The chorus to the title track on the new Hayes Carll album, What It Is, is a manifesto.
What it was is gone forever / What it could be God only knows.
What it is is right here in front of me / and Iâm not letting go.
Heâs embracing the moment. Leaving the past where it belongs, accepting thereâs no way to know whatâs ahead, and challenging himself to be present in both love and life. Itâs heady stuff. It also rocks.
With a career full of critical acclaim and popular success, Carll couldâve played it safe on this, his sixth record, but he didnât. The result is a musically ambitious and lyrically deep statement of an artist in his creative prime.
Hayes Carllâs list of accomplishments is long. His third album, 2008âs Trouble In Mind, earned him an Americana Music Association Award for Song of the Year (for âShe Left Me for Jesusâ). The follow-up, KMAG YOYO was the most played album on the Americana Chart in 2011 and spawned covers by artists as varied as Hard Working Americans and Lee Ann Womack, whose version of âChances Areâ garnered Carll a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. 2016âs Lovers and Leavers swept the Austin Music Awards, and was his fourth record in a row to reach #1 on the Americana Airplay chart. Kelly Willis and Kenny Chesney have chosen to record his songs and his television appearances include The Tonight Show, Austin City Limits, and Later w/Jools Holland. Carll is the rare artist who can rock a packed dancehall one night and hold a listening room at rapt attention the next.
âRepeating myself creatively would ultimately leave me empty. Covering new ground, exploring, and taking chances gives me juice and keeps me interested.â
He knew he wanted to find the next level. On What It Is, he clearly has.
It wasnât necessarily easy to get there. Carllâs last release, 2016âs Lovers and Leavers was an artistic and commercial risk â a bold move which eschewed the tempo and humor of much of his previous work. The record revealed a more serious singer-songwriter dealing with more serious subjects â divorce, new love in the middle of life, parenting, the worth of work. What It Is finds him now on the other side, revived and happy, but resolute â no longer under the impression that any of it comes for free.
âI want to dig in so this life doesnât just pass me by. The more engaged I am the more meaning it all has. I want that to be reflected in the work.â
And meaning there is. Carll sings âbut I try because I want to,â on the albumâs opening track, âNoneâYa.â Heâs not looking back lamenting love lost, rather, finding joy and purpose in the one heâs got and hanging on to the woman who sometimes leaves him delightedly scratching his head. âIf I May Be So Bold,â finds him standing on similar ground â lyrically taking on the challenge of participating fully in life rather than discontentedly letting life happen.
Bold enough to not surrender bold enough to give a damn
Bold enough to keep on going or to stay right where I am
Thereâs a whole world out there waiting full of stories to be told
Iâll heed the call and tellâem all if I may be so bold
Thereâs no wishy washy here and heâs not on the sidelines. In fact, heâs neck-deep in life. On the rambunctious, fiddle-punctuated, âTimes Like These,â he laments political division in America while delivering a rapid-fire plea to âdo my labor, love my girl, and help my neighbor, while keeping all my joie de vivre.â Carllâs signature cleverness and aptitude for so-personal-you-might-miss-it political commentary is as strong as ever. The stark, âFragile Men,â co-written with singer-songwriter Lolo, uses humor and dripping sarcasm to examine his genderâs resistance to change in less than three minutes of string-laden, almost Jacques Brel invoking drama. Itâs new musical territory for Carll, and the result is powerful. His voice is strong and resonant on these songs, and itâs thrilling to hear him use it with a new authority. He is alternately commanding and tender, yet always soulful.
Carll returned to trusted producer Brad Jones (producer of 2008âs Trouble in Mind and 2011âs KMAG YOYO) and Alex the Great Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, to record What It Is, and recruited singer-songwriter, author, and fiancee Allison Moorer as co-producer. The production is adventurous while keeping the focus on the singer and his songs and providing a path for him to go where he wants to go. Where that is, is forward.
Thatâs evident in the songwriting. Carll continues to hone his singular voice, but is also a flexible co-writer. Matraca Berg, Charlie Mars, Adam Landry, and Moorer have co-writing credits here, but it was Moorerâs inspiration that provided the largest impact.
âOn the songwriting front sheâs just a pro. She helps me cut through the noise and she does it with wit and style.â
Carllâs own wit and style has never been more evident. Whether itâs with the put-you-in-picture detail of, âBeautiful Thing,â the not quite sheepish enough, dude-esque defense of dishonesty in, âThings You Donât Wanna Know,â or the strong as a tree trunk declaration of love on, âI Will Stay,â he displays an increasing command of his poetic lexicon.
Writers most often wrestle with experience and expectations, either romanticizing the past or telling us how good itâs going to be when they get where theyâre going. What It Is is a record that is rooted solidly in the present, revealing an artist in the emotional and intellectual here and now.
Chase and the Barons CD Release Party with Special Guests Brahctopus, Jack Swing
Formed by three long-standing members of the blooming Rochester, NY rock scene, King Buffalo gathered in September of 2013 to start working on a new musical collaboration in a heavy rock vein. Their efforts spawned a demo release and several splits and one-offs which, coupled with their impressive live show, quickly gained them an international audience.
