Our hand-picked lineup of bands and musicians embodies the spirit of Bourbon & Beyond. Follow us on social media to be the first to find out about lineup additions.
24 KARAT GOLD – SONGS FROM THE VAULT
Words… and Music…By Stevie Nicks
I began thinking about making this record in February of this year because I had about five months before Fleetwood Mac rehearsals started in August. We didn’t have a year to hang out and work on music like I usually do. I had about 40 songs originally done in demo form from 1969-1987 and ’94 and ’95. I thought we could certainly make an album from this collection – probably three albums. Many of the songs were already out there on the internet and fans have been asking for them for years through fan sites and letters. I used to make cassettes of my music and give them to anybody. But to know that these songs were finally going to be recorded with the same love they were originally done when they were demos – that was joyous for me. I narrowed it down to 30 and had to keep weeding out. I think Waddy hit it on the head when he said, “Stevie really writes one very long song. They’re all involved with each other. Each song is a lifetime… Each song has a soul… Each song has a purpose. Each song is a love story… They represent my life behind the scenes, the secrets, the broken hearts, the broken hearted and the survivors… These songs are the memories – the 24 Karat gold rings in the blue box… These songs are for you.”
From the very beginning of the first song I wrote before I turned 16 to the last song I ever wrote, there’s a certain thread that I use because it’s just what I do… The songs are all about love and heartbreak – how to pick up the pieces – how to keep moving… I’m really chronicling love from the very beginning. When you write a song and it doesn’t go on a record, it floats around in your life for years. You think about it and go over it until it becomes part of your world. These songs are now 24 Karat Gold.
It all started when I fell crazy in love with a really super handsome kid from Arcadia High School who is still my really good friend today… Even now when he walks through the door, it’s like the same as when I saw him walking down the hall in 10th grade… He started me out as a songwriter… From that second onward I told my parents I was going to be a famous singer songwriter. I was 15 1/2.
You usually don’t write songs about being super happy… When you write a song or a book, it’s usually when someone walks away. I think that’s the first moment you start to think about it not working out and you start to write. The relationship may go on for longer but you’ve already started writing in your head because you see the future… Other times, you know a relationship won’t work from almost the beginning but you wouldn’t trade what you shared for a million dollars…
It’s not acting… It’s never acting… It’s the reason I go onstage and sing Edge of 17 every night since ’81 or Gold Dust Woman. I just take myself back to that time when it was written… Sometimes I can’t remember what happened yesterday but I remember so well what happened through the whole period of time that I wrote these songs.
Fast forward to 2014, I said to Dave (Stewart, co producer), “How do we make a record in a few months?” And he said, “We go to Nashville for two weeks.” So we all got on a plane – Waddy (Wachtel co producer/Stevie’s musical director), Dave, Lori and Sharon (long time background vocalists), my assistant Karen and I headed to Nashville from LA. By this time, I had narrowed it down to l7 songs. I knew we had to smash the recording of them into ten days. Later I’d figure out which l4 would make the record. We went in on Monday morning and did two songs – even got a good vocal… Then, two more each day through Friday. Then we went into the smaller room to do little touches. We flew back to LA and started working at my house for three weeks doing background and guitar overdubs. It was really coming together.
The only way this would have been possible was because of the amazing “Nashvillians” (as I named them) the brilliant musicians who we worked with in Nashville. Dave said that these guys can record all these songs in two weeks. I had my doubts because I don’t know any band in the world that could record all these songs in two weeks. It was like Annie Oakley rode in and hired a gang. We were a whole different can of beans than they were used to working with for sure. They were a great band – tantamount to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers… They reminded me of Tom’s band because they were so good and they played together so well. We were awestruck for the whole time just watching them. For me to stand in the vocal booth and be able to see all of them – that they could learn the songs that fast – it blew my mind… I told them, “I’m making a great record. Don’t care if it’s a hit record. And they were all on board. We recorded live and just about all the final vocals are live… This was going to be a fast moving train… That is how we roll and THAT IS HOW WE ROLLED. AND WE DID IT.”
Ages ago I wanted to learn how to become a photographer. I don’t sleep at night so I thought, who am I going to ask to stay up all night and then do a show tomorrow night… I’m not going to get Christine (McVie) to be a model… She’s going to say, Are you crazy? I’m going to the bar, bye. And so it began… I had a long cord that plugged into the Polaroid which I put on a tripod with the button in my hand… I’d be completely dressed – red lipstick and hair and long white gown in the middle of the night… I’d start moving furniture and lamps around and kept changing the lighting… Lots of times I ran out of film and would send people out to buy more in the middle of the night but the end result was I taught myself about lighting and how to take a great picture. I realized the songs and pictures from that time all fit together and from these I would select the art work for the album. They were of a time. I had stored them all in shoe boxes and they still look great. Many have a golden tone to them which is perfect for the title of the album. And all the shots are not just me but certain people in my life who surrounded me as I was writing these songs… Everybody is represented here… These songs and photographs came from all these people. This is not a solo effort… We just got the last photo release signed by Jimmy Iovine… Without the pictures of Jimmy, I would have had to throw out the whole idea because he was so important with “Belladonna” and my solo career… If it hadn’t been for Jimmy, I don’t know if it would have ever really gone anywhere.
I even did some of the calligraphy for the packaging. My trusty assistant Karen found the most amazing calligraphy pen and I decided to write all the titles of the songs. I never thought I could do it but the pen was indeed magical and I thought it was an extra added touch to include the calligraphy as part of the package for 24 Karat Gold.
Regarding Fleetwood Mac, it’s going to be so great to look over to my right and see Christine behind the Hammond organ… I’ve missed her so much… I never thought she’d come back… She said she was never coming back… But she started seeing a therapist and one day she had an epiphany. I think he said, What are you doing staying out in your castle, Guenivere… What are you doing out there? You need to come back and start living life… Go back to the band… At that time, it was Mick, John, Lindsey and I touring… She called up and asked, “What would you think it I came back to the band?” And I said, “Chris, it is your band… Get a trainer…” So she got a trainer and she’s been working out for the last six months and she’s stronger than all of us. She’s going to leave us in the dust.
Steve Miller Band
Steve Miller was a mainstay of the San Francisco music scene that upended American culture in the late ’60s. With albums like ‘Children of the Future,’ ‘Sailor’ and ‘Brave New World,’ Miller perfected a psychedelic blues sound that drew on the deepest sources of American roots music and simultaneously articulated a compelling vision of what music-and society-could be in the years to come.
Then, in the ’70s, Miller crafted a brand of rock ‘n’ roll music that was polished, exciting and irresistible, and that has dominated radio through today. Hit followed hit in an endless flow: “The Joker,” “Livin’ in the USA,” “Take the Money and Run,” “Rock’n Me,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Jet Airliner,” “Jungle Love,” and “Abracadabra” among them. To this day, these songs are instantly recognizable when they come on the radio-and impossible not to sing along with.
Running through Miller’s catalogue is a combination of virtuosity and songcraft along with melodic vocals and signature guitar riffs. His parents were jazz aficionados — Les Paul was his godfather — so as a budding guitarist and singer, Miller absorbed valuable lessons from their musical tradition. When the family moved to Texas, Miller deepened his education in the blues, meeting T-Bone Walker and learning to sing and play listening to him and Jimmy Reed. Miller then moved to Chicago where he played with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Buddy Guy and Paul Butterfield..” Anthony DeCurtis
The Steve Miller Band has played to more than 15 million people in the last 20 years. In addition to touring with his band, Miller is also contributing his time to serving on the welcoming committee of the Department of Musical Instruments of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and as a board member of Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he curates and hosts shows at both institutions celebrating blues, jazz and early American music. In 2016, Miller presented five sold out shows at JALC: “Ma Rainey Meets Miles Davis” and “T Bone Walker – A Bridge From Blues to Jazz.” His 2017 plans for JALC will be announced soon.
Music: 1990-present – Pearl Jam, singer, songwriter, guitarist, ukuleleist.
2007-present – solo, singer, songwriter, guitarist, ukuleleist. Solo releases: 2007 – Into the Wild, soundtrack, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song “Guaranteed.” 2011 – Ukulele Songs, nominee for 2012 Best Folk Album GRAMMY Award.
Film: 1992 – Singles, appearance. 1995 – Dead Man Walking, soundtrack. 1996 – Hype!, appearance. 1999 – Cradle Will Rock, soundtrack. 2001 – I Am Sam, soundtrack. 2001 – Last Party 2000, appearance. 2003 – Big Fish, soundtrack. 2003 – End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, appearance, camera work. 2006 – Reign Over Me, soundtrack. 2007 – Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who, appearance. 2007 – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream, appearance. 2007 – I’m Not There, soundtrack. 2007 – Running the Sahara, soundtrack. 2007 – Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, appearance. 2007 – Slacker Uprising, appearance. 2007 – Into the Wild, soundtrack. 2008 – Song Sung Blue, appearance. 2008 – Body of War: Songs that Inspired an Iraq War Veteran, soundtrack. 2009 – The People Speak, appearance. 2010 – Eat Pray Love, soundtrack. 2011– Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, appearance. 2011 – Pearl Jam Twenty, appearance, camera work and soundtrack. 2015 – Aloha, soundtrack. 2017 – Twin Peaks, appearance.
Activism: EB Research Partnership, Executive Board and Management; “Heal EB: Cause the Wave” campaign, JPHRO, Seattle Translational Tumor Research.
As Joe Bonamassa approaches his 26th year as a professional musician, he continues to blaze a remarkably versatile artistic trail, and amass an authentic, innovative and soulful body of work. Bonamassa’s career began onstage opening for B.B. King in 1989, when he was only 12 years old. Today, he is hailed worldwide as one of the greatest guitar players of his generation, and is an ever-evolving singer-songwriter who has released 16 solo albums in the last 14 years, all on his own label, J&R Adventures. Bonamassa’s tour schedule consistently hovers at around 100 shows worldwide each year, and a heaping handful of markedly diverse side projects keep him thinking outside the box and flexing every musical muscle he’s got. He founded and oversees the non-profit Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation to promote the heritage of the blues to the next generation, fund music scholarships, and supplement the loss of music education in public schools. There’s a case to be made that Joe Bonamassa, like another star who shared the same initials, is the hardest working man in show business.
This spring, Bonamassa and J&R Adventures released two projects. The first was a collaboration with powerhouse singer Mahalia Barnes, one of the most impressive female vocalists to come out of Australia, and her band The Soul Mates on an album of Betty Davis covers called Ooh Yea! – The Betty Davis Songbook, which explores tracks from Davis’ sexy, raw funk records of the early 70s. Next is the CD, DVD and Blu-ray Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks, a tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf that was filmed last summer to a sold-out 9,000 person crowd at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Glide Magazine called it “one of the best live blues albums released in the last decade.”
