9:30 Club presents at U Street Music Hall. - Early Show
Lukas Nelson & P.O.T.R., Brian Russo
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009
This event is all ages
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
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
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
you’re going—just start embracing what you have around you. Start loving what you have right
Lukas Nelson & P.O.T.R.
As a youngster in rural Pennsyltucky, when Bryan Russo wasn’t studying classical violin, knee deep in the works of Mendelssohn and Mozart, he was reading the liner notes and devouring the sounds of iconic songwriters like Cohen, Waits, Newman, and Dylan, and listening to the blues.
His newest project, “Sound the Alarms” (recorded at Milkboy Recording Studios in Ardmore,PA and at the Park Recording Studio in Ocean City, MD) is a two-sided record that addresses the worldwide struggles in today’s world with loss, and a sonic exploration on what people do when faced with adversity. Whether it’s loss of love, health, home, or even hope for some semblance of a happy ending, the songs strike a chord with the human condition and the heart’s impulse to find something to hold on to even when things start falling apart.
The first single, “The Twist” is the singer’s frustrated take on the 24-hour-stream of information and how truth is often skewed by rhetoric, propaganda, and a lack of listening. It’s a stompy rocker that sets the tone on the record taking listeners to the raw and dirty places in Russo’s blues.
U Street Music Hall
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