Ted Leo is one of the finest songwriters of our generation, even if itâs not entirely clear what generation that is. Starting in New York Hardcore with Citizenâs Arrest, making the â90s safe for power-pop and Weller-esque hair with Chisel, then singing our turbulent lives like we were smarter than we were with The Pharmacists, and most recently providing equal parts sweetness and solace with Aimee Mann as The Both, Ted never let us down. And now, seven years after The Brutalist Bricks, he has a new solo album. And itâs wonderful.
The songs on The Hanged Man, recorded at a home-studio-in-transition in Wakefield, RI, with Ted playing almost all the instruments, are some of the finest and most finely wrought of Ted Leoâs career. Ted describes the time working on the album as one of âpersonal desolation that felt fallow but was actually very fertileâ and, indeed, lyrically, The Hanged Man is suffused with hope of sorts but crushingly heavy. The concerns addressed, whether personal trauma or the national disaster weâre all currently existing in, matched with the range and vitality of the songcraft is inspiring, even uplifting.
The Hanged Man offers the sharp bursts of skinny tie pop-punk fury one would expect from Tedâand even these feel streamlined like never before-but they are offset with an adventurousness in both tone and structure. The intention was to upend expectations but, on songs like the bookends of âMoon Out of Phaseâ and âLetâs Stay On The Moon,â the intention never gets in the way of the result. Thereâs no strain of effort in songs that are unlike anything Ted has done previously. The Hanged Man is a career high, born through industry soul sickness, nausea-inducing crisis, and a talent that feels like secular grace
The Black Lillies with Special Guest Dead End Streets
As The Black Lillies reacquainted fans with the bandâs new look and sound through a series of videos over the course of 2017, a few questions began to percolate in their minds:
Is a new album in the works? Was this an indication of the bandâs new sound? Does Sam Quinn â the bandâs bass player, harmony vocalist (with an occasional lead) and a partner in the songwriting duties of frontman Cruz Contreras â own a shirt?
The short answers: Yes; kind of but not really; and â¦ yeah, but he prefers the weather fine enough to go without.
âThe Sprinter Sessionsâ were a series of live videos recorded at stops around the country, from the frozen cityscape of Philadelphia in late winter to the side of a Midwestern backroad with fallow fields stretching to the horizon. In various combinations, the Lillies â Contreras, Quinn, guitarist/songwriter Dustin Schaefer and drummer/songwriter Bowman Townsend â committed themselves to recording a brand new song every week. They werenât lavishly orchestrated or fully fleshed out; sometimes lyrics had been written mere minutes prior to the broadcast. The songs were performed on acoustic instruments still grimy from shows the night before, and the guys didnât bother to pick out their finest threads. Quinn, more often than not, played shirtless. Hence the aforementioned question.
âYouâre putting songs out there that werenât finished, werenât perfectly arranged, and we might barely have been able to perform them,â Contreras says. âWe might be tired or hungover, playing them at a truck stop or wherever. It wasnât glamorous â but it held us accountable to that a rate of productivity that was really important, and it kept our fans up to speed with the evolution of the group â even if a lot of them did offer to send us clothes or food!â
More than anything else, âThe Sprinter Sessionsâ set the stage for âStranger to Me,â the new album by the Lillies that drops Sept. 28 on Attack Monkey/Thirty Tigers. Itâs been a slow roll-out, but the new record is the sound of a band thatâs been renewed and reinvigorated, anchored to the traditions that made it so beloved by so many but chiseled down to the bare essentials:
Four men. Four friends. Four artists, each of whom could rightly put out a solo record tomorrow, tied together by a bond to something thatâs greater than the sum of its parts.
âGoing from a six-piece to a four-piece, itâs given these guys space to shine and grow and evolve, and the chemistry has gotten better,â says Contreras, who in another life was the mandolin-shredding bandleader of Robinella and the CCstringband, once signed to both the Columbia and Dualtone labels. âThese guys have become not just sidemen or guns for hire; theyâre invested. Their opinions count, and their creativity is as much a part of this record as mine. There are songs that I wrote; that Sam (a veteran of the Americana group The Everybodyfields) wrote; that we wrote in any combination and all of us together.
âItâs pretty simple, when you get down to that romantic notion of having a band. We rehearse together, we travel together, we hang out together because weâre dedicated, and I think the music is really showing that now. For me, itâs been years of learning to set your ego aside, but experience teaches you that you have to.â
Making room for other voices in the band was vital in rekindling Quinnâs creative fires. The winner of the 2006 Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and a respected solo artist after The Everybodyfields folded, the well had dried up for him back home in Knoxville until a spot opened in The Black Lillies. Working with Contreras, Townsend and then Schaefer, Quinn says, was akin to tossing gasoline on the smoldering embers of his songwriting chops.
âItâs like, when the itch hits, thatâs the time to scratch it,â he said. âOffice Depot is now my favorite place. Iâm always buying paper and pens and destroying them, because I write all the time. Right now, Iâm looking at four legal pads, a notebook, a journal and a bunch of stolen hotel paper. Itâs a bit of a neurosis, Iâm afraid, but I want to be a better writer, and this band is an outlet to become that.â
The Black Lillies were conceived during a particularly emotional period in Contrerasâ life. A divorce, a disassembling of his old band and a 9-to-5 job driving a truck left him with days of turbulent thoughts and nights alternating between pen-and-paper and a guitar to put them into some semblance of order. âWhiskey Angel,â released in 2009, was a springboard to a whirlwind career revival, and within two years, the band had notched several national tours, landed on the hot list of countless publications and appeared everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry stage to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Other records â â100 Miles of Wreckage,â âRunaway Freeway Blues,â âHard to Pleaseâ â helped define a sound that was rooted in distinct male-female harmonies, intricate instrumentalism and emotionally charged lyrics that look toward the hope of a new day dawning, regardless of the darkness of broken hearts and bereft spirits.
Around the making of âHard to Please,â however, the band faced its biggest challenge to date â losing key members, integrating new ones and facing a future that meant changing musical directions. Contreras, however, rose to the challenge, drawing inspiration from some of the titans of the genre in which the Lillies often find themselves categorized: The Eagles and Wilco, just to name a few.
âWe think about those favorite records of ours, those masterpiece records, and theyâre no filler, all killer,â he says. âWe grew up listening to records like that, so we thought, âLetâs go for it. Letâs stack it.â It should be nothing but keepers, and there really shouldnât be five seconds of, âOh, they didnât know what to do here.â Everything should be purposeful.â
When the dust settled, he found himself with the right set of players: Quinn, who won songwriting awards and was once a labelmate of the Avett Brothers during his time in The Everybodyfields; Schaefer, a guitar wizard and a veteran of the Texas alt-country band Mickey and The Motorcars; and Townsend, the youngest member of the band who was brought in on drums in 2005 and has quickly become the groupâs veteran anchor.
