Way Over Yonder

The Newport Folk Festival, America’s original music festival, returns to Santa Monica, CA for this year's edition of WAY OVER YONDER.

WAY OVER YONDER brings the same spirit west and will take place on the historic and picturesque Santa Monica Pier, a perfect bookend to Newport Folk’s primary location on the New England shore.

Way Over Yonder will have two stages: the Main Stage outdoors on the deck, where the headliners will appear and the Carousel Stage, inside the historic carousel building, where acoustic acts will perform.

In addition to the musical programming, and the many charms of the Santa Monica Pier, a carefully curated assortment of food and beverage vendors will be present to fortify the audience. Additionally a sod seating area will increase audience comfort

Conor Oberst is an American singer-songwriter from Omaha, Nebraska. He has been writing and recording music since 1993. In that time he has recorded and performed in many bands and musical collaborations including Commander Venus, Monsters of Folk, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Park Ave., Desaparecidos, and most notably Bright Eyes, his main musical vehicle for the past decade.

Neko Case has always been brave, but with her latest album she proves herself fearless. With her forthcoming Anti- release, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, the singer known as much for her restless musical curiosity as her clarion voice charts a powerfully personal course across the rocky landscape of childhood, love, and loss.

Case's 2009 album, "Middle Cyclone," was her most ambitious to date, vaulting her to new heights of critical and commercial success and netting two Grammy nominations. But if "Middle Cyclone"–laced with frogs, tornados, and killer whales–was Case's exploration of the potency of the natural world, the new album sees Case turning inward. The Worse Things Get... plunges into the wilderness of human experience, revealing Case at her most emotionally raw and yet, paradoxically, in steely control.

Executive produced by Case, The Worse Things Get... was recorded by Tucker Martine in Portland, Oregon, as well as with Chris Schultz and Craig Schumacher in Tucson and with Phil Palazzolo in Brooklyn.

Martine, Case, and Darryl Neudorf mixed the album, on which Case is supported by a battalion of musicians including guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Tom V. Ray, longtime backing vocalist Kelly Hogan, multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse, Kurt Dahle, and John Convertino. Other guests include M. Ward, Carl Newman, Steve Turner, Howe Gelb, and members of My Morning Jacket, Los Lobos, and Visqueen.

This far-flung set of collaborators mirrors Case's own peripatetic path to creative maturity. Born in Virginia in 1970 and raised, for the most part, in working-class Tacoma, Washington, she's lived and worked in Seattle, Vancouver BC, Chicago, and Tucson, before moving five years ago to a 100-acre farm in rural Vermont.

Now 42, Case is reluctant to talk about her family. "I am related to some stellar, beloved people," she says, "but very few." What she will say is that her parents were young and unprepared and divorced when she was five years old. She bounced around between mother and father until she left home for good at age 15. Marked by alcoholism, drug addiction, and neglect, her childhood was traumatic. "I should have been an abortion," she said once, her characteristic bravado masking a harder truth.

From art school in Vancouver to early years making music in Seattle and beyond, Case has been on a lifelong quest for self-definition. During the making of this The Worse Things Get... she granted herself a long-held desire, committing fully to the life she's created: tattoos on her forearms reading "Scorned as Timber" and "Beloved of the Sky," from an Emily Carr painting. "I wanted them for 20 years!" she crows. "No bank job for me!"

With her new roots finally taking hold in Vermont–the place she says she plans to die–she says she's now grounded enough to grab the past by the throat and let it take her for a ride. "I wanted to be in control, as much as I could be anyway," she says. "My 40s are a lonelier place than I imagined, but I can look myself in the face and know that it was my choice. So anything that happens to me from here on out is mine. I'm at square one again."

The Worse Things Get..., her sixth studio album, emerges from a three-year period the artist describes as full of "grief and mourning," in the wake of the deaths of not just both her parents, but several intimates as well.

"I fought hard against the feeling of grief all my life," she says, "but about three years ago I finally had to give in and mourn the dead. I had to look inward more than I wanted. It was sobering, and I often felt like I was blurring the lines of mental illness.

"When I stopped fighting it," she adds, "it took me where I needed to go."

The Worse Things Get... traces an emotional arc that reveals Case in all her thorny contradictions, each track in the 40-minute song cycle its own short story. "I like to have a linear flow," she says of the album's structure. "I wanted to have faith in the songs as a group rather than stacking the deck with all the upbeat songs at the top."

From the prickly power-pop aggression of "Man" to the dreamlike "Where Did I Leave That Fire?" and the hopeful uplift of the album's closing track, "Ragtime," she displays uncommon dynamic range and lyrical clarity, taking a leap of faith that listeners will hold on for the full journey.

"I just want people to feel like I was straight with them, and messy, because I just let go and trusted them completely."

Early songs on the album show Case at her most lyrically playful, slip-sliding along the edges of gender, family, and identity. The first track, "Wild Creatures," throws her themes into bold relief: "When you catch light, you look like your mother," her voice soars, before asking, "Would you rather be the king's pet? Or the king?"

"I grew up in the United States in the 70s," says Case, with feeling. "The new mantra on children's television then was 'you can be whatever you want.' I take that to heart so hard it's my religion; it's my personal American flag and Constitution. It makes petty societal obstacles crumble and I want every person in the world to feel it."

Or, as she proudly proclaims on the single, "Man": "I'm a man's man, I've always been. But make no mistake what I've invested in. A woman's heart is the watermark by which I measure everything."

"Is a lioness not a lion?" she says rhetorically, when asked to decode the lyrics. "We are all 'men' – 'man' or 'woman' doesn't cut it for me unless I'm at the gynecologist."

Case's rich, associative lyrics can at times be so elliptical as to be misunderstood by casual listeners. Not so with the a cappella "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu," which marks the tonal shift of the album at midpoint with chilling clarity.

