"It costs nothing to be honest, loyal and true."
If you put your ear to the street, you can hear the rumble of the world in motion; people going to and from work, to school, to the grocery store. You may even hear the whisper of their living rooms, their conversation, their complaints, and if you're lucky, their laughter. If you're almost anywhere in America , you'll hear something different, something special, something you recognize but haven't heard in a long time. It is the sound of a real celebration.
It is not New Year's, and it is not a political convention. It is neither a prime time game-show, nor a music video countdown, bloated with fame and sponsorship. What you are hearing is the love for a music. It is the unbridled outcry of support for a song that sings to the heart, that dances with the soul. The jubilation is in the theaters, the bars, the music clubs, the festivals. The love is for a band.
The songs are honest: just chords with real voices singing real melodies. But, the heart and the energy with which they are sung, is really why people are talking, and why so many sing along.
They are a reality in a world of entertainment built with smoke and mirrors, and when they play, the common man can break the mirrors and blow the smoke away, so that all that's left behind is the unwavering beauty of the songs. That's the commotion, that's the celebration, and wherever The Avett Brothers are tonight, that's what you'll find.
Live On Stage:
Don't know much about these guys, but after watching this great performance I think I may need to track down some of their albums...
Was a little surprised I'd find a music video, but here's Die, Die, Die...
One more for ya...
Paranoia In B Flat
For more on The Avett Brothers head on over to their official website.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Lord T & Eloise
“Once I realized that this album was basically going to just be guitar and voice,” says Jakob Dylan, “I had to work a bit differently, because there's nothing but the song to grab your attention.”
On Seeing Things, Dylan's first-ever solo album, the songs most certainly do make a listener sit up and take notice. They are spare, unblinking visions, stripped to the bone, full of dread and darkness one minute and spirited optimism the next. After five albums as the leader of the platinum-selling, Grammy-winning band the Wallflowers, with this project Dylan reveals a striking and powerful new approach to his work.
“In a band, you usually use the studio as another instrument, whether as an ally or an opponent,” he says. “But this time, it was as if there was no studio beyond documenting the songs. I wanted the studio to be invisible, and to have that lack of sound become the sound of the record.”
Inspiration arrived when he went on tour opening for T-Bone Burnett, an old friend who also produced the Wallflowers' 1996 breakthrough album Bringing Down the Horse. Dylan had only his Wallflowers material from which to draw, but playing those compositions alone on an acoustic guitar led to a revelation.
"That's the way I wrote all of those songs, and the way they sounded before exploring them with the Wallflowers,” he says. “I knew that I wanted to write more songs I could play in that sort of setting.”
Still, he had to find a voice that matched his intention. “You want each record to have a language that's unique to itself,” he says. The new chapter began with “Valley of the Low Sun,” a haunting, gently ominous dreamscape. “There's always something that tells you that you've started a record,” he says, “and when that song hit me, I realized I had begun.”
The rest of the album was written over the next few months, at which point Dylan played them for Rick Rubin, who had recently become the head of Dylan's new label, Columbia Records. Rubin, who has produced legends from Johnny Cash to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, from the Dixie Chicks to Jay-Z, became Dylan's guide to unlocking the songs on Seeing Things.
“Rick got to Columbia right on time for me, because I was at a bit of a standstill,” says Dylan. “He understood what I was trying to get to, and set me in an atmosphere which gave me the freedom to do it.” Rubin's support extended down to the location of the sessions—most of the album was recorded in the producer's Hollywood home,
The lyrics of these ten songs return again and again to visions of apocalypse and war. Asked if this imagery is a result of the times we live in, Dylan allows that “I wouldn't know how to write something today and not have that sense in there.” But, he emphasizes, he isn't interested in writing literal commentary on current events. “I never find it that distinctive to reference or name-check specific moments, or to write actual narratives,” he says. “I'm still too caught up in the beauty of words. It doesn't matter what you're talking about—if you truly tell it the way you see it, you're never going to have regrets.”
More than anything, songs like “All Day and All Night” hearken back to the timeless language of American roots music. Though Dylan has often spoken of more modern bands like the Clash as his greatest inspiration, he asserts that with these songs, he was aspiring to the majesty and the mystery of the country blues masters.
“That's the stuff I listen to, that's the vocabulary I work with and always go back to,” he says. “If you're a songwriter, that should be your territory-that's the high water mark for all of us. I wanted to write songs that sounded like they've been here forever, that feel like they were carved right from the mountain, not just made in some studio somewhere.”
But there's nothing one-dimensional about Seeing Things; it is also marked by the joy found in such songs as “Something Good This Way Comes.” “I was aware that it was shaping up as a very dramatic record, but I believe those optimistic things, too,” says Dylan. “People might sometimes listen to my songs and think I'm depressed, but I'm really not. There's always been hope and humor in what I write.”
As for the Wallflowers, Dylan maintains that the band is alive and well, and that Seeing Things represents a hiatus, not an ending. “The Wallflowers are designed for a certain sound, and I needed something different,” he says. “I have a great group, and I want to make more records with them. But I've never had a chance to hear my voice sound this way coming out of the speakers.”
Live On Stage:
Jakob will be hitting Manchester will a newly released solo album, so I wouldn't expect a Wallflowers greatest hits set out him. Here's Jakob doing a solo acoustic version of One Headlight...
We'll kick it old school with some Wallflowers, let's go with their cover of Heroes...
Few more to check out...
6th Avenue Heartache
For more on Jakob Dylan head on over to his official website.
Once upon a time, mentioning surfing and music in the same sentence conjured up sepia-toned images of the early’’60s. But thanks to artists like Donavon Frankenreiter -- who, unlike most of the old-school “surf-rockers,” knows his way around a wave as well as he does a fret-board -- those images have been updated radically to focus as much on musical adventure as on the spreading of good vibes.
Over the course of the past half-decade, the California-bred Frankenreiter established himself as one of the more original voices on the acoustic-rock scene, through tireless touring and the innate catchiness of songs like “Free” (which became a Triple-A radio staple upon its release two years ago). But, unsatisfied with simply heading further down that path, he opted to shift gears for Move By Yourself, his sophomore outing -- and first for Lost Highway.
