Nuclear Honey

Prior to forming Nuclear Honey, Reaves Greer and Gray Henderson played in Raleigh, NC based bands. After each band came to an end, both artists decided to take a natural approach to music, where they would be managing the instruments in which their songwriting takes place. Having written a number of new songs from their previous bands, the two leisurely recorded four songs with longtime friend Dave Bartholomew in the front office of his family’s tombstone engraving business and were released in 2012 entitled appropriately as, “Tombstone Sessions.”

Toon & the Real Laww

Marine, Singer, Rapper, Song Writer and Producer, “The Real Laww was born to entertain…”. Winner of the 2012 Carolina Music Awards for Video of Year with “International Laww” and 2012 CMA nominee for Best Male Hip Hop Artist The Real Laww has been a force to be reckon with in the NC hip hop scene. He has graced the cover of Tribes Magazine, hosted benefit concerts for The Wounded Warriors Project and for the victims of domestic violence for The Durham Rescue mission. This was as of August 2011 after returning from another successful toward in Afghanistan as a US Marine. No matter the type of show and genre performed, The Real Laww manages to make a heavenly blend and transition, performing alongside punk rock bands, to jazz and spoken word artists. From opening to headlining, The Real Laww cannot be denied and the energy he gives to the fans is shown when everyone is drenched in sweat after one of his performances.

Durham rapper Toon combines intricate detail in lyricism with a sharp delivery. Playing shows anywhere from downtown city bars to Duke University theaters, he’s sidled up alongside several young hip-hop ascendants. In an area and a time where the pickings are slim for inventive new local rap, Toon has risen to the challenge to bring you what you need alongside Kooley High, King Mez, Lazarus and a promising new crop.

Originally born in Baltimore, Md., Toon had a rough start, was the witness to his mother’s abusive relationship and subsequent divorce. He soon moved to North Carolina with her, but the history he has accumulated seems to be the driving forces behind his relentless show schedule and forceful writing.

While attending the Durham School of the Arts, Toon met his current collaborator, The Real Laww. As with 2011’s The King’s Khrysis, which paired Raleigh rapper King Mez with producer Khrysis, the two have created a balance for one another, making them a duo worth beholding. On the single “Hulk Smash,” Toon picks out exactly what is wrong with the rap game today, spitting lines like, “Just because we can’t understand you doesn’t make you creative” and “There’s role models down the street but they’re scared to teach.” Galvanized by the past but driven toward the future, Toon unites a bold performance with a meaningful backstory. —James Hatfield

The Brand New Life

Since stepping onto the world beat music scene in 2009, The Brand New Life has been uplifting audiences with a sound that is as enlivening as the name implies. The eight-piece band has become recognized as one of the Southeast’s top Afrobeat groups, sharing the stage with world-renowned all-stars such as Nigerian Afrobeat royalty Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and American Afrobeat collective Antibalas. With an adventurous original repertoire, the band avoids being classified as purely Afrobeat by drawing on a number of musical influences including New Orleans jazz and indie rock. The result is a rousing, danceable melting pot of sound, powered by fierce polyrhythm and forceful horns that can be heard on their self-titled album (2010) and recently released single Gigs/$$$.

Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, the group tackles songwriting as a collective, with each band member pulling from widely diverse musical backgrounds. The rhythm section, including Evan Frierson (congas/percussion), Daniel Yount (drum set/percussion) and Scott Johnson (congas/percussion), blends drumming influences from West Africa, Uruguay, and Cuba. The influence of regular guest and Wolof griot Mamadou Mbengue (tama, aka talking drum) has led to explorations of Mbalax, the pop music of Mbengue’s native home, Senegal. TBNL’s horn section of Walter Fancourt (tenor sax/flute) and Sean Smith (trumpet) is equally noteworthy, having toured with rising indie bands Reptar and Rubblebucket in 2012 and 2013. Rounding out the rhythm section are Seth Barden (upright/electric bass) and Will Darity (electric guitar), prominent musicians on the North Carolina jazz scene. Members have also been involved in several side projects, including Mamadou’s Fantastic Band, playing traditional Senegalese music, and metal-infused jazz group Trioscapes, whose album Separate Realities cracked the Billboard charts in 2012.