âBowman brought that positive attitude, that work ethic, and for me, heâs been the guy,â Contreras says. âWhen Sam joined the band, we were getting a rock star. This guyâs been around the block, done it all and succeeded. Heâs written great songs, played big stages and had the band that will go down in music history as one of the seminal ones in the genre. With Dustin, he had moved to Nashville to pursue a solo career, but when he joined up, we all got along and played well together.
âWith all of these guys, we kind of hit the ground running. I think thereâs mutual respect there on a creative level â weâre very different personalities, we make very different types of music and have very different writing styles, but we recognize that when we work together, we come up with something new and different that none of us could do on our own.â
Although âStranger to Meâ is a distinct milestone in a career arc that continues to climb, lead-off track âTen Yearsâ is the bridge to the bandâs previous efforts. A gentle country rocker gives Contreras room to croon, and his vocals â reminiscent of a young Randy Travis or Dan Tyminski â demonstrate just how much heâs evolved as a singer since he stepped up to the mic for the first time on âWhiskey Angel.â By track two â âMidnight Strangerâ â the guys lasso a classic rock groove in the vein of Bad Company, and listeners will realize that any governor on the throttle of this remodeled machine has been yanked and discarded. By track three â âWeighting,â one of Quinnâs three leads â the Lillies are waist-deep in a maelstrom of new tricks that both dazzle and satisfy.
âThis is Sam out of the gate â he wrote all of the lyrics, all of the chords, the entire arrangement,â Contreras says. âItâs a rocker from the beginning, and thanks to Jamie (Candiloro, a veteran producer of Ryan Adams and R.E.M. who shepherded the making of âStranger to Meâ at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, N.C.), it became something more. Heâs an engineer, so he can come in and engineer this thing in a way so that it captures the natural intensity of a live Black Lillies performance with the quality of a studio production.
âJamie forced us to all sing all the vocals at the same time â âWhen you sing together with people, you sing differently than you do alone,â he would tell us â and before, it would be me singing solo and then the guys adding their voices. For this one, I was singing with Sam and Dustin at the same time, and it became more cohesive, more robust. Bigger.â
For Quinn, moving from the contemplative folk of The Everybodyfields into the bigger, bolder arena of the Lillies has allowed him to tap into a more vigorous style for which his skills are equally adept.
âWhen I was in my late teens and 20s and early 30s, I was sponge-like absorbed into sad or depressing music, but this is the other side of the spectrum,â he said. âThis was making a rock album â having to get yer ya-yas out, using lots of piss, lots of vinegar â¦ just real groovy stuff. And then when Dustin joined up, he was originally hired as a shred guitarist, but what we didnât know that the secret weapon was, are his wicked high harmony vocals. That was just pivotal, and it kind of changed the name of the game.â
The band wears its influences on its sleeve for every song of the new record. Laurel Canyon breezes blow up dust from the SoCal desert on the Eagles-tinged âOut of the Blue,â Townsend pounds out a methodical rhythm that sets the stage for glorious harmonies on âDonât Be Afraid,â and âNo Other Wayâ sounds like a distant cousin of Wilcoâs âOuttasite (Outta Mind)â with its freight-train hooks, courtesy of Schaeferâs six-string alchemy that manages to lift every song from great to sublime. âSnakes and Telephones,â another lead by Quinn, swirls with psychedelic overtones and torch ballad longing.
âWe put 13 songs on it, but we had trouble pairing it down to 13 â and thatâs a good problem to have, because weâre already talking about doing a follow-up, acoustic EP of the ones that got cut,â Contreras says. âWill we do it? Who knows. Will Sam be wearing a shirt when we do it? Who knows!
âWe just donât want to be a throwback band. We want what we do to sound new and fresh and modern, and I think even the album cover of âStranger to Meâ represents that. Itâs sharp, and itâs smart, and the mountains are a nod to both recording in Asheville and the house we did a lot of the pre-production in, which was this 1960s, modern-nouveaux place that looks like it belongs in the Hollywood Hills. And that ties back into the fact that while thereâs a mountain quality to this record, itâs a departure as well.
âWeâre venturing out from a pure East Tennessee sound, and hopefully that comes through,â he adds. âOur voices, especially mine and Samâs, are unique to that region, but production wise, we wanted this to really reflect the direction in which weâre going.â
TributeFestPgh 9: Old School vs. New School Pop Featuring Tribute Sets of Weezer, Radiohead, Yeah Yeah Yeah's, The Killers, Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, Tears for Fears, and Crosby, Stills and Nash
TributeFestPgh 9 is 4 nights of your favorite local musicians joining forces to dress up in character and perform as their favorite bands, all to raise money for Humane Animal Rescue! This year we have 33 bands over 4 nights!
Visit Humane Animal Rescue here:
Night 3: Old School vs. New School Pop
Crosby, Stills, and Nash - Nathan Zoob + Friends
Elvis Costello - Kevin Koch + Friends
The Killers - Skeye Berry + Friends
Radiohead - Rich Kulbacki + Friends
Tears for Fears - Sun Hound + Friends
Steely Dan - Jesse Prentiss + Friends
Weezer - Beck Gal + Friends
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Action Camp
All shows are 21+, $10, Doors at 7pm
At The End Of Me, AWRY, Friends Of Jethro, Pleading The Fifth, The Whelming Waters
TributeFestPgh 9 is 4 nights of your favorite local musicians joining forces to dress up in character and perform as their favorite bands, all to raise money for Humane Animal Rescue! This year we have 33 bands over 4 nights!
Visit Humane Animal Rescue here:
Night 4: Classic Rock
Blue Oyster Cult - Urns
Cheap Trick - Darren Hammel + Friends
David Bowie - The Gothees
Heart - Katie Simone + Friends
Jefferson Airplane - The Ohm Project
Jethro Tull - Eric George + Friends
Led Zeppelin - Ariana Bigler + Friends
Uriah Heep - Shy Kennedy + Friends
Who - The Bloody Seamen
All shows are 21+, $10, Doors at 7pm
Hippo Campus with Special Guest The Districts - Presented by 91.3 WYEP, Opus One & PromoWest North Shore
A performing songwriter by trade, Matthew Perryman Jones is actually a seeker, at heart. With each entry in his discography, his musical and moral compass points toward an artistic horizon he has yet to explore. Sometimes, he turns his gaze to examine his own inner world. Other times, he looks to the inspirations found in the letters Vincent Van Gogh penned to his brother Theo, in the idea of duende as proffered by Federico GarcÃa Lorca, and in the poetic verses of Sufi poets Hafiz and Rumi.
