, I became interested in the instrument, and I would listen to that thing until I broke it.” (reference: Connect Savannah August 2013)
After High School, AJ traveled down to the West Palm Beach, FL area with his sister, Tiffany Ghent to explore the city’s range of genres, from hip-hop to R&B, while playing in Top 40 music bands. However, AJ was in search of something more, a style that was uniquely his own.
Something was bubbling…
Fresh with his marriage to his bride MarLa, a singer herself, he set his eyes on Atlanta, GA. When he arrived in Atlanta, AJ took on sideman jobs, studio session work. Not long after, AJ met the legendary Colonel Bruce Hampton who began to mentor him; teaching him what mattered the most; “time – tone and space” for all his music and life journeys. AJ was invited to play in Hampton’s band, Pharaoh's Kitchen, which he did for about a year -- and like true Colonel Bruce style, the elder statesman always reminded AJ to be ‘true to himself.'
He has had a colorful career thus far playing and opening for such legendary acts like Zac Brown, The Allman Brothers Band, Derek Trucks, Robert Cray, and Gov’t Mule. He can be heard on various recordings with Zac Brown, Luther Dickinson, and featured on Zac Brown’s 2013 Grohl Sessions Vol. 1 alongside Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters). AJ’s band has had various formations, from a trio to a full-size live band with horns, playing small clubs to mid-large sized festivals and arenas; dazzling audiences everywhere. In 2015, he released a DVD/CD called LIVE AT TERMINAL WEST – recorded and filmed at the Terminal West venue in the old King Plow factory in Atlanta, GA. This was well-received by fans and critics praising the fearless leader! “The 11-song album is a relentless, high-energy romp through gospel, soul and funk-infused landscapes, with a couple of cool-down moments just so the audience can catch their collective breath.” (Relix, 2015)
At the age of 31, AJ Ghent [J-ent] knows where his talent comes from and isn’t afraid to explore other sounds. The Neo-Blues Project is something different: A musical fusion form that takes art and skill to master, something that AJ Ghent [J-ent] has spent his whole life perfecting. Look, watch and listen for this on March 16, 2018.
Over the past few years, Gabe Dixon changed almost everything. The Nashville-based
troubadour focused on starting from scratch following the release of 2011’s One Spark.
He parted ways with his longtime management and record label Concord Music Group,
and he began feverishly penning ideas. However, the one thing that didn’t change was
that honest, heartfelt approach to songwriting that countless fans fell in love with when
he first emerged in 1999.
“I started writing a lot more than ever before,” he recalls. “I had so many songs, and I
was really thinking about some weighty subjects—mortality, what’s important in life, and
the value of love. In many ways, the music was about learning how to be in a committed
relationship, leave immature ways behind, grow, evolve, and move on from habits that
aren’t necessarily who you are anymore.”
With a clean slate and the biggest batch of songs yet, he entered The Smoakstack
recording studio in Berry Hill, TN with producer Paul Moak [Mat Kearney, Third Day] in
early 2015. He wanted to embrace what came most naturally and build a raw and real
body of work.
“I wasn’t interested in making an album with any sequencing or anything on-the-grid,”
he affirms. “I wasn’t interested in just handing over my songs to somebody. I wanted to
go in with musicians and get performances that were inspiring and inspired and take it
from there. Paul was completely on the same page. What results is an album that feels
very natural and almost folk-y at times. I went a little off course on One Spark; I didn’t
trust myself. I learned to trust myself, and the sound of Turns To Gold is the most
representative of who I am. It’s warm, laidback, acoustic, and live.”
In the past, Gabe would play primarily grand piano. However, on Turns To Gold,he
performed all but one song on an upright piano. This choice conveyed a different
energy. He and the musicians cut everything to analog tape with no click track. In
keeping with his newfound independence, he also launched a PledgeMusic campaign—
another first—the day he began recording. Exceeding the goal within less than two
months, he offered fans a distinct vignette into the creative process.
