WillPower Entertainment with DeVille Enterprises present
Thu, May 9
Sun, May 12
BottleRock Napa Valley - 4 DAY VIP
Kings Of Leon, The Black Keys, Zac Brown Band, The Shins, Jane's Addiction, Train, The Black Crowes, CAKE, Ben Harper, Jackson Browne, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Alabama Shakes, The Flaming Lips, Primus, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Dwight Yoakam, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Cafe Tacuba, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Bad Religion, Iron and Wine, The Wallflowers, Brandi Carlile, Andrew Bird, Blues Traveler, Dirty Projectors, Grouplove, RNDM, Justin Townes Earle, Sharon Van Etten, ALO, Allen Stone, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rogue Wave, Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite, Tristan Prettyman, Tift Merritt, Vintage Trouble, Allah-Las, Erin O'Hara, The Whiskey Sisters, Donavon Frankenreiter, Best Coast, Flagship, Kacey Musgraves, They Went Ghost, Girls and Boys
575 3rd St
Napa, CA, 94559
Doors 11:00 AM / Show 12:00 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
BottleRock Napa Valley
OVER 40 OF TODAY’S MOST RELEVANT BANDS ON 4 NAPA EXPO STAGES. 60 TOP WINERIES. THE BEST OF NAPA FOOD. MICROBREWS, COMEDY. AND 30 DOWNTOWN VIP AFTER PARTY EVENTS.
Kings Of Leon
We've written about some things on this record that we're ashamed of, said things that we wouldn't normally say. We've got some songs about fighting and some songs about loving and some songs about fucking," says Caleb Followill about the songs on Kings of Leon's new album, Aha Shake Heartbreak. "We're definitely not the same people we were 18 months ago. We've all just grown so, so much and seen so many things," the lead singer says, adding that the band's new songs chronicle "different nights, different stories and different emotions. "
Drummer brother Nathan adds, "On our first album, I'd say about 30 percent of what we were writing about was autobiographical and 70 percent was wishful thinking. We were writing about things we hadn't seen yet. On this album, 90 percent of what we're writing about are things we've experienced, nights we've had. There's still that other ten percent though..."
Kings of Leon's second record, Aha Shake Heartbreak, finds the band--brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill, and first cousin Matthew Followill--delving deeper than ever into their rich musical rapport and shared personal history to deliver a dozen doses of raw, personally-charged rock. The new band-penned songs reflect the life-changing -- often traumatic --experiences that irrevocably altered the four band members' perspectives during the 18 months that preceded the album's creation. During that time, the band swiftly rose from rural obscurity to bona fide rock stardom overseas--particularly in the U.K., where their 2003 debut Youth & Young Manhood has almost sold double platinum.
While Youth & Young Manhood shook up the musical landscape, introducing a bracing blend of runaway-train energy, pointedly thoughtful lyrical attitude and a remarkably fresh take on traditional guitar-rock dynamics, the new collection marks a wildly impressive leap forward, taking the first album's primal rock into deeper--and unmistakably darker--musical and emotional territory. The upheaval that accompanied the band's rapid rise to heavily-scrutinized international rock stardom is reflected in Aha Shake Heartbreak's original compositions. These haunting, twisted tales compellingly confront the darker side of success, surveying the personal toll of debauchery, overindulgence and fast living. The NME recently observed, "If Youth and Young Manhood was the party, Aha Shake Heartbreak is the hangover."
The material encompasses a broad range of stylistic elements and lyrical moods, from the anthemic, soul-searching "My Generation" rush of "The Bucket" to the pensive, nervous groove of "Slow Nights, So Long" to the swaggering throb of "Taper Jean Girl" to the jittery minimalism of "King of the Rodeo" and the dreamy desolation of "Milk." Throughout the album, the band's unique instrumental chemistry is matched by the emotional gravity of Caleb's distinctively slurred vocals.
The British press has already taken notice of Aha Shake Heartbreak's creative quantum leap. Mojo said the record is "an ultimately outstanding crack at Brokering an accord between spiky noo wave and fuzzy '70s stoner rock", while The Guardian gave it "CD of the week" status and went on to say that the band has "sophistication that outstrips their contemporaries...a vast improvement on Youth & Young Manhood."
Like its predecessor, Aha Shake Heartbreak was recorded with producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller) at his 3 Crows studio in Los Angeles using the Beatles' old Abbey Road mixing desk. Once again, the band's longtime mentor, noted songwriter/producer Angelo, made additional co-production contributions. The tracks were cut completely live with no overdubs, and the stripped-down approach resulted in punchy, organic performances as well as some affecting moments of intimacy and sensitivity.
"There were things on this record that I wouldn't have been brave enough to do before because I was afraid everybody else would think I was soft," said Caleb. "Anything from yodeling to singing pretty when I wanted to sing pretty...I still bring it when I got to bring it." The singer also kicked a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit in order to expand his vocal range in the studio.
Three of the four Followills were still in their teens when Kings of Leon debuted with the five-song EP Holy Roller Novocaine in February 2003. Youth & Young Manhood followed six months later, winning such early accolades as a four-star review in Rolling Stone, before achieving wholesale international stardom. Admiring critics have often focused on the undiluted purity of Kings of Leon's rural roots. But that purity has, ironically, led some observers to overlook the originality and complexity of the band's music, which draws freely from a multitude of musical traditions while sounding like no one else.
Caleb makes it clear that, despite the outside pressures and expectations that have accompanied the band's rise to prominence, Kings of Leon remain fiercely focused on continuing to create riveting music that's wholly their own. The whirlwind of the band's recent history has tested the Followills' mettle and strengthened their resolve, carrying the four musicians from their sheltered, humble upbringing to the sort of high-profile mythology that's usually reserved for veteran combos.
"We were plucked out of nowhere, and we had a lot of fun and did a lot of crazy shit," the singer notes. "But we've also become more serious about this music and more confident in what we're doing. We're growing, but we're trying not to grow up."
The Black Keys
The Black Keys' new album El Camino will be released December 6 on Nonesuch Records. Produced by Danger Mouse and The Black Keys, the 11-track album was recorded at singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound studio in the band's new hometown of Nashville during the spring of 2011.
In advance of the release, the album's first single, "Lonely Boy," will be released on October 26. Pre-orders of El Camino include an instant download of the single.
El Camino follows the most successful two years in The Black Keys' career. In May 2010 they released their breakthrough album, Brothers, to widespread critical acclaim. Debuting at #2 in the US, it went on to win three Grammy Awards and an MTV Video Music Award, and topped numerous year-end lists, including iTunes, NPR, and Rolling Stone. Brothers, which included the hit singles "Tighten Up" and "Howlin' for You," has been certified Gold in the US and UK, and Platinum in Canada. Worldwide sales are now over one million and counting.
Drummer Patrick Carney said of the band's recent success, "We've taken the long road to get where we are. It's pretty cool to be in your early 30s making music with your best friend. We've experienced everything from driving a thousand miles to play for no one to winning Grammys." Auerbach further describes the band's dynamic, "We don't talk before we play. We don't practice before we record, we just fly by the seat of our pants." He says of El Camino, "I think where this record is going to shine for me is playing the songs live. This record is more straight ahead rock and roll—raw, driving, and back to basics."
The Black Keys—Akron, Ohio, natives Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney—released their debut album, The Big Come Up, in 2002, followed by Thickfreakness (2003) and Rubber Factory (2004). In 2006 they signed to Nonesuch Records in the US and released their fourth album, Magic Potion, which was followed by the Danger Mouse-produced Attack & Release in 2008. El Camino is the first Black Keys album Nonesuch will release worldwide.
Zac Brown Band
Zac Brown Band may have nine hit singles, two platinum-selling records and countless dedicated fans, but to hear its members talk they're just getting warmed up. That's right—after numerous nights in front of packed arenas and amphitheaters, things are just beginning to come together for this accomplished band of brothers, led by one of the most charismatic individuals ever to don a beanie and dominate radio.
The band's latest album 'Uncaged' (Atlantic/Southern Ground) which debuted at #1 on Billboard 200 is proof positive. The result of a highly collaborative process, it's the sound of a group of versatile musicians gelling into a formidable unit and realizing they're capable of anything their fearless leader happens to dream up, from traditional country ("The Wind") to Caribbean rhythms ("Jump Right In") and even slinky bedroom R&B ("Overnight"). Running roughshod over genre boundaries, and bringing its audience along for the ride, its title is absolutely accurate—this is truly the sound of a band 'Uncaged'.
"I think that we've grown so much over the past few years as individual musicians and as a cohesive unit," observes drummer Chris Fryar. "As a band we have really grown together. And we play really, really well together. That increasing level of maturity really shows up on 'Uncaged.'"
"We're always trying to push the barrier of our musicianship and I'm proud to say that there is a little bit of something for everyone," adds Brown. "It's your basic country-Southern rock-bluegrass-reggae-jam record."
The addition of percussionist Daniel de los Reyes has helped the band move the groove along. His new bandmates describe de los Reyes—known for performing and recording with Stevie Nicks, Sting, Peter Frampton and Earth, Wind & Fire, among others—as a consummate professional. "It was really great to have him along," says guitarist/keyboardist Coy Bowles. "Danny's not going to be playing timbales over a bluegrass song. So if he needs to play a shaker all the way through a song, that's what he'll do. He knows when to be aggressive and when to lay back. I think the album has a real cool dynamic because of his sensitivity to all that."
Brown has built a virtual southern Brill Building of songwriting talent, while doing his best to reincarnate the '70s heyday of Capricorn Records through his Southern Ground Artists label, home to The Wood Brothers, Levy Lowrey, Nic Cowan, Sonia Leigh, Blackberry Smoke and The Wheeler Boys. But that's only part of the story. His Southern Ground banner flies over everything from metalworking to leather goods. In addition to housing offices and rehearsal space, the former industrial warehouse in Atlanta that serves as the company's headquarters also features a full kitchen for "Chef Rusty" Hamlin and his crew, the better to power those much-talked-about "eat and greets" that Brown, a former restaurant owner, hosts for lucky fans.
The most farsighted plans reach beyond the warehouse, to a plot of land south of Atlanta where plans proceed for a nonprofit camp aimed to help kids overcoming behavioral and learning disabilities and disadvantaged backgrounds. Simultaneously, Southern Ground has secured a studio in Nashville for future recording needs. At this point it's safe to say that the Zac Brown Band is more than an act—it's quickly becoming a way of life.
So given all of the creative energy around it, new material has never been a problem for Zac Brown Band. The band was originally built on the songwriting partnership of Zac Brown and Wyatt Durette. Since then the brain trust has expanded to encompass the artists on the label as well as members of the band. No matter how heavily the band is touring, something is always percolating.
So while there are ten credited songwriters on the 11 tracks composing 'Uncaged,' all are individuals within the band's social circle—no "guns for hire" here.
Unlike the band's prior outing, 'You Get What You Give' (Atlantic/Southern Ground), which grew out of songs that had already been in the band's live set before it entered the studio, 'Uncaged' was put together from brand new material. After booking some downtime, they all retreated to the Appalachian foothills near Dahlonega. "It had a very cleansing vibe to it," Fryar recalls. "You get really bad cell service there, which was great. There weren't any distractions. We were able to cut off the outside world and dig into what we wanted to say on this record."
They carried with them some 40 songs, none of which had been fleshed out or arranged for the band, and some of which weren't completely done. The goal of the retreat was to pull out and arrange the right 11 songs.
"It was an intensive workshop," notes bassist John Driskell Hopkins. "We hit the record button any time we had an idea worth keeping. Then we'd change things as we went. And we did that in a great place to build a campfire, cook some food, hang out and have some fellowship too. I'm amazed that we got so much done in just four or five days. "
Then, with producer Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, George Jones) in tow, the band settled in at Echo Mountain Recording Studio in Asheville, N.C. to lay down basic tracks, then took a "working vacation" to Key West, to record vocals at Jimmy Buffett's Shrimpboat Sound. Additional overdubs took place in Atlanta and Nashville.
The result is the most expansive album Zac Brown Band has ever delivered, where the group's trademark vocal harmonies meet jaw-dropping musicianship in a musical world where genre boundaries are increasingly slippery.
But if you think that's going to mean reduced radio exposure and a shrinking audience, you don't know this band very well—or its audience. "A lot of other artists may choose to sit back and do the same record they did last time, because they don't want to lose those fans," Fryar observes. " But from our perspective, we think those fans deserve the best music we can make. If it's different from the past record that's OK, because it's the best we can do. And they deserve the best. They're paying our bills and feeding our families."
Asked whether the band still feels at home on country radio, Hopkins notes that country radio has grown and evolved just as the band has. "It's southern radio to me, and I don't think we're doing anything southern people wouldn't like."
"I love country radio because of the dedication they have given us," De Martini affirms. "When I talk to program directors they tell me they're happy to play it, but they really have no choice because the fans are crazy about calling in and requesting our music all the time."
The album's two featured guests, Amos Lee and Trombone Shorty, aren't Music Row signifiers in the same way Alan Jackson was on 'You Get What You Give,' but Brown says this doesn't mean the band is leaving country music behind. Far from it—lead single "The Wind" is "the most country thing we've ever done," he notes. There is no "master plan," he adds. "We were just getting our buddies to sing with us."
In many ways Zac Brown Band is an unlikely success story. Bands who cover so much territory tend to become critics' darlings, but not platinum sellers.
"The two things I think that make this band different from anybody else, and the reason why we're here today, is that everybody has an insane work ethic," Bowles observes. "Nobody complains. Everybody plays their asses off, everybody gets on the plane or bus even if they're not feeling well, and tries to do everything to the best of their ability, always. And Zac has this ability to make you believe what he's singing no matter what. So if we do an R&B tune or a reggae tune, he's totally believable. You believe he's lived 'Highway 20 Ride,' for example. His conviction comes through all those songs."
"One cool thing about Zac is that he loves to include everybody," De Martini adds. "He doesn't really have to have the Zac Brown Band. I think he would be successful just as Zac Brown. But the band adds a lot and takes it to another level. It's one big family with him."