Of his most recent release, American Songwriter wrote that, âMPJâs songwriting acumen could easily be used as a musical template to demonstrate how less can be so much more. [He] sounds cinematic and slowly worms its way inside your brain, feasts upon your emotions, and ultimately burrows down into your soul.â It could be said that Matthew makes soul music â not based on how it sounds, but on where it originates and where it resides.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Matthew grew up in Georgia and cut his artistic teeth in the Atlanta music scene before heading north to Nashville. His debut release, Nowhere Else But Here, dropped in 2000, followed by three subsequent albums â Throwing Punches in the Dark (2006), Swallow the Sea (2008), and Land of the Living (2012) â and three additional EPs as well as a handful of singles. Songs from across his catalog have been featured in dozens of film and TV placements, and tours have taken him across the U.S. and abroad to share stages with legends like Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin, as well as the Ten Out of Tenn songwriter collective of which he is a part.
Now, Matthew is gearing up to release his fifth album, alongside producer Josh Kaler, focused on genius loci â the spirit of place. Written across the country throughout 2017, and funded by generous fans contributing to a Pledge Music campaign, the record was finished in early 2018. As he chases the ever-retreating horizon, Jones will stop, listen, and capture when and what the spirit of each place calls out to him.
***SOLD OUT*** Minus The Bear: The Farewell Tour with Special Guest Caspian
Minus the Bear is a product of the first two tumultuous decades of this century. From their first show in 2001 to their impending dissolution at the end of 2018, the Seattle band thrived on the musical awakening in the era of the mp3, the internet, poptimism, and the endless crosspollinations generated from an expanded consciousness of new music forms. With the aim of sounding like âclassic rock from the future,â they initially forged their music from the dichotomous blend of David Knudsonâs prodigious finger-tapped guitar lines and Jake Sniderâs cool-tempered narratives set against a backdrop of souped-up dance beats. Throughout their career, theyâve carried on the trailblazing traditions of â70s prog rockers and guitar-centric indie rock pioneers of the â80s and â90s, but theyâve also always been a band of new sounds. Synths, drum machine break beats, omnichords, and pedalboard gadgetry all contribute to the bandâs electronic flourishes. You can hear the poptimist appreciation for a club banger, a new wave hook, or a solid hip-hop beat in any number of their songs. And with their final EP, Fair Enough, Minus the Bear closes the book on their inimitable hybrid of scholarly art-rock, breezy indie pop, and warehouse party appeal.
One of the first tracks written for their last album VOIDS was âFair Enoughâ, a reserved track that went through a variety of permutations before winding up on the backburner. Like most Minus the Bear songs, it began as a loose framework of interlocking guitar parts created by Knudson that quickly changed shape as the other members contributed their parts. âItâs interesting because we tried re-doing it twice in the studio,â says keyboardist/vocalist Alex Rose. âI was really into the first new direction as it was very pop, but collectively it didn't seem to fit. Then we tried a more ambient oneâ¦ it just ended up being one of those songs that didn't beat the others.â But as the band was digging through their archives earlier this year, they stumbled upon an early version of the song. âIt jumped out as sounding done,â Rose recalls. âI touched up the mix, fixed a few edits and sent it to everyone while we were on the recent Planet of Ice anniversary tour. The other guys all listened together and by all accounts had âa moment.â I think the song had taken on new meaning after we decided to end the band.â Given Sniderâs prescient lyrical lament of lost passions and finding âthe exact moment we turned it off,â itâs hardly surprising to hear that the song resonates strongly within the group. Snider insists it was written to eulogize a failed romantic relationship, but itâs hard to not hear the lyrics as foreshadowing the bandâs break-up.
The other three songs of Fair Enough are both a continuation and a culmination of Minus the Bearâs diverse sounds. The adrenalized up-tempo drumbeats, lush electronics, and nimble guitar work that initially set them apart from their peers back in 2001 are on full display during âViaductâ. It certainly sounds like the same band that wrote âMonkey!!!Knife!!!Fight!!!â, but with a whole new arsenal of tricks, techniques, and toys to embellish the sound. âDinosaurâ has the punctuated groove of early hits of âFine + 2 PTS â, but crafted with the understated Steely Dan-esque delivery of their more current slow jams. In keeping with their âclassic rock from the futureâ approach, the opening keyboard line of âDinosaurâ is a ham-fisted hook originally conceived on a cheap iPhone piano app. The EP closes with a nod to their ongoing remix collaborations, this time with a vibrant rave-up reinvention of âInvisibleâ by Sombear.
The EP album art comes courtesy of bassist Cory Murchy. âThe picture on our first EPâThis Is What I Know About Being Giganticâwas a blurry photo of the band walking through the forest,â Murchy explains. âThe cover to Fair Enough is a nod to that almost 20 years on. The figures are much more defined, coming into their own colors, a little less unified but still working within each otherâs orbit. The wonder of the woods has been replaced with a milled piece of working lumber as the canvas. I think it reflects the music in a lot of the same waysâdistilled by time and purpose.â
Minus the Bear are a band born in the new millennium, when the gateways to cult artists were blown open by the internet, rockâs purist aesthetic rules were challenged, and technological advancements completely altered the way we create and consume music. If there was some middle ground to be found between King Crimsonâs fretboard gymnastics, Midwest indie rockâs cerebral songcraft, Warp Recordsâ glitchy compositions, and FM radioâs current bump-and-grind staples, Minus the Bear staked it out first. Suicide Squeeze is proud to release Fair Enough on October 19, 2018. Fair Enough will be available on CD, digital formats, and as a 12â cut at 45rpm. The initial vinyl run consists of 2000 copies on coke bottle green and 1000 copies on black.
Nostalgia can be wonderful and amazing. It's OK to look back. But then you gotta get the fuck out of there." So says singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, explaining the theme of her new album, Nostalgia Kills.
On Nostalgia Kills(out September 14 on Jill's own Pinko Records), the woman hailed by The New York Timesfor making "grown-up music for an adolescent age" turns her warm wit and poet's eye on herself more than ever before, revisiting moments from throughout her life that made her into the person she is today. It's an especially poignant look back at childhood - "exorcising some junior high school demons," as she puts it.
Looking back is a new experience for Jill Sobule. Ever since she first caught mainstream attention with her 1995 song "I Kissed a Girl" - the first song about same-sex romance ever to crack the Billboard Top 20 (and no relation to the later Katy Perry tune) - she's always pushed forward, exploring new sounds and subject matter with each passing album and refusing to be pigeonholed by her early hits (which also include the â90s alt-rock anthem "Supermodel," featured in an iconic scene in the film Clueless).
Along the way, Jill has shared stages with the likes of Billy Bragg, Cyndi Lauper and Warren Zevon, written music for TV and theater, and been a pioneer in the art of crowdfunding, raising so much money for her 2009 album California Yearsthat a then-unknown startup called Kickstarter came to her for advice. She's also been active in numerous social and political causes, performing at prisons as part of Wayne Kramer's Jail Guitar Doors project, playing dates with Lady Parts Justice's "Vagical Mystery Tour," and curating Monster Protest Jams Vol. 1, featuring protest songs by Tom Morello, Billy Bragg, Boots Riley, Amanda Palmer, Jackson Browne and many other great artists - including Jill's own "When They Say We Want Our America Back, What the F#@k Do They Mean?", which traces the history of anti-immigrant sentiment in America.