“I love this way of doing things because it puts me in the driver’s seat creatively, and I
can retain more ownership of the project,” he says. “I could do whatever I wanted, and
that was inspiring. It also encouraged me to connect with the fans even more. That was
The album opener and first single “Holding Her Freedom” coasts between a shimmering
piano melody, organ swell, guitar rumble, and heavenly vocal performance from Gabe.
It also conveys a cinematic narrative.
“It’s a story about a woman who has been burned by love, and she’s afraid to let herself
be vulnerable and fall in love again,” he explains. “She’s figuratively holding her freedom
like a cage. That same ‘freedom’ keeps her trapped and unable to love again. I was glad
to write a song with a little story to follow.”
Elsewhere, “That Redemption” begins with a bombastic groove that slides towards a
spirited refrain bolstered by bluesy guitars and handclaps. “It’s about someone flying too
close to the sun in a mythical sense,” he continues. “Their values are in the wrong
place. They’re not treating people the way they should be treated. It can’t go on forever,
and they’re going to get knocked down.”
“The One Thing I Did Wright” pairs a soft piano melody with one of his most soulful
performances on the album for an undeniable ballad. “It’s about my wife and
remembering what’s most important in my life,” he says. “It’s a tribute to her. She’s a
constant in a world that seems to be always changing around me.”
Gabe continues to move with those tides, constantly evolving while drawing both critical
and audience praise. Paste and the Village Voice year-end critics’ poll both called his
self-titled offering “Best of the Year,” and The Lefsetz Letter proclaimed, “This man is
excellent. Stunningly so. Because of his talent.” His songs have received placements on
ABC, CBS, NBC, The CW, and more, while “Find My Way” served as the title for the box
office hit The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock. He’s performed on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!
twice as well as The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Along the way, he’s toured
with the likes of Gavin DeGraw and Delta Rae, opened for Norah Jones, Guster, Los
Lobos, and more, and hit festival stages everywhere from Bonnaroo to High Sierra
Music Festival. Outside of his solo output, he’s served as an in-demand live
keyboardist and vocalist for everybody from Paul McCartney and Alison Krauss & Union
Station to O.A.R. and Supertramp. However, Turns To Gold allows listeners to hear him
as he always meant.
“I hope when people listen to the album, it makes them feel,” he leaves off. “Music has
moved me so much. I want to do the same thing for others.”
Webb Wilder, Mississippi Moderne
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.
David Ryan Harris
David Ryan Harris
David Ryan Harris
You’ve either got soul or you don’t. David Ryan Harris most definitely does. The singer,
songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist has built an impressive catalog of soulful stories
that instantly captivate.
“I’ve always thought soulfulness comes from telling stories in a way that makes people
relate to them,” he says. “That’s what it is. People believe in what you’re saying,
because you’re singing from the heart.”
That’s exactly what Harris has done throughout his near three-decade career. Whether
it be in early bands such as Follow For Now and Brand New Immortals or over the
course of six full-length solo albums, he tells stories that resonate. He’s carried this
same spirit while performing with the likes of John Mayer, Dave Matthews, and Santana
or producing for Cassandra Wilson and Guy Sebastian—with whom he co-wrote the
RIAA platinum-certified “Battle Scars”. Most recently, it drove 2015’s Lightyears, which
boasted guest spots from John Mayer, India.Arie, and Nikka Costa. Along the way, he
received acclaim from All Music Guide, Glide Magazine, Elmore Magazine, Performer
Magazine, AXS, Relix Magazine, and many others in addition to performing on Fox,
CBS, and The CW in between packed tours. His next chapter unfolds on his 2017
seventh offering Songs For Other People. Culled from collaborations with co-writers
such as Pip Norman, Gordie Sampson, Troy Verges, Nathaniel Willemse, Anthony
Egizii, David Musumeci, David Hodges, Cass Lowe, Tyler Lyle, Dave Barnes, and Paul
Moak, the songs orbit around a cinematic theme.
“I wasn’t really intending to make a record,” he admits. “There were some great songs
that I’d written for other people and they just never found homes. I was affording myself
a pretty wide open space which I don’t normally inhabit on my own, and I got really
excited because there were no boundaries musically. The title is literal. The songs are
for and about other people.”