The brisk 11-track disc is something of a sonic sea change for Frankenreiter. While the sun-kissed openness of his songs is still in full effect, he’s now couching those feelings in a whole new set of sounds, from the keyboard-drenched “Let It Go” (which blends Allmans-styled soulfulness with an undeniable pop sensibility) to the low-slung funk grooves of the smoldering title track.
“I listen to so much music, and I pretty much feel comfortable singing all of it, so I didn’t want to come across as a guy who does nothing else but sit on a beach with an acoustic guitar, playing around a fire,” says Frankenreiter. “The funky stuff, especially, is fun to play -- it really lets me tap into a different part of my personality.”
In order to more fully explore different aspects of that personality, the Laguna Beach-based singer-songwriter decided a change of scenery would do him good. After releasing his self-titled debut on Brushfire Recordings -- the label run by longtime friend and collaborator Jack Johnson -- Frankenreiter chose to link with Lost Highway for the release of Move By Yourself.
“Jack and Mario [Caldato] did a great job on that last record and I had a beautiful time making it. I just felt like I needed to make a change, and there were definitely no hard feelings involved,” he says. “I wanted to succeed or fail on my own merits and I jumped at the opportunity to be part of a roster like Lost Highway’s."
Frankenreiter has been moving towards being part of that roster for ages. After establishing himself as one of the most acclaimed free surfers in the world -- a talent that took him halfway around the world before his 16th birthday -- he picked up a guitar in order to master riding a different sort of wave. By his senior year of high school, he was part of a popular live act called Peanut Butter and Jam, in which he learned that taking the stage provided an entirely different sort of pleasure -- for him and his audience.
“The reality is that surfing is my first love,” he admits. “For a long time, it was my life -- I made a living at it starting when I was 16 years old, and it took me all a round the world. But it’s vastly different than doing music. If I call up a buddy to surf, there can be a moment of clarity, but if I get a wave that’s really incredible and try to convey that feeling to someone else, they may not be able to relate. But my wife -- or anyone -- can see me on stage playing and really feel what I’m feeling. It’s magical, there’s so much togetherness.”
Exploring that communal feel was one of Frankenreiter’s primary goals when recording Move By Yourself. He’s adamant about crediting his bandmates Matt Grundy (bass), Eric Brigmond (Keyboards) and Craig Barnette (Drums) with helping shape its alternately funky and blissed-out grooves, and equally eager to spread the gospel of the sort of old-fashioned recording process they used in making the disc.
“We recorded at a studio in St. Augustine, and this guy, Jim DiVito, had tons of really old equipment, which was terrific,” recalls Donavon. “He had two inch tape, no click tracks and we had to do things the way stuff had been done before all the modern studio technology was invented. Just seeing the tape roll was fun. That had a lot to do with the way the music sounds.”
Those sounds are undeniably, unabashedly, organic. Acoustic interludes like “Girl Like You (Cali Honey)” exude a back-porch vibe so vivid that it’s easy to imagine the sound of ice swirling around in glasses hoisted by fellow party-goers. And when the volume ramps up to the point where such sounds would be drowned out -- as on the fiery “Fool,” which showcases Frankenreiter’s deft, bluesy fretwork -- other senses get a workout via the smell of sweat and the feel of heat.
Move By Yourself has no shortage of such sonic mood swings, but there’s a definite evenness of spirit. Sure, the disc has its share of assertive moments, but it’s hard to miss the delight with which Frankenreiter approaches life, whether he’s relating his feelings about his child (as on “These Arms”) or simply waking up to greet the new dawn addressed on “Beautiful Day.” He’s a happy guy, and he’s the first to admit it.
“It’s a totally positive thing for me,” Frankenreiter declares. “I’ve talked to people who’ve asked ‘why don’t you write more depressing songs? Sure, I have bad days like anyone else, but mostly, I feel lucky. When I pick up a guitar, I feel good. It makes me want to open a bottle of wine and have a party, and that’s what I’d like people to feel when they listen to my music.”
Live On Stage:
Ok once you get past the creepy 70s style porn mustache, Donavon Frankenreiter plays a funkier version of that laid back beach music that Jack Johnson made famous. Check out Call Me Pappa...
Here's What'cha Know About featuring G. Love....
Few more to check out...
Move By Yourself
It Don't Matter
For more on Donavon Frankenreiter head on over to his official website.
Sharon Jones was born Sheron Lafaye Jones in Augusta, Georgia on May 4th 1956. Her mother moved to Brooklyn soon thereafter, however Jones was sent down south for a few months every year to stay with her family. As a child, she and her brothers would imitate the songs and dances of James Brown, who shared their hometown. Like many rhythm and blues entertainers, she began performing in church at a very young age where her voice would find a lifelong home and inspiration. As a teenager in the early nineteen seventies, she began singing outside of the church in talent shows and with local funk groups. Later she would make her living with a combination of sporadic session work as a mostly anonymous voice on various dance records (sometimes credited as Lafaye Jones), singing with wedding bands, and a handful of day jobs which included stints as both a prison guard at New York’s notorious Riker’s Island, and an armored car guard for Wells Fargo Bank. In 1996 she was called in to sing back-up at a Desco Records studio session for 70’s soul legend Lee Fields.
Desco was a small independent specializing in traditional funk and soul pressed exclusively to wax. Co-owners and producers Phillip Lehman and Bosco ‘Bass’ Mann had called Jones in on a tip from a sax player who was seeing her at the time. As the other two girls never showed up for the session, Jones cut all the background parts for the session herself, and proceeded to cut the impromptu prison rap over Switchblade, which had originally been intended for a man. Ironically, that rant (slowed down to make it sound like a man) would be her first outing as a featured artist on a record. Though she was at first skeptical of the 21 year-old jewish kid egging her on from the other side of the glass, a common love and respect for Soul music soon created a trust and friendship between Jones and Mann which would lead them both to a fruitful career.
Over the next four years, Jones sang frequently alongside Lee Fields, Joseph Henry, and Naomi Davis as part of the Desco Super Soul Revue backed by Desco house band the Soul Providers. Desco would release a handful of singles in her name including The Bump & Touch, Damn It’s Hot, and You Better Think Twice as well as versions of funk classics I Got the Feelin’ and Hook & Sling. In the UK, a blossoming Deep Funk scene lead by DJ’s Keb Darge and Snowboy among others showed support for these Desco releases and paved the way for Jones and the Soul Providers’ first international tour in 1999, where her command of the stage earned her an overnight title as the ‘Queen of Funk’.
