With their unceremonious ejection from the EMI gravy train at the end of the 70’s, it seemed that The Saints were finished. Relieved to be ditching such troublesome clients, EMI overlooked what The Saints had left them; 'Prehistoric Sounds', a criminally neglected R'n'B masterpiece - maybe the most gorgeous suicide note a band ever left. The album was as uncompromised (and therefore doomed) as most other great cult albums, but it contained the seeds of songwriting that strongly contradicted the premature demise of The Saints.
Returning in the early 80’s with the tellingly entitled 'Paralytic Tonight, Dublin Tomorrow' (released on the all new French label, New Rose), Bailey buried any doubts over whose exclusive domain the band had become. Having been left in the lurch by record company and band members, The Saints were now about Bailey and whichever band members made the hallowed grade. Never looking back, Bailey turned The Saints back on, and the outpour commenced.
It was 1984 when Bailey reached a new peak, and it was called 'Ghost Ships'. In one stroke the song absolved the sins of a thousand bands lacking the ingenuity, integrity, guts and smarts to wait, watch, listen and learn. To this day, 'Ghost Ships' is a haunted, haunting affirmation of everything that Bailey has done.
Alien to complacency, Bailey pushed his own limits, and those of his band, reaching a new peak in the 90's with 'Prodigal Son'. An album redolent of his beloved Irish roots, rich in references to literature and legend and containing some of his most beautiful songs to date, 'Prodigal Son' announced the emergence of a new Bailey, more confident and with his demons held firmly in check.
Having made The Saints a minor household name, Bailey chose to soldier on as a solo artist. A series of superb albums followed at frequent intervals, including 1994's '54 Days At Sea', recorded in Scandinavia with a Bolivian folk group he first met playing at a street festival. Abounding in all the usual allusions and delivered in a voice that he now exercised like a whipped mongrel, '54 Days At Sea' felt like another watershed, another self-contained detour in a career of musical swings.
In 1997, Bailey returned to The Saints. The result was the outstanding album, 'Howling'. Bailey was back on another pilgrimage. Recorded fast, loose and with no shortage of great songs, 'Howling' is a loud, proud return to the band ethic of The Saints.
A year later, following the reinvigorated, perpetually changing band route, The Saints released the rip-roaring album 'Everybody Knows The Monkey'. Recruiting unknown, but feisty musicians, Bailey returned to the no-nonsense guitar rock he last perfected on 1982's 'Out In The Jungle'. Strained by the demands of agitation, volume, and passion, Bailey’s gigantic voice is given free reign by a band of heavy-hitters. The opening track, 'What Do You Want', perfectly sums up a career that has continually crashed, burned and risen from the subsequent wreckage.
For the new millennium came a new Saints album, albeit one that paid homage to the folk that carved out the music many of us live by to this day. 'Spit The Blues Out' features eight original tracks of awesome power and divine intervention, coupled with four cover versions of classic blues songs to which Bailey’s voice does ample justice. Recorded in Amsterdam, the album highlights Bailey's songwriting at its best, mixing originals and covers that reflect the grim and greedy theme park we live in today. Drinking songs, sad songs, rocking songs and fuck songs. Songs that speak to you of the world. 'Spit The Blues Out' captures the power that was injected into rock‘n’roll when rock‘n’roll was full of sex and danger.
In 2005, still resident in Amsterdam, The Saints released 'Nothing Is Straight In My House'. Featuring twelve new songs, hammered into shape in a three-week creative furnace, the record is a loud, noisy, passionate and demented mapping of the surreal psychotic soul of our surroundings. The songs are inspired by the fear and loathing of our times and reverberate with rock 'n' roll’s primal energy.
Following swiftly came 'Imperious Delirium', recorded at Stollywood Studios in Amsterdam. Fanned by the flames of an ill wind and wanton war-mongering, the record delivers a tirade against prevailing times. It is a literal howling at the insane behavior of the outlaws who make our laws and it represents some of Bailey’s most political writing. Along the way, however, love songs prevail in the shape of the wonderfully titled 'Je Fuckin T’aime'.
Which brings a common theme up to date, that being the impending release of 'King Of The Sun', a brand new collection of songs of love and dereliction by Bailey and his latest incarnation of The Saints. Recorded in Sydney and released on the Highway 125 label, the album portrays a journey home after a hundred-year war. Bailey’s writing and singing have never sounded more majestic. His is the voice of a world-weary conscript who got more than he signed up for but never shirked the task. Accompanied by piano, strings and horns, (the very sound that got The Saints dropped by EMI) 'King Of The Sun' could be viewed as a beautiful swansong to a formidable campaign. Then again, don’t bet on that.
Scott Albert Johnson
Born in St. Louis and raised in Jackson, MS, Scott Albert Johnson was bathed in the wide range of the American songbook, as well as the sounds of his 70’s and 80’s childhood. The soul and spirit of that diversity is at the core of his new album, ”Going Somewhere”. Johnson incorporates elements of rock, jazz, blues, funk, country, and world music, mixed with thoughtful, often poetic lyrics, strong vocals, and virtuosic harmonica playing, to create a unique, modern concoction of sound.
“I’m influenced by almost every kind of music that I’ve ever heard”, says Johnson. “Growing up in the heart of the south, obviously blues has had a big impact on me. It’s also the heart and soul of virtually every type of modern music. But I also grew up a big fan of artists like Peter Gabriel, Police, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Bruce Hornsby, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Daniel Lanois, John Scofield and Rush, just to name a few. So I draw on all of that, and I try to write lyrics and music that have an emotional as well as intellectual impact. Then I throw in some harmonica for good measure”.
Johnson has become a true harmonica master, utilizing a unique and difficult technique known as “overblow”, which allows the diatonic harmonica to be played as a fully chromatic instrument. He is one of a small group of players who can do this. He also utilizes digital effects to expand the sonic palette of the instrument, and he counts such harmonica masters as Toots Thielemans, John Popper, Howard Levy, Stevie Wonder and the late Chris Michalek, as major influences. Yet Johnson sees the harmonica as just one piece of what he does musically.
“I've always felt most influenced by artists who are kind of what I would call triple-threats”, says Johnson. “They sing well, they play at least one instrument very well, and they write great songs. I take each of these three parts of the equation as seriously as any other part. I also feel most in-tune with artists who kind of are ‘their own genre’, borrowing from many different kinds of music. I hope my music reflects that”.
Johnson grew up singing and playing bass guitar in rock and jazz bands. He went to Harvard (where he kicked field goals for the football team) and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and worked as a writer and editor in locations from coast to coast before finding his way back to both music and Jackson. “I always say that the two best decisions of my life were leaving Mississippi and coming back to Mississippi”, he says. “By leaving, I was able to have some amazing experiences and learn about life. By coming back, I was able to connect with my wife, have an amazing family, be closer to my parents, and immerse myself in the musical heritage of the cradle of American music.
“One of the things I love about Jackson is that we have a very strong and cohesive arts community here”, Johnson continues. “I think it is very important for musicians to support each other and to view the making of music as a joyous activity. It's good to set high standards and goals for oneself. But I think we need to celebrate the work of our cohorts as well, and I am grateful to be part of a music scene where people do that. Plus, there are some monster musicians here".