In order to track Songs For Other People, he tapped the talents of drummer Terrence
Clark who he met on YouTube, keyboard player Zach Ray, and GRAMMY® Awardwinning
producer Mike Elizondo [Eminem, Dr. Dre, Fiona Apple, Maroon 5] on bass.
They cut the album’s seven jams in less than three weeks’ time during 2016.
On the record, Harris brings a pronounced sense of passion and power to pop music.
The single “Coldplay” balances delicate clean guitar and airy percussion with his
dynamic vocal range, fluctuating from a soft croon to a simmering and soaring falsetto.
“Basically, the song walks you through the beginning of a relationship until the end, and
this girl’s love for Coldplay is the backdrop,” he goes on. “The guy finds the tickets in his
drawer, and it immediately brings him back. I think everybody has had one of those
‘Coldplay Moments,’ as I like to call them.”
Elsewhere, “Kerosene” proves both incendiary and intoxicating all at once as it paints a
portrait of “a heartbroken guy who’s drinking kerosene and wants to do some damage.”
A clean riff drives the upbeat swing of “Good,” which culminates on the unshakable
refrain, “You’re the kind of bad girl that would make a good wife.” With its mellotron hum
and narrative lyricism, “Average Joe” tackles longing and regret through a tongue-incheek
visual. “It’s this dude hiding in the bushes looking at his ex-girlfriend with her new
guy,” he adds. “The protagonist doesn’t realize he’s the one who’s average.”
In between returning to the road on guitar duty for John Mayer in 2017, Harris will be
performing across North America on solo shows. No matter what he does, that sense of
soul ultimately defines him.
“When anybody listens to Songs For Other People, I’d love for them to experience a
feeling of escape,” he leaves off. “These little vignettes are relatable, but they’re also a
respite. Everyone can relate to heartbreak and love. It’s real
Ken Block & Drew Copeland (of Sister Hazel)
Ken Block & Drew Copeland (of Sister Hazel)
Ken Block & Drew Copeland (of Sister Hazel)
Sister Hazel’s "The Ken and Drew Show" Biography
Ken Block and Drew Copeland, best known as two of the five members of the platinum-selling southern rock band Sister Hazel, will bring their wildly successful tunes to select cities for intimate, "miss it and miss out"
acoustic shows, reminiscent of their earlier performance days when they canvassed the club and coffee shop circuit as a duo from Gainesville, Florida.
While performing over 100 shows each year with the band, Block has long been praised by both media and fans alike for his powerful and emotion-evicting voice which is both unique and instantly recognizable thanks to a string of radio hits including "All For You," "Change Your Mind," "Happy," “Champagne High,” and others. Over the last 15 years, he and the band have been prolific in the studio and at live shows.
Similarly, Copeland is also a celebrated songwriter and vocalist, in 2004 he released a solo album, "No Regrets." An avid sports and music lover, Copeland has been honing his songwriting skills in Nashville, Tennessee over the last decade with some of country music's finest tunesmiths.
Sister Hazel is known for their personal approachability and fan-friendly events including being Co-Founders of THE ROCK BOAT, founders of the annual Hazelnut Hang, and for starting their own “Lyrics for Life” charity and raising nearly 1 million dollars for childhood cancer research and family support programs. As University of Florida alumni, Copeland and Block also returned to their alma mater to be the first-ever celebrity hosts of the world’s largest student run pep rally, Gator Growl.
Sister Hazel songs have appeared in many motion picture soundtracks over the last decade including 10 Things I Hate About You, Major League: Back to the Minors, The Wedding Planner, Clay Pigeons, American Wedding, and Bedazzled.
As two of our generations' most engaging and prolific songwriters, "The Ken and Drew Show" will take fans through intimate acoustic performances of Sister Hazel favorites, a few “B sides” and deep cuts, and new material that writers have called “some of the freshest new music to come out of Music City”. No evening with Ken and Drew would be complete with out lots of laughs and some crafty storytelling, all delivered using with their well-known wit. These shows are truly “miss it and miss out”.