Spare and direct, the lyrics repeat verbatim the words of a mother's verbal attack on her daughter, which Case overheard one night in, yes, Honolulu. "Get the fuck away from me," she sings in affectless, bell-like tones. "Why don't you ever shut up?"

"I died inside for that kid," says Case-who framed the rest of the song as a message to the child to stay strong and to honor the truth of her experience. "But she just kept singing her own little song. She was my hero."

The direct address of "Honolulu" is mirrored three tracks later with Case's take on the Nico song, "Afraid," the sole cover on the 12-song album.

That song's incantatory quality carries the album through to the otherworldly "Where Did I Leave That Fire?" Underscored by the haunting pings of submarine sonar, what starts as a dreamscape of loss — "I wanted so badly not to be me," sings Case – concludes on a note of wry humor. "I do believe we have your fire lady. You can pick it up if you come down with ID."

But for all the pain and confusion that winds through the album, The Worse Things Get... ends on an unequivocal note of hope and power. At her darkest moments over the last few years, Case says, "I was uneasy and distractible. I couldn't listen to music except ragtime. It was so hopeful and busy, like something working like a little factory to fix me." Thus, "Ragtime," the album's final song.

"I'll reveal myself when I'm ready. I'll reveal myself invincible soon," sings Case, as she builds to its ecstatic conclusion, the richly layered chorus of vocals and horns climbing and climbing into one glorious shout from the mountaintop.

"I am one and the same, I am useful and strange," she soars, before closing with a line cribbed from Moby Dick, which she read for the first time while working on the album, and which proved a valuable yardstick: "There's a wisdom that's woe, and a woe that is madness."

It's Neko Case in a nut — and could well give listeners goosebumps.

"In many ways this is my first album," Brett Dennen says of his fourth record, Loverboy, out April 12th,
2011. "On my previous albums I said what I needed to say. I evoked every different mood and sentiment
and emotion. Now I don't really have anything to prove. I've been the new kid on the block and now that
phase is over. I get to start all over again, relax, and refocus." He pauses and flashes a laidback grin. "And
what I'm focused on is having fun."

Dennen's wunderkind rise has been impressive. In 2004 Dennen released his self-titled debut, followed
quickly by his sophomore LP So Much More (2006,) which spent months on the Billboard Heatseeker
chart. The release drew the attention of John Mayer, for whom Dennen opened in 2006 and 2007. In 2008
the artist released his follow-up, Hope for the Hopeless, which debuted at #41 on the Billboard Top 200
and firmly established Dennen as a definitive new voice in modern songwriting. He's worked with Femi
Kuti, Natalie Merchant, and Jason Mraz; he's toured with Dave Matthews, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and The
John Butler Trio; and he's played Bonarroo, Austin City Limits, Coachella, Outside Lands, and Newport
Folk Festival. He's also become the go-to guy for some of the best and most artfully soundtracked
contemporary TV shows. His songs have appeared on Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, Parenthood, Brothers &
Sisters, and House among others.

Considering his bold-name collaborators, association with hot TV shows, and impressive early chart and
radio success, Brett Dennen could be living in the Hollywood hills, gallivanting around with starlets and
hanging out in hotel bars. Nope. The bohemian artist, whose major in college was Community Studies
for Social Change, lives with a roommate in Santa Monica and rides his bike to the grocery store. Dennen
has never been into the ephemeral thrills of the rock star life, he's after something else: a real career,
and with the release of Loverboy, he's ready to ascend to his rightful place as one his generation's most
inspired, authentic, artists. "Neil Young, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, they're artists, you know? True
artists," he explains. "And even when they have ups and downs, which is inevitable over a long career,
they're still playing with passion. They're still chasing greatness. They've let their craft change over time.
Let it evolve. That's what I want to do."

Dennen first started playing guitar and mandolin to amuse the kids while working as a camp counselor.
Once Dennen got the feel for writing his own material, he couldn't stop. "It was suddenly like, I kind of
need to do this," he remembers.

Dennen spent the next few years touring, and it wasn't until December of 2009 that he had a chance to
think about a fourth record. "I had two weeks off from the road, my housemate and I built a studio in our
living room and we made demo versions of a bunch of songs," he remembers. "The plan was to crank this
album out in early 2010.

Turns out we didn't end up recording until July of that year." Dennen was frustrated. He likes to keep
things moving. But the break turned out to be the best thing possible for the record. "Sometimes when
you're put against a wall you do your best work," he muses. "While we were waiting to figure out what
we were doing with this album I kept writing new songs. One of them was "Sydney (I'll Come Running,)"
one of them was "Comeback Kid" and one of them was "Only Rain." And those are the tracks that will
really pull people in."

He's right. Several of the songs Dennen wrote last are the first ones you really hear on Loverboy. "Sydney
(I'll Come Running)" is a defiant testimony to the endurance of deep love, set to intricate but forceful
guitar and mandolin arrangements and accented by choral call-and-response. "Only Rain" is a delicate,
moody meditation, the sonic equivalent of a pensive rainy day at the beach. And songs like opening
track "Surprise, Surprise" swing with an impressive, easy confidence. That self-assurance comes in part
from Dennen's half-decade of experience and part from the fact that he's finally solidified a relationship
with the right musicians. "If you want to have a forty-year career you'd better surround yourself with
people who will take a bullet for you and for whom you'd do the same," Dennen says. "If you choke you
want to look around and see guys that you trust. You want guys you can fail with. And at the same time,
if you do something triumphant, you want to be able to look around and see people you really want to
share that with too."

The extra time Dennen took making Loverboy also had another unforeseen benefit; instead of touring
around the world, Dennen was, for the first time in a while, really home in Los Angeles. With no bus to
climb on first thing in the morning, no soundcheck to worry about, he started reconnecting with his most
basic (and precious) feeling about music: joy. "People get this amazing opportunity to play music but after
a while they figure out their routine and they stop going out to see music live, they stop listening to the
radio, they stop exploring music," he muses. "I go out and I see live music and I love it and I try to jam
with people or just get out and play in a bar somewhere, just to be out and be involved and be a part of
something."