The Shins are an American indie rock band founded and fronted by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, James Mercer. The Shins were formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but are now based in Portland, Oregon. Their 2001 debut on Sub Pop, Oh, Inverted World, was a breath of fresh air for the indie rock community and critics alike. The release of singles such as "Know Your Onion!" and "The Past and Pending" kept The Shins' success going into 2002, cementing "Oh, Inverted World" as one of the definitive indie-rock albums of the early '00s and The Shins as one of the genre's leading younger bands. It received critical acclaim for its lyrically deft and jangly pop sound. The song "One By One All Day" was featured in the 2003 film A Guy Thing, starring Jason Lee. Two other songs from this album, ("Caring Is Creepy" and "New Slang") were featured prominently on the soundtrack for the 2004 film Garden State, starring and directed by Zach Braff, exposing the music of The Shins to a much wider audience. Their music was also featured in the television series The OC, the film The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and they performed on an episode of Gilmore Girls. Oh, Inverted World appeared at #71 on Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of 2000–2004. Chutes Too Narrow, their sophmore album, was released by Sub Pop in the fall of 2003 to much fanfare in indie music circles, featuring even more multi-layered lyrics, as well as a musical approach that explored new genres, song structures, and levels of production fidelity. The band's third album, Wincing the Night Away, was recorded in Portland during 2006 by a largely solo Mercer, but with the production assistance of Joe Chiccarelli. It was released on January 23, 2007 and debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart with 118,000 copies sold in its first week, the highest sales week and chart position an album released solely on Sub Pop has ever achieved. Their latest Release, 2012's Port Of Morrow, is in stores now.
Great bands break rules, but legends write their own. JANE'S ADDICTION have actually written the rule book for alternative music and culture through a combination of genre-defying classic songs and a cinematic live experience. Their songs serve as the Ten Commandments for alt rock, inspiring an entire generation of bands such as Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Tool.
When the Los Angeles quartet came along, they merged alternative and rock like no one before, becoming the first alternative rock band, creating a new sound and attitude. Perry Farrell stands out as one of music's most forward-thinking and enigmatic frontmen, and his vocals soar with vibrancy, vulnerability and vitality.
Guitar god Dave Navarro conjures simultaneously psychedelic and epic riffs. Stephen Perkins' tribal stomp remains hypnotic and transfixing. All of those elements converge seamlessly on the group's fourth studio album, 2011's The Great Escape Artist. Produced by Rich Costey (Muse, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol), the critically acclaimed record also added TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek to the creative team in the lab. Together, they reached another landmark. Spun through a kaleidoscope of tightly wound riffs, hypnotic harmonies, booming beats, and an unmistakable howl, The Great Escape Artist announced the beginning of the next chapter for the alternative rock torchbearers. They've continued to set the world ablaze since the album was unleashed in late 2011.
Jane's Addiction got up close and personal for the critically acclaimed "Theatre of the Escapists" tour in support of the release. Returning to historic theaters across the United States, the band conjured an all-encompassing concert experience hyper-charged with intoxicating energy, airtight musicianship, dangerous theatricality, seductive visuals, and a drop of humor (and red wine) for good measure. Selling out venues everywhere, it has become one of the hottest tickets of 2012. However, the Jane's Addiction "Escapists" carnival—described by the Dallas Morning News as "a sanctuary for freaks and fetishes" (5/11/12)--wasn't simply confined to the states.
The group headlined the first Lollapalooza Brazil in history, bringing South America the same potent mix of music, sex, and love. What else would you expect from them? Acclaimed for their swirling sonic symphony and unique studio alchemy, Jane's Addiction have sold over seven million records in the U.S. alone. They've also garnered Grammy nominations and spearheaded the movement of modern American festival culture by launching and headlining the game-changer Lollapalooza.
Even during dormant periods, their timeless songs pulsated through rock radio constantly and their influence resounded through countless acts. Jane's Addiction laid the foundation for their legacy in Los Angeles. There probably isn't a more appropriate birthing ground for music this unique. In 1985, Farrell met the band's original bassist Eric Avery, and they immediately connected over a shared musical perspective—wanting to shake things up. They'd only hone that perspective further with the addition of Perkins. Everything fell into place once Perkins suggested Navarro, and the first incarnation of the band was solidified.
Headlining various local venue and becoming a veritable phenomenon in the L.A. club scene, Jane's Addiction garnered the attention of numerous major labels. Even though they'd officially sign with Warner Bros. in 1986, the band chose to release their live debut, Jane's Addiction, via indie label Triple X Records in 1987, keeping a D.I.Y. attitude that'd define their career. Recorded live at The Roxy, the album stirred up national interest, introducing their one-of-a-kind style to the world at large.
In 1988, Jane's Addiction would officially arrive as a pop culture force with their first proper studio album, Nothing's Shocking. The band created a sound that the world had never heard before. It was as riff heavy as it was sensitive. Farrell lyrically chronicled the stranger side of L.A. life, telling personal tales that'd stick with fans just as much as Navarro's licks did. The characters that populate tracks like debut single "Jane Says," "Ted, Just Admit It…" and "Had a Dad" were just as alive as the music itself. Farrell examined sex, violence, love, drugs and so much more with Marquis de Sade-style wit and Andy Warhol-esque vision.
It's easy to wonder who those songs are about, and if those people are all out there somewhere on the fringes. The album artwork, a naked sculpture of Farrell's girlfriend at the time, and the video for "Mountain Song" both were widely banned. However, Nothing's Shocking was "alternative" in the purest sense of the word. Jane's Addiction live for their art and nothing else. Trademark song "Jane Says" charged up the Alternative Songs chart and the album was certified platinum, also grabbing a Grammy nod in 1989 for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, and audiences everywhere fell under Jane's spell.
For their second studio album, 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual, the band went further down the rabbit hole musically. Fully embracing their psychedelic and progressive side, tracks like "Three Days" and "Then She Did…" exceeded the eight-minute mark, becoming elegant aural tapestries with mystique a la Led Zeppelin. The album reached 3x-platinum in the U.S with two #1 singles "Stop!" and "Been Caught Stealing," the latter of which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance. It was almost as if the band's chemistry bubbled too much, and they needed a break at this point.
In 1991, for the Jane's Addiction "farewell" tour, Farrell concocted Lollapalooza. His visionary idea brought alternative nations together like never before, and the touring festival ran annually until 1997. After the first Lollapalooza, Jane's Addiction went on hiatus, but they never truly went away. The band embarked on 1997's highly successful Relapse Tour with Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass, supporting their inclusion on the Private Parts soundtrack. A gold-selling compilation, Kettle Whistle, also hit shelves that year.
The world needed Jane's Addiction in 2003 just as much as it did in 1985, and the band released Strays, their first new album in 13 years. After debuting at #4 on the Billboard chart, the album quickly reached gold status, and first single "Just Because" was their biggest single to date landing at #1. Jane's Addiction was once again everywhere with "Superhero" becoming the opening theme song for HBO's hit show "Entourage" at the same time.
The band headlined the re-tooled Lollapalooza festival that summer. After taking a break in 2004, the band reunited in 2008 for a fiery performance at the first-ever USA NME Awards. Instantly, they began channeling the same mystic energy that fueled them on their earliest tours and they wanted to share it with the world. The best way to do that was by hitting the road on one of the most successful tours of 2009, NIN/JA with Nine Inch Nails. Not only did it hearken back to the band's first tour together, but NIN/JA illuminated Jane's Addiction firing on all cylinders with their biggest and most visually stunning stage production yet as well as flawless playing.
Given the success of the tour, new music was a must, and The Great Escape Artist is a triumph for Jane's Addiction. Much like the group's classic albums, The Great Escape Artist's legacy continues to grow. USA Today, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Guitar World and countless other press outlets have sung its praises. Still this feels like a new beginning for Jane's Addiction. They haven't stopped writing their own rules just yet, and there's only more new ground to break on the horizon.
The Grammy Award winning American rock band Train will kick off their first US tour in support of the group's new studio album, California 37.
In addition, the band are supporting the release of California 37 with a variety of select national television appearances (including a weeklong residency as house band on "Rachael Ray") and the launch of "California 37," the third varietal from Train's award-winning Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company.
The much awaited successor to 2009's multi-platinum Save Me, San Francisco (which showcased 2010's "Hey, Soul Sister," the top-selling song of 2010), California 37 is available everywhere now.
Train recorded California 37 in San Francisco and Los Angeles with Butch Walker and Espionage producing.
Released as a digital download in January, "Drive By" has become Train's latest bona fide international sensation and is top 5 across the world and #1 in Germany, Netherlands, Finland, India, New Zealand and Switzerland. In the US the record's currently top 10 at iTunes and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Drive By" has already sold over 1.5 downloads worldwide.
"Drive By" continues to climb America's radio charts and has entered the Top 10 at both the AAA and HOT AC formats, selling more than 1 million copies since its release. The "Drive By" video premiered on February 18 on VH1, where it has gone into rotation, with support from VEVO.
Train's "Drive By," as well as "Hey, Soul Sister," were featured on an episode of "90210," originally broadcast on March 13, 2012.
Train, who performed "Drive By" on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on March 26, will be making select television appearances, including a historic weeklong residency as house band on "Rachael Ray" which began April 16 and goes through April 20, in support of California 37.
The Black Crowes
Having sold over 20 million albums and topping the album charts several times, the Black Crowes are an American rock 'n' roll institution. Today, anyone checking in on "The Most Rock 'N Roll Rock 'N Roll Band In The World," as the U.K.'s Melody Maker once called them, will find THE BLACK CROWES more dedicated than ever to their craft which has resulted in a body of work spanning two full decades.
On August 3rd, the Black Crowes will release Croweology, an all-acoustic double-album celebration of their 20-year career. Croweology will be sold at the cost of a single album as a thank you to their fans for two decades of support. Also to be released on vinyl, the project was produced by Paul Stacey and will be released on the Black Crowes label, Silver Arrow, through Megaforce Records.
Seventeen years on from their inception, CAKE is still an outsider – defiantly and proudly cutting their own path. Both their music and their way of operating in the ever-evolving marketplace are fueled by the same core principles of self-reliance, democracy, and integrity that inspired their formation. "We're using the processes that we have always used," explains lead singer and guitarist John McCrea, "but we've got different tools now. The intellectual and emotional components are consistent, but the scenario and the scale are always changing." These values, which initially set CAKE apart from the crowded California club scene and thrusted them into the national spotlight, continue to flourish, expanding outward into new directions and roles. "It goes along with maturing as a band," says multi-instrumentalist Vince DiFiore. "We keep on adding more to the job description."
Setting out from Sacramento, California in 1991, CAKE quickly graduated from packing local venues to becoming a favorite in the thriving San Francisco scene. The combination of McCrea's captivatingly unwitting amalgam of Jonathan Richman, David Byrne, and Woody Guthrie – off-kilter yet strangely relatable – with CAKE's shambolic country funk took Northern California by storm. Key to the band's sound then and now is DiFiore's trumpet playing, which makes brilliant use of a timbre rarely heard in post-modern rock.
Motorcade of Generosity, CAKE's debut album, was initially self-released before being picked up and re-released by Capricorn Records in 1994. It featured their first radio hit, "Rock 'N' Roll Lifestyle," a wry deconstruction of rock star clichés and excesses. Their second album, 1996's Fashion Nugget, included the taut, propulsive hit "The Distance," still a radio staple and heard regularly in TV and films, along with an unconventional reworking of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." "Never There," powered by a looped dialtone sample, announced the arrival of their third album, Prolonging the Magic, in 1998. That album also cemented the band's core lineup of McCrea, DiFiore, bassist Gabe Nelson, and guitarist Xan McCurdy. From there, the band moved to Columbia records for 2001's Comfort Eagle (featuring the hit "Short Skirt/Long Jacket") and 2004's Pressure Chief (which included the popular "No Phone"). Each album built on the one prior, with increasing breadth and musical evolution, encompassing a range of styles including funk, soul, pop, jazz, rap, and country. "There is a CAKE sound," says DiFiore, "but we are careful not to repeat ourselves. We acknowledge our strengths while finding new ways to express ourselves."
Pressure Chief marked a bold step for CAKE, as it was the first album recorded by the band themselves, in their own studio. "That was when we started taking into our hands the tools of production in a very serious way," reflects McCrea. "We learned how to turn the knobs and make it sound like we want it to sound – it may not be the right way, but it's the way we wanted it. We've always self-produced, from the beginning, but this is moving even further along in that direction." Following the release of Pressure Chief, CAKE ended its relationship with Columbia Records and founded their own label, Upbeat Records. "There is something about the geometry of the relationship between artist and label that leaves the musicians at a disadvantage," McCrea explains. "It's a bit of a schlep to have your own label, but, on the other hand, it is nice to not be told what to do or when to do it."
"We never took for granted what a record company did," DiFiore adds, "but you're always sitting on pins and needles waiting for the record company to do something with your record. When you're in control of it, your destiny is in your own hands."
The first release on Upbeat was B-Sides and Rarities, which came out in 2007 and compiled over a decade's worth of rare and unreleased tracks. "It had been a long time between albums," DiFiore says, "and we wanted to offer our listeners something new. We thought about a live album, but that seemed too much like a greatest hits set – like we'd be putting a cap on our own career. So we sifted through our old tapes, looked under beds and in shoe boxes, and found a lot of songs – some people knew about, others were completely unheard."
"We took a lot of songs that didn't fit the mood of another album, and somehow created a coherent album out of them," McCrea explains. "There were some songs we did not have time to complete for other albums, so we took some time in the studio and finished some things that we'd always wanted to get done."
Before their new studio album hit stores in the summer of 2009, CAKE will present an expanded and remastered reissue of Motorcade of Generosity, available in early 2009 via Upbeat. "We've added some video from our first national tour, recorded back in May of 1995," says DiFiore. The reissue will also be available in a deluxe vinyl edition. "Looking back on it, through all that we've experienced, the dynamics of the band are very similar to when we first started. There have been some bumps along the way, but we've somehow managed to maintain our momentum and stay on track."
As-yet-untitled, CAKE's new studio album will be the first project they have undertaken since they overhauled their studio to run entirely on solar power. It was a decision that was made with both environmental and artistic consequences in mind. "It just seemed like the right thing to do," McCrea says. "I believe in science, and science is telling us that we need to make adjustments. Being in California, it seemed like a waste not to take advantage of all the free electricity."
"It felt great to get off the city's power grid and free up some electricity for the rest of the neighborhood," DiFiore adds. "We actually produce more electricity than we need right now. Also, it just feels better working there. We work in the spirit of cooperation, and when there is something like solar energy above your head, there is a little bit more levity added. It makes for a more positive environment."
Having toured extensively throughout the world, including North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Japan, CAKE has developed a vital and thriving community of listeners, with which the band interact with regularly on cakemusic.com. "We're always putting up new material, keeping a road journal, posting news items and links, along with a weekly poll and an advice column," DiFiore explains. "We try to encourage environmental responsibility: we have a carpool page for listeners who drive to shows, we give away a tree at every show, and we do a lot of linking to items about the environment and public policies that relate to it."
In the meantime, CAKE is putting the finishing touches on the as-yet-untitled new album. "I write songs all the time, so I have this stockpile of music," says McCrea. "I'll bring it in and play it on acoustic guitar and from that point the real work begins, the arrangement process. That's an arduous part of the whole experience – hundreds of small decisions that build upon each other."