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.
Leah Calvert is many things, among them a singer-songwriter and indemand Atlanta-area fiddler and vocalist. Over the years, she has shared the stage with award-winning artists including Amy Ray (Indigo Girls), Kristian Bush (Sugarland) and renowned songwriter Radney Foster. In addition to her work as a solo artist, she is a member of Atlanta acts The Dappled Grays and John Driskell Hopkins Band (Grammy winner and founding/current member of Zac Brown Band).
Calvert’s work with The Dappled Grays has spanned over a decade, during which time the group has found an audience in the United States and beyond. In 2012, they penned music for and appeared in Clint Eastwood’s film Trouble with the Curve, and their album Doin’ My Job received critical acclaim and heavy rotation worldwide, charting on both Sirius and XM.
With her new record Satellite, Calvert moves into uncharted territory, articulating a sound that is wholly her own. Though the compositions and vocal stylings offer a humble nod to her acoustic bluegrass roots, the record is musically a departure from this sound. With co-producers Marlon Patton and Rick Lollar (of Atlanta rock outfit Weisshund) providing a refined rock backdrop, Calvert deftly maneuvers through forms and styles ranging from traditional ballads to blues.
With Satellite, Calvert launches the listener directly into space; the record soars, it orbits, transmitting complex information in a palatable form. Several themes emerge: the fear and alienation that exists within our current political climate, emotional detachment from reality, and keeping safe the things which are most precious to a person -- which for Calvert include her young daughter. “Having a child,” she says, “augments the weight of the world on your heart.” In the liner notes, she includes several lines from environmental activist Wendell Berry's "How to Be a Poet," lines which ultimately became the inspiration for the record. In the poem, Berry urges readers to “Live / a three-dimensioned life; / stay away from screens. / Stay away from anything / that obscures the place it is in.” Many of the songs on Satellite read like poems, demonstrating both a clarity of thought and an urgency which demands that the listener be present in this three-dimensioned life.
Heather Lynne Horton
Heather Lynne Horton
Heather Lynne Horton
From birth, everything has been about music for Heather Horton. Having lived in many of the major American music epicenters, she is no stranger to the struggles and triumphs of the business. Her endeavors have been extensive, but are not free of their share of obstacles. Her 2011 release, Postcard Saturdays held promise to be the breakthrough work to set her on a course she had always desired. The proverbial puzzle pieces looked to be falling in place to gain Horton her fair share of supporters with both music-buying fans and industry critics alike. As the album poised for release, the newly wed Horton became pregnant with her daughter, Rain, and Horton was forced to rethink the release of Postcard Saturdays. While forging on with her husband, singer-songwriter Michael McDermott, in their critically acclaimed collective, The Westies, the resolve to pursue her own sincere and compelling music ultimately couldn't be tamed. That pursuit is no more evident than on her upcoming release, Don’t Mess With Mrs. Murphy.
Creating music has always been instinctive for Horton, and she acknowledges that songs usually come together rather quickly for her, especially those stemming from her personal experiences; Don’t Mess With Mrs. Murphy is packed with such songs. The listener is welcomed into, not discouraged from, the realities of her life. The set, scheduled for release in July 2017, contains an array of themes and poses questions that incite the audience to consider his or her own existence.
Many songs could make a claim to the designation of cornerstone of the album, but perhaps none stronger than “I Wanna Die In My Sleep” - a seven-minute, perfectly executed love story wrapped in Horton’s sweet, yet commanding vocal. It is a tale of joy, bitter sweetness, and longing.
“Wheelchair Man” highlights Horton’s ability to tell a story from a different perspective. Few artists could deliver this tale, concerning the plight of a disabled individual, with such ease and conviction set against pensive production and contemplative lyrics. “Save The Rain” is concerned with guarding her daughter against the wrongs of this world, while paralyzed in her love and own helplessness to do so. The opening track, “Murphy’s Law,” reveals the vulnerability that accompanies falling in love with someone against better judgment, and the desperate desire to be with that person. Much of the album hypnotizes the listener into the obvious and the subtle observations of life.