Nearly exactly three years after their formation, written during and out of jam sessions, (King Buffalo released Orion)â¦ nine tracks that are texturally rich and oozing with psychedelic goodness, yet honed and driving in the next blink of an eye. Lush, shimmering melodies Ã¡ la Dead Meadow and free-flowing groovesâ¦ with the full force of fuzzed-out stoner rock riffs, all coinciding organically. Impressively, King Buffaloâs focus extends beyond composition and into the technical realm; Orion was recorded entirely by the band in the very same rehearsal room that played host to the songsâ creation.â â Sludgelord
âThe question of howâ¦ heavy psych upstart trio King Buffalo will follow-up their debut full-length, Orion, is answered in the form of the three-track Repeater EP. In the year-plus since the albumâs first, (self-)release in 2016, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson signed to Stickman Records and oversaw an official issue of the record and have toured Stateside with All Them Witches and in Europe alongside labelmates Elder, and the EP brings three new cuts that represent the first new music theyâve produced following this productive time.
It is 24 minutes of material, and more than 13 of that resides within the opening title-track (also the longest of the set; immediate points), but in terms of flow and conveying a sense of how their progression is unfolding, Repeater feels like the first chapter in a larger story more than a standalone offering. That is to say, the vibe is more mini-album than single-song showcase for throwaways or âextrasâ from a recording session.
Part of that may of course owe to the fluidity in King Buffaloâs approach overall, which was certainly a factor on Orion and just as certainly hasnât at all been diminished by the stretches of time theyâve spent on the road, but thereâs a perceptible resounding in the molten aspects of âRepeater,â âToo Little too Lateâ and âCenturionâ that underlines the purposefulness with which King Buffalo engage such an open feel in what they do. Jamming is a crucial part of it at their foundation, but as far out as they go, their chemistry is put to use in servicing a song, even in something as vast as âRepeaterâ itself, which is their longest single track to-date.
I donât know and wonât try to speculate where King Buffalo might go with their sophomore full-length when the time comes for it, how they might continue to grow, what they might push toward in terms of arrangements or execution or general sound, but Repeater finds them brimming with confidence both as individuals and as a unit, and their songwriting here hits a new level of craftsmanship that only raises oneâs hopes even after such an impressive debut long-player. The question isnât so much whether King Buffalo are prepared for their next step as it is whether their audience is ready to realize the special moment playing out in front of them.â â The Obelisk
(Early Show) Kim Richey with Special Guest Jordie Lane
Edgeland moves roots singer/subtle excavator of the human condition Kim Richey through the topography of the life lived by a woman committed to following her music. Flinching over hurting another, knowing the ways of the road, seeking higher ground and accepting the fact everyoneâs truth isnât a white picket fence, she continues defying labels as she defines the thinking personâs life.
âRight now, my stuff is all in storage,â she says of her state of constant motion. âIâve lived in a lot of different places â different countries even. Itâs a little overwhelming, keeping track of stuff, but itâs been an amazing trip because music has taken me places I never dreamed.
âIâm the same way with writing. Even when Iâve finished a record, or am in the middle of recording, Iâm writing. Writing songs is what I do; itâs how I connect with the world.â
That sense of motion infuses Edgeland with immediacy. From the Buck Owens/Don Rich opening notes of âRed Line,â the dusky blond sweeps listeners up in her whirl. If âRed Lineâ is a missed train and a moment of immersion in the station, âThe Get Togetherâ shimmers with a Laurel Canyon lushness and ease in the awkward (that evokes J.D. Southerâs post-romantic midtempos) and âCanât Seem To Let You Goâ owns the â60s Merseybeat pop luxury of the Seekers or Dusty Springfield in Memphis. Demonstrating a facility for slipping in and out of oeuvres and emotions, this â in many ways â culminates her passage through music.
Kim Richey is a traveller, after all. Musically, physically, emotionally. Not merely restless or rootless, itâs who she is. Willing to follow where the music leads, sheâs landed in Los Angeles, Nashville, London, working with a whoâs who of producers â Richard Bennett, Hugh Padgham, Bill Bottrell, Angelo, Giles Martin. Sheâs attracted a coterie of top-shelf genre-definers â Jason Isbell, Trisha Yearwood, Chuck Prophet, My Morning Jacketâs Carl Broemel, Wilcoâs Pat Sansone â for her critically-lauded projects. She has also sung on records for Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin, Isbell, and Rodney Crowell.
Part of what draws them to the dusky honey of her crystalline alto is the way she writes: to and from the soul, never flinching from the conflicts and crushing moments, yet always finding dignity and resilience. Her arc of the human heart is true. True enough that over the years, Richeyâs been both Grammy nominated. Nominated for Yearwoodâs truculently groove-country âBaby, I Lied,â she also co-wrote Radney Fosterâs #1 âNobody Wins.â
âHarlan Howard said â and maybe Iâve taken it too much to heart, âItâs always more believable if you sing it in the first person.â And when I sit down to write, if itâs something Iâm going to sing, I want it to be what I want it to be. I donât really settle, which may make me a little hard to write with. But I have to be able to stand up and sing it night after night, and I canât if I donât really believe it.â
Those standards made Glimmer one of TIMEâs Top Records of 1999 and Rise named Peopleâs Best Alt-Country Record of 2002. Even when singing from the point of view of a guy working on a barge going up and down the Ohio River in âDear John,â her aim is true. As she says of the man refusing to read the letter that ends his romance, âbecause if I donât read your letter, then itâs not over. Sometimes these songs are specific and personal, but itâs also true in ways that reflect so many other peopleâs experience, too.â
Sometimes Richey channels profound truths. Sometimes she embraces breezy freedom. âLeavinâ Song,â a ramblerâs shuffle, is more about tasting the world than exiting a bad situation. As its chorus offers, âThis ainât no leaving song, you ainât done nothing wrongâ over an electric banjo and Resonator guitar, Richey finds the sweet spot in exulting for just being alive.