"Fortunately," DiFiore concludes, "since we've started doing this, people have become stronger musicians – more versatile, with a bigger musical vocabulary. People are bringing their musical growth to the table. For all we do, our strength is still working well together as a band."
"It all goes back to that John Lee Hooker session," enthused Ben Harper. "Even
John Lee mentioned it, saying: 'yeah, yeah, you guys… that's good. Yeah,
yeah. You should stay with that. Do that.'"
Mississippi born Musselwhite is one of the most revered blues musicians in the
world. The harmonica master, also a respected singer and songwriter in his own
right, has won countless awards during his legendary career including induction
into the Blues Hall of Fame and collaborated with innumerable musical giants
of the past 50 years including Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams,
Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder and the
aforementioned Hooker, just to name to name a few.
A fan of the harmonica virtuoso since childhood, Harper begged an introduction
to his idol at Australia's Bryon Bay Blues Festival in 1996. Despite the
difference in age and background, the two hit it off immediately. The next
pivotal moment came at a 1997 session for John Lee Hooker where they locked
in musically, finding a common language that is seamless and remarkable.
Since then, the two musicians have worked together over the years, including
sessions for Solomon Burke's Don't Give Up on Me in 2002, on Musselwhite's
2004 Grammy nominated album Sanctuary; the budding mates teaming on a
version of Harper's "Homeless Child" and on Harper's own album Both Sides of
the Gun in 2006. Each time Harper and Musselwhite played together it was
lightning in a bottle. The more they played, the louder Hooker's words
In the grand but all-too-rare tradition of full-album artist collaborations, Get
Up! (Stax/Concord Music Group) featuring Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite
is a modern blues classic. The release, Harper's 12
studio album, surveys
gospel, roots, country and R&B; the marriage's fluid chemistry
helping his multi-layered canvas expand as never before.
"Blues is a feeling," Musselwhite points out. "It doesn't have to be a certain
chord change. You could have 1-4-5 chord changes without that feeling and it
wouldn't be the blues. B.B. King could sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and it
would be the blues."Harper, Musselwhite and the band (guitarist Jason Mozersky, bassist Jesse
Ingalls, and drummer Jordan Richardson) play this intense and emotional songcycle with economical grit. Produced by Harper with co-production credits
going to engineer Sheldon Gomberg, the band members and Grammy winning
roots music producer Chris Goldsmith, Get Up! has a timeless feel, as if it had
been recorded 40 years ago in Chicago at Chess Studios just as easily as the
Carriage House in Los Angeles.
Opening with "Don't Look Twice" Harper echoes Blind Lemon Jefferson,
vocalizing in a high octave falsetto. The swaggering electric blues of "I'm In
I'm Out and I'm Gone" comes next, the spirit of Muddy Waters no doubt smiling
from beyond the grave.
"To me it's one of the crown jewels of the album," Harper says of "I'm In I'm
Out And I'm Gone." "I am just going to go on record and say it. I think it
contains one of the greatest harmonica solos in history. It's straight ahead but
that's elusive. It's hard to do something straight ahead and make it sound
The fearsome "Blood Side Out" finds Harper portraying a man pushed past his
breaking point. Both the blunt guitar solo and the emotive harmonica capture
the frustration and manic energy of someone who's been on the short end of
the stick too many times.
There's plenty of defiance on Get Up! and also tender heartache. Case in point
the poignant acoustic guitar and harmonica duet of "You Found Another Lover
(I Lost Another Friend.)" Featuring poetic lyrics, the song's three short verses
detail a painful break-up, vividly embodied in Musselwhite's brilliant
accompaniment. "I've played with John Lee, Solomon Burke and Taj Mahal,
and one of my greatest musical moments is playing that song with Charlie,"
"I Don't Believe a Word You Say," is an angry blast of electric blues that could
be directed at anyone who hasn't lived up to their promises, be it lover or
politician. "I could fit those words to political imagery and it would almost
work better than matters of the heart," Harper points out.
A rollicking New Orleans piano highlights "She Got Kick", an unambiguous
testimonial to the ultimate control of the opposite sex. Things go further out
on "We Can't End This Way," a heavenly synthesis of acoustic blues and gospel
written in three-quarter time. In lesser hands it would have been a mess of
good intentions but here the music is simply a celebration teeming with life.
Anchored by a pulsating groove, the band goes just as far in a different
direction on "Get Up!" the title track. "That song was written around a killer
baseline that Jessie had," Harper explains. "It's tempting to throw everything
but the kitchen sink on top of it, but we left it sparse. Powerful. "The haunting battle hymn, "I Ride at Dawn", dedicated to departed Navy SEAL
Nicholas P. Spehar, the brother of a friend, is a harrowing look at a modern day
warrior preparing for duty. "Real blues has depth and substance," Musselwhite
points out. "It's not just tunes that are tossed off. These songs are all from the
heart, more so than from the head. More than just music, they are reflections
The album ends with the uplifting "All That Matters Now." The song is a
reconciliation of sorts after the album's emotional journey. "I was in the
production booth, in total producer mode trying to figure out where to go
next," recalls Harper. "And I hear Charlie and Jason messing around in the
studio with this deep groove. I heard it and told my engineer to roll tape. Don't
go fix the mic, just roll tape. There's people talking and walking through the
room, but it doesn't matter."
Recorded down and dirty, fast and live, Get Up! is an old school creation.
This kind of musical chemistry demanded the approach. But its attitude, brash,
assertive, disarming and vulnerable, is defiantly modern. This is a
record Harper has always aspired to make but knew required the essential life experience. Get Up! proves it's been time well spent.
Jackson Browne has written and performed some of the most literate and moving songs in popular music and has defined a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion and personal politics. He was honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2007.
Jackson's career began in the mid-60s in Los Angeles and Orange County folk clubs. Except for a brief period in NYC in the late 1960s, he has always lived in Southern California. His debut album came out on David Geffen's Asylum Records in 1972. Since then, he has released thirteen studio albums and three collections of live performances; his most recent, Love Is Strange, features David Lindley.
Beyond his music, Browne is known for his advocacy on behalf of the environment, human rights, and arts education. He's a co-founder of the groups Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE), Nukefree.org, and the Success Through the Arts Foundation, which provides education opportunities for students in South Los Angeles.
In 2002, he was the fourth recipient of the John Steinbeck Award, given to artists whose works exemplify the environmental and social values that were essential to the great California-born author. He has received Duke University's LEAF award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts, and both the Chapin-World Hunger Year and NARM Harry Chapin Humanitarian Awards. In 2004, Jackson was given an honorary Doctorate of Music by Occidental College in Los Angeles, for "a remarkable musical career that has successfully combined an intensely personal artistry with a broader vision of social justice."
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros formed in 2007 after singer Alex Ebert met fellow singer Jade Castrinos outside of a cafe in downtown Los Angeles. In 2009 the 10 member troupe released their debut album Up From Below which featured the universally appealing hit “Home” as well as fan favorite’s “40 Day Dream” and “Janglin”.
The past few years have been spent constantly touring the world while winning over audiences at festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Leeds, Austin City Limits and more. With their follow up album Here featuring “Man On Fire” and “That’s What’s Up” recently being released, the band will tour Europe, North America and Australia this year while a third album is expected in early 2013.
The story of the Alabama Shakes begins in a high school psychology class in Athens, Alabama. Brittany Howard, who had started playing guitar a few years earlier, approached Zac Cockrell and asked if he wanted to try making music together. "I just knew that he played bass and that he wore shirts with cool bands on them that nobody had heard of," says Howard.
They started to meet up after school and write songs sitting on Howard's floor. "It had that rootsy feel, but there was some out-there stuff," says Cockrell. "David Bowie-style things, prog-rock, lots of different stuff. We started to come across our own sound a little bit, though it's evolved a lot since then."
Steve Johnson worked at the only music store in town, and Howard knew he played the drums. She invited him to a party where, she says, "he met everybody from our side of the tracks." The three young musicians began working together, further expanding their style and approach. "Steve is kind of a punk-metal drummer," says Howard, "so we embraced that edge he brings to everything he does."
The trio soon went into a studio in Decatur to record some of the songs they were working up, and this proto-demo found its way into the hands of Heath Fogg, with whom Howard had been familiar because he had been the lead guitarist in what she describes as "the best band in our high school." Fogg, who by now had graduated from college, asked them to open a show for his band, which they agreed to do—on the condition that he play with them. The response was immediate: "That first show was really explosive," says Howard."
Though they had been focusing on original material ("It's just more fun to write than to learn someone else's music," says Cockrell), as the band—newly christened the Shakes—began playing out, they added more cover songs. They played classics by James Brown and Otis Redding, but also by Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. "We had to find music we could all agree on and figure out how to play together," says Howard, "and that had a lot of influence on how we play now."
Attempting to record their songs with the honest sonic qualities they cherished, the Shakes bought a few microphones and a vintage Teac mixing board and set up in Howard's house—which didn't work, since she lived right next to some railroad tracks. They eventually found their way to a Nashville studio in early 2011, where the songs they cut included "You Ain't Alone" and "I Found You."
When they appeared at a Nashville record store, people started to take notice of the group's relentless, hard-charging live attack, and Howard's magnetic stage presence. One especially ardent fan raved about the band to his friends, which included Justin Gage, the founder of the Aquarium Drunkard blog. Gage wrote to Howard, asking if he could post one of the Shakes' songs. She sent back the yearning, intense "You Ain't Alone," which he put up in late July, calling it "a slice of the real." And, literally overnight, all hell broke loose.
"I woke up the next day to emails from record labels, managers, publishing companies," says Howard. "At first I thought, everybody's making a mistake!" Gage also emailed "You Ain't Alone" to the Drive-By Truckers' team. The band was immediately blown away and offered the Shakes an opening slot, sight unseen. (Patterson Hood of the Truckers later noted that the group "totally blew us off the stage in Winston-Salem.")
Yet even as the attention and the pressure were mounting, the band—who by now had changed their name to the Alabama Shakes—continued to break new ground musically. Their first single, the hypnotic, show-stopping plea "Hold On," grew out of an on-stage improvisation. "We threw out that riff," says Cockrell, "and Brittany started singing along, and the crowd started singing with her like it was a song they already knew."
In October, the Shakes gave a performance at the CMJ Festival in New York City that earned a glowing review from the New York Times. Jon Pareles described the band as "a thunderbolt dressed in bluejeans," with music that's "aching when it's slow and growling and whooping when it's fast." NPR named them one of the best bands of 2011, while MTV called them one of the top bands to look for in 2012.
As word of mouth spread, more offers to tour came in, and the band members were finally able to quit their day jobs; until this point, all the writing, recording, and touring had to be done around such responsibilities as Howard's work as a mail carrier and Johnson's hours toiling as a night watchman at a nuclear power plant.
Now, with expectations at fever pitch, the Alabama Shakes have delivered Boys & Girls—six of the songs from that initial Nashville session, and another five recorded during the rest of the year. From the heart-rending title song to such stomps as "Rise to the Sun," the album demonstrates the sense of groove and space the band learned from their idols, along with a blistering force and emotion that simply can't be learned.
Overwhelmed by the response they've already received, there is one perception of the band that they want to challenge. "A lot of people think we're a soul revival act," says Cockrell. "That's an honor to me, classic R&B is my favorite kind of music, but everybody has their own influences. Brittany is way more into rock and roll—she likes things pretty amped up most of the time."
"Retro soul is not what we're going for, though it's understandable why people say it," says Howard. "We take inspiration from that, but we all understand Black Sabbath, too. On the record, we left a lot of room for whatever we want to do in the future."
The release of Boys & Girls marks the arrival of a major new rock and roll band. To the members themselves, though, what's been most exciting has been the reaction they have felt on stage, whether tiny local dates or under the glare of the media.
"It seems like everyone can tell how into it we are," says Cockrell. "Every show, people say they can feel how much we love what we're doing."
The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips are an American rock band, formed in Norman, Oklahoma in 1983.
Melodically, their sound contains lush, multi-layered, psychedelic rock arrangements, but lyrically their compositions show elements of space rock, including unusual song and album titles—such as "Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles", "Free Radicals (A Hallucination of the Christmas Skeleton Pleading with a Suicide Bomber)" and "Yeah, I Know It's a Drag... But Wastin' Pigs Is Still Radical". They are also acclaimed for their elaborate live shows, which feature costumes, balloons, puppets, video projections, complex stage light configurations, giant hands, large amounts of confetti, and frontman Wayne Coyne's signature man-sized plastic bubble, in which he traverses the audience. In 2002, Q magazine named The Flaming Lips one of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die".
The group recorded several albums and EPs on an indie label, Restless, in the 1980s and early 1990s. After signing to Warner Brothers, they scored a hit in 1993 with "She Don't Use Jelly". Although it has been their only hit single in the U.S., the band has maintained critical respect and, to a lesser extent, commercial viability through albums such as 1999's The Soft Bulletin (which was NME magazine's Album of the Year) and 2002's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. They have had more hit singles in the UK and Europe than in the U.S. In February 2007, they were nominated for a 2007 BRIT Award in the "Best International Act" category. By 2007, the group garnered three Grammy Awards, including two for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
On October 13, 2009 the group released their latest studio album, titled Embryonic. On December 22, 2009, the Flaming Lips released a remake of the 1973 Pink Floyd album The Dark Side Of The Moon. In 2011, the band announced plans to release new songs in every month of the year, with the entire process filmed.