Unlike any Bonamassa show before, Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks marks the start of a tribute concert series that will display a different band and catalog of material that will vary from Bonamassa’s music as a solo artist. This summer, he’ll continue his celebration of blues heritage with the Three Kings of Blues Tour during which he’ll travel to amphitheaters across the country with a musical tribute to Albert King, B.B. King, and Freddie King.
It all builds on Bonamassa’s ascendant prominence of the past few years. Recent kudos include his very first Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album, which he earned with much-buzzed-about singer-songwriter Beth Hart for their sophomore collaboration, Seesaw; a #1 debut on the Billboard Music Video Chart and Billboard Blues Chart for Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks; 14 #1 Billboard Blues Albums (more than any other artist); a platinum DVD certification for Joe Bonamassa: Live At The Royal Albert Hall; five consecutive “Best Blues Guitarist” wins and a top “Best Overall Guitarist” honor in Guitar Player’s Annual Readers’ Choice Awards, and recognition as Billboard’s #1 Blues Artist in 2010 and more recently in 2014.
Last fall, a much-anticipated new solo studio album called Different Shades Of Blue was released featuring all-new, all-original material. He recorded it in Nashville with Jonathan Cain (Journey), James House (Diamond Rio, Dwight Yoakam, Martina McBride) and Jerry Flowers (Keith Urban).
It debuted at #8 on Billboard’s Top 200, Bonamassas’s highest charting album, first top 10, and biggest sales week ever. According to Billboard, “Different Shades of Blue is the highest-ranking blues album in almost two years.”
Critics echoed its accolades calling it the guitarist’s “most cohesive and satisfying artistic statement yet” (MOJO), “ the best yet and then some from an artist whose vision continues to expand with every release” (Uncut) and “a career high” (American Way).
With sales climbing and accolades pouring in, music insiders and media are beginning to take note of J&R Adventures, the label Bonamassa started with longtime manager Roy Weisman ten years ago. Together, the two mavericks have built a business model that is thriving and nimble in a shaky and unpredictable industry. With divisions in publishing, management, promotion, and memorabilia, the label gives control to the artist and its management directly, rather than a larger entity. This strategy has allowed them to redefine the kind of success an independent artist is capable of, making them two of the music industry’s more savvy entrepreneurs and disruptors.
As usual, Bonamassa will continue performing live-on-stage, which is exactly where he’s most comfortable. “No one on the scene today plays with as much passion, has as much finesse and raw talent, has reverence for those who came before him, and has as much passion for his craft as Joe Bonamassa,” writes Classic Rock Revisited.
In January, he graced a new stage when he headlined two sold-out nights at the iconic Radio City Music Hall – a feat Bonamassa himself almost can’t quite believe. But Bonamassa’s still got a long way to go, and will certainly in turn inspire many who come after him as he continues to reinvent himself with a varied palette of side projects—and logs endless miles “dressing up in sunglasses and a suit,” touring the world and growing his legacy as one of the greatest guitar slingers of all time.
Gary Clark Jr.
February 10th, 2017 (Burbank, CA) — Gary Clark Jr. will release a new live album on March 17th via Warner Bros. Records. Live North America 2016, his second live album, is available for pre-order beginning today via all digital retail stores. Back when music was only available on a vinyl album, the pure excitement captured on a live album was considered the ultimate document coveted by hardcore music fans. Clark continues this tradition by bringing the live album to a younger generation of music fans. Live North America 2016 was recorded absolutely live, with no overdubs. What you hear is how it went down.
All pre-orders will include an instant download of a stunning live version of “The Healing.” Live North America 2016 will be available on CD, vinyl, and digitally.
The album includes all new and unreleased live recordings from Gary Clark Jr’s 2016 tour in support of his internationally acclaimed 2015 album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. It features several songs from that album, including “The Healing,” “Grinder,” “Our Love,” “Cold-Blooded,” and “Shake,” featuring Leon Bridges and his saxophonist Jeff Dazey. The set is characterized by raw soul and funk, classic solo and blues performances, and several lengthy, tour de force guitar jams. It includes two previously unreleased covers, Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” and Elmore James’ “My Baby’s Gone” as well as “You Saved Me” and “When My Train Pulls In” — fan favorites from Clark’s Warner Bros. Records critically praised debut Blak and Blu.
Clark’s incendiary performances were also beautifully captured on Gary Clark Jr. Live, which was released in September 2014 and met with tremendous critical and commercial acclaim. Both live albums chronicle Clark’s evolution on stage as his songs expand and find new life beyond the studio recordings. Much like the great blues, jazz, and soul legends of past, these recordings are lightening in a bottle — historical moments in time for an artist who is ever-morphing and one of the truly great improvisers of his generation and our time.
The release of Live North America 2016 coincides with Clark’s appearances as a special guest at Eric Clapton’s upcoming 50th anniversary shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 19th and 20th and at The Forum in Los Angeles on March 25th.
Eric Clapton says of Clark, “Gary Clark Jr is incredibly inspiring to me because he does what I’d like to do onstage without any effort at all.”
Founding member of Free, Bad Company and The Firm. Grammy-nominated solo artist Paul Rodgers is a musical innovator who has successfully reinvented himself over the course of a five-decade career. A multifaceted creative force — a powerhouse vocalist, hit songwriter and peerless showman – he’s sold over 90 million records, and helped redefine rock ‘n’ roll in the process. Rodgers’ latest effort is a passion project that explores the formative, life-altering songs of his youth. Cut in Memphis, The Royal Sessions is throwback affair: an old-school, analogue, live on the floor recording that finds Rodgers digging into a set of deep Southern soul and R&B tunes from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Like his forays into the blues of Muddy Waters, Rodgers proves a peerless interpreter, bringing new light and shade to these classic sides, and adding yet another essential entry into his catalog.
Platinum selling Singer, Songwriter & Self-taught Multi-instrumentalist
Written, Recorded, Produced and Released 30 albums since 1968
Sold over 90 million records
Formed and Led 3 bands to worldwide success: Free, Bad Company, & The Firm
Grammy Nominated Solo Career
Has Recorded/Performed with Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Brian May, David Gilmour, Buddy Guy, Joe Walsh, Slash, Nils Lofgren, Charlie Watts, Bryan Adams, Stax Recording artist Sam Moore, The Four Tops and others.
Over the course of more than a dozen years and six studio albums, Amos Lee has continued to evolve, develop, and challenge himself as a musician. With SPIRIT, he makes his biggest creative leap yet.
Most notably, for the first time, Lee acted as his own producer. While his last two albums bore the stamp of strong producers—Joey Burns of Calexico on 2011’s Mission Bell (which debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200, Amazon, iTunes charts, and spun off a hit single with “Windows are Rolled Down”) and Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Eric Church, Cage the Elephant) on 2013’s Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song—Lee finally felt ready to take over the helm.
“I’ve been wanting to produce my own record for a long time,” he says, explaining that he met with numerous candidates before concluding that he should make the move. “What I wanted to provide was a place
for musicians to come and feel they were able to express themselves, and contribute in their own voice the way I was able to contribute in mine.”
Lee’s sense of ambition for SPIRIT largely derived from his own live performing experiences in recent
years. “Working with folks like the LA Philharmonic and the Mobile, Alabama Community Gospel Choir opened my mind to the possibility of pushing the edges of arrangement away from solitary moments into more collaborative, community experiences,” he says. “These were transformative creative opportunities that I never dreamed I would have. To stand on stage and be equal parts participant and observer during these career- defining moments was such a thrill, and I credit the singers, arrangers, and conductors for being so open and generous to the songs.”
Along with such monumental events as working with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (a performance which yielded Lee’s most recent release, Live from Red Rocks), being a band leader over the last decade has also helped Lee hone his craft as an arranger. “I have a great, great band—the most gentle, genuine, musically open-minded people,” he says. “I push them some, but they always respond with creativity, and they inspire me to open things up musically. The versatility of my live band has been a gradual concept I’ve been working on since I started playing at the club The Tin Angel in Philly in 2002. Back then, we would play three- or four- hour shows. We had horn sections, violins, extended jams, improvisational songs, and whatever else would come from the ether. This current group of players I have on the road with me has re-inspired me to be more open, and less protective. I think SPIRIT reflects this attitude, and the vibrations are very much reflections of the connections.
“I’ve always loved such a wide range of music.” Lee adds, discussing some new influences, which were pulling him toward a new sonic direction. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Schoolboy Q, Drake, the earlier stuff by
The Weeknd, and I was wanting to open up that box a little more,” he says. “I’ve always loved ’90s R&B, and now with streaming services, it’s so easy to sample so much new music.”
To begin the new project, he began assembling musicians who he felt could blend a dynamic yet organic marriage of modern rhythm with classic instrumentation. “I chose the players because I had this instinct and hunger to challenge myself and expand,”says Lee, “and the foundation of this record was built when I chose the rhythm section.”
A performance by the Robert Glasper Trio in Philadelphia led Lee to the realization
that Mark Colenburg was the drummer he was looking for. “I remember watching Mark play with such incredible facility and musicality,” he says. “He’s such a diverse and soulful listener. It was one of those eureka moments, and he elevated everything so much.”
Lee had known bassist Adam Blackstone (who’s played alongside artists from Jay-Z to Al Green to Justin Timberlake) for years, but had never worked with him. “Adam is a genius,” he says. “He’s playing and hearing everything four bars ahead of everyone else. As a first-time producer, he was such a blessing to have.” Finding a three-day window when both of these busy players were available, Lee—along his live band’s musical director, Jaron Olevsky—went to Nashville. They knocked out ten songs, most in one or two takes, and the core of SPIRIT was formed.
“We had never played with this kind of rhythm section before,” says Lee. “And we came away from these sessions with a hybrid sound I wasn’t able to find in my previous records, but which I’ve always gravitated to as a listener—real gospel-soul-R&B stuff.”
This new energy is most apparent in a song like “Vaporize,” which served as a jumping-off point for
Lee’s vision of the record. But it was equally important that the album’s more straightforward, “singer- songwriter”-style songs were infused with a different approach. “With something like ‘Highways and Clouds,’ I didn’t want to just do the standard waltz feel that’s led by the acoustic guitar,” he says. “I wanted to add dimensions to the arrangements and try to transform them, rhythmically and instrumentally, so that the album was cohesive. The demo versions of these songs are remarkably different from what came out through the recording process, and it was so much fun to explore feels and textures, and bear witness to the transformation.