For Nostalgia Kills, Jill worked with her good friend, Australian singer-songwriter Ben Lee, to cull the album's 11 songs from a collection of over 100, representing nearly a decade's worth of material accumulated since the release of California Years. In turning those songs into an album, she received a little extra motivation from an unlikely source.
"I was at an industry party," she recalls. "And I heard this total douche saying, you know, once someone reaches the age of 40, they can't write a good song. And I went up to him and I was like, âYou don't know me, but you're an idiot.'"
Making it her mission to prove her new nemesis wrong, Jill took the songs into Lee's home studio in Los Angeles with a supporting cast of players that included John Doe (X), Wayne Kramer (The MC5), Petra Haden (That Dog), Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish), Robin Eaton (Jill's long time collaborator and co-writer) and Richard Barone (The Bongos). "This was done with a lot of friends," she says. "It was very organic." Many of the final mixes even contain elements of the original demos, recorded with various apps on Jill's iPad.
Right from the jump, Nostalgia Kills proves that this songwriter, despite being a few years north of 40, is still at the peak of her powers. How many artists of any age can write a song like "I Don't Wanna Wake Up," an Old Testament head trip inspired by a bad breakup, the death of a parent, and microdosing mushrooms? Let alone have the nerve to make it their album's opening track?
From there, Nostalgia Kills explores its titular theme through a collection of songs that ponder the past without ever lapsing into easy sentimentality. "I Put My Headphones On," as catchy as anything in Jill's catalog, captures the cozy feeling of tuning out the outside world with a favorite record. "Almost Great" is a ukulele-laced ode to youthful brushes with success and adult battles with procrastination. "Forbidden Thoughts of Youth" is a beautifully rendered portrait of adolescent unrequited love, as Jill looks back at her first gay crush ("an incredible combination of Marcia Brady and future meth-smoking biker chick").
"Headphones" and "Forbidden Thoughts" will be part of #Fuck7thGrade, a one-woman show about "the worst year of my life," andjust the latest of Jill's many forays into theater. Nostalgia Kills features new versions of several of Jill's best songs for the stage: "There's Nothing I Can Do" is a defiant breakup anthem from the off-off-Broadway musical Prozak and the Platypus, sung from the perspective of a rebellious 17-year-old girl. "25 Cents" is from Times Square, a new musical based on the 1980 cult film of the same name - and Jill's own memories of visiting New York City as a teenager, back when the city was still "scary and fascinating and full of junkies." And the gorgeous ballad "Tomorrow Is Breaking My Heart" is one of several original songs Jill wrote for a new adaptation of Yentl, Isaac Bashevis Singer's tale of gender-bending romance later made famous by Barbra Streisand's film adaptation.
There are two versions of "Tomorrow Is Breaking" co-written with long time collaborator on Nostalgia Kills- a mournful duet with John Doe, and a special bonus track version featuring an amateur musician Nicolas Ford, who made a pledge to the Nostalgia KillsKickstarter campaign in which the prize was to sing a duet with Jill. "I decided to do it in a different style with a piano and he kicked ass," she says proudly of Nicholas' crooning accompaniment.
Nostalgia Kills' bonus tracks also include "The Donor Song," on which Jill gives shout-outs to her Kickstarter backers (including Avengersdirector and Buffy the Vampire Slayercreator Joss Whedon, whom Jill calls "my personal lord and savior" because he donated at the highest level), as well as lovely covers of The Stairsteps' soul classic "O-o-h Child" and "Don't Let Us Get Sick," a heartbreakingly beautiful, late-career ballad by Jill's friend and mentor, Warren Zevon, with whom she tour shortly before his death in 2003. "He used to come out during my set to sing âI Kissed a Girl' with me," Jill remembers. "He would always wink at me when we would sing âThey can have their diamonds and we'll have are pearls' to let me know he got the clitoral reference."
For all its graceful, funny and heartbreaking explorations of awkward youth and grown-up regrets, Nostalgia Killsis as of-the-moment as anything in Jill Sobule's catalog. Through her own experiences, she explores issues our society still collectively struggles with (LGBTQ rights, teen mental health, our unhealthy obsession with staying forever young) and gently skewers our tendency to dwell on the past at the expense of addressing the present. As she sings on the title track: "We look at ourselves in a long row of mirrors/We get smaller and smaller with each passing year/We have to keep moving or die."
Entertaining audiences from his phenomenal guitar work to his incredibly impassioned lyrics and overall songwriting prowess - one thing has certainly become clear about Albert Cummingsâ music: He is FAR MORE than simply just the guitarist or the bluesman heâs often painted as by fans and the media alike. He offers the complete package.
Though undoubtedly a masterful guitar player who burst onto the blues rock scene in the early
2000âs and almost immediately began gaining praise in that realm, his latest release âLive at the â62 Centerâ further portrays not only his versatility as singer/songwriter and live performer but as an artist first and foremost.
This comes to fruition in the true spontaneity and creative spirit of the album, in which he put together a newly formed version of his usual trio that afternoon of the October, 2016 recording. With longtime friend and Grammy Winner Jim Gaines behind the soundboard, what comes through in both sight and sound is an incredible journey into the live performance world and true artistry of one of todayâs most seasoned musicians.
âHis muscular guitar work is simply outstanding. Heâs a great blues singer as well with passion for the tunes inherent in his full throttle approach.â - Rock and Blues Muse on Live at the â62
Like many greats before him whoâve been painted into a corner as merely great blues players, or guitar players, or singers - Cummings seeks to rise above these labels and be praised for the devotion to his overall craft as a true musician. In artist terms - heâs sought to be known for the overall pallet of his music, rather than one specific color. From greats like Eric Clapton to
the more recent stylings of John Mayer, his artistic integrity has allowed him to focus on the big picture, writing songs from the heart rather than catering to his specifics strengths as a singer, guitarist, or bandleader (all of which he does impeccably, however).
His musical journey began when young Albert first picked up a guitar - learning the requisite three chords from his father, but later switched over to banjo at the age of 12 after becoming a bluegrass fan. After hearing the early recordings of Stevie Ray Vaughan, he was impressed by the sheer virtuosity of the artist, and following his first chance to see him LIVE while in college in Boston he returned to the guitar with a new outlook and resolve.
At age 27, as he continued to grow in his newfound passion, he landed on the Northeast blues circuit with his first band Swamp Yankee. Then, in 1998, after walking into a Northeast Blues Societyâs open jam, Cummings won the right to compete in the Blues Foundationâs International Blues Challenge the following year. By 2000, his debut single âThe Long Wayâ
was released to rave reviews, and began opening new doors for the artist.
