BOB DYLAN AND HIS BAND
Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Ryan Bingham
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD, 21044
This event is all ages
BOB DYLAN AND HIS BAND
Bob Dylan’s career has lasted the better part of fifty years now. That’s pretty remarkable. What is more impressive is that Dylan has remained not only active for almost all of that period, but controversial. He has never gotten by on sentimentality or nostalgia. He has never repeated his successes. For better or for worse, Dylan has always pushed his work ahead.
Bob Dylan is as great a songwriter – ah, let’s not beat around the bush – as great an artist as America has produced. But he’d be the first to tell you that he is part of a long line, one link in an endless chain. You can follow his influence backward or forward according to your own inclination. Or you can spend a long time just listening to Dylan’s five decades of contributions. Wherever you go into it, and whatever you get out of it, your time will be well spent - Bill Flanagan - New York, 2007
After seven studio albums, various collaborations and countless days on the road over the past 15 years, Wilco tried something new before starting work on its eighth record, The Whole Love, due Sept. 27 on dBpm Records: The Chicago band took a vacation. Staying off stage for most of the latter half of 2010 was the longest break from touring that bandleader Jeff Tweedy has had in a career stretching back more than 20 years.
“It was a real breath of fresh air,” says Tweedy, the singer, songwriter and guitarist who founded the group in the mid-’90s. “Wilco has pretty much been recording in between scheduled tours for 15 years or more, so it was really great to have a chance to recharge and forget how to play all the old songs.”
Or, more specifically, to put the old songs out of mind long enough to write some new ones. Although he wasn’t out on the road much, Tweedy was working, writing so many songs that the musicians initially thought they had enough material for two new records when Wilco reconvened last fall in the Loft, the group’s Chicago recording studio.
“We entertained the idea of finishing both of those records independently of each other, and then at some point, the lines started getting blurrier and blurrier and they kind of grew together,” Tweedy says.
The result is 12 stunning songs that showcase Wilco in a new light, on bold rockers, somber acoustic ballads and punchy pop songs, bookended by the propulsive 7-minute opener “Art of Almost,” and a meditative 12-minute closing track, “One Sunday Morning (song for Jane Smiley’s boyfriend).”
The Whole Love is the third album by Wilco’s present lineup, which solidified in 2004 when avant-garde guitarist Nels Cline and guitarist/keyboardist Patrick Sansone joined Tweedy, founding bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glenn Kotche and keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen. Together, they released the acclaimed Sky Blue Sky in 2007 and the Grammy-nominated Wilco (The Album) in 2009. The Whole Love, though, captures the vibrant energy the band brings to its live performances.
“This record happened because we’ve been together longer,” Tweedy says. “Because we’ve played more shows together, because we have a lot more faith and trust in each other, and it sounds more natural than the last two. You just can’t fake that, you can’t make that happen, it’s experience.”
Experience also pushed Tweedy further as a lyricist, something he credits to letting his mind wander away from the band’s extensive back catalog while writing new songs.
“I feel really good about the way the songs have all come together, and the lyrics especially,” he says. “I don’t feel like I’m repeating myself, which is the best I think you can hope for after writing, I don’t know, a couple thousand songs.”
Tweedy produced The Whole Love with Sansone and Tom Schick (Rufus Wainwright, Norah Jones, Ryan Adams). The singer describes a deeply collaborative process as the musicians worked together to shape Tweedy’s songs into reflections of their considerable talents.
“There’s just a lot of patience involved in how we’re able to work together as a band of guys who have been in bands for a long time and have made a lot of records,” Tweedy says. “I think we’re very fortunate to be relatively mature as a rock band in our ability to be patient with each other and with the songs themselves.”
Patient, but not too patient.
“The environment of the band is as much conducive to people feeling invested and having their ideas entertained as you can have in a band without just spending the rest of your life micromanaging every little decision by committee,”
Tweedy says. “We’d still be working on A.M. if that was the way it worked. We’re talking about a fucking three-chord pop song: Just finish it, you asshole. Christ.”