“The song ‘One Lonely Light’ had kind of a small, short verse with a sweeping chorus,” he continues. “I was always under the impression that if you just write a good song and play it, that’s the magic of it—which is not untrue, but now I also want to think about arrangements that can be impactful in a live setting as
well. On my first album, I didn’t think about any of that, and Lee Alexander did such a great job making that album all about me and my songs and voice. But I’ve picked up enough information and experience that now I can inject what I’ve learned from working with so many great producers into helping mold arrangements that are more in tune with what I’m doing live.”
Not that it was easy learning the ropes as a producer. “It’s not always magic-making,” says Lee with a laugh. “There’s a lot of grinding it out, with people you maybe don’t have a lot of history with, but it was such a joyous experience, even in those harder creative times.”
For Amos Lee, SPIRIT is the fulfillment of dreams and aspirations—musical, personal, and professional—that he’s had for a long time. “All you can ask for as an artist is the chance to create what you hear and feel inside of yourself,” he says. “The performances by everyone gave me such a strong place to draw from, and being more connected to the arrangements made it easier and more fun to sing. For my first time producing, I could not have been luckier—I was able to get into the heart of every single moment of this record.”
At age 79, Buddy Guy is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, a pioneer of Chicago’s fabled West Side sound, and a living link to the city’s halcyon days of electric blues. Buddy Guy has received 7 GRAMMY Awards, a 2015 Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award, 34 Blues Music Awards (the most any artist has received), the Billboard Magazine Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement, a Kennedy Center Honor, and the Presidential National Medal of Arts. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #23 in its “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”
Buddy Guy released his brand new studio album Born To Play Guitar on July 31, 2015 via Silvertone/RCA Records, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart. The follow-up to his 2013 first-ever double disc release, Rhythm & Blues, which also debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart, Born To Play Guitar is produced by GRAMMY Award winning producer/songwriter and Buddy’s longtime collaborator Tom
Hambridge. The new release features guest appearances by Van Morrison, Joss Stone, Kim Wilson and Billy Gibbons.
Though Buddy Guy will forever be associated with Chicago, his story actually begins in Louisiana. One of five children, he was born in 1936 to a sharecropper’s family and raised on a plantation near the small town of Lettsworth, located some 140 miles northwest of New Orleans. Buddy was just seven years old when he fashioned his first makeshift “guitar”—a two-string contraption attached to a piece of wood and secured with his mother’s hairpins.
In 1957, he took his guitar to Chicago, where he would permanently alter the direction of the instrument, first on numerous sessions for Chess Records playing alongside Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the rest of the label’s legendary roster, and then on recordings of his own. His incendiary style left its mark on guitarists from Jimmy Page to John Mayer. “He was for me what Elvis was probably like for other people,” said Eric Clapton at Guy’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2005. “My course was set, and he was my pilot.”
Seven years later, July 2012 proved to be one of Buddy Guy’s most remarkable years ever. He was awarded the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor for his lifetime contribution to American culture; earlier in the year, at a performance at the White House, he even persuaded President Obama to join him on a chorus of “Sweet Home Chicago.” Also in 2012, he published his long-awaited memoir, When I Left Home.
These many years later, Buddy Guy is a genuine American treasure and one of the final surviving connections to an historic era in the country’s musical evolution. He keeps looking to the future of the blues through his ongoing work with his 16-year-old protégé, Quinn Sullivan.
“I worry a lot about the legacy of Muddy, Wolf, and all the guys who created this stuff,” he says. “I want people to remember them. It’s like the Ford car—Henry Ford invented the Ford car, and regardless how much technology they got on them now, you still have that little sign that says ‘Ford’ on the front.
“One of the last things Muddy Waters told me—when I found out how ill he was, I gave him a call and said, ‘I’m on my way to your house.’ And he said, ‘Don’t come out here, I’m doing all right. Just keep the damn blues alive.’ They all told me that if they left here before I did, then everything was going to be on my shoulders. So as long as I’m here, I’m going to do whatever I can to keep it alive.”
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Trombone Shorty’s new album opens with a dirge, but if you think the beloved bandleader, singer, songwriter and horn-blower born Troy Andrews came here to mourn, you got it all wrong. That bit of beautiful New Orleans soul—”Laveau Dirge No. 1,” named after one of the city’s most famous voodoo queens—shows off our host’s roots before Parking Lot Symphony branches out wildly, wonderfully, funkily across 12 diverse cuts. True to its title, this album contains multitudes of sound—from brass band blare and deep-groove funk, to bluesy beauty and hip-hop/pop swagger—and plenty of emotion all anchored, of course, by stellar playing and the idea that, even in the toughest of times, as Andrews says, “Music brings unity.”
As for why it’s taken Andrews so long to follow 2013’s Raphael Saadiq-produced Say That to Say This, the man simply says, “I didn’t realize so much time passed. Some artists don’t work until they put a record out but I never stopped going.” Truly. In the last four years, Andrews banked his fifth White House gig; backed Macklemore and Madonna at the Grammys; played on albums by She & Him, Zac Brown, Dierks Bentley, and Mark Ronson; opened tours for Daryl Hall & John Oates and Red Hot Chili Peppers; appeared in Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways documentary series; voiced the iconic sound of the adult characters in The Peanuts Movie; inherited the esteemed annual fest-closing set at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in the tradition of Crescent City greats like the Neville Brothers and Professor Longhair; and released Trombone Shorty, a children’s book about his life that was named a Caldecott Honor Book in 2016.
Adding to that legacy, his Blue Note Records debut Parking Lot Symphony finds Andrews teamed with Grammy-nominated producer Chris Seefried (Andra Day, Fitz and the Tantrums) and an unexpected array of cowriters and players including members of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Meters, Better Than Ezra, and Dumpstaphunk. Considering Andrews’ relentless schedule, it’s all the more surprising that this LP began with him in a room, all alone, back in New Orleans.
“I had two weeks at home so I went to the studio and set up the ‘playground,'” he recalls. “I had everything in a circle: tuba, trombone, trumpet, keyboard, Fender Rhodes, Wurly, B3 organ, guitar, bass, drums—and me buried in the middle.” He recorded an album’s worth of ideas and then, well, walked away for a year. Not because he was too busy, but because he wanted to hit the road and see how the music changed on him. When Andrews came back with a full band, the songs came to life.
Take the album’s two covers, a pair of NOLA deep cuts: there’s “Here Comes the Girls,” a 1970 Allen Toussaint song originally recorded by Ernie K-Doe that here (with Ivan Neville on piano) sounds bawdy and regal, like something from a current Bruno Mars album; and The Meters’ lovesick “It Ain’t No Use,” which swirls a vintage R&B vibe with resonant choir vocals and upbeat guitar from The Meters’ Leo Nocentelli himself to transport the listener to the center of the jumpingest jazz-soul concert hall that never was.
The story there is almost too good. The session band—guitarist Pete Murano, sax men Dan Oestreicher and BK Jackson, and drummer Joey Peebles with Dumpstaphunk’s Tony Hall in for Orleans Avenue bassist Mike Bass-Bailey—were in the studio to lay down “It Ain’t No Use.” Hall even had the vintage acoustic he bought from Nocentelli years ago, which was used on the original Meters session. On the way to the bathroom, Andrews saw Nocentelli coming out of a different tracking room: it was meant to be.
But that’s not unusual for a man raised in one of the Tremé’s most musical families. Andrews got his name when he picked up his instrument at four (“My parents pushed me toward trombone because they didn’t need another trumpet player,” he laughs). By eight, he led his own band in parades, halls and even bars: “They’d have to lock the door so the police couldn’t come in.” Promoters would try to hand money to his older cousins, but they’d kindly redirect them to the boy. In his teens, Andrews played shows abroad with the Neville Brothers. Fresh out of high school (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) he joined Lenny Kravitz’ band.
Across that time, three Trombone Shorty albums and many collaborations since, Andrews nurtured a voracious appetite for all types of music—a phenomenon on fluid display with Parking Lot Symphony. On “Familiar,” co-written by Aloe Blacc, they practically mint a new genre (trap-funk?) while Andrews channels his inner R. Kelly to spit game at an old flame. Meanwhile, the instrumental “Tripped Out Slim” (the nickname of a family friend who recently passed) bends echoes of the Pink Panther theme into something fit for James Brown to strut to. And if you listen closely to “Where It At?,” written with Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin, you may even hear a little Y2K pop. “I know it wasn’t cool to listen to *NSYNC or Britney Spears in high school,” says Andrews, “but those bass lines and melodies are funky.” They pair astonishingly well with all the Earth, Wind & Fire that bubbles beneath these songs.
It’s worth noting that Andrews’ vocals sound better than ever (he credits Seefried for that), because Parking Lot Symphony might be the man’s most heartfelt offering yet. The breezy title track, which Andrews wrote with Alex Ebert (Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros), is as much about walking the Tremé, being uplifted by the music that seems to seep from every surface, as it is about moving on from a broken heart. And the shuffling, bluesy “No Good Time” reminds us, with a world-weary smile, that “nobody never learned nothin’ from no good time.”
But Andrews is clear that this isn’t some kind of breakup record. “It’s a life record,” he says, “about prevailing no matter what type of roadblock is in front of you.” That message is clearest on “Dirty Water,” where over an easy groove, Andrews adopts a soft falsetto to address just about anyone going through it—personal, political, whatever. “There’s a lot of hope turning to doubt,” he coos. “I’ve got something to say to them / You don’t know what you’re talking about / When you believe in love, it all works out.” Amen. Now let the horns play us out.
Kenny Wayne Shephard
There are few artists whose names are synonymous with one instrument and how it’s played in service to an entire genre.
Utter the phrase “young blues guitarist” within earshot of anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the modern musical vanguard and the first name they are most likely to respond with will be Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Still barely in his 30s, the Louisiana born axeman and songsmith has been selling millions of albums, throwing singles into the Top 10, shining a light on the rich blues of the past and forging ahead with his own modern twist on a classic sound he has embodied since his teens. He met Stevie Ray Vaughan at 7, shared the stage with New Orleans legend Bryan Lee at13. As an adult, he continues to create genre-defining blues-infused rock n’ roll.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s How I Go not only serves as a strong reminder of the chops that caused Guitar World to place him right behind B.B. King and Eric Clapton on their list of blues guitarists, but it’s the strongest indication yet of his gifted songwriting talent. The album pairs Kenny’s deeply soulful and impassioned takes on classic material like Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues,” Albert King’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” and The Beatles “Yer Blues” alongside the strongest writing and co-writing of his career thus far.
Let’s not forget that Kenny co-wrote “Blue on Black” very early on. The song was #1 on the Rock Charts for 17 consecutive weeks. All of the accolades heaped upon his playing are well deserved and well earned. But there is so much more to offer.