His first big opportunity came in the form of a chance to work with Double Trouble, the late Stevie Ray Vaughanâs rhythm section. So taken with Albertâs fire and passion were bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton that they volunteered to play on and produce his solo debut recording, 2003âs self-released From the Heart. Recorded in Austin, Texas, it featured Cummings fronting Double Trouble (including Reese Winans) in their first recording project since Stevie Rayâs passing. Having began his musical journey in part due to Vaughanâs inspiration, it seemed Cummingsâ passion had brought him full-circle.
Cummingsâ soulful and explosive approach to blues and rock then caught the attention of Blind Pig Records (Muddy Waters, Jimmy Vivino, Elvin Bishop), which signed him to a multi-album deal. On his label debut, True to Yourself, released in 2004, Cummings was again joined by bassist Tommy Shannon. Recorded by producer extraordinaire Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray, Buddy Guy), the all-original release showcased Albertâs rapidly developing songwriting chops and deeply emotional vocals as well as stunning guitar pyrotechnics, fully showcasing his well-rounded talents.
Soon tours and shows with blues legends B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy and others brought Albertâs music to a much larger audience.
His second release, Working Man (2006), also produced by Jim Gaines, furthered a growing focus and maturity both in Albertâs stinging, incisive guitar work as well as in his fluently idiomatic songwriting - leading Billboard Magazine to exclaim âThis recording is the calling card of a star who has arrivedâ.
2008 saw his first live album âFeel So Goodâ, recorded at the historic Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts which has hosted everyone from Will Rogers to Al Jolson. The audience was so enthralled and supportive they became part of the performance in a way
thatâs rarely heard. As AllMusic put it, âIt sounds like it was one hell of a party that nightâ. Music
Connection also called it âone of the best live albums recorded in a long timeâ.
As he continued to grow, playing with the likes of legends from B.B. King (who called dubbed him âa great guitaristâ), Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, and many more - Cummings built on not only his all-around songwriting and musicianship but his guitar playing skill as well. Using his knowledge to give back to fellow guitarists wanting to advance in their craft, he released the instructional DVD âWorking Man Blues Guitarâ in 2011. His next album, 2012âs self-released âNo Regretsâ followed as a return to his true musical roots, poignantly capturing the core of his influences and displaying the impact that R&B, Rock, Soul, Country, and the Blues have had on both his playing and writing. It debuted at #1 on iTunes music charts in the USA, Canada and France.
2015âs âSomeone Like Youâ was recorded in Southern California with Grammy-winning producer David Z. (Buddy Guy, Prince, Jonny Lang, Govât Mule) at the helm. Said Z, âAlbert Cummings writes, plays and sings the blues like nobody else. What a blast to watch him jell in the studio with some of the best musicians in Los Angeles.â One of those musicians was Blind Pig label mate and leader of The Basic Cable Band on the Conan TV show, Jimmy Vivino, who performs on three cuts.
Now, as he continues writing and performing, relentlessly devoting effort to his craft, Cummingâs is ready to continue on his ever expansive musical journey.
Low Cut Connie with Special Guests Ruby Boots, &More (Chill Moody & Donn T) - Presented by Opus One & 91.3 WYEP
Low Cut Connie was recently called âthe essence of what rock n roll should beâ by Greg Kot (Sound Opinions / NPR)..and the New York Times has said âtheir live show is a phenomenon.â They have been a rolling DIY caravan with an explosive live act bubbling under the surface of the music industry for 5 years, building an obsessive fanbase from all walks of life...white and black, straight and gay, young and old...salty lunatics of every persuasion.
But with Dirty Pictures (part 1), Low Cut Connie moves beyond the drunken bar boogie they have become associated with into a deeper, darker, dirtier American life.
âWeâve been thought of as a great party band by so many people, and we wear that as a badge of honor, but I really wanted to go deeper with this record.â Weiner said recently. âWeâve been travelling this country now for a number of years, meeting people of all stripes, entertaining them in their bars and sleeping on their couches, laughing hard, holding them tight and sweating it out with them...I wrote this record really thinking about how people are feeling and living in this country these days. Itâs a wild scene out there.â
And what is it that best brings Americans together in such wild and dirty times? Weiner has a simple answer: âRock n roll. Nothing moves people more...itâll make the most unsuspecting citizen hot, horny, angry, weepy and emotional and ultimately open to life like never before. Iâve seen it happen. Thatâs what we do. We change the molecules in the room.â
Whether they succeed or not, Low Cut Connie always attempts to make us feel something real, something very raw. With Dirty Pictures (part 1), this little rock n roll band from Philadelphia attempts to undress America, laughing and crying real tears with us all night long.
(Late Show) Opus One Comedy Presents James Phelps, Vanessa St Clair, James J Hamilton, Christina McNeese, Mike Sasson, Helen Wildy, Collin Chamberlain and Hosted By Garrett Titlebaum
âWeâve always done what we wanted and how we wanted,â says Violent Femmesâ Gordon Gano says. âFundamentally thereâs no difference from then until now. Itâs a natural continuation.â
Violent Femmesâ ninth studio album and first full-length collection in more than 15 years, WE CAN DO ANYTHING may well be part of a long musical continuum but it is also among the most provocative and playful in the legendary bandâs remarkable canon. As the title makes plain, founding Femmes Gano (vocals, guitar, banjo) and Brian Ritchie (acoustic bass guitar, vocals) remain intrepid as ever before, traversing infinite genre and emotion via their immediately identifiable mash of rambunctious folk, minimalist punk, cubist blues, cosmic jazz, and back porch rock ânâ roll.
âWhat the Femmes are,â says Ritchie, âand I think we always have been, is a repository for American roots music. Most people think of us as a kind of rock band but weâre a lot more than that and I think this album represents all that in a really natural, cohesive way. It just flows smoothly between all these ideas.â
Violent Femmes came together in 1981 and were quickly applauded as one of the most inventive and original bands of the era, constantly pushing forward with their singular blend of folk and punk, sarcasm and spirituality. The Milwaukee-based band first attracted attention while busking in front of their hometownâs Oriental Theatre. The performance caught the ears of that nightâs headliners, Pretenders Chrissie Hynde and the late James Honeyman-Scott, who invited the young group to open the sold out concert with a brief acoustic set. From there Violent Femmes released eight studio albums and more than a dozen iconic singles, among them such classics as âAmerican Music,â âGone Daddy Gone,â âNightmares, âAdd It Up,â and of course, âBlister In The Sun.â Violent Femmesâ remarkable three-decade-plus career has earned them cumulative worldwide sales in excess of 10 million, with 1983âs VIOLENT FEMMES awarded with RIAA platinum certification eight years after its initial release.
