Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons

Some songwriters just strike down to the heart of things. Even when they're being tender they nail you in the soul's solar plexus, shaking us with words and wires and something inescapably human. Jerry Joseph is this kind of composer – a rocker with emotional scalpel that cuts deep every time. He wears his influences on his sleeve – Elvis Costello, Neil Young, John Lennon, Steve Earle – but tailors them in ways that are always distinctly himself, probing the politics of love and nations with equal dexterity. By turns tough and unbelievably bruised, Joseph's work manages to be joyfully pissed off and achingly bittersweet, often within the space of just a few verses. There's a healthy restlessness to his music, a stripe of his modernity and tireless engagement with the world that places him next to younger contemporaries like Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Ryan Adams.

Joseph has worked tirelessly since his late '80s/early '90s days in Little Women, averaging an album a year since 1994. Often live-on-the-floor affairs, there's an immediacy and personal reach to his albums like kindred spirits Chris Whitley and Vic Chesnutt, his fellow toilers in the under-sung singer-songwriter field. Like the best musicians, there's always a forward motion to his work, some force that compels things ahead from where they've been, something one hears loud & clear on his latest project, The Denmark Veseys, a malleable band named a controversial slave revolt leader from the 1800's and based around the core of Joseph and master percussionist Steve Drizos that released their self-titled debut in early 2008, which ranges from the Buzzcocks-like punk pop of "Helena Bucket" to the masterful Americana sway of "Cochise" to incendiary agit-prop rockers like "Ho Chi Minh." Produced by David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt), the new record has the measured intelligence of craftsmen able to whisper and scream on several levels at once, a callback to a time when real musicians made thoughtful rock 'n' roll albums that thrive on repeat, revealing fresh details and nuances over time hidden amongst the lesions and frustrations Joseph & Drizos etch so eloquently on their debut.

All the miles and stage hours of this tireless road dog simmer into his recordings, which manage to capture some of the brilliant flame of his take-no-prisoners live performances. There's an intensity to Joseph that dates back to his early days in could-have-contenders Little Women in the late '80s and continues through his collaborations with jam scene kings Widespread Panic ("Climb To Safety") and pleasantly eviscerating releases with his Jackmormons band like Mouthful of Copper, a 2003 live double disc set that showcases the fury and focused intelligence Joseph brings to his music. Creatively restless, he has crafted acoustic ruminations (2004's Cherry) and muscular rock cycles (2005's Into The Lovely), always keeping himself open to where the muses will steer his passionate, beautifully jaded songwriting.

Currently living in Harlem, NYC, he's a tireless listener to everything that comes his way, filtering in the hip-hop of Aesop Rock and Jamaican strains that drift through his window as easily as he incorporates the more brainy, confessional strains of his core inspirations. He embodies original rock's boundary-free spirit that pulled happy handfuls from country, blues, jazz and folk to create something that struts and wails. From dub to backwoods laments, his music stretches to incorporate whatever is flipping his switch at a given moment, yet always grounded in something indefinably Jerry J. This free-ranging is most delightfully loose in the Stockholm Syndrome, his on-again, off-again collaboration with Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), Eric McFadden (EMT, P-Funk), Wally Ingram (David Lindley, Sheryl Crow) and Danny Louis (Gov't Mule), where the boys can swing from roadhouse hard to psychedelically bent.

"Usually, if I think something's cool it stays with me," says Joseph. "When I write I go to my brother's house in Mexico, and I don't write with drum machines or four-tracks. I tend to write on just acoustic guitar, and sometimes I can get out a couple songs a day if I'm in the groove. I'm finally getting old enough that I might actually get good at this (laughs). I think the writers that are aging and growing with their art are fascinating. This is really the first time with pop music that we've been able to watch people get old. If they're cool and writing about it, like Dylan or Neil Young, they're sort of documenting the process. In my own broken way, I'm trying to do that, too."

Whether "Swimming To Phuket," introducing us to "Ten Killer Fairies," climbing "The Jacob Ladder" or singing the "Zombie Blues," Jerry Joseph is both a student of the human condition and a grand, melodic, poetic teacher for anyone with the ears to listen. Whether pouring out your speakers in sharply angled cries or lifting your heels in concert with his barefoot intensity, Jerry Joseph is a musician's musician, a chronicler of modern times and a force of nature in concert. Isn't it time you met one of the best independent rockers going?

The Heavy Guilt

The Heavy Guilt is as much Americana as it is avant garde garage, as much folk blues as it is psychedelic indie stomp. It is six focused musicians, from varying backgrounds, translating their influences into a common language beneath the dim crimson lights of the stage. It is a sweaty driving catharsis, a train of thought bulldozing cross the tracks of rural America, it is a roadmap through the emotive wilderness, it is a collage put together by time worn hands, it is the sound and rhythm of a saturated city, it is the direction you take after last call. The Heavy Guilt is rock n roll.

Born two years ago, the Guilt has progressed since their debut, Lift Us Up from This. The first album is a document of the band member's initial meeting, having subtle conversations through sound, getting acquainted through song. The second album, In the Blood, captures two years of performing together. Not so much a handshake introduction, but a kick to the sternum.

