Cassino, The Blind Woods, Xenia Dunford


In April 2005, Cassino was birthed from the remnants of the two principle songwriters of the Alabama rock group Northstar…an inevitably organic genesis that came to light through a creative bond that existed for numerous years between childhood friends Nick Torres and Tyler Odom.

They began recording their first album in 2006 with Nashville-based producer/drummer Craig Krampf, known for his work with artists including Dolly Parton, Alabama, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Perry and Melissa Etheridge. While the record doesn't have a specifically Nashville sound, the city did become prevalent in the making of their debut record "Sounds of Salvation," both as a new environment to inspire songwriting, and in the cast of characters brought in by Krampf. "Salvation" was soon blessed by the contributions of E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent and legendary saxophonist Jim Horn. Released independently on March 29, 2007, "Sounds of Salvation" is the fruit of this blending of various states and sounds.

After touring the U.S. in support of the album, Cassino settled down and started working on another full length record in the beginning of 2008. Odom exited the process (he now plays with the group Destry), and Torres teamed up to write primarily with Alabama native and long time friend Edward Puckett. Puckett filled in on bass for the earlier Cassino tours, and through constant exposure, they found that their similar tastes and different styles complimented each other well. They set up shop in a small apartment, and wrote and recorded for most of 2008. The city of Nashville this time found it's way into the recording process through the contributions of friends and session/touring musicians Kevin Arrowsmith (fiddle, banjo, mandolin) Tripper Ryder (bass) and Craig Krampf (Drums,percussion). This newest endeavor became "Kingprince". It was released in December of 2009. An E.P. of unreleased versions of songs from the Kingprince sessions is due out at the beginning of 2011.

Xenia Dunford

Singer-songwriter Xenia Dunford has been evolving as a musician over the course of the past few years. Her 2011 self-titled EP featured heavy amounts of jazz, piano ballads and piano pop, while her second release, 2012's Lonely Streets EP, saw her mixing those same elements with more rock and acoustic sensibilities. With the release of her first full-length album, His & Hers, Dunford's evolution continues as she adds even more musical variety to her repertoire with hints of folk rock, country and Americana appearing throughout this album. All of this is a far cry from where she started.

"With that first EP, what drove me to play the piano in general was that I was a singer with no means of expression," Dunford says. "It was just an experiment. I was just a girl playing a piano because that was the one sensory thing that I had. I didn't really look at the bigger picture of what my songs could be."

Fast forward a few years and listeners—and Dunford herself—now have a much clearer idea of what her songs can be. While in a number of ways His & Hers remains similar to her first two releases—all three incorporate jazzy elements, healthy doses of piano, Dunford's honey-sweet smoky vocals and insightful lyrics—the album also stands out as the most cohesive piece of work she has created. Produced by Charlton Pettus, the twelve songs on the record—which features nine new tracks and three from the Lonely Streets EP—navigate through the ups and downs of life and encourages the listener to blaze their own trail. This is fitting considering Dunford's desire to do her own thing, musically.

"I taught myself how to play piano, but I haven't been classically trained or anything," Dunford says with a laugh. "Anytime I play piano people say my hands are pretty much backwards and I play weird, but I love that I've developed my own style!"

Whether singing about how difficult it is to leave all you know behind on the piano ballad "Home Waits For Me," crooning about a handsome stranger she can't get out of her mind in the bluesy piano rock number "A Way About You," or extolling the virtues of being yourself and accepting others for who they are in the soulful Americana rock number "Rhyme and Reason," Dunford gives impassioned performances throughout on His & Hers. Musically, "1963" stands as the best example of how His & Hers creates a bridge to Dunford's musical past and future while immersing itself squarely in the present. The song's upbeat pop-meets-folk-meets-Dixieland-jazz sound, combined with guest vocals by Parker Richey, showcase many of the familiar and new dynamics that are to be found on this record.

"The album title goes back to the fact that my guitarist and songwriting partner, Scotty Mlodzinski, and I pretty much did everything fifty-fifty here," she says. "I love folk, country and Americana music, but at the same time I bring elements of jazz and some soulful pop as well. Scotty played in blues and rock 'n roll bands and he brings that rootsy blues vibe to the table. So we have this melting pot of genres that makes the record sound like it has a lot of music from the past on it, but it also has a modern, unique sound to it at the same time. We meticulously crafted these songs and spent a lot of time working and arranging every little detail."

This attention to detail paved the way for Dunford, Mlodzinski and bassist Forrest Pettengill to create an album that is full of diverse sounds, emotions and experiences that will resonate with many listeners. Fans on both the East and West Coast have been listening over the past year as the band has played in noteworthy venues and festivals. They have performed at the Cape May Singer Songwriter Festival in New Jersey and Conserv Fest off the coast of Rhode Island, and they have performed at a number of venues on The Sunset Strip, including The Viper Room, House of Blues, The Hotel Café and Key Club. Between this support and having "Killing Kind of Love" from her debut EP being used in ads for ABC's Revenge in 2012, the buzz is starting to grow for Dunford. And with an appearance at the Canadian Music Festival in Toronto in March among her touring plans, the excitement will only increase in 2013 once people hear His & Hers.

$10 ADV, $12 DOOR


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