The chance to retrench and be a part of a local scene inspired Dennen's overall vision of Loverboy as
one of those classic albums that becomes the soundtrack for our lives. "I want people to feel instantly
attached to a feeling or memory from the music," he explains. "And ten years from now, they'll put on
Loverboy and feel like, aww it reminds me of my childhood or of this person in my life."

Brett Dennen has the right guys backing him up, the right vision for his future in mind, and the right
album to get him where he wants to go. "In college I took this one course in mountaineering," he
remembers. "And the professor would always say you can't start counting how many peaks you've
bagged until you've bagged ten peaks. At the time I was like 'what the fuck is he talking about!?' But now
I get it. I used to feel like I had to put everything into every album. Like it was a race. But now I realize
that's not the point. In these last two years I've really been thinking, if this is what I want to do then I
have to do it in a way that keeps me healthy and happy. I need to take care of my body with nutrition and
exercise. I need to take time off, even if I don't want to, and actually appreciate and enjoy it. And I want
to bring all of that balance to my fans. That's what this record is really about. I want people to put on
Loverboy and feel good. I want to make people dance!"

Bittersweet is the word the Söderberg sisters prefer. “We like bittersweet songs, songs that affect you differently depending on how you interpret them,” says Klara, the younger of the Swedish siblings that make up First Aid Kit. “Making the melodies and lyrics head in different directions is very deliberate,” adds big sister Johanna. “A song like ‘Emmylou’ sounds cheerful, but the lyrics are the saddest thing you ever heard.”

First Aid Kit’s first US-recorded album, The Lion’s Roar, juxtaposes sadness and beauty in the best traditions of folk and country music. They even cite the Louvin Brothers’ cheerfully brutal version of the old murder ballad “Knoxville Girl” as the perfect example of the sweet and sour they adore. And this new carefully constructed collection deftly succeeds in setting references to their hometown of Stockholm and long, dark Scandinavian winters against a backdrop of country-rock swing.

Initially signed in 2008 by The Knife-owned label Rabid Records (they are now signed to Wichita), First Aid Kit have gone from faraway teenage fans covering Fleet Foxes for fun to recording a Blue Series 7-Inch single of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier” with Jack White at his request in his Nashville, TN Third Man Studios. “I think of it now as like a dream, too good to be true,” says Johanna of the session, happily and hurriedly squeezed into last autumn’s tour schedule.

Where 2010’s debut The Big Black and the Blue was starkly intimate, The Lion’s Roar, recorded in Omaha by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, millions more), is a full band record. The girls’ father Benkt takes the bass, Mattias Bergqvist drums, while Mogis and Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes, and a cast of Omaha-based musicians round out the sound. From the dynamic title track onwards, the album is a rich and stirring affair that expands upon the keen and sophisticated country-tinged pop of their debut.

“Emmylou” name-checks such greats as Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, June Carter, and of course Ms. Harris, yet for all its upbeat appeal, it recognizes the sadness in the lives and art of these heroes. “We’ve listened to those people for a very long time. We hadn’t even toured America when we started writing that song,” confesses Johanna. “We actually finished it in Australia,” adds Klara. The gorgeous, timeless “In The Hearts Of Men” adds mellotron alongside more expected textures.

“My duality awakes,” sings Klara in the lush, knowing “I Found a Way”. The exquisite “Dance to Another Tune” perfectly conjures a haunting sense of unease, while the lovely, steady cadence of “This Old Routine” tells a plaintive, yet redemptive, tale of loves lost and re-found. “To A Poet” opens side two, so to speak, and its elegant coda, featuring a string quartet arranged by Walcott, particularly impressed the Söderbergs. “We recorded our last record at home. We couldn’t even have fit them all in,” says Klara.

Despite its lonesome sound, “New Year’s Eve” – all distant reverb and atmospherics – is “actually very hopeful”. Finally the exuberant hoedown of ‘King of the World’ features The Felice Brothers, just passing through town during the session, and local hero Conor Oberst, who sings the last verse.

“We’d never worked with a producer before,” says Johanna. “Yet we never disagreed with Mike about anything.” The resulting record is serious fun, yet First Aid Kit are only starting. “We want to work in music forever. Our voices and songs could work in many genres,” says Johanna, “We don’t know how we’ll sound in ten years time.” But which do they prefer singing, sad or happy songs? They roar with laughter. “We only sing sad songs.” There will never be a shortage of those, and in First Aid Kit’s hands, they will always sound nothing short of glorious.

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.

The Felice Brothers

God Bless You, Amigo is a collection of home recordings made in the spring of 2012. Due to a cloud of misfortune resembling in part the curse of Rocky Colavito, our home was nearly destroyed by a freak hurricane; our prized and seemingly immutable Winnebago was driven to the ground and mercy shot somewhere in Vermont (long may she stalk the golden highways of heaven); our singer and lead guitarist, Wall Street Panic Snopes, was hospitalized for an acute skin disorder in a foreign hospital; and then in what seemed a perfect finale, all of our amps
sizzled out and died during rehearsal upon his return.

This made us go insane with laughter and play our favorite song, “Gulf Of Mexico” – which is also a known aid in exorcism – for what seemed like hours. The old fiddle tune had a strange power over the band, but our management convinced us that releasing a four-hour instrumental was a little too reckless, even for us. After much deliberation we all agreed that we should play more songs along with “Gulf of Mexico.” We all spit in our hands and shook on it. This material consists of eight traditional folk songs and 12 original songs that we’ve always liked, but never had a chance to put on records.