Unfortunately, just as the Jones and the band began to gain momentum and a reputation for a show that couldn’t be missed, internal business conflicts caused the demise of Desco Records in the early part of 2000. Though the Soul Providers would not perform again, it wasn’t long before Jones and Mann would regroup in another formation.
Guitarist Binky Griptite, would remain at Mann’s side as well as organist Earl Maxton, percussionist Fernando ‘Boogaloo’ Velez, trumpeter Anda ‘Goodfoot’ Szilagyi and Baritone saxophonist Jack Zapata (AKA Martín Perna, who would go on to form Brooklyn afrobeat collective Antibalas) all from the original Soul Providers. From the Mighty Imperials, a young instrumental organ funk group that recorded at Desco, Tenor saxophonist Leon Michels (who would later leave the group to form the El Michels Affair as well as his own label, Truth & Soul) and drummer Homer ‘Funkyfoot’ Steinweiss would fill out the line-up. Both were only 17 years-old at the time. Now for the first time, the group would be billed as Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.
In 2001, the group landed a summer residency at a club in Barcelona. Knowing that the trip would be a financial disaster without having a recording to sell, Mann penned a few new tunes and assembled the band to record. A rough eight track recording studio was rigged up in the basement beneath the Afro-Spot, a local kung-fu dojo which doubled as an afrobeat nightclub and headquarters for Antibalas’ frontman Duke Amayo. After a few weeks of tracking and mixing, the band’s debut album was completed. Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings would be Jones’s first full length recording. Though few hundred copies were pressed to sell on the road, it would take several months and the birth of a new record label before Dap-Dippin’ would be commercially released.
In late 2001, saxophonist Neal Sugarman, whose organ driven Sugarman Three combo had given Desco two of its most prominent releases, and Gabriel Roth, Desco’s head recording engineer, joined together to form Daptone Records. With the intention of continuing on where Desco had left off, Daptone’s debut release would be the Dap-Dippin’ album.
Over the next three years, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings would tour extensively and build steadily upon a growing reputation as the unrivaled frontrunners of old-school Soul and Funk music. The band went through several changes in personnel before settling into what would be its permanent line-up. Sugarman joined the band to replace Michels on tenor saxophone. Michels would move to baritone where he would stay until 2005, when he eventually left to give Truth & Soul Records his full attention. He would be replaced on baritone by Ian Hendrickson-Smith, a well known and respected jazz saxophonist in his own right. The trumpet chair passed from Szilagyi to Todd Simon, and was eventually filled by David Guy. Maxton left the band in 2003 to play with Antibalas, leaving the band with no organ, and guitarist Tommy ‘TNT’ Brenneck, of the Budos Band, would take up the slack in the rhythm section.
By the time they returned to the studio in 2004, the Dap-Kings roster read like a veritable who’s who of the day’s Soul and Funk scene, most of whom were bandleaders in their own right. Countless gigs had molded the rhythm section into a redoubtable juggernaut on the bandstand, and the combination of Sugarman, Guy, and Michels in the horn section was fierce. Behind the ever-increasing power and stage presence of Jones, the band was becoming a force to be reckoned with.
In 2003, Daptone Records had relocated to a dilapidated two family house in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Upstairs became the offices, and with some amount of work, the first floor had been converted to a recording studio. By the time the Dap-Kings came to record their second record in March of 2004, the studio had been outfitted with a sixteen track tape machine. (Originally, the plan was to record the second and third albums back to back. Unfortunately, on the last day of tracking the second record, a car accident on the way home from the studio landed Mann in the hospital with serious eye injuries. From then on he would have to wear protective sunglasses. It was over a month and a half before work could be resumed on the album and it was decided to scrap the third album for the time being.)
In January of 2005, Naturally hit the streets and set Jones and the Dap-Kings loose on a relentless touring schedule. Fueled by rave reviews of both their new record and the blistering live show, record sales and concert attendance began rising across the country, and as the band began to tour more frequently overseas, international markets soon followed suit. By 2006, audiences in Europe, Canada, and Australia were packing venues to see Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.
A high point came when Daptone Records presented a Soul Revue at New York’s Irving Plaza (Fillmore East?) to honor Jones’ 50th birthday. The sold out extravaganza featured The Mighty Imperials, The Budos Band, Charles Bradley, Binky Griptite, Naomi Davis & the Gospel Queens, the Bushwick Philharmonic, Antibalas, and was of course headlined by the Dap-Kings and Sharon Jones herself.
In the winter of 2006, the band slowed its touring schedule to make time for a return to the studio. The resulting 100 Days, 100 Nights, slated for a much anticipated release in September of this year, is arguably their greatest achievement to date. With much more extensive songwriting and arranging contributions from the members of the band, the songs take more distinct and well-crafted forms, enabling a deeper more soulful return to traditional Rhythm and Blues roots. However, it is the raw fire and Soul which Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings consistently pour into their music that will make this record an irreplaceable part of many people’s lives.
Live On Stage:
Sharon Jones and her fantastic backing band the Dap Kings should be a must see this year, if you don't believe check out this clip...
Here they are with Tell Me...
Got one more for ya...
100 Days, 100 Nights
For more on Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings boogie on over to their official site.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The story of international reggae group Israel Vibration’s success starts out with their humbling beginnings as children in a Jamaican rehabilitation center, battling polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system, producing muscular atrophy and often death. The whole island of Jamaica had an outbreak of this epidemic in the 1950s after a shipment of used clothing from England was found to contain the polio virus and many of the islands poor people could not afford to raise these children.
After spending several years at the Mona Rehabilitation Clinic on the outskirts of Kingston, Lacelle Bulgin (Wiss), Albert Craig (Apple) and Cecil Spence (Skelly) began to exhibit interests in music playing piano and other instruments that were laying around at the clinic. They also became very close friends and as they became teenagers they started to adhere to the teachings of Rastafari. This caused some consternation with the administrators of the clinic and they were ordered to trim their locks, stop preaching to the other patients about Jah Rastafari or they would be asked to leave. Steadfast in their beliefs they were unable to eschew their religion and were eventually thrown out of the clinic.