Once again, Richey has drawn a multitude of collaborators who rival her own singular voice. Veteran journeymen artist/writers Chuck Prophet, Maendo Sanz, Mike Henderson (Steeldrivers), Bill Deasy (the Gathering Field), Pat McLaughlin (John Prine) and Al Anderson (NRBQ), plus Aussies Jenny Queen and Harry Hokey co-sign on these musical polaroids from the going, the leaving, and the pausing.
âIâll be doing an interview, and people will say, âYou co-write a lotâ¦â,â she marvels, âlike itâs a bad thing. But itâs inspiring to me, and takes me in other directions, to other places. The people I write with are funny, and smart, and a blast to hang out with, but theyâre also really good writers in their own right. Nobodyâs pandering or chasing âa hit,â weâre all just trying to get to the best possible song.â
Whether growing up, owning and relinquishing high times in the sleek âChase Wild Horses,â echoed in the ether-lite, percussive folk âHigh Time,â then jettisoned on the smoky acceptance of her own flawed inability to be in a romance on the Western-tinged on âI Tried,â the woman from Ohio makes our natural selves both exotic and homey.
Richey enlisted producer Brad Jones, known for Over the Rhine, Josh Rouse, Butterfly Boucher, Hayes Carll and Marshall Crenshaw, in crafting an adult album that evokes and provokes musically. âI wasnât sure at first if weâd be a good combo because he has such strong opinions, and I do, too. But it was (laughter) the easiest record Iâve ever made. He has really different ideas, and itâs nice to have somebody push you in a direction you might not have gone â and have them respect your opinion, too. I really loved working with Brad.ââ
With three different tracking bands, Edgeland is a whoâs who of Nashvilleâs roots players: beyond co-writers, steel player Dan Dugmore, drummer Jerry Roe, multi-instrumentalist Sansone, guitarist/various stringed thing players Doug Lancio and Dan Cohen, string arranger Chris Carmichael and Robin Hitchcock all contribute to the bewitchery.
âSo many of these guys produce and make records on their own,â she marvels. âIâm open to collaboration, too. These songs wouldnât sound the way they do without these players.â
The noir-slink of âPin A Rose,â a cautionary told-you-so tale of domestic abuseâs repeat cycles, the neo-madrigal âNot for Money or Love,â inspired by the father Richey lost at 2, and the Mellotron-tinged austerity of âBlack Trees,â finished after a few years gestation during a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts Colony and expanded to consider a refugeeâs fortunes, all seek and explore. Here melody reinforces words, feelings, even interpersonal dynamics. Simplicity â as executed â breaks complicated things into evocative clouds that seep into the listeners unconscious.
âItâs a lot easier to say something in a song than in a conversation,â allows the easy-going grown-up. âAnd itâs not all about me, but the people in the songs. Even the stuff you leave out says something, so youâre creating on so many layers. And sometimes I donât know where it comes from, just some other place.â
Listening to âWhistle On Occasion,â the Everly-esque closer duet with Prophet, Richey owns oneâs place in the world. Here, there, going or gone, thatâs all anyone can ask.
â Holly Gleason
The Lone Bellow TRIIIO /// Acoustic Tour - Presented by Opus One & 91.3 WYEP
The Lone Bellow burst onto the scene with their self-titled debut in 2013. The Nashville-based trio, featuring Zach Williams (guitar/vocals), Kanene Donehey Pipkin (multi-instrumentalist), and Brian Elmquist (guitar), quickly became known for their transcendent harmonies, serious musicianship and raucous live performance â creating what NPR calls, âearnest and magnetic folk-pop built to shake the rafters.' In 2015, the band released Then Came The Morning, produced by The National's Aaron Dessner. The album was nominated for an Americana Music Award and took the band to numerous late night shows including Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Show With David Letterman and Later...with Jools Holland among others. In 2017, The Lone Bellow returned with Walk Into A Storm, produced by legendary music producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Sturgill Simpson). Most recently, the band released The Restless EP, a collection of previously released songs performed in a manner the songs were written, stripped back and acoustic.
One of YouTube's most popular comics with over 100 million views, Steve Hofstetter is also the host of Finding Babe Ruth on FS1. Hofstetter was the host and executive producer of season one of Laughs (FOX) and he has been on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and E! True Hollywood Story, Comics Unleashed, Comedy All-Stars, Quite Frankly, White Boyz in the Hood, Countdown, and more. Now is your chance to find out what the fuss is about during this no-holds-barred stand-up performance, featuring some of his unfiltered observations about life.
The Cactus Blossoms with Special Guest Jack Klatt - Presented by Opus One and 91.3 WYEP
Blood Harmony. Whether itâs The Beach Boys, Bee Gees or First Aid Kit, that sibling vocal blend is the secret sauce in some of the most spine-tingling moments in popular music. The Cactus Blossoms â Minneapolis-based brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey â offer compelling evidence that this tradition is alive and well, with a deceptively unadorned musical approach that offers âcreative turns of phrase, gorgeous harmonies, and an ageless soundâ (NPR All Things Considered), not to mention spine tingles aplenty. Their 2016 debut Youâre Dreaming, a stunning and transporting collection of original songs, earned high praise from Rolling Stone and Vice Noisey, tour stints with Kacey Musgraves and Lucius, and a perfectly cast performance on the third season of David Lynchâs Twin Peaks. Now their unlikely rise continues with new album Easy Way, to be released on their own label Walkie Talkie Records.