The turn of the millennium saw Violent Femmes begin a long hiatus from the studio, only coming together to record a 2009 cover of Gnarls Barkleyâs âCrazyâ â returning the favor after Cee-Lo and Danger Mouseâs psychedelic soul version of âGone Daddy Goneâ proved a worldwide smash. Violent Femmes officially returned to full time action in 2013 with an acclaimed performance at Coachella before embarking on a wide-ranging tour that included headline dates and ecstatically received festival sets around the world.
âWe went a few years without playing together,â Gano says, âbut when we did it was just instant. There it is. Thereâs the sound we make when we play music together. When we get together to do this thing called Violent Femmes, thereâs an energy between us thatâs just very intuitive. That was right from the very start and it hasnât changed.â
Violent Femmes captured their fresh momentum on the 2015 EP, HAPPY NEW YEAR. Recorded in Hobart between sold out shows at the world famous Sydney Opera House and Tasmaniaâs Museum of Old and New Art, the EP was cut live in the studio â no baffling, no isolation booth, âthe right production approach for the music that we make,â says Ritchie.
âIt had the feeling people are looking for from us,â he says. âA feeling that I think exemplifies the rawness of our approach.â
The aesthetic success of HAPPY NEW YEAR led Violent Femmes to consider a proper new full length LP, though of course a conventional record was never in the cards. Rather, the band was determined to keep on the way they always have, driving in their own idiosyncratic lane.
âOne of the things about the band getting back together again,â says Ritchie, âwas can we make some sort of a valid artistic statement? A lot of bands of our vintage return and then try to do what other people are doing nowadays. We were always outside of the times â even at our most popular we were considered outsiders â so we had no obligation to try to be current. Because we never were current. Ever.â
Violent Femmesâ timeless timelessness is manifest in the songs featured on WE CAN DO ANYTHING, with many chosen from Ganoâs voluminous archives of ancient cassette demos and old journals.
âThere was a massive amount of material to draw from,â he says. âI had so many cassette tapes, with songs and musical ideas recorded over 20 years or more. First we had to bring them into the digital world as to be able to access them and then it was just an incredible amount of listening. We did a whole lot of compiling and discovering forgotten songs.â
Gano unearthed and polished off a number of songs that stand out as vintage Violent Femmes, from the utterly irresistible âMemoryâ and the murderous âBig Carâ to his fractured fairy tale, âI Could Be Anything,â all as clever and potent as they are musically kinetic. Of the albumâs more recent songs, Gano co-wrote âHoly Ghostâ and âFoothillsâ with Sam Hollander and Dave Katz (Gym Class Heroes, Katy Perry, Train), and âIssuesâ with Hollander, Katz, and Better Than Ezraâs Kevin Griffin (Christina Perri, Howie Day).
âIâd written with other people,â he says, âfriends or band mates, but never this kind of blind date songwriting. To go and meet somebody and sit in a room to write, knowing nothing about each other. We were all really happy with how the songs turned out, though I had thought we were writing songs for other people. But with my voice and my lyrics in there, the songs naturally fit the band even though I thought they were for somebody else to sing.â
WE CAN DO ANYTHING was recorded as Violent Femmes traveled North America on a hugely successful tour alongside Barenaked Ladies. At seven weeks, the âLast Summer On Earth 2015 Tourâ was the longest live trek for the Femmes in over a decade and its effect was to sharpen the already integrated unit even further.
âThereâs nothing like a well-oiled band thatâs on the road,â Ritchie says. âThereâs this infinitesimal adjustment you make with each other when you play together every day. Your senses become attuned to each other, to the music and the general spirit of music making.â
The trek saw Gano and Ritchie fronting a seven piece combo featuring versatile drummer Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls, Nine Inch Nails) as well as the one and only Horns of Dilemma, Violent Femmesâ ever-evolving cabal of multi-instrumentalist backing musicians. Veteran Horn of Dilemma Jeff Hamilton took on the producer role, overseeing the recording by virtue of expertise, expediency, and his long creative relationship with Violent Femmes.
âIt just made sense,â Gano says. âHeâs able to maneuver and communicate with both of us. Heâs ingrained in what we do, he knows our strengths and weaknesses, the basic characteristics of what weâre doing and what weâre trying to go for.â
Initial tracks were recorded in Brooklyn followed by a few additional stops at studios across the country. The Nashville sessions saw Violent Femmes and the Horns of Dilemma blowing at full gale live in the studio, busting out explosive arrangements that veer on a dime from hard charging stomp to intimate melancholy. The sessions showcase the indispensible contributions of such longtime Horns as percussionist John Sparrow and saxophonist Blaise Garza â a Horn of Dilemma since he was 14 years old. Additional fuel came from Barenaked Ladiesâ Kevin Hearn, who stepped off his own tour bus to lend accordion, guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals to tracks including âIssues,â âI Could Be Anything,â âWhat You Really Mean,â âFoothills,â and âTraveling Solves Everything.â As if that werenât enough, the multi-talented Hearn is also responsible for WE CAN DO ANYTHINGâs whimsical cover drawing.
âHeâs a very good influence and a great musician,â says Ritchie. âHe subtly raises the level of the music just by being there.â
âWhat You Really Mean,â the albumâs sole cover, was penned by singer/songwriter/artist Cynthia Gayneau â a.k.a. Ganoâs âoldest sibling and a really fine songwriter who most people donât know about.â The tender track might as well be an original Gano composition, hewing remarkably close to the tunesmithâs own sonic sensibility and lyrical heart.
âI feel so close to that song,â Gano says, âI let everybody think it was one of mine, just in case anyone felt differently about it because it was written by my sister. It wasnât until we were putting the credits together that I let it out, âBy the way, I didnât write this one.â Iâm thrilled with how it turned out, I think itâs gorgeous.â
Violent Femmes intend to celebrate the new album by spending significant time on the road, lighting it up for a fervent following that now encompasses multiple generations of fans. Though it will come as no surprise to the bandâs legion of loyal supporters, WE CAN DO ANYTHING affirms Violent Femmes as a vital and contemporary musical force, its joyous sound and ageless energy suggesting the universe will be graced with more music before the passing of another decade.
âThere certainly are songs,â Gano says. âAnd there will be more songs written. Itâs just a matter of what we want to do. We were somehow able to do this, which Iâm very glad about, but we had many many years of not being able to do it, so weâll seeâ¦â
âSince weâve been given the mantle of âelder statesmen,ââ Ritchie says, âmaybe we should start to behave that way. Hopefully weâll be a little more stable than weâve been in the past, though if you think about it, the Femmes have been going for 35 years. Itâs not unusual for bands to take the occasional hiatus. What is unusual is going for 35 years and still sounding good.â
Bill Toms and Hard Rain - 20th Anniversary (featuring The Soulville Horns) with Special Guest Soulful Femme (featuring Stevee Wellons and Cheryl Rinovato)
hile itâs hard to put a finger on any one sound that defines âAmerican music,â the compositions of Bill Toms are as close a template as any. The Pittsburgh native, along with his band Hard Rain, delivers a sound that takes the greatest of Americaâs most beloved genres and melds them into a poetic representation of the best the country has to offer.