The Whole Love is the first album Wilco is releasing on its own dBpm Records, which the band founded earlier this year with headquarters in Easthampton, MA. Anti- distributes dBpm, which debuted the first single from the album, “I Might,” b/w a droll cover of Nick Lowe’s “I Love My Label,” in June at the second-annual Wilco-curated Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in western Massachusetts.
The new album is the latest step in the ongoing evolution of Wilco, which Tweedy founded in 1994 after the dissolution of his previous group, alt-country standard-bearers Uncle Tupelo. From its raucous roots-rock origins, Wilco over the years has expanded its sound to encompass classic pop and genre-spanning experimentalism. Wilco also teamed with English singer Billy Bragg in the late ’90s at the invitation of Woody Guthrie’s daughter, who invited them to collaborate on setting to music some of the folk icon’s previously unrecorded lyrics, resulting in a pair of highly regarded Mermaid Avenue albums.
Although Wilco has accrued critical acclaim from the start, the band in the ’90s increasingly found itself at odds with its record company, Reprise. Wilco proved willing to compromise on 1999’s Summerteeth, but the relationship fell apart in 2001, when the label declined to release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and dropped the band. Nonesuch stepped in to release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the following year, and the album has since become Wilco’s top-selling effort so far. (The making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the subject of Sam Jones’ 2002 film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.) Wilco recorded three subsequent albums for Nonesuch, including 2005’s Grammy-winning A Ghost is Born, before the band decided to start its own record company.
Though dBpm (which stands for “decibels per minute”) has changed the business end of the band’s operation, the creative end remains largely untouched.
Since Summerteeth, “We’ve gone back and gone about things almost exactly the same way every time, and that is, at the end of the day, we want a record we’re really proud to put on our shelves and know that we did the best that we could do,” Tweedy says. He laughs and adds, “And fuck ’em. Now it’s the same thing, except there’s really no one to say ‘fuck ’em’ to. Just ourselves.”
In addition to launching Solid Sound and dBpm with Wilco, Tweedy also produced Mavis Staples’ Grammy-winning 2010 album You Are Not Alone. Outside Wilco, Stirratt and Sansone lead folk-pop group The Autumn Defense, Cline fronts the free-jazz instrumental group The Nels Cline Singers, Jorgensen helms pop-rock band Pronto and Kotche performs solo, in the duo On Fillmore, and has collaborated with Tweedy in Loose Fur.
Wilco will spend most of the autumn on tour, and audiences will get to fall in love with songs from The Whole Love starting Sept. 13 in Indianapolis and continuing with a European jaunt that begins Oct. 24 in Glasgow.
“We’re all really excited and really proud of it and really happy with the way it came together,” Tweedy says. “I think everybody in the band feels like they were given more free rein to do what they want to do. I think everybody enjoyed the process of making this record.”
Wilco are: Jeff Tweedy – guitars, vocals; John Stirratt – bass, vocals; Glenn Kotche –drums, percussion; Nels Cline – guitars; Patrick Sansone – guitars, keyboards, vocals; Mikael Jorgensen – keyboards, vocals
Being There (1996)
Mermaid Avenue (1998)
Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (2000)
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
A Ghost Is Born (2004)
Kicking Television: Live in Chicago (2005)
Sky Blue Sky (2007)
Wilco (The Album) (2009)
The Whole Love (2011)
My Morning Jacket
“The new record, Circuital, is named after the title song,” explains Jim James, of My Morning Jacket’s sixth studio album. “On that song I sing about ending up in the same place where you started out. And that makes a lot of sense for this album… I hate the phrase ‘going back to our roots’, but for this record we came home and made it in Kentucky. And it just felt a lot like it did when we were fi...rst starting out...”
My Morning Jacket formed at the tail-end of the 1990s, when Jim James’ group Month Of Sundays folded, and he began recording new songs with ex-members of local rockers Winter Death Club. At Above The Cadillac Studios – in reality, a shed on the grounds of guitarist Johnny Quaid’s grandparents’ farm – the group took shape, drawing upon their rich knowledge of classic rock, country, soul and psychedelia, and spinning these influences into fresh, life-affirming rock’n’roll and aching, haunting balladry. My Morning Jacket made their early reputation off the three sublime albums they recorded at Above The Cadillac – 1999’s The Tennessee Fire, 2001’s At Dawn and 2003’s It Still Moves – and legendary live shows that proved here was a truly magical group for the ages. It Still Moves marked a move to the major labels for the group, while its heavy touring cycle prompted the amicable exit of Quaid and keyboardist Danny Cash from the ranks.
