Diane Birch, Crash, The David Mayfield Parade, Smoke Fairies, Keenan O'meara, Michael Daves, The Ludlow Thieves, Adam Rubenstein, Son Little, Sonya Kitchell, Isadora, Jay Stolar, Grace Weber, Amy Vachal
196 Allen St.
New York, NY, 10002
Doors 6:30 PM (event ends at 2:00 AM)
Communion is a monthly residency showcasing the best new music from local, national and international acts. Founded by Ben Lovett (Mumford and Sons), Kevin Jones (Bear’s Den) and producer Ian Grimble in 2006, Communion provided the first independent platform for the freshest artists in London to break out and is now fast becoming a musical launching pad for new talent in nine cities across the US. Communion encourages musical communities to grow and flourish between artists and their respective audiences and provides a platform for fans to music fans to discover new artists in a live environment. Past artists that have played Communion Club Nights include Ben Howard, James Bay, Sam Smith, Walk The Moon, Mumford And Sons, Hozier, Trampled By Turtles, Daughter, Chet Faker, Sarah Jarosz, Foxes, George Ezra, Bear's Den, Catfish And The Bottlemen, Gotye & Many More. For more information on Communion, visit www.communioinmusic.com
"I really love the kind of tracks you can cry to on the dance floor," says Diane Birch. "There's a rejoicing, a liberation, and a baring of your soul." That marriage of darkness and light, of pain and abandon lies at the core of 'Speak A Little Louder,' Birch's first new album in four years. It's a captivating and deeply moving record; a window into her complex and challenging journey into womanhood documented with intense emotional honesty, indelible melodies, and rousing hooks.
'Speak A Little Louder' follows the pianist/singer/songwriter's extraordinary 2009 debut, 'Bible Belt,' which opened in the Billboard Top 100 and prompted comparisons to Laura Nyro and Karen Carpenter along with glowing reviews from The New York Times, NPR, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and more. Birch, who had worked primarily as a songwriter prior to signing with S-Curve Records, honed her skills as a performer on the road supporting the album, sharing the stage with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Betty Wright and appearing on The Today Show, Letterman, Leno, Conan, Kimmel, and Ellen along the way.
Amidst the success, though, was devastating loss. At the close of the 'Bible Belt' project, Birch faced the end of a long-term relationship, recovering from the pain of heartbreak only to lose her father to cancer a short time later. "We were incredibly close and he was such a big influence on me musically," Birch says of her father, a preacher who brought her and her family around the world and served as a major source of inspiration on 'Bible Belt.' "I lost a huge force in my life."
In the wake of it all, the prospect of completing a new record felt like an impossible feat and left Birch questioning her future, both personally and artistically. "I think it's natural, that when you're trying to overcome these hurdles, you're going to have to deal with some really dark periods," she reflects, "and, if you're lucky, you come out of it learning something new about yourself. To stay strong, you have to surrender a bit to the breakdown and embrace the darker parts of your psyche and circumstances, come full circle and realize that there's beauty in even those really difficult and testing times. If you can learn to do that, you can manifest a lot of great things in your life."
Great things, indeed. 'Speak A Little Louder' opens with the stirring title track, a rousing note-to-self to soldier on through the darkness and doubt. The song also announces a striking evolution in Birch's sound, eschewing much of the stripped-back piano and Rhodes arrangements of her debut in favor of lush synthesizers and thundering drums.
"My favorite albums, the ones I love the most, are the ones where the craftsmanship and integrity of the songwriting is incomparable but you can still dance to them!" Birch says. That love informs 'Speak A Little Louder,' a mix of driving, danceable tracks and more somber, reflective ruminations on loss and strength. "I wanted to make a record that pulls from Fleetwood Mac to The Rolling Stones to Annie Lenox. I wanted to put it all together in a way that shed light on who I am as an artist; make something that really feels like my own."