With his ninth full-length studio release, Good For My Soul (street date October 27), Toms channels a foot-stomping, wall-shaking blend of soul, blues, gospel, and rock vibes, all brought together with his lyrical specialty -- stories of everyday men and women doing their best to stay ahead while still managing to keep a dream or two in their heads.
Soaring horns, gritty licks, toe-tapping rhythms, and Tomsâ own rough-hewn vocals will draw listeners in, as well as well-deserved comparisons to the greats such as Dr. John, Little Feat, Springsteen, Joe Tex, The Blasters, Otis Redding, and Rufus Thomas.
âThe idea of a horn section behind my songs has been something Iâve thought about for a while,â explains Toms. âAlbert King, and all the Stax artists come to mind when I think of what true rhythm and blues can do. I wanted a piece of that; creating dynamics, and drama within the song; and fostering the deep emotion that a great horn section can give. The words also needed this place-- in order to be fully interpreted as the representation of âmy America,â and the people who make up my small part of this world.â
Good For My Soul was recorded in February 2017 by Oscar-winning composer Rick Witkowski, who also co-produced the set with Will Kimbrough (Rodney Crowell, Todd Snider). Both artists have collaborated with Toms frequently on parts of his earlier catalog.
Toms launched his musical career in 1987 as lead guitarist of Pittsburghâs legendary band Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers, During that period, he opened for and played with such legendary names as The Band, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. While playing guitar, co-writing, and adding backup vocals for the Houserockers, Toms and the band recorded six studio albums and one live concert album. In 1995, The Houserockers released American Babylon, which was recorded and produced by Springsteen himself.
As a solo artist, Toms has opened for the likes of Buddy Guy, Levon Helm, Marshall Crenshaw, The Kennedys, Steve Forbert, and Ellis Paul. Heâs plotting a string of regional east coast dates to support Good For My Soul, as well as a full European tour in 2018.
Sound of Ceres with Special Guests A Low Rose Trellis and Come Holy Spirit
"There is no one true self. With every choice you make, your story changes. Between the potential and the actual, there exist an infinite number of variations on who you have been.
The mysterious tale of The Twin, the second full-length from Sound of Ceres, exists in myriad permutations, too: a new album, a mesmerizing live show, videos, an Alastair Reynolds short storyâ¦ and others in-between. Sound of Ceres' creative cohort of authors, composers, and illusionists traveled from a snowy Alpine retreat to the outer limits of deep space to bring you The Twin.
While their 2016 debut Nostalgia for Infinityresponded to the hugeness of time and space, now Sound of Ceres explore the strangeness of being just one human outcome amidst an infinitude of possibilities.
The adventure begins with one of the great works of 20th century German literature, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. As Ryan Hover read the tale of Hans Castorp (named for one of the twins of Gemini), whose life as a shipbuilder gets sidetracked by a visit to a rest home in the Swiss Alps, new chords, melodies, and lyrical ideas seized his imagination. Elements from the novel â the snow and isolation of the mountains, echoes of Grimm's Fairy Tales, a fixation with the number seven â took on a new form as the fantastic universe of The Twin took shape.
Karen Hover and Ryan gave voice to early versions of the songs, exploring the sound of words even as they teased out lyrical ideas. Rough sketches were dispatched to band mates Derrick Bozich, Jacob Graham, and Ben Phelan, and then Ryan fashioned their instrumental contributions into new arrangements.
But just as Hans in The Magic Mountain undergoes a great transformation as from the flatlands through the narrow gauge to the Alps, The Twin underwent great changes as it began to travel â in this case, to Iceland.
Ryan, Karen, and Jacob arrived at the Reykjavik studio of producer Alex Somers (Sigur RÃ³s, Julianna Barwick) with the original mixes of what seemed like more-or- less finished songs. And then they went through a different door. Guitars and harpsichords gave way to more analog synthesizers and melodic percussion. As the music's dynamic range grew wider, timbres chilled, and more layers of vocals were woven into the background, a new twin of The Twin emerged.
The Twin opens with the hypnotic "Gemini Scenic," analog keyboards and pulsating drums lifting up Karen's hazy, layered vocals; the intensity ebbs and flows, propelling the listener deeper into the album's mysterious sonic universe. "Mercury's Moods" clicks and hisses like some steam-powered alien machine, while "The Twin" underpins harp glissandi and Ryan's voice with crisp, dry snare hits. Hints of '60s exotica, '70s AM radio, and even symphonic grandeur weave through layers of rippling synths and shifting rhythms. Ideas drawn from the past and future fold together, creating a sound that exists outside any particular time or trend.
In concert, The Twin evolves and changes nightly; no two versions of this immersive audio-visual experience are alike. Lasers and fiber optics pierce the darkness and smoke, creating a web of ever-changing constellations. Stars, circles, and double- helixes dance around the band, bouncing off reflective costumes and outstretched hands. Responding fluidly to each unique environment where they perform, Sound of Ceres transport the audience into the heart of the great cosmos via a mystifying display of lights and effects, coupled with hypnotizing sound.
Just as the various members of Sound of Ceres combine ideas and energies to fashion their magical world, everything they create together â words and music, video, live performance art â interlocks to tell the whole story. And when all the elements align, The Twin unlocks a universe of endless possibilities and infinite outcomes. You'll never experience it the same way twice."
Machine Head - Presented by Iron City Rocks, Opus One and PromoWest North Shore - All tickets from February 15 will be honored
What do you call a group of psychedelic songsters all grown up? A group who were often considered the younger sibling, who have come into their own? Artists who just released their best piece of work yet, and musicians who unleashed one of the rowdiest and strongest live touring sets 2014 witnessed? You call them POND.
2014 unveiled the full-formed POND and the Northern Hemisphere barely survived. POND supported the Arctic Monkeys throughout Australia and then jumped on the next plane to Europe. There, POND stunned audiences at Primavera Spain + Portugal, UK festival Field Day, and brought the house down, every night, across their UK/EU headlining tour. Touring with Nick Allbrook (Vocals / Guitar / Astronaut), Jay Watson (Drums / Vocals / Dad Jokes), Joseph Ryan (Guitar / Bass / Vocals / Actual spaceman), Jamie Terry (Keys / Good vibes) and with barely a breather between, POND tore through North America, with sell-out shows ranging from one coast to the next, bouncing between countries like a pogo-stick. Pond's 6th album "Man, It Feels Like Space Again" hit the shelves January 23 (AUS) / January 26 (UK/EU) / January 27 (US) 2015, with more festivals and headline tours booked around the globe to showcase the new tunes and support this stellar album release.