“At this point, most people who know about me know I can play guitar,” Shepherd says. “As far as my approach to guitar on this record, it’s not about showing people how much I can play. It’s about really choosing the right notes and playing them at the right times so that every note penetrates people, and they feel it inside and it’s not just some fleeting thing that just goes right by them.
“I wanted to be conservative, and selective, and tasteful in the solos that I did,” he adds. “I wanted to concentrate on the song as a whole: the vocals, the arrangements, so every instrument that is being played contributes to the song and takes it to a better place.”
Where Ledbetter Heights (1995) was a little more bluesy; Trouble Is… (1997) offered more blues based rock; Live On (1999) took a turn to more blues based rock; The Place You’re In (2004) went straight ahead rock and the 10 Days Out (2007) documentary exemplified the best of straight blues, Kenny says this one “falls right down the middle between blues and rock.”
“Never Lookin’ Back” is a rocking song that sets the tone for album, with lyrics about moving on and rolling with life’s punches. The song “Cryin’ Shame” has that straight Texas shuffle longtime fans love to hear from Kenny and his band. “Show Me The Way Back Home” is a powerful blues ballad for the ages. “We hit a really great balance,” he says of the album, which he co-produced.
“Who’s Gonna Catch You Now?” is a very personal song. “I’ve become a father over the past couple of years. It’s about a parent accepting what it’s like to be a parent and having to accept a certain degree of powerlessness. It’s just learning about acceptance. If you’re a parent, it will pull on your heart strings for sure.”
The hard-rocking, blues-based, guitar-driven album sounds young, it sounds fresh. Yet it has that distinctive energy and vibe drawn from the deep heritage of the genre. Kenny Wayne Shepherd is growing as a songwriter, musician and producer. Which isn’t to say he’s not proud of his past. “I don’t have any regrets, other than maybe a couple of outfits that I wore on stage,” he laughs.
“My approach from day one was that I was not going to record anything that I couldn’t completely wrap my mind around and that I wasn’t prepared to play for the rest of my career. As a result of that approach and not letting anybody talk me into doing anything that I didn’t want to do, and nobody forcing me to record anything I didn’t want to, I’ve got a body of work that I’m proud of. I still enjoy playing all of the songs off my first album. They are as much fun to play today as they were in 1995 when that album came out. I’m not one of those guys who doesn’t want to listen to his own music. I don’t go around listening to it all the time, but, my thing is, if I’m making music that I don’t want to listen to, then why am I making music? I enjoy what I do. I have a lot of stuff that I’m proud of. Every album that we’ve done I’ve tried to do different things. I’ve never wanted to be an artist where people could predict what was next.”
The name “Kenny Wayne Shepherd” is absolutely synonymous with “young blues guitarist” but that phrase isn’t the totality of his person.
“Blues player is definitely one of the labels I’ve accumulated, because I’m a huge blues fan and I love to play the blues,” he says. “But if you listen to my music, especially over the course of my career, everything that I do is not blues. It’s the foundation of what I do, but my stuff has a lot more of an edge to it. It’s a little more contemporary. And there’s a certain youthfulness to what I do. I started writing and recording music when I was a teenager and that energy has been consistent throughout my career.”
Last year’s Live in Chicago! captured epic performances from Kenny and an assemblage of living legends in the blues world. Kenny’s incredible presence and perpetually giving performances, designed to get every person in the room on their feet and to leave them smiling, are all of the evidence one needs to determine that he’ll continue to do this for decades to come – just like his heroes.
“I’ve got a lot of a career left ahead of me and a lot of records left to make,” he says. “I’m hoping to be playing music when I’m in my 80’s like B.B. King. I’ve got a lot more songs left in me to write and record. My fans want to hear new music, they want to hear new albums, and then when they hear a new record they want to come out and hear us play that stuff live.”
Kenny Wayne Shepherd is very cognizant of the emotional role music can play in the lives of his listeners. He’s in awe of that responsibility and works hard to bring happiness to people with his considerable gifts. With that said, he’s bound and determined to be remembered as a guy who just straight-up kicked a lot of butt. “I get up on stage every night to play my heart out and to try to turn people on their ear, man. I want to bring light into people’s lives with my music. If I can make people feel good for an hour and a half to two hours and forget about whatever might be stressing them out, then I’m doing my job.”
G. Love & Special Sauce
“The whole thing about lemonade for me was when I first set out from Philly to make it in the music world I went up to Boston, and I would just sit on the front porch of my place after playing the streets or practicing and make myself a big pitcher of lemonade. It just symbolized old time porch loungin’ for that’s where I did a lot of my shedding and writing. It was so simple and great, I said, if I ever get a record deal I’m going to get Lemonade tattooed on my arm.”
It’s there all right, and seven albums, thirteen years, and over a million worldwide units later, “Lemonade” is the most cohesive and rewarding album Garrett Dutton – a.k.a. G. Love (guitar, vocals, harmonica, sweat and tears) has ever delivered. Produced and engineered in the womb of Philadelphonic Studios by Chris DiBeneditto (Electric Mile & Philadelphonic) and faithfully anchored by the Sauce, Jimi “Jazz” Prescott (acoustic bass), and Jeffrey “Thunderhouse” Clemens (drums, percussion), G. pairs up with some of the best players in the game including Ben Harper, Donovan Frankenreiter, Jasper, Dave Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Blackalicious, Marc Broussard, Tristan Prettyman and Jack Johnson on a fourteen song celebration of his iconic career.
The tradition of the hip-hop blues has always been to rip open the heart and bare the soul. Tell the listener what they want to hear and you’ll have a fair weather friend; tell them the way it is and you’ll have true love. Thankfully, the Love is Alive, for G. delivers his loping lilt with bone humming honesty and he’s never sounded so clear. From the swarming infectious grooves of “Ride”, “Ain’t That Right”, and “Holla!” to the laid down easy of “Breakin Up”, “Still Hanging Around”, and “Missing My Baby” G. and The Sauce dance with the muses of their mentors, John Hammond, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Reed, De La Soul without ever missing the beat of their own signature time.
Pepper this with the mercury simmer of “Hot Cookin'” with Frankenreiter, the idyllic warmth of “Rainbow” with Johnson, the aching duet of “Beautiful” with Prettyman and the handclapping hallelujah of “Let the Music Play” with Harper and Broussard you’re left with the pure sound of summer ringing in your ear.
As G. says of all the collaborations, “We just reached out to a lot of our friends who just happen to be incredible musicians, and everyone was pretty enthusiastic about coming into the studio with us. So while the record maintains a real G. Love feel, it was a real group effort. Especially on “Let the Music Play”, I mean Ben and Marc just came down and demolished this track. We cut the rhythm track but left it wide open. So Bens comes through town and he’s just on fire. He wrote his verse on the spot, whipped up this tight Wurlitzer part and played a crazy slide guitar solo throughout the whole thing. I already had a chorus together, but he added this gospel style by stacking his vocals a bit which caught the vibe. To top it off I wanted to have Broussard sing some harmony on it, but once in the studio he wanted to try out one of the verses. I asked him if he thought he could do it and he says in his real New Orleans gruff voice, you think I came down here to suck, man? Well okay. Watch out, I mean I never appreciated what an incredible vocalist he is until he just went in, put his church on it and crushed it. To have Ben and Marc, who both come at music from such a soulful way, on the same track was simply epic.”
Even though G. is an insatiable musical omnivore when it comes to feeding off influences, “Lemonade” is his most stylistically cohesive and focused album yet. Grown out of the somewhat dark tension of “The Electric Mile” (2001) and the ass bumping smorgasbord of “The Hustle” (2004), “Lemonade’s” overall kickback beat begs the listener to blow out the speakers in musical reaffirmation. “Free” perhaps its deepest and most powerful track pulls the continuity string through it all, for its positive examination of the cycle of rebirth through a persons life backed with a “Fixin’ to Die” blues beat perfectly captures the sweat your funk out, soul searchin, dust ridden road warriors G. Love and Special Sauce have come to embody.
“I’m in a real comfortable place musically and in my life; I’m cruisin right now and it feels good. So when I set out to make this record, I wanted to take my sound, base it on the groove and really get into a deeper pocket. Lyrically, I wanted to talk about what I always talk about finding love, making love, losing love, life and lemonade.”
Yes indeed, what you hold in your hands is pure, fresh, organic, summer sound. So go ahead, scratch it, sniff it, squeeze it, bite it until its juices slide down your elbows and leave you satisfied.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood
When the Chris Robinson Brotherhood headed into the studio to begin recording their new album, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, no one knew just what to expect. These would be the band’s first recordings with new drummer Tony Leone (Ollabelle, Levon Helm), their first since the departure of founding bassist Mark “Muddy” Dutton, and their first time producing themselves. But as anybody who’s been following the CRB can attest, this is a band that thrives on the unexpected.
If you need proof, just go back to 2012, when they first emerged on the national stage by releasing 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 Uncut calling it a “tenderly-executed piece of work…[that’s] both earthy and transcendent,” while The Independent raved 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 relentless 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 CRB lead guitarist Neal Casal. Rolling Stone raved that the album was “electrifying…boast[ing] a vintage rock vibe that’s 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.”
On each of those albums, the songs and arrangements had been locked in prior to the sessions, but heading back into the studio for Anyway You Love…, Robinson purposely left as much open-ended as possible, embracing the lineup changes and leaning into the virtuosic improvisational chemistry that’s always made their live shows such enthralling spectacles.
“Instead of seeing these things as challenges, we started to see them as something exciting,” explains Robinson. “It was an opportunity to see where our expression could take us. Some people get really uptight when they’re making records, but for us, the looser it gets the better. It’s all about taking our intuition and following it to where our ideas can really manifest themselves. This turned out to be the most spontaneous record I’ve ever been a part of.”
Not coincidentally, Robinson also cites it as perhaps the best recording experience of his life. The band relocated to northern California for the sessions, recording on the side of a mountain overlooking the foggy Pacific Ocean and channeling the natural majesty and melancholic weather of their surroundings into the album’s eight, epic, immersive tracks.
The album kicks off with “Narcissus Soaking Wet,” a psychedelic toe-tapper that marks Robinson’s first co-write with keyboardist Adam MacDougall and touches on everything from Dylan and Parliament Funkadelic to psych rock and Chicago rhythm & blues.
“For me, its the centerpiece of the record,” says Robinson. “It’s got all our CRB things we love, especially the groove, and it’s the first time I ever played harmonica on one of our songs. The lyrics are about control and egotism and false idolatry, about what happens when you’re a musician who puts yourself above the natural flow of harmony and music. It becomes the same mythic mistake that all the tragic heroes made.”