Like many of Johnson’s musical inspirations, his songs are inquisitive and thought-provoking, with his warm, rich voice and world-class harmonica playing on constant display. With his latest release, ”Going Somewhere” (the long-awaited follow-up to his 2007 release, ”Umbrella Man”, which received excellent reviews in the US and abroad), Johnson’s songs evoke a common theme of “going somewhere”, or not, as individuals, partners, nations, or as a common species.
“If I Only Knew the Words” deals with songwriting and communication in relationships, and how they can both be stymied despite the best of intentions. “All” takes on the modern dead-end obsession with acquiring more and more ’stuff’. “Jailbird” is the tale of a lifetime convict who’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. One of two covers on the album is Peter Gabriel’s “I Don’t Remember”, an account of interrogation and surveillance that remains as relevant today as it was during the Cold War. “Simply Human” addresses the emergence of artificial intelligence and the ever-grayer divide between machine and man. The album’s musical personnel includes some of Mississippi’s finest musicians, as well as New Orleans funk stalwarts Robert Mercurio and Jeff Raines (from Galactic) on the title track.
Scott Albert Johnson, who has spent much of the 7 years since his debut release helping his wife to raise their three children, is excited about this next step in his musical evolution. He expresses gratitude for the ability to make music. “My wife has always been there to encourage me, she is a wonderful photographer and understands the need to express oneself creatively”, he says. “I was also very lucky to grow up with parents who always believed in me even when they didn't understand what I was trying to do. I believe that the art of making music and writing songs, as well as the appreciation and sharing of this music, is one of the most powerful links to our common humanity. It’s the sonic manifestation of joyous, soul-enriching fulfillment”.
As a follow-up to 2012’s critically acclaimed, "Future Harvest", Sean O’Brien & His Dirty Hands are pleased to announce the release of his 6th solo album, "Risk Profile". The album consists of 12 songs, following a variety of musical roads including: rock, pop, jazz and even electronica. The album also marks the first one recorded after the loss of long-time Dirty Hands guitarist ands co-producer Jeff Kane, who passed away in 2012.
“There wasn’t a day I didn’t think of Jeff in writing and recording the new album. It was a good kind of therapy. It helped me stay sane through a tough time. But the album is not maudlin or sad. It’s powerful and upbeat”, says O'Brien. Guest artists appearing on the album include: Greg Lisher from Camper Van Beethoven, Damon Wood from Engine 88, Michael Papenburg, who has performed with Penelope Houston, Tom Hofer from The Leaving Trains, and pianist Rob Reich. The album is co-produced by O’Brien’s long-time engineer Matt Boudreau, who also plays drums throughout.
A deluxe edition digital version of the album will feature studio outtakes, the “Tribute to Jeffrey Kane” EP released in 2013, as well as 4 live tracks from a radio broadcast at KDVS in Davis, California. This station was the site of O’Brien’s first recording session, 30 some odd years previous. The live band for these tracks features Boudreau on drums, bassist Paul Olguin, and guitarist Eric Zodik. The new live band features Greg Lisher of Camper Van Beethoven on guitar; Kevin T. White of Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express on bass, and long time co-producer-engineer Matt Boudreau on drums.
Sean O’Brien is a long time veteran of the West Coast California rock scene, having performed and recorded with: True West, Denim TV, The Mariettas and The Mistaken (a side project featuring Gregg Turner of The Angry Samoans). His catalog is currently available digitally through iTunes and independently through First Cold Press.
Currently one of Canada’s most potent songwriters, Selina Martin is a Toronto-based art pop post pop siren with a massive stage presence and an unforgettable voice. Martin will release her 4th studio album in the fall of 2015. Working again with Chris Stringer (Toronto’s ’producer of the year’ and producer of her massively acclaimed ”Disaster Fantasies”) and with electronic guru Grapes Godly (Ark Analog, Woodhands), countless hours were devoted to studio experimentation in order to refine and define her sound.
On this brave new recording she delves into developing minimalist chord structures and melodies to maximal effect – a process she refers to as ’various forms of space exploration’. Martin spent over 3 years writing and one and a half years recording in order to capture her current artistic vision.
She has emerged with a post pop album that is robust, profound, and truly original. She calls it “i’ve been picking caruso’s brain, i think i have the information we need to make a new world”.
"Watercolor Day" is the new album from Seth Swirsky, hit songwriter and member of The Red Button,who took the indie pop world by storm two years ago with their debut, "She's About To Cross My Mind".
"Watercolor Day" is what Nick Lowe would call "pure pop for now people". Just listen to the songs. It's as if Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney decided to make a record together in 1971 and asked members of 10cc and ELO to join in!
Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles digs it, saying "'Watercolor Day' is a sonic bouquet of delicious melodies, melt-in-your-mouth harmonies and warm butterscotch guitars that jangle and shine. Fantastic!"
The influential music blog, Powerpopaholic said: "This disc is pure summer sweetness distilled and I am proud to list it in my year end top ten". Enjoy!
Shan + Annie = ShAnnie
A duo comprised of Shan Kowert & Annie Acton. They formed in 2005 and released their debut CD in 2007, which received a nomination for Vocal Duo at the 2008 Texas Music Awards.
With the 2nd release, their 2011 CD "The Station" produced by John Inmon, which won ShAnnie ’Vocal Duo Of The Year’ and John Inmon ’Producer Of The Year". ShAnnie says they are "humbled and honored in knowing that their passion is getting such positive feedback".
"Eclectic Americana Folk with Celtic and Spanish undertones", that's what some are saying about the music of ShAnnie. Their voices are clean and soothing, and the music is beautifully accompanied by 6 or 12 string acoustic guitars and sometimes a piano. ShAnnie's music is soulful, lyrical and mesmerizing. Annie will capture your eyes with her dramatic fervor for each and every song. Someone once said, "Annie, when you sing, I believe".
Meanwhile, Shan is crosspicking the guitar strings with ease and enthusiasm. Whether it is Annie or Shan taking the lead vocal, the other voice is floating around in harmony. It is a fact, the chemistry of these two people will not only lure you in, but keep you wanting more.
New album ”Blame It On The Moon” out now.
The Shiner Twins
In the many reviews that appeared after the release of the Shiner Twins’ second album 'Southern Belles', the band has been hailed as the hottest roots-band from the Netherlands, and some reviewers even described the band as the best roots-band in Europe, judging the album as “a milestone in the genre”.
The band’s unique blend of southern soul, rhythm & blues, country, traditional gospel, New Orleans funk, texmex and singer-songwriter oriented material makes them anyhow stand out in the widely varied Dutch roots- and americana-circuit. That’s one of the reasons why the band was invited to play at all the important festivals in the Netherlands and Belgium in the spring and summer of 2009.