With no money or family to care for them, these three soldiers found themselves sleeping under trees in a field at night with only cardboard as their bed. Sometimes passersby would give them some food or money to help them get through another day. This sufferation caused them to begin writing songs and creating harmonies where each member took a turn singing lead, with the other two providing a type of harmony where their voice would vibrate. This distinctive style lead to them taking the name Israel Vibration since they has become members of a Rastafarian organization known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Eventually word of these homeless singers spread and noted Jamaican producer Tommy Cowan brought them to a studio in Kingston to record what would become their first LP “The Same Song”. This was picked up by EMI in England and their fame now became worldwide. Even Bob Marley picked them as his favorite group and had them play with Bob on a number of shows in Kingston. Jamaica. Their next album, “Unconquered People” was recorded at Bob’s Tuff Gong Studio and featured many of the Wailers as musicians.
As was typical with many producer/artist relationships in Jamaica in those times, the band was never fairly compensated for their work and they decided to split with Cowan. Their frustration with the music business and the difficulties of living in Jamaica with polio led them to come to Brooklyn, New York and like so many other Jamaican immigrants they settled into this community which was almost like home.
Living in America did not solve their problems and the group did not record for several years. In fact they began to drift apart and were trying to launch careers as solo artists. Around 1987 some of them approached Doctor Dread from RAS Records to see if the label would be interested in signing them as solo artists. Doctor Dread was firm in his response “Marcus Garvey always said that Unity Is Strength and if the group would re-unite, that RAS would be willing to undertake re-launching their career as Israel Vibration”. The rest is history.
In 1988 RAS recorded “Strength Of My Life” and went on to produce another seven albums by the group. RAS also was instrumental in touring the group all over the world. To see three polio victims come on stage with their crutches and perform for over two hours straight hours was a very powerful message and audiences the world over became mesmerized by the sounds that the Roots Radics (their backing band) and Israel were creating. Things kept growing and growing for the group until 1988 when Apple Craig decided to leave the group to again pursue a solo career. He released a solo project for RAS in 2001 and lives in Atlanta now.
Skelly and Wiss continue to record and tour as Israel Vibration and have released two albums for RAS and the brand new “Fighting Soldiers” CD. Their careers are peaking again as they have taken both Europe and America by storm and their legion of fans continues to grow. Headlining many large reggae festivals the worldover, Israel Vibration are the torchbearers of the roots, rock reggae movement popularized by Bob Marley. And their flame is burning brighter than ever!
Live On Stage:
Nothing beats some good reggae at a festival to put you in a good mood, and these guys have been doing it since the late '70s. Here's African Unification...
Wasn't expecting to find a music video, but here's Rudeboy Shufflin....
For more info on Israel Vibration head on over to their official website.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
“I can’t drive,” M.I.A. says flatly. “So I love cars.” She’s matter-of-fact, answering an obvious question about the possible threads running through the high-octane fumes and sour diesel smoke of her new album KALA, which opens with the roadway rush of “Bamboo Banga”. But because this woman is an uncanny combination of street style and political substance, making music about wanting what you can’t have and trying to work with what you haven’t got –This isn’t a break-up album,” she says. “It’s a wake up album.”
M.I.A. is often held up as someone different, someone with ‘that’ special something and an unerring ability to always keep ahead of the pack, continually turning in music that sounds both exciting and fresh. KALA will not change this viewpoint, it will only fuel it further.
The majority of the record was made when she was supposed to be taking time out and traveling. When she ended up in Chennai, India, she spent weeks live recording drum patterns with local percussionists, writing new songs like “BirdFlu” and “20 Dollar”, holed up in a studio used normally for Bollywood soundtracks. She ultimately filmed a fully-cast video for “BirdFlu” and freeing herself from the constraints of waiting for the time it takes to release records nowadays, aired it on the internet for free sans a commercial release to accompany it. It sent the anticipation for this album to nuclear levels. Subsequent trips found her writing and recording in Trinidad, Jamaica, Australia, Japan and briefly in the US, where she spent a New Year’s Eve in Baltimore with producer Blaqstarr before finding a studio to make “The Turn” with him.
So while her buzzed-about 2004 debut album, Arular, found her in the leftfield of both dance beats and Third World politics, rapping about her early life split between war-torn Sri Lanka and London’s council estates, KALA has got M.I.A. out in the global street or “World Town”, as she envisions it in one song. It’s from there that she continues to voice for the people pushed to the side in the shell game of international geopolitics, “the Third World deserves freedom of speech just like everyone else,” she says. “We want to fight the battle to say what we want, whether to be serious or just make fun of ourselves. That’s what ‘World Town’ is about; that’s what ‘Paper Planes’ is about — it’s what people in the Third World live through,” she continues.
Arular was a bedroom dancehall rocker that fire-wired an international fan base and appealed to plugged-in critics, KALA is a different beast, it’s the beat of the street itself — the sound of roadside sound systems, taxicab transistors, DVD-wired dollar vans, motorbike couriers and parking lot pull-ups. It’s also the sound of M.I.A. digging in as both an artist and a producer.
It never occurred to her to repeat the ideas from Arular in a paint by numbers follow-up, so even when returning to team up with producers $witch and Diplo, she often had the two meet her out in the world — whether it was Trinidad’s rough Laventille district or a Tokyo hotel room turned recording booth — and pushed the collaborations far enough to arrive at something new. KALA also features M.I.A.’s first guest artists: the Nigerian rapper Afrikan Boy who rhymes on the raving “Hussel”, a group of Aborigine adolescents, The Wilcannia Mob, who appear on the didgeridoo beat of “Mango Pickle Down River” and Timbaland who crops up on album closer, “Come Around”.
“For a while I thought I didn’t have time to grow,” she says. “But I realized my growth happened on the road. By now I thought everyone would be making albums like my first one, but that hasn’t happened. So I like this album, if only because it’s so different. I think it’s going to take a few listens, but you gotta give people the benefit of the doubt.”
Live On Stage:
Few more to check out...
