FedEx, Bud Light, Pearl River Resort, and Rockstar Present:
Sat, Apr 30
Sun, May 1
Beale Street Music Festival Three-Day Pass
Neil Young & the Promise of the Real, Beck, Paul Simon, Weezer, Zedd, Meghan Trainor, Train, Jason Derulo, Modest Mouse, Panic! At The Disco, Yo Gotti, Grace Potter, Barenaked Ladies, Young The Giant, Cypress Hill, Cold War Kids, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, The Arcs, Bastille, Violent Femmes, Courtney Barrett, Jonny Lang, Gin Blossoms, Trampled by Turtles, Moon Taxi, Lucinda Willams, Better Than Ezra, Houndmouth, Los Lobos, The Joy Formidable, Indigo Girls, Blackberry Smoke, The Front Bottoms, The Struts, The Lone Bellow, LunchMoney Lewis, Coleman Hell, Julien Baker, Escondido, Walter Trout, Ana Popovic, Bernard Allison, Luther Dickinson, Doyle Bramhall II, Those Pretty Wrongs, Amasa Hines, Will Tucker, Alex Da Ponte, John Nemeth, Richard Marx
Riverside at Beale Street
Memphis, TN, 38103
Doors 5:00 PM / Show 1:00 PM
This event is all ages
Beale St Music Festival - Three-Day Pass
The annual Beale Street Music Festival has attracted music enthusiasts to the banks of the mighty Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn every year since 1978. Visitors from all 50 states and a dozen foreign countries make the May pilgrimage to the city where rock-n-roll and blues music both began. Over the past decade the festival has attracted over 1.1 million music fans to the multistage three-day event. Best known for its eclectic mix of contemporary rock, blues, soul and modern talent, the festival is held in an inspiringly beautiful 25-acre riverfront park at the foot of historic Beale Street.
The music festival has played host to a broad array of diverse and notable contemporary musical talents such as: Neil Young, The Black Keys, Paul Simon, Beck, the Dave Matthews Band, MGMT, John Mellencamp, Van Morrison, Ed Sheeran, Flaming Lips, Foo Fighters, Paramore, Phoenix, Stone Temple Pilots, The Avett Brothers, Bob Dylan, Kid Rock, John Mayer, Lenny Kravitz, Santana, Cee Lo Green, Jack Johnson, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Fergie, Jason Mraz, Lou Reed, Katy Perry, Ben Harper, The Killers, Steely Dan, Fall Out Boy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Legend, Sheryl Crow, B.B. King, Shinedown, Fleetwood Mac, Big Boi, John Lee Hooker, Sarah McLachlan, The Roots, the Allman Brothers Band, Cat Power, Public Enemy, Elvis Costello, James Brown, Widespread Panic, Nelly, Godsmack, Willie Nelson, Iggy Pop, My Chemical Romance, ZZ Top, Big Star, Korn, Al Green, 30 Seconds to Mars, Steve Miller Band, Three Doors Down, Jerry Lee Lewis and so many more!
Neil Young & the Promise of the Real
Neil Young is in the pantheon of rock stars partly for the extraordinary groups he’s been in, including Buffalo Springfield, his own Crazy Horse and, of course, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. But there’s much more to the accomplished singer-songwriter, producer, director, screenwriter and entrepreneur as well, including his humanitarian efforts and social activism. The Canadian rocker’s got Grammy Awards, Juno Awards and scads of additional recognition, including dual membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1995 for his solo work and 1997 with Buffalo Springfield). He remains prolific and has recently found common cause with the young self-described “Cowboy Hippy Surf Rock” band Promise of the Real. The group (which includes Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah Nelson) first played shows in 2008 and released studio albums “Promise of the Real” in 2010 and “Wasted” in 2012. A couple of years ago, Young jammed with POTR and later asked them to be on his project “The Monsanto Years” (Young’s 36th studio album) and go on tour with him. The concept album is an expression of Young’s longtime crusade against corporate greed, particularly targeting the agri-chemical giant. It’s garnered positive reviews from numerous critics, although not so much from the executives at Monsanto.
Beck has traveled light years from being pegged as a reluctant generational spokesperson when "Loser" metamorphosed from a rejected demo to a ubiquitous smash. Instead he wound up crystallizing much of the post-modern ruckus of the '90s alternative explosion, but in his own unpredictable manner: Beck's singular career has been one that's seen him utilize all manners and eras of music, blurring boundaries and blazing a path into the future while simultaneously foraging through the past.
Surfacing just as alternative rock went mainstream, no small thanks to his 1994 debut Mellow Gold, Beck quickly confounded expectations with subsequent releases including the lo-fi folk of One Foot in the Grave. But the album that truly cemented Beck's place in the pantheon was 1996's multi-platinum Odelay, that touched upon all of his obsessions, providing a cultural keystone for the decade from the indelible hook of "Devil's Haircut" to the irresistible call and response of the anthemic "Where It's At."
From the world-tripping atmospherics of 1998's Mutations and the florescent funk of 1999's Midnite Vultures through the somber reflections of 2002's Sea Change, 2005's platinum tour de force Guero and 2006's sprawling The Information, no Beck record has ever sounded like its predecessor. In the interim following 2008's acclaimed Danger Mouse-produced Modern Guilt, Beck eschewed the typical album/tour/repeat cycle of the music business. Instead, he expanded his creative palette into such multi-media endeavors as a one-time-only live re-imagination of David Bowie's "Sound and Vision" utilizing 160+ musicians in a 360-degree audiovisual production, and the equally unprecedented Beck Hansen's Song Reader, originally released December 2012 by McSweeney's as 20 songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, complete with full-color original art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case (and since reimagined as an actual album with the likes of Jack White, Juanes, Norah Jones, David Johansen, Beck himself and many more featured on the first ever studio recordings of its songs).
Beck's relentless creative tide continued unabated throughout 2013 with three standalone singles released digitally and on 12-inch vinyl ("Defriended," "I Won't Be Long," Gimme"), custom-created performances for Doug Aitken's "Station to Station" series of transient happenings, a run of live shows--touted by reviewers the world over as among the very best of his career--and special Song Reader events in which Beck and eclectic line-ups brought the book to life in unforgettable evenings staged in only a handful of cities including in San Francisco, London, and Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
Beck opened 2014 with the 12th--and possibly most well received―album of a peerless career: Morning Phase. Likened by some to a companion piece of sorts to his 2002 masterpiece Sea Change, Morning Phase features many of the same musicians who played on that record--and who also currently accompanied Beck live on the rapturously received world tour supporting the record: Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Smokey Hormel, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Jason Falkner. Featuring the hits "Blue Moon" and "Heart Is A Drum" along with instant classics like "Waking Light" and "Wave", Morning Phase harkens back to the stunning harmonies, classic Californian song craft and staggering emotional impact of that record, while surging forward with infectious optimism.
Morning Phase debuted at #3 in the U.S., selling nearly 90,000 copies in its first week—besting Modern Guilt's debut week despite the market being down more than 70% since that record's release six years prior—and generating a rare unanimous chorus of critical acclaim:
"a triumph… After listening to Morning Phase 50 times, I can't find a single thing wrong with it… You don't get many albums like this in your lifetime… I can't imagine someone who couldn't find some succor or beauty here"–THE NEW YORKER
"an instant folk-rock classic… Morning Phase's struggle toward the light feels as personal as it does universal."—ROLLING STONE (4 ½ STARS)
"The record's beauty approaches slowly, floats, surrounds and shuts off external awareness in the brain stem."—THE NEW YORK TIMES
"If we needed any proof that albums still matter in this short-attention-span world, Beck's flawless 12th album, Morning Phase, is a triumphant testimony."--NPR
"Each song swims by with gorgeous melancholy, as though he'd found the only acoustic guitar on the moon"—ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY The Year's Best Albums
"The mercurial artist has drifted through a variety of intriguing phases, but none as hypnotic or revealing as Morning Phase."—USA TODAY
"damn near emotionally perfect… no album in recent memory taps into our cultural zeitgeist as effortlessly. This is what it sounds like to come to peace with everyday ambiguity and indecision."—ESQUIRE #1 Album of 2014
"A masterpiece . . . filled with rich Southern California harmonies" - LOS ANGELES TIMES
"gracefully, gradually unfolds like the sweetest of sunrises"—PEOPLE
"rich and inventive, sprouting beautiful and unexpected details at every turn… the gorgeously conceived Beck album we've been waiting more than a decade for"–STEREOGUM
Beck rolled into 2015 taking the Album of the Year top honor at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, as well as the prize for Best Rock Album. Morning Phase also won in the Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) category. With three previous Grammy wins to his credit--Two Best Alternative Music Performance award for Mutations and Odelay and one Best Male Rock Vocal Performance award for "Where It's At"—Beck walked away from attending and performing at this year's awards with double his previous Grammy tally.
"In a career dating back to the 1950s, Paul Simon established himself among the best and most popular songwriters of the rock era. Growing up in Queens, NY, Simon befriended schoolmate Art Garfunkel, who had an angelic tenor voice, and the two teamed up as Tom & Jerry, taking the names of the cartoon characters. In the winter of 1957-1958, they scored a chart hit with "Hey Schoolgirl"; both were 16 years old.
Simon continued to try to score hits in the late '50s and early '60s, reaching the charts briefly in 1962 in the group Tico & the Triumphs with "Motorcycle" and under the name Jerry Landis in 1963 with "The Lone Teen Ranger." He and Garfunkel teamed up again as a folk duo in Greenwich Village, signed to Columbia Records, and released Wednesday Morning, 3 AM (October 1964). The album flopped initially, but Simon, who had been spending a lot of time in England, was picked up as a solo artist by CBS and recorded The Paul Simon Songbook, released only in Great Britain in the spring of 1965.
In the wake of the folk-rock trend prevalent that year, producer Tom Wilson took the acoustic track "The Sound of Silence" from the Wednesday Morning album, overdubbed electric guitar, bass, and drums and released the result as a single in October 1965, a full year after the album's release. It took off and hit number one, establishing Simon & Garfunkel. For the next five years, they were one of the most successful acts in pop music. Simon wrote the songs, and the two harmonized on a series of hit singles and albums. They split up in 1970, after the release of their most popular album, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Simon returned to solo work with Paul Simon (January 1972), which could not hope to match the success of Bridge, but which did sell a million copies and featured the reggae-tinged Top Ten single "Mother and Child Reunion." There Goes Rhymin' Simon (May 1973) was another million-seller, containing the hits "Kodachrome" and "Loves Me Like a Rock." After a 1974 live album, Simon released Still Crazy After All These Years (October 1975), which topped the charts, won the Grammy for Album of the Year, and included the number one hit "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Simon took his time following this success, though he did release a greatest-hits album featuring a new hit, "Slip Slidin' Away," and contributed to a remake of "What a Wonderful World" with Garfunkel and James Taylor. Moving to Warner Bros. Records, he wrote and starred in the film One Trick Pony (August 1980), the soundtrack of which contained the Top Ten hit "Late in the Evening." Another three years passed before Simon returned with Hearts and Bones (October 1983), which did not match his usual level of commercial success.
Simon experimented with songwriting styles and became interested in South African music, resulting in Graceland (August 1986), which became his biggest-selling solo album and won him another Album of the Year Grammy. Four years later, he delivered The Rhythm of the Saints (October 1990), which did for Brazilian music what Graceland had done for South African music and was another multi-platinum seller. Simon played a free concert in Central Park in August 1991 (ten years after Simon & Garfunkel had done one) and released a live album from the show. In 1993, Warner Bros. released a box set retrospective on Simon's career, and he undertook a tour that featured Garfunkel on their old hits, as well as covering other aspects of his career.
He spent the next several years writing a stage musical, The Capeman, and released his own version of its score as Songs from the Capeman (November 1997). The show, which starred Rubén Blades and Marc Anthony, opened on Broadway in early 1998 and was a quick failure. In 1999, Simon toured on a double bill with Bob Dylan. His next album, You're the One, was released in October 2000. It went gold and earned a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. In 2006 Simon released Surprise, a collection of new material featuring three songs written with Brian Eno. He followed it in 2011 with So Beautiful or So What, which was produced by longtime collaborator Phil Ramone and featured guitarist Vincent Nguini, percussionist Steve Shehan, backing vocals from Simon's wife, Edie Brickell, and his daughter, Lulu, and a generous helping of the bluegrass group Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver." - William Ruhlmann, AllMusicGuide
Weezer has long courted controversy. It’s first, eponymous album (the Blue Album) made a big splash with rock hit singles "Undone (The Sweater Song)," "Buddy Holly," and "Say It Ain't So,” but some thought those tunes and the skillful videos were a one-time splash. Leader Rivers Cuomo and the band were unconventional, and the second album, 1996’s “Pinkerton,” was more about Cuomo’s songwriting, which was less commercially effective and got mixed critical reviews. There followed a time when Weezer was in and out of the public eye but there was an ongoing fascination with “Pinkerton.” Eventually, in 2001, the second eponymous album (called the Green Album) was a hit. It would go on to record “Make Believe” in 2005 (which went platinum), then “Weezer” (the Red Album) in 2008, “Raditude” in 2009 and “Hurley” in 2010. After a break, the band came out with “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” in 2014 to solid reviews. As Q Magazine put it: "It's a perfectly calibrated record."
Zedd, being born into a family of musicians, began playing the piano at the age of four. After sevreal years of learning to master the piano, Anton began playing the drums in a band, and composed and produced numerous rocksongs in his band's own studio. In 2009 he began producing electronic clubmusic, to much and quick acclaim. After a peroid of only few months he attained a remarkable level and participated in Beatport's "Armand Van Helden / Strictly Rhythm Remix Contest", which he went on to win. This opened up a number of new possibilities for Zedd, and only shortly after, he won his second contest on Beatport, the "Fatboy Slim / Skint Remix Contest"! This was the foundation for several cooperations with artists such as Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, P. Diddy, Skrillex, Fatboy Slim, Armand Van Helden and labels like mau5trap, Interscope, Atlantic, Strictly Rhythm or Skint Records. His first release "The Anthem" entered the Beatport charts top 20, and even made it to the second place of Track It Down charts. His remix for Skrillex' 'Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites', released on 'mau5trap recordings' climbed up the charts to #4 on Beatport and #2 on Beatport's Electro House charts. One of the reasons for this rapid development is undoubtedly Zedd's unique and highly recognizable style of composition. It stands out as very detailed and carefully produced Electro House, very playful and the same time remarkably catchy. Zedd is definitely an artist to look out for in the future...
Meghan Elizabeth Trainor (born December 22, 1993) is an American singer, songwriter, and producer. She started writing songs when she was 11 and soon produced them on her computer 2 years later. At 18, Trainor signed a songwriting deal with Big Yellow Dog Music, penning tracks for Rascal Flatts and Disney star Sabrina Carpenter. In 2011, she wrote and self-released two albums, I'll Sing with You and Only 17.
In 2014, Trainor gained prominence with her debut single "All About That Bass", which reached number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and topped the charts in other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom.
In 1998, the San Francisco roots-rock band Train made its mark with its successful self-named album that had the hit “Meet Virginia.” Train's 2001 album, “Drops of Jupiter” had the hit single "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)", which won two Grammys. The double platinum project remains the band's best-selling album. Albums three and four were “My Private Nation” in 2003 and “For Me, It's You” in 2006. Train went on hiatus until 2009’s “Save Me, San Francisco,” which produced several singles, including Grammy winner "Hey, Soul Sister,” "If It's Love" and "Marry Me.” Since then, the band has put out “California 37” in 2012, “Bulletproof Picasso” in 2014 and “Christmas in Tahoe” last year. Frontman Pat Monahan took advantage of the band’s 2006-’09 hiatus to put out a solo album, “Last of Seven,” which produced the singles "Her Eyes” and "Two Ways to Say Goodbye."
Numbers don't lie, and the facts remain that singer, songwriter, and dancer Jason Derulo's success ranks up there with some of the best-selling, radio-dominating pop and urban artists of the day. In the five years since he ascended from his beginnings writing songs for Lil Wayne, Pitbull, Diddy, Sean Kingston, and others, Derulo has sold over 50 million singles worldwide and racked up over two billion views on YouTube and 1 billion plays on Spotify, thanks to his uncanny ability to find new angles to tried-and-true trends. This has led to 11 career-defining platinum singles, including "Want to Want Me," "Whatcha Say," "In My Head," "Ridin' Solo," "Don't Wanna Go Home" and "It Girl." His radio audience is over 17 billion (with 11 of his songs reaching the Top 10 on the Top 40 charts include four #1's) and he boasts over 20 million social media fans and followers.