While many bands would have been content to stick with the winning formula of their debut, the Blossoms refused to repeat themselves. If Youâre Dreaming celebrated their vintage country and rock influences, Easy Way reveals a songwriting style that has changed, evolved, and gotten more modern. Dan Auerbach, another artist who knows from bedrock influences, co-wrote two songs on the album. âDanâs love for songwriting was inspiring, just the kick in the pants we needed to start writing again after being on the road,â says Page.
The brothersâ decision to produce the new album themselves no doubt led to the new sound. âWe wanted the freedom to experiment with our own weird ideas,â says Jack, âWe used to joke that the working title album should be Expensive Demos.â As they crisscrossed the nation on tour, the brothers would stop through Alex Hallâs Reliable Recorders studio in Chicago to chase the new sound they were after. The result joins together what would otherwise be distant corners of the American songbook. Both the traditional twang of Chicago pedal steel guitarist Joel Paterson (Devil in a Woodpile, The Western Elstons) and the primal wail of free jazz saxophonist Michael Lewis (Bon Iver, Andrew Bird) are at home on the album. Just as they did with their debut, the brothers found a voice all their own.
Tow'rs with Special Guest Nick Snyder (of Ferdinand the Bull)
Every story begins somewhere. Ours began in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona. We were originally a group of strangers who found each other through a deep love for music & story telling. Over the years we have become a family, writing not just our music together, but our lives. Our sights are set on being students of story with one another and loving people through our craft.
Through our music, we explore the questions that haunt us, the pain that marks us, and the hope that redefines everything for us. We invite you into the conversation, build with us, find your place at the table.
About our new album - âGrey Fidelityâ
The grey inconclusive nature of life felt paralyzing at times this year. In the midst of liminal spaces, fidelity was a reoccurring hope where there werenât conclusions. And though we often operated out of a grey area of knowledge, it became an ongoing observation that fidelity to hope seemed more important than having answers. Fidelity to our marriages seemed more important than being right or getting our way. Fidelity to vulnerability seemed more important than protecting ourselves from the inevitable pain of community. Fidelity to social justice and human rights seemed more important than protecting our image or privilege.
Our hope for these songs is to invite you not into certainty, but into devotion to hope. A place we tried to operate in despite not being able to know or see the full outcome of that devotion.
These are the poems of our year of âGrey Fidelityâ.
Buck Up, the new studio album from singer and songwriter Carsie Blanton, due out February 15 2019, opens with a siren. The warning â or call to (dis)arms â segues into the first notes of âTwister.â Finger snaps alone accompany Blantonâs smoky vocals, before piano, upright bass, cello, trumpet, and drums join the proceedings. Youâre immediately drawn in to her riveting tale of natural â and erotic â disaster. Brimming with catchy hooks, sensual vocals, and lyrics boasting a gift for rhyme and meter, Buck Up is Blantonâs melodic mandate for survival following the 2016 presidential election: passion, lust, and humor. âThere are two themes on this record,â says Blanton of Buck Upâs ten electrifying tracks. âOne is the feeling of catastrophe happening in American politics, and the other is this feeling of personal catastropheâ: when you fall for âThat Boy,â for example, a reckless wild child, the type who populate her life and imagination. Though Buck Up may be âbasically about being depressed,â according to Blanton, âif thereâs not a sense of humor or playfulness, I donât want to listen to it. Music is about play.â
Over the past dozen years, Blanton has been making music that personifies play. Her work has been called âimpeccably catchyâ by critic Robert Christgau, with musician John Oates admiring her songsâ âsly wit and urbane imageryâ that remind him of Cole Porter. Sheâs toured across America and Europe sharing stages with Madeleine Peyroux, The Weepies and others. Though based in New Orleans since 2012, the self-described âproud socialistâ has been on the road since her teens. As a child in tiny Luray, Virginia, she began playing piano at 6 and learned guitar at 13. The budding songwriterâs life was forever changed when her grandpa sent her a batch of jazz recordings for her thirteenth birthday. âBillie Holiday, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong â thatâs when it started for me,â Blanton says of the gift two decades ago that remains âthe most inspiring to me as a songwriter and a singer. Iâd started performing and he wanted to make sure my musical education was well rounded.â She was deeply smitten with Holidayâs recording of Irving Berlinâs âHow Deep Is the Oceanâ: âI just love him,â she says of the composer, âand Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart. Theyâre all masters of music and words.â Such influences would surface as Blanton began crafting her own witty lyrics and using jazz phrasing in her vocals.
Blanton left the Blue Ridge mountains an angst-ridden 16-year-old and began living within an artistic community in Eugene, Oregon, until she was 20. There, guitar in hand, âI realized by being creative, I could be a happier person and take care of myself,â she says. After more travels, she settled in Philadelphia, where she worked at a nonprofit while recording her first album. She left her job to make music her life and has never looked back. By the time she was 23, she was touring solo and as an opener for such artists as the Wood Brothers. Vocalist/guitarist Oliver Wood, an early mentor who produced a previous Blanton album, lends his distinctive fingerpicking and vocals to Buck Upâs exuberant title track.