Primus is all about Les Claypool; there isn't a moment on any of their records where his bass isn't the main focal point of the music, with his vocals acting as a bizarre side-show. Which isn't to deny guitarist Larry LaLonde or drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander any credit; no drummer could weave in and around Claypool's convoluted patterns as effortlessly as Alexander, and few guitarists would willingly push the spotlight away, like LaLonde does, just to can produce a never-ending spiral of avant-noise. All of this means that they are miles away from being another punk-funk combo like the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Claypool may slap and pop his bass, but there is little funk in the rhythm he and Alexander lay down. Instead, they're a post-punk Rush spiked with the sensibility and humor of Frank Zappa. Primus' songs are secondary to showcasing their instrumental prowess. Their music is willfully weird and experimental, yet it's not alienating; the band was able to turn their goofy weirdness into pop stardom. At first, the band was strictly an underground phenomenon, but in the years between their third and fourth albums, their cult grew rapidly. 1991's Sailing the Seas of Cheese went gold shortly before the release of Pork Soda. By the time of the album's 1993 release, Primus had enough devoted fans to make Pork Soda debut in the Top Ten. After touring for a year -- including a headlining spot on Lollapalooza 1993 -- Claypool revived his Prawn Song record label in 1994 and released a reunion record by Primus' original lineup under the name Sausage. In the summer of 1995, Primus released their fifth album, Tales From the Punch Bowl. It was another success, going gold before the end of the year. In the summer of 1996, Primus announced they were parting ways with their drummer, Tim Alexander. He was replaced by Brian "Brain" Mantia, who made his debut on The Brown Album, which was released in the summer of 1997. The covers EP Rhinoplasty followed in 1998, and a year later, Primus returned with Antipop. Antipop was a departure from previous Primus albums, as different producers were used on almost each track (including such notables as Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, Tom Waits, South Park creator Matt Stone, and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland) and it featured such guest artists as Metallica's James Hetfield and former Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin. After a supporting tour wrapped up in 2000, Mantia left the band to join Guns N' Roses. Claypool talked about reuniting with former drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander in the press, but shortly afterward announced that Primus was going on indefinite hiatus. During the ensuing break, Claypool focused on recording the debut album by his side project, Oyster Head (who also included Copeland and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio), as well as releasing his two-part solo outing, Live Frogs: Set 1 and Set 2. Primus reunited in 2003 with a lineup containing Herb Alexander to release an EP's worth of new material as a part of the Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People DVD set. The band focused on touring until 2010 when Alexander once again left the band. Claypool and LaLonde turned to former drummer Jay Lane, and the band went back into the studio to work on a new full-length. In 2011, Primus released their seventh album, Green Naugahyde.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Rodrigo y Gabriela have released their new studio album, titled "11:11" on Rubyworks. "11:11" was recorded in Ixtapa, Mexico. The album has been produced by Rodrigo y Gabriela, with John Leckie co-producing one of the tracks. The album was mixed in Wales and London by Colin Richardson, best known for his work with Slipknot and Trivium. Comprising 11 new self-written compositions, "11:11" is Rod & Gab's personal "Gracias" to a first XI of musicians, both past and present, who have inspired them along the way. Alex Skolnick of metal gods Testament guests on the album, as do widely respected acoustic veterans Strunz & Farah. "11:11" is the long awaited follow up to 2006's "Rodrigo y Gabriela", which has so far enjoyed worldwide sales in excess of half a million albums.
Dwight Yoakam is an American singer-songwriter, actor and film director, most famous for his pioneering country music. Popular since the early 1980s, he has recorded more than twenty-one albums and compilations, charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and sold more than 25 million records.
Johnny Cash once cited Yoakam as his favorite country singer. Chris Isaak called him as good a songwriter that ever put a pen to paper. Time Magazine dubbed Yoakam "A Renaissance Man" and Vanity Fair declared that "Yoakam strides the divide between rock's lust and country's lament." Along with his bluegrass and honky-tonk roots, Yoakam has written or covered many Elvis Presley-style rockabilly songs, including his covers of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in 1999 and Presley's "Suspicious Minds" in 1992.
Michael Franti and Spearhead
The Sound Of Sunshine -- the inspired and inspiring new album by Michael Franti & Spearhead -- is a kind of musical sun shower, a bright, beautiful and often buoyant song cycle created to bring all kinds of listeners a sense of hope during rough and rainy times for so many in our world.
"Music is sunshine," says Michael Franti, one of the most positive and conscious artists in music today. "Like sunshine, music is a powerful force that can instantly and almost chemically change your entire mood. Music gives us new energy and a stronger sense of purpose."
"Music is something you can't hold in your hands, smell it, taste it or even see it, yet somehow just coming together and feeling these little vibrations that tickle our eardrums can somehow lift us all up out of our most difficult moments in life to unimaginable heights."
Ironically, often joyous and uplifting The Sound Of Sunshine actually came out of a darker and tougher personal experience for Franti. "Last August, my appendix ruptured suddenly in the middle of a tour and I ended up in the hospital for eight days while they figured out what was wrong with me," recalls Franti. "I almost died and I wrote many of these songs coming out of that experience while I was in the hospital for another week or so after that. During that time, I really took a moment to prioritize what's truly important in my life -- and in the end, that's really about the people who I love. Even in that hospital, I could laugh with the people I love, cry with them, and start to find the sun again."
Well aware that countless others face far worse problems than he did, Franti wants The Sound Of Sunshine to communicate a sense of hope and possibility for anybody who needs it. Franti's singularly open spirit reflects his own eclectic and intriguing background. Michael was born to an Irish-German-French mother and an African American and American Indian father in Oakland, then adopted by a Finnish American couple who raised him along with their three biological children and another African American son. While studying at the University of San Francisco, Franti formed the punk band The Beatnigs, and later the far more hip hop-inflected The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Through it all, Franti has crossed all sorts of musical and physical boundaries in order to make music for everybody.
In the mid-Nineties, Franti first formed Spearhead, and increasingly in recent years, he's found his own voice musically and his own organic brand of popular success. Franti and Spearhead's last album, 2008's All Rebel Rockers -- recorded in Jamaica with legendary producers and players Sly & Robbie – became the biggest hit of Franti's career, hitting the Top 40 on the Billboard 200, and yielded his biggest hit, the Top 20 "Say Hey (I Love You)."
"I had a nice, long time to get ready for that first hit, and so I really appreciated it when it happened," says Franti. "So when we were just mastering the new album, I was saying to my manager, "Boy, wouldn't it be fun to have a sophomore hit?" He was like, "Sophomore hit? You've already been through grad school, man" So yes, I've paid some dues, and that's made getting this far -- and still being here -- mean even more to me. The funny thing is that `Say Hey' went into the Top Twenty right as I was being wheeled into surgery. I got the text, and I thought, `Wow, I've finally got a hit record, and I'm not even going to live to enjoy it.' That put everything in perspective too."
Michael Franti is not a man to openly chase success – in fact; he's not a man who even wears shoes(for the last ten years). Still, Franti has absolutely no problem hearing his music on the radio now. "When I was a kid, I used to listen to AM radio on family vacations in the car, and at family barbeques and my dad would leave the radio on.
So songs that were the silly pop hits became a really meaningful part of my childhood - and of my adult life now. So when I think of the fact that there's some family out there on the beach in the summer together listening to `Say Hey,' it makes me feel really good. The truth is a good pop song that makes you feel good can be something of value and meaning to people."
Arguably the most cohesive, romantic and life-affirming album that Franti and Spearhead have ever made, The Sound Of Sunshine reflects the fact that, as Franti puts it, "With time, you get a better sense who you are and how to put together all your musical passions into your own sound. I feel like for a long time, I dabbled in other sounds. Like `Let's do something with a reggae vibe here.' Or `Let's really rock here.' But now, I write everything from the acoustic guitar up -- which keeps you honest. Then Jay Bowman, my songwriting partner and I, take a lot of time figuring out what's the best way to present this song and make every word of it come across and ring true."
Even the recording process for The Sound Of Sunshine reflects Franti's desire to communicate directly with his audience. "We started in Jamaica actually recording a bunch of tracks with Sly and Robbie who are, of course, great, and we used some of those tracks. Then we got home and started mixing the record. Then I went to Bali and wrote some more songs, but we still didn't have it finished. So we said let's bring a portable studio on the road with us. We'd literally recorded the drums in the locker room of the Toronto Raptors or in the shower of some NHL team. Then we'd go right onstage and play the song and see how other people would react to it. We'd see what worked and go back and record it again the next day. So these songs have really been road tested in front of live bodies."
For Franti, "To play for people and share your songs with them is to make a real connection. That's why we play outside our shows for those who can't afford to come inside. They need the songs too – maybe more. That's the reality. And as a musician I was on tour with put it recently, "Our fans didn't come to us from a reality show. They came to us from reality." And so, we mean something in their lives. We're the music they put on when they drive their little kids to school, or hang out with the person they love at night. There's no higher honor. So they have an investment in the music. And that means so much because this music is very personal to me too."
With rare objection, Café Tacuba is credited far and wide as the preeminent band to have arisen from the rock en español movement of the early '90s. The Mexican four-piece unfortunately isn't well characterized by the rock en español tag, for the "rock music sung in Spanish" descriptor does little justice to the stylistic diversity and creative strides showcased by Café Tacuba over the course of their career. The band employs a standard rock lineup of guitar/bass/drums with vocals, certainly, but the members also incorporate electronics as well as exotic instrumentation into their music, which encompasses styles as divergent as punk and ballads, as well as regional Mexican and ambient electronica. No Café Tacuba album sounds quite like another, for the band generally pursues a grand artistic vision for each project that goes all the way from the scope of the album to which musical styles will be fused, to which collaborators are best suited for the performances, to the actual packaging design of each release. For such creative reasons, Café Tacuba is beloved by critics and cultural observers who appreciate such ambition and originality. On the other hand, legions of followers worldwide are enamored with the band simply because of the music, which is broadly appealing not only because of its distinction but also because of its fun, madcap, and ever-changing manner. This is especially true of the band's first few albums -- Café Tacuba (1992), Re (1994), and Avalancha de Éxitos (1996) -- all of which are endlessly entertaining roller coaster rides of willfully whimsical stylistic fusion. Beginning withRevés/Yo Soy (1999) and continuing with Cuatro Caminos (2003), Café Tacuba grew more challenging and experimental, as well as more mature and earnest. Nevertheless, these later album were their most acclaimed, earning Grammy Awards among other accolades. For legal reasons (and to much confusion, no doubt), the band generally bills itself as Café Tacvba rather than Café Tacuba (replacing the U with a similar-looking V), though the name is pronounced normally, with a U.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, a duo from Seattle, Washington, have emerged as a premier national hip-hop group known for their electrifying live shows, expertly crafted music, and innovative music videos and media. After years of building momentum with impassioned support from their devoted fan base, 2012 has been a banner year for the group, kicked off by Macklemore’s feature in XXL’s Freshman Class. Most recently, they have broken new ground by independently releasing their debut full-length album, The Heist, which shot into the #1 spot on iTunes and debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts without the support of a traditional record label. Their single “Thrift Shop” has top 40 on the Billboard Top 100 chart and is still climbing, with a wildly popular music video (20 million+ views on YouTube) on heavy rotation on BET and MTV2. “Same Love,” a song and video in support of marriage equality, galvanized young fans and voters and led to a live studio performance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. While on their 70-city, completely sold-out world tour supporting The Heist, they have garnered attention in Rolling Stone, Billboard, NPR, TIME and GQ, with live performances on VH1 and an upcoming feature on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Preeminent punk band Bad Religion will release their new album True North this January 22nd on Epitaph Records. In a world still brimming with rampant anti intellectualism, inequality and oppression, the band's signature brand of sonically charged humanist dissent seems as relevant as ever. On their newest record, the storied band deliberately revisits and refines the powerful and melodic Southern California sound they helped to define on albums such as Suffer, No Control and Recipe For Hate.
"We went back to our original mission statement of short concise bursts of melody and thought," co-songwriter and guitarist Brett Gurewitz explains. "The intent was to record stripped down punk songs without sacrificing any conceptual density."
The band began in the sprawling suburbs surrounding Los Angeles. As insurgent teenage punks they offered an impassioned musical counterpoint to a dystopian culture of consumerism and anti intellectualism. Founding members Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and Jay Bentley were eventually joined by guitarists Greg Hetson from The Circle Jerks, Brian Baker of hardcore pioneers Minor Threat and a supremely talented drummer named Brooks Wackerman. In the following years the band was a major force in reinvigorating the modern punk movement, produced beloved international hits such as "Infected," "21st Century (Digital Boy)" and "Sorrow" and has maintained an impassioned worldwide following of young and old who continue embrace a music that gives voice to, and celebrates, their dissent.
Produced by the band and Joe Barresi, True North celebrates the power of cogent punk in the face of personal pain and adversity. It is one of the band's most emotionally accessible albums to date. Beneath the bristling guitars and surging drums exists one of the most cathartic works of the band's career. "I think working within certain restrictions took away the mental aspect and let us devote more attention to conveying feeling," co-writer and guitarist Greg Graffin says. "We all go through pain and the best elements of punk give us hope in those dark times."
There are tracks which, as the band has continuously done throughout their career, ardently address world issues. There is the hard charging "Robin Hood In Reverse," "Land of Endless Greed" and "Dharma And The Bomb" which features guitarist Gurewitz singing over some classic Southern Cal punk. As Gurewitz explains, "The song's lyrics speak about the danger of radical religious movements inheriting the fruits of science (like nuclear weapons) without the benefit of its liberal traditions."
The album's first single is a joyously propulsive anthem succinctly called "F*ck You." As Graffin explains, "If any band should have a song with that title it should be us. It just sounds like a perfect Bad Religion song."
Other tracks like mid tempo "Hello Cruel World" veer into a far more expressive terrain. The album's title song "True North" utilizes a wall of guitars and charged beat to explore issues of alienation and loss informed by Graffin's recent life experiences. "The song is written from the perspective of a kid who is running away," Graffin explains. "He says 'I'm out of here, I'm off to find true north.' It's about recognizing that you don't fit in and trying to find a truth and purpose. Those are all classic punk themes. We still remember exactly what it feels like to be a disaffected kid in this world. And I think we were able to convey that particularly well on this album."
His cohort Gurewitz adds, "I think we both really responded to the challenge of writing short and fast songs on this record. The constraints set us free. Like moves in a game of chess, there are really as many variations as there are stars in the galaxy."
Iron and Wine
Over the course of his ten-year career, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam has become one of today's greatest story tellers, crafting meticulous tales full of forlorn love, religious imagery and wistful dreams. It's been more than three years since his last studio effort, The Shepherd's Dog, which was widely praised by fans and critics alike. While Beam's early albums were sparse, intimate solo affairs, Shepherd's introduced layered textures and poly-rhythmic sounds that allowed his lyrics to spring to life. It's only natural then, that Beam took this sonic collage and built upon it for his new album, Kiss Each Other Clean. The result is a brighter, more focused record that retains the idiosyncratic elements that make Iron & Wine such an engaging band.
Beam continued to mine folk, African, rock, country, and Jamaican musical traditions, but switched the focus of his studio lens to 60s and 70s pop influences for the Kiss Each Other Clean sessions. Mingling memories of his parents' record collection and hits heard between the static of scanning the car radio on family drives for inspiration, Iron & Wine is once again pushed into new territory. Multi-part vocal arrangements reminiscent of Buckingham / Nicks era Fleetwood Mac albums and classic Motown singles permeate "Half Moon" and "Godless Brother." Electronic synthesizer sounds percolate through "Monkeys Uptown" and "Glad Man Singing" recalling the adventures of Elton John and Stevie Wonder. The horn sections on "Big Burned Hand" and "Lazarus" match the confidence of Beam's vocal delivery and bring an entirely new dimension to Iron & Wine. Kiss Each Other Clean's dynamics and surprises are the latest chapter in Beam's studio collaborations.