Album number four, 2004’s Z, was a brave step outside of the group’s comfort zone, recorded in New York’s Catskill Mountains with the aid of respected producer John Leckie (Stone Roses, Spiritualized), and with new members guitarist Carl Broemel and keyboard player Bo Koster making their debut appearances on tape, their skilful performances swiftly proving themselves cut from the same cloth as their bandmates. The album also saw James stretch his song-writing chops beyond the familiar reference points of My Morning Jacket’s earlier work, an impulse he furthered with 2008’s Evil Urges, which scattered the group’s ragged rockers and tender, keening ballads with subtly sensual grooves and tracks that sounded like heavy metal laced with psychedelic soul and feral funk. Both albums helped grow ever-swelling following, a grass-roots movement that’s spread like wildfire in the wake of their many long and glorious tours, and already-legendary shows like their 4-hour 2008 Bonnaroo head-lining performance, which captured one of the world’s greatest rock’n’roll groups at their most masterful and alive.
Circuital is the first album the group have made in Kentucky since It Still Moves, recording it in the gymnasium of a Louisville church under the aegis of producer Tucker Martine. Jim bonded with Martine while recording backing vocals for Laura Veirs’ 2010 album July Flame, which Martine, Veirs’ husband, also produced. “We hit it off right away,” says Martine, who later helped set up a home studio in James’ Louisville home, where he’s working on a future solo album. “As a group, we’ve always been hoping to find ‘our guy’,” says James. “And we’ve worked with some great people, but we’d wanted to find someone who was, like, ‘one of us’. And Tucker fit in perfectly, and he had a whole set of skills we didn’t possess. He’s real smart, and fun to be with.”
Converting the gymnasium into a recording studio wasn’t an easy task, says Martine, but the extra effort yielded unique results. “It’s a big project, to record in a space like that. It has so many limitations, compared to working in a modern studio, but they were limitations we were all drawn to. The focus became on communicating and interacting, and not on what modern trickery we could use later.” At the group’s insistence, the album was recorded live, with few overdubs;
James’ vocals were recorded at the same time as the band’s performances. “We were going for full takes; we wanted everybody running back to the control room afterwards, freaking out and wanting to listen back to the take,”remembers James. “We’re A Band, and so I want our records to be made that way, with us being A Band. Capturing performances, that intangible thing between us, some kind of soul. When friends have been through as much as we have together… It’s not something I could even describe. We wanted to capture the sound of us just playing, being in the same place and just feeding off each other.”
“This is truly a great band, and they play so well together, it would be wrong not to document that,” adds Martine. For James, the new album finds a sweet understanding between the questing creative impulses of Evil Urges and the more familiar feel of My Morning Jacket’s earlier work. “The album’s like a rolling, gentle soundwave,” he says, in comparison to Evil Urges’ jagged edges. “But I don’t feel Circuital sounds like our earlier recordings. We’re always trying to go in new directions.” His memories of the sessions for Circuital are only fond. “There was no AC, no-one had their laptops. We recorded everything on tape. It was like, we’re just who we are, with what we have with us at the moment, and that’s all we have. It was a beautiful thing, and it really cemented what we all mean to each other, as people and as a band. We’ve learned, slowly over the years, how to function more healthily, I guess, so we don’t all combust. Making this record, it felt like our friendship was only strengthened.”
Tomorrowland, the title of Ryan Bingham's new album, sounds futuristic, but the Oscarwinning singer/songwriter hints, "Maybe it's not so much about looking ahead as it is about leaving things behind."
"There are no more rules," he continues. Recording Tomorrowland for his own Axster Bingham Records felt "totally liberating," he says, and allowed him the freedom to "do whatever we want and not have someone else's agenda on it."
