Manic Productions Presents
Brian Dolzani, Alyssa Graham
250 State Street
New Haven, CT, 06511
This event is 21 and over
Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter James McCartney has remained fiercely dedicated to his musical vision of melding smart hooks and feral alt-rock with the grandeur and spiritually centeredness of psychedelic music. Now, he issues the sharpest entry of his vision, the majestic The Blackberry Train engineered by Steve Albini (Nirvana, The Pixies and PJ Harvey).
“It’s all been an evolution,” James says. “This set of songs definitely has a harder edge, but it’s a continuation of the last album. The main thing for me is to not conform or compromise.”
James’ panoramic artistry is inspired by such diverse musicians as Kurt Cobain, The Smiths, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, The Cure, The Beatles, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, and Hank Williams. His fingerprint aesthetic has earned him plaudits from Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and The Daily News. He’s earned a strong following the old fashioned way, through tirelessly touring the US, Europe and the UK, and playing bigger and bigger shows with each go around.
The Blackberry Train is an epiphanic co-mingling of aesthetics. James sought out the distinct audio stylings of Steve Albini to conjure a grungier sensibility. He welcomed the engineer’s gifts for capturing music with a raw clarity, and Steve Albini’s reputation for not impinging on an artist’s vision. The results make for an eclectic album with fastidiously crafted songs documented in the studio with glorious purity.
“I like the music to have elements of the avant garde, psychedelic, and be just a little against the grain,” James reveals. “But in the end, it’s about having as much emotion as possible for me, musically and lyrically. It’s all about the music being cathartic, heartfelt and true.”
The Blackberry Train manages to be both diverse and cohesive. The album opens invigoratingly with the jangling rocker, “Too Hard” and closes with the stately and aptly named folk song “Peace and Stillness.” Between these bookends, highlights include the rough-edged and urgently melodic “Unicorn,” the anthemic “Peyote Coyote,” and the soulful ballad “Prayer.” One very personal song is the winsome and reflective “Waterfall” which was inspired by memories of his mother.
This summer and fall James will embark on extensive tour dates in the U.S. Thinking ahead, James says: “I just want to keep on going, keep working, and improving as a songwriter. I’d love to feel that I realized my full potential both as a person, and as a songwriter. That feels like a great, fulfilling goal to shoot for. Making a lot of music, and striving for more depth artistically–those are my goals.”
As our world is becoming increasingly ungrounded, digital, virtual, and screen-based, as people feel more disconnected and intangible than ever, we are seeing a movement towards and appreciation of the classic, the tangible, and in music, the lone troubadour and the song. Enter Brian Dolzani and his new record, ‘A Place That I Can Feel’.
With veteran musicians Jimmy Johnson on bass (Roy Orbison, Little Richard) and Billy Thomas on drums (Vince Gill), Brian and producer Scott McEwen (Patrick Sweany, Bobby Bare Jr.) recorded to 16-track analog tape, mastered to ¼-inch reel, using gear from the 1960’s in a 1930’s-era pharmacy-turned-recording studio, aka Fry Pharmacy in Old Hickory, TN. ‘It was magic that day,’ says McEwen. ‘We recorded the 5 full band songs on the first day, and the vibe and, truly, the magic was there and we were able to capture it. That’s what recording to tape is like. You either get it or you don’t. And luckily, that day, we got it.’
The other 5 tracks are more stripped-down, acoustic recordings where Brian played all instruments yet retained this one-take-performance style. The gamble of recording live to tape is something that Brian immediately appreciated, and recognizes as a key ingredient to the classic records he, and many of us, loves. The overall sound of ‘Place’ has this classic, key ingredient.
Brian is a classic troubadour in the lineage of Petty, Springsteen, Browne, Young, and he has put his years of songwriting experience into his latest record. ‘I love pulling from multiple, stricter genres such as country, pop, blues, rock and roll,’ Brian explains, ‘then breaking out of those boundaries and just trying to write a great song that hopefully transcends those elements and becomes as big and wide as possible.’
On ‘A Place That I Can Feel’, Brian crafts meaningful, relatable lyrics that are astute and intriguing, often forthright and simply stated, such as the first track ‘I Belong’: ‘I belong / I belong / wherever I am / I’ll take my stand / upon this land,’ and in ‘Opposites’: ‘Opposites / opposites / attract they do / especially for a boy like me / and a girl like you’. His impeccably steady and strong guitar playing keeps the ground under these choruses, and the tight rhythm section grooves hard on the Tom Petty-meets-Cars-meets-Creedence ‘Am I OK’.
