Al Scorch's Country Soul Ensemble, Uncle Zesty's Old Time Boot Knockers, Magnolia Mountain
3420 W. Grace St
Chicago, IL, 60618
Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
It didn't take long before their signature treatment of classic folk songs became the preferred versions of Cincinnati locals. Their audiences swelled, growing into an assortment of grey-haired mechanics, neo-hippies, farmers, punkers, professors, and random strays all stomping, clapping, singing, and belting outbursts of "John Henry!" "Darlin' Corey!" Ever since, the band has come to each show with the same energy. They are magnetic showmen, mature musicians, and colorful storytellers.
The Tillers have since won over Cincinnati's bar and festival scene, and launching tours with tireless momentum. They were awarded CityBeat Magazine's Cincinnati Entertainment Award for best Folk and Americana act in 2009. Their relentless gigging has taken them throughout the east coast, the Midwest, and the Appalachian south. In the summer of 2009, veteran NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw featured the Tillers on a documentary about US Route 50. Brokaw showcased the group's song "There is Road (Route 50)" as a testimony to the highway's role as a connective tissue of the nation.
Al Scorch's Country Soul Ensemble
Grafting literate, character-driven song craft and Mid-American roots with a post-punk DIY attitude, Chicago-based songwriter, performer and instrumentalist Al Scorch charts a new musical topography with a five-string banjo.
In his new full-length CD/ LP release, Tired Ghostly Town, Scorch delivers jubilant anthems and poignant reflections in 10 songs populated with a cast of vibrant characters.
The protagonist wishing for a pair of gold cuff links to accompany his beau to her daddy's funeral; the deserting Civil War soldier headed across destroyed cotton fields beckoning to "Miss Rosie"; or a hearse driver bound for the cemetery accompanied by a sonorous clarinet. Scorch doesn't just introduce these denizens, he inhabits them.
"It's all composites – myself and people I see on the street," he professes. "As I watch people walk by, I can stare at each of them and come up with a story of who they are, where they're going, why their jacket is that color, why the stain is on the front of it, why they're holding that stack of papers in front of the retirement home. I think my characters come from creating this feeling I want to get across when I write songs."
Both solo and with a close family of musicians, Al Scorch is very much a live performer at clubs, festivals, and other venues, He embraces the independence of house concerts –a loose circuit that extends from New Orleans to Portland; Missoula to San Francisco and all points in between. "Flyers go up, phone calls get made, a Facebook page appears and everyone brings their own beer. But beyond that, it's not promoted in newspapers because to have music in your house and pass the hat is illegal! I've been touring this scene for eight years and it is expanding with more and more houses and spaces: store fronts, radical bookstores and lofts."
Self-described as a "fourth generation Chicagoan, born and bred," Al recalls that his Missouri-born mother played banjo and had one in the house, while his dad played piano and guitar. "My dad showed me a few things on guitar," says Al. "When I heard Dolly Parton and Pete Seeger's records, I thought the banjo was pretty cool." The sounds of his hometown began with the Irish and Eastern European music transported to the new world. "The WLS Barn Dance was a radio show that predated the Opry," he notes. "Chicago has music from Appalachian immigrants and jazz musicians from New Orleans and Memphis. A legacy exists, so if you want to take lessons from a 68 year old jazz drummer who played with Ella Fitzgerald you can."
Creating songs for Tired Ghostly Town, Al woodshedded in a Georgia farmhouse, jogging in the morning, drinking copious cups of coffee and working for up to eight hours a day. "Songs and ideas float in the air past your mental eye until you're struck with a feeling that is summed up in one phrase," he says of his writing process. "It's been said before, but sometimes a song can write itself in 20 minutes."
As a student of musical history, Al Scorch appreciates tradition, but he is not bound by it. "Sitting in on an old time session, the musicianship is incredible, but it's almost like there's no mystery to it. I don't want to know, that's what gives me chills and makes the eyes well up –It sounds like an Irish ghost on a gypsy pirate ship drinking beer with a cowboy – what the hell is it? Where is it coming from?"