For more on M.I.A hit up her official website.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
O.A.R.’s island-vibe roots rock sound first developed in Rockville, Maryland in 1996 in the basement of drummer Chris Culos' childhood home. While still in high school, the band released their first album, The Wanderer. Unlike most high school bands, which dissolve after graduation, O.A.R. decided it needed to expose its music to a larger audience and all of its members went on to The Ohio State University. By the time they had graduated from college, O.A.R. already had three albums - and hundreds of shows – under their belts.
After selling over 300,000 CDs on their own label (Everfine Records), O.A.R. joined forces with Lava Records for their major label debut, In Between Now and Then, followed two years later in 2005 by their most recent studio effort, Stories of a Stranger. The album produced radio favorites “Love and Memories” and “Heard the World” as well as mtvU’s Most Downloaded video of 2006, “Lay Down.”
During the past year, the band continued to tour throughout the country, playing in front of more than 250,000 people, and released LIVE FROM MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, a live double-disc CD set and double-disc DVD set. The band wrapped up the summer of 2007 with USO performances in both Kuwait and Iraq, followed by several months in the studio working on their next release.
Live On Stage:
Love them or hate them, there isn't much a of middle ground with O.A.R. - the face is these Dave Matthews disciples have become huge over the last half a decade and for me it's kind hard to hate a band that's built their fan base from the ground up, despite how you feel about their sound. Here they are with Hey Girl...
Couple of shows to check out...
2005-03-25 - O.A.R. - Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, IL
2004-02-27 - O.A.R. - Northrop Auditorium - Minneapolis, MN
Here they are with Love And Memories....
One more of ya...
For more on O.A.R. hit up their official website.
we are born (at the same time, give or take eight minutes). we are raised in calgary, alberta, canada.
fifteen years pass.
we find a guitar. we record demo tapes at school and in our bedrooms. we enter a “garage band” competition (it was the ‘90s) and we win. we make “the yellow tape”. we graduate from high school and we make two more demos, “the orange tape” and “the red tape”. we play shows and do small tours in canada.
tegan and i make “under feet like ours” in april of 1999. we start to tour more extensively in canada. we eventually send the album to elliot roberts, president of vapor records. we sign a record deal with vapor.
we then make “this business of art” and go on tour in the USA with neil young. after the tour we embark on our first national tour of canada as headliners. we tour with rufus wainwright and melissa ferrick, and make our first attempt at touring europe and japan. we play david letterman!
we head back into the studio with john collins of the new pornographers and david carswell of the smugglers in february 2002, to make “if it was you”. we tour with ryan adams, hot hot heat, and manage to get ourselves to australia for the first time! we tour canada. we play every small, dirty club in the USA.
we go back into the studio with JCDC and howard redekopp in february 2004 to make “so jealous”. we finally sell some records! we get nominated for a juno (canadian grammy). the killers take us on tour all over the USA, and the white stripes cover one of our songs. we buy hummers and do cocaine.
we tour and tour and tour. and after 18 months on the road, we decide to take some real time off. we see the seasons change. we record demos like crazy. we add drums, bass, guitars and keyboards.
we meet up with chris walla (death cab for cutie). we give him the demos, and we make a plan to relocate to portland, oregon to record with him at his studio in january 2007.
we move into a house in portland. we walk to the studio everyday. we tow our gear behind us in a wagon. we bring angela kendall (who filmed “the making of so jealous” and the speak slow video) down with us from vancouver to film everything we do.
we focus on keeping the songs as close to the demos as possible. after a month we’re finished tracking most of the guitars, keyboards and vocals. we bring in jason mcgerr from death cab for cutie. he plays drums and passes along life lessons. hunter from afi plays bass on tegan’s songs, and matt sharp of the rentals plays bass on mine.
we film everything, we develop segments and we gather endless footage. we build a set in our basement and every night for two months we record in-person interviews and speaker phone conversations with our friends and family.
march 12 arrives, the album is finished, the movie is ready to be edited. we go home.
i arrive in exile. tegan goes to hawaii in search of dog the bounty hunter.
Live On Stage:
Tegan and Sara's sound has evolved a lot since I saw them opening for Ryan Adams a number of years back. They've gone for indie-folk to more electro-indie-pop. Here they are with Walking With The Ghost, a song that The White Stripes covered and recorded...
Few more to check out...
Back In Your Head
For more on Tegan & Sara head on over to their official website.
De Nova Dahl
Friday, May 16, 2008
It is time for a revolution. It is time for another Ozomatli album.It is time for Street Signs.
The last time Los Angelesí beloved Afro-Latin-and-beyond style-mashers released an album, it was September 11, 2001. While most bands in the United States responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by canceling their concerts, Ozomatli- a multi-racial crew who have never been shy about their commitment to social justice, progressive politics, and anti-war convictions- decided to keep their dates and keep playing.
ìMusic is the key to every culture, the beginning of an understanding,î says the bandís trumpet player and co-vocalist Asdru Sierra. ìSeptember 11 really pushed us to delve into North African and Arab music. For us, music is a language far more universal than politics.î
Street Signs, the band's first full-length studio album in three years, bears this new Middle Eastern influence out in typical Ozo style, by mixing it into their trademark blend of hip-hop and Latin styles. When the bandís original MC Chali 2na (now of Jurassic 5) returns to take center stage on "Who's To Blame," he drops rhymes about "presidential motorcades" and "Yakuza tattoos" over a reedy gnawa trance session complete with tablas and hand-claps. "Believe," the album is uplifting opener that looks for hope in destruction, features Veteran Moroccan sinter master Hassan Hakmoun, whoís joined by the acclaimed French-Jewish gypsy violinists Les Yeux Noir and The Prague Symphony (yes, The Prague Symphony).
Street Signs, body-moving urban globe-trots were encouraged by Ozoís new label, Concord Records, who gave them total creative freedom to follow their songs wherever they went. "With the last record, I loved all of our collaborations, but it wasn't a complete representation of who Ozomatli is," says Sierra of the band's sophomore outing that paired them with the esteemed hip-hop likes of Common and De La Soul. "Concord just seemed happy to let us go off and do our thing. Thereís a real sense of acceptance of what we do. Plus, I'm really honored to be on the same label as Eddie Palmieri. He's my idol."