Producer Brian Deck returned for the Kiss Each Other Clean sessions, continuing the creative partnership that he and Beam have developed over the course of three albums. The comfort level and respect found between Deck and Beam allows for a unique working relationship where they push each other to experiment, while still letting the songs naturally evolve in the studio. The Shepherd's touring rhythm section Matt Lux, Ben Massarella (Califone), and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground Duo) arrived early for live recording of basic tracks at Chicago's Engine Studios and overdubs continued for about a year. Joe Adamik (Califone), Jim Becker (Califone), Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Stuart Bogie (Antibalas), Rob Burger and Sarah Simpson round out the other musicians brought into the sessions to complement and fully realize the songs on Kiss Each Other Clean.
Kiss Each Other Clean's profound artistic statement continues to move the listener's expectation forward with regard to what one can expect from Iron & Wine. Beam's masterful storytelling and musical experimentation relies on the conflict from combining the happy and the sad, the heavy and the light, and creating an ongoing narrative between the artist and the listener. It's the blending of all of these elements that allows Kiss Each Other Clean the versatility to paint a true portrait of life.
Kiss Each Other Clean will be released January 25th, 2011 on Warner Bros. Records.
The Wallflowers Return With Highly Anticipated New Album
For Release This Fall On Columbia Records
Select Tour Dates Announced to kick off in July!
Los Angeles, CA MAY 8, 2012—The Wallflowers have announced they are back in the studio and putting the finishing touches on a long-awaited new studio album that will be released by Columbia Records this fall. Currently recording in Nashville at Dan Auerbach's (The Black Keys) Easy Eye Sound studio, the new album finds frontman Jakob Dylan joining original band members Greg Richling (bass) and Rami Jaffee (keyboards), with Wallflowers' longtime guitarist Stuart Mathis and drummer Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam) rounding out the lineup. The album is being produced by Jay Joyce (Emmylou Harris, Cage the Elephant) and mixed by Rich Costey (Bruce Springsteen, The Shins).
The Wallflowers have taken their deep history and defining sound into new territory with the release of their upcoming album. The new record has the band doing what it does best while continuing to find new ground to cover. "It's been a while since we've felt this energized and creative. We haven't changed our stripes so much as we're continuing to redefine the animal," said Jakob Dylan.
In addition to their new album, The Wallflowers have announced a series of tour dates that will kick off in select U.S. cities in July (please see dates below). On these dates the band expects to give fans a preview of the new material, which finds them rediscovering their sound while reflecting the varied influences they have accumulated over the years.
Formed in Los Angeles, The Wallflowers rose to fame with their 4x platinum album Bringing Down The Horse, which featured four top charting singles including "6th Avenue Heartache," "One Headlight," "The Difference," and "Three Marlenas." The two-time Grammy Award winners went on to sell over 7 million records worldwide with a series of critically acclaimed albums before going on hiatus in 2007. During the group's break from recording, Jakob Dylan released two solo albums, which also garnered significant praise, 2008's Seeing Things and 2010's Women and Country.
Photo Credit: James Minchin
After debuting with her self-titled album in 2005, the Washington State-bred Carlile saw her fanbase mushroom with her sophomore disc, The Story, in 2007. Among the growing legion of Carlile fans is Elton John. "Brandi has an amazing voice," he says. "She's a great songwriter and has a tremendous career ahead of her." Proudly, Carlile says that John - who duets with her on the song, "Caroline" - played a key a role in her evolution as an artist: "I've been listening to country and western music my whole life and I was totally immersed in Grand Ole Opry culture, wherein the entertainers are usually not the ones who wrote the music. But when I was 11 and discovered Elton John, I realized that performers do write and perform their own songs, and I immediately went out and got a keyboard and started writing." When they recorded together, "I was just overwhelmed by the years, and by the influence that somebody can have on another person's life without even knowing it."
Andrew Bird picked up his first violin at the age of 4. Actually, it was a Cracker Jack box with a ruler taped to it, and the first of his many Suzuki music lessons involved simply bowing to the teacher and going home. He spent his formative years soaking up classical repertoire completely by ear, so when it came time for a restless teen-ager to make the jump to Hungarian Gypsy music, early jazz, country blues, south Indian etc., it wasn't such a giant leap. It's fitting that now, though classically trained, he has instead opted to play his violin in a most unconventional manner, accompanying himself on glockenspiel and guitar, adding singing and whistling to the equation, and becoming a pop songwriter in the process.
Since beginning his recording career, Andrew has released nine albums: six studio albums, both solo and with his former group the Bowl of Fire, and three live albums. Before Bird branched out solo, he played with the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Though Andrew's voice has been compared to such eminent company as Jeff Buckley, Thom Yorke, and Rufus Wainwright, like those performers, it has a quality all its own. He also adds to the mix his unnatural whistling ability, rendering him capable of adding organically generated yet otherworldly, Theremin-like sounds to the mix.
The live setting is where he becomes one with his songs. At first, it is a curious attraction - one man, generating the wealth of sound normally produced by an orchestra. Each night, song parts are constructed on violin, guitar, and glockenspiel, layered, then looped over themselves in a tangled and textured layer cake of sonics. Each night, songs shape shift within their loops - Andrew rarely replicates a song's perfect structure as it lives on the album, but rather lends an improvisatory aspect to the performance. More recently, the scope and range of the live show has been expanded to incorporate songs from Armchair Apocrypha, with Andrew's main live collaborator Martin Dosh also joined by multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Ylvisaker.
Mr. Bird has also impressed huge festival audiences at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, SXSW, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Radio France, and made appearances on the BBC, KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic," and NPR's "World Cafe" and "All Things Considered." Positive reviews and Best of 2005 lists followed including Magnet, Paste, The Onion, the Boston Globe, CMJ, and popmatters, as well as a nomination for the 2006 New Pantheon award, and the following rave from Pitchfork: "I looked at my notes and next to 'Skin Is, My,' the only comment I had scrawled was 'Wow!' The same dumbfounded comment was chicken-scratched next to three other song titles. Fitting, as there's no better word to describe Andrew Bird live."
Seventeen years after scoring the Grammy Award winning, harmonica laced Billboard Top Ten breakthrough hit that came to define pop music in the mid-90s, Blues Traveler are still finding unique ways to ensure that they don't give their legion of worldwide fans the "Run-Around." On their instantly infectious, musically expansive 11th studio album and 429 Records/SLG debut, Suzie Cracks The Whip, they remain creatively focused while dramatically expanding their musical horizons upon celebrating their 25th anniversary as a band.
John Popper (vocals, harmonica), Chan Kinchla (guitars), Tad Kinchla (bass), Ben Wilson (keyboards) and Brendan Hill (drums, percussion) had a blast working for the first time ever with a handful of dynamic outside songwriting collaborators and the powerhouse production team of Sam Hollander and Dave "Sluggo" Katz, aka S*A*M and Sluggo--who have worked their studio magic for everyone from rap rock band Gym Class Heroes to pop princess Katy Perry.
The first questions on everyone's mind as Blues Traveler breaks ground on quarter century #2 is "Who is Suzie?" and "Where did she get the whip?"
Tongue firmly planted in cheek, Brendan Hill says, "That's Suzie Shinn, assistant engineer at Killingsworth Studios in Valley Village, California, who is truly the unsung hero on this project. She was awesome, doing it all from vacuuming up our messes at night to jumping into her chair to track our overdubs, and recording us in two rooms at the same time, vocals in one, rhythm section stuff in the other. One day, we had a photo shoot in back of the studio. John Popper, being a bull whip aficionado, was showing one to us and urging Suzie to try it. So we got a great pic of her swinging and cracking it. It was a fun moment that summed up our approach to the whole project, putting all our chips in yet not taking things too seriously. After playing together for so many years, we had another great opportunity to make music together, so we were thinking, 'Why not celebrate it?'"
Says John Popper: "Using the concept metaphorically, we weren't cracking the whip on the outside writers we collaborated with on the album as much as they were cracking it on us. Working with them really brought out incredibly creative ideas we didn't know we had in us. In the past, our concept (at least in our minds) had always been to be like some misguided homage to the Beatles and write and produce everything in house, but as the band progressed it felt like we were drawing from the same well over and over. I love these guys like my family, but after writing the same way with the same people for 25 years, it was good to find a new outlet and take a different approach. Likewise, S*A*M and Sluggo helped remind us about what was cool about Blues Traveler in the first place. It's easy to forget what's cool about yourself after so many years of being you."
One of the ways Blues Traveler shares the joy on Suzie Cracks The Whip is by giving Popper, the band's poet in chief, an augmentation on the songwriting front, bouncing around song ideas with other writers. Hill describes their typical writing process on most of their albums as an insular, closed-door process of wood shedding amidst themselves. This time, they trekked to Austin, Texas, one of their favorite cities, piled into a studio located in a barn on Red Horse Ranch and narrowed down to a list of five collaborators—most of which brought in rough versions of two or three songs to work from. The formidable A-list yielded impressive material that created the foundation for what Chan Kinchla unabashedly calls "the best all-around record we've made since Four. Just like the recording later in L.A., it was a loose fun atmosphere, like a songwriting party. That energy shines through in the music."
Longtime band friend Aaron Beavers, frontman for the Austin based band, Shurman, contributed the infectious sing-along opener "You Don't Have To Love Me" and the blues-rock romp "Big City Girls," a co-write with Popper, Tad Kinchla and Wilson. Popper says of the opening track, "Having worked with Aaron before, it is so rewarding to be on another's track as just a vocalist. It allows you to put yourself completely into the emotional state of the writer, which I find thrilling and don't often get to do." Renowned Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith co-penned four tunes with various members of the band: the jangling and heartfelt blues-pop rocker "Recognize My Friend" (music by Hill, words by Sexsmith and Popper), the Santana-flavored, organ fired "Devil in the Details" (music by Chan Kinchla, words by Sexsmith and Popper), the exuberantly optimistic jam "Things Are Looking Up" (music by Tad Kinchla, words by Sexsmith and Popper) and the rustic, front porch folksy "Love Is Everything (That I Describe)" (music by Sexsmith, words by Popper and Sexsmith). Popper explained, "For someone we'd never met, Ron seemed to get us instantly."
Blues Traveler has a long history with Spin Doctors frontman Chris Barron, who went to high school with Popper in Princeton and originally played with the Blues Traveler singer in a group called Trucking Company. On Suzie Cracks The Whip, Barron contributes the easy jangling, Springsteenesque pop-rock gem "Saving Grace," which includes the unforgettable lines, "I'm tired of songs about angels/I could use a punch in the face." Blues Traveler also invited to the barn singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Carrie Rodriguez, who wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics (with Popper) on the country influenced power pop tune "I Don't Wanna Go." Popper explains, "I actually caught a video of Carrie on that hip Austin music channel. This woke me from my sleep and was brilliant. I knew instantly that I had to meet and work with her." The song features harmony vocals by American Idol Season 9 finalist Crystal Bowersox. These outside contributions set wonderful contrast to the tracks that Blues Traveler created "in-house" including the playful, reggae tinged "All Things Are Possible" (music by Popper and Chandler Kinchla, words by Popper), Ben Wilson's country-blues-pop tune "Cover Me" and two songs whose soul is classic John Popper, the stomping warning "Nobody Fall In Love With Me" and the heartbreakingly poetic piano-vocal closer "Cara Let The Moon," which Popper claims is the best song he's written in the past decade.
Says Popper: "For me, the spirit of collaboration Blues Traveler has achieved on Suzie Cracks The Whip really began with the work I did with other writers on the solo project I released last year, John Popper & The Duskray Troubadours. While those writers were only close friends that I had known and trusted for many years, Blues Traveler took this approach further by collaborating with writers we've never worked with before such as Rodriguez, Sexsmith, not to mention Alejandro Escovedo (who has a great b-side), as well as tried and true friends Barron, Beavers, as well as Jono Manson (who also has a great b-side). These experiences triggered things in all of us that we didn't know we could do. What was rewarding for me having just experienced this in my solo project, was seeing how differently Blues Traveler responded to the new process. Being such a tightly knit musical machine, the results took us in a surprising and invigorating direction. In my mind, this was the natural evolution. In the mind of Blues Traveler, it was nothing short of an explosive renaissance. We were all pushed in new and exciting directions. It created variety and a narrative that was fresh and offered contrast to the songs we wrote on our own."
Once the tunes were written, developing Suzie Cracks The Whip under the guidance of S*A*M and Sluggo in Los Angeles proved to be another stroke of genius. Though Blues Traveler had never worked with the formidable team before, the band learned that years ago when Sam Hollander first moved to New York, a friend took him to see Blues Traveler at a dive bar called Nightingale's – one of his first notable musical experiences in NYC. Chan Kinchla says, "This was around the time when things were really starting to happen for us in New York. We were just a band of ambitious kids then, but we had something going. It's so cool that Sam got to see us then."
Says Popper: "Working with S*A*M and Sluggo was like being in a Tarantino movie, where the vibe is the primary thing and the focus is on the importance of telling a story. Sam Hollander told us he saw Blues Traveler as three unique disciplines working together—my approach, alongside Chan doing his own thing, and then the rhythm section led by Brendan."
Wilson adds, "Sam is sort of our same age but he's more centered into the contemporary rock scene with some younger bands. He's really attuned to songwriting for today's artists. One of the overriding themes of the recording process was him wondering at certain points why we wanted to slow things down. He urged us to work fast and keep the energy up, but gave us a lot of leeway. The way we approached the writing process this time meant we could come to Sam and Dave with 11 amazing songs right off the bat rather than a handful of good tunes and a bunch of lesser ones to pick from. One beneficial result of this speed was a surprising duet performance featuring Bowersox, on the track, "I Don't Wanna Go." We literally had 24 hours to find someone to sing. We knew that the song would be better as a duet. Crystal delivered the song (thanks to Jono Manson at his New Mexico studio) in less than that time. She knocked it out of the park because to put it simply, she had no time to do anything else. The take was utterly fantastic."
Tad Kinchla chimes in: "We brought a cool new energy to the entire production, from writing to laying it down in the studio. Having us all in the room with the other writers meant we were open to fresh ideas and molding them into the parts each of us play best. Every band has its typical 'go to' melodies but this time we wanted to push out of that box and take the pressure off. The good news is that where it started and ended up, it still sounds like Blues Traveler."
Blues Traveler trademark sound was electrifying fans around the world, to the tune of approximately 30 million people and upwards of 6,000 live shows over the band's 25 year history. Beyond the commercial success of their recordings, which have sold in excess of 13 million combined units worldwide, Blues Traveler has long been known for the extensive use of segues, multiple song mash-ups and extensive instrumental jams in their live performances.