The initial roots of the Shiner Twins are located in Austin TX. When founding bandmember Jack Hustinx was living there in 2001/2002 he was asked to put together a European touring-band by Austin’s legendary powerhouse-singer Malford Milligan (ex-Storyville), and so he did. After three very successful European tours and one tour in and around Malford’s hometown Austin - to celebrate the release of the critically acclaimed 'Sweet Cherry Soul' album - this co-operation came to an end. Because the remaining bandmembers agreed that there was this “undefinable chemistry” every time they played together they decided to continue as a band, the Shiner Twins, with their own material, written by both Jack Hustinx and Richard van Bergen, the band’s two lead-vocalists and guitarists. Richard is considered to be one of the most talented roots-guitarists in the Netherlands, probably the best slide-player in the country, heavily influenced by co-players like Bonnie Raitt, Lowell George, David Lindley and Ry Cooder.
In October 2006 the band’s debut-album 'All In Store' was released, and almost instantly this CD was hailed by every magazine and website as one of the most excellent and original roots-CDs ever to come out of the Netherlands. The CD entered at a #2 position in the Euro Americana Chart and gained a lot of airplay on national radio. The name Shiner Twins was put on the map, and the band played almost continuously in the many clubs, theaters and festivals throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. This definitely contributed to the outstanding live-reputation of the band, not only through their solid musical craftsmanship and haunting vocal-harmonies, but also as being one of the most honest and intensely playing rootsbands you will ever see. All four Shiner Twins members are true, convincing and experienced roots-junkies that have been playing and recording with many different bands and artists for more than 25 years.
Two years after the release of their debut the Shiner Twins launched the eagerly awaited follow-up entitled 'Southern Belles', an even stronger mix of styles, adding more traditional southern gospel to their music, featured in 13 new intriguing Shiner Twins originals.
In their native Netherlands every rootsmusic-fan is proud that this soulful roots-combo is coming from their country, now it’s up to the rest of Europe to get to know the Shiner Twins…..
As the title suggests, 'Family Man' is Shooter Jennings’ most personal and introspective album to date, focusing on his home life with Drea de Matteo and their two children, the endless temptations of life on the road, his Southern heritage and upbringing, and his unique position among today’s country musicians. Shooter has worn many hats throughout his career: the selfdescribed “son of a rebel saint”, the hell-raising vigilante minister at a revival of true country music, the radical prophet using rock and roll as his medium.
Now after a career where he has done everything from sharing the stage with Alice in Chains to writing songs for the Oak Ridge Boys, Shooter will finally reveal the man at the heart of it all when he releases 'Family Man'.
Recording in his recently adopted hometown of New York, producing himself for the first time, and playing with a group of extremely talented musicians he has dubbed “The Triple Crown”, Shooter is more relaxed and confident on this album than ever before. Featuring renowned jazz pianist Erik Deutsch, guitarist Chris Masterson, drummer Tony Leone, bassist Jeff Hill, pedal steel player John Graboff, and rising roots music star, Eleanor Whitmore, who contributes harmony vocals, as well as playing mandolin and fiddle, The Triple Crown brings to mind such ensembles as Merle Haggard’s Strangers, Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, and Buck Owens’ Buckaroos, becoming an integral part of the music and adding their unique stamp to each and every note. It is his rebel DNA accompanied with his mature outlook and emotional strength of a father and a family man, which makes him one of the most exciting artists of his era.
"The Trick Is To Breathe" is Sid Griffin's 1st solo album in a decade. Recorded in Nashville, TN, at the home studio of Thomm Jutz in February 2014, it was a joyous, easy and (almost) carefree session, the entire album completed in four days.
"Before Christmas I had sent some Nashville friends acoustic demos of my songs and of my new arrangement of a version of The Youngbloods' great 'Get Together'. These men and women had learned the songs off my demos and most of the songs we recorded were second takes... in fact these players are so accomplished I don't think any track was recorded in more than four takes", recalls Griffin.
After recording in the UK for most of the past two decades Sid decided to do everything differently from his last solo album, "As Certain As Sunrise". "I recorded in the USA instead of Europe, I did not engineer, co-produce, or mix the album, on a few tracks I only sang, I put myself entirely in the hands of others, I did not use any of the Coal Porters' vast musical talents, I primarily used musicians I had not met before the sessions and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Without question it was time for a change, time to shake things up".
As promoters and venues were frequently contacting Griffin about solo shows it was obviously time for new 'Sid Solo Music'. Yet the multi-tasking Griffin, a musician first, a writer second, a broadcaster third and... oh yes, a family man on top of all that, didn't have much time to spare to record. "You can spend weeks doing an album. Both my previous solo albums were done piecemeal, that is recorded in bits here and then bits there over weeks. I needed to get an album done quickly".
"Billy Bragg told me his last album was recorded by Joe Henry in just a few days out in Pasadena, CA, and I remembered Dylan did 'Nashville Skyline' in only a few days. So I contacted some Nashville cats I knew, they recommended Thomm Jutz as a producer, he and I hit it off, Thomm picked most of the players and by the time I flew to Tennessee these folks knew my songs better than I did. Hence we started on Monday and were done by Thursday!".
Sid did play mandolin on two tracks, guitar on about six more, but the core of the band was Mark Fain from Ricky Skagg's Kentucky Thunder outfit on bass, the great virtuoso Sierra Hull on mandolin, Paul Griffiths on drums, Thomm Jutz on guitar, Justin Moses on banjo, fiddle and dobro, and gospel legend James T Brown on backing vocals. Other than Thomm Jutz and Paul Griffiths none had met Sid before the sessions began.
"The Trick Is To Breathe" announces Sid Griffin is back on the world stage as a solo artist, globe-trotting troubadour and singer-songwriter. "It's a great record, it really is, my best songs ever and you can play them with a group behind you as I did in Nashville or they can be performed by me solo. I am in a good space as the saying goes and 'The Trick Is To Breathe' is going to help keep me there. Yes, I am an American who lives in Europe, but my heart resides south of the Mason-DIxon and it shows on this album. I can't wait to tread the boards again and play these songs for the people".
Simon Elvnäs says that the music has always been there in his head. It was there before he learned to play a musical instrument.
Perhaps not surprisingly Simon grew up in a family where music had an important focus. His father played the accordion and entertained the local community at dances when Simon was young. His path to true musical discovery was born out of necessity. Simon’s father decided one day that he needed drum accompaniment for his performances and put the young Simon in front of a set of drums and taught him how to play. This would continue until the age of 14.
It was then that he wrote his first song, a song he says that he simply had in his head. Most of us would probably consider this quite remarkable, but Simon talks about it as if explaining how it was to tie his shoelaces for the first time. The transition from drums to guitar was still many years away.
The subtle push towards musical expression continued when Simon’s older brother decided to start a band with Simon, Simon’s girlfriend and a couple of friends who not only knew nothing about music but had never actually seen one as Simon tells it. Still bitten by the music bug, Simon continued to play the drums and write music in his head, cranking out a total of three songs as the drummer.
Simon’s evolution into a true singer/songwriter came when he was 21. It was then that he bought his a second-hand guitar, his first, and a how-to book on playing guitar. Not long afterwards Simon found himself at a birthday party as the vocalist with a friend who could actually play the guitar. Apparently the will was there, but not the ability… yet. This birthday party would prove be the turning point in his singing career.