The proceeds from God Bless You, Amigo will go towards a new tour vehicle so that we can come and play your town, or enable us to go into a studio and record a new album (as we have a lot of new material), or to fix our amps. It’s only a $5 download, but you can give more if you are feeling philanthropic.

God bless you, Amigos – The Felice Brothers

They call New Orleans a melting pot. When one thinks about it like that, it's hardly surprising that this is where CALEXICO reconvened to record their seventh full-length album, ALGIERS. Joey Burns and John Convertino have long called upon an extended range of musical influences, blending them together so distinctly that the results have almost become a genre of their own. Nonetheless, the choice of New Orleans may still come as a surprise to many. CALEXICO are, after all, associated with a style that their name - borrowed from a small town of less than 40,000 inhabitants on the border between the US and Mexico - has always defined with an unusual precision. Their work has spoken of dusty deserts and the loners that inhabit them, mixing America's country music heritage with that of a Latin persuasion. In other words, it isn't obviously affiliated with the sounds that have made New Orleans one of the premiere tourist destinations in the US. What's emerged as a result of this decision, however, is arguably the most exciting and accessible record CALEXICO have made. It's a fact emphasised by the band's decision to name the album in tribute to the neighbourhood where they worked: Algiers.

"When I say New Orleans, you think.... 'what?'" Burns elaborates. "Preservation Hall Band, Wynton Marsalis, Treme, Satchmo, Dr John, The Funky Butt, The Meters, Fats Domino, Boswell Sisters, Quintron, Trombone Shorty, Galactic, Harry Connick Jr, Brad Pitt, Daniel Lanois. And so do I. But when you are there, on Algiers Point or on the river or standing outside the chain link fence at Congo Square, you go back across the water to Haiti, Cuba, Africa. Some strange circles down there resurface."

The feel of ALGIERS is recognisably classic CALEXICO, but their style been revitalised and reborn by the experience of recording in the city. Its influence isn't necessarily sonically evident, but there's a strange, powerful connection to the sounds that have always coloured their own, influences Burns has previously identified as including "Portugese fado, 50's jazz, gypsy or romani music and its offshoots, 60's surf and twang from Link Wray to country's Duane Eddy, the spaghetti western epics of Ennio Morricone and dark indie rock singer songwriters."

You can hear ample proof of this in the dozen songs that make up ALGIERS. 'Epic', the magical opening track, swoons with an unexpected, easy-going romance and boasts a strangely calming, emotive chorus, and 'Para' - which Burns admits nearly didn't make the record as "it felt too confessional" - is dark and brooding. 'Hush', featuring Paul Niehaus on both his trademark pedal steel and Moog synth, meanwhile finds Burns at his most sensitive, echoes in his delivery of Bruce Springsteen at his most melancholic, a comparison one might also draw, for other reasons, when confronted by 'Splitter''s uplifting rumble. Then there's 'No Te Vayas', a collaboration between long-term CALEXICO member Jacob Valenzuela and Jairo Zavala of Depedro, and the trumpet-embellished drama of 'Sinner In The Sea', which reflects Burns' desire "to map out a song that embraced our west coast roots to our experience working in Havana with Amparo Sanchez a few years ago" and which he flippantly describes as, "LA Woman heads to the Florida Keys and drives across the water to Cuba". One can't ignore the majestic closer, 'The Vanishing Mind', either, arguably as powerful as anything they've ever written. New Orleans, it seems, agrees witb CALEXICO.

"I've always loved New Orleans," confirms John Convertino, who first met Joey Burns in 1990 when they began playing together in Giant Sand with Howe Gelb. "I knew that just by being in that place, with all that history that is so rooted in music, things would be different. You can't help but pick up the vibe. The air itself moves you in a way that is very different from anywhere else."

Of course, it's not the first time CALEXICO have worked away from their hometown base of Tucson, Arizona (and the city's Wavelab Studios) since they first started recording under the name in 1996. Garden Ruin was recorded in Bisbee and mixed in Brooklyn, for instance, and their cover of Love's 'Alone Again Or' was laid down in Nashville. But, after their initial attempts to start work on the new record proved troubling, Burns and Convertino were on the hunt for fresh perspectives: "I remember the first day Joey and I got together in our little studio to start," Convertino recalls. "It was a cold, cold morning in Tucson, and we both played about two notes each and got the hell out of there."

"I was looking for a renewal of energy and to wake up in a different environment," Burns adds. "I didn't have too many expectations, but was hoping we could tap into a creative vibe and find that balance of our striving for newness and remaining true to our aesthetics. Working out of town not only opens up the musical palate, but gives you a perspective of the emotional landscape back home."

The choice of New Orleans was largely down to long time collaborator, producer Craig Schumacher. "We were talking about wanting to go to Europe and record," Burns says, "but we never get our shit together in time to make plans that far in advance. So where do you go that is nearby and has a European feel? New Orleans. The place is strong and bold, soulful to the core, but surrounded by a sea of darkness. There is a heaviness there that I like, and in some way Tucson shares a similar vibe. There's something creepy and old on the edge of town and written throughout the town's histories. Those kinds of aesthetics help with the writing and chipping away at the abstract shapes and colours."

Conscious of the clichés that can sometimes afflict acts working in a city with such a strong identity, Burns, Convertino and Schumacher chose to avoid the bigger, better known studios in favour of a smaller, more intimate setting. The Living Room Studio in Algiers, owned by Chris George and Daniel Majorie and situated across the Mississippi River from the main city, was perfect for their needs.

"There's always vinyl playing either on an old jukebox in the garage or on the turntable near the kitchen," Burns fondly recalls. "Their roommate, Kevin Barrios, cooked lunch and dinner everyday, so come noontime you couldn't help but be drawn into the kitchen to see what he had going on. It always smelled and tasted good. Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya, Fried Frog Legs, Root Beer BBQ Pork Chops, Red Beans and Rice. Our senses were awakened."