"Man It Feels Like Space Again" was recorded in Melbourne Australia and once again mixed by buddy Kevin Parker. The band showcased "MIFLSA" songs throughout their first headline tour of the US in October. Starting at a festival in Mexico, heading to New England, traipsing through Canada, and back down the west coast, POND pondered, why stop there? After their sold-out Los Angeles Halloween show, POND ventured south to play music festivals in South America, where audiences exploded upon hearing "MIFLSA"'s hits and partied-hard with the melodious entertainers.
Hailing from Perth, Australia's POND formed in 2008 after good friends Joseph Ryan (Mink Mussel Creek), Nick Allbrook (Mink Mussel Creek, Allbrook/Avery, Tame Impala, Peter Bibby & His Bottles of Confidence), and Jay Watson (Tame Impala) hit upon the idea of an all inclusive, ego-free collaborative, so the boys immediately recorded their debut album "Psychedelic Mango" with a little help from good friend Kevin Parker (Tame Impala).
Since the beginning, POND wrote music and produced records faster than a label could release them. POND followed up "Psychedelic Mango" within months, releasing "Corridors of Blissterday," a frenzied effort recorded live with an eight-piece band in 2009. A year later, their third album "Frond," a kaleidoscopic classic, dripping with funk and falsetto, loosely inspired by a diet consisting only of Prince and Fleetwood Mac, delighted audiences Australia-wide. "Frond"'s release finally realised industry attention and praise, solidifying the band and their music in its own right. "Beard, Wives and Denim," their 4th album, was recorded on a farm a few hours South-West of Perth. "Beard, Wives, Denim" is a triumph of the eclecticism and good humor that drives POND.
Upon "Beard, Wives, Denim" release in March 2012, global attention shined its light upon the Perth gang. A North American tour ensued, smashing through 31 shows -- including 8 at South by South West -- where they were one of the most talked about bands of the festival. From there, they returned home to Australia and sold out a national tour before storming UK and Europe, causing NME to tout them as the "hottest band in the world right now" as well as proclaiming "Beard, Wives, Denim" as "quite possibly the best album released so far this year."
In August 2013, POND gifted to the world their 5th LP in as many years, "Hobo Rocket." "Hobo Rocket" is 40 minutes of perfectly imperfect emotion, challenging veteran listeners and music reviewers with an evolved and vigorous sound. Singer Nick Allbrook describes the release as the "...kind of mindset of finding our own little place in music, and being more of a functioning band, which is what makes it noisier and denser. This one we went as brutally hard as we would at a show. We wanted the songs to sound loose and live."
Enthusiasts and music aficionados world-wide agree MIFLSA is POND's most focused composition to date. This mirrors their touring efforts, dynamic and enthralling live show, media buzz and essentially, the maturation of a musical career a long time in the making. Maybe it's not such a bad thing growing up, especially when it's this much fun!
Gov't Mule - Presented by 91.3 WYEP, Opus One & PromoWest North Shore
"Masterful players on a Grail-like search for the cosmic heart of California." - MOJO
"â¦good-time music on an end-times mission." - ROLLING STONE
"...trailblazing a wonderfully refreshing slice of 'Rock N Roll' music." - AQUARIUM DRUNKARD
"â¦a celebration of how American musical traditions can be at once honored and psychedelically expanded." - UNCUT
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood are on tour in support of their latest studio album 'Barefoot In The Head.â In the middle of one of their most prolific periods to date, the band is riding a creative wave with a slew of studio and live records coming out amidst a rigorous tour schedule that only seems to fuel their fire even further. Their stellar new album, 'Barefoot In The Head,' marks the CRB's third studio release in just two years, and it finds them pushing boundaries and breaking new ground with more joy and wonder than ever before. Overspilling with stunning musicianship and infectious energy, the album showcases the continued growth of Robinson's songwriting partnership with his bandmates: guitarist Neal Casal, drummer Tony Leone, keyboardist Adam MacDougall, and bassist Jeff Hill. It revels in the kind of adventurousness that can only come from five artists tuned into the same sonic wavelength.
'Barefoot In The Head' follows last year's critically acclaimed LP, 'Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel,' and its companion EP, 'If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now.' It opens with the Americana funk of "Behold The Seer," which sounds like something of a mission statement for the CRB as Robinson sings, "If you want to keep your engine humming / Keep your eyes wide ahead and don't look back." On the dreamy "She Shares My Blanket," Robinson crafts cinematic scenes from a winter love affair in the mountains, while elegant pedal steel added by special guest Barry Sless on "Blonde Light Of Morning" casts a warm, romantic haze and "Blue Star Woman" sounds like T-Rex dressed in overalls living on a West Coast commune. Throughout the album, Robinson and the band deftly intertwine country, blues and psychedelia, even channeling freewheeling 60s' folk on "Hark The Herald Hermit Speaks," a breakneck stream of consciousness that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. On the English psych inspired "Glow," which Robinson calls "one of the most special things I've ever done in the studio," The CRB are joined by the celebrated sarodist Alam Khan (son of the legendary Ali Akbar Khan).
"The music that we make, the concerts that we play, it's this world we've created for ourselves and our people," explains Robinson. "We want everybody to understand that no matter where you are in your life that you can always be barefoot in your head. There's always this other place you can go. Is that place it real? Thatâs your decision to make, what you're going to let be real to you."
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood emerged in 2011 by playing close to 50 shows over nine weeks in California before ever leaving the Golden State or officially releasing music. Their introduction on the national stage came in 2012 when they'd release not one, but two acclaimed full-length albums within a few months of each other. Critics hailed their sprawling debut, 'Big Moon Ritual,' as a revelation, with The Independent raving that Robinson had "finally found the ideal vehicle to indulge his taste for 'Cosmic California Music.'" The reviews were similarly ecstatic for its immediate follow-up, 'The Magic Door,' which was praised by Relix as "classic rock in the finest sense." The band's epic tour schedule brought their shimmering acid-Americana around the world for a staggering 118-date tour, firmly establishing the CRB as the new standard-bearers of the psychedelic roots torch. In 2014, they returned to the studio for 'Phosphorescent Harvest,' a masterful collection that showcased the blossoming songwriting partnership between Robinson and Neal Casal. Rolling Stone raved that the album was "electrifyingâ¦boast[ing] a vintage rock vibe thatâs at once quirky, trippy, soulful and downright magnetic," and Guitar World called it "a treasure trove of soul that advances the band's bluesy, kaleidoscopic sound."
With a steady flow of new studio albums and live recordings plus a near non-stop touring schedule, including a growing number of sold out shows, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood are proving themselves among the most prolific rock and roll bands of their time. The quintet have honed their kinetic chemistry and immersive sound into a singular vision, which Uncut Magazine calls, "...a celebration of how American musical traditions can be at once honored and psychedelically expanded.â