Tomorrowland contains plenty of the pliant acoustic guitar work that has marked Bingham's previous studio sets, but Tomorrowland expands his musical landscape exponentially: Guitars howl into keyboards and drums stomp against strings, all
bolstered by Bingham's jagged, weather-beaten vocals.
Despite his assertion that "I always try to be hopeful," Bingham's songs remain full of dark, often mysterious, places where light struggles to get in. On the bracing, haunting "No Help From God," he sings in a world-weary rasp, "Some say that angels are all
looking down/I only saw vultures circling around." Bingham recorded Tomorrowland at a makeshift studio in a friend's empty house in Malibu, Calif. that turned out to have an interesting heritage: it once belonged to Kris Kristofferson, one of his musical heroes. "I thought, who knows what you're going to find in these walls'," Bingham laughs.
Bingham and co-producer Justin Stanley (Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow) brought in a soundboard and microphones and set up the drums right in the middle of the highceiling room. They recruited in a small core of musicians to play on the album as needed.
"That's what was so nice about the record: we weren't on a time line or in crunch time," Bingham says. " I really tried to distance myself from any of that. I was like 'I'm in a house, I'm not spending a lot of money. I can take all the time I need and really get it
right.'" And Bingham is the first to admit that after the rush of the last few years, he needed to slow the pace.
The Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy wins for his song "The Weary Kind" from 2009's movie "Crazy Heart" caused a wonderful commotion that was at times humbling and overwhelming to Bingham, who was named the Americana Music Association's
2010 artist of the year.Without taking a breather, Bingham recorded 2010's critically acclaimed "Junky Star," and returned to the road, caught up in an endless swirl of touring. What the public didn't
see was a man thrown into a whirlwind, caught up in the chaos not only from the awards hoopla, but, much more cataclysmically, by his parents dying within a couple of years of each other. "It was too much, I felt like a zombie," he says.
Determined to keep his commitments, Bingham continued gigging, but when he came back to Los Angeles in 2011, he stopped moving for a bit, settled into his new life with his wife, and learned how to live in one spot. For the first time, Bingham had a true place to call his own. One of the many upsides was he got to explore the electric guitar.
"I was always staying with friends. I never had a space where I could set up an amp with pedals. It wasn't until the last couple of years where I got a house of my own and time off where I could set up and start playing Jimi Hendrix stuff and Jimmy Page," he
says. "Just rocking it. My inner 16-year old kid was coming out."
His inner teen makes itself loud and clear on much of the album—he plays all the guitars on the album and had his collection of more than 20 at the ready — but especially on the first single, "Heart Of Rhythm." The passionate rave-up, the first one
he wrote for the album, is all paint-peeling rock and roll from the perspective of a true believer.
"When I was writing it, I was thinking I'm going to write a whole punk rock album: The Clash, Iggy Pop, just getting it on," he says. Though Bingham broadened the album's landscape, many of punk's ideals: abandoning oneself to the music, defiance of
convention, and going full throttle remain intact throughout Tomorrowland's 13 tracks.
By turns deeply confessional ("Never Far Behind"), and by others unflinchingly observant about society's underbelly (the epic "Rising of the Ghetto"), Tomorrowland features Bingham's fearless honesty throughout. "It helps to say it and get it out that way," he says. "That's what writing songs has always been about for me, it's never been about anything else. That's always been my thing."
While crafting the tunes in the studio, Bingham considered how they would sound on the road, more so than on his previous releases. "Before I didn't have the perspective of what it was going to be like live. I'm going to be on the road the next two years playing
these songs every night and I want to have fun with them, so that was a focus."
Bingham's tour starts Sept. 25 in San Francisco. Bingham began writing songs when he was 17 to get away from his troubled Texan
home life. The escape transformed from emotional to literal as soon as he figured out a way to sustain himself. "I had gigs where I could make $50 a night. I could just get in the car and get away and I could support myself," he says. "I didn't have to work for
somebody. I could get all that shit off my chest through my songs. They were my therapy, my means of survival, my livelihood in every way." And now, with more experience and a mantel full of awards, the 31-year old Bingham finds himself, in many ways, back at the beginning. "Doing this label and the new music on our own had led me back to writing songs that sustain me. It's a whole new
adventure for me. Whatever that means."
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