Since locating to New Orleans, Blanton has âbecome more prolific as a songwriter,â she says. âThereâs something about the spirit of the city. Itâs very musical but also very dark with a lot of pathos.â Her last release, 2016âs So Ferocious, documented her love affair with the city, and the Big Easy vibe imbues her new album. Sequestered in her NOLA home, she wrote the first song for Buck Up, âBed,â in November 2016: âIâm not gonna get out of bed today/Iâve tried to do it but what can I say/Every time I turn on the news itâs a kick to the head/Why donât you wake me up when the presidentâs dead.â âThat song shook loose a lot of feelings I had about the political landscape and growing up in America,â Blanton reports. âIf I can write one song that really captures the feeling of a project, then the rest come more easily.â In fact, bed imagery trickles throughout the albumâs tracks.
For the recording, Blanton returned to the south Jersey studio of guitarist Pete Donnelly (the Figgs, Graham Parker), who coproduced Buck Up with Blanton. Joining them was her longtime bassist and sometime co-writer Joe Plowman, keyboardist Patrick Firth, and drummer Nicholas Falk.
While her lyrics grapple with some dark subject matter, Blantonâs engaging, captivating vocals are relaxed and flirty on âJacket,â her ode to the female gaze and masturbation. She sounds wistful and sweet on the strings-and-accordion-accented âHarbor,â and sex-drenched on âDesire,â âan apocalyptic love story,â one of her favorite genres, she says. âLust and passion and romantic energy are a beautiful, joyful source of pleasure in life,â says Blanton, âbut also a source for heartache and devastation. It reminds you of how short life is, so it feels very connected to death and mortality to me. One of my major inspirations as a songwriter is feeling the erotic connection. When I get connected to the erotic force, I feel so turned on by life and also hooked up to death at the same point.â Song ideas flow when she âgoes out there and looks for some sexy young man whoâs a mess â thatâs the muse that works for me. Thatâs where I get my mojo.â In addition to songcraft, her erotic life inspired her to invent âa sexy card game, The Fâing Truth,â says Blanton, intended for âpeople who fâ and tellâ and deemed a âfâing blastâ by sex columnist Dan Savage.
Blantonâs thing for bad boys can bring moody moments to her songs, but her cheeky takedown of male hipsters adds lighthearted fun to Buck Up. The upbeat âMustache,â a co- write with Plowman, asks, âwhyâd you have to grow that mustache,â while its sonics, complete with calliope-sounding keys, is her homage to another musical favorite, The Supremes.
The heart of the album, says Blanton, resides within the pop-rock anthem, âAmerican Kid.â Its hummable tune camouflages Blantonâs downhearted lyrics detailing disillusionment that comes with the realization that âwe done them wrongâ: âItâs my journey from being a standard liberal moderate to being really radicalized and losing my belief in American capitalism. I want to connect with this feeling of âwe can be compassionate and we can change what weâre doing and not take it lying down.ââ
At the crossroads of nihilism and determination â the former described in the harrowing âBattleâ (âI know I wonât survive the battle in my heartâ) â Blanton chooses to âBuck Up,â which closes the album with mirth. âBuck Upâ is a ârallying cry,â says Blanton. âEnough with the sadness and wallowing about America. We have to get people together to make change, even though itâs daunting.â Paraphrasing Tom Waits, she quips, âI hope this album will help to improve the quality of our suffering.â And with a feisty nod to the work of another hero, John Prine, she coos, âMake âem laugh if you canât lick âem.â
Who is Less Than Jake?
That's a legitimate question for someone who has been out of touch with the independent or punk music scene for the last quarter of a century. To some, the name may bring you back to a movie soundtrack or a video game; others are transported to a sweaty day on the Vans Warped Tour. One thing that can not be argued is that if you have experienced Less Than Jake live, it is something that you will never forget.
With ten full length releases, numerous EP's, 7" singles and compilations, the band has quietly sold millions of records worldwide, with little support from radio and television outlets. They have been self managed for the last 6 years and have shown no signs of slowing down their break neck touring schedule. To quote an industry insider, "while their contemporaries crowds have diminished, Less Than Jake's draw has seemingly gotten larger." If asked how this was accomplished, the band members shrug and respond, "we never stopped touring or trying to be an active band.â
Continuing to play over 150 dates a year while also writing and recording new material has kept the band fresh in a time when "ska" has become something of a four letter word. The list of acts they have supported is staggering (Bon Jovi, Linkin Park, Snoop Dogg) while the list of bands that have supported them makes even the most hardened music industry veteran do a double take (Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Yellowcard). All the while the band has held firm to its punk rock roots and have managed to live through many musical trends simply by just being Less Than Jake.
With well over 300 releases on various labels under their belt, most would think their legacy is already in tact, but the status quo has never interested Less Than Jake. They continue to write and perform new material and have no thoughts of letting up. With the energy and exuberance of a band half its age and the determination of savvy veterans, there is seemingly no end point to this enduring and entertaining band. So who is Less Than Jake? Go see a show and find out.
***SOLD OUT*** Lady Lamb with Special Guests Renata Zeiguer and Alex Schaaf - Presented by Opus One & WPTS Radio
To many, Lady Lamb (aka Aly Spaltro) is an enigma. Her songs are at once intimate and unbridledâ both deeply personal and existentially contemplative. Spaltro is a fearless performer who can command a pitch-black stage with nothing more than her voice. Yet, when the band bursts in and the lights come up, what began as a demonstration of restraint shifts seamlessly into an emphatic snarl.