Their musical diet was equally wild and eclectic, ranging from The Boswell Sisters - "creepy shit!" Burns laughs - to Jackie Mittoo, from Duke Ellington to The Band. Their working methods, however, changed, with Burns putting aside his nylon string guitar when he was writing in favour of either an electric guitar or even the piano, and Convertino in turn inspired to play with sticks more than his trademark brushes. And, because they were resident in the studio, they collaborated more closely than for some considerable time, with Convertino adding lyrics and playing a greater role in the song's arrangements.

"The Living Room studio wound up being the perfect place to set up camp," Burns concludes. "Not only is the design and restoration of the old church structure done tastefully, but the feel of the place, with its high ceilings, helped make John's vintage Ludwig and Gretsch drums sound massive, very different to Tucson, which has concrete floors. I don't why, but the fact that we were in this old wooden chamber of a church really worked well with our acoustic instruments. The fact that we were surrounded by water, the Mississippi River, also gave us some new light and depth."

So, some 22 years since they first met, Joey Burns and John Convertino - joined as ever by a cast of musicians from across the globe - add yet another successful musical adventure to their list. You might think that, after six studio albums and a suitcase of tour CDs, collaborations with the likes of Victoria Williams, Iron & Wine, Willie Nelson, Roger McGuinn and Nancy Sinatra, and soundtrack work to boot, there wasn't much more they could achieve. But you'd be wrong. New Orleans clearly inspired them to make an album that sees them stretch out more effortlessly than ever but, while you can take the men out of CALEXICO, but you can't take CALEXICO out of the men...

Jonathan Wilson

Downtown Records is set to release Jonathan Wilson’s Fanfare on October 15. In anticipation of the release, Paste is premiering the album track “Love to Love” at http://bit.ly/1dqkF6Z. Fanfare features vocal and instrumental contributions from Graham Nash, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Josh Tillman (aka Father John Misty), Wilco’s Patrick Sansone, and Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, as well as Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Fanfare follows the success of Jonathan Wilson’s critically acclaimed 2011 debut Gentle Spirit, which was hailed by SPIN as “intricately produced and gently epic” and praised by Rolling Stone for its “gorgeously detailed folk-rock ambles.” The Fanfare track “Dear Friend” is also available to be streamed and shared on Soundcloud at http://bit.ly/1ckvXcA.

Jonathan Wilson recorded Fanfare with engineer Bryce Gonzales over a nine-month period at Wilson’s Fivestar Studios in Echo Park. British folk legend Roy Harper co-wrote several of the songs on the album, which also features Wilson’s regular band members, Richard Gowen (drums), Dan Horne (bass), Omar Velasco (guitar) and Jason Borger (piano/organ). “There is a high degree of musical prowess and pedigree here. Cross-generational musical sharing and passing down traditions is very important to me and something that must continue,” Wilson says. “This is the way you keep the fanfares blowing. This is how you keep the energies interacting.” The band is set to perform at Newport Presents Way Over Yonder in Santa Monica on October 6, The Chapel in San Francisco on November 1.

Born and raised in North Carolina and now based in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Jonathan Wilson arrived in Laurel Canyon in 2005 and is credited with helping to revive the neighborhood’s once-legendary music scene. As a sought-after producer, Wilson’s recent work includes albums by Father John Misty and Dawes.

Shovels & Rope is a Charleston, South Carolina-based duo consisting of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. They perform as an energetic two-piece band, stirring up a righteous racket with two old guitars, a handful of harmonicas, the occasional keyboard, and a junkyard drum kit harvested from an actual garbage heap and adorned with tambourines, flowers and kitchen rags.

The songs are the deadliest arrows in this bands quiver. Raw and imagined, effortless and insightful, the pair’s panoramic songwriting and raucous performances drive Shovels & Rope’s newest release O’ Be Joyful. Recorded in the twosome’s house, backyard and van, as well as various motel rooms across America, the 11-song set offers a compelling encapsulation of Hearst and Trent’s unique approach, channeling their creative chemistry.

Since 2010, Shovels & Rope has been traveling the highways and back roads of North America, logging hundreds of shows and performing for crowds large and small. On stage, Hearst and Trent trade vocals and switch instruments in an instinctive, organic manner that’s simultaneously loose and tight, driving their compositions home with a resonant mix of pensive introspection and celebratory passion. In 2011 alone, they were invited to tour with a wide array of acts including Justin Townes Earle, Jason Isbell, the Felice Brothers, Hayes Carll and Butch Walker, and have accumulated a fiercely loyal fan base along the way, building an audience the old-fashioned way.

Mississippi-born, Nashville-bred Cary Ann Hearst and Coloradan by way of Texas Michael Trent had each accumulated a good deal of musical experience prior to their current partnership. By 2005, they were both residing in the unsung musical mecca of Charleston, SC, and began informally making music together. “I would show up at CA’s house with a twelve pack and we’d make recordings of Ramones songs.” Michael says. “The next day we’d check it out and say ‘hey!.. not bad.” In 2008, the pair teamed up to record an embryonic album under their individual names. They titled that project Shovels & Rope, in acknowledgement of its high concentration of murder ballads in which many of the characters ended up burying their secrets with shovels or hanging from ropes.

Subsequently, Hearst and Trent – who had both released solo albums and were also in other bands at the time – began performing low-key local gigs as a duo. That impromptu collaboration soon proved to be as efficient as it was inspired. They decided to take their act on the road.

“The whole thing was an accident,” Michael admits. “We never meant to become a band; we were just playing in bars to make some money. It just sort of evolved out of necessity, and out of the tools we had lying around at the time. We used to put a mic on the floor for foot stomping and both play guitar, or one of us would play a tambourine or harmonica or both. One day our friend Jack gave us a kick drum he found in a garbage heap outside of his apartment. Neither of us knew how to play the drums (still don’t) but we tried it in the show anyway and it started to become a part of the band. After we felt like we were getting the hang of it, we borrowed a snare from another friend which we have yet to return (sorry Jamie). The way we perform live has always been somewhat of an experiment, teetering on the edge of complete disaster. It keeps us on our toes and keeps the show fresh for both us and the audience.”