At the party a local restaurant owner approached Simon and asked him if he would be interested in singing at her restaurant. He accepted the offer and a month after buying his first guitar Simon had his first gig… without knowing how to play. Simon sang accompanied by his guitar playing friend from the birthday party and their debut was a success. As the guitarist lived far away Simon was forced to learn to play in a hurry, learning so quickly and so well he played at the restaurant every other weekend for 3 years. Not a bad start for a guy who primarily played covers of pop rock and folk music. Along the way, he started writing and performing his own songs.
Simon is now 35 and his music is a reflection of his journey through life and love. The collection of songs on this album is sincere and meaningful, sung in Simon’s distinctive soothing and smooth style. They reflect things that we can all relate to and Simon sings to you like a friend. From the pleasantly addictive “Can’t Let You Touch Me Now” to the pop flavored “Faultless” (with backing vocals by Irma Schultz Keller) to the hauntingly beautiful duet “I Will Change It All” with Frida Öhrn, these are tracks that take hold of you and don’t let go. All of the tracks on the album were recorded in natural sound… nothing digital about the music here. It was recorded live in order to capture the feeling and the atmosphere of the moment, that special feeling that only comes from a live performance.
The album is produced by Glen Scott, whose credits include Eric Bibb, Ron Sexsmith, Stephen Simmonds and Sarah Dawn Finer.
Simon has always known what he was born to do and that awareness has caught up with him. This is music for the heart and for the soul from a genuinely artistic musical soul. The appeal is contagious.
The year of 2014 marks the long-anticipated release of Sister Speak’s debut album ‘Rise Up For Love.’ With two Grammy Award-winning engineers on the board – producer-engineer Alan Sanderson (Fiona Apple, Rolling Stones) and mastering engineer Brian Lucey (Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys), the album has received rave reviews by press and fans alike.
Led by Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Sherri Anne, Sister Speak combines captivating vocal melodies and rootsy guitar stylings with dynamic rythm and driving beats. After a five-year sojourn in Chicago, it was a Missy Higgins concert in 2007 that inspired Sherri Anne to no end to pursue music and set her on course. Within days she began to book shows, within months national tours – many without a car, which eventually landed her in San Diego where Sister Speak was formed. The vision - A collaboration of musicians in support of the expression of the female voice. The sunny city welcomed Sister Speak with a ‘Best New Artist’ nomination at the 2011 San Diego Music Awards.
In 2012 an injury brought Sherri Anne back to her homeland, British Columbia, where she rest in recovery unable to walk or perform live for two months – It was then that she wrote the majority of the ‘Rise Up For Love’ album. Upon her return to San Diego, Anne and fellow Canadian Lisa Viegas (drummer), fully delved into California‘s music scene, where they began to collaborate with current bandmates Tolan Shaw (vocals, lead guitar) and later Jacob Miranda (bass). Over the next year Sister Speak‘s rootsy-rock sound truly came to life and their debut album was born.
‘Rise Up For Love’ kicks off with edgy lead track "Chicago Dream", the most widely aired track since the album‘s recent release. The story then moves into “beautiful, Americana-tinged harmonies and gutsy, soul-strung lyrics” with "Goodbye My Lover" and "Lady Love". The grittier side of Sister Speak lets loose in "Mirror (II)", followed by epic title track, "Rise Up For Love". Sherri Anne’s softer folk side peers into solo track "Comin’ Back", which carries nicely into "Mountain Song’s" bluesy slide guitar riffs. "Say You Will" is well worth the wait with a gut-wrenching vocal performance and driving rhythm section. Honestly’s catchy hooks and genuine lyrics give the album a sense of closure while leaving the listener longing for more.
Having toured nationally (over 100 shows a year), Sister Speak has opened for major artists Air Supply and Henry Kapono, and headined top venues throughout the USA. NBC recently named Sherri Anne one of San Diego’s top 9 rhythm guitarists, with the album being a “solid, riveting testament”. The year of 2014 brings steady touring throughout North America and the international release of ‘Rise Up For Love’.
Nico Georis is visionary and poetic musician and one of the most original keyboard players of our times. His musical talents have taken him from Big Sur, to New York, Paris, Romania, and back to the San Francisco Bay area, while carrying on a legacy of California grooves. Nico is a man who is connected to nature’s realm and is dedicated to musically linking listeners to the pulse of life.
Following the release of his debut home recordings “Songs From Nowhere”, Nico Georis has collaborated with friends to form the band, Sky Country. Born from the lineages of 60’s California surf rock culture, the great american roots of New Orleans piano, blues, roots rock, 70’s Africa, impressionism, and other obscure realms, Sky Country humbly blasts into a new frontier in new California rock'n'roll. Highlights of 2012 included opening for Fishbone and rock n’ roll legend, Leon Russell.
“Songs From Nowhere I & II” are Sky Country’s debut home recordings, completely self produced by Nico Georis in his basement of analog relics. Sky Country’s infectious tonal grooves are revealed on an arsenal of vintage keyboards, lush and fuzzy guitars, set atop a warm lo-fi rock'n'roll river bed. Stylistically “Songs From Nowhere” pays homage to the great songwriters and musical craftsmen of the past, while firmly staking its claim to a virgin frontier in new California music.
This is warm California rock'n'roll inspired by the coast and deserts of the western frontier.
After two praised albums, Slowman releases an awaited 3rd album with original compositions in English. But Svante Törngren – the guitarist, composer and singer behind the alias Slowman – is chastened:
"I’m not expecting to a herd of journalists and TV producers. I just want to reach out to my audience with songs and compositions that I really like myself".
The desire to find a voice of his own has characterized Svante Törngren's musical career ever since he, almost 30 years ago, left a contract and the music industry in anger over meddlesome producers. He didn’t return until new technology made it possible for unsigned musicians and composers to call more of the shots in production. With the new album he has outdone himself:
"This is the best I’ve ever done. Finally it sounds close enough to what I heard in my head when I wrote the songs".
But fans and critics who favour heavy riff-based classic rock-blues may be slightly disappointed – among the 12 tracks on the new album, only a few qualify into that category. On the other hand, there are many other elements to enjoy. The skilful Mats Lundström on keyboards and John Ahlin's horn and string arrangements highlighting soloists like Anna Dager on cello, Jonas Wall on saxophone and Jonas Lindeborg on trumpet. Additionally, several tracks have been supplemented with a joyous gospel choir led by Camilla Stenman. Throughout the album, bassist Jan Enegård and drummer Stefan Rosén provide a steady groove and rhythmic accents.
Slowman himself has supervised all the details and produced the entire album:
"Some of the songs are torn straight out of my heart and it took me 4 years and a network of awesome musicians to put the bigger picture together. Now I'm incredibly proud of the result, even if the album gives me more expenditures than revenues. The real gain is on an entirely different level".
Sofia Ekberg is a Swedish, Gothenburg based singer-songwriter who plays music in the field of folk-country-pop. Sofia sings stories about daily life, its big questions and small details, with a voice and lyrics that get under your skin. All accompanied by her rhythmical guitar playing.
Sofia’s musical journey has taken many turns. She was born in the small village Bottnaryd in the deep forests of Småland, and very early on had a longing for music. At the age of five she got her first guitar and soon found a way to express herself musically.