Ego takes a backseat to community in the CRB, where collaboration carries the day. Rather than coming into the studio with a collection of finished songs for this album as he had in the past, Robinson would present the group with sketches—a verse and melody here, a chorus and chord progression there—and let the band follow its collective muse to bring the music to life, a process he likens to putting an engine into the chassis of an old race car. Robinson had been sitting on “Leave My Guitar Alone,” for instance, for nearly 15 years, but only once he presented it to the rest of the band did it roar to life in a way that had eluded him for more than a decade.
“It’s a group effort,” says Robinson. “All it takes is one good, small idea, and then if everyone’s focused and in the moment, a few hours later, you can have something that you realize you’ll be playing for as long as you’re making music. I think when everyone’s aware that that’s the sort of magic that we’re looking for, then it happens naturally. More than any other session that I’ve ever been a part of, that’s how all of these songs were done.”
“Ain’t It Hard But Fair” calls to mind the soulful Americana of The Band, while “Oak Apple Day” is a mediation on life in the CRB, and “Forever As The Moon” came together in a stream of consciousness between Casal and Robinson.
“The album’s title comes from that song, and it was the first thing that came to my mind while we were playing it,” remembers Robinson. “I didn’t even have a pen and paper out. We’d just finished a hectic year on the road, and I was looking around at the world and all the anxiety and the chaos. The phrase felt like this universal statement, to me, that it doesn’t matter who or how or where or why, no matter what you ‘re going through, as long as you have love, everyone can relate to that.”
Some of Robinson’s finest writing to date arrives in the album’s final minutes, with the soulful, southern, gospel- tinged closer “California Hymn,” which finds him singing “Glory glory hallelujah / It’s time to spread the news / Though my good words may sound profane to some.”
“That whole chorus is about being a part of our community, our little CRB culture,” explains Robinson. “These are our services when we play our music. And when it’s at its best, we feel like the music makes a connection with people that’s on a level that has nothing to do with commerce or nostalgia. There’s some other gravity that keeps us all together in those moments, and I think this song is representative of that kind of magic spell.”
Indeed, the whole album is something of a magic spell, and now that it’s been cast, it’s time for services to resume in the psychedelic church of the CRB. That means they’ll be hitting your local rock and roll temple in their ongoing mission to make the holy profane and the profane holy, so pour a little wine, light up an offering, and get ready for the unexpected. Amen.
ZZ Ward has roots in rural Oregon, but her accomplishments have led her far beyond that. She burst onto the scene in early 2012 with an eclectic mixtape, Eleven Roses, setting the tone for her unique blues-meets-hip-hop artistry and the reaction was palpable. ZZ’s debut album, Til The Casket Drops, featuring guests Kendrick Lamar, Fitz of Fitz and the Tantrums, and Freddie Gibbs, further solidified her musical artistry and songwriting prowess. Live ZZ’s smoky vocals and deliberate, varied arrangements make her one not to miss. Last year, she toured with Fitz and the Tantrums, Grace Potter, Gary Clark, Jr. and Allen Stone and this year launched multiple near sell-out U.S. headline tours.
Appearances on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Conan, , VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live, Good Morning America, The View and Last Call with Carson Daly have kept her in the public eye, while her current single, “365 Days” is quickly rising at multiple radio formats. Ward’s songs have also been featured on Nashville, The Voice, Pretty Little Liars, The Good Wife, The Client List, Awkward, Mob Wives and prominently in the feature film We’re The Millers.
Nikki Lane’s stunning third album Highway Queen, out February 17th, 2017, sees the young Nashville singer emerge as one of country and rock’s most gifted songwriters. Co-produced by Lane and fellow singer-songwriter, Jonathan Tyler, this emotional tour-de-force was recorded at Matt Pence’s Echo Lab studio in Denton, Texas as well as at Club Roar with Collin Dupuis in Nashville, Tennessee. Blending potent lyrics, unbridled blues guitars and vintage Sixties country-pop swagger, Lane’s new music will resonate as easily with Lana Del Rey and Jenny Lewis fans as those of Neil Young and Tom Petty.
Highway Queen is a journey through heartbreak that takes exquisite turns. The record begins with a whiskey-soaked homage to Lane’s hometown (“700,000 Rednecks”) and ends on the profoundly raw “Forever Lasts Forever,” where Lane mourns a failed marriage – the “lighter shade of skin” left behind from her wedding ring. On “Forever” and the confessional “Muddy Waters,” Lane’s lyrics align her with perceptive songwriters like Nick Lowe and Cass McCombs. Elsewhere, “Companion” is pure Everly Brothers’ dreaminess (“I would spend a lifetime/ Playing catch you if I can”). She goes on a Vegas bender on the rollicking “Jackpot,” fights last-call blues (“Foolish Heart”) and tosses off brazen one-liners at a backroom piano (“Big Mouth”).
“Love is the most unavoidable thing in the world,” Lane says. “The person you pick could be half set-up to destroy your life with their own habits – I’ve certainly experienced that before and taken way too long to get out of that mistake.”
In 2014, Lane’s second album All or Nothin’ (New West) solidified her sandpaper voice beneath a ten-gallon hat as the new sound and look of outlaw country music. Produced by Dan Auerbach, the record’s bluesy Western guitars paired with Lane’s Dusty Springfield-esque voice earned glowing reviews from NPR, the Guardian and Rolling Stone. In three years since her Walk of Shame debut, Lane said she was living most of the year on the road.
Growing up, Lane used to watch her father pave asphalt during blistering South Carolina summers. She’d sit on the roller (“what helps smooth out the asphalt”) next to a guy named Rooster and divvy out Hardee’s lunch orders for the workers. “My father thought he was a country singer,” Lane laughs. “He partied hard at night, but by 6:30 AM he was out on the roads in 100-degree weather.” That’s the southern work ethic, she says. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but I was privileged with the knowledge of how to work hard, how to learn and to succeed when things aren’t set up for me.” Creativity was an unthinkable luxury, she adds. “When people told me I should try to get a record deal for songs I was writing, I was like, ‘that’s cute – I’ve got to be at work at 10 A.M.’”
“Becoming a songwriter is one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done,” Lane says plainly. She describes writing her first song at age 25 like it was a necessary act of self-preservation after a devastating breakup. Many of her early songs, she said on Shame and Nothin’, were about the fleetingness of relationships she believed were permanent, she says. Lane’s main line of work in those days was a fashion entrepreneur (she’s currently the owner of Nashville’s vintage clothing boutique High Class Hillbilly). It brought her to cities around the country, New York to Los Angeles to Nashville. And like a true wanderer, Lane’s sound crisscrosses musical genres with ease, while the lonesome romantic in her remains. Even a soft song like, “Send The Sun,” with its lilting downward strum, is flush with bittersweet emotion. “Darling, we’re staring at the same moon,” Lane sings lovingly. “I used to say that to my ex,” she says with cheerful stoicism, “to try to brighten the long nights, stay positive.”
Highway Queen is poised to be Lane’s mainstream breakthrough. “Am I excited to spend years of my life in a van, away from family and friends? No, but I’m excited to share my songs, so they’ll reach people and help them get through whatever they’re going through. To me, that’s worth it.”
“Lay You Down” is one of those unexpected moments for Lane. “That song was inspired by something Levon Helm’s wife posted on Facebook when he was sick with cancer,” Lane says. “I was just so moved by her telling the world how much love he felt from people writing to them, and moved that because of the Internet, I was able to see that love – even from a distance.” The song became surreal for Lane and her band when her longtime guitarist, Alex Munoz, was diagnosed with cancer while they were playing it. “It deepened my perspective and the importance of keeping everyone safe,” says Lane.
On the record cover, Lane looks out on wide, unowned Texan plains, leaning on the fearsome horns of a massive steer. Wearing a vintage Victorian dress, the stark photo invokes a time before highways existed. The symbolism isn’t lost on Lane. Highway Queen was a pioneering moment for her as an artist.
“I was always a smart girl, always had to yell to be heard,” she says, “But this was the first time in my career where I decided how things were going to go; I was willing to take the heat.” Lane included the bonus track “Champion” as a small testament to that empowerment. “It makes a point,” Lane says with a smile, “That I appreciate what you’re saying, but get the fuck out of my way.”
Shawn James & The Shapeshifters
Shawn James & The Shapeshifters are a 4 piece heavy blues rock band from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Their brand of hard hitting electrified dirty delta blues rock combined with Shawn’s soulfully roaring vocals make for an intense listening experience whether playing the records or seeing them live.
With their busy tour schedule, you can catch them playing festivals and shows all over the world or hear their music featured on Discovery Channel, NBC, and other media platforms.
They’ve continuously gained momentum every year since they formed in 2013 and show no signs of slowing down.
Fantastic Negrito is the incarnation of a musician who is reborn after going through a lot of awful shit. In fact, the name Fantastic Negrito represents his third rebirth, literally coming back from death this time. The narrative on this man is as important as the sound, because the narrative is the sound. Songs born from a long hard life channeled through black roots music. Slide guitar, drums, piano. Urgent, desperate, edgy. Fantastic Negrito is the story of a man who struggled to “make it”, who “got it”, and who lost it all. For anyone who ever felt like it was over yet hoped it wasn’t, this is your music; blues harnessed, forged in realness. For anyone who ever considered getting their old high-school band back together, this is your inspiration. These are singular songs by a true musician who writes and produces. They are his fuel as he embarks on the third comeback of his life.
The first life (‘who am I and where am I going?’). Fantastic Negrito was raised in an orthodox Muslim household. His father was a Somali-Caribbean immigrant who mostly played traditional African music. When, at the age of 12, Negrito’s family moved from Massachusetts to Oakland, he was hit with an intense culture shock. Oakland in 1980s was a million miles from Negrito’s conservative childhood. He went from Arab chants to Funkadelic in one day, living in the heart of one of the wildest, most infamous, most vibrant black communities in the nation. Shit was extra real in Oakland.
By the time he was 20, Negrito had taught himself to play every instrument he could get his hands on. He was recording music, but he was also caught up in street shit. This went on for several years until a near death encounter with masked gunmen. After that Negrito packed his bags and headed to LA, armed with a demo on cassette.
The second life (‘I want to be a star…I think’). It didn’t take long for Negrito to find himself entrenched in the ‘Hollywood’ lifestyle; “clubs and bitches and bullshit politics that have nothing to do with great music.” Negrito signed with a big time manager and soon after that, a million dollar deal at Interscope …and soon after that, creative death.