It was Daptones drummer Homer Steinweiss who held the key to unlocking the sounds in Birch's head. In Steinweiss's Brooklyn studio, she spent countless hours experimenting and collaborating, getting lost in rhythms and melodies and harmonies and pushing her creative limits further than ever before. "He has this whole other side from the Sharon Jones stuff and was at a point in his career where he wanted to try new things," she says of Steinwess, who produced the record and co-wrote several tracks. "We were both looking for a creative outlet and to try something different, and we had this magical fusion of creative energy. The timing was perfect and it just worked."
From that point on, the songs tumbled out. "Tell Me Tomorrow" faces the breakup head-on with an exhilarating rush of defiance and regret, while "Diamonds in the Dust" embraces the peace that comes with accepting the flow of life. "Lighthouse" is an anthemic ode to inner-strength and resilience in the face of darkness, and "Pretty in Pain," a co-write with Betty Wright, channels the powerful female singers Birch had grown even more inspired by over the past four years, from Tina Turner and Donna Summer to Pat Benetar and Kate Bush. "It Plays On," the final track written for the record, pays tribute to her father and his enduring inspiration on her music.
While much of the record came together in that Brooklyn studio with Steinweiss at the helm, Birch also made trips to the UK—where she recorded "All The Love You Got" with Adele producer Eg White, Roots drummer Questlove (who co-produced the track along with Steve Greenberg), and Duran Duran bassist John Taylor—and Los Angeles, where she co-wrote and cut the decidedly radio-unfriendly "Unfkd" with Aqualung's Matt Hales (Lianne La Havas, Paloma Faith).
"I never really set out to work with a bunch of different people," explains Birch, "but I feel very fortunate about this shift in the plans. It worked out extremely well in the end. There are all these different facets that blend together, and my voice is the consistency and sensibility that connects all the songs. "
Ultimately, that soulful voice is the centerpiece on 'Speak A Little Louder,' from the belting roar of "Lighthouse" to the delicate finale of "It Plays On." It's the sound of a heart being put back together, of pain and doubt being cast from the soul, of acceptance and self-discovery. It's the sound of facing down the darkness, turning up the volume, and stepping onto the dance floor to let it all out.
crash's story unfolds with that particularly Southern swagger and wit, a tale of a Louisiana boy bred on Waffle House breakfasts and monster truck rallies, local rodeos and the flicker of family bonfires. As a youth he pulled slingshots and shot bb's at the Popcorn trees, swam, fished and stomped his feet to the tune of his own Pawpaw's country band.
As adolescence crept in, crash found he had an itch for singing, passing through the French Quarter to learn at the feet of the New Orleans' legendary street performers, a young man searching for inspiration among the sodden Voodoo alleys of America's most soulful city. Later, he would steal his Mom's car to play the open mic nights at The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, or to sneak into Nick's on Tulane, or shoot pool at Dixie Tavern. He started a folk act, a punk group and finally, just after high school, started singing on the regular and was appointed "Congregational Song Leader" in a Southern Louisiana Gospel Choir, which had him performing for hundreds at a time.
There was college for a hot minute, there was a move to the Irish Channel, there was the soaking in of all that is New Orleans, wet heat and Sazeracs, the wailing horns of jazz funerals, the teetering handmade floats of Mardi Gras, crawfish and etouffee and howling at the moon. There was work where he could get it, toiling as a PA on the studio sets, Hollywood coming south for the tax credits.
It was on these film productions where crash earned his nickname, something to do with a questionable work ethic and repetitive tardiness (he admits you'd have to ask one Ms. Rita Wilson for the real deal details). And yet despite his reputation (or perhaps because of it), he was anointed "assistant" to Johnny Knoxville during The Dukes of Hazzard's run. (One can only imagine…)
Then, the rains came, Katrina bearing down hard and fast and the New Orleans that he once knew vanishing forever under poisoned water. Lost, crash reached out to his pal Knoxville, who responded with an offer of help – a job, a place to lay his head– an invite to head west, to Cali. And so he packed his guitar and went, straight into the heart of Tinseltown, to the sweet promise of a Golden State.
crash brought his music with him, quickly joining the critically adored local act Deadly Syndrome as lead singer and frontman, bringing his gris gris into the beautiful belly of the L.A. beast. Since then, crash has been barreling ahead, recording prolifically with Deadly Syndrome, working with famed producer Daniel Lanios, composing a live stage score, acting in a few national commercials, and finally, after Deadly disbanded in 2013, heading out on the road with his pals, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, as percussionist and angelic vocal accompaniment.