It was in Spaltroâs home state of Maine that she first found her voice among thousands of films in the independent rental store where she worked the closing shift. After hours, Spaltro would create songs completely uninhibited by musical conventions, learning to play and sing as she hit record. A handful of these songs were carefully curated and fully arranged for her debut studio album, Ripely Pine (Ba Da Bing! Records).
On her newest work, After, Spaltro explores dualities further â giving equal attention to both the internal and external, the before and after. Her most palpable fears and memories are on display here, with a familiar vulnerability even more direct than her last effort. These new works â which found Spaltro co-producing with her Ripely Pine partner Nadim Issa â are sonically vibrant, with an assertive use of grit and brightness. Thematically, they provide direct insight into Spaltroâs rumination on mortality, family, friendships, and leaving home. Where Ripely Pinesometimes lacked in personal narrative and directness is where After shines. The last line on After encompasses the self-assurance of the work as a whole, stating âI know where I come from.â This theme is constant throughout the album.
Every pair of tickets for this show includes either digital download or CD copy of SUSTOâs new album, Ever Since I Lost My Mind. You will receive an email with more details about this offer approximately 7 days after your purchase.
Mobility has always helped define America. Don't settle for where you start. Find a new town, new coast, or new state of mind -- then make it yours. "We export this idea of getting in your car and going somewhere, trying to find something new, bouncing around," says Justin Osborne. "We live in some strange, crazy times. There is a sense of darkness. But I'm crisscrossing the country, and people are good and fun. There is a lot of beauty everywhere. I think not forgetting that is important."
Osborne is home in Charleston, South Carolina, reflecting on the personal journey and cultural climate that have led to Ever Since I Lost My Mind, the third record and label debut for his acclaimed project SUSTO. The album is a resounding triumph: a mix of new partnerships and collaborations with old friends, all anchored by Osborne's perceptive songs that explore connection, loss, and transience -- and the pain and joy each brings.
"Ever Since I Lost My Mind is very personal. This collection of songs came together over the course of a couple of years, and they all represent different moments," he says. "It felt cathartic writing all of them, and they were also all fun in different ways."
With a rock-rooted sound that doesn't shy away from radio-ready hooks, SUSTO keeps listeners engaged by refusing to occupy an easily defined space. Produced by Ian Fitchuck (Kacey Musgraves, Ruston Kelly) and featuring key input from Osborne's longtime creative sounding board Wolfgang Zimmerman, Ever Since I Lost My Mind defiantly experiments with synth embellishments, Latin heart, guileless folk, and more. Osborne's mellow vocals comfort without losing the ability to surprise -- delicate croons, growls, and occasional screams take turns.
Osborne wrote his first songs as a 14-year-old in small town South Carolina, sneaking time with his late grandfather's parlor guitar that his parents had actually forbidden him and his three rowdy brothers to touch. "So I'd go steal it out of my dad's closet whenever they were out of the house," he recalls. "It only had like three strings on it. I remember figuring out how to do barre chords, and I wrote a three-chord song about a girl I liked." Drawn to music and supported by parents who just hadn't wanted their boys to break a family heirloom, Osborne played in bands throughout high school, military school, and college.
But SUSTO didn't begin until Osborne thought he was walking away from music for good. Burned out after years of self-booking, self-management, and a relentless grind, he had played a farewell show with his then-band and was prepping for a move to Cuba. He set up an online home for SUSTO as a holding tank for demos he couldn't quite bear to toss.
When Osborne moved to Havana as part of a study abroad opportunity, he thought he was abandoning music for anthropology. But the Cuban musicians and artists he befriended had other ideas. They were among the first to see that SUSTO -- and the music that would ultimately fuel it -- captured him too well to remain an afterthought. Re-energized, he returned to the States half a year later and recorded SUSTO's first album. Just after the release of the band's self-titled debut album, Osborne faced a clear choice. "It was a weird moment. I just had to finally quit keeping one foot out of music and dive in. So, I got knuckle tattoos and haven't stopped trying to make this work since then," he says with a laugh. SUSTO's acclaimed sophomore album & I'm Fine Today made it even more clear that music and Osborne were meant to be.
In Latin American cultures, the word susto describes an intense fear understood as a condition of the soul -- an ongoing, spiritual panic attack. All of the letters of susto also appear in Osborne's full name. "SUSTO was this combination of phonetics and meaning -- it felt like me, like a name for myself," he says. "I chose the name SUSTO for the project because the meaning behind the word -- that deep fright -- was something I was experiencing, and songwriting felt like it was helping me cure it by helping me to process what was happening. Personally, it was a time of so many powerful transitions: abandoning my religion, losing touch with my family, and just having a general sense of being lost, without direction."
That nod to transition reverberates loudly throughout Ever Since I Lost My Mind. While SUSTO began as a band and still benefits from collaboration with peers, the new record also positions the project finally and firmly as what it's really always been: Osborne's vision. "I come from a background of being in bands, so it's hard for me to be comfortable taking complete control," he says. "Even being the only person in a promo photo was a hard thing for me to get used to. It's taken years for me to realize what SUSTO should be -- what it really is."