“We adopted the concept of Creatio Ex Nihilo, which is the idea of creating something out of nothing,” Cary Ann adds. “That kind of became our mantra.”

Hearst and Trent recorded much of O’ Be Joyful at home in 2011 during the rare downtime between touring jaunts. Additional tracking took place during their travels. The synthetic bass on the record’s opening track “Birmingham” was recorded next to the sink at a Red Roof Inn near New Haven, CT. The organ solo on “Shank Hill St. was tracked in the van at approximately 70 mph somewhere on I-10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. And while sharing a bill in Louisville, KY, the electric Amanda Shires was wrangled into the duo’s van to add fiddle parts to “Keeper” and “This Means War” in between soundcheck and showtime.

While Hearst and Trent are both songwriters individually, O’ Be Joyful finds them still discovering new strengths as a collaborative unit. “The songs on this album,” Michael points out, “are the most we’ve ever written together. Many of them were birthed on the road. One of us would come up with a verse and say, ‘I’m gonna drive for awhile, why don’t you try to put a chorus on this?’ And then we’d switch… kind of like our shows.”

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

On February 5, Ribbon Music is set to release We the Common, the third full-length album from critically acclaimed artist Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. The album cut "Holy Roller" is streaming now at www.thaoandthegetdownstaydown.com. Frontwoman Thao Nguyen notes that the track "was the first song I wrote for this new record...it marked a shift in how I operate. I was steadily, in an overdue way, becoming grateful for everything and everyone I had. I tried to capture a sense of revival and a determination to be better."

Recorded at San Francisco's Tiny Telephone Studios and Dallas' Elmwood Studio, We the Common was produced by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Bill Callahan, the Walkmen, Explosions in the Sky) and features a duet with Joanna Newsom on the track "Kindness Be Conceived." Thao observes, "We the Common is an album about wanting to be a human who tries and is grateful for the opportunity. It is about wanting to be better and closer to people. I have had over a year respite from touring and recording-in this year I started really trying to be a part of the community I live in and the family I was born into." The album is the follow-up to Thao's 2009 release Know Better Learn Faster, which Pitchfork praised for its "warm exuberance that keeps the music spry" while SPIN noted that Thao's "lazily smoky voice has its bitterly harsh moments, but her coolly analytical self-awareness stings the most."

Based in San Francisco after growing up in Falls Church, VA, Thao Nguyen first picked up a guitar at age 12. She has worked with a long list of acclaimed artists including Andrew Bird, Mirah, Laura Veirs and producer Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens) and has recorded a pair of critically acclaimed records for Kill Rock Stars, 2008's We Brave Bee Stings and All and the aforementioned 2009 release Know Better Learn Faster with her backing band the Get Down Stay Down. Since her last album Thao has worked with the artist advocacy non-profit Air Traffic Control (http://atctower.net/) and has volunteered extensively with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. This year, in addition to recording her forthcoming album, Thao has toured the US with the nationally syndicated NPR program "Radiolab."

"Ms. Nguyen's voice, wobbly and rich, is engaging, and her gently confessional lyrics...are equally beguiling."-The New York Times

Hurray For The Riff Raff

Hurray for the Riff Raff is Alynda lee Segarra, a 25 year old Puerto Rican from the Bronx. After leaving home at an early age to travel the country, she eventually settled in New Orleans where she began to perform and record with a revolving cast of musicians. She released two records (2008’s It Don’t Mean I Don’t Love You and 2010’s Young Blood Blues) mostly consisting of delicate folk and country songs. In 2011, the UK record label Loose Music (Felice Brothers, Dawes, Deer Tick), released Hurray for the Riff Raff, an album that collected the best songs from those records. The Times of London named Hurray for the Riff Raff one of the Top Ten Albums of 2011. Phil Alexander, the Editor-in-Chief of Mojo Magazine, raved that they “have immense potential and seductive power” and named them second best band at SXSW 2011.

Back in the States, Alynda and her longtime gunslinger on fiddle, Yosi Perlstein, met up with a young honky-tonk band called the Tumbleweeds, just as Alynda began to expand her musical palette to include rock n roll, pop, and soul. In the tradition of Bob Dylan with Band and Neil Young with Crazy Horse, Alynda and Yosi recruited the Tumbleweeds to be their touring band, drastically altering the sound of Hurray for the Riff Raff.

Look Out Mama is the result of almost two years of Alynda and the Tumbleweeds criss-crossing the USA, playing over 100 shows in small bars and clubs. Recorded in Nashville by producer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes), Look Out Mama is an exploration of classic American music as interpreted by Alynda lee Segarra. From the Swamp Pop of “Little Black Star” to the Classic Country of “Look Out Mama”, to the Psychedelia of “Ode to John and Yoko” and even the Surf-Rock of “Lake of Fire”, Look Out Mama covers a wide array of musical ground, with every song unified by Alynda’s soulful vocals and expert songwriting.

The Eagle Rock Gospel Singers

The Eagle Rock Gospel Singers began as a collective of friends getting together to sing sacred songs of worship from the early 20th century in the summer of 2010. A choir of up to 13 revived the spirit of those believers who came before them with songs like "I Shall Not Be Moved", "12 Gates", and "In My Time of Dying". The group eventually evolved into a band of 8 musicians, committed to keeping the spirit of gospel music alive first through covers and currently with original songs in the mix. ERGS can currently be seen playing at a number of local Los Angeles venues such as The Satellite, The Bootleg and The Echo.