And somewhere in that heady mix…in that combination of the rolling road, of California eucalyptus sway and dark NOLA mysteries, he discovered his true self– the wild-eyed, sly-tongued, strutting, winking and wonderful 'crash' of this here solo debut.
Produced and engineered by the multitalented Ed Sharpe lead guitarist, Mark Noseworthy, (and featuring friends from the Zeros, Dawes, The Mystic Valley Band and more…) Hardly Criminal is the culmination of all that is strange and sad, hilarious and harmonious, about crash's own true tale. It is story – moving, funny, weird, and stunningly beautiful.
You can hear the South, yes, Neville swing and Dr. John ju-ju, but you can also hear smooth soul, booty funk, and ragged folk, a mix of sounds taken from his past and pushed into the future, all accompanied by a deadpan storytelling prowess and a voice like a Cajun Prince (as in "The Artist Formerly Known As"). Hardly Criminal is the sum of crash's best parts – the sonic celebration of his story so far. So, set down a spell, cool yer bones, cher… and listen.
The David Mayfield Parade
If you've seen David Mayfield perform with The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Jessica Lea Mayfield, or at Bonnaroo, you've caught the charisma, the heart, and the comedy, and it's likely you'll come back for more. The David Mayfield Parade's April 1 release "Good Man Down" begs for that same repeated enjoyment.
With eclectic, cinematic songs that stir up images of the old West and urban cityscapes, the 12-track album feels like a game changer for a singer-songwriter, band leader, and Grammy nominated producer who stepped out of the sideman shadows with his 2011 solo debut "The Parade." He likens "Good Man Down" to "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Like "Raiders of the Lost Ark," his first album was lighthearted and fun with nods to the past. His second is darker, creepier, more bizarre and outrageous.
He made "The Parade" without knowing if anyone would hear it, but the stakes for a follow-up were raised when his Kickstarter campaign more than doubled his initial goal of $18,000.
With a successful crowd funding campaign raising expectations, Mayfield felt it was time to take chances musically and delve into more adventurous production while tapping into his bluegrass roots. While anchored in descriptive songwriting with beautiful instrumentation including strings and horns, "Good Man Down" throws its listeners numerous musical curveballs. As producer he didn't rein in his weirder musical tendencies. Just like his lively sometimes comical live shows, "Good Man Down" illustrates a lot of character without seeming contrived.
"Good Man Down" features notable guests Seth Avett, Mayfield's bluegrass hero Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and country star Dierks Bentley who duets with Mayfield on Marty Stuart's "Tempted." Bentley remembered Mayfield from seeing his family's bluegrass band play long before the former was a country star. That's the thing. Mayfield isn't easy to forget.
Smoke Fairies' outstanding new album, the eponymously titled Smoke Fairies, shows the band in top form, combining their classic approach whilst exploring new forms of musical expression – but it is an album that they nearly didn't make.
There was a moment after the release of Smoke Fairies' last album (Blood Speaks, 2012) when Jessica Davies turned to musical partner Katherine Blamire and told her she was no longer sure whether Smoke Fairies should continue.
For Smoke Fairies the suggestion of not playing music together would potentially impact more than just their band – theirs was a friendship forged by music, by a shared ambition that had carried them from their schooldays and on to songwriting and performing together.