Growing up she changed direction: trained and worked as a musical theatre performer, both in Sweden and England, and took part in productions on stages like Oscarsteatern in Stockholm, Östgötateatern in Norrköping and The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, England. When living in England she discovered her songwriting and began to play her songs at open stages in and around London, where she also worked as a session singer and was a member of Jest, a soul-rock band that played in the streets. Somewhere along the way, Sofia wrecked her voice, and wasn't able to sing for a number of years. During this silent time her songwriting kept evolving, and she worked hard to find a way back to her authentic voice and unique expression.
Now she’s here with the debut EP "All The Small Details", produced together with Patrick Rydman and Henrik Cederblom. Recorded mostly live at the studio Epidemin in Gothenburg, with three guitars, harmony singing, mandolin, dobro and stompbox, the trio creates a strong presence and a feeling of acoustic directness where the songs and the stories really come into focus and grab your attention.
Sofia plays solo, duo, as well as with the trio My Quiet Companion (with Rydman and Cederblom). She has played venues such as Visby Songwriters Festival, Copenhagen Songwriters Festival, Sunne Folk Festival, Pustervik (Gothenburg) and Jarmusch Club, Caserta, (Naples, Italy).
Sofia also works with various co-writing projects in both Sweden and Denmark. Currently she's involved in a project together with Danish singer-songwriter Cecilie Sadolin, who released her debut EP "Nordic Craft" in September 2013. Sofia is also the guitarist of the band Mint.
Furthermore, she has developed and runs the one-year course for singer-songwriters at Löftadalens folkhögskola in Åsa, Sweden.
Sons Of The Sea
"Sons Of The Sea" is the quintessential Brandon Boyd record — an introspective, eclectic collection from the artist, author, activist, environmentalist and surfer that will tantalize longtime fans while further spotlighting his evolving interests. The acclaimed Incubus vocalist is stretching his formidable creative muscles with a daring new foray into solo music.
While Boyd’s inviting, empathetic voice is familiar to millions, "Sons Of The Sea", the self-titled album, infuses it in challenging new contexts. Produced by the renowned Brendan O’Brien (Incubus, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against The Machine), the album luxuriates in innovative sonic backdrops, allowing what they coined as 'oddball pop' to flourish. For an artist like Boyd, the thrill and confusion of the quest to create will always trump the tangible, material rewards bestowed for his efforts.
Leadoff track “Jet Black Crow” flaunts what Boyd calls a 'stomping playfulness' that befits his dreamlike musing on infatuation’s ups and downs. And he is just as compelling in the record’s many departures, from the eerie, synth-driven obsession of “Lady Black”, to playing lothario in the seductive “Come Together”, contemplating his unique creative process in the piano-driven “Avalanche”, or paying tribute to Emily Dickinson’s perspective on an artist’s responsibility via “Untethered” — 'tell us the truth, but tell it to us gently, lest we all go blind'.
Boyd and O’Brien joined forces when Incubus went on hiatus following 2011’s "If Not Now, When?" 'After much toiling and overthinking about how I was to go about starting a new music project, I decided that the best way forward was to let go completely!' Boyd enthuses. 'Stop thinking about where, when, what, who and how, and simply… Go!'.
That ability to overcome doubt and give voice to complex thoughts applies to his visual art as well. Boyd’s third art book, "So The Echo", emerged this fall, following up acclaimed predecessors "White Fluffy Clouds" (2003) and "From The Murks Of The Sultry Abyss" (2007). A compendium of unobstructed watercolor, ink pieces and photographic spreads, "So The Echo" 'offers some of my most vulnerable observations yet, unedited and out on a limb. After all, the echo towards a life of expressivity is only as loud as the call!'.
'There is no end in creativity', Boyd concludes. 'Hence, to strive towards an end result is a fool’s errand. Set goals, make music and paint pictures, but know that the crux of your happiness balances delicately on the wings of the act of creativity itself. Not at the finish line'.
The album “Sons Of The Sea” is set to be released in Europe in February on Membran, including special acoustic versions of “Come Together” and “Lady Black”.
After an extended time away from the music scene, singer-songwriter Spike Flynn made a welcome return in 2010 with a collection of critically acclaimed songs on his album "It's Alright". Now in 2014 his new CD, "Rough Landing", will be released.
Originally from a small town in the west of the state of New South Wales in Australia, Spike is now based in Sydney. He infuses home town themes with an urban edge and a voice that has seen it all but not become jaded. He says his influences are as much literary as musical. He acknowledges being influenced by authors such as Franz Kafka, F Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut, Albert Camus, Gabriel Garcia Marquez , Hermann Hesse and John Steinbeck.
Spike's musical influences are the early blues – people such as Mance Lipscombe and John Hurt especially - and country artists such as Doc Watson, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Jimmie Rodgers. In his performances Spike often includes old blues and country material along with his own songs. He is a terrific finger style guitarist.
Spike's songs explore life with its beauty, pain, sorrows and joys and they often have a semi-philosophical aspect to them. His songs are lyrical stories, songs of the mature heart, the heart that has been through the dark night and has emerged on the other side with a tale to tell. Biographically Spike is a very private person and to try and understand him and his history one must read between the lines of his songs. Whatever the details of his personal history, Spike emerged from his hiatus as a songwriter of note.
Spike now mostly performs in clubs and pubs around Sydney and has recently supported international acts Peter Rowan and his Bluegrass Band, Kristina Olsen, John McCutcheon and local acts such as Jim Conway's Big Wheel. Since the beginning of 2013 Spike has been performing often in a trio format as Spike Flynn and The Open Hearted Strangers (with acoustic upright bass and percussion).
He is currently recording another album of all original material which he says will continue his emphasis on meaningful, thought provoking lyrics. As well, an album of songs from Spike and The Open Hearted Strangers can be expected very soon. When performing with The Open Hearted Strangers Spike goes back to his roots, playing a mix of early country and blues tunes, as well as original songs.
New York-based Spuyten Duyvil’s (Spite+en Die+vul) 3rd full-length offering is a love letter to Harry Smith’s “Anthology Of American Music”. Returning to the band’s beginnings (a porch, a bouzouki, a copy of ’Rise Up Singing’), producer Joe Iadanza and the band’s Mark Miller mined this sing-along bible for essential traditional songs. Seeking the lyrically relevant, known but not worn out, open for suggestion songs, the track list thrives with re-interpretation. Jug, blues, 2nd line, piedmont, roots and folk-rock blend the decades.
The intimate sound of Spuyten Duyvil’s 1898 Victorian ‘living room turned live room’ is key. Old wood, plaster, real spaces, vintage guitars and hot tubes are captured in warm, analog tones by room designer and engineer Jim Keller (Willie Nelson, Nellie McKay). Recorded almost completely live by the full band (no click, no net), the tracks burst with joy and vitality.
Years of touring lend familiarity, intimacy and intuition to the dynamics. The players play off of each other. They harmonize as old friends. And then there is her voice. Lead singer Beth Kaufman stretches out and luxuriates. She inhabits characters, styles and emotions with easy sincerity and virtuosity.
Stephen David Austin
The honest and unadorned images in his lyrics open a window into the life and times of Americana singer-songwriter Stephen David Austin.