Influenced by both past gospel musicians such as The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Pilgrim Travelers, Washington Phillips and Sister Rosetta Tharpe as well as current bands like The Black Keys, Wilco, and Calexico, the Eagle Rock Gospel Singers are creating a unique blend of blues, indie rock, folk, and bluegrass in their songs. Some of the band's favorite things include banjos, kickdrums, hand clappin', foot stompin', and sing-alongs.

Jessica Pratt

“To say that Jessica Pratt is an old soul would be a vast understatement,” says Jenn Pelly of Pitchfork. “The young San Francisco singer/songwriter’s deeply intimate folk sounds so sincerely cast in from the 1960s that it’s hard to believe she didn’t release a proper LP during that period of time.” Pratt’s spooky and seductive self-titled debut is the inaugural release on Tim (White Fence) Presley’s new imprint, Birth Records. “I never wanted to start a label,” Presley says, “but there issomething about her voice I couldn’t let go of.”

Pratt’s debut release includes recordings from over the last five years, and steady advances in sophistication of recording and melody are evident throughout. To the artist, the record is a time-lapse document of discovery, both musical and personal. But in strangers’ hands, Pratt’s debut is another kind of discovery altogether. A fully-formed emerald artifact dug up cobwebby and cold but no less green for its time spent buried. Sun-bleached and sounding a thousand years old, Pratt’s debut is arrestingly brand dazzling new, and watch how the lights in your living room go soft and yellow when you put it on.”

Aaron Embry

At the tail end of his three-year stint as the piano player for the Los Angeles ensemble Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Aaron Embry finally found the voice for which he'd been searching. He discovered this voice captive in an arch top tenor guitar, a harmonica, and a small stack of moleskin notebooks. Travel-ready and now equipped with his new discoveries, Embry found a current and the songs came up like a flood.

He wrote at a prolific rate while on tour throughout the late spring and fall of last year, a body of songs born among communal, creative atmospheres of life on the road with Sharpe and of time on the rails with the numerous musicians of 2011's Railroad Revival Tour. As a songwriter, Embry cut his teeth by recording and touring with greats such as Elliott Smith, Willie Nelson, and Daniel Lanois, among plenty of others.

In April 2012 he began recording, and the outcome is Tiny Prayers: a 10-track collection that explores a wide range of emotions while anchored in the cardinal folk tradition of simplicity. Elemental s ong structures and spartan acoustic arrangements bring Embry up close and in focus as a songwriter, singer, and musician. Lyrics such as "Is my happiness dependent on its own design? Am I only waking up to leave my dreams behind?" are evidence of his love for emotional complexity, while his voice and bare instrumentation carve melodies that are built like something low to the ground yet wide as the sky.

Tiny Prayers was recorded at the Embry's family home in Ojai, CA. It is set for release in Fall 2012.

Neal Casal's debut record, Fade Away Diamond Time, was released in 1995 to much critical acclaim. Produced by Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash) in a sprawling mansion in the hills of Santa Ynez, California, the album introduced the intimate songwriting and lyrical guitar work that would become the foundation of his career. In between recording and touring with other artists such as Beachwood Sparks, Vetiver, Fruit Bats, Lucinda Williams, The Jayhawks, Gin Wigmore and Rufus Wainwright, Casal managed to record multiple solo releases, including 1996's Rain, Wind, and Speed and 1998's Basement Dreams, both of which have recently been reissued with discs of bonus material by Fargo Records. MOJO recently wrote, "What made [Basement Dreams] so compelling was the tone, the simplicity and economy with which Casal approached each song and the naturalness with which he inhabits them... pieces of singer-songwriter perfection.

Neal Casal's 10th solo record, Sweeten the Distance, was recorded with noted producer Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver, Pernice Brothers, Lavender Diamond). While listeners will recognize Casal's strong yet understated vocals, his acoustic-driven melodies have been amplified by complex sonic layers, resulting in a new, expansive sound that is the culmination of this prolific songwriter's multifaceted catalog.

Casal is also known as the lead guitarist of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, with whom he recorded four albums: Easy Tiger (which reached #7 on the Billboard chart), Follow the Lights, Cardinology and III/IV. His time in the band led to working with such luminaries as Willie Nelson and Phil Lesh and allowed another talent to be revealed when he released his first photography collection, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals: A View of Other Windows. In this lavishly produced volume, Casal captured not only the exhilaration of the stage and studio but also the harsh realities of life on the road and the creative process. Internationally lauded for his thoughtful and evocative photography both of the Cardinals and of more personal subjects, Casal described the process of creating his photographs as "the songs I cannot write; the music I hear in my head, but can't yet play." His photos were the subject of a solo exhibition at the Bauhaus Gallery in Tokyo in 2008 and have appeared in many magazines, such as MOJO, Harp, Rolling Stone, and Spin.

After the Cardinals went on hiatus in 2009, Casal moved his home base from New York to Southern California, where he has worked on a variety of projects. He released the self-produced solo effort Roots & Wings, Connections–the third album by his rock-and-roll band Hazy Malaze – and played guitar on Ryan Adams' newest release, Ashes And Fire.

In early 2011, Neal joined forces with Black Crowes' frontman Chris Robinson's new band, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, as lead guitarist. The band has been touring throughout 2011 and are now making plans to record their debut album.

Automechanic is the appropriately titled debut full-length by Los Angeles artist Jenny O. A great distance from her Long Island, New York beginnings on the now critically praised EP "Home," Jenny O. has refined her songwriting to a well-oiled machine. With touches of noteworthy Los Angeles mile-markers like Harry Nilsson, Ricky Lee Jones, Randy Newman, and Carol King, her playful attitude towards life shines here in sweepingly poignant songwriting and lyrical delivery. Honest diatribes and insightful glances of life, love and the adventure of Los Angeles radiate in her songs. Automechanic is metaphor for taking the wheel, self sufficiency and the courage of artistic honesty.