"We started considering what would we do if we didn't do music," recalls Davies, "and it was just a massive void." Deciding that giving up on the band was "not an option," Davies wrote a musical apology to Blamire that would become the stunning opening track of their new eponymously titled album, Smoke Fairies. "I just wanted to say sorry to her – sorry I scared you like that."
In the six years since Smoke Fairies first entered a recording studio, they have made two critically acclaimed albums, supported on tours with Bryan Ferry, Richard Hawley and Laura Marling, and had a single released on Jack White's Third Man Records; but for all the perceived glamour of a musical career, they were still sharing a house in Peckham and waiting for something to happen while they worked temp jobs around London.
But with the question now raised, Smoke Fairies were able to really take stock and reassess what the band truly meant to them. "We realised that this is our life," says Davies. "And we just have to see it as this wonderful thing, every gig we get to play and every record we get to make – we're just incredibly grateful for that."
More than this, it allowed them to think about the type of album they wanted to make. They had earned a reputation for impressive live performances, for harmonies and intricate guitar playing, but what they now craved was something simpler and more direct. Blamire talks of secretly listening to pop music on the bus, trying to figure out "why it was popular, why it was good." Davies tells how her own personal yardstick had become "anything with a drumbeat that made me dance around the kitchen."
Smoke Fairies yearned for movement and forward momentum. They wanted to make an album that wasn't simply recorded live, but rather presented songs that were pored over, puzzled-out, polished and produced. "We wanted to feel that we had dissected everything back to its basic bones," avers Davies, "and then for every song to kind of shimmer."
In 2013 Blamire and Davies took themselves to a remote recording studio in Kent with producer Kristofer Harris. "It was on a very old industrial estate," says Davies. "It was a really eccentric area – it used to be a council office, now there's a bubble car garage, a tattoo parlour and a granite workshop. It just physically felt so distant from anything to do with the music industry."
It was there that they set about crafting their latest album, Smoke Fairies, calling on their bandmates and old touring friends such as drummer Andy Newmark (Sly and the Family Stone, Roxy Music, John Lennon) to help out. "It felt very warm," says Davies. "These people really came together to encourage us, as if we had retreated into a world of only ourselves and the people who mattered."
The distance and sense of introspection also allowed for a shift in their songwriting techniques. "We used to do a lot of harmonies," says Blamire. "But this album gave us the opportunity to actually be two voices, rather than two voices as one entity; two people talking to each other as distinct characters. They're the messages that we send to each other."
Their lyrical style, too, has changed: "We scrapped lyrics right from the start if they were too flowery," asserts Davies. "Unless the lyric really got to the point and said something, it got cut." Blamire agrees: "As songwriters, I feel we're really starting to sum things up properly, to nail them down. For me, it was a testament to how long we've been together that we could just say to each other 'that's shit.' There really was no ego on this record."
The result is a remarkable set of songs, notable not only for their strength and robustness, but also a sense of experimentation. The sheer liberation Blamire and Davies felt at using synths for the first time is evident in tracks such as the irresistible "Your Own Silent Movie" and the beautifully compelling "Drinks and Dancing". Davies and Blamire's sublime voices still stand to the fore, and tracks like "Want It Forever" are lined with a deliciously bluesy skuzzy-ness. This may not be the sort of album you ever expected Smoke Fairies to make, but it is an extraordinary record – bracing, sensual and defiant – and one that promises an exciting musical future.
Blamire and Davies see the track "Hope Is Religion" as the song that best sums up their experiences of the past few years and their continued devotion to making music. "It's one that we wrote together," affirms Davies. "It's about writing songs with someone, putting those ideas out into the open and sharing them with somebody; but it's also about how with music you're always hoping for more – that this will happen or that will happen. For us it felt as if music had become our religion, we believed in it without any evidence that we'd actually be able to make any money or be successful. I guess that sums up the situation we were in; but we realised we had no other option but to keep on believing."