Blues Traveler's road to posterity moved from the burbs of Jersey to NYC in the late '80s, where they became part of a jam-band scene and shared bills with groups like Spin Doctors and Phish, founding the Horde festival and pioneering the subsequent movement of neo-hippie jam music.Represented early on by Bill Graham and son David, Blues Traveler's live reputation led to a deal with A&M Records; their 1990 self-titled debut eventually going gold simultaneously with the album Four. While putting out a string of popular albums in the 90s, the band endured its share of mettle-testing adversity, from Popper's near fatal motorcycle accident (he recorded and toured while in a wheelchair for two years) and the tragic loss in 1999 of founding bassist Bobby Sheehan at the age of 31. True to its name, the band traveled on, with Tad Kinchla on bass and Ben Wilson on keyboards, both being in the band as long as Sheehan.
The band has kept up an average touring pace of 250 shows per year, whether there has been a new release attached to the jaunt or not. Their studio output during this time included Truth Be Told (2003), Bastardos! (2005), the all-acoustic covers album Cover Yourself (2007) and North Hollywood Shootout (2008). Blues Traveler launched 2012 with a joyfully exhaustive look back on a quarter century since they first gathered in a Princeton basement and laid the foundation for a hybrid vibe that draws from blues-rock, psychedelic rock, folk rock, soul and Southern Rock. As one of their more notable EPs states, they are likely, for all intensive purposes, on tour forever.
Beyond the aughts-era duality of retromania and neophilia, Longstreth has found the beautiful, generous simplicity of the heart and soul. Same as it ever was. And this must be exactly the place where he's planted the seeds for his band's finest album to date.
"It's an album of songs, an album of songwriting," says Longstreth.
Another reinvention in a career defined by reinvention, Swing Lo Magellan does what no Dirty Projectors album has done before: it's about songs. Few songwriters can pull off the challenge to write as simple and direct as possible, and fewer still can do it and be left with something that feels irreducibly personal and idiosyncratic. Swing Lo Magellan gives us twelve such songs, one after another.
The album contains some of the biggest choruses of the band's career (the explosive and anthemic Offspring Are Blank and Unto Caesar), as well as some of simplest and most disarming (the closer Irresponsible Tune). Gun Has No Trigger is a fever dream of ecstatic paranoia, while Dance For You is a song of searching, spiritual depth ("in the language of Gyptian and Ligeti," Longstreth suggests). The tender love declared in Impregnable Question would have resonated in any musical era of the last hundred years. The title track Swing Lo Magellan is a gorgeous lament to the night sky. Amber Coffman's solo turn on The Socialites adds a compelling new layer to her persona. Each of these songs is a world unto itself – one that can be explored endlessly. Indeed, Swing Lo Magellan feels so unique in the context of much of today's music because it is more about its content than about its frame and reference. It's more heart than sleeve.
Dirty Projectors was formed in 2003 by David Longstreth, using the moniker to release wildly imaginative albums spanning guitar-based experimental song, scored composition, electronic music, hardcore, and medieval vocal polyphony. The early years of the band featured an evolving cast of musicians, eventually solidifying around Longstreth (vocals & guitar), Amber Coffman (vocals & guitar), Nat Baldwin (bass), Angel Deradoorian (vocals and keyboard) and Brian McOmber (drums). Haley Dekle (vocals) joined in 2009. 2009's Bitte Orca was Dirty Projectors' breakout moment, landing them on almost every Album of the Year list in the country and bringing them to five continents over two years. 2009 saw the band collaborating with David Byrne and The Roots, appearing on Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, as well as playing myriad club shows and international festivals. In 2010, the band collaborated with Björk on the Mount Wittenberg Orca EP, which generated over $60,000 for a National Geographic endeavor to preserve wild ocean reefs. They also presented the 2005 album The Getty Address with 20-piece chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound at Lincoln Center in New York, the Barbican in London and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, as well as selling out New York's 3000-cap Terminal 5. At the dawn of 2011, Longstreth began writing songs for the band's next LP.
The songs of Swing Lo Magellan are culled from a sprawling twelve months of constant writing and recording in a weird house in Delaware County, New York (four hours northwest of the city). Longstreth, who produced and mixed, wrote seventy new songs and beats. The band—Amber Coffman (vocals & guitar), Nat Baldwin (bass), Brian McOmber (drums) & Haley Dekle (vocals) – often joined him, rehearsing the new music more or less constantly in the house's A-frame attic. (Vocalist Angel Deradoorian is on hiatus). The twelve songs of Swing Lo Magellan were winnowed down from about forty finished demos. The finished recordings bear the impress of this informal working style: the album is a collection of moments: accidental, fortuitous, spontaneous. The performances feel warm and imperfect. Unguarded intimacy is somewhat of a new look for this band, and it turns out it's a very good look.
The sound of this album is totally unique—with an aesthetic that explodes in two directions at once. The grain of the voices and live-in-the-room quality of the amps contrast the rich orchestral layering of Longstreth's arrangements for contemporary ensemble yMusic, the warmth of the bass and the sheen and blast of the beat programming.
Swing Lo Magellan is an album that comes from the hearts of one of the most fearlessly cerebral bands of the last ten years. The album has both the handmade intimacy of a love letter and the widescreen grandeur of a blockbuster, and if that sounds like a paradox—it's because it was until now.
Hannah Hooper met Christian Zucconi late one evening on the lower east side of Manhattan. They had both been living in New York for years and had never crossed paths before. But from that night forward the two could hardly be pulled apart. Soon after their connection Hooper was invited to an art residency in Greece on the island of Crete and Hooper insists "without any hesitation" she invited Zucconi to join her on this journey. "Seriously, we had only known one another for a few days but are both so inspired and alive when we are together that going to Greece seemed like a magical and natural thing to do" recalls Zucconi.
On Crete, in a small remote mountain village, Hooper and Zucconi met the members of their future band "GROUPLOVE" a year before it was officially formed. Sean Gadd, a natural songwriter and guitar player, born and bred in London instantly bonded with the two eccentric New Yorkers. Their relationship became apparent through the music they were making day in and day out. Andrew Wessen, a pro surfer and musician from Los Angeles and his childhood friend Ryan Rabin, an accomplished drummer and producer, were also at the residency and quickly joined in with the musical trio. These five musicians make up the members of what we now know as GROUPLOVE .
Like all good things, the summer and the residency came to an end and the five friends scattered back to their homes all over the globe. With Sean in London, Christian and Hannah in Brooklyn and Ryan and Andrew in Los Angeles GROUPLOVE was faced with the challenge of what to do now. "We all understood how rare it is for five strangers to feel as close as family and create passionate music together. We couldn't just return to Brooklyn and let the music we all made fade into a memory of that summer we had in Greece," explains Zucconi. Everyone pulled their funds together and Sean, Christian and Hannah made their way to Ryan Rabin's studio in LA to record their album. "We seriously had the best time of our lives doing that record", says Zucconi. And the result is an incredibly special album where soaring harmonies coupled with sweeping anthems lead you through their powerful journey. Like the members of GROUPLOVE, their music is diverse in influence and style but bonded together by an undeniably creative kinship.
Their experience back together and recording together was so potent that Hooper and Zucconi packed up their lives in Brooklyn and moved to LA to live and play their music.
"We never could have dreamt this up" says Zucconi, "but at the same time we're not at all surprised - GROUPLOVE is meant to be. Our story a testament to fate, and our music is something we are ready to share."
RNDM is Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam, Joseph Arthur, & Richard Stuverud
Justin Townes Earle
On a rainy Nashville Thursday last October, Justin Townes Earle leapt onstage at the famed Ryman Auditorium to accept the 2011 Americana Music Award for Song of the Year. The triumphant evening capped a turbulent twelve months for the gifted young musician categorized by significant hardship as well as notable achievement including debut performances at New York's Carnegie Hall and on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Just one week later, Earle retreated to the western mountains of North Carolina to record his next album, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now – an intriguing title given the importance of change in Earle's approach to art. "I think it's the job of the artist to be in transition and constantly learning more," he says. "The new record is completely different than my last one, Harlem River Blues. This time I've gone in a Memphis-soul direction."
Those who've followed Earle's growth since releasing his debut EP Yuma in 2007 won't be surprised he's shooting off in another direction. For an artist whose list of influences runs the gamut from Randy Newman to Woody Guthrie, Chet Baker to the Replacements, and Phil Ochs to Bruce Springsteen, categories are useless.
"Great songs are great songs," Earle says. "If you listen to a lot of soul music, especially the Stax Records stuff, the chord progressions are just like country music. And just like country music, soul music began in the church, so it has its roots in the same place."
Perhaps then it's also not surprising Earle chose a converted church in Asheville, NC to record Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. Recorded completely live (no overdubs) over a four-day period with Harlem River Blues co-producer Skylar Wilson, the album sheds the rockabilly bravado of previous records in favor of a confident, raw, and vulnerable sound. Says Earle, "the whole idea was to record everything live, making everything as real as it could be, and putting something out there that will hopefully stand the test of time and space."
The result: songs like "Down on the Lower East Side" and "Unfortunately, Anna" are equally timely and timeless. The former finds Earle channeling Closing Time era Tom Waits while the latter echoes the dirges of Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town. That said, gentle heartbreakers like the album's title track and "Am I That Lonely Tonight" are uniquely Earle, solidifying his role as one of his generation's greatest songwriters.
Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now comes out
March 27th via Bloodshot Records.
Sharon Van Etten
The shimmering sound of Sharon Van Etten's Jagjaguwar debut album, Tramp, both defies and illuminates the unsteadiness of a life in flux. Throughout the 14 months of scattered recording sessions, Van Etten was without a home -- crashing with friends and storing her possessions between varied locations. The only constant in Van Etten's life during this time was spent in Aaron Dessner's garage studio.
A two year journey brought her to that point of instability. Upon the release of epic (Ba Da Bing; 2010), Sharon Van Etten surprised the music world with a touching embrace. Having established herself as a reliable performer around New York, and coming off the release of her spartan first
effort, Because I Was In Love (Language of Stone; 2009), Van Etten created a short album of diverse songs connected by a shared goal of expanded sound and her unmistakable voice. Fans quickly picked favorites, discovered their choices changing, then changing yet again. That is the magic of epic; the intricate, understated record covered so much ground within its 33 minutes, it required more than an initial half hour to absorb. Since epic's release, she has opened the
Pitchfork Music Festival, played The Hollywood Bowl with Neko Case and at Radio City Music Hall with The Antlers, sung on new records for Beirut and Ed Askew, and collaborated with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Megafaun on the Songs Of The South project.
Dessner, a member of The National, heard Van Etten early on, and in collaboration with Justin Vernon, performed a cover of "Love More" at the 2010 MusicNow Festival in Cincinnati. Van Etten heard about this and contacted him. Almost immediately they formed plans to work together, with Dessner offering both a location for Van Etten to record new songs, as well as the opinions of a wise producer.
Now, one year later, Van Etten unveils Tramp, an album showcasing an artist in full control of her powers. Tramp contains as much striking rock (the precise venom of "Serpents," the overwhelming power of "Ask"), as pious, minimal beauty (the earnest solemnity of "All I Can," the
breathtaking "Kevins," "Joke or a Lie"); it can be as emotionally combative ("Give Out") as it can sultry ("Magic Chords"). Contributions from Matt Barrick (Walkmen), Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Zach Condon (Beirut), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Julianna Barwick, and Dessner himself add a glowing sheen to the already substantial offering
Van Etten has traveled far, and if her displacement took an emotional toll, she offset those setbacks with a powerfully articulated vision. And so, once again, each listener will discover their own moments along the way, and the debates as to the best song start anew.
Steve Adams – bass, vocals * Dave Brogan – drums, vocals
Zach Gill – keys, ukulele, vocals * Lebo – guitars, pedal steel, vocals
"We've never fit into any quickly digestible category," says ALO's keyboardist/singer Zach Gill. "It's just a different kind of experience."
With its delightfully vibrant blend of inventive musicality and genre-blurring reach, Sounds Like This sees ALO operating with fresh verve and vitality, their always-kaleidoscopic funk pop 'n roll aglow with exceptionally ebullient songcraft and deliriously danceable grooves. The California-based band's fourth Brushfire Records release showcases their unfettered passion, wit, and imagination while simultaneously exploring hitherto uncharted musical terrain. Invigorated by an unstructured approach to the studio process, ALO have accessed new avenues of resourcefulness, resulting in a truly distinctive collection of songs that adroitly captures all the glorious ingenuity and adventure of the band's legendary live sets.
"There has always been a division between the fans that get to know us through our live shows vs. the fans that get to know us through our albums," guitarist Lebo says. "This album is going to bridge that gap."
Long acclaimed for their deft musicianship, potent songwriting, and astonishing on-stage interaction, the members of ALO have played together for more than two decades, with the current permutation now in its 10th year and counting. The band followed the release of 2010's Jack Johnson-produced Man Of The World by doing what they do best: playing live, with highlights including the Halloween-themed "Haunted Carnival of Traveling Freaks & Frights" tour and their annual Tour d'Amour benefitting public music school programs.
In April 2011, ALO convened at San Francisco's Mission Bells studio with no plans other than to make some music together. With studio owner/longtime collaborator David Simon-Baker assisting behind the board, the band opted to take the same improvisational tack towards recording as they do on stage. Any distinctions between pre-production and real recording would be shed, allowing for ALO's instinctive spontaneity to make it to track.
"We thought, what if we started recording from the get-go," Gill says, "instead of rehearsing, making songs, and then going into the studio. We decided to start the whole process all at once, with the intention of wanting things to feel really live."
"Without a clear roadmap, we hit a lot of dead ends," says drummer Dave Brogan says, "which forced us to create our way out of the morass. I think that helped us look to within ourselves – rather than outside influences – to bring the music to life."
The band – all based in the Bay Area, bar Gill, who resides in sunny Santa Barbara – were also able to utilize a lifetime's bag of tricks in a way the previous album's sonic scope only suggested.
"The previous record was done in Hawaii, so we simply couldn't fly with much," bassist Steve Adams says. "Doing this one in San Francisco definitely made it easier to bring anything we wanted from home – Dave set up a more elaborate drum zone, Lebo had more guitars and amps, Zach brought up more keyboards. I had all my basses and a keyboard rig as well. Having a broader palette of sounds definitely had an influence on how the record turned out."
In the past, ALO felt compelled to adjust their expansive songs to better suit the recorded format, trimming tracks to a more easily consumed length. While this certainly honed the band's songwriting skills, ALO were now eager to let it all hang out, marking tracks like the bombastic "Dead Still Dance" with collage-like structures, deep dance grooves, and inventive, intricate solos. The inclusion of longer songs on Sounds Like This epitomizes "ALO being more comfortable with who ALO is," according to Lebo.