Derulo's 2014 album, Talk Dirty, spawned five platinum singles that sold a collective 16 million units worldwide including: "The Other Side," "Talk Dirty" (feat. 2 Chainz), "Marry Me," "Wiggle" (feat. Snoop Dogg), and "Trumpets" — propelling Derulo into an elite cadre of artists, including Drake, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift, who have scored five platinum singles from one album. The track "Talk Dirty" itself sold over six million singles worldwide and became a No. 1 around the world, while dominating radio charts in the U.S. in 2014.
In addition, Derulo has sealed his reputation as a global chart-topping star. He was a five-time winner at the BMI Pop Awards, and was honored as its "Songwriter of the Year" in 2011. Derulo has also won three Teen Choice Awards and earned an array of international award nominations including MTV Video Music, MTV Europe Music, Billboard Latin Music, ARIA Music, American Music, NAACP Image and MOBO Awards. Most recently, he was nominated for an iHeart Radio Music Award for "Best Collaboration" with 2 Chainz for "Talk Dirty."
Derulo shows no sign of slowing down. In June 2015, he released his fourth studio album Everything is 4 (Warner Bros. Records) that merges his pop, dance, and urban sensibilities and finds him truly hitting his stride as a genre-defying artist. The album's first single, now platinum, is the sunny, '80s-friendly pop tune "Want To Want Me," which was produced by Grammy-nominated producer Ian Kirkpatrick and written by Kirkpatrick, Sam Martin, Lindy Robbins, Mitch Allan, and Derulo himself. "Want To Want Me" sets another milestone for the Miami-born singer, becoming the most added track in the history of Top 40 radio, besting the records of pop royalty such as Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Madonna and Katy Perry. Shattering the previous record held by Justin Timberlake at 126, "Want To Want Me" was added to 156 monitored pop stations, making it the biggest Top 40 US radio launch ever.
Modest Mouse was formed in 1993 in Issaquah, Washington and over the last decade has become the indie rock standard and one of the few bands capable of treading the narrow path where massive popularity is possible without sacrificing their longtime fans.
The band released their first full-length album, This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About, on the Up label in 1996. With the release of their second album, The Lonesome Crowded West in 1997, the band's status reached new heights with a legion of fans and critical acclaim. In 2000, Modest Mouse was signed to Epic Records and released their third album, The Moon & Antarctica. In 2004 came the release of their breakthrough album, Good News For People Who Love Bad News, which included the hit "Float On," has sold over 1.5 million copies and earned the band two Grammy nominations
The most recent Modest Mouse album, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, was released on March 20, 2007 and immediately entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at #1.
On August 4th, 2009 Modest Mouse released a special EP, No One's First, And You're Next. This new EP contains eight songs, six of which were released as limited edition 7" vinyl singles. Also included on the EP is 'King Rat' which was a limited promo-only 7" single free with the purchase of We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank in 2007 and 'I've Got It All (Most)' which was the b-side to the 'Float On' single in 2004 and is currently out of print. No One's First, And You're Next debuted at #15 on the Billboard Top 200 and was the #2 Digital Album.
Simultaneous to the EP release, Modest Mouse released the highly anticipated Heath Ledger directed video for 'King Rat," a track also included on the No One's First, And You're Next EP.
Panic! At The Disco
Panic! At The Disco are an award-winning, internationally acclaimed rock band. Their new single "Victorious" debuted at #1 on iTunes Top Songs, iTunes alternative Songs, Billboard + Twitter's Trending 140 charts just hours after its release. Their previous single, "Hallelujah," was released to equal enthusiasm earlier this year and has since accumulated over 13 million streams on Spotify and nearly 7 million plays on YouTube. The band's fourth studio album, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare to Die!, was released in October 2013, and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart, marking their second album to do so. Its lead single, "Miss Jackson (Feat. Lolo)" was certified GOLD by the RIAA and charted in the Top 10 on the Alternative and Modern Rock charts and amassed over 22 million YouTube views to date. The follow up "This Is Gospel" has over 34 million views on YouTube. Panic! At The Disco's prior albums include 2005's double-platinum A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, 2008's Pretty. Odd., which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Album chart, and Vices & Virtues, which debuted at No. 7 earning the band critical praise. Panic! At The Disco have been nominated for many awards including Grammy, Teen Choice, Kerrang and MTV Video Music Awards. In 2006, they won the highly coveted MTV Award for Video of the Year for the video of their smash "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." Panic! At The Disco are currently recording new music for their forthcoming studio album via Fueled By Ramen/DCD2 Records and celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their debut album.
Insight, integrity and influence. Yo Gotti has become one of hip-hop's most respected street griots just by doing what he's always done; speaking the truth on his records and being relentless with serving his product. This fall he commences a brand new business venture with the release of his CMG/Epic records debut I Am.
"I Am is an adlib I started using a few years ago," the Memphis magnate began to explain. "It fits perfectly. I am real, I am a hustler, I am the streets, I am a business man, I am a father, I am a brother, I am success."
In the 13 years since he's started recording professionally, Gotti, has been one of hip-hop's remarkable success stories. While some of his peers have basked in the mainstream spotlight with commercial success, the chiseled street King has become the people's champ; amassing millions of fans and dollars, largely with his independently released magnum opuses such as the Cocaine Muzik series. With I Amhowever, Gotti says he's finally found the perfect partner to distribute his music widely to the world.
"I feel good about the partnership with Epic," Gotti says about his joint venture for his CMG imprint. "All the work I put in, has gotten me to this point where I can elevate my career and the other artists I signed. I had a few deals with major labels, it just took me a while to find the right partnership. The other deals I had, the companies weren't on the same page with me so it wasn't worth it."
The I Am rollout commences with the thunderously thumping club anthem 'Act Right,' which features one of Gotti's closest friends in the industry and multiple time collaborator Jeezy. West coast rapper, YG is along for the ride as well.
"This one is the perfect soundtrack for that nightlife," Gotti says with a grin of the record. "I felt it was great to launch my album. 'Act Right,' can mean whatever you want it to mean really. When I recorded 'Act Right' I was just in that I ain't turning down for nothin mood "trying to break a record like a DJ" I felt like I was at the club turnt up to the max in every element, swag, bottles, women….just everything. It's a feel good party record!"
The high class revilement continues on "Going Down," with Grammy Award winner T.I.
"You know, making songs with people like Jeezy and Tip, it's just natural Gotti continues. They've been good friends of mine for quite some time and there's always been mutual respect both professionally and personally. 'Going Down,' we just had fun with it, using different flows, riding on the beat. Tip is always going deliver, so you know I had to come with my best. It's that party vibe, that will be an anthem for years to come."
Other hip-hop royalty included on the project is Lil Wayne, who raps "Pray if I ever come out the sky, I'm lightning rod" on "Turnt Up On My Haters.'
But even with the high powered cameos, I Am's most poignant moments come when Gotti is alone, reflecting on his life's hardships. "He gives searing commentary on "Ghetto America,' while "Pride To The Side" details his personal relationships with his girl that led to betrayal and one of his best friends getting addicted to drugs and stealing money.
"That's a personal joint," Gotti details. "If you follow my music, you'll know what I like to do. My favorite music to me, where I'm best at is where I talk about what I'm going through, shit I seen. Records like 'Pride to the Side,' all them personal records are my favorites. It's not tough to make em, because they are so real. It's like you're having conversations on the beat. It's real life. Straight like that. People are going to accept it because it's nothing I'm going through, they haven't gone through or couldn't relate to."
Gotti was introduced to the Memphis underbelly almost from birth. Both of his parents were hustlers, so were several of his aunts and his older brother. He later followed in their footsteps.
"I remember our family, we had Benzes, six, seven cars, lived in nice areas. Then one day the police came in the house," he remembers. "I was in second grade. They kicked in everybody's doors at the same time, my grandma's house, my aunties' house, they shut the whole operation down. Like 25, 30 people's houses. Next thing you know, we don't have no cars, we don't get new clothes or shoes, no food in the refrigerator. You notice the drastic change, but you don't understand why."
With most of his family in jail, and the remaining members struggling, the then youngster would find himself in the streets as a time to provide for his household. Slowly however, Gotti began to gravitate towards music, especially when he saw he could make music from it. In 2000, he released his first LP From The Dope Game To the Rap Game. Five years later, he got a production deal from Cash Money Records to bring new talent to the label. Meeting Cash Money's Birdman, was a life altering experience, because it was then that it clicked that you can become wealthy from rap music. In 2012, Gotti released his first ever major label LP, Live From The Kitchen through Polo Grounds/RCA, , but soon decided to split ways with the company after his album was under shipped which resulted in an outrage from fans not being albe to find the album in common outlets. "I believe that if you're not doing business in good faith that it's best to move on".
He chronicles his journey both with illegal and legal lifestyle on "Been Through It All."
"I got hustling in my blood," he added. "In any situation I can adapt. Although I've been making music for just about a decade and a half, I'm still young, but have that experience. It's definitely exciting to give my loyal fans this great music and I'm also looking forward to showing my new following just how consistent I'm going to be."
Grace Potter's epic musical journey reaches a new milestone with the arrival of her solo debut, Midnight (released August 14 on Hollywood Records), an inspired work that is surprising, revelatory and wildly original.
Midnight was recorded and mixed at Barefoot Studios in Hollywood with producer Eric Valentine, whose own diverse discography—from Queens of the Stone Age to Nickel Creek—evidences a similarly adventurous spirit and openness to possibility. If Valentine's studio work has a distinguishing characteristic, it's his hard-hitting sonic signature, which is on display throughout Midnight's dozen tracks. The core studio band consisted of Potter and Valentine on most of the instruments, with Burr on drums and percussion. In addition, members of Potter's longtime band The Nocturnals: guitarists Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco and bassist Michael Libramento contributed to the sessions, as well as former tour-mates and friends including singer-songwriter Rayland Baxter, Audra Mae, Noelle Skaggs of Fitz & the Tantrums, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, and Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age.
"This album is about embracing life as it comes at you – with all its unexpected twists and turns," says Potter. "I took a much more open approach to songwriting than I have in the past – probably because it was unavoidable. I've experienced a huge amount of growth and change in the past two years - both personal and professional, and it can be overwhelming for an artist to find ways to express that in a vacuum. So I tried to strip away the confines of other people's expectations. I started tapping into some of the deep-running themes that have shaped me into the human I've become, and as I went deeper and deeper, I found the results to be insanely satisfying.
"This music means so much to me because it was hard-won. It was a terrifying yet fulfilling process of boiling down what I really wanted to say – peeling back all the protective layers of lyrical metaphor and sonic padding that I'm so used to leaning on. Ultimately the process has fueled` me to share more, learn more, listen carefully, work harder, love harder... Our time on earth is far too short to be resistant to beautiful opportunities as they come our way, so when my inspiration took me somewhere new, I did what I always do: stripped buck-ass naked and ran straight into the fire."
Citing Miles Davis, Dylan, the Beatles, Bowie, Blondie and Beck as prime examples, Potter says she is drawn to artists who make sonic leaps from record to record—a notion she has explored throughout her career. For an artist who has built a devoted fan base through her electrifying live show, Potter seems hell-bent on breaking out of the box when it comes to studio work. She refuses to be defined by a single genre. Over the last three years, she has seamlessly transitioned from collaborating with the Flaming Lips, for a Tim Burton film, to songwriting and producing for soundtracks and theme songs for film and TV, to multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated country duets with her friend Kenny Chesney, to most recently joining The Rolling Stones on stage for an inspired rendition of "Gimme Shelter."
"The bands and artists that captivate me," Potter explains, "are the ones who are always pushing it, always taking risks. A great musician can shine in any genre. I refuse to make the same kind of record over and over—that's not how art works for me. The worst thing an artist can do," she asserts, "is what is expected of them."
The seeds for what would become Midnight were planted by Potter at home, in Vermont, in the fall of 2013. "I had been messing around for a few weeks with making really wacked-out home demos - lots of sounds, beats and melodies that I had never tried before," she recalls. "It was a dark, stormy, moody day and I could hear the thunder in the distance — these big ominous clouds were rolling in fast. There was something about that threat of inclement weather beyond my control that just made me vibrate with anticipation and adrenaline, so I channeled it into this heavy boogie song—it goes right for the throat and says 'Own your existence on earth, because who knows what's gonna happen next.' That solitary moment guided everything that followed, and "Alive Tonight" was the beginning of it."
Fittingly, "Alive Tonight" is Midnight's lead single.
Valentine was intrigued by Grace's sonic experiments in her work-tapes, so much so that they formed the blueprint for a number of the arrangements that made the final cut. "Her demos had an incredible vibe that really captured a groove or mood that would immediately grab your attention," he notes. "So it seemed like that was the way to chase down this record as an honest representation of what Grace wanted to say and how she wanted these tracks to feel—because she had done such a good job of laying it out herself."
"Hot to the Touch," the aggressive, hook-heavy rocker that Grace chose to open the album, was the last song written for it. "When you're making an album, you rarely have the opportunity to look at the whole thing and ask yourself what's missing," she points out. "And "Hot to the Touch" was the song that tied the whole thing together—the culmination of how I felt about making this entire record. It has a sexy, fiery, James Bond kind of vibe to it, and I came up with this snippy, edgy guitar part that fit really nicely. Lyrically, it's about the tempestuous nature of love and attraction. That type of songwriting doesn't happen very often when you're making an album, so it felt like the cherry on top.
"The song "Delirious" was the tipping point of the album in many ways. I was in a really prolific stage of the process. The heart of the record had really taken shape in my mind. I was desperate to get everything down on paper before it left my mind and sleep felt like a distraction - but strange things happen when you haven't slept in days. I reached a moment where finally, all my pretensions, judgments and preconceived notions vanished. I'd had so many sleepless nights trying to crack the code that my defenses were down, my nerves numb and I needed a real-deal freak-out dance party - an implosion of all the walls I had built around myself."
Looking at some of Midnight's other key songs, the stirring "Look What We've Become" began with a borrowed premise yet wound up as the album's autobiographical centerpiece. "The label was really pushing me to do co-writes, which I've always tried to avoid, but Eric and I quickly developed a creative trust and symmetry that allowed me to feel more open to the possibilities...a few weeks later he set me up with a guy he'd worked with for years, who does a lot of co-writing, who played me a great demo," she remembers. "When I heard the chorus, I knew I had to sing it—I found myself really attached to the melody and the message. I love the universality of it; everyone has been made to feel that they are unworthy in some way. So I wrote the verses and the bridge about my own experience with the music industry and the band. It turned out to be an excellent example of how co-writing can expand an artist's field of play."
Grace undertook the writing of "Your Girl" with the aim of coming up with a new take on a classic love triangle on this 70's tinged soul gem. "In one way or another, we've all gone through the struggle of wanting something we can't have...but this particular cliché has been so overdone. If I wanted it to work, I needed a plot twist that was true to personal experience. Then we basically treated it a lot like a hip-hop track and just set it over an undeniable groove with some awesome quirky hooks," she says. "In chasing down an originality in the confines of a heavily tread genre, Eric and I landed on one of my favorite sonic and lyrical moments of the album."
With its rippling guitar riff and gospel-choir payoff, "Empty Heart" is one of the catchiest songs on the album. "I wrote "Empty Heart" in the hotel room of a casino in the mid-west somewhere; bored out of my mind after a show. I had a crappy guitar with two broken strings and as I started banging away, hooting and howling, my neighbors one room over started BUMPING Usher... That's when it hit me: 'How cool would it be to put a super hi-fi urban beat against this janky- twangy acoustic sound?' I never expected that it would become the feel-good song that it did...but it just goes to show that you never know where inspiration will come from – or where it will take you. You just gotta take the ride and hang on for dear life."
The release of "Alive Tonight" was shrouded in mystery, and word of Potter's creative leap sans the Nocturnals hit the blogosphere quite suddenly causing many devoted fans to wonder if this record signaled the end of an era. Fans and friends had lots of questions, but Potter remained silent. "Yeah. People kinda freaked out, some in really good ways, some...not so much. I knew they would and I understood why; this is a bold new sound and for a hardcore fan, it's a big deal. Loyalty has always been really important to me and so has evolution. It's hard sometimes to understand that they don't need to be at odds. The band is an extension of me. They are my family and a huge part of my life. I have no intention of burning bridges or leaving it in the dust.
"I've been a Nocturnal for a decade....but I've been a musician forever. I've got a lot of different influences and creative impulses and I can't always use my band as my springboard. Sure, I could've called this a GPN record, but why would I slap a sticker on an apple and call it an orange? Just to keep a few people from freaking out? Shit no! I have a responsibility to the legacy we built. It was hard. It was scary, but it was the right time to jump off with my own momentum – to open the door a little wider so the world can see another side, see what else turns me on. I'm mixing it up, doing something different...feels fucking awesome," Potter says with a smile and a defiant shrug.