The record deal was a disaster. Gangsta rap was ruling the airwaves and Negrito was in the wrong place at the wrong era. Negrito came out of the deal with a failed album and his confidence gutted. He was infected by the constant emphasis on ‘what would sell’; which looks, hooks and gimmicks would attract an audience. He lost all sense of himself. The songs stopped coming to him, so he quit. He sold all of his shit and he quit.
In 2000, Negrito was in a near fatal car accident that put him in a coma. For four weeks it was touch and go. Because his muscles atrophied while bedridden, he had to go through months of frustrating physical therapy to regain use of his legs. Rods were placed throughout his body. And worst of all, his playing hand was mutilated. Though he rehabbed intensely for several years, the damage was permanent. In 2008, he returned home to Oakland.
The third life (the birth of Negrito). Back in Oakland, Negrito forgot about life as a musician. He settled down, planted vegetables, raised his own chickens, and made money growing weed. He also settled into being a man, on his own, clear of the distractions of wanting to be a star. This is when his specific POV of the world came into focus. His conservative Muslim values melded with the liberal, multi-cultural world of Oakland. The cynicism that comes from struggle made room for the hope that comes from cheating death. He truly knew who he was. He was confident about his place in the world because he understood it as much as any man can. And then his son was born.
With his son’s entrance into the world, all the creative energy Negrito bottled for years came rushing out. His musical choices were sharp and without doubt. He began recording without the hindrances that come with chasing trends. “Fuck what’s hot now, what moves me?” Negrito turned to the original DNA of all American music, the Blues. The beating life had given him primed him to channel his literal and musical forefathers: the Blues musicians of the Delta.
For Fantastic Negrito, “derivative” is the devil so to ensure his sound is his own, every chord comes from a place of immediacy. Immediacy opens the door for instinct. Instinct is God’s tool that makes an artist into an individual. Negrito leaves the original sounds of Lead Belly and Skip Woods intact and builds bridges to modernity by looping and sampling his own live instruments.
When you listen to Negrito, you’re invited to hear the story of life after destruction. Your dream can die. You probably will give up. But from there, you can start everything over.
Kiefer Sutherland has been a professional actor for over thirty years, starring in movies like ‘Stand By Me’, ‘The Lost Boys’, ‘Young Guns’, Flatliners’, ‘A Few Good Men’, ‘A Time to Kill’, ‘Dark City’, ‘Melancholia’ and most recently, a western called ‘Forsaken,’ as well as the TV series ‘24.’
But unknown to many during the course of his career, he has taken on other vocations with the same kind of dedication and commitment. The first one, beginning around 1992, was that of a cattle rancher and competitive cowboy (roper) in the USTRC team roping circuit. He ran a successful ranch with partner John English for almost a decade. During that timeframe, Sutherland won numerous roping events around the country including Phoenix, Indio and the Los Angeles Open.
In 2002, Sutherland, with his music partner and best friend Jude Cole, began a small record label called Ironworks. The goal of this label was to record local musicians and distribute their music at a time when the music industry was going through a monumental shift. Some of their artists included Rocco DeLuca and the Burden, HoneyHoney and Billy Boy On Poison. In 2009, Sutherland left the label to recharge and figure out what he was going to do next.
In early 2015 Sutherland played Cole two songs he had written and wanted to record as demos for other artists to record. Cole responded positively to the songs and the album grew organically from those recordings. Two songs became four and four grew into six, until Cole suggested that they make a record. Their collaboration resulted in Kiefer Sutherland’s upcoming debut album: ‘Down In A Hole’.
Sutherland says of the 11 tracks that make up the album, “It’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a journal or diary. All of these songs are pulled from my own personal experiences. There is something very satisfying about being able to look back on my own life, good times and bad, and express those sentiments in music. As much as I have enjoyed the writing and recording process, I am experiencing great joy now being able to play these songs to a live audience, which was something I hadn’t counted on”.
Dave Cavalier is an alternative blues artist deeply connected to his roots in Chicago but firmly focused on establishing the potency of his sound in the City of Angels. Since the release of his debut EP “HOWL,” Cavalier has performed with Don Henley, Aloe Blacc, Kendrick Lamar, Manchester Orchestra, Local H, Brand New & many more at festivals across the country. The Huffington Post called HOWL “…Simultaneously lush, voluptuous and uncompromising…Imagine Jack White merging his talents with those of Robert Palmer and you’ll have an idea of just how good Dave Cavalier’s Howl is.” OC Weekly has said of his live show, “Dave Cavalier Trio is an unapologetic blend of blues-based modern alternative rock bringing the soul of Chicago and the grit of Hollywood together in poetic mastery.” He’s currently recording a new EP with plans to release this fall, preceding the Bourbon & Beyond Festival.
In a time when everything is big, fast and bombastic, it’s rare to find an artist who can hush a room with just the power of her voice or the will of her pen. Caitlyn Smith, one of Nashville’s most prized writers, is one of them: and, after years spent composing songs for and with everyone from Dolly Parton to Garth Brooks to Meghan Trainor, she’s finally ready to unveil all sides of her enormous talent with Starfire. Long lauded for her ability to whirl pure emotion into unforgettable tracks, Starfire is a raw, visceral journey about love, hardship and the struggle to pave your own way, all anchored by her unforgettable tone. A few minutes of listening and one thing becomes abundantly clear: there is no one better to sing the music of Caitlyn Smith than Smith herself.
“I wanted to unlock my heart and dig around inside a little,” Smith says about the songs of Starfire, with the first five songs available now. “And I wanted to be more vulnerable, and tell the stories I have lived. It’s more of a raw process to write for myself.”
Indeed, songs like “Before You Called Me Baby” shake the listener to the core: blending her soulful vocals with stirring, deeply honest lyrics and instrumentation that only amplifies the organic construction, they occupy a unique space that can both blossom with a full band or be stripped down into intimate, solo experiences. Because Smith, who has toured and opened for acts such as Eric Church, Sheryl Crow and Dierks Bentley, understands not only how important the craft itself is, but also how music can – and should – transform in a live setting. With just her acoustic guitar, Smith can stun to silence.
Raised in the small town of Cannon Falls, Minnesota, Smith grew up singing in the church and at county fairs – and it soon became abundantly clear that her talent stretched well beyond the ordinary. She wrote her first songs at the young age of eight, and had already convinced her parents that a career as an artist was her true path by the time she reached her teenage years. “I released two records before I graduated high school,” Smith recalls. “I knew I needed to do music and nothing else.” After a stint in Minneapolis, it was clear that Nashville was where she belonged, and she quickly became a sought-after force in the songwriting scene: so much so that even music she intended to sing herself quickly got snatched up by others, yielding her two top country hits, including the platinum “Wasting All These Tears,” recorded by Cassadee Pope.
A celebrated force in the writer’s room, Smith’s also had her songs cut by Parton, Brooks and Lady Antebellum, and co-wrote Trainor’s John Legend duet, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” among many others. For a while, Smith balanced her two worlds – as an artist, and a writer – while primarily focusing on the latter, working to perfect her craft and discover exactly what she wanted to say in her solo work. She released some music under her own name, but it didn’t capture the spirit she ultimately wanted. “I was shooting for something instead of singing music that was in my heart, that I loved,” she says, as honest as ever. “So I stepped back. I said to myself, ‘the next thing that I release, I don’t want to ask anybody’s opinion. I want to go into the studio and make a record that I love and is true to me.'”
That next thing became Starfire, produced by Paul Moak, who quickly became Smith’s trusted collaborator. They would often bunker down at his Nashville studio, while Smith enlisted friends and colleagues for co-writes, like Gordie Sampson, Kate York and Sarah Buxton. But suddenly, some news came along: Smith was expecting a child. “It added a beautiful layer of excitement,” she says. “Not only was I making a record, but I’m making a life. This little boy has been along for the ride.”
Starfire, itself, is all about growth, and what it takes to get to your most honest and true incarnation. Smith decided to trust her strengths: her soulful vocals, her strong sense of imaginative storytelling and her ability to craft melodies that exist outside of genre walls and instead focus on timelessness. But there are plenty of infectious hooks in there, too.
“We didn’t want to think about genre or radio or any boundaries,” she says. Like Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris or even Crow, she artfully blends a steady catalogue of influences and reference points, held together by stellar craft and her formidable voice. “We wanted to make music that moved us, stay out of the way of the songs and let my voice shine through. Some songs sound more country, some sound more folk. There’s a little rock and soul in there, too, which makes it a bit of a genre-less record. But it feels just right to me.”
Genreless, maybe, but full of vitality, and also downright honest. Take a song like “This Town is Killing Me,” about how life as an artist in Music City isn’t all champagne and roses, even when there are small successes. “It can be a such a hard, heartbreak town,” Smith says. “As much as you want to write those songs you know would pay the bills, if you did it every day, the artist part in you would die. There is this balance of loving this town because you get to create, but also it is just so brutal.” Smith isn’t the kind to smile and nod – instead, she turns her emotions into moments like this that manage to be about both her own experience and the human condition as a whole.
And then there are songs like “Tacoma,” devastating in both its lyrics and its sheer beauty: “I’m burning your memory one mile at a time” Smith sings in her stunning vocal delivery to stripped-down production. Then, of course, there is the title track, which blends a pop groove with a soulful, chugging chorus. It’s about how important it is to keep going even when the world wants to bring you down – an attitude that has ruled Smith’s career thus far. Here, she proclaims her strength to a dynamite beat: it’s one thing to have the talent to be a star, but it’s another to have the will to keep your fire flaming bright.
“This whole record and process, I’ve been on a journey,” she says. “I’ve heard no many times and just kept going. I’ve learned that one thing is for certain: nothing is going to burn me out.”
The Bluegrass Situation Stage
Curated by The Bluegrass Situation, the #1 destination for American roots music, culture, and lifestyle, the BGS Stage inside The Big Bourbon Bar features a line-up of some of our longtime favorite bands, exciting, emerging talent, and Kentucky-based artists. For over half a decade, BGS has proudly represented a unique community that supports a rich and varied musical history, while looking ahead for ways to transform traditions into a carefully curated modern lifestyle. Join us in The Big Bourbon Bar to celebrate two staples of American culture deeply rooted in Kentucky: bluegrass and bourbon!
The Steel Wheels
Curated by The Bluegrass Situation
Hailing from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, The Steel Wheels are familiar with the traditions of folk music and how a string band is supposed to sound. In fact, they’ve been drawing on those steadfast traditions for more than a decade. Yet their name also evokes a sense of forward motion, which is clearly reflected in their latest album, Wild As We Came Here.
“I think we’ve always been able to write new songs with different landscapes. However it was really enjoyable for us, creatively and artistically, to depart from the straight-up acoustic sound that we’ve been known for,” says Trent Wagler, who plays guitar and banjo in the band and writes most of the material. “I’m excited to see what happens. There are fans out there who are ready for this and who have been waiting for us to do this.”