Neon motels, brown Bakersfield skies, tobacco-stained fingers and a woman’s whiskey eyes reveal the veteran musician’s vision of a town, a world, or simply a state of mind where the ground is shifting beneath our feet faster than we can regain our balance. With a keen eye for detail and a strong sense of place, Austin paints his images in sepia tones darkened by the fine brown dust of the San Joaquin Valley.
It’s all here – ready to be experienced – on Austin’s first solo CD release, “A Bakersfield Dozen”.
Even as the raw, Telecaster-laden rhythms and crying pedal-steel guitar cling to a musical tradition born of the Bakersfield Sound, Austin’s lyrics make it clear the world he inherited from Buck Owens, Tommy Collins, and Merle Haggard is being transformed before our very eyes.
“I’ve always been drawn to stripped-down, raw roots music and great storytelling”, Austin said of his influences, who, in addition to the aforementioned icons, include Dave Alvin, Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons. “If you can’t tap your feet to it, or tap your beer bottle against the tabletop, you’ve missed the target”.
While these musical traditions are hugely important to Austin, songs like “Kansas Ain’t In Kansas Anymore” and “The Cage” immediately signal to listeners that even our dearest traditions may not survive the forces of change surging toward us like a record Sierra snowmelt on a summer afternoon.
Inspired by a popular quote from “The Wizard Of Oz”, Austin’s “Kansas” takes Dorothy’s iconic line a step further, suggesting that even the Kansas that exists in the American Heartland of our imagination can’t claim to be in Kansas anymore.
Drawing his lens inward to reflect a more personal perspective, Austin’s “The Cage” is penned in the storyteller tradition. It’s about a man hitch-hiking toward his hometown after spending decades in prison. But like Kansas, the man’s home is sure to bear little resemblance to the place he once knew.
In his song “The Day Buck Owens Died,” Austin mourns the loss of the Bakersfield Sound pioneer, and at the same time, dedicates an unabashed homage to the music of Owens and the Buckaroos. Austin said he still remembers being stunned by the news of Buck’s passing in March 2006 – and when Buddy Blue, a founding member of The Beat Farmers, died a few days later, Austin dealt with the loss the best way he knew how, by writing about it.
Austin is the first to recognize that his view of the world is anything but rose-colored. His lyrics have focused on broken dreams, endless nights and the inevitable fall from grace so many of us face at some point in our lives. Fortunately, his sense of humor remains hilariously intact in songs like “Best Ex I Ever Had” and “Dance With No Pants”.
Americana music is a lyricist’s domain, the perfect vehicle for a storyteller-songwriter like Austin. And the southern San Joaquin Valley, the setting of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” is a central character in much of Austin’s writing.
“If Steinbeck had been a musician,” Austin said, “I think he’d still be in Americana”.
"The words and music on my new CD, 'Never Mind The Rain', are an outgrowth of a difficult and tender time in my life with Marlene... this CD is for her. Yet as I was completing the recordings the tragic news of loss, love and lament came for my friend Susan who lost the love of her life, Lou. 'On The Morrow' was written for Lou. I hope that song and the words and music on this CD will provide Susan, Rachel and Zak a measure of solace and sweet remembrance. We all miss you, Lou. 'The Voice In The Wilderness' is dedicated to the memory of my friend and drummer Chip Demiani, the heartbeat and soul of Hard Road and The Remains..." ~ Steve Mednick
Steve Noonan released his first album in 1968. It was such a huge smash success that he is releasing his follow-up immediately forty years later!
Way back in the 1960’s there was a hip music magazine called Cheetah. The first issue featured a nude picture of Mama Cass on a bear skin rug. Did you know Mama Cass had a tattoo? It was Cheetah that labeled Tim Buckley, Steve Noonan and Jackson Browne as “The Orange County Three.” All three were friends who performed at the Paradox in Orange County and other folk clubs and all three were very talented songwriters. At that time Jackson Browne was not much of a singer and it would be a few years before he would make his first album, but Elektra Records had signed Tim Buckley and he had recorded his first LP. Looking for another singer songwriter to duplicate Buckley’s success, Elektra signed Steve Noonan in 1967. It seemed like a dream come true to the teenaged Noonan, but, sadly, it wasn’t. It turned out to be the worst thing for Steve Noonan’s professional ambitions.
Just as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a Top 40 hit with 'Buy For Me the Rain', a song written by Steve Noonan and his friend Greg Copeland, Steve went to New York to record his album. Paul Rothchild, the legendary producer of the Doors and Janis Joplin was brought in to produce the album. But Elektra and Rothchild wanted Tim Buckley II, not Steve Noonan. They tried desperately to recreate Noonan in Buckley’s image and Steve resisted. The clash led to Rothchild storming out and taking his name off the record. Steve said, “You can take my name off it, too.” The record came out. Elektra spent twenty dollars on promotion and it sunk like a stone. I bought a copy for sixty-six cents at Aaron’s Records on Melrose. The album and the artist who made it deserved better. 'Leaning Back & Laughing' is as fine a track as anything ever released on the label.
The second Steve Noonan album is the work of a seasoned artist, a singer songwriter who has labored in relative obscurity for all these years. While Tim Buckley fell victim to rock’s excesses, and Jackson Browne rose to fame and played intimate songs in baseball stadiums, Steve Noonan played coffee houses and living rooms, always writing and playing and singing. Most of the artists of the sixties did their best work in their twenties. But here we find Steve Noonan just a bit older and doing some of the strongest work of his life. The songs on this new album were mostly written in the last few months. Listening to these songs now is like hearing an exciting new discovery. It’s like finding a forgotten gem for sixty six cents in the bargain bin at Aaron’s.
That golden California Sound comes alive again on 'Time Still Knocking', Steve Postell's Immergent Records debut. This rich, organic work draws on rock, folk, blues, country and R&B, all distilled through well-honed craftsmanship coupled with genuine heart and the musical camaraderie of a staggeringly talented group of musicians.
A singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, Steve's remarkable career begins a new chapter on 'Time Still Knocking' which features a wide array of legendary musicians. Contributors and collaborators include David Crosby, Jennifer Warnes, John Oates, Robben Ford, Eric Johnson, Paul Barrere, Dave Koz and many others.
“I was with the band, Little Blue, for nine years and I wrote a lot of the material, so when I was signed, the original thought was to create a new band around me," Steve says. "But after I started working on the album, it became clear that this was an artist-driven project. We felt it was time for me to make a solo record."
The album’s opener, the inviting, bluesy '3:45 Coming Through', is one of the few tracks that Steve wrote on his own as most of the songs are collaborations. His songwriting partners ranged from rockl veteran John Oates (Hall & Oates) on the baroque folk-rock of 'Straight For the Moon', to hard rocker Kip Winger on the churning 'Change in the Circle'. “Even though Kip, John and the others are all different, there’s a kind of common thread, true of every person who worked with me on this record,” Steve says. “They all understand and strive for a very high level of artistry. That’s what connects everything, not their styles.”
The music on 'Time Still Knocking' crackles with a sense of discovery, yet is also instantly familiar. The rising harmonies in 'Background Noise' and 'Catch The Wind' tap into a legacy that includes CSN&Y and the Eagles, among others. Steve also pays tribute to his influences with Buzz Feiten’s 'Long Way Home' (featuring Buzzy and jazz legend Dave Koz) and Little Feat’s 'Missing You', sharing vocals with the song's writer, guitarist Paul Barrere.