"In many ways, Midnight feels like a new beginning, but really, it's a continuation of my story. I've always taken chances and sharp turns. So here I am again wandering into completely uncharted waters—just laying it all out there because 'why the fuck not?' I have absolutely no control over how this music will be received, and that's OK. The risk is mine, and I'm taking it with all my heart."
"I think it would be fair to say if the band was collectively known as Stella, then this record would indicate the reality that Stella had indeed got her groove back." states Ed Robertson of Toronto's Barenaked Ladies. After 27 years together, over 14 million albums sold, multiple Juno Awards, and Grammy nominations, "Silverball," the cerebral band's fourteenth album finds the long-standing partnership of Ed Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jim Creeggan (bass, vocals), Kevin Hearn (keyboard, guitar, vocals) and Tyler Stewart (drums, vocals) firing on all cylinders.
The album's graying protagonist is battered and bruised by life, but as the opening song, "Get Back Up," indicates, he keeps lifting himself off the campus, Rocky-like, to deliver a flurry of counterpunches, along with a wisecrack or two. But there's an underlying poignancy to "Silverball" as well. This is a mature album containing rock & roll songs repurposed to portray resiliency in midlife.
The boxing metaphors come fast and furious in "Get Back Up"; indeed, at one point Robertson wryly rhymes "Muhammed Ali" with "boxing imagery." "I was writing that song with Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra, an old friend and collaborator," Ed explains. "I also love that line in the first verse: 'I'm not gonna be the next big thing/But I'm getting fitted for a new brass ring.' In other words, I'm not reaching for a brass ring, I'm just having one made."
"This is the first record since our debut 'Gordon' that was written with no hand-wringing, second-guessing, insecurity or self-doubt," Robertson asserts. "As we got ready to make the record, I was thinkin', man, this is what I get to do: I try to process some of the stuff I've gone through and am going through and write songs about it. I play them for the guys I've played with for 27 years, and they call me back and go, 'Dude, these fucking songs are awesome -- we can't wait to make this record.' I had an overwhelming feeling of confidence and gratitude heading into it."
"My goal has always been to write things that don't sound awkward," Robertson says of his approach to writing lyrics. "To find parts of conversation that roll off the tongue, that have meaning and that people can identify with. For me, the ultimate goal in trying to write a song is to get those phrases to just fly by, to fit in the rhythm of the song. So if I'm futzing around too much with grammar or rhyme, I know that it's not the right line; I need to find a way to say it that sounds like conversation."
Once the material was set, BNL wasted no time deciding on a producer, turning to their longtime friend Gavin Brown (The Tragically Hip, Metric), who had helmed their previous project, 2013 "Grinning Streak." "We had so much fun making the last record -- it felt great and worked well for the dynamic of the band," Robertson explains. "So we decided to go back in with Gavin and his team and work back home in Toronto. And it was absolutely the right move."
Ed recounts the process: "We started the record in December thinking we might get beds done for three or four songs before the Christmas break. Instead we got 13 beds done, and by the end of January we had all but completed the record. So everything just seemed to go insanely fast. There was a confidence in the band and a boldness to just go for it. We've made so many records at this point that we know when something is working. We trust Gavin in that way.
One can sense what this album is about -- and how Robertson appropriates and recontextualizes familiar phrases -- merely by looking at the song titles: "Matter of Time," "Duct Tape Heart," "Toe to Toe," "Piece of Cake," and the lead single, "Say What You Want." Ed comments, "Say What You Want is a celebration of letting go. It's about feeling confident, and realizing that you can't control what other people do or say, you can only control how you react to it. It's a very triumphant song for me."
"Duct Tape Heart," is another Robertson/Griffin collaboration. "I love the imagery of a MacGyvered heart -- a heart that is taped back up, but by virtue of being duct-taped back up, it's rock-solid," Ed notes (no pun intended).
The title track references Robertson's obsession with pinball; he's been collecting and refurbishing vintage machines since 1998. "Silverball" was an attempt to put another song out there so that 'Pinball Wizard' wasn't the only song about pinball in the world," Robertson jokes. "I didn't really see the appeal of writing a pinball song until I started to think about it as a metaphor for a relationship -- for this notion of an intricately connected machine where you literally push its buttons -- and it started to make sense in describing a relationship. If you're engaging with a person and you know what you're doing, you light everything up and take it to the next level; that's the metaphor. Gavin noted that 'Silverball' should be the name of the record. It's just such a cool word; it's nostalgic and evocative."
The album's most emotionally direct song is its climactic closer, "Tired Of Fighting With You," written and sung by Hearn. "That song is particularly poignant," Roberson says. "Kevin's cancer came back, and he wrote that song in the midst of everything he was dealing with. It's a beautiful song -- a heartbreaking song. It's so perfect. It gives you a little insight into how heavy a track that is. And the beauty of that song is that it works on whatever level you take it on."
In Robertson's view, "Silverball" has already attained a lofty status in the band's canon, for reasons that are fundamental and enduring. "I think the strength of this record is the band playing together," he says. "We're pushing in new directions -- as always, I think -- but it's still unmistakably these four guys playing together, and that's what I'm most proud of. I put the record on and it doesn't sound like anything we've ever done before, and yet it is unmistakably the new Barenaked Ladies record. We made it quickly and effortlessly, and I think it's a great showcase of what this band is capable of."
Young The Giant
With the breakout success of their self-titled 2010 debut album and widespread acclaim for their exhilarating live shows, Young The Giant has quickly established itself as one of the most exciting new bands of the decade.
For their highly anticipated second album "MIND OVER MATTER," Young The Giant enlisted Grammy-nominated producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen - known for his work with such diverse artists as Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Paramore, and M83. Featuring the electrifying lead single "It's About Time," the collection of songs finds the young band challenging themselves both lyrically and musically. "MIND OVER MATTER" follows the band's debut, "YOUNG THE GIANT," which featured singles as "Apartment" and the RIAA gold certified smashes, "My Body" and "Cough Syrup." "My Body" was a top 5 hit at Alternative radio and closed 2011 as the year's fifth most-played song at the format. "Cough Syrup" drew even greater success, peaking at #2 at Alternative, and enjoying crossover chart success at both Hot AC and Triple A radio. "Cough Syrup" remains in regular rotation at radio outlets nationwide and was recently performed on the season premiere of NBC's top-rated show "The Voice."
In addition to its popular success, "YOUNG THE GIANT" also drew reams of critical acclaim from SPIN, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal who hailed the album as "a pop masterpiece with well-crafted songs, surprising arrangements and soaring vocal harmonies." "YOUNG THE GIANT" also received rare applause from British musical icon Morrissey, who enthused, "I could break down with happiness at the new debut CD by Young The Giant. It is the whole thing... It is the perfect tone... and Sameer's voice is unbreakable. If there is any justice in the world (and we all know there isn't) Young The Giant will own most of it... Every three thousand years, a band comes along who restore that precious component of faith."
Young The Giant spent much of 2011 and 2012 traveling the globe, with sold out headline tours, top-billing on mtvU's inaugural "Woodies Tour," and show-stopping appearances at such festivals as Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and Lollapalooza. A dynamic and distinctive live act, the band also made a range of high profile TV performances, spanning ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and NBC's TODAY and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to 2011's MTV Video Music Awards and their own edition of MTV Unplugged.
Cypress Hill were notable for being the first Latino hip-hop superstars, but they became notorious for their endorsement of marijuana, which actually isn't a trivial thing. Not only did the group campaign for its legalization, but their slow, rolling bass-and-drum loops pioneered a new, stoned funk that became extraordinary influential in '90s hip-hop — it could be heard in everything from Dr. Dre's G-funk to the chilly layers of English trip-hop. DJ Muggs crafted the sound, and B Real, with his pinched, nasal voice, was responsible for the rhetoric that made them famous. The pro-pot position became a little ridiculous over time, but there was no denying that the actual music had a strange, eerie power, particularly on the band's first two albums. Although B Real remained an effective lyricist and Muggs' musical skills did not diminish, the group's third album, Temples of Boom, was perceived by many critics as self-parodic, and the group appeared to disintegrate shortly afterward, though Muggs and B Real regrouped toward the end of the '90s to issue more material.
DVX, the original incarnation of Cypress Hill, formed in 1986 when Cuban-born brothers Sen Dog (born Senen Reyes, November 20, 1965) and Mellow Man Ace hooked up with fellow Los Angeles residents Muggs (born Lawrence Muggerud, January 28, 1968) and B Real (born Louis Freese, June 2, 1970). The group began pioneering a fusion of Latin and hip-hop slang, developing their own style by the time Mellow Man Ace left the group in 1988. Renaming themselves Cypress Hill after a local street, the group continued to perform around L.A., eventually signing with Ruffhouse/Columbia in 1991.
Cold War Kids
Ten years have come and gone since Cold War Kids first took to the stage in their homegrown Southern California scene. Time is typically unkind to indie rock bands. So how is that Cold War Kids are still here in 2014, selling out tours and releasing their fifth album in a decade amidst these 40 seasons of torrential fate winds, while so many of their peers have vanished?
"We worked really fucking hard, that's the answer," says Nathan Willett. "We worked really hard and we were successful, which is freakishly impossible, and we should embrace it. That's our story."
From his post at the front, Willett—along with the band's bassist and visual director Matt Maust—has led Cold War Kids through the tricky 21st century rock and roll landscape, soaring over the peaks and facing the valleys head-on while carving out a place of the band's own. Reaping sky-high praise from a mid-2000s blogosphere then growing wings as a live show juggernaut, they stand now with their fifth studio album Hold My Home as both a different animal and an unaltered beast all at once.
The band wrote and recorded the album in their own San Pedro studio, with guitarist Dann Gallucci and Dear Miss Lonelyhearts collaborator Lars Stalfors at the production helm. It is at the same time a more pure and also more bombastic album than anything they have ever made, utilizing their environment, experience, energy and cohesion while still driving home the familiar Cold War Kids sound that has been honed and perfected over this past decade. "This record is a testament to some of my strengths—loving words and stories—but also getting out the other side and creating a fun song that is in the spirit of the band," says Willett. "This fifth record is probably the most simple, in a way, since the first one."
Cold War Kids began as a four-piece of college friends but has undergone a couple of lineup changes in the past few years, from the fulltime addition of guitarist/producer Gallucci (Modest Mouse, Murder City Devils) to the departure of two original members, including most recently drummer Matt Aveiro. Replacing Aveiro on the album and on tour is seasoned veteran Joe Plummer (The Shins, Modest Mouse, Mister Heavenly), and also onboard is touring keyboardist/vocalist Matthew Schwartz. Willett admits the alterations, while not easy, have been for the best. "For a band getting past that several-year hump, everyone figures out their role or contributions and are either content or not. The idea of what we're doing evolved. It was the right kind of work for Maust and for me. We're on the same tip that way; we want to live this artistic life."
By now, it's clear that Cold War Kids starts and ends with Willett, Maust and Gallucci, the creative yin and yang and three-chambered heart of the band. Willett stars as reluctant leader, like Moses in the wilderness, the cerebral center and refined song-crafter, shouldering responsibility; Maust is the spontaneous punk rock locomotive, constantly pushing the group forward as the conducting engine of their artistic spirit; Gallucci, who worked for Cold War Kids doing live sound for three years before officially joining, has the wide experience, taste and encyclopedic knowledge of music to make it all click. ("No one knows the sound of this band better than Dann," says Willett. "He's opened many doors for us.") Together, they are the perfect complement; to wit, when Willett and Maust formed the side-project French Style Furs last year, that experiment only brought more energy and ideas to Cold War Kids.
"French Style Furs showed us how fun it needs to be making a record," says Willett. "And that sometimes you have to tear something off to create a new energy."
The rounding out of their main project's lineup has created a dream team of sorts, hitting on all cylinders. As Willett says, "We have everything we need: hunger, energy, guys that come from bigger bands who know how things should work… There's a lot of space for these guys as musicians to be creative, but we have our musical common ground in that we're serving the song. As Maust understands about art, you elevate it to a place where it's bigger than you and you serve it."
The one-two elevated punch that launches Hold My Home is undoubtedly the band's strongest leadoff since Robbers & Cowards. "All This Could Be Yours," the first single, packs influences from Patti Smith and Them with its chugging piano chords and sing-along refrain, while the second song, "First," is perhaps their biggest sound yet. One of the final songs to be completed and originally intended as a B-side, Willett calls "First" a "morning-after song with the usual Cold War Kids self-doubt: 'Who am I, what am I doing, who are these people, do they love me, do I love myself?' The songs that strike a nerve emotionally are the vulnerable ones. But it got an immediate reaction. I want to still learn what roads I can go down that are working."
"Hotel Anywhere" is an escape from expectations and responsibility, a song inspired by an energetic experience listening to Oasis in the van after a gig. "There was this sense of abandon," says Willett, "and I realized that's what we feed off of as a band, that kind of energy that's not cerebral. I feed off of Leonard Cohen but I feed off a good rocker, too. 'Hotel Anywhere' has a space and time and it's poetic, but it has some Oasis drunken pub fun."
"Harold Bloom" is an introspective number named after one of literature's foremost critics and inspired in part by a confrontational moment in a John Lennon documentary. A torch song of sorts, it toes the line of the artist's obligation to let go, regardless of who may be watching closely, while cautioning to not "lift your heroes up so high/that you can't touch." "You cannot let the potential for criticism come before your own creative release," says Willett. "You have to make mistakes, and run forward knowing you may trip. Powerful art often happens accidentally and I have to work to make myself that way. I understand the dynamic of needing criticism or self-awareness but I am reminding myself to be childlike about it."
In that sense, Willett and Cold War Kids have circled back to the beginning, as self-sufficient artists creating for the sheer love and joy of creation, surviving and thriving as they go, running off of the same steam they started on. Picking up some essentials along the way, they remain, ultimately, themselves—exemplified by the title track. "It's about battening down the hatches when trouble comes and seeking control in a chaotic world," says Willett. "To 'hold my home/where the seasons never change.'
"We come from that time of bands that either don't exist anymore or do in some smaller form. We're somewhere in this middle ground, which is really great because we still get to do exactly what we want. In that way it does come back to Maust and me. We've existed 10 years and five records, we're still making art that is very vulnerable and singular but we are ambitious and honest with ourselves, knowing that we want success and to reach people and have them understand our art. There's something great that comes from having to knock on doors, and some of that hunger is back in this record. That's where depth comes from, when you can tap into that place that has you digging deep and trying to find something true. I think Hold My Home is about all those things."
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff has made his way from modest means in Bay, Missouri (population 60) to the international stage. After signing with Rounder Records Rateliff toured relentlessly in 2010 and 2011 supporting his critically acclaimed debut in Memory of Loss; headlining shows and performing major festivals throughout the USA, Canada, UK and Europe. His work has been praised by Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant who called Rateliff's music "fragmented and poignant." Plant also placed Rateliff's haunting track "Early Spring Till" atop his iTunes celebrity play list. In May of 2011 Rateliff performed two songs on the UK's biggest music program Later…with Jools Holland. Rateliff has played multiple dates with some of the most popular names in music including Mumford & Sons, the Fray, Bon Iver, Laura Marling, Tallest Man on Earth, Low Anthem, Delta Spirit and Jessica Lea Mayfield to name a few. Rateliff is currently working on his sophomore record which is expected to be released in Spring
The Arcs is an American garage rock band formed by Dan Auerbach, the guitarist and vocalist of the Black Keys. He’d wanted to get together with his musician friends Leon Michels, Richard Swift, Homer Steinweiss, Nick Movshon and Kenny Vaughan to put out an album. That album, “Yours, Dreamily,” was released last year to good reviews. Rolling Stone said the album “takes what Auerbach does at his best, in and out of the Keys — confessional, texturally enriched blues propelled with garage-rock force — and adds a riveting jump in eccentricity.” Auerbach has long been busy, not just with the Black Keys but also releasing a solo record and producing albums for Dr. John and Lana Del Rey. It looks, however, as if The Arcs might be in for a longer haul. NPR said, “The Arcs' formula is so winning and natural that the band already has, at least according to Auerbach, a backlog of as many as 75 songs. If even some of those come to fruition, it could prove to be an enduring, endlessly rewarding collaboration.”
Only the brave and original survive the indie music maelstrom which either sucks new guitar bands down into the depths or produces identikit sounds capitalising on trends of any given time. Bastille have moved away from the common output being churned out by indie bands to create pop songs that are absorbing and genre defining without ever being formulaic. The origins of Bastille lie in the creative mind of singer/song writer Dan Smith whose embracement of multi-eclectic musical styles have led to one of the most exciting sounds in new music today.