Jenny O. weaves through spirited guitar jams a la Neil Young like the album's title track "Automechanic" or the kindred J.J. Cale-styled number "Good Love." She delivers songs like "Sun Moon and Stars" with bravura and clarity; "And when I get to crying instead… over something you said…I'll stand by the blues… I'm gonna use em… I'll make a note not to abuse em."

Jenny O. taps fearlessly into a bevy of styles here. The 70's R&B-inspired "Lazy Jane" is a tale of relationship dissolution leaving one immobile with heartbreak and regret. "Get Lost" rolls with a modern folk and country throwback: arpeggiated chords under a slow-burned melody that offers the safety in letting go. "Come Get Me" may be Jenny O.'s most adventurous tune of all, delving into far-out guitar tones, unabashed drum fills, and joyous background harmonies.

Produced by Jonathan Wilson (Father John Misty, Dawes, Will Oldham), and recorded to 2" analog tape, Automechanic hosts a cast of musicians aside from Jenny O.'s brilliant guitar and piano duties. The album features Jonathan Wilson, James Gadson (Bill Withers), Jake Blanton (The Killers) and Benji Lysaght (Father John Misty). This eclectic mixture of musicians brings a well-honed yet rag-tag ramble feel to her masterful and charged assembly of songs.

Jenny O.'s wistful spirit has kept her constantly writing, recording and touring, and with the release of Automechanic on Holy Trinity / Thirty Tigers on February 5, 2013 there are no plans to slow down, only speed up.

Spirit Family Reunion

Spirit Family Reunion play homegrown American music to stomp, clap, shake and holler with. Ever since they started singing together on the street corners, farmer's markets and subway stations of New York City, their songs have rung-out in a pure and timeless way. When Spirit Family Reunion gather to sing, there is communion. Strangers and neighbors come to rejoice in the sound, and there is no divide between performer and spectator.

In a strange barroom or a grand music hall, at a barn dance or on the sunny street corner, Spirit Family Reunion keep the book open, and that old familiar feeling that was almost lost is again new.

"Dusty acoustic guitars, wailing fiddles and weeping accordions, with a woozy-yet-skintight rhythm section-- and topped off with burr-edged vocals that sound like they've been soaked in a Mason jar for generations -- it's the type of music that blurs the line between past and present so thoroughly, and so deftly, that time feels irrelevant." - Paste Magazine "Best of What's Next"

Frank Fairfield

Frank Fairfield is a young man and old time folk musician who plays fiddle, guitar and banjo while singing and hollering. An unbelievable word of mouth sensation who channels the spirit of another era in his spellbinding live shows.
From California, USA, Frank sings tunes he has worked hard to collect from around the world as well as his own well-dusted ditties. His eclectic sets feature soaring hillbilly ballads, arcane rambling songs and murder ballads delivered in a reedy tenor with that irresistible American Primitive quality. Still in his twenties but steeped in the pre-War Americana of Mississippi John Hurt and Dock Boggs, he cut his teeth as a street performer in LA and has the raw intensity and quick-fingered technique to make your hairs stand on end. Alternating between banjo, fiddle and guitar, he performs a different set of traditional songs and originals each night, drawing on his encyclopaedic knowledge of the American folk canon.

Farmer Dave Scher

Farmer Dave Scher is an artist from Southern California who specializes in the music / sound design / DJ / visual arts mediums.

In addition to his involvement with Beachwood Sparks, All Night Radio, West Coast Dream Sequence, and his self-titled work, Scher has worked as a producer and touring / session musician with Animal Collective, Elvis Costello, Interpol, Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice, Will Oldham, Vetiver, and many others.

A multi-instrumentalist, Scher is known for his textural steel guitar playing and creative use of waveform editing, deriving themes and inspiration from forms and patterns existing in Nature. He has a particular love for the ocean and its creatures, and often emulates the sound and feel of the Sea with his music.

In 2010, Scher launched his multipurpose sound design and composing enterprise, Scher Sound, which offers a wide variety of audio-related creative services.

Scher is also the man behind Farmer Dave’s Hot Nuts, a habanero-roasted almond snack based on a family recipe.

Mr. Scher lives and works in Venice, CA. He enjoys beach living, surfing and riding his bicycle whenever possible.

Joel Rafael

Over four decades Rafael has chronicled his life and the world around him with songwriting rooted in folk tradition; and no influence is more obvious in his work than that of Woody Guthrie. Joel composed music for five sets of Guthrie lyrics given to him by Woody's daughter Nora, and two of his co-writes with Guthrie appear in Every 100 Years - The Woody Guthrie song book (2012). "Dance Around My Atom Fire" (Guthrie/Rafael), the opening track of his recent release, America Come Home (July 2012), took top honors as the 9th Annual International Acoustic Music Association's Best Folk Song of 2012. David Crosby and Graham Nash contribute harmonies to the title track, "America Come Home."

Joel Rafael first began performing in showcases and small clubs around Los Angeles, San Diego and the Inland Empire in California. He formed a duo with San Diego-based Rosie Flores in 1978, enjoying standing-room-only crowds during their nine-month collaboration, and local promoters sought him as an opener for national touring acts from Rick Danko to Emmy Lou Harris, including John Lee Hooker, John Stewart, Laura Nyro, and Taj Majal. In 1981, Rafael toured the southwest with Jesse Colin Young, and released a debut album, Dharma Bums.

The emergence of the seminal Joel Rafael Band in 1994, coinciding with a period of FM radio programming freedom, resulted in national airplay, a tour with Joan Baez, and regular co-bookings with John Trudell. Rafael won Kerrville Folk Festival's "New Folk Songwriter Award" in 1995 and he has been a featured performer at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival every year since its inception in 1998.

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Newport Folk Presents WAY OVER YONDER - Two Day Pass

Saturday, October 5 · Doors 1:00 PM / Show 2:00 PM at Santa Monica Pier