The Brand New Life’s consistent drive to bring their world beat grooves to a broader audience has landed them on stages at established music festivals such as FloydFest, Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival, and Lake Eden Arts Festival. Notable venues where the band has performed include The Grey Eagle (Asheville, NC), Cat’s Cradle (Carrboro, NC), Variety Playhouse (Atlanta, GA), The Bitter End (New York City). As TBNL’s résumé continues to expand, so will their sound, filling a niche between Afrobeat, jazz, and rock that is as explosive as it is original.

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra

"Scales is to steel pans ….what Bela Fleck is to the banjo—an über innovator." (Driftwood Magazine)

Classically-trained composer turned steel pan maestro, Jonathan Scales brings a new, innovative twist to the traditional Caribbean instrument. With powerhouse drummer Phill Bronson and wildly-imaginative bassist Cody Wright, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra is an instrumental ride of twists and turns through modern rhythm, melody, and harmony. The group is said to have "a Thelonius Monk-like attitude with a Mozart creativity that works." (Pan on the Net).

"At the end of the day, Scales is going to be a major play in rewriting the books on steelpan music outside of the box." (When Steel Talks)

A blend of acoustic and electronic music for humans and post-humans.

"This fourteen track debut album is a self-produced gem out of Durham that combines aspects of folk, electronic, experimental, and world music. ... One could argue they're one of the most diverse acts in the region." -- The Bottom String

"…apparently a new band has sprung up out of nowhere and is very quickly gaining traction amongst music bloggers internationally. … Their sound is unique, decorated with electronic sounds mixed with acoustic-sounding guitars, all iced with beautiful layered vocals that feel like silk sheets on freshly made bed. It's beautiful and captivating all at the same time." -- Sunset in the Rearview

"... based out of Durham, North Carolina, [Baobab] just released their debut album, and it couldn't sound less like a debut. Complex, mature, and impeccably arranged, the album is nothing short of hypnotizing." -- Knox Road

"[Baobab's songs are] complex, hypnotizing, and pleasantly trippy. Layered vocals, looped electronic effects, a xylophone, and guitar, amongst many other layers, envelope my ears and uplift my soul." -- Indie Shuffle

"Baobab's self titled debut is like a friendly squareoff between a high-on-life acoustic guitarist and a slightly warped electronist. It's a complex pairing, and in the hands of a lesser artist would become musical-mash. But Baobab's Phil Torres skillfully balances the sound, resulting in a wonderfully ambidextrous take on folk." -- Transient Jukebox

Norwegian Arms

It all started with a Mandolin, a rubbermaid tub, and a batch of songs written while shuttered away during a year in a Siberia shared between two friends to birth what is now known as Norwegian Arms. With just these simple instruments, the group was able to give body and weight to their earnest, upbeat and thoughtful freak-folk. Things have changed since then, they've moved beyond the rubbermaid bin in favor of a floor tom (finding the latter more dynamic and less gimmicky) and added a wash of synthesizer, filling out their sound while maintaining their stripped down stage presence.

Although the two had been playing before mandolinist/vocalist Brendan Mulvihill was sent by the Fulbright program to Tomsk, Russia, it's easy to see that the defining moment in this young group's sound came after Mulvihill's return, when he, along with other member Eric Slick (of Dr. Dog) would rehearse in the windowless depths of the Ox, seeking to refine their minimalist sound.

People seem to find it difficult to classify the group, having said everything from 'freak folk' to 'mando punk'. But this isn't an attempt to make the music more digestible, for the group's songs are instantly memorable, well crafted, and melodically rich. These songs are deeply personal, and it shows. It's not hard to identify with the messages in their songs: a quest for self identity, adapting to new environments, questioning one's knowledge, and never being satisfied with what you know. It's Wanderlust and curiosity, distilled and neatly packaged into sonic bursts of intense energy. It's safe to say that Norwegian Arms suffers from a chronic case of the human condition.



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