"The truth is, longer songs come more naturally to us," he continues. "In the past we've spent more time whittling the songs down because we felt that we needed to do so in order to 'fit in.' This time around, we let the songs be what they wanted to be, and sometimes that meant a long song."
"There was a part of us that went, 'Are we being a tad too indulgent?,'" says Gill, "but in the end we decided that we wouldn't say we were being indulgent – we were being generous."
ALO let their imagination run free, both musically and lyrically, resulting in such larger-than-life highlights as the Old West flight of fancy, "Cowboys and Chorus Girls" or the self-explanatory glitterball workout, "Room For Bloomin." Where prior albums featured songs penned individually and then arranged by the band, this time out, ALO were determined that their collective spirit inform every groove.
"With collaborative writing, everyone's personal stamp is in the DNA of the song," Lebo says. "That makes these songs definitively ALO."
At the heart of the album is ALO's raucous reverie for days past, "Blew Out The Walls," as well as its more subdued sibling, "Sounds Like That" (included exclusively as an iTunes bonus track). The track reverberates with the excitement and passion of a rock 'n' roll band in its nascent stage, that magical moment where four friends first get together in someone's basement for the sheer joy of making music together.
"I think we all were feeling the dream again," Adams says, "remembering back to where it all started."
All four members of ALO agree that a similar sense of excitement is currently spurring the band forward. Sounds Like This has imbued ALO with an audacious energy that is certain to infiltrate the band's already spirited live shows, not to mention their next studio outing.
"Like all ALO albums, the next one will be a culmination of all the past albums and everything that happens in between," Brogan says, "I don't know if we'll be so bold in our lack of planning next time, but I'm sure we'll find some other way to challenge ourselves."
"I love making records," Gill says. "With this one done, now there's the excitement of, what about the next one? Those juices are already brewing. I feel like we just cracked the ice so it'll be exciting to see what happens next."
USA Today has called Allen Stone a "pitch-perfect powerhouse" and The New York Times has likened his socially conscious music to that of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers. But the 25-year-old singer-songwriter from the tiny backwoods town of Chewelah, Washington just sees himself as "a hippie with soul."
One look at his long, curly blond hair and thick-rimmed glasses brings home the first part of that equation – and perhaps leaves one unprepared for the raw, soulful power unleashed when Stone opens his mouth to sing.
Like many soul singers, Stone got his start in church. He was a preacher's kid, so whipping crowds into a call-and-response frenzy as he performs "Say So" is second nature. Steeped in gospel music and shielded from secular songs, Allen didn't discover soul music until he was a teenager and started collecting classic albums from the 60's and 70's.
"Soul music from that time wasn't just about bumpin' and grindin' at the club – it was a huge part of a cultural movement. That's where my inspiration comes from," says Stone, who was also schooled by folk records of the period.
On his new album, Stone shines a light into some of the darker corners of his own era. "Contact High" is a striking commentary on the toll technology has taken on relationships and the sensuous sounding "Unaware" is a sly examination of the current economic crisis. This is the kind of stuff that keeps Stone up at night and keeps him on the road, as he sings in the single "Sleep": "Spend my night shootin' at the stars/Trying to change the world with this guitar/I know it's a long shot/But it's working out so far…"
While he is in awe of music's power to ignite change, Stone is equally enraptured by its ability to simply make people feel good – as evidenced by songs like "Celebrate Tonight" and "Say So" and the dance-offs that are de rigueur at his shows.
Stone has spent the past four years honing his unique style the old-fashioned way: crisscrossing the country in a van with his ace band and playing any small club that would have him. Since the digital release of his self-titled album via his own stickystones label in October 2011, Stone's shows have been selling out from coast to coast. The album jumped into the Top 10 of Billboard's Heatseekers chart and entered the Top 5 of iTunes' R&B/Soul charts. His first national television appearance – on "Conan" – came after the music booker saw a YouTube video of Allen performing "Unaware" in his mother's living room. Performances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "Last Call with Carson Daly" and "Live from Daryl's House" followed and Esquire, CNN and Billboard named Stone as an artist to watch – all before he had the support of a record label. Stone has since signed to ATO Records, which is bringing the album into wide release.
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Nonesuch Records released the label debut of North Carolina-based string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops in 2010. Produced by critically acclaimed recording artist and songwriter Joe Henry (Allen Toussaint, Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke), Genuine Negro Jig features string band interpretations of Blu Cantrell's beat-box driven R&B single "Hit 'Em Up Style" and Tom Waits' "Trampled Rose," as well as a pair of original compositions, alongside traditional tracks such as "Cornbread and Butterbeans" and "Trouble in Your Mind." It is the band's second record; their 2007 release, Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind, was praised by Paste for "bravely and expertly reclaiming the string band tradition for modern African-American culture," while NPR's Weekend Edition calls the band "the hottest thing to hit the old-time music community in decades."
"Now we're born again," sings Zach Rogue on the closing track of Rogue Wave's fourth studio album, Permalight.
The dreamy acoustic lament lasts just over a minute but in sound and spirit it neatly sums up everything that comes before it. A punchy, deceptively effervescent set of multi-instrumental pop tunes, the Northern California band's latest set represents a giant breakthrough for Rogue and his longtime musical partner, drummer-keyboardist-vocalist Pat Spurgeon.
Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer and soul/gospel legend Mavis Staples delivers more wall-to-wall joy on her triumphant new album, You Are Not Alone, than any other release you're likely to hear this year. Produced by fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy at Wilco's studio The Loft, the intimate and textured production showcases the iconic singer at her most powerful and fervent. You Are Not Alone mixes traditional gospel numbers with two new songs written for Mavis by Tweedy, plus her unique interpretations of songs by Pops Staples, Randy Newman, Allen Toussaint, John Fogerty, Rev. Gary Davis and Little Milton.
You Are Not Alone, which won a Grammy this year, follows her 2007 critical triumph, We'll Never Turn Back, which revisited the great songs of the civil rights era and prompted her hometown paper The Chicago Sun-Times to hail her as "an American treasure."
2008's Live: Hope at the Hideout was named one of the Best Live CDs of All Time by Amazon.com's editors and earned Mavis her first Grammy-nomination as a solo artist.
Harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite's life reads like a classic blues song: born in Mississippi, raised in Memphis and schooled on the South Side of Chicago. Born into a blue collar family in Kosciusko, Mississippi on January 31, 1944, and raised by a single mother, Musselwhite grew up surrounded by blues, hillbilly and gospel music on the radio and outside his front door. His family moved to Memphis, where, as a teenager, he worked as a ditch digger, concrete layer and moonshine runner. Fascinated by the blues, Musselwhite began playing guitar and harmonica. It wasn't easy growing up a poor, white boy in Memphis, even among the rich musical influences the city offered. He felt like an outcast and a stranger (themes that have informed, inspired and haunted his music to this day).
Following the path of so many, Musselwhite moved to Chicago looking for better paying work. While driving an exterminator truck as a day job, Charlie lived on the South Side and hung out in blues clubs at night, developing close friendships with blues icons Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Joe Williams, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Before long, he was sitting in at clubs with Muddy and others, building an impressive word-of-mouth reputation. Soon after, Charlie was being paid to play in the same South Side neighborhood. Noted blues journalist Dick Shurman says, "The black Chicago blues artists all liked Charlie as a person. They felt that he was one of them — a southern country boy with a deep affinity for the blues."
His first recording, under the name Memphis Charlie, brought the amplified harmonica blues to a new audience of young, white rock and rollers, who discovered that Charlie personified the cool and hip counter-culture icons they admired. After the release of his first full-length LP — Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite's South Side Band — he was embraced by the growing youth counter-culture and the newly emerging progressive rock FM radio stations, especially on the West Coast. His iconic status established, he relocated to San Francisco, often playing the famed Fillmore Auditorium. Over the years, he has released albums on a variety of labels, ranging from straight blues to music mixing elements of jazz, gospel, Tex-Mex, Cuban and other world music, winning new fans at every turn. He has been touring nationally and internationally for four decades and is among the best-known and best-loved blues musicians in the world.
Over the last 43 years Musselwhite has released over 30 albums including 2006's critically praised Delta Hardware. Three of his recordings — 1990's Ace of Harps, 1991's Signature and 1993's In My Time — were recorded for Alligator Records and remain among his best-selling titles. Now, Charlie Musselwhite returns to Alligator with The Well, produced by Chris Goldsmith and just nominated for a Grammy® for Best Traditional Blues Album. With musical flavors from Mississippi to Memphis to Chicago, The Well is steeped in the music of Charlie's youth — country and city blues as well as rockabilly and gospel — the music that inspired his signature sound. The fresh, new songs speak from his decades of experience, hard living, and his triumph over adversity.
Charlie has shared stages with countless blues and rock musicians. He was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Blues Hall Of Fame in 2010, has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards and has won 24 Blues Music Awards. The San Francisco Chronicle says, "Charlie Musselwhite's harmonica playing shows taste, bite, restraint and power. He's one of the best, and as a bluesman, he's as real as they come."
With her first three recordings, 2003's The Love EP, 2005's breezy twentythree and 2008's Hello, Tristan Prettyman parlayed her smoky alto voice and laid-back surfer-girl-from-San-Diego charm into an eight-year career studded with highlights that included Hello's No. 2 position on the iTunes Digital Albums chart and headlining tours across the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
But instead of capitalizing on the attention and immediately making plans to record a third album after wrapping two years of touring in support of Hello, Prettyman took an extended break during which she traveled the globe, had surgery to remove polyps on her vocal cords, got engaged to her long-term boyfriend, dealt with the pain of his ending the engagement, and eventually questioned whether she even wanted to be a musician at all.
"I was really burnt out and uninspired, so I decided to take some time off," Prettyman says. "I went to Bali, Australia, and Europe and kind of went crazy. Life went from all these obligations to eating good food, meeting amazing people, and flowing with the wind. Then when I got back and tried to sing again, we found the polyps, so I had surgery and had to recover. Through it all, I was one foot in and one foot out of whether I wanted to do music at all. I had periods of time where I was numb and immune to feeling. My walls were up really high and I was on my guard. Then this fairy-tale picture of what my life could have been was set on fire. That brought all my walls down; it was a relief to finally feel something again."
Prettyman chronicles the experience on her new album, the raw, emotionally charged Cedar + Gold, which finds her sifting through the wreckage of her relationship and emerging stronger on the other side. "I started writing songs from a place that was so deep and honest, where I didn't hold anything back," she says. "It felt so good. I was like, 'This is what music is about — being able to release what is trapped inside of you.' Whenever anything ached or caused me pain, I'd tell myself, 'Save it for the record.'"
With an artistry that lies in her finely etched lyrical details and intimate vocal performances, Prettyman spares no one, including herself, on songs like "Say Anything," "I Was Gonna Marry You," "Come Clean," "Glass Jar," and "Never Say Never," which ends a heartbreaking spoken-word outro: "You can't start a fire in the pouring rain."
Prettyman wrote several of the songs with Dave Hodges, whom she first met the morning after a particularly emotional night. "I go meet Dave and I'm late and I'm crying," she says. "I'm just a ball of snot, like, 'Hi, I'm Tristan and I'm a mess.'" That session yielded the completion of the album's opening track "Say Anything" — an open-hearted tune about finding freedom in letting go. The second session resulted in the no-holds-barred "I Was Gonna Marry You." "It was like, 'Wow, I'm getting really transparent here and being really specific,'" Prettyman recalls. "But once I walked through the door of honesty there was no telling where I was going. I'd never spoken out before about the way it really was, but I found myself saying 'Screw it, I'm going to tell the whole story.'"
As intense as some of the songs may be, the mood is tempered not only by playful, lighthearted tunes like first single "My Oh My" ("about someone still having their hand on you and you playing that game with them because it's fun, even though you know it's not good for you and it's going to backfire"), "The Rebound," "Quit You," and the sexy, smoldering "Bad Drug," but also by the album's warm, earthy sound, which Prettyman created with her producer Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry), who plays piano, bass, drums, and some guitar on the album. "Greg told me he was not going to hold my hand through this; I had to convince him I wanted it," she says. "He forced me to step into really being a musician and owning what I do. Once I did that, I got super creative and the songs started coming from a different place. It was a very intuitive process."
When mixing on Cedar + Gold wrapped, Prettyman went back to her hotel room and burst into tears. "I couldn't believe it was done," she says. "I got everything out. It no longer lived in me. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt free."
Cedar + Gold (whose title refers to both the cedar walls and ceilings in the home where she recovered from her heartbreak and the gold she spun from her situation in the songs) is an album that manages to be both deeply personal, but highly relatable to anyone who's had the ground collapse under them and fought their way back to healing. "It's actually a very hopeful album in a lot of ways, which I think is a common theme in all my records," she says. "The idea that 'things may be a bit crappy right now, but let's make the most of it' is very reflective of me as a person and my outlook on life. I always try to look at the bigger picture of why something is happening. And I love that I was able to go so deep and dig around in places I never thought I could access and still remain hopeful at the end of the day."
"I've always had a taste for traveling alone," Tift Merritt sings in the title track of her fifth album. This time around, she got to prove it, "calling the shots myself and letting myself go wherever I needed to go" at a point in time when she was a free agent without label or manager. But the song does also conclude that "Everybody here is traveling alone," a realization that places as much value on community as iconoclasm. And Merritt put together her "dream cast" of fellow travelers to play on Traveling Alone, which found its happy home at her new label, Yep Roc. The road less taken doesn't preclude good company.
The New Yorker has called Merritt "the bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry," a standard upholding that got underway in earnest with Bramble Rose, the 2002 solo debut that put her on the Americana map forever. As her sophomore album, Tambourine, was followed by Another Country and See You on the Moon, Merritt found acclaim coming not just from critics and awards orgs but her own heroes, like Emmylou Harris, who marveled that Merritt "stood out like a diamond in a coal patch." Now a leading lady in her own right, Merritt is hardly one to hog the spotlight. She engages in dialogue with fellow artists of all disciplines on her public radio broadcast and podcast "The Spark With Tift Merritt," bringing in fellow sojourners ranging from Patty Griffin and Rosanne Cash to Rick Moody and Nick Hornby (who devoted a chapter to Merritt in his 31 Songs book).
For Traveling Alone, Merritt knew—and got—exactly the journeymen she wanted with her on this 11-track trip: legendary guitarist Marc Ribot, Calexico drummer John Convertino, steel player extraordinaire Eric Heywood, acclaimed jazz and rock multi-instrumentalist Rob Burger, and longtime cohort Jay Brown on bass. As captured by producer Tucker Martine (known for working with the Decemberists, and one of Paste magazine's "10 Best Producers of the Decade") and mixed by three-time Grammy-winning engineer Ryan Freeland, the sound is both spare and luxurious. "Maybe I was bored with bells and whistles and wanted to go without them. It might have been that I didn't have enough money for bells and whistles," she quips. "But once you get in that sweet spot where things feel real and right, you just want to burrow down in that feeling. Nothing to hide behind, no distractions, no sense trying to be everything to everybody. There's a beautiful economy of motion in that place." Who wouldn't want to tag along?