Despite playing the piano and dabbling in instrumentation, Dan did not initially gravitate towards music when he was young. Growing up, he listened to Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys and Fugees, all of which gave him the requisite understanding of harmonies and hooks. However, films were his obsession, with a pertinent affinity to the horror genre, particularly art house fare such as that of Dario Argento and his work in the Giallo sub-genre. This was the gateway to commonly cited influence David Lynch and then onto the more existential work of Terrence Malick. Dan's appreciation of metaphysical cinema is complimented by his literary leanings. Having studied English literature at university, the work of Ian McEwan, Hubert Selby and Brett Easton Ellis were of particularly note with their themes of human thought, sense and sexuality. Composition like "Oblivion," with its voyeuristic empathy,are the offspring of these themes. Dan is predominantly looking on within the songs. He is the narrator, rarely taking centre stage.
Music allows Dan to explore the darker side of the human psyche. Underneath the layers and beeps of the music are characters; sometimes archetypes, going through their own emotions and existing solely in the universe of each song. Dan shares the ability of the directors he admires, to create atmosphere, feeling and tensions; this is prevalent in the music of Bastille. Their songs are bathed in the sunlight of sorrow and the rumination of emotional folly. Songs such as "flaws" and "overjoyed" resonate with fans of the band who find a personal element to the music but they are projections rather than introspections. Each song has a certain mood, but if they have a definitive meaning, then they cease to breath. People assume that many of the songs are relationship orientated, but they were not intended to be. Like Regina Spektor, Dan's songs are his stories; vehicles to muse on things he wants to talk about. He has the latitude to write tales with broad brush strokes, encapsulated in four minute pop songs, each being soundtracks to their own cinematic microcosm. Their resulting music is enigmatic, but accessible.
The music of Bastille was brought to life by one, but on stage the songs are emancipated by four band members, each dabbling with vocals, keyboards and percussion. Chris Wood on drums and bassist, Will Farquarson, are old musical acquaintances of Dan's. Kyle Simmons, completing the line-up as keyboardist, is a friend of Dan's who initially crossed paths with him at a party. Each has their main role in Bastille; however, confining them to a particular instrument would be as narrow as pigeon-holing Bastille to a certain musical genre. It is sonically that they are united, with vocal cohesion creating a live sound that transcends Dan's more autonomous creative approach to recording the music.
At the end of 2010, Dan was able to congregate the guys into the existing incarnation of Bastille, with their live journey beginning at Brighton's Great Escape the following April. They have only ever existed as a performing entity in band form and have become known for producing great performances; multifarious experiences to match the complexity of the songs Dan writes and records alone. The four members effortlessly interchange, harmonise and create a musical tapestry interlaced with texture and experimentation. Bastille manage to do what many peers of theirs sometimes forget to on stage: they have fun, and the music and experience will always be the beneficiary of this. The songs are full of rhythmic melodies and sweeping, haunting vocals, which coexist together in an atmospheric soundscape. Their Loyal and vocal fans, who have followed them from that very first show in Brighton, are hung on every word and invigorate Bastille's cacophony of sound and atmosphere.
As the band's reputation has grown, so have the venues, while the sound and endeavour of the band are ever evolving and expanding. The foursome will add the Leeds/Reading and Secret Garden festivals to their portfolio this summer with a further London Kokodate. The upcoming show at Koko will see Bastille utilise a screen, incorporating the video footage which so seamlessly compliments the music, creating a wholly audio-visual experience. Perhaps this is the way the music should be absorbed and it brings the band full circle from when Dan was making videos cut from cult films in his bedroom. They were meant for bigger stages and grander gestures to match their justified ambition.
Dan does not see the path as set with his music; the songs are flows of consciousness, taking Bastille to more ethereal pastures. He has been working with singer-songwriter Jay Brown and US Rapper F. Stoke and in trying to innovate, he has learnt new production techniques. His burgeoning appreciation of soul and the American hip-hop scene have heightened his musical sensibilities, giving his output a unique sound which is attuned to his style. The group now stands on the cusp of releasing their debut album, set for early 2013. Usually, bands start to experiment when their style grows static, but Bastille's music has never followed the normal route into Indie territory. Their debut album is devoid of guitars, instead being more reliant on vocals, beats and strings. The influences of such different sounds and feels have given the four the potential to look towards any creative direction in the future. They are not restricted by any musical straight jacket and that is what makes them one of the most exciting young bands around at the moment.
Violent Femmes formed in 1981 as an acoustic punk band playing on the streets of Milwaukee. Their main influences at that time were Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, and The Velvet Underground. Their goal was to rock harder than any other acoustic act on the planet.
They were rejected for an audition by a local nightclub and set up outside a Pretenders gig. Chrissie Hynde asked them to open that night's show. This gave the early Femmes a publicity boost which led to them being invited to play in NYC supporting Richard Hell. A rave review in the New York Times led eventually to a record deal, which in turn spawned worldwide touring.
Their eponymous first album became the first and only album in Billboard history to enter the charts as a platinum album, eight years after its release. The Femmes became a mainstay of festivals, clubs and theatres in over 30 countries worldwide in the ensuing three decades.
MTV's "Unplugged" show was inspired by the Femmes, although they never actually appeared on it. Their raw sound and honest lyrical perspective has been cited as an influence by artists as diverse as Pink, Keith Urban, The Smiths, Nirvana, Lou Reed, John Cusack, Mark Morris, and Wim Wenders.
Violent Femmes are currently touring in commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the release of their first album.
With her deadpan delivery and witty lyrics, Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett has been bringing in fan adoration and critical acclaim. Her 2015 debut album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” brought cheers from critics, with several publications decreeing it one of the top albums of 2015: Rolling Stone, The Guardian, The Times, Pitchfork media and the Chicago Tribune. The album helped get her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. The single “Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party”was performed earlier this year on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” NPR’s Jacob Ganz said of her appearance at last year’s SXSW, “At the head of a trio making a grunge-y racket that never overwhelms her vocals, Barnett howls, mumbles, smiles and bounces her way into your heart.” Not bad for someone who just a few years ago was playing second guitar in Melbourne grunge band.
Nineteen years ago, at the age of 16, Jonny Lang found incredible success with the release of his major label debut album Lie To Me. He has a keen sense of what he aims to achieve creatively, what music means to him, and is focused on the impact that his songs bring to the lives of those that encounter his repertoire. With his latest release, Fight For My Soul, Lang is entering a chapter wherein he has found his true voice.
"The inspiration for the songs on the record vary widely. Some are about personal struggles, some are focused on injustices I have seen. Some are random fictional stories that hopefully can relate to people in some way that is a blessing to them. I've wanted to make this album for a long time. Creatively, I think there is a lot more going on inside of me than I've been sharing on recordings."
The path Lang has been on has brought him the opportunity to interact with some of the most respected legends in music. On the way up, he shared the stage with The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Aerosmith, Sting, and Buddy Guy, who he continues to tour with today. "With this album, I really look forward to bringing our music to people in places where I've never been before. Music is one of the greatest conveyers of ideas and emotions, and in a sense that doesn't have as much to do with the individual performing, but the power of the connection. One of my goals is the music can be a blessing to the people listening to it in some way. And if Fight For My Soul can help somebody by making them feel better or that they're not alone, that's my idea of success for this album."
Lang has five albums that charted on the top 50 of the Billboard 200 chart and has won a Grammy Award for Turn Around.
In late 80's Gin Blossoms started to grow a huge following as the #1 local music draw in Phoenix and certainly were the hometown hero's of their favorite hang, Tempe, Arizona. Gin Blossoms indelible jangle-pop sound was evolving during radio's diverse mix of hair bands and grunge music superstars like Nirvana. After the Phoenix New Times chose them the cities best rock band, they qualified to play at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin Texas in 1989. That same year, College Music Journal dubbed them the "Best Unsigned Band in America" and added an invitation to perform on MTV's New Music Awards in New York City.
Taking their name from a caption on a W.C. Fields photo, Gin Blossoms signed a record deal with A&M and recorded their first EP "Up And Crumbling" in 1991. But, it was not until their breakout record "New Miserable Experience" in 1992 that their rise to fame began. "New Miserable Experience" kept the band on the charts for almost 3 years with singles "Hey Jealousy," "Allison Road," "Until I Fall Away," "Mrs Rita," and "Found Out About You." The album took the airwaves by siege and held MTV hostage with multi cross-over hits in 4 different radio formats. It was this record that rocketed the band into the mainstream going on to sell over 4 million copies making the band a 90's radio mainstay. In 1995, Robin Wilson, Jesse Valenzuela and veteran composer Marshall Crenshaw wrote the bands 4th of 9 sound track inclusions; "Til I Hear It From You." The smash hit was released as a Gin Blossoms single and it appeared on the platinum sound track for the film Empire Records.
1996 saw the final record of the decade for Gin Blossoms "Congratulations I'm Sorry." The album brought two more hits; "Follow You Down" which spent ten weeks in the Top Ten and "As Long As It Matters" which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Duo or Group. "It was pretty cool to lose a Grammy to the Beatles. Who else would you want to lose out to" say's Jesse. The album rocketed into Billboard's Top Ten and a year of touring helped push the record past 1,500,000 in sales. In 5 years, the band released 2 EP's, two LP's and over 12 singles that fueled record sales to over 7 million. Their blend of Pop & Rock, now known as Jangle-Pop, became a musical force that helped define the sound of 90's radio.
In 1997, while at peak success and after numerous appearances on late night TV such as Letterman, Leno, Arsenio Hall, Saturday Night Live, The Grammy's, and endless touring, the group disbanded and began a four year hiatus. It was not until a 2001 New Years Eve performance in Tempe that the members reformed and began touring and recording again. "Since 2001, we have been performing over 120 shows a year. This is what we most enjoy doing" say's Wilson. "It's our job and I know all of us are really grateful that we can earn a living making records and entertaining people on the road. We're doing something we really love! I don't know many people that can say that when they go to work everyday."
In 2005, former A&M president Al Cafaro resigned the band and partnered to record their 3rd full length album in over 10 years. "Major Lodge Victory" landed on Billboards 200 and was the # 10 Indie album of the year. Released on August 8th, 2006, it included hits "Learning The Hard Way" and the appropriately titled "Long Time Gone." Billboard magazine called this gem "an effortless triumph of melodic perfection." "This was a really fun record to make" say's Scotty. "We assembled some of the old team together and recorded at Ardent Studios with John Hampton again. Ardent is a legendary studio, and were comfortable there – it was a lot of fun." Back in chart bloom, Entertainment Weekly reviewed "Major Lodge Victory" by saying; "Hardly a half-hearted cash-in, this comeback LP marks a solid addendum to Gin Blossoms multi-platinum peak output."
Their most recent album, 2010's "No Chocolate Cake", lands Gin's back on the singles chart again with "Miss Disarray" and the album shot straight to # 1 on Amazon, hitting Billboard's top 200 at # 73 and the Indie chart at #14. Because the band members no longer live in the same city—Wilson divides his time between Tempe and New York, Valenzuela is in Los Angeles. Putting the sonic pieces of No Chocolate Cake together presented an exciting new challenge for the band. While Wilson contributed a handful of songs, the bulk of the material chosen for the 11 track set was written by Valenzuela either solo or with different collaborators, including Danny Wilde of The Rembrandts (the Blossoms guitarist first worked with Wilde on The Rembrandts' song "Long Walk Home").
"In the old days, we used to joke that there was something for everybody in this band," says Wilson. "There's just something about the way we play and sound together, but in the end, it's really about the quality of the songs. If you're a band and want to sustain a career, no matter what you look like or how you play, you've got to have great songs. So it's those songs and the sound we make…my voice, the guitars, tempos, that add up to something indefinable."
Over the years, Gin Blossoms have toured over 25 different Countries including a five city tour of Iraq in 2010. "It was so much fun to entertain our troops. It's really insightful to see first hand how our troops live in a combat zone. It really helped to broaden my understanding on the sacrifices they make to protect us at home and abroad. I hope all Americans understand how important it is for us to extend our thanks" says Robin.
Gin Blossoms are currently writing a brand new record and hope to finish in time for a 2013 release. "We never rush the writing of a new record" says Jesse. "There's something to be said for having a level of experience where you instinctively know what works. The best ones are those that feel like they've already been there, as if they are just waiting to naturally emerge. I think it's the quality of the songs we have and Robin's voice. It's also a matter of trust. I know when I bring in a song that Robin will know how to sing it, Scotty will know how to play it and Bill will know the groove. I wouldn't work with guys I had to tell what to do. The key is to not try so hard."
2013 will bring the band to over 100 cities, a 5 Artist rock cruise, international shows and perhaps a brand new album – stay tuned!
Trampled by Turtles
Dave Simonett (guitar/lead vocals)
Tim Saxhaug (bass/harmony vocals)
Dave Carroll (banjo, harmony vocals)
Erik Berry (mandolin)
Ryan Young (fiddle/harmony vocals)
On Wild Animals, Trampled by Turtles' seventh studio album, themes of impermanence run deep, both lyrically and sonically. The quintet's hybrid folk sound continues its evolution pushing the band further into the grey area between genres that defies pigeonholing.
Trampled By Turtles formed in 2003 in Duluth, Minnesota. From their beginnings on the Midwestern festival circuit, they have reached new heights with each album. The release of 2012's Stars And Satellites saw the band play to more fans than ever, sell close to 100,000 albums, make their first national television appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, and have their first concert feature, Live at First Avenue, broadcast on Palladia. This year will see the band headline Red Rocks Ampitheatre for the first time and the kickoff of their own festival, Festival Palomino, which will take place September 20, 2014 outside Minneapolis.
Lead songwriter Dave Simonett has been especially affected by change over the last few years. He relocated from Duluth to the city of Minneapolis. "When I lived in Duluth, I think I took connection with uncivilized nature for granted. There, I had to drive 20 minutes and I was in the middle of nowhere, and I did this almost daily," says Simonett. "This was a very important ritual for me. Solitary time in a nearly untouched landscape is my version of church, so I think there is a bit of loss of religion in a lot of my work these days. I've always been a little obsessed with our struggle to stay connected to our simple animal side, the part of our nature that lived off the earth, hunted live game, worshipped trees and mountains. I believe a lot of sadness is caused by feeling disconnected with the rest of nature. A lot of what is instinctual for us is beaten down and frowned upon in modern society. It has to be confusing for the subconscious."
Wild Animals found Trampled by Turtles working with a producer for the first time in four studio records. The band placed themselves in the capable hands of longtime Duluth, MN compatriot Alan Sparhawk of the band Low and engineer B.J. Burton (Poliça, Megafaun, Volcano Choir) who crafted a sonic landscape that was spatial and new at Cannon Falls, MN's Pachyderm Studio (Nirvana, The Jayhawks).
Says Simonett on working with Sparhawk: "Alan is one of the most musically courageous people I know and that's exactly the attitude we were looking for. He's great at taking a song from its false conclusion all the way down to its very core and then building it back in new and interesting ways."
And on Burton's contributions: "He has an exciting way of looking at sound. He shares Alan's courage in music in that he's ready to take organic sounds and push them to new places. He's extremely technically skilled but not tied to any recording dogma."
The band's signature harmonies are intact, although the contributions that Sparhawk and Burton added created a new depth. Tim Saxhaug, the band member who has traditionally done much of the vocal arrangement says, "The production team pushed the band to consider new ways of approaching harmony, and the result 'opened our ears.' I wasn't sure that recording could feel new after six studio albums, but that went away on the first day. Making this album was the most creative I've ever felt in my life."
When asked about themes in his writing, Simonett says, "I've always felt they're just various ways humans have attempted to explain the unexplainable. To keep the fear of the darkness that waits for all of us at bay. The death of a loved one, the parting of friends, the changing leaves, the loss of love. All the little parts that come and go. In a way it's refreshing because the knowledge that nothing will ever stay the same offers innumerable opportunities for rebirth."
Sparhawk adds about the band's relationship, "The sound that caught my ear was there from the beginning and stands to this day: I call it the 'wall of strings.' Taking instruments we have heard for generations, the Turtles dive in with post-punk energy and selflessness. Everyone has a part in the arrangement that leans on and enhances the others, always serving the song. The message is not about individuals – it's about what can be done when people get together, apply their heart and soul, and make a little room for each other. Music has always had that potential, but it's rare when it actually happens."
Erik Berry says of the band's chemistry, "From the earliest times we started playing, there has always been a real hard-to-define quality about our chemistry, something special. It's been a treat to find that more than ten years in we still can turn new corners, at least new-to-us corners, together in the way we approach a song or a sound and still with that quality. That something that makes us, us."
Wild Animals is the sound of a band at the peak of their potential, strengthened from a decade together, winning some and losing some, but growing none-the-less. The album captures the intense nature that goes with being alive, melding the universal and the personal.