The songs from the first album had a campfire feel to them, warm as the pops and crackles of old vinyl. In the Blood is born from the dive bar. It isn't lacking of these quiet movements, but it balances them with foot stomping blues, fevered crescendos and tasteful experimentation. The songs are dynamic, going from acoustic whispers to mountainous walls of sound. Sean Martin, takes his jazz virtuosity and transposes it to rock fury, taking songs to new pinnacles and beyond. Josh Rice adds vintage keyboard tones from soul's greatest years, bringing flurries of Fender Rhodes and Hammond swells to the mix. Layers and layers of nuanced keys add to the dynamic of these songs, plus Josh's unique approach to songwriting is heard throughout. Jason Littlefield provides the anchor of rhythm that holds these songs together, he's heard here on basses, electric and acoustic, including some incredible bowed upright work. Jason's background in jazz and classical can be heard in the arrangements, his melodic and fluid playing blends into a perfectly subtle treatment of each song, when it grabs your ear it can be catchy as a chorus, yet, though he is able, his playing is never flashy nor over the top, it is exactly what the song is needing. Similarly Jenny Merullo provides the pulse of necessity, she is a driving rock n roll drummer and has transformed the dynamic of this band more than any factor since her joining. She was the youthful caffeine to inspire the band's new sound. She also adds endearing and warm harmonies to the songs. Alfred Howard is the wild card, he adds new, unusual and untamed sounds to the band's traditional lineup. He is a volcanic pocket of contagious energy on stage. He plays found objects like chains, wooden boxes, bottle caps, bells, a shortwave and circuit bent radio, sheet metal, boxes of rice and sand paper, he may be riffling through your dumpster or haggling at your yardsale right now. He is also the source of the albums lyrics, poetic, heartfelt and moving, winding descriptions of love, lack, hope and longing. And most important to the sound of this band is Erik Canzona. With his old soul road weary and powerful voice, he is the first ingredient that pulls you in while listening. His voice inspires the band to sculpt the perfect bed of sound to try to contain it, it is that of a storyteller who grabs ear and demands attention, it can be delicate, fragile and volatile or it can be a thunderous tempest. The forceful gust of wind he exhales silences audiences and creates hypnotized and muted members of previously chatty Friday night bars. All this while providing a strong rhythm guitar, the solid canvas for the other members to paint on.

The band has matured, learned how to hold an audience captive and braided their influences into their own brand of unrelenting soulful rock music.

Jeff Crosby and the Refugees

Idaho-born, LA-based singer-songwriter

"I believe Jeff Crosby is the authentic item...if I had half a brain, I would quit playing music and manage him...and if I were signing bands for Atlantic Records, I would have signed him a year ago...I would put my job on the line and never look back" – Jerry Joseph

Los Angeles, CA – Idaho-born, LA-based singer-songwriter Jeff Crosby's Silent Conversations ep will be released on Cosmo Sex School on March 5. This will be Cosmo Sex School's first release that is not a Jerry Joseph project.

Silent Conversations deals with the bittersweet emotions of leaving home and family for the first time and finding new appreciation for what you left behind. Partly written as Jeff moved from small town Idaho to L.A. with the rest composed during a month-long trip to Columbia, the five songs reflect the change he was making in his life at the time and the clarity that comes from distance. The title track, "Silent Conversations," was written while standing in the doorway of a catholic church in Colombia during a torrential downpour. "This Old Town" is a reaction to coming home after moving to LA, how different everything looks and how the place shaped him. "Family, How Ya Been" is taken from letters Jeff was attempting to write home while staying in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. Jeff says, "I'm not very good at keeping in touch or writing home so naturally the letters turned into a song. I found the poem while moving my stuff to LA and started performing the tune at pubs and bars. People really reacted to it so I decided to record it for the EP."

Jerry Joseph's first encounter with Jeff Crosby also elicited a strong reaction to his live performance. While opening for Jerry in the Rockies, Jerry was immediately struck by Jeff. Jerry raves, "Jeff is the whole package. His guitar playing is frankly ripping, he's got a big thoughtful voice and a great hungry band. He's fucking gorgeous and manages to not let that override his presence (give him time). And then there's the songs. I keep going back to Stephen Stills ala Manassas, in vocal timbre, guitar stylings and song writing. I would venture to guess as Jeff was forming his `thing', he had no idea who Stephen Still is. There's a lot of the Laurel Canyon vibe in his writing but at the end of the day, he's from Idaho."

The two played some more shows together and Jerry offered to put out the ep on his label, Cosmo Sex School. "I think Jeff is a rock star. I still like and look for rock stars in music, that's what I grew up with. They had presence and confidence and they looked cool and I could sing along and most importantly, they were not me. I didn't want to pay to see me, I wanted to go somewhere else, with cool locations and interesting friends and the camaraderie of a band and good drugs and pretty girls and I wanted to shake my ass while I was at it. I listen to Jeff and, at least for a moment, I go there. You might want to go there too..."

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