Don’t Mess With Mrs. Murphy ultimately translates the narrative of Horton’s life through notes and measures, and advises the listener to stay engaged throughout the entire set, as not to miss any nuances that she explores throughout. This release looks to place her in position to accomplish her musical ambitions, while letting the listener know she is concerned with so much more.
Dan Bern has released some two dozen studio albums, EPs, and live recordings since his first CD on Sony/Work in 1997. Either fronting various bands or as a solo performer, he is convincing, funny and timely, with an unassuming tip of the hat to the spirits of the past greats, all while sounding fresh and original. Dan’s songs pack a punch, and are engaging and often cinematic.
Bern’s singular songwriting has led to work on such projects as the Judd Apatow features Walk Hard—the Dewey Cox Story and Get Him to the Greek. His songs have appeared in countless TV shows and independent films, been covered by The Who’s Roger Daltrey, and lately, comprise all the songs for Amazon Prime’s The Stinky and Dirty Show, a cartoon for youngsters, now in its second season.
In addition to the music, Dan Bern is a prolific painter, with works hanging in The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and The Bobby Feller Museum. He has published several books, the latest being a collection of poems, “encounters,” which recount his real-life encounters with, among others, Wilt Chamberlain, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Carter and Hunter S. Thompson.
Exciting new projects in the works include new recordings with his much beloved band, “The International Jewish Banking Conspiracy” (IJBC).
Listen to Radio Free Bernsteinn – free from the app store
Chicago-based singer-songwriter Edie Carey is known for her unmistakable, soulful voice, her intelligent, heart-grabbing songs, but perhaps most especially for her warm, engaging presence on – and off – stage. As much a part of her show as the music itself, Carey’s wry and often self-mocking humor makes audiences feel as though they have just spent an evening with a very close friend.
Carey has been singing at festivals, colleges, and listening rooms across the US, Canada and Europe since 1999, performing alongside Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Brandi Carlile, and Shawn Mullins. She’s also been a featured artist on NPR’s Mountain Stage.
Her latest offering, ‘Til The Morning, a joint effort with award-winning singer-songwriter Sarah Sample, was funded entirely by their loyal and steadily growing legion of fans, as were Carey’s previous three records. Produced by Scott Wiley, the duo’s CD features appearances by cellist and vocalist Mai Bloomfield (Jason Mraz, Raining Jane), violist Aaron Ashton (Peter Cetera, Smokey Robinson) and Sam Cardon (Composer, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Olympic Winter Games).
THE LONGER STORY…
“Accidental Poet,” one of Edie Carey’s earliest songs, describes a particularly eloquent friend, but could just as easily refer to Carey herself and the circuitous and serendipitous route that led her to become one of the country’s most notable songwriters. Somehow, all of the seemingly unrelated turns – from her intention to become a doctor, to a tiny music venue in the basement of a Morningside Heights’ chapel, to a year in Italy – managed to steer her towards music.
Born in Burlington, Vermont and raised in the Boston suburbs by her English teacher father, therapist mother, and poet stepmother, Carey couldn’t help but learn to love words. But her ear for music would not become apparent until age five, when, in the back seat of her babysitter’s green Cadillac, she belted out an impassioned child’s rendition of “Up Where We Belong.” From age nine, after beginning voice lessons, she became involved in singing groups and musicals. A true child of the 80’s, she dressed in lace and sequins, worshiped Debbie Gibson, and dreamed of appearing on Ed McMahon’s “Star Search.” However, as much as she loved performing, Carey was unaware that there was any middle ground between singing at weddings and being Madonna, and never considered music a real career possibility. So, she made plans to major in English with Pre-Med classes at Barnard College in New York City. However, during her freshman year, two pivotal discoveries knocked those plans right off course: the Postcrypt Coffeehouse and the Italian language.