The members of Moon Taxi are no strangers to the stage. Hailing from Nashville, the five-piece formed in 2006 and set out to conquer the Southeast with their unforgettable live set. Nine years later, they've amassed over one thousand shows and released two albums, Cabaret (2012) and Mountains Beaches Cities (2013). The latter landed the band their first National late-night television appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman and Conan as well as multiple commercial and TV placements including BMW, Nashville, MLB, NFL and HBO Sports to name a few. With a rabid fan base under their belts, they've upped the ante this year to become a festival favorite with recent performances at Bonnaroo, Governor's Ball, Wakarusa, Houston Free Press and upcoming appearances at Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.
Endless hours on the road in support of Mountains Beaches Cities allowed for reflection and collaboration like never before. The band, who all split song-writing duties, found themselves sharing personal experiences with one another, opening up about relationships, and becoming very aware of how powerful the human bond can truly be. This realization is heard throughout Moon Taxi's third and most relatable album to date, Daybreaker. "To me it's an album about facing the unknown, starting something new and realizing that tAs a whole, Daybreaker sounds like a performance to me," says keys player Wes Bailey. "You can hear fingers moving, breathing and all the other subtle sounds that one would hear at a live performance."
The album opens with the stadium ready first single 'Year Zero' and immediately envelopes the listener with echoing oh's and ah's, a swooning chorus, and soaring guitar riffs. 'Year Zero' is the perfect live sing-a-long; it's meant to be heard with arms up, eyes closed, and bodies swaying in the warm summer air. "This album has summer vibes all over it," says frontman Trevor Terndrup. The first song that was unveiled 'All Day All Night' is an excellent representation of that and is already making its mark with festivalgoers. "I want the listener to feel like they have stayed up all night with someone and that they are the only ones in the world experiencing the new day dawn," he says.
Daybreaker continues to glide effortlessly from track to track each building upon the sentiment of the last. Mid album gem 'Make Your Mind Up' is the perfect juxtaposition of upbeat hooks and heartfelt lyrics, while closer 'Rooftops' shows a softer more intimate side to Moon Taxi, lending itself to be the soundtrack of a midnight rendezvous. From start to finish, Daybreaker is sure to leave fans feeling more connected to the band than ever before.
"When we release a new album, we enter a new chapter in our story; an experience we share with our fans. When the day breaks and the sun rises, changes happen and the world we know illuminates. That's the same kind of effect we hope to achieve when we share new music." – Wes Bailey
Daybreaker will be released nationwide on October 2, 2015.
The object of cultish adoration for years, singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams was universally hailed as a major talent by both critics and fellow musicians.
Better Than Ezra
Before their omnipresent 1995 single "Good" hit No. 1, before their debut albumDeluxe went double-platinum, before popular shows such as Desperate Housewiveslicensed their song "Juicy," before Taylor Swift attested to their timeless appeal by covering their track "Breathless" — New Orleans' Better Than Ezra was a pop-rock act paying its dues, traveling from town to town in a ramshackle van. Over two decades after the band formed, that vigilance still resonates strongly with the trio, who were finally rewarded after seven years of stubbornly chasing their dreams.
"This band," notes bassist Tom Drummond, "has never been handed anything." "I remember when we drove to St. Louis just for $50 and pizza," says frontman-songwriter Kevin Griffin. "Then in the middle of the show, we'd start to drop the hint: 'Hey! Anybody got a place for us to crash?'" Though they were told countless times by managers and A&R reps to throw in the towel, "Good" — a joyous anthem about pulling the plug on a relationship — silenced skeptics.
Better Than Ezra has always possessed an uncanny ability to deliver a sticky melody. It just took time for the world to figure this out. As testament to Griffin's pop prowess, he's now become an in-demand songwriter and producer across an array of genres (from Sugarland's "Stuck Like Glue" to Howie Day's "Collide") in the five years since the band's last album, Paper Empire. While penning tracks for other artists, Griffin found himself squirreling away compositions he felt best belonged to the Better Than Ezra canon. He coaxed the band back together (which includes drummer Michael Jerome) to record in L.A. for six weeks with Beck and Phoenix producer Tony Hoffer. As testament to their inner-band harmony, ex-drummer Travis McNabb, still tight with the band, filled in on percussion in the studio while Jerome was on tour.When talking about breaking out of the 90s bubble, Drummond says, "We've been asked to join nostalgia tours. But we always say 'no,' because the music we're making is still relevant.
In the last four years, Houndmouth have learned what it means to be a band. On their second album, Little Neon Limelight, they wear that wisdom like a badge of honor.
Less than a half-decade ago in the small Indiana city of New Albany, four pals were crafting tunes on their own, with few ambitions of turning those songs into a spectacle. That all changed when these friends crossed paths, and joined forces. Matt Myers, Shane Cody, Katie Toupin, and Zak Appleby became the drums and keys, guitars and harmonies of Houndmouth, and those personal numbers became the irrepressible core of an outfit turned magnetic.
In 2012, the group issued a self-titled EP on Rough Trade Records, the legendary imprint that signed them after seeing a single gig. One of 2013's most incandescent debuts, their From the Hills Below the City LP affirmed what label owner Geoff Travis had heard: the sounds of Americana, renewed by the youthful glow of songwriters, musicians and pals unafraid to both celebrate and desecrate them.
Others noticed, too. The Guardian noted that, with From the Hills, "reservations fade," while Rolling Stone's David Fricke lauded the "earthy melancholy with a rude garage-rock streak." Treks with the Drive-by Truckers and the Alabama Shakes followed, plus performances at the Newport Folk Festival, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. In cramped clubs and big theaters alike, Houndmouth earned a reputation as a must-see act, their hooks, energy and charisma making them feel like a lifelong friend you'd just met.
That success, though, turned what had started as fun into something closer to work. Houndmouth learned that being full-time musicians required much more than the nine-to-five endeavors they had left behind in Indiana. But they grew into the role and grew from it. Experiences accumulated; perspectives expanded. Relationships stalled; others progressed.
"We're not in party mode all the time anymore," says Myers. "We're refining how we write songs, writing about people we love, more important things than just nonsensical stuff." If that was the charge, then Little Neon Limelight is an unapologetic success. These eleven songs sparkle, fade, and sparkle again, mixing innocence and experience, acceptance and aspiration, horror and hope.
Recorded by Dave Cobb in Nashville, Little Neon Limelight pairs the energy and nerves of raw first takes with the accents and moods of a more contemplative, thoughtful unit. Hearts are broken and friends are exiled, love grows cold and drugs do damage, leaders make mistakes and money turns tricks. On the acoustic "Gasoline," one of the most poignant moments of Houndmouth's catalog, Toupin barbs the confessions of a perennial party girl with the specter of mortality. "Maybe I'll meet my maker on a bedroom floor," she sings, her voice fighting against its own existential fade as bowed cello traces her words. Haunted by samples of the buoyant opener and single "Sedona" and the noisy filigree of a Moog, the beautifully downcast "For No One" stalks through personal blues with conviction. Its world-weariness has been incubated by the world it surveys.
But all of these feelings aren't worn on Houndmouth's collective sleeves: Despite the turmoil embedded within many of these songs, they are equal parts energetic proclamation, built with choruses that can't be denied, harmonies that can't be escaped and rhythms that can't be resisted. With its carousel keyboards and start-and-stop drums, "Say I"" is a combination come-on and kiss-off that might make Keith Richards blush. For "15 Years," Houndmouth conjures barroom bluster to voice the woes of a prisoner, backing the cries of his soul with howling organ and slashing guitar. When all the action drops into a shout-along, gospel-strong bridge, you might feel the urge to bust the fella out yourself. What's the point of having the blues, Houndmouth seems to say, if you can't have fun with them, too?
Nowhere is that balance of tragedy and triumph better than on the romp "My Cousin Greg," a Band-style saga where each member takes a turn with a verse. Written about Myers' actual cousin and former cover-band bandmate Greg, these four minutes present the title guy as a mischievous, enlightened and acerbic genius. He leaves Florida with his master's degree in physics for a brainy job in Los Angeles, raising metaphysical hell and questions along the way. Greg thinks his cousin has it made, touring the country by van while playing the songs he's written.
But Myers disagrees: "If you wanna live the good life/Well, you better stay away from the limelight," the quartet sings as one in the chorus, repeating the mantra as though it were their only lifeline to sanity. For those long drives, it's a reminder of the thrill and toil of what they now get to do. "For the first record, we were floating around after having been thrown into this," explains Myers. "This time, we were able to write more about experiences than random stories, because that's where we are in life. There had to be an attachment to what we recorded."
For Little Neon Limelight, the charged, charming and preternaturally mature Houndmouth did exactly that.
"We're a Mexican American band, and no word describes America like immigrant. Most of us are children of immigrants, so it's perhaps natural that the songs we create celebrate America in this way." So says Louie Perez, the "poet laureate" and primary wordsmith of Los Lobos, when describing the songs on the band's new album, Gates of Gold.
The stories on Gates of Gold are snapshots of experiences that Perez and his band mates have had, based on where they are emotionally and how they respond to evolving life circumstances. "We live out loud most of the time and share our life this way, but then there are more intrinsic things that happen, and our songs are part of the way we react to them. We sit down and basically tell people what has happened. We certainly didn't start this project with aspirations to create the musical equivalent to great American literary works."
After celebrating their 40th anniversary with the cleverly titled 2013 live album Disconnected In New York City, the hard working, constantly touring band – David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin – leaps headfirst into their fifth decade with an invitation to join them as they open fresh and exciting new Gates of Gold, their first full length studio album since 2010's Tin Can Trust (a Grammy nominee for Best Americana Album) and second with Savoy/429 Records.
The dynamic songwriting, deeply poetic lyrics, thoughtful romantic and spiritual themes and eclectic blend of styles on the 11 track collection has resulted in an American saga in the rich literary tradition of legendary authors John Steinbeck and William Faulkner. Yet true to form, these typically humble musical wolves started in on the project without any grand vision or musical roadmap. Over 30 years after Los Lobos' major label breakthrough How Will The Wolf Survive? - their 1984 album that ranks #30 on Rolling Stones list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s – their main challenge when they get off the road and head back into the studio is, as Berlin says, "trying not to do stuff we've already done. To a certain extent, we are always drawing from the same multi-faceted paint box, and we sound like what we sound like. We're proud of what we feel is an honest body of work. We just want to keep finding new ways to say things."
In the band's early recording days - those years just before and after "La Bamba," their worldwide crossover hit from the 1987 film which reached #1 on the U.S. and UK singles chart - they prepared for album recording sessions with top producers like T-Bone Burnett with pre-production that included multiple rehearsals and "outlining" what the project was going to be. The more spontaneous approach to writing and recording that they took on their 1992 Mitchell Froom co-produced set Kiko still exists today; Rosas says, "When I listen to our catalog, doing things more spontaneously in the studio has led to some of our best work." Unlike many bands that write, gather and catalog material between studio releases, Los Lobos prefers to create their magic on the fly when they decide it's time to record. Perez says, "We never come in with a cache of 20 songs. Our thing is to write as we're recording. It's like starting with a blank canvass every time."
The journey to Gates of Gold began with Hidalgo bringing in a batch of ideas, outlines and chord progressions with no lyrics. As he and Perez began fleshing things out, developing grooves, melodies and lyrical themes, Hidalgo, his son, drummer David, Jr. and bassist Lozano began tracking those tunes. The collection opens with the reflective, mid-tempo rocker "Made To Break Your Heart," featuring female vocalist Syd Straw, whose vibe was partially inspired by Hidalgo's love for Manassas, the early 70s blues-country-rock band created by Stephen Stills. The moody, atmospheric rocker "When We Were Free," whose lyrics of what Berlin calls "beautiful melancholy memories" are underscored with the increasing drama of booming drums and distorted electric guitars. Filled with hypnotic sound effects and cool vocal and guitar distortion (created via an eight track analog Cascam cassette recorder!), the soulful, reflective "There I Go" touches on the universal search for what Perez calls "something meaningful, though we're not always sure what it is."
Further Hidalgo/Perez collaborations include "Too Small Heart," a raw and raucous nod to both Los Lobos garage band roots and the wild abandon of Jimi Hendrix; the easy grooving folk-rocker "Song of the Sun," which taps into the elements of life (water, fire, earth) and creation myths while touching on the way we choose to live in the present; the slow burning blues/rocker "Magdalena," inspired by the Biblical Mary Magdalene and visions of flowing robes; and the folk-influenced, image rich rocker title track "Gates of Gold," whose lyrical abstractions allow for multiple earthly and spiritual interpretations.
Perez says, "When I first started listening to the original demo Dave had, the music spoke to me of rural America. The impression the lyrics give could refer to the afterlife, i.e. the "pearly gates," but I also was thinking about the immigrant experience, the promise of a new life as one travels across borders, all the thoughts a person making that daring move might have connected to the dream of what America is. Our parents all wondered what lay beyond those gates. On a personal level, it's a reflection of where my band mates and I are in our lives. We're all over 60 now and looking towards the horizon at our own mortality. We think often about what we've contributed and what's left. I don't know who the protagonist of the song is, but he's looking at those gates from a distance because what lies beyond is a mystery."
As Hidalgo and Perez began collaborating on their songs, Rosas, as per his trademark "lone wolf" songwriting approach, took his basic tracks to his home studio to complete the handful of tunes that flesh out the set. The singer, guitarist and mandolin player's pieces include the raucous and bluesy, garage band fired jam "Mis-Treater Boogie Blues," the swampy folk-rock blues lament "I Believed You So" and the swaying, sensual Latin Cumbia-styled "Poquito Para Aqui." The sole cover on Gates of Gold is the other Spanish language tune, "La Tumba," an accordion laced folk piece connected to the Mexican Norteno tradition (related to polka and corrodes) whose theme, says Perez, is very dark, "about following your lover to the tomb." It's very familiar to fans as a frequent staple of Los Lobos' live performances.
Back in 2003, when Los Lobos was celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their humble beginnings as a garage band in East L.A., Rolling Stone summed up their distinctive, diverse, freewheeling fusion of rock, blues, soul and Mexican folk music: "This is what happens when five guys create a magical sound, then stick together…to see how far it can take them." Originally called Los Lobos del Este (de Los Angeles), a play on a popular norteno band called Los Lobos del Norte, the group originally came together from three separate units. Lead vocalist/guitarist Hidalgo, whose arsenal includes accordion, percussion, bass, keyboards, melodic, drums, violin and banjo, met Perez at Garfield High in East LA and started a garage band. Rosas, who had his own group, and Lozano launched a power trio. "But we all hung out because we were friends and making music was just the natural progression of things," says Perez, the band's drummer. "Like if you hang around a barbershop long enough, you're going to get a haircut."
Berlin is Los Lobos' saxophonist, flutist and harmonica player who met the band while still with seminal L.A. rockers The Blasters. He joined the group after performing on and co-producing (with T-Bone Burnett) their breakthrough 1983 EP …And A Time To Dance. Los Lobos were already East L.A. neighborhood legends, Sunset Strip regulars and a Grammy winning band (Best Mexican American/Tejano Music Performance) by the time they recorded How Will the Wolf Survive? Although the album's name and title song were inspired by a National Geographic article about real life wolves in the wild, the band saw obvious parallels with their struggle to gain mainstream rock success while maintaining their Mexican roots.
Perez, once called their powerhouse mix of rock, Tex-Mex, country, folk, R&B, blues and traditional Spanish and Mexican music "the soundtrack of the barrio." Three decades, two more Grammys, the global success of "La Bamba" and thousands of rollicking performances across the globe later, Los Lobos is surviving quite well -- and still jamming with the same raw intensity as they had when they began in that garage in 1973. They don't get in the studio as often as they did a few decades ago – Tin Can Trust came four years after their previous album of all originals, The Town and the City – but when they do, the results are every bit as culturally rich, musically rocking and lyrically provocative as they were back in the day.
"It's not always the easiest thing finding time away from our touring schedule and families to find time to make an album," says Berlin, "but recording Gates of Gold, I have to say it's great to be back in the proverbial saddle again. It reminds us of the fun we have had making new music over the years, and it's nice to have the opportunity to create something of value."
Perez adds, "I find that the most interesting part of songwriting and tracking a new album is the differential between the way a song sounds to you at 2 a.m. and the way it may hit you when it's 11 a.m. and it reaches the light of day. We may love it just as much or we may realize we can do better. It's always a process of discovering more about ourselves and the music we love to make. It's not always easy getting started again, but I love that moment in the process when the songs start to take on their own life and we can let the kid, so to speak, run out onto the street and start figuring things out for himself. The way songs reveal themselves to us during these periods of writing and recording is my favorite part of the Los Lobos recording experience."
Louie Perez- Drums, Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Steve Berlin- Saxophone, Percussion, Flute, Midsax, Harmonica, Melodica
Cesar Rosas- Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin
Conrad Lozano- Bass, Guitarron, Vocals
David Hidalgo- Vocals, Guitar, Accordion, Percussion, Bass, Keyboards, Melodica, Drums, Violin, Banjo
Enrique "Bugs" Gonzalez - Drums/Percussion
The Joy Formidable
The Joy Formidable have never been one to shy away from a challenge. Proving that time and again by holding their own as support for legendary artists and acts from Sir Paul McCartney to The Foo Fighters and The Black Keys.