Vintage Trouble is a sensational, soulful four-man band whose very essence screams out loud of the late 1950's to 1960's. Turned on by and tuned into the evolutionary period in music and life when there was a razor thin line between Rhythm & Blues and Rock & Roll, the band reconnects us all to one universal vibration. Their modern day classics transport the mind, spirit and body back to a sweaty, swinging, heart-thumping speakeasy. Their live shows feel like a sweet southern down-home revival mixed with a gritty, downtown edge. Inspirationally, Otis Redding, Chuck Berry and Ike and Tina Turner can all be felt in woven clothe that tailor-suit the band like honey to the bee. When the buzz tells you they're near, get to them...and be prepared to be moved. www.VintageTrouble.com
Allah-Las met while working at the biggest of all the L.A. Record stores, but they became a band in an even more rare and special space—a California basement, dug out somewhere between the mountains and the beach. They began gigging shortly after their conception in and around Los Angeles in the later part of 2008. It wasn't until three years later that they would find the proper environment to record their first single "Long Journey" which now bookends their self-titled release. These were the kind of songs that bounced between London and Los Angeles, the kind of thing that could have come from Mick Jagger or Arthur Lee or both at once, with crystalline guitar and slow-mo drums that recalled the way the waves take big bites of the beach at night. This was mystery music from the strange and ancient-modern California fringe, more Night Tide than Easy Rider. Allah-Las were a reflection of a reflection, an echo of an echo, a band that was psychedelic not because of reverb or shredding through pedals but for the simple way their songs seem to extend to infinity. (Chris Ziegler)
Erin O’Hara is an accomplished composer for film and television and an acclaimed singer-songwriter. Her music has been featured in films and television programs internationally, and in film festivals around the globe. She has created original scores for a number of award winning documentaries, including the Emmy nominated “In the Family” (Kartemquin 2008) and Michael Moore’s Oscar nominated “Sicko” (The Weinstein Company 2007). Her narrative scores include many award winning shorts, as well as the feature length film "Day Zero" starring Elijah Wood.
Her original song “Voice of a Gun” (co-written with Tony Shanahan) was featured in Bryan Gunnar Cole’s “Day Zero”, as well as Brian DePalma’s “Redacted”. Her haunting rendition of “Down In The Valley” (produced by David Kahne) was the single for the Soundtrack of MGM’s “Two Days In the Valley”. Billboard wrote of Erin’s version “a much needed breath of fresh air in a field of pop sameness”. Erin’s “Beautiful Melody” was featured in HBO’s “Sex and the City: A Farewell”, as well as being utilized to advertise the much-anticipated final episode of the hit series. Her performance of “World On A String” aired nationally in a Mercedes Benz summer sale campaign.
Growing up in a family of 9 in central NY, Erin studied classical ballet and modern dance. In College, she co-founded the Albany based band Mambo-X, and began writing songs and performing in clubs and theaters throughout the eastern US. She has shared the stage with many gifted talents including Billy Bragg, Tom Tom Club, Eileen Ivers, Michelle Shocked, and others. Erin received her BA in Creative Writing and Music from Hunter College. She lives with her wonderful husband and daughters in a cabin by the sea, near Seattle, WA. She is currently recording her most recent song cycle, to be released soon. Stay tuned.
The Whiskey Sisters
Teal Collins (The Mother Truckers) and Barbara Nesbitt (Tim Flannery & The Lunatic Fringe) met in Austin and decided to get together to sing a song or two. By the time they reached the first chorus harmonies they knew it was going to be a good thing. They have been working hard to form their new band, The Whiskey Sisters, which is a sound like nothing else you've heard. Joined by amazing musicians, Etan Sekons (The Rankin Twins), Lonnie Trevino, Jr. (The SA Moonlighters), Phil Bass (Monte Montgomery), and Michael Davids (Cari Hutson), they are going to take Texas and the world by storm!
To create his fifth full-length album Start Livin', Hawaii-based singer/guitarist/songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter holed up in a Southern California studio for seven days with his longtime bassist Matt Grundy—and no one else. The follow-up to 2010's Glow, Start Livin' is a nine-track selection of folk-infused songs that sweetly reflect the simplicity of their recording. With its smooth showcasing of Frankenreiter's rich, honey-thick vocals and masterful guitar work, Start Livin' bears all the intimacy of an impromptu back-porch performance and the tenderness of a treasured love letter. "Start Livin' is basically a love album," says Frankenreiter, who co-produced the record alongside Matt Grundy and Adam Ableman. "Most of the songs are about my wife and our two boys, and the life that we've built together in Hawaii." Thanks to Frankenreiter's infectious warmth and finely honed pop sensibilities, each of those songs has the singular effect of drawing the listener into that bright and breezy world for a blissed-out moment. Essential to the record's playful feel is Frankenreiter's inspired use of instrumentation. "This album's completely unlike anything I've ever done before, in that we skipped the basics and went for a whole lot of different instruments," he says. "We never brought in a drum set—instead there's handclapping for percussion, or the two of us banging on pots and pans. We were using everything from bells to singing bowls to Zippo lighters; at one point we put some beans and salts in a can and shook it around." Grundy played a key role in the wildly varied sounds on Start Livin', according to Frankenreiter. "Matt was playing ukulele and lap steel guitar and banjo—he'd grab an instrument and we'd do a take live and just build the track up from that. It was a real fun vibe." Despite that kitchen-sink approach, Start Livin' never comes off as cluttered. Each of the songs shines with a crisp, clean sound perfectly suited to the album's sunny spirit: "You" achieves a hypnotic dreaminess by layering lap steel over beautifully crooned harmonies and a twinkling acoustic riff; "I Can Lose" matches its island-breezy guitars with shimmering mandolin; and a gracefully plucked banjo backs up Frankenreiter's hushed, heart-on-sleeve lyrics on the quietly epic "Together Forever." On "Shine," meanwhile, ocean-wave-like effects merge with a swaying melody and smitten lyrics ("You and I, girl, are like a sun and moon/Lately you've been in orbit in my head like a good summer tune"). While love songs serve as the album's centerpiece, Frankenreiter also explores non-romantic love throughout Start Livin'. The gloriously ragtag "Same Lullaby," for instance, makes a sweetly hopeful plea for world peace. "I wrote that song a little while after the tsunami in Japan, thinking how lucky I was to have a family and be alive," Frankenreiter recalls. "The line that goes 'I believe the world could be fine if we could all sing the same lullaby'—that's me hoping we could all just get together and be on the same wavelength even for just one moment." On the irresistibly toe-tapping "Just Love," Frankenreiter turns his focus to his two sons, Ozzy and Hendrix. "Sometimes my kids'll get scared of things in the dark—you know, the monster under the bed," he says. "So that song's me telling them, 'Instead of thinking there's something bad there, think of it as just love creeping in. Embrace it. Talk to it.'" Donavon Frankenreiter Start Livin' Bio Elsewhere on Start Livin', Frankenreiter hones in on more heavy-handed matters. Undoubtedly the album's most somber moment, "A.I." pays tearful tribute to Frankenreiter's friend Andy Irons (a professional surfer who passed away in November 2010). "I'd never been that close to someone who passed away before. The song's about me telling Andy that I just wish I could see him one more time," says Frankenreiter of "A.I.," which pairs pained lyrics ("Help me get through another day away from you") with gentle guitar melodies and shushing percussion. Frankenreiter also says goodbye to a friend on "West Coast Fool," but this time it's a wistful takedown of "a Southern man with big ol' Southern plans." A high-minded twist on the typical kiss-off track, "West Coast Fool" pulls off the unlikely feat of seamlessly blending banjo twang with the soothing hum of a Tibetan singing bowl. For Frankenreiter, the essence of Start Livin' is most fully captured in its album-opening title track. Accented by handclaps and a stick-in-your-head harmonies, "Start Livin'" is a feel-good, uptempo call to "celebrate tonight." "To me the most beautiful thing about this record is it really reflects who I am today," says Frankenreiter. "Start Livin' means stop worrying about where you've been, where
With all of the disturbing change California is facing these days, be it financial, social, or political, it would seem a stretch to call it anything but doomed. Heck, even the weather seems to have left the once seemingly endless sunny shores. Fortunately, there is still hope to be found. A hope that has risen before when all seemed dire, and that hope is in the music from the Best Coast. An appropriate name for a musical project that hearkens the days of surfer rock from it's majestic heyday of the 1960s.
It is easy enough to imagine Bethany Cosentino in a brightly colored go-go dress, thigh high boots and possibly a beehive hairdo, as she swoons to the swaying rhythm of her and fellow bandmate Bobb Bruno's songs. And though the imagery might not be factual, the music certainly is. Inspired by such acts as the Ronettes, Connie Francis, and Patsy Cline, with a heavy dose of reverb and a dash of lo-fi, Best Coast is currently doing quite well from sea to shining sea.
Their first full length album, Crazy for You, released in July of 2010, has had a very positive critical and popular reception, even cracking the Billboard Top 40 in August of the same year. They have been featured on Jimmy Fallon, named as one of the best albums of the year by Spin Magazine, and generally reached mass popularity at a rate most bands can only dream of. From this point on it is anyone's guess as to what the future holds, but it surely is refreshing to hear such uplifting music coming from the West Coast. If Ms. Cosentino continues to write such happy and dreamy melodies, perhaps the West Coast can continue to vie for the title of Best Coast.
Over the past several years The American South has been teeming with innovative music and Charlotte North Carolina's own Flagship are poised to be the next to carve their name in the bark. Without flinching at the independent music world's overwrought penchant for novelty, Flagship harnesses the un-teachable quality of transparent emotional depth.
Flagship is a musical force that approaches a ...wide spectrum of musical landscapes with natural fluidity. Steering the ship at the helm, Drake Margolnick's chameleon like ability to alter his vocal approach to jive with a particular song's mood is key to the group's tendency to make songs with severe emotional depth. Whether offering a fearsome, throat shredding, angst ridden scream in the western romp, "Native on The Run" or a warm heartbreaking falsetto over shimmering guitars and swirling organs on "Older," Margolnick gets were he needs to go vocally without difficulty or showmanship. Assuredly, this effortless ability to match the feeling his band mates conjure has everything to do with his poignancy at the lyrical plate. When Margolnick mourns, "I lost my baby" you feel it, because he feels it, and his band feels it.
Fresh off his impressive solo effort "Taylorsville" that saw Drake wearing every hat on the stand from drummer, and guitar player, to producer and arranger. Margolnick's newer material is truly a warp speed maturation from his debut, wherein Drake hands-off the musical reigns to his new band. This musical freedom pays off beautifully finding the band comfortably traversing varying musical territories ranging from the alternative folk tendencies of Grizzly Bear's 'Yellow House' or the beautifully atmospheric swells of Sleeping At Last, and even to the frenzied passion of fellow southerners Colour Revolt.
Drake says he feels at home when he's writing songs even though his concept of home was fairly amorphous as a kid living in a family stretched across the country. His songs clearly reflect the pain, doubts, and love of a young modern struggling with the world – but they also offer a sense of contentment with these sometimes fear-ridden aspects of living. Margolnick remains hopeful without losing grip on reality and it's contagious. In the Dylan-esque "Henry Esmond," he asks, "In the light, in the light can you see it?" Here, (as in most of his songs) Drake refuses to dabble with lofty concept-abstractions that too often collapse into meaningless, instead opting to lyrically draw from the spiritual well of his youth to ask questions, dream, and wrestle with life.
"I'm enjoying this ride. I'm enjoying the characters I meet along the way and the songs that are born from it" 23 year old singer-songwriter. guitar player. mistake maker. free thinker. rule breaker?
They Went Ghost
Inspiration. For each person it starts differently, a happy event, a sad event, a lost love, new love, or a single memory that bookmarks a moment in ones child hood. For the band “They Went Ghost”, it was the earthquake of 1989 that stands out in their memories. One terrifying moment, that shook northern California for 10 seconds. Why name your band after such a terrifying event? According to the band, they learned early to appreciate life, and take chances, and make mistakes. Started in 2009 by Kolby Stancil, Chad Perrault, and Dan Cagley, in the backyard neighborhood, in Vacaville California, home of the rock bands Papa Roach, Built by Stereo and Monster Squad. Practicing in a storage facility, and many a garage, the creative juices began to flow, new sounds and lyrics, remakes and a diverse set was taking shape. Tirelessly working on their music, and open to change and growth, in 2011, they added talented electric guitarist Leland Vandermeulen to the mix. Lead by the vocals of Kolby Stancil, his voice reminiscent, and rivaling that of Brandon Boyd of the band “Incubus”, Kolby's vocal range provides an open door for the diverse sound they produce. Bassist Chad Perrault, a member of the US Army, husband to wife Stefanie, and father to unborn baby Perrault, said “This is not something I want to do for just a little while, I want to do this for the rest of my life,” and the man plays like he means it. On target beats, head banging rhythm is provided by Dan Cagley. These four together play every time like it’s the last time, they are deeply moved and involved in the music they play.
Girls and Boys
After meeting at a Sonoma County open mic in 2008, Josh Barrett and Brianna Lee knew immediately that they wanted to write music together. A bassist and composer, Josh was struck by Brianna's vocal and songwriting talent; Freshly returned from Nashville, where she'd recorded with producer and songwriter Phil Madeira (Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello) Brianna was ready to take her songwriting to the next level. She found the perfect foil in Josh, who'd amassed years of musical experience, most notably three years playing in a band with guitarist Jimi Macon (The Gap Band, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown), an experience that taught him multitudes about the music business. The chance meeting between one girl and one boy has resulted in a fruitful musical partnership that grows by the day. Girls and Boys released their first album in October 2011, the impeccably produced The Feel of the Sun. Recorded in top studios around the Bay Area over the course of two years, The Feel of the Sun is filled with emotional, intricately woven songs that conjure feelings of loves lost and found. Four songs from the album have been chosen for the soundtrack of the upcoming film Divorce Invitation, a comedy starring Jamie Lynn Sigler, Elliot Gould and Paul Sorvino, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. The rollicking, honky-tonk song, "Scratch and Scream," is the featured song in the movie, backing up an extended montage.
Line-up subject to change. Event proceeds rain or shine. No refunds. No outside food or drink. Ages 2 and up must have a pass.
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BottleRock Napa Valley 2014
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