Keenan O'Meara writes dynamic alternative folk music. When performing
with artists Marie Kim, Owen Ross, Bryan Percivall, Chris Holdridge,
and Megan Lui they perform as Keenan O'Meara and the Spindle Room
Michael was born in 1977 in the southern empire of Atlanta, Georgia. Soon after, he began to make loud noises, so his loving parents put music instruments in front of him. It was a good plan. He grew up in that grand tradition of staying up late & singing real loud. Although he's since moved north, the humid south remains in heart and sinus cavities.
The Ludlow Thieves
Danny Musengo left Iowa for New York City to dedicate himself to music after a terrible car accident left him the sole survivor. He’d grown up singing gospel songs in church and knew that music was where his heart was. Musengo met producer and guitarist Dan Teicher, and the two began crafting lush soundscapes that married Musengo's story with Teicher's songwriting . The Ludlow Thieves was born in 2012, now including Laura Martin, Isamu Mcgregor, Amando Lo and Bruno Esrubilsky. They make big music touching on roots, rock, classical, folk and gospel (or as they describe it, “the energy of roaring lions and lovemaking llamas channeled through a gospel singer from Iowa”). And despite the fact that they still remain unsigned, the Ludlow Thieves continue to rise, having headlined and sold out The BoweryBallroom this summer and scoring an Adidas World Cup commercial with Kanye West.
Nostalgia is a uniquely human feeling. We often get that urge to open old boxes or sift through photos from our past in search of some indefinable clarity or perspective. Adam
Rubenstein's newest offering, Excavator (due for release April 23, 2013), was born of a similar experience. A day spent exploring old hard drives, discs, notebooks and even cassettes left Rubenstein feeling both shocked and disappointed at how much material he had written, yet never properly recorded. It seemed like there was always an excuse or another musical project occupying his time. "I often equate being a songwriter to having some inoperable disease, where ideas just keep rapidly proliferating beyond your conscious control," says Rubenstein. "The volume of songs I'd written had become massive, and I knew they'd be forgotten if I didn't commit them to tape somehow." Fortunately, this realization got Rubenstein back in the studio to flesh out many of his unfinished ideas. While some of the songs on Excavator are new compositions, others stretch back as far as a decade ago, when Rubenstein was fully entrenched in his heralded on-and-off-again band, Chamberlain. The songs on Excavator offer a diverse, genre-jumping palette of ideas. Whereas the Beatles-esque "Playground" is a folksy ballad, there are also heartland rock'n'roll anthems like "I'll Retrieve" and hypnotic, psych-leaning oddities like "Sunday Season." Throughout, the musicianship retains the impeccable standards set by Rubenstein's past work with the influential Chamberlain, particularly his signature guitar work. Among the musical friends lending a hand on the album are members of Chamberlain, My Morning Jacket, Fiction Plane, and Angus & Julia Stone. "I'm fortunate to have had so many wonderful friends and musicians contribute to this record," says Rubenstein. "And I'm extremely lucky to still have a way to get this album pressed and heard after all these years of making music." Excavator is Rubenstein's second solo offering. His first, entitled "Aftershock" was released in 2002 under the moniker Adam Dove.
"Cross My Heart," the debut track from new ANTI- signing Son Little, is a box of bonbons filled with barbed wire. Over a deceptively slinky groove – shades of 70's Marvin Gaye, Leon Ware – the singer croons, phrases emerging from the swelter, "sex and candy," "gonna get me some:" a lover's plea. But the angular blues guitar lick over the top of the track is clue to a deeper, older invocation, as Son Little's lyrics bear witness to two departed friends, and, inspired by Trayvon Martin, offer a meditation on the ease with which black lives are erased – even now, decades beyond the years when that smoky guitar line was invented. Son Little's voice soars like a young Stevie Wonder's as he testifies to his loss, and the "cross my heart" tag line reveals itself not as a lover's plea, but a defiant prayer to remember the lost.