While on tour supporting Josh Ritter, the band forged a friendship with Sam Kassirer, who plays keyboards for Ritter on tour and has produced a number of his albums. While The Steel Wheels had been considering other producers and maybe recording in Nashville, they chose to follow their instincts all the way to rural Maine, where Kassirer owns a recording studio inside a renovated farmhouse from the 18th century. All four band members – Wagler, Eric Brubaker (fiddle), Brian Dickel (upright bass), and Jay Lapp (mandolin) – hunkered down for a week and a half to create Wild As We Came Here.
“It’s a gorgeous set-up,” Wagler says. “I didn’t grow up in a big city and I never made a record in a big city. It’s much more my style, and our style as a band, to completely hole up – probably more than we ever have – for 10 full days in Maine. I left the house for a couple of bike rides but I never went to a restaurant or a store the whole time I was there. We ate on site, we slept on site, and we recorded. It was a very immersive experience, top to bottom.”
Afternoon hikes amid the fall foliage helped them clear their heads, ensuring that everyone could stay focused on the task at hand – which in retrospect was quite daunting. The Steel Wheels had about 40 original songs stowed away before the sessions. Only two or three had ever been played live and the band had not arranged any of them.
“One of my favorite parts of the process was taking the first couple of days to rehearse and arrange the songs all in one room, with Sam offering his insights,” Brubaker says. “We had enough time to really build the songs from the ground up, examining each one to see what elements would best highlight the mood we were trying to capture.”
Wild As We Came Here is a significant leap for the band, which started its journey in 2004. Wagler, Dickel, and Brubaker studied at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, about an hour from Charlottesville. (All four members of the band grew up in Mennonite families.) Wagler and Dickel were in a punk/alternative band until acoustic music lured them in.
Wagler soon started crafting songs and learned flat-picking. Dickel took classes on building guitars. They briefly played as a duo before Brubaker joined on fiddle. Lapp eventually came on board after getting to know the band from the local folk circuit. In 2010, following a variety of EPs and LPs, the ensemble officially branded itself as The Steel Wheels, a tip of the hat to steam-powered trains, industrial progress, and the buggies of their Mennonite lineage.
Lapp says, “We found we really enjoyed singing and playing music together and it happened so naturally. To make it even better, everyone listens very well to what the other is playing, making it a total group experience. I’ve never worked with such a collected and well-spoken group of men, and it makes the experience of touring and performing a pure joy.”
Then as now, The Steel Wheels’ style weaves through Americana and bluegrass music, folk and old-time music, and the acoustic poetry of the finest singer-songwriters. By incorporating percussion and keyboards into the sessions for the first time, Wild As We Came Here adds new textures to their catalog, as themes of discovery and perseverance run throughout the collection.
The album begins with “To the Wild,” which explores the fascinating and unusual relationship that modern society has with the great outdoors, from exploitation to preservation. Wagler wrote the title track after reading a news story about a desperate man who starts bidding at a land auction – even though he had no way of paying for it – in order to prevent oil and gas companies from destroying the natural beauty of the area.
Meanwhile, the idea behind “Broken Mandolin” was inspired by a few lines from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See, which takes place during World War II. Wagler describes “Take Me to the Ending” as essentially a bluegrass apocalypse – “like a sense of coming out from the bunker and there are still a few people playing fiddle tunes.”
Of course, exquisite harmonies remain a strength of the band, shining through on “Sing Me Like a Folk Song.” By making a social statement in uncertain times, listeners will want to lend their voices too. More than a decade into The Steel Wheels’ career, the simple act of singing together – something that carries them back to their Mennonite heritage – is still incredibly special. The stunning closing track, “Till No One Is Free,” provides an elegant ending to the band’s most satisfying album yet.
“It was my favorite studio experience from start to finish, by far, of any project we’ve ever done,” Dickel says. “A super-relaxed and experimental vibe coupled with some genre-stretching sounds really did it for me. I think we pushed ourselves much further than previous albums and I think we will push our fans a little too. Both of those are exciting to me.”
Curated by The Bluegrass Situation
When Mipso’s 2013 debut, Dark Holler Pop, rose to #8 on Billboard’s Bluegrass charts, the success surprised a lot of people – Mipso’s four members included. “Well, we didn’t know so many people would buy it,” laughs mandolin player Jacob Sharp, “and we definitely didn’t know we were a bluegrass band.”
Since then, Mipso has performed over 300 shows and welcomed frequent collaborator Libby Rodenbough’s voice and fiddle to the fold – and has continued to grow as musicians and songwriters, while drawing continual inspiration from their rich North Carolina roots. Their new album, Old Time Reverie – produced by Mandolin Orange’s Andrew Marlin – is a reflection of that musical and personal growth: a gripping, mature sophomore release that finds the quartet expanding their sonic resources while doubling down on their experimentation with string band tradition.
While the instrumentation on the acclaimed Dark Holler Pop embraced North Carolina’s bluegrass heritage head-on, Old Time Reverie finds Mipso shifting their focus away from bluegrass, introducing new instruments and textures to create a distinctly different sound. Clawhammer banjo out of 1920s early country music meets atmospheric electric organ (played by Josh Oliver of The Everybodyfields) more native to 1970s pop. Add imaginative songwriting and a group cohesion gained from two years of near-constant touring, and the resulting sound is powerfully rhythmic, lyrically sharp, and woven with beautiful four-part harmonies.
Before forming Mipso, Jacob Sharp (mandolin), Joseph Terrell (guitar), Wood Robinson (bass), and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle) were just classmates at UNC-Chapel Hill, where the experience of singing together in harmony drew them together. The sound of their blended voices remains one of the band’s hallmarks. Since those college jam sessions, the four have entered a new phase of life, one where the work of making music – and the work of living – has become a more complicated affair. Many of the songs on Old Time Reverie grapple with the moral ambiguity that comes with keeping hope in a difficult world and making sense of its contradictions.
These songs, after all, were born in the South and reflect its modern day complexity. “Our progressive college town shares a county with lots of old tobacco barns and farms and churches from the eighteenth century,” guitarist Joseph Terrell said. “We’ve chosen to stick around in this place where we’re rooted, to reckon with and learn from its contradictions.”
At times, the task seems doomed: “Everyone Knows” grapples with a world that is essentially “cold and dark,” “Mama” explores the enduring scars of loss; “Marianne” follows an interracial couple’s struggle to love one another against their community’s disapproval. But if Old Time Reverie conjures a dark vision of the world, it also meditates on points of radiance. Even the wary narrator in “Father’s House” can see “a light on the porch.” The album closer “Four Train,” too, is a crinkled smile at the end of a weary day, describing love as “like a stain that won’t come out” or “like a flame that won’t burn out” – or perhaps as both.
In both theme and temperament, the album finds an interplay between the sunrise and the twilight – a tug-of-war that’s itself an old-time tradition. From “Eliza,” a lively waltz-time romp, to “Bad Penny,” a surrealist dream sequence with an Abe Lincoln cameo, the album revels in the seesaw spectrum of experience and memory, where technicolor carnival hues blend with grown-up sadness and the whispers of ghosts. Mipso’s color palette, like its soundscape, is radically inclusive.
“We come from a place where traditional music is a living, changing thing,” fiddle player Libby Rodenbough said. “So we feel like having an ear for all kinds of stuff is not only true to ourselves, it’s a nod to the tradition.” Call it what you will – to listen is to understand: it’s either unlike anything you’ve heard before or effortlessly familiar. By digging deeper and expanding further, Mipso have created their own dark daydream of Southern Americana: Their Old Time Reverie.
Curated by The Bluegrass Situation
ASHEVILLE, NC — Raw, soulful, and with plenty of swagger, Town Mountain has earned raves for their hard-driving sound, their in-house songwriting and the honky-tonk edge that permeates their exhilarating live performances, whether in a packed club or at a sold-out festival. The hearty base of Town Mountain’s music is the bluegrass triumvirate of Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. It’s what else goes into the mix that brings it all to life both on stage and on record and reflects the group’s wide-ranging influences – from the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and the ethereal lyrics of Robert Hunter, to the honest, vintage country of Willie, Waylon and Merle.
“The Asheville, North Carolina, five-piece hews pretty close to tradition, especially when it comes to instrumentation: acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and double bass. And with three vocalists and driving forces within the band — guitarist Robert Greer, banjoist Jesse Langlais and mandolinist Phil Barker — the harmonies are there… But the band… has serious country and rock ’n’ roll DNA,” says The Bend Bulletin’s Brian McElhiney. Town Mountain also features fiddler Jack Devereux and Zach Smith on bass.
They released their 5th studio album, Southern Crescent, on April 1, 2016 on LoHi Records and toured throughout the year with it. Produced and engineered by GRAMMY winner Dirk Powell, Southern Crescent was recorded in Powell’s studio The Cypress House in south-central Louisiana town of Breaux Bridge. Since it’s release the band debuted on the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium stages bringing their sound to new audiences. The critically acclaimed album debuted at #4 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart while staying for ten weeks on the Americana Music Association’s radio chart’s Top 40.
“This Asheville band killed it at the Ryman this summer  opening up the bluegrass series and they put out this stellar collection of original songs that asserts them as the hippest, bluest traditional bluegrass band of their generation. In an era of bluegrass with manners, they cut with a serrated edge,” exclaims Nashville’s Roots Radio’s Craig Havighurst in his list of “Essential Americana Albums We Loved in 2016.”
Town Mountain has released five studio albums including their most recent, Southern Crescent (LoHi Records 2016) which was recorded in a decidedly old-school way, live, with minimal fixes and overdubs, with all the musicians in the same room and no noise-reducing baffling between them. The album’s “Songs of escape (‘Ain’t Gonna Worry Me’), reunion (‘Comin’ Back to You’), alienation (‘House with No Windows’), rambling (‘Wildbird’), and gambling (‘Arkansas Gambler’) present a panorama of sentiments and situations adding heft to the bluegrass canon,” according to Raleigh News & Observer’s Jack Bernhardt.
Other efforts include Leave The Bottle (Pinecastle Records 2012), Steady Operator (Pinecastle Records 2011), and Heroes & Heretics (October 2008). They also independently released a LIVE album (2014 from a show at Isis Music Hall in Asheville) as well as a two-song EP (2015) of Grateful Dead tunes called The Dead Sessions. Their debut album (June 2008) is entitled Original Bluegrass and Roots Country and KSUT/Durango Telegraph’s Chris Aaland writes, “No critic has coined a better phrase to describe their sound.”