The band invited Palmieri, the legendary Latin jazz and salsa pianist, to play on "Nade Te Tira," where his gorgeous solo piano lines set off a round of horn-blasted salsa fusion. Along with Palmieri, Hakmoun, Les Yeux Noir, Chali 2na, and The Prague Symphony (who grace three tracks), Ozomatli are also joined by Los Lobos singer-guitarist David Hidalgo (ìSantiagoî) and the bandís original DJ, Cut Chemist (ìDejame en Pazî). Thereís also the bandís new MC (Jabu, formerly of 4th Avenue Jones) and guest drummer, Mario Calire (formerly of The Wallflowers).
Throw in a board mixologist whoís worked with everyone from Justin Timberlake and NERD to Michael Jackson and Prince (Serben Ghenea), and engineers whoíve collaborated with the likes of Beck, Santana, Jack Johnson, and Cypress Hill (Robert Carranza and Anton Pukshansky), and you get what is easily the bandís most vibrant and ambitious project to date.
"After eight years of being together," explains tenor saxophonist Ulises Bella, ìour overall comfort level with ourselves and with our playing has really grown. The songs venture off to a lot of different areas. That's the beauty of Ozomatli, being able to do things really differently than everyone else.
Street Signs is both a mature testament to the band's nearly decade-long evolution and a fresh, dance floor-rocking reminder of their commitment to creating original music in the face of industry conservatism. "Saturday Night" is a "dip-dive-socialize" hip-hop block party. "Love & Hope" is an anthem waiting to happen with its English-language mix of Arabic strings and new-school Chicano funk-rock. "Dejame en Paz" is a papi chulo meringue fest that boils over in to the mosh pit. The band even remixes itself (with the help of Ghenea and John Hanes) on "Ya Viene El Sol," turning its soaring concert sing-a-long into a piece of DJ heaven; a broken-beat electro cut-up of dancehall, batucada, and jarocho.
"Since we started, our perspectives have changed as our lives have changed," says Bella. "We just trust each other more now. Everyone gives everyone the space we all need. This band did not start, at all, to get a record deal. It started out of love for the music we made, and thatís exactly where we still are."
Live On Stage:
Ozomatli blend ska, hip hop and rock for a sound that is uniquely their own....
Here's the band's ode to their hometown City Of Angels....
Couple more to check out...
For more on Ozomatli head on over to their official website.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
When bands sign to a major label, their music sometimes becomes more mainstream. Not Mastodon.
Blood Mountain, the group’s third album, their first for Reprise Records isn’t just unconventional, it’s surreal, progressive and unrepentantly heavy. Instead of writing songs for rock radio, Mastodon drew inspiration from within, combining their favorite musical styles, including thrash, doom, prog and psychedelic metal to concoct something utterly original, undeniably devastating and irrefutably entrancing .
“This album is a nice collaboration of everybody’s character and individuality,” says singer and bassist Troy Sanders. “I always felt we were four unique individuals making up the band, and we’ve combined to make a meal with wicked ingredients. But most important, everything we do is completely pure and honest.”
“The Wolf Is Loose” starts as shouty crust punk, then lunges into a futuristic metal passage before tumbling into a driving doom riff and a booming vocal harmony. “Crystal Skull” progresses from a sinister lick reminiscent through a frantic series of chugging rhythms, angular lines and off-kilter beats. And “Colony Of Birchmen,” which features Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, wraps chunky guitars and ethereal arpeggios around moody melodic vocals. Other songs also showcase guests; Mars Volta frontman Cedric Bixler appears on “Siberian Divide” and Ikey Owen plays keyboards on “Pendulous Skin.”
The music of Blood Mountain isn’t all that separates Mastodon from the hordes of trendy metal bands. The lyrics are also pretty out there. Like Mastodon’s remarkable 2004 record Leviathan – which earned Album of the Year honors in Revolver, Blood Mountain is a brain-teasing concept album. But while Leviathan was based on Herman Melville’s 1851 novel “Moby Dick,” Mastodon hatched the multi-tiered plot for the new album out of their own demented minds. The disc tells the story of a quest to ascend Blood Mountain to find a crystal skull, reach the top and insert the skull inside the bandmembers’ own heads in order to eradicate “reptile brain” and transport them to the next phase of human evolution. Of course, the trek is far from simple.
“Pretty much anything that can happen on a mountain does,” says drummer Brann Dailor, who writes the lyrics along with Sanders and guitarist Brent Hinds. “We get lost, face starvation, have to kill our own food and eat it. We get trapped in an avalanche and we meet all these creatures along the way.”
Ah, the creatures, the inhabitants that make Mastodon’s journey so treacherous – and so cool. In “The Wolf Is Loose” the guys almost die fleeing a ravenous wolf, then during “Colony Of Birchmen” they come across a race composed of small tree people who link together to form a single, giant treeman, while in “Circle Cysquatch” they bump into a species of one eyed yeti. But just when they think the Sasquatch will tear them apart and eat them, the beasts show compassion and intelligence. “It turns out they’re wonderful, loving creatures, and they give us guidance and mental power,” Sanders says.
If it seems like the members of Mastodon have been watching too much “Lord Of The Rings,” take note: Their journey up Blood Mountain was as inspired by their counter culture lifestyle as by their DVD collections. And the phantasmagoric quality of the expedition parallels some of the strange dreams they’ve had and states of consciousness they’ve experienced in their own lives. “I wanted it all to be kind of acid trippy,” Dailor says. “In one part, there are lines about chewing up different roots on the mountain and hallucinating, and things kind of get messy from there.”
“In ‘Siberian Divide’ we get trapped under a bunch of snow from a small avalanche and then our bodies encounter brain freeze and we trip the fuck out,” elaborates Sanders. “We think our wrists are food and start to gnaw on our own wrists for the little bit of warmth that’s left inside, ultimately bleeding to death.”
Psychedelic imagery notwithstanding, Blood Mountain is ultimately a metaphor for the obstacles and triumphs Mastodon have encountered since they began their musical crusade. The band formed in 1999 shortly after ex-Lethargy and ex-Today Is The Day members Dailor (drums) and Bill Kelliher (guitar) moved from Rochester, New York to Atlanta. One night, during a High On Fire show, the two met ex-Four Hour Fogger bassist Sanders and guitarist Hinds and started talking underground metal.