Sonya Kitchell is a sophisticated artist and songwriter with something meaningful to say about the human condition, dedicated to using her music to provoke thought, change & a deeper human experience. Her songs are often heartfelt stories, delivered with unwavering honesty & a questioning outlook. At 23 years of age, she has worked with numerous artists ranging from Herbie Hancock to Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, and Ben Harper; Touring the world in support of her music and in collaboration with those who have inspired her. With two internationally selling albums under her belt ("Words Came Back to Me," produced by Steve Addabbo (Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin) 2006, "This Storm" produced by Malcolm Burn (Daniel Lanois, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris) 2008) and a third EP of honest music with a string quartet, titled "Convict of Conviction," released in 2010, People magazine summed it up presciently: "Sonya Kitchell is destined for great things."
Isadora is a 5-piece band who came together in Brooklyn back in 2012. They create a groove and send it along winding melodies with songs about the modern day and coping with the internet, but it sounds like they're playing it in the early 90s. Their debut LP is set to come out this fall.
Like Daryl Hall, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Jack White rolled into one, Jay Stolar is a one-man tour de force, sliding effortlessly from one genre to the next. His craftsmanship is undeniable, and with his soulful debut More Than We Think, he's ready to take over.
Buzz has steadily built for months in anticipation of its release. Each of Stolar's videos in 2013, premiering on outlets like American Songwriter, Blurt, Buzznet, and Artist Direct, brought him an army of new fans. Those fans have fully bought into Jay's message of positivity through pop, and they helped him raise over $50,000 to self-release More Than We Think.
Now, after being featured on the CW's 90210, first single "Like You Do" has spent two weeks on the Billboard Top 40 Indicator watch list, positioned to crack the charts and make Jay Stolar a household name. Outside of the More Than We Think sessions, Stolar has otherwise proven his compositional mettle by co-writing and producing an album for The Voice contestant Caroline Pennell. His most recent single "Brooklyn Hustle" was also played for the Brooklyn Nets as an anthem during their 2014 playoff run.
Take a look at what Dusty Wright wrote about Jay for the Huffington Post:
This New Yorker and former lead singer in Julius C writes and records and plays just about everything on his brilliant, sophisticated, soulful, pop-rock debut. Can't deny the emotional depth of his music either.
Think Todd Rundgren's early R&B excursions. Hall & Oates circa "She's Gone" (off of Abandoned Luncheonette). More organic than Bruno Mars and Prince. No autotune or obnoxious wonky synth beds or big dumb beats, or sub-sonic bass. Just superb vocals, acoustic guitars, pianos; real instruments, real human voices. Just about perfect.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Grace is currently based in Brooklyn and is about to release her self-defining second album, The Refinery, produced by Malcolm Burn (Emmylou Harris, Neville Brothers) and Geoff Stanfield (Firehorse, Mieka Pauley). Often labeled an "old soul," Grace's music is grounded in powerful soul, roots and gospel sounds, with her voice and songwriting as the centerpiece.
Grace has toured internationally, including appearances on Oprah, Showtime at the Apollo, NPR's Mountain Stage, The Today Show, World Café Live, The Barns at Wolf Trap, the Kennedy Center, SXSW and at other venues across the U.S. and the UK. Grace has also opened for acts such as Ben Taylor, Marc Broussard, Colin Hay and Rick Springfield. Grace and her original song, Leave the Light On, were showcased on the 10th Anniversary Commemoration of 9.11 in Paris where she performed with a full orchestra.
Grace's 2011 debut album, Hope & Heart, with Producer Mike Mangini (Joss Stone/Diane Birch), was released in the Top Ten on iTunes' singer-songwriter charts. Songs from this album were featured in Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and U.S. Airways. Each of the album's songs went to the Top Ten on the Singer/Songwriter Charts in Japan.
$14.00 - $16.00
Attention: Your ticket guarantees you entry to the general event, but not a specific artist's set. Rooms are subject to individual capacity during each artist's performance. Free entry via Stage 3 for Communion Curated until 6:30PM.
Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2
Tue, March 31
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