For Steve Postell, 'Time Still Knocking' is the culmination of dedicated work, lasting friendships and creative partnerships for a complete musician who knows where he’s been and looks to the future with anticipation.
“My primary inspiration was always to be a singer-songwriter, but I wanted to understand as much about the process as possible,” he says. “It’s always been about songwriting first, though the studio – engineering, how you record, arrange and so on – is a big part of it too. Assembling all the talent for this record, from the incredible musicians to mix engineer Nathaniel Kunkel and up to the final days with legendary mastering engineer Bernie Grundman, gave me the chance to watch these songs come into existence from their birth as mere ideas."
Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst
It seemed like an innocent enough meeting. Steven Casper, a Los Angeles based songwriter, grew up in Japan, Italy, Nigeria and Mexico as an American Embassy brat. Steven spent countless hours listening to his parents record collection of American music icons such as Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and Mahalia Jackson. Now here he was, knocking on guitarist Glen Lynskey’s door so he could play him some of his roots based songs.
Steven, who was looking for a guitarist to help him record some of his new songs, was given Glen’s phone number by a mutual friend. They spoke briefly and now Steven was about to sing some of his songs for Glen who had performed for numerous major label acts and in 1996 won best electric guitarist in the Northwest. Glen liked the songs and the two quickly became good friends
A three song demo was recorded. The drummer on the session, Tony Felicetta (who now plays Ringo in the highly successful Las Vegas Beatles tribute show) asked Steven if he had any other songs because he thought we could put a set together and play some clubs. “Yeah, I’ve got about 300 tunes”, Steven said. A band was started.
At this point Steven spoke to a longtime friend, Ross “The Professor” Levinson, a film and TV music composer, who played violin and keyboards, to see if he was interested in joining the band. Ross had previously played with such artists such as Tom Waits, Harry Belafonte and Joan Jett.
Ross came by a rehearsal and immediately clicked with the band. The interplay between Ross on violin and Glen on lead guitar has become one of the features of the band’s sound. Ross also went on to produce the band’s first two records, “Cowboy Angst” and “I Used To Be The King Of The World”. The current band’s line-up was completed in 2004 with drummer Jay Nowac and bassist Herb Deitelbaum.
Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst released “Topanga Ranch Motel” in 2008 and “Solid Gone” in 2010, working with producer Ira Ingber, who has been a guitarist and producer with numerous artists including Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Fran Sinatra, Canned Heat and Captain Beefheart. Ira was able to capture the bands dynamic live sound which Music Connection Magazine described as “country music originating in the Allman Brother’s backyard”.
The next record, “Kindness” continued the collaboration with producer Ira Ingber. For this disc the band and Ira brought in some guest musicians. The Brotherhood Horns, Carl Byron on keyboards and accordion, John McClung on pedal steel and Matt Cartsonis on mandola.
As life is want to do, The Professor and Glen moved on and were greatly missed. However, as the door closed on the band’s original lineup, another door opened as Carl Byron and John Groover McDuffie joined up.
Groover is a multitalented versatile musician who is accomplished on electric and acoustic guitar, pedal steel, lap steel, dobro and slide guitar. Since 2005 he has been the Musical Director for Rita Coolidge.
Carl, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as a “musical ace” adds piano, organ and accordion to the band. Also a talented composer, Carl’s compositional works have appeared in dance and theater performances.
“Trouble” was recorded in 2012. The new members and guest musicians help guide the music deeper into American roots music while still keeping a rock and roll feel. That is until you sit down on the front porch. Once again the disc is produced by Ira Ingber.
“Endless Sky” is the latest disc for Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst. The band line up remains unchanged and Ira Ingber is back as producer. Original band member Ross “Big Daddy” Levinson dropped by to add his amazing violin to the Cajun waltz “Last Dance Of The Year”. Gospel vocalists the McCrarys laid down their beautiful voices on two tracks, “Rattlesnake Road” and “River”. The songs are a little longer on “Endless Sky” with a trace of ambiance. The songs straddle several genres, moving from Americana to Blues to Cajun while keeping continuity to the overall sound.
The band performs regularly in the Los Angeles area at clubs like The Grand Ole Echo, Ronnie Mack’s Barndance, The House of Blues, Rusty’s Surf Ranch, The Viper Room, Molly Malones and Club Good Hurt, Trip and The Mint.
All this from a knock on a door.
"Don't talk about food... your culture is killing me". With that first shot across the bow, Stoney Spring's debut CD promises a dark musical assault on our "sleek, sexy, crumbling civilization" and selected ills: timidity, bland indie music, and the corrosive legacy of Steve Jobs.
Featuring the founding members of acclaimed alt-country band I See Hawks In LA, Stoney Spring still has one toe in American roots music. But songs like ‘Revenge Rock’, ‘New Blood’ and the gloriously rough-hewn psychedelia of title track ‘Right On Heliotrope!’ bring to mind a deft hybrid of Captain Beefheart and mid 70’s Neil Young.
Other songs – ’Jobs’, the catchy, piano-driven takedown of the sainted Apple executive, and ‘Stick Shift’, a dystopian guide to Los Angeles, defy categorization. Then there's ‘Class Of 75’, a tragic love story/drug fable set in a high school homeroom.
The driving force behind Stoney Spring is Anthony Lacques, I See Hawks In LA's original drummer and still one of its principal songwriters. He's reunited with the Hawks' lead singer Rob Waller and guitarist Paul Lacques to deliver another strange and wonderful band unto the universe.
Anthony's obsessions—maps, the plant kingdom, rock music history, institutional insanity, the degradations of digital culture, and the geography of Los Angeles — and desert childhood upbringing will be familiar to Hawks fans, but this is music gloriously untethered from stylistic rules.
Weighing in at a lean and mean 33 minutes, “Right On Heliotrope!” may be the catchiest album to not have a traditional chorus among its ten songs, fattened up by brother Paul's distinctive lap steel and Telecaster, and former Sly Stone's bassist Jimi Hawes. Then there is the soulful baritone of Hawks frontman Rob Waller, who gives a warmth to Anthony’s surreal lyric landscape. The album was produced by Marc Doten (Double Naught Spy Car, Stew/The Negro Problem) at Trend Coma Bootlegs in Echo Park, CA.
Even the album art, by collage artist Jennifer Cline, stitches together the far-ranging, disparate themes into a whole. (Yes, that’s a satanic Steve Jobs hanging upside down next to the garland of heliotropes).
In March, Stoney Spring launches its radio campaign, with the help of promoter James Holland’s Airplay Junkie, to hundreds of college and specialty stations, followed by a spring tour. The band hopes to infiltrate the charts as much as I See Hawks In LA soared past the usual suspects and into the Americana Charts, three #1’s on the Freeform Roots Chart and a #2 spot on XM radio’s alt country.
After an Echo Park CD release party with surf-noir legends Double Naught Spy Car on March 18th, 2014, Stoney Spring will do a number of Southern California and Bay Area showcases before hitting the road for a more extensive spring tour. It should be a stoney spring indeed.