The same might be said of Al Scorch and a traditional instrument brought to these shores by African slaves. With sepia glimpses of the recent past, the high definition immediacy of the present and kaleidoscopic visions for the future, Tired Ghostly Town reveals a young man with an old soul and something new to say.
Uncle Zesty's Old Time Boot Knockers
We are Uncle Zesty's Old Time Bootknockers, a string band located out of Lake County, IL. Our sound combines old-time Americana music in the styles of Bluegrass, Folk, Jug band and Memphis/New Orleans Blues.
Our band consists of members:
Phil Hoffman, born 1986: Upright Bass, Kazoo, and Vocals
Ashley Behrendt, born 1987: Guitar, Kazoo, Harmonica and Vocals
Mike Pollitt, born 1986: Banjo, Mandolin, Resonator Guitar, Harmonica and Vocals
Mike Argol, born 1988: Fiddle, Harmonica
Anchored by an acoustic musical core and gorgeous 2-, 3-. and 4-part close harmony vocals, Magnolia Mountain will appeal to fans of roots music, old and new. Drawing from the deep well of American music, Magnolia Mountain takes different genres, finds the common thread within, and translates them into their own original songs that both pay tribute to the past and carve out their own place in today's musical landscape.
The band is led by songwriter Mark Utley on vocals, acoustic guitar and banjo. Mark is joined by Melissa English and Renee Frye (harmony vocals), Jeff Vanover (guitar, lap steel, dobro), Bob Lese (mandolin, harmonica), Kathy Woods (fiddle, mandolin), Bob Donisi (upright bass), and Todd Drake (drums, percussion). The band is joined for special occasions by Cincinnati music mainstay David Rhodes Brown on slide guitar, lap steel, and banjo. Magnolia Mountain plays regularly around the greater Cincinnati area, performing Mark's original songs as well as an eclectic selection of covers that range from the Louvin Brothers to Lucero, from Woody Guthrie to the Flying Burrito Brothers, and from Hank Williams Sr., to the Drive-By Truckers. They are at home in quiet "listening rooms", rowdy bars, and anywhere in between.
Magnolia Mountain was nominated for a Cincinnati Entertainment Award in the Folk/Americana category in 2008, 2009 and 2010, in addition to performing at the 2009 CEA awards ceremony. At that ceremony, they were also named the recipient of the Rivertown Music Club's 2009 Red MacCormack Memorial Recording Grant. They were also nominated in 2010 for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year (for "Redbird Green") and Mark Utley was nominated for Songwriter of the Year. Along with performing at venues as the Southgate House, Madison Theater, Northside Tavern, The Redmoor, The Comet, Leo Coffeehouse and The Crow's Nest, they've also taken part in festivals such as Twangfest, the Whispering Beard Folk Festival, MidPoint Music Festival, The Ohio River Way Paddlefest, Rabbit Hash Old Timer's Day, Edensong, Music for the Mountains, and Metamora Old Time Music Festival. Magnolia Mountain has also played a Studio 89 session live on WNKU-FM radio and a pre-Twangfest set live on KDHX-FM in St. Louis.
Their second record, a sprawling, ambitious 17-song double album entitled "Redbird Green", was released on CD and 2-LP vinyl in June 2010. Left of the Dial called it an album "that exhibits how great American roots music can be", while Unreleased: The Magazine enthused, "It's not just refreshing as hell to hear classic country sounds as genuine, sincere, and bone-deep heartfelt real as as 'Redbird Green', it feels like a godsend."
Their first album, "Nothing as it Was," was released in February 2009. CityBeat magazine called it "soulful, haunting and pure, taking the best of Country, Folk and Bluegrass and refracting it through a modern prism. It rings incredibly authentic and timeless, and album that could have come out 40, 30 or 20 years ago but is too lively and crafty to stand as some sort of retro-music museum piece".
Magnolia Mountain is currently back in Ultrasuede studio with producer John Curley recording songs for their third album (tentatively titled "Town and Country"), due sometime in 2011.
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