“We were all familiar with each other’s histories,” says Sanders, “because we were fans of Today Is The Day. And Bill had seen our band play opening for Neurosis when he was visiting Atlanta in ‘98. They said they needed a second guitar player and a bass player to form this new band, and we were like, ‘Well, hey, dude, here we are. Hell, yeah.’ Two or three days later, we were down in the practice space making a racket just to see if the vibe would gel, and within five minutes it felt like a done deal.”
Mastodon recorded their first demo in June 2000 and played numerous dates with bands as far ranging as Cannibal Corpse, Queens Of The Stone Age and Morbid Angel. The crushing demo and powerful live shows earned them a record deal with Relapse records, and in August the band released its debut EP Lifesblood. Technically complex, rhythmically pummeling and instilled with groove, the disc earned Mastodon a loyal following even if it didn’t exactly pay the rent.
“Man, I lived on a couch with Bill and Brann for the first two years of the band’s existence and we toured like crazy,” Sanders recalls. “We lost money out the ass and yet we were all fueled with this fire to continue. There was something embedded in the back of our brains that knew we had to give this a full-on shot because it might pan out.”
In October 2001, Mastodon entered the studio with producer Matt Bayles to record their full-length debut, Remission. The album came out in 2002 and its striking blend of stoner metal, hardcore, prog-rock and, southern rock set the metal world ablaze. But it was the raging turmoil and pulverizing elegance of 2004’s Leviathan, again recorded with Bayles, that made Mastodon one of the most lauded new groups.
Revolver called them one of the 25 Greatest Live Bands Ever and Metal Hammer declared them a group you “Must Hear” and Kerrang labeled them “Best Band On The Planet.” It wasn’t just metal fans that felt the love. Alternative Press named them one the “25 Most Important Bands in Metal” and they were even profiled in Rolling Stone.
After playing Ozzfest last year, Mastodon started working on songs for Blood Mountain. They wrote tirelessly for five and a half weeks, about two weeks longer than they had to write Leviathan. The extra time gave them the luxury to demo the songs before they recorded them – something they’d never had the chance to do – as well as experiment with different techniques that give the songs extra flavor and texture. “Circle Cysquatch” features a harrowing vocoder voiceover, “Bladecatcher” includes squelching vocals that sound like an angry R2D2 and “Crystal Skull” opens with tinny tribal clatter before thundering into the opening riff.
“I did that on a 50 gallon drum I saw around the corner from the studio,” Dailor says. “There was a dude working on his car there in the street, and he had two of these 50 gallon drums. So I asked him if I could borrow them and he said I could as long as I promised to bring them back. So I recorded 12 tracks of this Middle Eastern sounding thing and it was awesome.”
Mastodon recorded the album with Bayles from the middle of February until the beginning of April before Rich Costey mixed the disc. Again, it was more time than they’d ever had, but this time there were the added pressures of living up to their own legacy, and it never felt like there were enough hours in the day.
“We sat and listened to everything at the end of every day and talked about how the songs were coming along and what we wanted to change,” Sanders says. “After a while, I kind of felt like the world was on our shoulders. We just wanted to make the coolest music possible and make sure it was as awesome as it could be – make sure every riff, every note, every drumbeat was in the perfect spot.”
In the end, Mastodon crafted an album that’s musically sophisticated yet primal, a disc where every new passage, regardless of how slow or fast, leads to the culmination of an epic adventure. And the diversity is astonishing. “Capillarian Crest” alternates between jazzy tendrils and moshpit-rattling ferocity, sounding like a fierce amalgam of Motorhead, King Crimson and Rush, “Hunters Of The Sky” is a surging, off-kilter race with drums as tumultuous as Keith Moon and “Pendulous Skin” is expansive and celestial, with guitars reminiscent at times of Deep Purple and Pink Floyd.
“I really wanted to do guitar cartwheels and finger gymnastics on this record,” says Hinds. “There are more solos on this than any other Mastodon album, but every part, no matter how complex, is there for a reason. We just really went for it more than we’ve ever done.”
In addition to challenging instrumental passages, Blood Mountain features vocals that range from melodic conversations to raging diatribes. “We’re all smart enough to know that we don’t have to scream our brains out every second for the whole album,” Sanders explains. “That’s just not where we want to go as we expand and further our catalog of music. Overall, there was just more room and more potential for various vocal sounds on this album. And we’re not at all apprehensive about doing it because we don’t feel like we’re cheesing out or doing anything wrong.”
With the release of Blood Mountain, Mastodon have reached the top of a peak, from which they can see other, even higher mountains before them. And that’s where they’re headed next. Regardless of how many cover stories or awards they receive, Mastodon are driven by the need to ascend the mountain, implant the skull and ascend to the next level of evolution. It’s not that they’re unappreciative of the accolades, they’re just too busy focusing on the next project to stop what they’re doing.
“When we started, we never imagined getting to where we are today,” Sanders says “We’re so grateful and we appreciate everything that’s been said about us. This has all been unreal. I never thought we’d do major tour support for Iron Maiden in Europe or be on a major label or be on our fourth tour with Slayer, or be ranked as having one of the Top 10 albums of the year in any magazine. It’s all been part of this crazy journey that we’ve lived, and we’ll keep rolling forward. We feel like we’ve still got so far left to go.”
Live On Stage:
Metal is the new hip hop I guess. Mastodon joins The Sword and Metallica for all you hard rock fans out there. These guys also play loud and fast, but that's not a bad thing...
Just because I love the title, here's Seabeast (tell me that's not a great name for a metal song)...
Few more to check out...
Blood And Thunder
The Wolf Is Loose
For more on Mastodon head on over to their official website.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Though Superdrag may be best known for their 1996 major-label debut Regretfully Yours and the hit single “Sucked Out” that helped launch the band towards international success, the follow-up Head Trip In Every Key, issued in 1998, was widely regarded as the band’s creative peak. Amidst label woes and line-up changes, namely the departures of founding members Pappas and Fisher, the band would issue their third and fourth full-lengths In The Valley Of Dying Stars and Last Call For Vitriol to universal critical accolades, and expand their hard-won fan base through incessant touring, with the help of bassist Sam Powers and guitarist Mic Harrison. Many of Superdrag’s latter-day fans have never had an opportunity to see the original line-up onstage together until their greatly anticipated reunion in 2007. Superdrag will continue touring through 2008 with a new album coming later in 2008.