Once described by Rolling Stone as "wickedly bracing and Himalaya-huge;" the fantastic live band would now face the self-appointed challenge of ensuring their onstage energy and ability to connect with audiences translated via recording. That is the challenge that TJF took on for their upcoming third release. "We realized we needed to build a space and do it ourselves, go back to being three people in a room again" said Ritzy (Rhiannon) Bryan regarding the band's decision to self-produce the new record.
Twelve months later, the band have made an album that has "musically and emotionally put them through the wringer" but as the band explains, "it's fine for it to hurt, to finish a record feeling exhausted, we needed a good purge"
Continuing on the path of taking matters into their own hands, the group set out to build the right team around the new music by getting the legendary Alan Moulder to mix the album (The Killers, Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins, etc) and by starting their own label and teaming up with Caroline Records as new partners for the release.
" We wanted to work with people who feel as strong as we do about music, who listen to albums, love the art and let that take control." "On this album, we've been lucky enough to feel that same enthusiasm from everyone involved." This self-starter approach has been a staple of TJF for quite some time, building consistently since the band moved back to North Wales.
The Joy Formidable started right away by launching Aruthrol – a unique 7" vinyl singles club, showcasing a series of new songs sung in Welsh; built a studio – The Red Brick – in the hills they roamed when they were growing up. They have since used that studio to write and record an astonishing new album, an evolutionary step forward from its predecessors The Big Roar (2011) & Wolf's Law (2013).
They also completed their first short film score for Greg Jardin's 'Floating', an urban love story about a character made entirely of balloons. It's an emotionally resonant score, with all the underpinnings of The Joy Formidable, Ritzy's atmospheric guitar work, and Rhydian's piano-led melodies, interlaced together to compliment the themes of loneliness, vulnerability, persistence and humanity at the film's core.
The band's love for soundtracks is highlighted by their recently recorded and released interpretation of Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise's iconic theme for Twin Peaks. "It started off as a distraction in the studio that gathered momentum," says Ritzy. "It's a great and unusual piece of music and a great and unusual piece of television; we're excited about the new episodes."
Audiences will be treated to a preview of some new material during the band's later summer / early fall festival appearances. A full worldwide tour will follow and the album itself will be here for us all to enjoy in early 2016.
The Indigo Girls (Emily Saliers and Amy Ray) released their sixteenth studio album, One LostDay, on June 2nd.Vast in its reach, but unified by the traveler's sense of wonder, gratitude, and empathy, One Lost Day moves like a centrifuge, pulling the listener close to linger in the small moment, then casting out onto sonic currents. This is music of the past, present, and future — a boundlessness earned and not bestowed. One Lost Day has a feeling of music composed acrosstime, not just in time. These songs are rooted in tradition and inventive, too: nourished in dark soils, leafing and luminous.
Memories here are more than specters; they are evolutions. The album maps the dim corridors of the heart and mind, lifting and landing the listener across state lines and continents. Place is a character rich in the universal specific: "Boots on a board in a barn" in "Texas Was Clean," boys "under the bridge on the river shoals off GA 9" in "Fishtails," the New Orleans' 1788 fire and the fence around the St. Louis cemetery in "Elizabeth," the "sunny twist of Venice Chez Jay" in "Southern California is Your Girlfriend," and the devil-spawned Angola prison in Louisiana where three black men sat wrongly convicted for decades, confined in solitary.
The dirge-like ballad "Findlay, Ohio 1968" opens with a searing string and piano arrangement that feels like slipping through a tear in the space-time continuum. After we reach the violin's held high-C and the heartbeat drums, and before Saliers kicks in with her chilling vocals, we hover, suspended in time, before landing gently on the hot asphalt of Grammy's driveway in 1968, "poking hot tar bubbles with a stick...the smell of the trash and leaves burning in the can."
What unfolds is pure narrative intuition, wherein the stuff of life, life's inventory — the pall of the impending Kent State massacre, Sexton's poetry, Cathy's grief-stricken, beer-drinking mom, the dad who never returned from Vietnam, the fence-scaling girl ripping jeans, the boy with wandering heart and hands, the smell of Trenton's refineries and the slapping of the station wagon's wheels — are the metaphoric legs that carry the story and this song across time and distance.
"Fishtails" tackles similar themes — loss of innocence, coming of age — but through a much different lens. Here, the narrator is the observer reflecting on the tender recklessness of neighborhood kids, killing time in an abandoned copper mine, waiting to flee the confines of their small world, raging and hoping and "fishtailing in the dark from the time that they are born." But the song is infused with new meaning in the juxtaposition of the boys' lives with Ray's father's long-ago Florida boyhood — so similar in its restlessness, its sweet violence. Circularity rings like a keening bell, dazzling and devastating. A multi-layered instrumentalism allows the long notes of the past to cradle the mid-tempo of the present, a lush but understated orchestration.
Regarding the aching ballad, "If I Don't Leave Here Now," Saliers says, "The song explores the terrible affliction of addiction and was partly inspired right after Philip Seymour Hoffman died. I was deeply affected by his death, but also know that addiction seldom spares the user. It is a song about the desperate attempt to leave a bad situation where no amount of anything is ever enough." The elegiac, stripped-down sound pairs beautifully with tender lyrics that recognize addiction not as a denial of life, but as a dangerous insatiability for life ("Killing yourself to keep from running out of life") — turning the conventional addiction narrative on its head.
"I'd rather have the strength to see through the lens of reality than rose-colored glasses," Ray says in reference to the raucous, rollicking "Happy in the Sorrow Key." "Musically, I was inspired by the feel of Paul Weller and The Jam, but then I also wanted this big orchestral bridge to mirror the feeling of lying in my bunk at night on the tour bus and drifting off to sleep — scared but in awe of the process of life." The dissonance between the plaintive lyrics and the quick-tempoed, lush instrumentalism nails the ambiguity of the emotion, while also managing to create a rock song that is both fun and dirty.
A majority of the songs in this collection explore a time and place endemic to the narrator's sense of self. "Texas Was Clean" is a plucky, whispery elegy to lands loved and left behind. "It became about how a place gets reinvented and defined by your experiences over time," says Ray. "When I was young, Texas seemed so far away and remote, but now it feels like it is part of me — for the lives it's claimed and for the life it's given to me." "Elizabeth," the album's joyful opener, takes place in New Orleans, "with its ghosts and underbelly," explains Saliers. "It's the story of kinship and music and whiskey, L'il Queenie and the Big Easy whose bloody print is indelible. It's denying Facebook and simply allowing someone from your past to remain in all her splendid glory." In fact, much of this album seems to argue against our culture's obsession with immediate gratification, both a musical and lyrical affinity for the journey and not the journey's memento.
Venturing further north, "Alberta" is about the indelible impressions of a place and its history, those that we keep close and those that we leave behind. "Olympia Inn" pays homage to a bus driver named Johnny who called everyone "darling" and shared his lost loves, triumphs, and failures late at night as the band toured the UK and Ireland. It's a wild, rocking ride of a song. "It's meant to be romp with some swagger and self-deprecation thrown in for good measure," says Ray. "Emily experimented with different guitar sounds and vocal approaches to bring her parts to life, and then Jordan [producer and contributing musician] put the organ down at the end and used The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as an inspiration."
Like a good book, One Lost Day builds to the climactic "The Rise of The Black Messiah" about two-thirds of the way through the album, imbuing the whole with a structural integrity inherent to the best storytelling. This hard-hitting rock song is chilling, a battle-cry for victims of institutional racism. "My friend I heard you tell of slavery's end but have you heard of mass incarceration/That ol' Jim Crow he just keeps getting born with a new hanging rope for the black man's scourge," bellows Ray. The song was inspired by a letter Ray received about seven years ago from Herman Wallace, one of the so-called "Angola 3": a trio of young black men framed for the murder of a prison guard as punishment for speaking out about the horrifying conditions in the Angola prison in Louisiana. Wallace spent decades in solitary confinement before finally receiving "compassionate release" just days before his death from cancer. In his letter, he asked Ray to share his story, and "The Rise of The Black Messiah" is Ray's anthemic response; a slow-building, thunderous rock song anchored by Brady Blade's spirited, soulful drums.
On One Lost Day, the Girl's signature harmonies are in full display: rolling, recursive, hot and capacious as prayer. Through dynamic soundscapes created in tandem with producer Jordan Brooke Hamlin, the album reveals structural innovations that enhance meaning. A classically-trained horn player, Hamlin contributed "layered ethereal horn parts and a strong vision and ear," says Saliers. With Hamlin, the Girls took new risks that paid huge dividends. The collaborative spirit is loud here, utilizing a host of musicians both familiar and new to the duo. One Lost Day was recorded in studios in Nashville, TN and mixed by Brian Joseph at Justin Vernon's (of Bon Iver) April Base Studios in Fall Creek, WI and at the Parhelion Recording Studios in Atlanta, GA. Amy and Emily brought in Lex Price (k.d. lang, Mindy Smith), Butterfly Boucher (Ingrid Michaelson, Katie Herzig, Mat Kearney), Fred Eltringham (Sheryl Crow, The Wallflowers, Gigolo Aunts) and Chris Donohue (Dave Matthews, Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Robert Plant) to bring a good dose of infectious energy and creativity to the scene. Additionally, musicians Brady Blade and Carol Isaacs — longstanding studio collaborators and live-show band members with the Girls — returned, along with the current Indigo Girls' touring band. Isaacs contributes haunting piano parts on songs such as "Come a Long Way," "If I Don't Leave Here Now," and "Fishtails," and sonorous accordion parts to "Spread the Pain Around" and "Findlay, Ohio 1968." Blade offers his free-wheelin', Louisiana drumming style to "Fishtails," "Elizabeth," "Texas Was Clean," and the "The Rise of The Black Messiah." The inputs of many of the contributing musicians are captured in a series of videos by the talented Kathlyn Horan, who filmed the crew during the recording of the album. The videos are available on the Indigo Girls' website and in them we glimpse the ferocity and attention to detail that has helped the Indigo Girls thrive through the various capitulations of a changing music industry. Starting with 2009's Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, their eleventh studio album, the Girls formed their own label, IG Recordings, which is now distributed by Vanguard/Concord Music Group. The move aligns with their long held commitment to creative freedom, energy they've also devoted to various social and environmental causes.
The Indigo Girls have spent thirty-five years performing together, produced fifteen albums (seven gold, four platinum, and one double platinum), earned a Grammy and seven Grammy nominations, and have toured arenas, festivals, and clubs the world over. It is rare to find musicians together so long, rarer still with such profound successes. Their music lives in the hearts of generations of dedicated fans and continues to inspire young musicians. This loyalty is not accidental. Perhaps their relevance over three decades can be credited to the mighty collisions of distinct aesthetics forging new paths over time. The Girls' refinement — not only of style and skill, but of their own creative processes — allows access to ever new and liminal spaces.
A long creative marriage fosters its own scrappy beauty, though, and theirs grows more nuanced, weatherworn, and lovely in each successive album. Saliers and Ray live separate lives, take on independent projects, but share "the same set of values," says Saliers. "We both embrace the struggle, share the same energy. We are sisters in our embrace of life. Observers." That sort of artistic kinship is rare and cosmic. Here, then, are the stars of that labor, the next chapter.
- Jessica Hendry Nelson
May 19, 2015
"I think that this record does a really good job of conveying what we do and what we're about," Blackberry Smoke singer-guitarist-songwriter Charlie Starr says of Holding All the Roses, the band's fourth studio album and its first Rounder release. Indeed, Holding All the Roses compellingly captures the energy, attitude and honesty that have already helped to make Blackberry Smoke one of America's hottest live rock 'n' roll outfits, as well as a grass-roots phenomenon with a large and fiercely loyal fan base that reflects the band's tireless touring regimen and staunch blue-collar work ethic.
The 12-song set—produced by Brendan O'Brien, whose previous production clients have included AC/DC, Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young—showcases the Atlanta-based quintet's emotion-charged mix of bluesy rock, gospel soul, and country, with Starr's raspy twang matched by his and Paul Jackson's snarling guitars, Brandon Still's hauntingly expressive organ and piano, and the propulsive sibling rhythm section of Richard and Brit Turner. The songs' musical and emotional appeal is further elevated by the band's three-part vocal harmonies and expanded arrangements that make judicious use of fiddle and added percussion.
The five musicians' instinctive musical rapport manifests itself equally strongly on such surging rockers as "Let Me Help You (Find the Door)," "Living in the Song" and "Wish In One Hand," and on such intimate, introspective tunes as "Woman in the Moon," "Too High" and the stirring, acoustic-textured "No Way Back to Eden." The album's musical and emotional depth demonstrates how Blackberry Smoke continues to extend and expand the Southern rock tradition.
The musical maturity that's on display throughout Holding All the Roses underlines Blackberry Smoke's steady evolution from rough-edged club act to arena-ready rock 'n' roll juggernaut. Since its formation in 2000, the band has never shied away from hard work, playing more than 250 shows a year and building an ever-expanding audience on the strength of its live shows, and with a noticeable lack of mainstream hype.
"We've built our audience one fan at a time," states drummer Brit Turner. "Sometimes it feels like we know every one of them personally, and we're constantly amazed and moved by their loyalty and passion."
Along the way, Blackberry Smoke has found time to record a handful of independent releases, including the albums Bad Luck Ain't No Crime, Little Piece of Dixie, and The Whippoorwill (the latter on country megastar Zac Brown's Southern Ground label), plus a pair of EPs, the concert DVD Live at the Georgia Theatre, and the live CD/DVD set Leave A Scar. Although those releases found favor with fans and were received warmly by critics, the band members feel that Holding All the Roses marks the first time that Blackberry Smoke has had the time and resources to make an album that properly captures their musical essence.
"In the past, we never really had the resources to make the kind of records we wanted to make," says Charlie, adding, "But this time around, everything lined up, and we were able to create an album that covers a lot of musical ground and works as a listening experience from beginning to end."
It certainly helped that the band found a kindred musical spirit in producer O'Brien, whose affinity for solid songcraft and knack for capturing transcendent moments of musical inspiration made him the ideal man to capture Blackberry Smoke's restless spirit in the studio.
"The whole experience was refreshing and spontaneous," Charlie says of the album's birth cycle. "We got it done pretty quickly, but it didn't feel like we were in a hurry. We chose the songs to represent the different things that we do, and we took the time to work out the running order and figure out how the album should flow. There are a bunch of three-minute songs on there, and a couple that are under three minutes, plus a couple that open up a little bit more and get a little bit jammy, and Brendan was very open about approaching each song to give it what it needed."
"It was a way more comfortable record to make than anything we'd done before," adds Brit. "We were excited to work with Brendan for so many reasons, one being that he gets us and we don't have to explain where we're coming from, which hasn't always been the case in the past. We were all on the same page about the music, so we could just get down to business."
Getting down to business is something that Blackberry Smoke has always been good at. In addition to winning fans and friends throughout the United States, they've toured Europe three times, had their songs featured in movie and video-game soundtracks, and performed for country legend George Jones (who guested on the band's second album) on his 80th birthday.
Jones isn't the only notable artist who's come out as a Blackberry Smoke fan. Dierks Bentley, Jamey Johnson, Grace Potter and the Zac Brown Band have all gone on record as admirers, while ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons admiringly advised, "The band is tight enough. Quit practicing!," and no less an authority than Gregg Allman stated "That band is gonna put Southern Rock back on the map."
The critics agree. The Washington Post proclaimed them "a band that can reclaim Southern Rock for the South," and the Atlanta Journal Constitution declared, "The Atlanta quintet is the real deal." Billboard praised their "epic-sounding ballads," andThe New Orleans Times-Picayune called them "an airtight band that is far smarter and more sophisticated than casual observers may realize... Blackberry Smoke's amalgamation of hearty Southern rock, alt-country and deep soul is equally suited for roadhouses or arenas."
The acclaim extends to the other side of the Atlantic. The London Times noted, "Unpretentious and as musically tight as you would expect a band who plays night after night would be, Blackberry Smoke brought a little bit of Georgia sunshine to a rainy night in London." The English hard-rock journal Kerrang! proclaimed, "Blackberry Smoke are now a Big Deal... They've achieved it simply because they're awesome."
Much of that awesomeness lies in the potent musical and personal rapport that's at the core of Blackberry Smoke's music. "It's evolved over the years, but that chemistry has been there from day one," says Charlie. "It's always been about the five of us listening to each other and creating something that belongs to all of us. When we started, we were young and impatient, playing everything too fast and with everything always turned up to 10. But eventually you calm down and settle into the music, and you learn to play with patience and soul."