In the Postcrypt, an intimate music venue in the basement of St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University, Carey watched performers like Jeff Buckley, Ani DiFranco, Ellis Paul and Lisa Loeb perform unplugged to candlelit and rapt audiences and was floored by the power of their songwriting. Around the same time, she had begun studying and falling in love with the almost melodic Italian language. That passion for learning Italian eventually led her to spend a year abroad in Bologna where she taught herself to play the guitar.
In Italy, Carey set herself up in a corner of Bologna’s main piazza and shakily played every Bonnie Raitt, Shawn Colvin, and Rickie Lee Jones song she knew, nervously throwing in a few of her own tunes, some of which would later land on her 1998 debut album, The Falling Places. Her experience abroad gave her a newfound confidence and encouraged her to begin performing on campus when she returned to Barnard, where she started to build a student following. She made her first album in 1997, working days at Worth Magazine and recording until the wee hours each night.
After the release of The Falling Places in 1998, she began venturing outside of New York City to play neighboring east coast cities, and gradually expanded throughout the United States, then Canada and the UK. While the debut was a very sparsely-produced acoustic contemporary folk album, Call Me Home, Carey’s follow-up in 2000, was by comparison an all-out pop record, a tribute to her early pop inspirations. With its release, the “accidents” continued, and Carey unexpectedly found herself achieving her childhood dream of appearing on television with Ed McMahon when, in 2001, she competed on Ed McMahon’s Next Big Star.
For the last fifteen years, Carey has been working as a full-time performing songwriter, touring rigorously to promote all of her independently self-released records, which now include Come Close, her 2002 live CD, When I Was Made (2004), Another Kind of Fire (2006), itsgonnabegreat (2008) (a collaboration with award-winning singer-songwriter Rose Cousins), 2010?s Bring The Sea, and the latest addition to her growing catalog, ’Til The Morning: Lullabies and Songs of Comfort, a duo album with her close friend Sarah Sample. Looking back, Carey has to wonder if she’s accidentally ended up exactly where she was supposed to be.
Over the past 10 years, Seth Walker has become recognized as one of the most revered modern roots artists in the United States; a three dimensional talent comprised by a gift for combining melody and lyric alongside a rich, Gospel-drenched, Southern-inflected voice with a true blue knack for getting around on the guitar. His latest studio album, Gotta Get Back, produced by Jano Rix of The Wood Brothers, is yet another masterwork that further expands upon this reputation.
Growing up on a commune in rural North Carolina, the son of classically trained musicians, Seth Walker played cello long before discovering the six-string in his 20s. When his introduction to the blues came via his Uncle Landon Walker, who was both a musician and disc jockey, his fate was forever sealed. Instantaneously, Seth was looking to artists like T-Bone Walker, Snooks Eaglin, and B.B. King as a wellspring of endless inspiration. The rest is history. He's released seven albums between 1997 and 2015; breaking into the Top 20 of the Americana charts and receiving praise from NPR, American Songwriter, No Depression and Blues Revue, among others.
In addition to extensive recording and songwriting pursuits, Seth is consistently touring and performing at venues and festivals around the world. Along with headline shows, he's been invited to open for The Mavericks, The Wood Brothers, Raul Malo, Paul Thorn and Ruthie Foster, among others.
Seth Walker is currently splitting his time between New Orleans and New York City after previously residing in Austin and Nashville. He’s used those experiences wisely, soaking up the sounds and absorbing the musical lineage of these varied places. With a bluesman’s respect for roots and tradition, coupled with an appreciation for—and successful melding of—contemporary songwriting, Seth sublimely incorporates a range of styles with warmth and grace. Perhaps Country Standard Time said it best: “If you subscribe to the Big Tent theory of Americana, then Seth Walker –with his blend of blues, gospel, pop, R&B, rock, and a dash country—just might be your poster boy.”
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:
2. Be With You
3. Looking For You
4. Done Died
5. Poor Man's Melody
7. Too Late
8. Ain't Who I Was
9. Not Cause I Wanted To
10. You Will Be Loved
Follow Bonnie Bishop here:
Official Website: bonniebishop.com