A little later in the record we hear Brian’s take on relationship and fondness for another classic staple of music enjoyment, vinyl: ‘I love beauty and release / a cup of hot coffee / when I’m feeling sad / buying vinyl ain’t bad.’ His electric guitar playing also comes front and center on ‘Ocean Life’, a Neil Young-like rocker with two guitar solos, in the style of a classic Neil song: ‘Ride the waves / ride the waves / on this ocean life’.
Brian was born and raised in Connecticut, where he lives with his wife and young family. With his split of Northern-bred and Southern-heart, Brian is consistently on the road, from New England, up and down the east coast, to Nashville, the Midwest, and Texas, hitting many prime Americana venues, listening rooms, and record store in-stores along the way, widening the reach of his songs and highly engaging live performances.
The music that Brian was exposed to early on was through his dad’s record collection, mostly Beatles and Beach Boys, and the first record Brian’s father gave him was Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ ‘Get Happy!!’. 'I knew nothing of Elvis Costello at the time, and the neon LP cover was a bit weird,' Brian laughs, 'but I knew one thing, that my dad had great musical taste.' Brian lost his father in a car accident shortly after this initial musical exposure, when Brian was just fifteen. In Brian’s memory, that’s the exact moment the universe (more specifically, his grandmother) gave him an acoustic guitar, and he, like most teenagers, yet with understandably more angst and confused and hurt feelings, channeled his life into music. Even though that was a long time ago, the artistic personality never quite lets go, and is still able to conjure up these deep feelings of longing and loss, such as in the song ‘How Long’ from this new record (‘I can’t wait / to see you again / how long / how long’).
Throughout the 10 songs on ‘A Place That I Can Feel’, we are taken on a journey of personal and universal feelings that culminates in a road song called ‘Crooked Road’, inspired from the Crooked Road Appalachian music trail that winds through Virginia: ‘Oh this crooked road / the one that pulls my soul / oh this crooked road / the one that makes me go / take me home / take me home’.
Brian explains the title of the record: ‘It’s a line from the first song. I relate it to keeping in touch with my emotions in order to know what I feel and that I feel connected to myself and what’s around me. I think it’s important to keep this connection with where we are, what’s around us, and make sure that we feel something about where we are, as well as who we are.’
As we look to the past as well as the future to quell any sense of unease, to seek ourselves in a deeper way, or to find a familiar ‘place’ that we can live and believe in, Brian Dolzani will return you to a familiar and necessary form – the felt, the tangible, the record, the singer, and the song.
"The right voice…a sumptuous and flexible croon"—NY Times
"Dynamite!"—The Philadelphia Inquirer
With iTunes lauding her as one of their "New and Noteworthy" singer-songwriters, Sunnyside Records is set to release the new full-length album from Alyssa Graham, Lock, Stock & Soul, January 31. Produced by Grammy winner Craig Street, Lock, Stock, & Soul exhibits Graham's return to her pop and folk roots. The album succeeds The Lock, Stock, & Soul EP that garnered praise from AOL Spinner, Paste, MSN and Direct Current Music who called the recording a "remarkable, gear-changing project." Graham's 2008 debut on Sunnyside Records, Echo, was chosen as one of Elle Magazine's "Music Picks" and acclaimed by the Washington Post, who said, "…it smokes!"
Graham's self-released debut, What Love Is was heralded by All About Jazz as one of the "Best New Recordings of 2005." In 2008, Graham signed to Sunnyside Records and released her second album, Echo, which charted at number 24 on the "Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz Chart." The New York Times also named Echo a "Critics Choice CD" and iTunes named it one of the "Top 10 Vocal Jazz Albums of the Year."
Graham attended the New England Conservatory of Music where she studied voice and contemporary improvisation. With Lock, Stock & Soul, Graham turned to her musical roots for inspiration—the classic 60's era folk rock of Neil Young, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan among others. Producer Craig Street helped assemble a renowned group of musicians including Me'Shell Ndegeocello playing the understated roll of bassist, guitarist Chris Bruce (Sheryl Crow and John Legend) and keyboardist Keefus Ciancia (Elton John and Iggy Pop) to collaborate on the album. Lock, Stock & Soul includes contributions from longtime musical partner and songwriter Doug Graham; friend Jesse Harris, who is known for his work with Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Melody Gardot; and Austin Music Hall of Fame member Davíd Garza.