While the members have taken the road less traveled when it comes to the mainstream or traditional purists, they’ve been dubbed as “The Taco Stand Troubadours” by Aaland (due to their frequent stops at such establishments) and he calls them “one of those bands that has paid its dues and won over the Durango audience through the years, much like the Gourds and Leftover Salmon.”
In 2016 they performed opening shows with Railroad Earth, Peter Rowan, Hard Working Americans, Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Jim Lauderdale adding to previous years’ performances with Ralph Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys, The Del McCoury Band, The Seldom Scene, The Infamous Stringdusters, The Steep Canyon Rangers among others.
Since their formation in 2005, the same year they won the prestigious Rockygrass band competition, Town Mountain has traversed many a mile across the States, including Alaska, as well as into Canada, Germany, and Finland. Town Mountain has made their rounds to a plethora of festivals throughout the years including Pickathon, IBMA’s Wide Open Bluegrass, Wintergrass, The Durango Meltdown, MerleFest, Watermelon Park Festival, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, Suwannee Roots Revival, Suwannee Springfest, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, The Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival, The California Bluegrass Association’s Father’s Day Festival, DelFest, Lake Eden Arts Festival, Graves Mountain Festival, Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, Nelsonville Music Festival in Ohio, ROMP, The Festival of the Bluegrass, Three Rivers Arts Festival, Denver Beer Co.’s Sundrenched Music Festival, Rooster Walk, Mountain Song, and Nelsonville Music Festival among others.
What has become one of the group’s more memorable live performance songs is their cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” which they first recorded in 2008’s Heroes & Heretics, with Greer’s distinctive Southern drawl at the forefront. The track has reached over 2 million listens on Spotify and garnered over 850,000 views on a YouTube video posted in 2012. The Atlantic’s Matt Vasilogambros writes, “Bruce Springsteen is a natural fit for bluegrass… Even the Boss’s earlier music had hints of folk influences. Just listen to “I’m On Fire”… I keep turning to one cover, which I admittedly listen to more often than the original. It’s from Town Mountain… They dropped the synthesizer, added a banjo, a fiddle, and another singer for harmony, and made a gem.”
Another fan favorite is their Jimmy Martin-esque original “Lawdog,” penned by Barker in 2012, which music journalist Juli Thanki instantly called an “unearthed classic” when the album was released. They recorded a live version of the song at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country Radio in 2013 which has nearly 100,000 views and continues to be a barn burner to this day with the entire crowd singing along as barker sings, “I make my livin driving, I’m a bluegrass music man… Chasin the horizon, for another one night stand… I got a lot of miles to travel, and I’m runnin a little late… And a no show gets me nothin, so don’t you get in my way. I got no time for ya lawdog…”
“While it remains a bluegrass band in all things instrumentation and touring the bluegrass and festival circuit, it’s’ sound crosses into American roots and even outlaw country, perhaps as a result of the gritty, mournful tone of Greer’s vocals.” Durango’s KDUR radio’s DJ, Bryant Liggett says, “It is reminiscent of the 1970s truck-driving film sound, the perfect accompaniment to a car chase through the south á la ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’”
Curated by The Bluegrass Situation
Sprouting from the musical foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, Virginia’s LOVE CANON currently resides in full bloom. The musicians, led by guitarist Jesse Harper, are six seasoned virtuoso string players fused together by wood and wire to become LOVE CANON.
““Love Canon doesn’t cover the music of the ’80s as much as kidnap it and take it on a bluegrass-tinged joyride.”
With a passenger van and a trucker’s atlas, LOVE CANON has been touring the mid-Atlantic since 2010 bringing their own raucous blend of bluegrass to the masses. The band’s diehard fans are music lovers first and foremost, drawn to the beautiful high-lonesome stylings of Harper’s guitar and vocals paired with banjo master Adam Larrabee, mandolin pickin’ by Andy Thacker with Darrell Muller holding down the low-end on standup bass. The band is augmented with the sweet sounds of resonator guitar king Jay Starling on the Beard MA-6.
LOVE CANON has previously shared the stage and studio with David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, and Bruce Hornsby and as a band have toured with Josh Ritter and The Infamous Stringdusters. They have played festivals around the country; including LOCK’N and GOTV, have played live on the BBC and RTE radio and are currently recording their fourth studio album, LOVE CANON & FRIENDS, with special guest Keller Williams and many more.
Curated by The Bluegrass Situation
NewTown features the first-rate vocal and instrumental work of five of the finest musicians in bluegrass music who share a bond that combines individual virtuosity with a background of formal training. They are based in Lexington, Kentucky and fronted by award-winning vocalist/fiddler Kati Penn Williams and her singer/banjo-picker husband, Jr. Williams.
Kati and Jr. are seasoned veterans of the Kentucky music scene, and not strictly in the bluegrass arena. Kati’s solo resume boasts numerous appearances as the opening act for major stars of Country as well as Bluegrass, and Jr. has performed Gospel music since grade school. The band features – guitarist/vocalist Hayes Griffin, mandolinist Mitchell Cannon, and bassist/vocalist Travis Anderson – all of whom have college educated backgrounds in music in addition to their collective decades of performing experience.
The band’s newest album, HARLAN ROAD, once again finds Kati and Jr. turning in outstanding vocal performances, with exceptional instrumental backing by the entire band. The project was produced by Grammy-winner Barry Bales, longtime bass player for Alison Krauss and Union Station. The hit first single is the Appalachian-flavored title track, a minor- key song of loneliness and longing written by Kentucky Singer-Songwriter Tyler Childers.
Curated by The Bluegrass Situation
The Tillers got their start in August 2007 when they started thumping around with some banjos and guitars and a big wooden bass. Their earliest gigs were for coins and burritos on the city’s famous Ludlow Street in the district of Clifton. The songs they picked were mostly older than their grandparents. Some came from Woody Guthrie, some were southern blues laments, and many were anonymous relics of Appalachian woods, churches, riverboats, railroads, prairies, and coal mines. Their look didn’t fit the stereotype. They were clearly recovering punk rockers with roots in city’s west side punk rock and hardcore scene. The punk influence gave their sound a distinctive bite, setting them apart from most other folk acts- a hard-driving percussive strum and stomp that brought new pulse and vinegar to some very old songs. But their musical range soon proved itself as they floated from hard-tackle thumping to tender graceful melody, all the while topped by Oberst and Geil’s clear tenor harmonies. They began picking up weekly gigs around the city’s bar scene. It didn’t take long before their signature treatment of classic folk songs became the preferred versions of Cincinnati locals.
Their audiences swelled, growing into an assortment of grey-haired mechanics, neo-hippies, farmers, punkers, professors, and random strays all stomping, clapping, singing, and belting outbursts of “John Henry!” “Darlin’ Corey!” Ever since, the band has come to each show with the same energy. They are magnetic showmen, mature musicians, and colorful storytellers. The Tillers have since won over Cincinnati’s bar and festival scene, and launching tours with tireless momentum. They were awarded CityBeat Magazine’s Cincinnati Entertainment Award for best Folk and Americana act in 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 & 2015. Their relentless gigging has taken them throughout the East coast, the Midwest and West, the Appalachian south and to the UK and Ireland opening for the St.Louis crooner, Pokey LaFarge. In the summer of 2009, veteran NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw featured the Tillers on a documentary about US Route 50. Brokaw showcased the group’s song “There is Road (Route 50)” as a testimony to the highway’s role as a connective tissue of the nation.
Musically, the band wears many hats. Their sound has proven to be an appropriate fit with a wide range of musical styles- traditional folk, bluegrass, jazz, punk rock and anything else they might run into. They have shared the stage with a broad swath of national touring acts, ranging from renowned folk legends such as Doc Watson, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Guy Clark, Country Joe McDonald, Jerry Douglas, Iris Dement, Pokey LaFarge and The Carolina Chocolate Drops to rambunctious rock daredevils like the Legendary Shack Shakers. Always moving, the Tillers continue to enter new territory. Their musical growth can be heard through the scape of their many releases, 2008’s debut record Ludlow Street Rag, 2010’s By The Signs, 2011’s Wild Hog in the Woods, 2012’s Live from the Historic Southgate House, 2013’s Hand On The Plow and many more bootleg releases. The band’s lineup has also taken new shape. In February 2010, long-time bassist Jason Soudrette fondly parted ways with the group, being replaced by Aaron Geil, brother of guitarist Sean. In 2015 the band added fiddler Joe Macheret (Joe’s Truck Stop/Urban Pioneers) to the ranks. Recalibrating has not slowed their pace. They continue to plot their travels around the map, electrifying new places and making new friends wherever they go. From place to place, they carry with them more instruments, new songs, and funnier stories. They are Cincinnati’s traveling minstrels. Expect to hear from them soon.
Reva Dawn Salon
Curated by The Bluegrass Situation
Clusterfolk wunderkinds, Reva Williams and Company, string up love and hate, haste and wait, in the midst of music and mayhem.
Coat Check Pool Party
Born in the deep end, Coat Check parties have become known for their epic nature and tight vibes. The founders of Coat Check envisioned parties without pretension where all are welcome and good times abound. That vision was achieved swimmingly as anyone who has attended one of their grandiose pool parties can attest. If you don’t already know, you have no idea.
Details coming soon!
Derby City Soul Club
DJs Matt Anthony & Kim Sorise
Kim Sorise hosts the groovilicious Global Grease on artxfm.com. She’s the Derby City Roller Girls DJ & co-founder of the legendary Dirty Soul Party. She hails from Detroit and keeps her hometown’s Soul Music legacy alive on the turntables.
Matt Anthony hosts The Friday Night Sound-Clash & The Jazz Pulse on 91.9 WFPK Radio Louisville. He owns Matt Anthony’s Record Shop and was voted Best Live DJ at the 2013 Louisville Music Awards. Together the two have Deejayed with Soul Greats: Booker T, Maceo Parker, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Charles Bradley and The Budos Band.
Spinning on two turntables: Soul Sisters, Stax, Detroit, Memphis Hip Shakers, Rick James, James Brown, Jazzy Space Grooves, Northern Soul Movers, Big Beat, Cosmic Disco, Deep Funk, Betty Davis, Ancient Electro, People Records, Motown & Nu Yorican Boogaloo Vinyl Dance Party with Go-Go Girls, B-Movies & Burlesque Reels. This is the Derby City Soul Club.
Sounds Below Sea Level
Join host Johnny Siegel for a feast on the eclectic gumbo that is New Orleans music. All genres are on the menu, from the classic R&B, Soul & Jazz that made the Crescent City famous to the Rock, Pop, Indie & Hip-Hop of today.
Live WED on 97.1fm WXOX-LP radio Louisville, or online at www.artxfm.com