"Homeboy" kicks off the album. Osborne contemplates friends moving on from Charleston over jaunty acoustic guitar that evokes exploratory rambling before heavier electric guitar adds gravity to all the leaving. He didn't want loved ones to go, but then realized that in many ways -- even though Charleston remains home base -- he'd already left. "The whole album deals with these pulling-apart decisions -- not in a negative or a positive way, but in a reflective way," he says.
Sauntering "If I Was" is a lighthearted stroll through different identities and aspirations, followed by the optimistic yearning of "Weather Balloons," buoyed by punchy percussion and keys. Driving "Last Century" revels in timeless bonds revealed by details: "I can see you in the driveway, smiling, licking your left front tooth," he sings.
"Livin' in America" extols beloved U.S. cities and finding the right people in them. It's a self- aware ode, both gently sarcastic and totally sincere -- a timely love letter to a country whose defining quality today is often turmoil. Stripped down "Cocaine" skulks through dark corners, while "No Way Out" lounges in captivity that Osborne has no urge to escape. Gorgeous album closer "Off You" is bright and honest, an intimate moment of clarity mid-transition.
One of Osborne's favorite tracks, "Manual Transmission," was written on a cold day on tour in Norway when he was hounded by homesickness. He plays lead guitar on the track and relished the opportunity to express himself via aching strings in addition to words. "Esta Bien" soars sweetly and entirely in Spanish. "House of the Blue Green Buddha" is a love song that lands because of its whimsical specificity -- details from the home and closeness Osborne and his wife share.
The title track is a stunner: sad but hopeful, content but restless, nostalgic but progressive -- a beautiful encapsulation of the push and pull that shapes the entire record. Osborne's experiences with psychedelics also play a role, both in "Ever Since I Lost My Mind" and the album as a whole. Warned as a child that drugs would make him lose his mind, he now believes in the freedom and self-discovery that can come with letting go in various ways. He is also convinced that some people from his past think he's insane. "They think I'm a crazy hippie, and really, in a lot of ways, I guess I am," he says with a smile. "I feel more loving and more understanding."
That acceptance of himself and others may be SUSTO's defining trait. "I can lose my mind on stage sometimes -- I will break down and cry or have to keep myself from doing it," Osborne says. "I think about my grandad's guitar, all the bands I've been in, and just seeing these people responding to and connecting with the songs..." He trails off before grinning again and adding, "I just feel so incredibly lucky."
An Evening With Bela Fleck/Abigail Washburn - Presented by Opus One & 91.3 WYEP
Formed in Espoo, Finland in 1993 originally under the moniker Inearthed, CHILDREN OF BODOM had an extraordinary start to their career. Their â90s take off was so impressive that many new metal bands still look up to it today â almost all of their albums earned platinum or gold status in Finland and over the past twenty five years theyâve become regulars on some of the worldâs biggest stages. 2019 beckons in a new era for a revitalized and bloodthirsty Hate Crew, who will present their 10th studio album Hexed on March 8th.
Itâs been three years since the release of I Worship Chaos and Bodom have taken time out around touring to carefully develop this new work, which packs a hell of a punch. History tells us that having an extensive time frame to work on a project can often result in procrastination and loss of focus â but with Hexed the reverse has manifest in this 11 track, impressively stripped back melo-death, rock-n-roll-rampage.
âThis roadâs gonna kill me,â exhorts shredder extraordinaire Alexi Laiho on the albumâs opening track âThe Roadâ â paying homage to the determined decades which the guys have spent slogging it out on the tarmac, undoubtedly one of the toughest aspects to a musicianâs career. Alexi opens up on this: ââ¦Iâve been living on the road for over 20 years, and Iâm sure that every single touring musician would agree that at some point it just becomes a blur and you donât even know what the hellâs going on. You feel like itâs going to kill you, but you keep doing it no matter what. Itâs kind of a drug because you canât stop. I canât. Iâm going to do it as long as I liveâthereâs no other way.â
Musically, âThe Roadâ quickly betrays the bandâs increasingly sophisticated approach to melody, evoking shades of Rush in the â80s.
âIâll take that as a compliment,â laughs Laiho, at that assessment. âPeople have said that the album is generally catchier. So, I started thinking about that, perhaps the song structures are easier to grasp on initial listen. But thereâs some crazy shit in there, almost progressive or at least technical. But you are right, there are certain melodies across the album that could have come from jazz songs, although theyâre completely metal with us, of course (laughs). â
Another highlight to Hexed is âHecateâs Nightmareâ, an almost gothic outlier on what is for all intents and purposes a traditional all-guns-blazing Children of Bodom blowout.