Superdrag formed in 1993. The band issued 3 acclaimed 7”s and one EP, The Fabulous 8-Track Sound Of Superdrag, before the release of their first proper full-length in 1996. Changin’ Tires On The Road To Ruin, a collection of b-sides, alternate versions and rarities, was released in April 2007.
Live On Stage:
Superdrag have been around since the early 1990s, getting some pretty decent MTV play back in the day. If you dig power-pop like Weezer and Fountains of Wayne, these guys will be for you...
Here's their big hit from back in the mid '90s - Sucked Out....
Couple more to check out...
Destination Ursa Major
The Staggering Genius
For more on Superdrag head on over to their official website.
Meet one of 2008’s most exciting new talents. Even before she’s released a note of music – and at just 19 – ADELE has already chalked up a Jools Holland appearance, worked with Jim Abiss, Eg White and Mark Ronson, signed to XL Recordings and supported Jack Penate, Raul Midon, Amos Lee and Devendra Banhart.
“As soon as I got a microphone in my hand, when I was about 14, I realised I wanted to do this,” she says. “Most people don’t like the way their voice sounds when it’s recorded. I was just so excited by the whole thing that I wasn’t bothered what it sounded like.”
A fan of such diverse artists as Jill Scott, Etta James, Billy Bragg, Peggy Lee, Jeff Buckley and The Cure, Adele’s soul-tinged songs of love’s lost and memories made are set to resonate with all who hear them.
“I’ve got no problem explaining what my lyrics are about,” ADELE says. “I really like poetry: I’m not very good at reading it, but I love writing it. Singers like Jill Scott and Karen Dalton are amazing; proper poets.”
“The whole album is about being between 18 and 19; about love,” she continues. “‘Daydreamer’ is about this boy I was in love with, like proper in love with. He was bi and I couldn’t deal with that. All the things I wanted from my boyfriend, he was never going to be. I get really jealous anyway, so I couldn’t fight with girls and boys. It’s quite a sad album, [with songs about] being cheated on and not getting what you want”.
Anchoring it all together is ADELE’s incredible voice. As immediate as it is undeniable, its power is matched only by her Force 10 personality. “I’ve always liked being the centre of attention, yes,” she laughs.
ADELE is from a resolutely un-musical family. “It all comes from impersonating The Spice Girls and Gabrielle,” she cheerfully explains. “I did little concerts in my room for my mum and her friends. My mum’s quite arty; she’d get all these lamps and shine them up to make one big spotlight. They’d all sit on the bed.” Later, when her dad’s best friend, a dance producer, rightly declared ADELE’s voice ‘wicked’, he invited her to record a cover of ‘Heart Of Glass’. The first time she got a microphone in her hand, she realised her calling.
Secondary school proved instructive in as much as it gave ADELE an outlet to “meet all the R&B kids” and “sit around the playground singing.” But it was a pretty rough place and pursuing music there was something of a challenge, on account of the fact that ADELE wanted to sing and perform her songs but “the teacher was a bit rubbish. They gave me a really hard time, trying to bribe me, saying that if I wanted to sing I had to play clarinet to sing in the choir. So I left.”
So ADELE upped sticks, signing up to The Brit School, the Selhurst college whose alumni number Amy Winehouse, members of The Feeling and Kate Nash. However she had her misgivings…
“If I hear someone’s from stage school I’d think they were a dickhead, and I know it might make me sound like that. But it had free rehearsal rooms and free equipment and I was listing to music all day, every day for years. The music course was really wicked. There was no dancing or anything like that. No jazz hands.”
During her second year, ADELE’s resolve to be a singer was given a little extra boost – Shingai Shoniwa, the turbo-lunged vocalist with The Noisettes moved in next door. “She’s an amazing singer. I used to hear her through the walls. I’d go round and we’d jam and stuff like that. Just hearing her and her music really made me want to be a writer and not just sing Destiny’s Child songs. ”
Despite being quick off the mark on MySpace – her friend set up a page for ADELE’s music on the last day of 2004 – it wasn’t until 2006 that labels started noticing her talent. “I’d hate people to think that I was a ‘MySpace singer’,” she says. “I’ve got no right to be that. I’ve got, like, 10,000 ‘friends’, whereas Jack Peñate’s got about one million…”
When XL called her in for a meeting, ADELE was nervous enough to take a chum with her. “I never, ever thought I’d get signed. The A&R guy emailed me and I was ignoring it… I didn’t realise they [XL] did all these amazing names…”
Despite interest from plenty of other labels, the independent regarded for its singular, defining acts (for rock band, see The White Stripes; for rapper, see Dizzee Rascal) proved the perfect match for her singular talent, and XL will put out ADELE’s stunning debut album “19” later this spring. A single, the beautiful heartbreaker, ‘Chasing Pavements’ will precede it.
Before that comes ADELE’s debut release ‘Hometown Glory’ – a stunningly evocative picture of “all my fondest memories of London”. ‘Daydreamer’, a remarkable ballad notable for lyrics like ‘feeling up his girl like he’d never felt her figure before’ and ‘he could change the world with his hands behind his back’ has already floored the audience on the prestigious ‘Later With Jools Holland’.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen if my music career goes wrong,” she laughs. “I haven’t had a proper job yet.”
Consider that one unlikely turn of events.
Live On Stage:
Adele falls into that Lily Allen/Kate Nash camp, but sings with a bit more soul. Check her out...
Adele only has one official music video, here's Chasing Pavement...
More more on Adele head on over to her official website.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Head on over The Weight who have a fantastic post up about what this year's SuperJam might be - an All Star band consisting of Eugune Hutz, Kirk Hammett and Les Claypool doing of all things a set of Tom Waits covers?!?
They breakdown just how this all comes together. Nice work boys!
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Since I won't have time to do a separate post on each of the acts playing the Troo Music Lounge and Blue Room Cafe I figured I'd lump a bunch of artists together in a few posts. Here's part one...
Bear In Heaven