"Everything with us has been a natural progression, but it's always felt like it's been about the five of us and about the chemistry," Brit asserts. "Me and my brother and Charlie had played together a lot in other bands, so that was a really strong foundation. And all five of us grew up loving songs that were really well-crafted, whether they were by the Beatles or the Stones or Aerosmith or Skynyrd. That's a big part of our common ground, and I think that we're always trying to come up with songs and records that are as good as the ones that we grew up with."
While the five bandmates are excited that their move to Rounder offers the potential of reaching new listeners, they're not planning on altering their approach for mass consumption.
"The plan for this record," Charlie says, "is to go out and play as much as we can, and just take it to the people. There's so much that's out of your hands when you release a record, but that's the part that we can control. That, and making an effort to make a better record every time."
"We've always been really hands-on and deeply involved, and that's not going to change," concludes Brit, who adds, "The thing is, we really do care about this stuff, and we don't have it in us to phone it in. We really care about what we do, and we care about every person who comes to see us play, even the jackass who's screaming for the song that we just played. So we're ready to pick up the ball and run with it."
The Front Bottoms
Whether they're just strutting their stuff or referencing a sexual position, the Front Bottoms have delivered a powerful new album with Back On Top. Their first for Fueled By Ramen is both full of departures and a continuation of the work they've been building on for years. Brian Sella (vocals, guitar) and Mat Uychich (drums) have put together a vibrant array of killer new songs with their band mates Tom "Two Slaps" Warren (bass) and Ciaran "C-Dog" O'Donnell (guitar, horns, keyboards). The growth and confidence shows in the work of this unit of four. While there is plenty that is familiar from Mat's powerhouse drumming to Brian's acoustic guitar and a healthy dose of horns, there is also plenty that is new, including bigger rock sounds ("Motorcycle," "West Virginia," "The Plan (Fuck Jobs)") and surprisingly melodic vocal parts. ("Cough It Out," "HELP"). There's even a guest turn from Jersey rapper GDP who takes their darker side to even darker places in the "Historic Cemetery." Songs flow seamlessly into each other and the album just gets stronger as it moves along.
Under the production ears of Joe Chiccarelli (Beck, The Strokes, Morrissey, White Stripes) the mixes are especially detailed; perfect for cheap earbuds or high end stereo equipment. The band worked with Joe for weeks on pre-production, getting parts to lock in with each other. Mat said he enjoyed the wide range of drums and percussion options he was able to use at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles while Brian admitted being pushed into some new creative places.
The album kicks off with "Motorcycle" and introduces some key lyrical themes - hitting the open road and self reflection. Are they looking inward while still embracing forward motion? Does the party continue while one uneasily checks the rearview mirror? Or as Brian puts it, "Sometimes you got to close your eyes to truly see the light." In "Summer Shandy" Brian appears to embrace his public image while trying to dismantle it. The song features a slinky bottom heavy groove as he bemoans his "badboy blues" secretly doing pushups when he thinks no one is watching. "I was pretty pleased with the person I was pretending to be," says it all.
Sella's remarkable ability to mix a variety of emotions within any given set of lyrics is on display for Back On Top as he lets the doggerel out the backdoor to romp with the sacred, profane and funny. The afore mentioned "Cough it Out" has Brian singing an intricately layered chorus using a new melancholic vocal style that includes one of his most heart tugging lines, "I'll defend you if I can/But whatever I did for you last year I cannot do again." The song has a great DIY video to go with it made by Mat and Brian using GoPro cameras, bicycles and a turtle. The outskirts of Jersey City, NJ never looked so good as Mat tests the waters for a very unique bike ride.
The Front Bottoms started making a name for themselves after the crash of '08 when American youth found themselves saddled with college loans, unemployment, part-time minimum wage service jobs and the prospect of living at home or in shady situations on twin size mattresses. TFB hit a nerve with their first two albums on the Bar/None label--the self-titled debut combined two EPs: Slow Dance To Soft Rock and Grip and Tie (2011). They followed it with Talon Of the Hawk (2013) recorded in Austin TX by Chris "Frenchie" Smith. (Interesting side note: both producers chose an Elektro-Voice 666 microphone for Brian's vocals, independent of each other.)
Mat and Brian started making homemade recordings as teenagers later re-working the best of that material on the Grandma Rose EP (2014). They played all sorts of VFW halls and punk houses to get their chops together evolving into a heavy touring outfit that solidified a viral-fueled fan base as they opened for everyone from Tenacious D to Weezer. NPR embraced them along with college radio and press outlets as varied as Alternative Press and Huffington Post. The band now has a loyal following all over the USA, across Europe, even down under in Australia. They've started the TFB Motorcycle Club to announce special secret shows, exclusive merch and club meet ups. It's a no brainer - would you rather be in a fan club or a biker gang? Imagine the possibilities for lyrics emblazoned on the back of leather jackets.
Back on Top is full throttle TFB - an album with the uncanny ability to tear at your heart while showing you the best time you ever remember having—and as the good times turn into instant nostalgia - feel the engines roar as the cycles head for the horizon.
Breakout U.K. band The Struts have revealed a new video for their hit single "Could Have Been Me" from their debut EP Have You Heard out now via Interscope Records. The video was directed by Jonas Åkerlund and shot in London- check it out HERE. The Struts are gaining a fast following in the U.S with "Could Have Been Me." The song is climbing at radio and is currently #7 at Modern Rock and #13 at Active Rock, with over two million plays on Spotify, hitting #1 on their viral chart. By popular demand, The Struts have added more dates and upgraded to bigger venues after announcing their first stateside tour. The band kicked off the tour at the House of Blues in San Diego and will make additional stops at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington DC, Bowery Ballroom in New York City (which quickly sold out) and The Troubadour in Los Angeles among others. The tour will also feature appearances at the Daytime Village at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, Made In America Festival and Voodoo Music & Arts Experience. See all tour dates HERE. The Struts are Luke Spiller (lead vocals), Adam Slack (guitar), Jed Elliott (bass) and Gethin Davies (drums). Since forming in Derby, England in 2012, the band has been touring regularly throughout the U.K. and Europe playing headline shows across the continent and opening for The Rolling Stones in Paris last year.
VIP Tickets are available through Artist Arena at Tickets.artistarena.com/thestruts.
VIP Meet & Greet Experience Includes:
One General Admission Ticket
Meet & Greet with members of The Struts
Individual Photo with members of The Struts
Crowd Free Merch Shopping
One Signed Tour Poster
One Commemorative VIP Laminate
The Lone Bellow
Then Came the Morning, the second album by the Southern-born, Brooklyn-based indie-folk trio the Lone Bellow, opens with a crest of churchly piano, a patter of drums, and a fanfare of voices harmonizing like a sunrise. It's a powerful introduction, enormous and overwhelming, as Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin testify mightily to life's great struggles and joys, heralding the morning that dispels the dark night: "Then came the morning! It was bright, like the light that you kept from your smile!" Working with producer Aaron Dessner of the National, the Lone Bellow has created a sound that mixes folk sincerity, gospel fervor, even heavy metal thunder, but the heart of the band is harmony: three voices united in a lone bellow.
"The feeling I get singing with Zach and Brian is completely natural and wholly electrifying," says Kanene. "Our voices feel like they were made to sing together."
Long before they combined their voices, the three members of the Lone Bellow were singing on their own. Brian had been writing and recording as a solo artist for more than a decade, with three albums under his own name. Kanene and her husband Jason were living in Beijing, China, hosting open mic nights, playing at local clubs and teaching music lessons. Zach began writing songs in the wake of a family tragedy: After his wife was thrown from a horse, he spent days in the hospital at her bedside, bracing for the worst news. The journal he kept during this period would eventually become his first batch of songs as a solo artist. Happily, his wife made a full recovery.
When Kanene's brother asked her and Zach to sing "O Happy Day" together at his wedding, they discovered their voices fit together beautifully, but starting a band together seemed impossible when they lived on opposite sides of the world. Brian soon relocated to New York and Kanene moved there to attend culinary school a couple years later. The three got together in their new hometown to work on a few songs of Zach's, he'd been chipping away at the scene as a solo artist for awhile by then. After hitting those first harmonies did they decide to abandon all other pursuits. Soon the trio was playing all over the city, although they considered Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side to be their home. They opened for the Civil Wars, Dwight Yokam, Brandi Carlile and the Avett Brothers, and their self-titled debut, produced by Nashville's Charlie Peacock (the Civil Wars, Holly Williams) and released in January 2013, established them as one of the boldest new acts in the Americana movement.
After two hard years of constant touring, the band was exhausted but excited. By 2014, they had written nearly 40 songs on the road and were eager to get them down on tape. After putting together a list of dream producers, they reached out to their first choice, the National guitarist Aaron Dessner, who has helmed albums by the L.A. indie-rock group Local Natives and New York singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten.
"It occurred to me that it would be fun to get together and make music with them," says Aaron. "My main interest in producing records is community and friendship more than making money. I already do a lot of traveling and working with the National, so when I have to time to work with other artists, it should be fun and meaningful."
"Aaron is just so kind," Zach says. "And he has surrounded himself with all these incredibly talented people, like Jonathan Low, the engineer. His brother Bryce [Dessner, also a guitarist for the National] wrote these amazing brass and string arrangements, and he got some of his friends to play with us."
Dessner and the Lone Bellow spent two weeks recording at Dreamland in upstate New York, a nineteenth-century church that had been converted into a homey studio. The singers found the space to inspire the emotional gravity necessary for the material and the acoustics they were looking for. (For Kanene, Dreamland had one other bonus: "I'm a big Muppets fan, and it looks exactly like the church where Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem lived.")
Aaron set them up in a circle in what had once been the sanctuary, with microphones hanging in the rafters to capture the sound of their voices bleeding together. Most of the vocals were recorded in single takes, a tactic that adds urgency to songs like "Heaven Don't Call Me Home" and "If You Don't Love Me." "There were a couple of times when somebody sang the wrong word or hit a bad note, and we just had to keep going," says Zach, who says that recording "Marietta" in particular was daunting—especially the moment near the end when he hits an anguished high note, bends it even higher, and holds it for an impossibly long time. It's a startling display of vocal range, but it's also almost unbearably raw in its emotional honesty.
"'Marietta' is probably the darkest song on the whole record," Zach explains, "and it's based on something that happened between my wife and me. The band was getting ready to record that song when all of a sudden my wife showed up with our youngest baby. It was a great surprise, a beautiful moment. So I was able to go out and sing that song, knowing she was there to help me carry the moment."
"These are true stories," says Brian. "These aren't things we made up. We tried to write some songs that had nothing to do with our personal stories, but we just didn't respond to them. But we're best buds, so we know each others' personal stuff and trust each other to figure out what needs to be said and how to say it." Case in point: Brian wrote "Call to War" about his own struggles during his twenties, but gave the song to Kanene to sing. "The content is painful and brutal," she says, "but the imagery, the vocals, they build something delicate and ethereal. That kind of contrast illuminates the true beauty and power of a song."
Says Brian, "We do this one thing together, and we carry each other. Hopefully that makes the listener want to be a part of it. It becomes a communal thing, which means that there's never a sad song to sing. It's more a celebration of the light and the dark."
When Gamal Lewis was in the tenth grade, hip-hop producer Salaam Remi gave him the nickname that has stuck with him to this day. Then an aspiring rapper, Lewis worked under Remi for a few years. "Salaam liked my vibe and took me under his wing," he explains. "One day, I was sitting with him while he was getting a haircut and he looked at me and said, 'Yo, if I was a little chubby kid like you, I'd call myself LunchMoney.' And he and everyone he worked with started calling me that and it just stuck. It resonated with me because I'm kind of a big kid at heart."
In person, Lunch is a mountain of a guy who radiates not so much a child-like vibe, but a genuine sincerity and positivity that is hard to resist. That uplifting spirit comes through both lyrically and sonically in the music Lunch has created with his primary collaborators, songwriter Jacob Kasher (AKA JKash) and producer Ricky Reed (Wallpaper), for veteran hitmaker Dr. Luke's Kemosabe Records. Songs like first single "Bills," "Mama," and "Love Me Back" are toe-tapping, feel-good tunes that recall the Philly soul of Gamble and Huff and the Southern gospel of Stax, while still entirely making sense within the world of contemporary urban pop. Lunch writes with touching honesty about real-life things like paying his bills, his supportive mama, and the trials of loving a girl who doesn't love him back with a complete lack of artifice.
The Miami native comes by his love for soul and hip-hop authentically. Lunch was raised in a musical family of Jamaican descent and grew up listening to reggae and Motown, as well as to James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Prince, and The O'Jays. His father Roger and his uncle Ian were founding members of the legendary reggae band Inner Circle, who scored a Top 10 hit with "Bad Boys" when it became the theme song to the TV show Cops. Lunch's older brother Abebe runs Miami's Circle House Studios, a popular recording hub for both local hip-hop artists like Pitbull, Trick Daddy, and Flo Rida as well destination studio for national acts. Lunch was a teenager when his brother took over running Circle House from Roger and Ian, and would hang out there on weekends. "Everyone knew me as 'Abebe's little brother who could rap,'" Lunch recalls. "Every time I'd come around, his friends, who were all producers, would be like, 'Abebe, tell your brother to rap.' So I started writing raps and handing them over."
Lunch caught the bug for performing himself at age 13 when he and his friend wrote a song that became a neighborhood hit. "It was called 'Living in America,'" he says. "It was around 9/11 and we were like, 'We'll do a song for America!' We had American flag bandanas, it was the worst, but looking back, it was mad funny. And all the kids in our neighborhood loved it and we became kind of like local celebrities. I thought, 'Wow, I can do this. I can be cool. All the girls like me. The girls like rapping."
Eventually Lunch's talent led him to write for Meek Mill ("Off The Corner," featuring Rick Ross), Ace Hood ("We Don't"), and P. Diddy ("Big Homie," featuring Rick Ross). He also put out a few singles and a mixtape that were local hits in Miami before a mutual friend introduced him to JKash, who had just signed on with Dr. Luke's Prescription Songs. "Kash was like, 'You should come to Los Angeles and do other stuff,'" Lunch recalls. The two collaborated on Juicy J's "Scholarship" before Lunch made the move to L.A. last year and joined JKash at Prescription Songs as a writer. He soon found himself writing for Nicki Minaj (The Pinkprint's "Trini Dem Girls," which Lunch is also featured on), as well as for Fifth Harmony (the gold-certified "Bo$$") and Jessie J ("Burnin' Up" featuring 2 Chainz) with Ricky Reed. The night of the Jessie J session, Lunch, JKash, and Reed, still fired up, wrote "Bills" and hit on Lunch's unique "soul/rap fusion" sound (as he puts it) in the process. Impressed by "Bills" and Lunch's facility for undeniable pop melodies, Dr. Luke and his team at Kemosabe Records offered him a recording contract.
Now Lunch is looking forward to launching his career as an artist. "I know what I want to say now," he explains. "I know who I am, in a weird little way, and I want to write about honest things with real emotion. My dad was so good at what he did and it gave me a taste for wanting to do great things and making good music. I want people to remember me for doing dope shit."
Coleman Hell has crafted a genre-defying Monster of a hit with his affecting single "2 Heads." The mesmerizing track slips the bonds of your standard 'relationship' song immediately upon first listen, wowing bloggers and electro-music fans after repeated plays as it passed the 13 million global streams milestone on Spotify and topped music aggregators Hype Machine and Indie Shuffle soon after its release. Now, "2 Heads" pokes a hole in the denser pop stratosphere as one of the more provocative offerings of 2015; Or, as one astute reviewer pegged it -- destined to be this year's surefire 'pop festival hit perfect for the edges of summer.'
Hailing from the Toronto Canada artist collective sideways, a venturesome songwriting, production, video & design haven featuring Coleman and longtime friends/collaborators La+ch (who produced "2 Heads" with Coleman), Michah, and Shan Vincent de Paul, the tight-knit creative consortium has paid their dues the past few years offering genre-busting songs and videos that always seem to break new ground; Veering from house and hip hop, to nu-disco and folk-electronica and more by cleverly fusing beats atop the catchiest of songwriting shreds, Hell has a knack for pushing the boundaries of existing pop frameworks and delivering memorable choruses to boot. Anchored by his inspiring and unorthodox approach, the Thunder Bay (Canada) native has forged a prolific reputation as an adventurous outlier with a diverse palate.
Ascending musical checkpoints include the 2012 YouTube offering "Glow" which introduced his style-bending chops, and 2013's Stark Raving mixtape which rattled the music blogosphere and drew raves (the Torontoist called it 'ethereal' with 'memorable hooks' that 'stick in your head for days...'). 2014's heat-seeking anthem "You Are My Summer" moved Hell higher on the indie map, reaching #1 on the music discovery site Hype Machine and also garnering significant Spotify streams. "You Are My Summer" also showcased his ability to meld taut influences and emotive wordplay into songs that both capture and challenge the listener. He closed 2014 with the well-received EP Vena, continuing to flex a compelling creative arc about to hit full bloom.