âThatâs a lot of peopleâs favourite song actuallyâ, notes Alexi, âwith that creepy music box opening keyboard thing. But then it builds up and itâs a really catchy song. Just talking about the chorus itself, I mean it totally could have been an â80s Ozzy Osbourne song. Thatâs the sort of stuff I grew up with and I still listen to. And those lyrics, Iâve always been into this witchy stuff and the different goddesses of the underworld. Iâd been reading about Hecate a lot and before I knew it, I just started to write a song about it. But itâs a fictional story of two people trying to ask for help from Hecate and she helps them. They keep fucking it up and then eventually she gets pissed-off and you do not want to get that chick pissed-off.â
As usual, and as can be heard in this very much hit-ready song, keyboardist Janne Wirman is a big part of the Bodom sound. Laiho agrees, âYes, heâs played a big part of every single album, but this time this might seem even more prominent only because of the sounds that he uses. Because the funny thing is that on, letâs say, I Worship Chaos or Halo of Blood, the keyboards were there all the time, but you might not even know that theyâre there because heâs doubling my guitars with some insane, super-low octave sound that doesnât really stick out. So maybe he pops out more on this album, and I guess he has more of a main role in a lot of parts of the songs.â
Underscoring their overall vision is the hard and modern production of longtime sound-shaper Mikko Karmilla, who Laiho canât praise enough. âHe knows very well what we want and weâve been working together forever. The way he mixes the album, he just knows exactlyâexactlyâwhat we want. And itâs a unique sound and you can hear that sound. Iâm not saying that all Finnish bands sound the same, but thereâs a certain vibe on the records that heâs mixed that you can hear, especially with the drums, which sound fucking bad-ass. As a person, heâs super funny but if he doesnât like something, heâll tell you flat-out, and not in the nicest way ever. But itâs also very funny at the same time if you know him.â
In an album packed full of killer tracks, âUnder Grass and Cloverâ - once more, a song blessed with melodies that evoke images of both â70s prog and â80s pop metal - has been picked out for extra attention by Alexi. âItâs a track that people should hear first, besides âThe Roadââ says Alexi, âbefore you get to the rest of the album. And like âThe Roadâ itâs also about the dangers of alcoholism; letâs just put it that way (laughs). Itâs something that I have not written about in a long time.â
A curious addition to the album, says Alexi, is a twisted second go at an old Bodom song. âWe re-recorded a song called âKnuckledusterâ that was originally on the âTrashed, Lost and Strungoutâ EP that came out in 2004, and we all thought that it was a great song. It was kind of overlooked and we just figured that we needed to do it again - it needed to be heard again. But I had no idea what I sang on that song; like no frigging idea except for the chorus. So I had to rewrite the lyrics and I had toâ¦ well at least I tried to write âem so that they would sound kind of like the original did. As for the lyrics, itâs just another vent about how I donât like somebody.â
âKnuckledusterâ is delivered with Alexiâs typical throat-shredding vocal style, but look out for a slight variant within a gem of a track called âPlatitudes and Barren Wordsâ: âMy voice, obviously, Iâm not doing clean vocals,â muses Laiho, âand I wonât -not with this fucking band, like never - that I can promise you. But that punk rock thing in that song, even though I am adding a bit of melody, itâs still more screaming than singing. Call it punk rock, but itâs maybe more Alice Cooper meets death metal.â
Hexed is a high-energy, up-tempo record seething with new life but also all of the Children of Bodom trademarks that millions of fans around the world have grown to appreciate. Their mix of melo-death meets blackened thrash with a neo-classical twist, and piercing Derek Sherinian-intense keyboards peppered with Alexiâs venomous vocal bile, is what makes a Bodom spread so engaging. And it also explains why the Hate Crew continues to wow crowds across the globe; their reputation continues to grow as a fearsome live act with incredible technical proficiency. Stronger than ever and evidently thrilled to be in such great health, Hexed is beckoning Children of Bodom into a new era of world domination.
Carbon Leaf - Hindsight's 2019 Look Past the Future Tour
Blending rock, folk, Celtic, bluegrass and Americana traditions into a high-energy style the group calls ether-electrified porch music, the Virginia quintetâs poetic songs are brought to life with acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, fiddle, bass, drums, cello, banjo, penny whistle, pedal steel, accordion and rich vocal harmony. Carbon Leaf writes, records and produces itâs music independently from their studio in Richmond, VA, and has performed over 2,400 lives shows across 17 albums in their long career. The groupâs independent music and spirit continue to resonate with its fans.
Life In Vacuum with special Guests Derider and Hearken
Math rock. Noise rock. Post punk or post hardcore. You could use any combination of
those terms and dozens more to describe Life in Vacuum, though more accurately, you
could just say, âundiluted urgency in audio form.â
The Toronto-based trio delivers an explosive, high-energy brand of aggressive
rock that laces merciless but musical melodies and passionate vocals with rhythms
seemingly spit out by an angry calculator. The result is many things: compelling,
hypnotic, menacing, but most of all, undeniably magnetic. Look no further than the
bandâs latest LP, All You Can Quit, for proof.
Brothers Ross and Sasha Chornyy never played music together in their native
Ukraine, though that changed upon immigrating to Canada in 2004. The pair â Ross on
drums and Sasha on guitar and vocals â formed a band that was admittedly far removed
from Life in Vacuumâs perfectly calculated chaos; then, they were introduced to acts like
At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta, and Refused, and everything changed.
All You Can Quit is the first offering to feature current bassist Geoff Albrecht, and
the groupâs chemistry is outright combustible. The albumâs 11 tracks showcase the
pinnacle of Life in Vacuumâs dynamic sound to date, shifting seamlessly from raw
aggression to intricate and ethereal delicacy â always musical, always awesome.
Life in Vacuum have toured rigorously in their time together, bringing their highenergy, piss-and-vinegar performances everywhere possible â from raucous house shows in sweaty Toronto basements to tours throughout the U.S., Europe, and South America.
Theyâve shared stages with the likes of MeWithoutYou, PUP, and Metz and performed at
high-profile events at SXSW, The Fest, NXNE, and Canadian Music Week.
The swarm of people that care is swelling by the day, and All You Can Quit is
sure to push the band to an entirely new plateau. Describe Life in Vacuum however you
like; just donât ignore the impactful and unparalleled aural experience so uniquely their