The Dustbowl Revival

The Dustbowl Revival

Bluegrass. Swing. Hot jazz. Pre-war blues. Southern soul. New Orleans funk. The Dustbowl Revival is what you could call an American roots orchestra with eight full-time members — and they play it all, mashing the sounds of traditional American music into a genre-hopping, time-bending dance party that coaxes new fire out of familiar coal. This isn’t a throwback band. It’s a celebration of the sounds that have kept America moving for more than a century, performed with all the flair of a medicine show and rooted in the sweat and swagger of a juke joint song swap.

With A Lampshade On, the Dustbowl Revival’s fourth album, finally shines a light on the band’s strength as a live act. They formed in L.A.’s bohemian enclave of Venice Beach in late 2007, the result of a hopeful Craigslist ad posted by bandleader Zach Lupetin, a Midwestern transplant who hoped to join together players in the string band and brass band traditions. Since then, one thing has become clear as the group grows more confident in their abilities: Dustbowl does its best work onstage. They’ve played dive bars, saloons and theaters, front porches and festivals. To watch them onstage is to take part in an evolving conversation between an orchestra and audience. The horns blast, the fiddle and mandolin swoon, and the howling vocals — which Lupetin shares with Liz Beebe — rattle off stories about preachers, drinkers, lovers, and holy rollers. The crowd is encouraged to participate, of course…and the crowd often does during With A Lampshade On, whether it’s singing along during the call-and-response verses of 1930s drinking song “Whiskey in the Well” or shouting their approval during Beebe’s bawdy, ballsy original “Doubling Down on You.”

A good chunk of this album was indeed recorded live, with many songs taken from a pair of electric concerts at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco and the Troubadour in Los Angeles. The point wasn’t to release a live album, though. It was to capture a group of road warriors in their element, playing not to an audience, but with an audience. Noted L.A. live sound expert Alex Chaloff rigged up to twenty microphones to capture the group from every angle, and the sound is remarkably clean and warm. The album tracks that weren’t curated from those two shows were recorded during live studio sessions in New York, with everyone in the band playing at once. It’s raw, close and sweaty, and you can hear every breath.

“It’s just us in a room, stripped down to the essentials and rocking out,” says Lupetin. “We wanted to make an album that unleashed that original joy of American roots music, which is a uniquely high-energy, joyful thing that jazz and folk music have both created.”

With A Lampshade On makes itself at home right at the crossroads of American jazz and folk traditions. Over the last few years, the band has steadily gained recognition while playing festivals and venues across North America and Europe, notably with Lake Street Dive, Trombone Shorty, Rebirth Brass Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Their video for their new single, “Never Had To Go,” was was shot with a new friend of the band: the legendary actor Dick Van Dyke. While their previous studio albums had more of an old-time feel, this new album has a more funky, soulful, let-loose flavor.

Years ago, the Dustbowl Revival witnessed the Preservation Hall Jazz Band merging with Del McCoury’s seasoned bluegrass troupe from Nashville in a series of concerts. It was like a flashbulb going off. That’s the secret ingredient in the Dustbowl Revival’s sound: the bridge connecting two American genres that grew out of places more similar and entwined than people realize, but have grown apart during the century or so since they first became popular. Preservation Hall and the Grand Ole Opry rarely get mentioned in the same sentence.With A Lampshade On reunites these estranged folk traditions with songs that rely as heavily on bluegrass trombone breaks and jazz mandolin runs as funk fiddle solos and gospel sing-alongs.

That unique middle ground — the place where jazz, folk, gospel and blues all intersect — is where With A Lampshade On shines brightest. With this album, the Dustbowl Revival isn’t just paying tribute to the sounds of decades long sine past. Rather, the band is participating in the evolution of American roots music, tipping a hat to what’s come before while looking ahead to what’s on the horizon.

The Defibulators

Described alternately as "Hee-Haw on mescaline" and "CBGB-meets-Grand Ole Opry," The Defibulators are first-and-foremost a live band, and their boundless energy and infectious sense of joy onstage have quickly earned them a devoted following in a city not known for its love of country music. Through four years of relentless touring since the release of their "Carter Family-meets-Ramones" (AMG) debut, 'Corn Money,' the band's sound has evolved and their songwriting matured, but it still took a supreme effort to walk away from the stage. "We get carried away with playing live and we want to just keep going," says singer Erin Bru. "We really had to force ourselves to stop and record."

The wait was well worth it. Recorded in Woodstock, NY, at The Isokon with D. James Goodwin and Eli Walker, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, at Motherbrain with co-producer Brian Bender (Langhorne Slim, Jose James), 'Debt'll Get'em' is a 10-track, au courant, urban take on classic country. The record channels the frenetic energy of their legendary live shows into tight, punchy hooks and foot-stomping sing-alongs. From "Pay For That Money," a pedal steel and fiddle lament about debt, to "Ponytail Run," a dreamy ode to beauty just out of reach, the album is full of gorgeous harmonies and razor-sharp wit. "Everybody's Got a Banjo" is a biting, 70's swamp funk-inspired nod to the instrument's recent ubiquity ("If you don't know how to play it, well it still looks cool"), and "Cackalacky" is the tongue-in-cheek story of an Appalachian musician who moves to New York City to make it big in roots music. Strange as that idea might sound, it's not too far from the truth for The Defibulators.

The Wild Reeds

The Wild Reeds can be defined by one word: Harmony. However, the music is nearly indefinable. The sound from this LA based band fronted by Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe and Sharon Silva dips in and out of multiple genres - some ethereal folk, a hint of country twang and some rock and roll rhythm (from Nick Jones and Nick Phakpiseth), but it all comes back to the root of this band's power: harmonies that create an instrument in and of itself.

In the past year, the Los Angeles based band supported such acts as Noah Gundersen, Langhorne Slim, Della Mae, Run River North, Nathaniel Rateliff, Spirit Family Reunion and Israel Nash and they've made appearances at Way Over Yonder Festival, The Bluegrass Situation Festival at the Greek in LA, Outside Lands, Echo Park Rising, Claremont Folk Festival, and Lightning in a Bottle.

The Wild Reeds released their formal debut album "Blind and Brave," in August 2014 at The Troubadour in West Hollywood. The album, produced by Raymond Richards at Red Rockets Glare Studios (Local Natives, Parson Redheads, Honey Honey, Dustbowl Revival), expounds on loss, love, growing up, and the experience of artists and workers alike pursuing their dreams.

The Wild Reeds are spending most of 2016 on the road with stops at SXSW, Nelsonville Music Festival, Pickathon, Summerfest, Winnipeg Folk Festival and support and headline tours throughout the USA and Canada. In May, the band will be releasing a 3 song EP called 'Best Wishes' that continues to display the growing and maturing artistry from the 3 unique songwriters. The EP was recorded by the band at NRG Studios in Los Angeles and was mixed by Doug Boehm (Girls, Dr Dog, Twin Peaks)


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