The 2015 emergence of "2 Heads" turned heads, so to speak, with Hell's flair for bold verses and left-of-center hooks adorning darker relationship threads in a realm where 99% of other pop songs worked overtime to mask the seams. "2 Heads" went straight to the top of multiple blogger lists, amassing an enthusiastic following for not settling for run-of-the-mill themes. "I wanted a richer idea for a pop song," he says. "It's about the kind of relationship more of us find ourselves in then we care to admit; Knowing you aren't perfect people, and that parts of the relationship may be complicated, but loving that person so much -- even their faults -- that you try to overcome the hardship, because you do really need and support each other."
Coleman admits to possessing a similar unbridled passion for all forms of music, recalling rifling through his parent's record collection at the earliest of ages and being fascinated with everything from lyrics to album art and the different styles each artist conveyed. "From Steely Dan to Springsteen to Thin Lizzy," he remembers. "Then I grew up in the age of downloading where I could study any genre I wanted," he says. "I became obsessed. It was almost like homework for me, digesting every bit of music I could find in a genre and getting to the heart of why one song works and maybe another doesn't."
Such passion led to a democratic mind-set about the entire creative process. "I don't have a filter that this is cool and that over there is uncool," he says. "You only progress by trying a lot of different things." Buoyed in his embrace of the widest possible canvas by his sideways collaborators (who all moved together from Thunder Bay to Toronto 4 years ago to pursue their dreams) he applies the same creed to all facets of his presentation.
"I feel like recently I've put it all together and found my real voice," he says. "What I'm aspiring to, I hope is a little different. We all play instruments, but in my live show, for example, it's a lot more modern set-up, including a DJ. The key is the music has to come from great songs. I always want to write, good, honest songs -- but deliver them in an unconventional way."
With an upcoming Columbia Records debut album near completion, the charismatic artist seems sure-footed about the future. "Every little milestone has seemed to show more growth," he says. "I've written and recorded a lot of songs people haven't even heard yet. I'm ready." But then again, maybe he's always been ready: "I get asked all the time if Hell is my real name," he deadpans. "It is. But kids never really teased me about it when I was growing up. It was intriguing to them. So I knew early on -- when you're going around with that kind of last name, you should pursue something meaningful."
Sometimes, things just seem to happen for a reason. The pieces fall into place in unexpected ways, and life takes a turn no one could have predicted. This rings strikingly true for the solo career of Memphis, Tennessee's Julien Baker.
For years, Baker and a group of close friends have performed as the band Forrister (formerly The Star Killers), but when college took her four hours away, her need to continue creating found an outlet through solo work. The intent was never to make these songs her main focus, yet the process proved to be startlingly cathartic. As each song came into shape, it became more apparent that Baker had genuinely deep, surprisingly dark stories to tell from her thus far short life (she turns 20 this fall). Tales of her experiences are staggering, and when set to her haunting guitar playing, the results are gut wrenching and heartfelt, relatable yet very personal. There's something wonderfully hypnotizing about Baker gently confessing her soul with such tremendous honesty.
At the prompting of a friend, Baker ventured to Richmond, Virginia to record a number of her new songs at Spacebomb Studios. The tracks from this session were circulated among Baker's friends, meeting high praise and lots of encouragement for the songs to see a proper release. Soon, she found a home on 6131 Records' increasingly diverse roster, and plans were made to release her debut full length, 'Sprained Ankle.'
To call 'Sprained Ankle' a happy accident would be misleading as to the nature of these poignant, emotive songs. Yet no one, least of all Baker, could have predicted she'd be releasing an album, especially as a solo artist. Thankfully, now the world will be able to share in her passion and sorrow.
Escondido is Nashville, TN based artists Jessica Maros and Tyler James. Recorded live in a single day, their debut album, The Ghost of Escondido, was released to critical acclaim. Their David Lynch approved sound became the soundtrack to multiple films and TV shows including HBO's Girls and Sex Tape and led to performances on Conan and ABC's Nashville. Following tours with the likes of Lord Huron, Wild Cub, and Islands, the duo recently completed their follow-up album, Walking With A Stranger, due out early 2016.
With bristling energy, unflagging virtuosity and lyrics that cut to the core of human hope and willpower, Walter Trout's new album, Battle Scars, chronicles his horrific battle with liver failure. But the 12-song set, which will be released worldwide by Mascot Label Group's Provogue Records on October 23 also captures the international guitar hero, on a new high — playing and singing at the peak of his abilities, infusing even his darkest numbers with creative joy that sweeps like a beacon. "I'm thrilled about this album, about my life and about my music," says Trout, who returned to the stage in June at the prestigious Lead Belly Festival in London's Royal Albert Hall. "I feel that I'm reborn as a songwriter, a singer, a guitarist and a human being. I have a new chance at being the best musician and the best man that I can be. And I'm incredibly happy and grateful."
Contrast that to early 2014, when Trout was lying in a hospital bed without the strength to move or speak, unable to recognize his own children, as he observed his body waste away. But on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, Trout underwent liver transplant surgery and the slow process of healing began. "At first I wasn't strong enough to play a single note on the guitar, but as I regained my strength, the music came back to me. Now when I pick up the guitar, it is liberating, joyful, and limitless. I feel like I'm 17 again."
Initially, Trout hoped to capture his renewal and positivity in the songs, "but," says Trout, "they were coming out cliché and I wanted to write something deeper." After Marie, Trout's wife and manager, suggested that he revisit the difficult experiences of his illness, the songs began pouring out. The first was "Omaha," which resonates with smashing chords and vibrating low strings: a solo packed with pealing midnight howls. The lyrics tell a tale of a man haunted by death. "I was in UCLA for a month, and later at the Nebraska Medical Center for five months in the liver ward — first waiting for the transplant, and then recovering from the surgery," Trout recounts. "There were days when somebody in the ward died while waiting. I'd hear families out in the hall crying and doctors trying to comfort them. And I knew there was a good chance that I'd be the next one to go. For 'Omaha.' I wanted to capture how that felt and sounded."
The opening song "Almost Gone" is equally potent. As the fingerpicked introduction intones, Trout lays his cards on the table: "Now I get the feeling/Something's going wrong/Can't help but feelin'/I won't last too long." The fatalism is balanced by the music — from the exquisite roar of Trout's harmonica that follows those words to the ebullient, soaring six-string that gives the tune a tsunami of uplift. "Almost Gone" captures the strength I got from my wife, urging me to go on fighting when I was in pain, and on the verge of death," says Trout. "I looked up into her eyes, and she gave me the power to carry on. That experience is reflected in my playing on the song." Another key track is "Gonna Live Again," which gets its organic grounding from Trout's acoustic guitar and the gentle quiver of emotion in his voice. "That's me asking God, 'Why me?' When so many people died waiting, why did I survive? I've been given a chance to try again — a chance to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man."
Battle Scars is Trout's 18th album released by the Netherlands-based Provogue label and his 42nd overall, counting his pre-solo-career recordings as a member of the historic groups: Canned Heat and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Trout fell headlong in love with the blues in 1965 when his brother brought the first album by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band into his family's New Jersey home, and Trout heard the twin-guitar magic of Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, combined with Butterfield's gut-deep harmonica-and-vocal performances. In his music-loving home, Walter was raised to the sounds of records by Ray Charles, Hank Williams, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, John Coltrane, Bo Diddley and many other musical giants. Trout's practical schooling started in earnest when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1973 and got gigs backing Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, Finis Tasby, Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulsom, Percy Mayfield and Joe Tex. In 1981 he joined the remaining original members of Canned Heat. But the real turning point was his five-year tenure with British blues giant Mayall. Trout became part of the Bluesbreakers' lineage of great guitarists along with Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor.
Trout founded his own band in 1989 and cut his debut album Life In the Jungle, rapidly becoming a star in Europe. His first U.S. release, 1998's critically heralded Walter Trout, also made him a fixture of the American blues-rock scene.
Over the decades Trout has accumulated numerous honors. He is a two-time winner of the "Overseas Artist of the Year" title at the British Blues Awards, and is a three-time Blues Music Awards nominee. Trout's six-string prowess earned the number six slot in BBC Radio 1's "Top 20 Guitarist" listener's poll, tying with Queen's Brian May.
Just prior to his illness, Provogue records was poised for a major "Year of the Trout" marketing campaign and worldwide tour celebrating his 25 years as a solo artist. The label released Trout's then newly recorded album, When the Blues Came Calling, and reissued his catalog on 180-gram vinyl. Additionally, Provogue published his autobiography penned with British music journalist, Henry Yates: Rescued From Reality: The Life and Times of Walter Trout. "Unfortunately, that tour didn't happen," Trout says. "Instead I had to cancel an entire year of touring. That's what the song on Battle Scars, 'My Ship Came In' is about: My ship came in and I missed it! I'd waited all my life for a record label to get behind me to that extent, and then that plan fell apart."
Trout is now moving triumphantly forward in his 50th year as a guitarist. He is in the midst of a global tour with his band: keyboardist Sammy Avila, drummer Michael Leasure, and new bassist Johnny Griparic, who joined in time to record Battle Scars in Los Angeles' Kingsize Soundlabs with Trout's longtime producer Eric Corne. "I don't take this lightly," Trout declares. "Marie says that all of the people who donated to our fundraiser for my medical expenses" — which generated more than $240,000 – "bought stock in me and my liver. When I play for them now, I have a responsibility to give back and offer the very best that I have."
Serbian-born Ana Popovic, one of the most lauded blues guitarists on the circuit, moved to Memphis to capture the citiy's greasy Stax sound, record at Ardent Studios, and play with its finest musicians. Her new LP 'Can You Stand The Heat' is out April 16th. A passionate student of the blues, this album is equally inspired by Albert King and WAR. She belts from the gut and shreds her Strat...in a pair of high heels.
'Can You Stand The Heat' is the follow-up to Ana's 2011 album, 'Unconditional,' which was nominated for two Blues Music Awards and landed in the top 15 of Guitar World's top Blues and Roots Rock Albums. 'Heat' was co-produced by long-time BB King drummer Tony Coleman, GRAMMY-winner Tommy Sims and Ana.
Bernard Allison is the guitar-playing, singing and songwriting son of the late, legendary blues guitarist Luther Allison. True to form for this chip off the old block, the young Allison injects every bit as much energy into his live shows as his late father did. Bernard counts among his influences icons like Albert King, Muddy Waters and Freddie King, and later, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter. Allison began accompanying his famous father to blues festivals in the earl 1970s. There, he was introduced to a who's-who of Chicago blues stars: Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor and Albert King, among others. When he was seven or eight, he began having aspirations of becoming a guitar slinger like his father. Allison's father was more than just a casual record collector, and so Bernard benefited from his father and brothers' collections of classic blues and gospel.
: When Luther Dickinson was growing up in rural Mississippi — just 40 miles south of Memphis, but deep in the hill country — his favorite band was Black Flag, the caustic L.A. punk band that defined the hardcore movement in the 1980s. That may surprise listeners who have been following his career as a
folk-blues-rock innovator. With his brother Cody, Luther is a charter member of the North Mississippi Allstars and has recorded with an amazing array of musicians over the years: Beck, Patty Griffin, Mavis Staples, John Hiatt, Buddy Miller, RL Burnside, Lucero, Jon Spencer, and Robert Plant. He's also
produced albums by Jim Lauderdale, Amy LaVere, and Otha Turner, whose Everybody's Hollerin' Goat was named one of the top 10 blues records of the '90s by Rolling Stone.
Part of Black Flag's appeal, of course, was that Luther's parents just didn't get it. That's a good enough reason for a rowdy teenage boy to connect with any band, but it's especially significant given that Luther's dad is Memphis maverick Jim Dickinson, who had played with the Stones and Aretha Franklin and had produced landmark albums for Big Star, the Replacements, and Ry Cooder. In 1987, Jim even recruited his 14-year-old son to play guitar on the Mats' album Pleased to Meet Me. "He didn't understand Black Flag musically," recalls Luther with a sharp laugh. "I had found my own music that alienated my rock 'n roll parents!"
The downside, of course, was that Black Flag rarely played around North Mississippi, and when they did, they never played all-ages shows. It wasn't until Luther was in seventh grade that he finally saw his heroes play live — at an in-store at Peaches Records in Memphis. It was an amazing experience for the
adolescent. And for his dad, too.
Doyle Bramhall II
Doyle Bramhall II stands as one of the most distinctive vocalists, guitarists, composers and producers in contemporary music. When Doyle was 18, he was recruited by Jimmie Vaughan to play with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bramhall II's reputation blossomed and two years later, he co-founded the Arc Angels with Charlie Sexton and Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section: Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. After Bramhall II's two critically acclaimed solo albums, Eric Clapton then recruited Bramhall II to join him on a full time basis and their association flourished. In addition to Clapton, Bramhall II has been in demand as composer, guitarist and producer, collaborating with such as artists as Sheryl Crow, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Elton John, Gary Clark Jr., Erykah Badu, Gregg Allman, and many others. Bramhall II is now completely is much anticipated fourth solo album, launching the next chapter in an extraordinary musical journey.
Those Pretty Wrongs
In recent years, Big Star co-founder and drummer Jody Stephens found himself performing with guitarist Luther Russell, formerly with the Freewheelers. The connection happened when Stephens was asked to perform Big Star songs being used in the 2013 documentary “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.” Both found the collaboration fruitful and they formally introduced their new group Those Pretty Wrongs to the world at last year’s SXSW. The singles "Lucky Guy" and "Fool of Myself” were released shortly after, both recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, which was where Big Star recorded. Now that the other members of Big Star have died, there is very much a spirit that remains at Ardent, but there’s something more. The recordings used the old guitars of the late Chris Bell, and Stephens used the same kit he’d played on in Big Star recordings in the 1970s.
Amasa Hines is a seven piece, Little Rock, Arkansas based band whose sound is as big as their influences are wide. Their influences come from a diverse range of Soul, Afro-Beat, Psychedelic, Blues, Dub, and Indie Rock stylings.
Amasa Hines was formed in 2010 and their debut album All The World There Is was released in January of 2014.
Will Tucker has proven he’s worth the gamble with the recent release of his album "Worth the Gamble.” Of course Tucker’s not really that much of a gamble — the 22-year-old regular performer at B. B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street was playing drums at age five, piano at eight, and guitar at twelve. By now, the popular performer has been onstage with such luminaries as Charlie Musselwhite, G. Love and Special Sauce, and the Beach Boys with John Stamos. He’s also a veteran performer at the Beale Street Music Festival and has been part of the international travel show, "Music Voyager - Tennessee," with the legendary Bobby "Blue" Bland.”
Alex Da Ponte
For Alex da Ponte, there’s been something of a change of heart. A few years ago she recorded an album called “Nightmares” and it was, in fact, pretty dark. But now her latest, released this year, is more affirming. The Memphis musician’s new album is “All My Heart” with the single “Nevermind” that da Ponte had faith in. She went to a meeting with a Blue Barrel Records executive, played a fuzzy demo recorded on an iPhone voice memo and said to him confidently, “this is the hit.” As she puts it, “I've learned in life that I can make things happen for myself." The album — recorded at Music+Arts Studio in Memphis — is honest, biting and fresh, with da Ponte’s distinctive voice at the center. The Memphis band behind her includes Rick Steff and Roy Berry on keys and drums (Lucero), Geoff Smith on bass (Star & Micey), Jonathan Kirkscey and Jessie Munson on cello and violin and Robby Davis on guitar.
Two-time Blues Music Award Winner John Németh plays scorching harmonica driven blues and soul.
In addition to releasing over a half dozen critically acclaimed albums, John has performed with the 'who's who' of the blues scene, including singing as featured vocalist on Elvin Bishop's Grammy nominated 'The Blues Rolls.'
"Classic soul and R&B styles have been revitalized in recent years by a cadre of young and relatively young artists such as James Hunter, Eli "Paperboy" Reed, and Sharon Jones. You can include John Németh on any list of the best of them." - Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer
"You could swear he was freeze-dried in the 1960s, as the music has a driving, rock-'n'-soul punch that makes him seem spiritual kin to long-gone stompers Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson." - Jonathan Takiff, Philadelphia Daily News
"Boy! John Németh can really belt it out!" - Charlie Musslewhite
$105.00 - $135.00
The Beale Street Music Festival will take place rain or shine. Performances may be postponed or cancelled if weather conditions are deemed unsafe. Performers and performance times are subject to change without notice. All guests must have tickets, no age restrictions.
Tom Lee Park
- Sorry, there are currently no upcoming events.