As it turns out, Sugarcane Jane is not just another promising Nashville upstart paying its dues as a tour warmup act. Instead it's a new name for a couple of familiar faces, and the latest step in the evolution of a partnership rooted right here in Lower Alabama.
There is no Jane. The act is a duo consisting of Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee. She's a Baldwin County-based singer-songwriter. He's a Birmingham-native whose day job happens to be playing guitar and other instruments for a guy named Neil Young.
A couple of years ago, after meeting in Nashville, they recorded an album of folksy adult pop titled "Redbird." Her name and face appeared on the cover; the songs were his, but she sang them as if they were hers.
She moved back to Baldwin County. Disaffected with Nashville and wanting to be closer to his parents, who live in Daphne, so did he. "It's really been a blessing to come back to Alabama and be close to family," he said.
To say working for Young keeps Crawford on the go would be an understatement. He figures that in the last year Young's tours have taken him to Europe four times, to Canada twice, and across the United States several times, not to mention jaunts to such far-flung places as Australia.
"He has been very prolific of late, and it seems I've been involved in every episode of it," Crawford said. "When I come home, I make good use of it."
Crawford, it turns out, is pretty prolific in his own right. On the Internet, he's been posting installments of a humorous video documentary titled "On The Road With A Rock Star", based on his experiences with Neil Young's band. He recently released a new solo album, "Five is Red." He and Lee have put together a no-frills live recording of Sugarcane Jane-material (which they will release soon), and are hard at work on a new studio album.
"It's just two people doing what they love to do, and coming from a real honest space," he said. "Our parents seem to like it, so we know we're onto something."
"I want to be a part of the moment. I'm not here to impress upon anybody," he said.
Sun Soul Orchestra
Sun Soul Orchestra is an inspired project that features a rotating collection of artists performing original music and covers arranged by Stevo Théard and Ginger Murphy. Their debut album, "What Matters Most" has been a labor of love over the past 5 years and finally releases worldwide, physically and digitally. On the surface it would seem that Los Angeles, CA, based Stevo and Ginger could not come from more disparate planets in the musical universe. Ginger came up in the highly structured, extremely regimented world of classical music training, while Stevo got most of his training on the job, at first playing nightclubs and gigging locally, then graduating into the world of international touring and recording.
Stevo and Ginger are both working musicians and have hundreds of amazing credits including working with many superstars throughout their careers. Stevo has worked with Michael McDonald, James Ingram, Peabo Bryson, Patti Austin, Anita Baker, Terence Trent D'Arby, Keb Mo', Branford Marsalis, and Patrice Rushen, to name a few. Ginger has worked with and performed with: Kendrick Lamar, Pat Benatar, Michael Buble, Kelly Clarkson, Sheryl Crow, One Republic, Pharrell, Barbra Streisand, Macy Gray, Josh Groban, Rihanna, Usher, Kanye West, Steve Wonder, and so many more.
This album features many world class musicians that appear throughout the album. Rastine Calhoun, who plays sax on a handful of tracks, has worked with legendary artists like Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin and Babyface. Also featured, Greg “Gee Mack” Dalton who has worked with Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and LL Cool J. Michael Hunter plays flugelhorn on a track. Michael is a world-class soloist who has worked with Lenny Kravitz, Rick James and James Brown. Kamasi Washington is a young lion who has worked with Kendrick Lamar, Raphael Saadiq, Mos Def, Chaka Khan, Quincy Jones and Stanley Clarke. Chris Woods is an amazingly gifted violinist who has worked with Justin Timberlake, Faith Evans, Outkast and The Black Eyed Peas. Chris Gray has worked with Earth Wind and Fire and Idina Menzel, and has been in the pit orchestras of 'The Academy Awards' and 'Dancing With The Stars'. "What Matters Most" also features Katisse Buckingham who has worked with Prince, Dr Dre, Herbie Hancock and Poncho Sanchez. Everyone brings the heat on this one!
When Stevo and Ginger first met at the historic Capitol Records Studio A in Hollywood, they discovered that they had much more in common than a casual observer might expect. She grew up in Chicago with a great love for blues, jazz, rock, hip hop and r'n'b. He grew up in Los Angeles with eclectic musical tastes that included rock, soul, jazz, hip hop, and even a love for the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. They also found that they shared a deeply passionate appreciation for great cuisine from all corners of the world (especially sushi!), and so their journey began.
The first seed of Sun Soul Orchestra was planted when Stevo volunteered to write an arrangement for a string quartet that Ginger was a part of. Stevo’s idea was to combine the string quartet with drums and percussion, and Ginger suggested the song "I Wanna Know" as a good potential cover. Even though Stevo had no experience writing for strings, he dove in and quickly discovered that he had a knack for putting the arrangements together. When they began writing original music together, they became truly inspired, and committed themselves to the project now known as Sun Soul Orchestra.
The mission of Sun Soul Orchestra is to create soulful music with the best musicians and vocalists available, and to combine the strengths that Ginger and Stevo each bring to the table, along with all of their invited guests. "What Matters Most", the first offering from Sun Soul Orchestra, is about tapping into what Stevo and Ginger both value most about music, the emotional content of it, and the ability of music to communicate on a deeply spiritual level.
Susan James earned high praise for her 2011 release, “Highways Ghosts Hearts & Home” of which Ryan Adams, tweeted about her “great songs” and killer band. Now in 2013 Susan James returns with the lushly written and well produced "Driving Toward The Sun". Although Susan has many musical influences, DJ's familiar with the music of everyone from Lucinda Williams to Byrds, Beach Boys, Linda Ronstadt, Eagles and even Fairport Convention will hear echoes of their legacy laced throughout James' music, which sparkles with her compelling lyrics, vocals and overall sound.
Teaming up with Ryan Ulyate, producer for Tom Petty and George Harrison among others, Ulyate is just one of the many talented people who James attracts to her projects. “When Ryan and I began, we talked about how it should be as acoustic as possible, but still have a big sound. Our aim was to get the acoustic guitar to really rock like the guitars in the Rolling Stones 'Street Fighting Man', for instance… We named the sound we were attempting 'The Wall Of Intimacy’. And every song had to have it in a way, no matter how big or small the song was. I think we achieved it, and I'm proud to share it with everyone now.”
From the transitional feeling of 'Driving Toward The Sun' to the intensity of 'U-Haul In The Driveway', and 'House Of Love', listeners will be able to visualize these snapshots of a longterm relationship that has completely fallen apart. 'Anniversary' and 'Tule Fog' and 'Mission Bells' are more stripped down acoustic tracks, where listeners will sense a glimmer of hope in some of the toughest times.
James has been described by The Los Angeles Times as a “a master at exploring the emotional and sonic possibilities”, and Blurt Magazine noted, “excellent songwriting and an eye for musical details”. On "Driving Towards The Sun", she affirms the praise with insightful and big-picture stories. An adept and seasoned performer, Susan opened for both Lindsey Buckingham and Bob Weir throughout their respective six-week national tours and also supported acts from Richard Thompson, Son Volt, Rufus Wainright to Daniel Lanois just to name a few. She is currently booking tours for 2013.