The annual Patriotic Pops concert will include favorites such as "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Stars and Stripes Forever." The concert, presented by members of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Second Presbyterian Chancel Choir, will feature a variety of American music from the Wild West to the Silver Screen. The evening will conclude with a fireworks display!
You know that old song that O. V. Wright did so well in 1971 that no one can ever do that song again — “Nickel and a Nail”? O. V. Wright has held tight to that song, and rightfully so. But not no mo. Not to take anything from O.V.— but after nearly half a century, now you gotta step aside. Don Bryant is here.
Though it ain’t like he just showed up. The roots of this record are in the Memphis church, where Don Bryant began singing when he was 5. He joined his father’s family vocal group, then formed a gospel quartet for a high school radio gig. Broadcasting broadened the audience and they went secular, singing pop at WLOK on Dick “Cane” Cole’s popular show. After parting with the DJ, they took a very real step toward careers when, as the Four Kings, they began fronting Willie Mitchell’s band.
Willie Mitchell led the swingingest, groovin’est band in the Memphis-Mississippi-Arkansas area—the American music floodplain. (He would later discover Al Green and make him a star.) Willie’s band was known for instrumental records, but when they’d play at Danny’s in West Memphis, Don’s group fronted them. But the group broke up and Willie, who was touring concert venues and dance halls, needed a vocalist who could play with his supple, slinky funky beats, and anointed Don Bryant as his leading man.
Don could also write songs. He was still in his teens when, in 1960, Willie was producing the 5 Royales and Don handed him “I Got To Know.” The 5 Royales put it on wax. Don was hot in the spotlight and in the writer’s room.
As Willie Mitchell carved out his place at Hi Records, Don was close by. Don cut songs at Hi under the Four Kings moniker (“That Driving Beat”) and as a solo artist (“Don’t Turn Your Back On Me”). He wrote material for other Hi artists, including Janet & the Jays and Norman West. In 1969, still in the age of 7” singles, Don was popular enough to release an album — though the big breakout hit stayed elusive.
Around 1970, Willie put Don with the Hi label’s newest act, Ann Peebles, who burst on the scene with “Part Time Love.” Don looked at this slight young lady and penned “99 Lbs” for her: “You wouldn’t know what I’m talking ’bout/ If you never had a love like this/… 99 lbs of natural born goodness/99 lbs of soul.” The relationship warmed, they co-wrote the hit “I Can’t Stand the Rain” in 1973 and were married the following year. Ann’s performing career continued, as did Don’s writing, and they began raising a family. Occasionally, Don returned to the microphone, dueting with his wife, sometimes releasing gospel material. Always, he continued to write songs.
And all the while, that voice was maturing, mellowing, until these recordings that find him, at age 74, in peak form and taking O. V.’s song. The band is a mix of lifelong cohorts and upstart stalwarts. They understand where he’s been and where he wants to go, making his song “How Do I Get There,” a rhetorical question, because they have clearly found the way.
I was lucky and popped by the end of the recording sessions. They’d just cut “One Ain’t Enough” and were listening to playback. Veteran drummer Howard Grimes, also of Willie Mitchell’s tutelage and the drummer on many of Don’s Hi sessions—he couldn’t keep from keeping the beat and he stepped to the middle of the control room floor. The Soul Train line formed.
Howard’s arms came up and his feet went down. His eyes took a distant look and he was transported beyond the slow grind. His backbone slipped, he began to dip, everyone shouted and clapped. This kind of music moved audiences then and it moves them now. Even the music makers can’t stand still. Soul survivors, young and old—nothing holds them back.
Returning again this year...103.5 WRBO PRESENTS THE ULTIMATE FAMILY REUNION
KLYMAXX ft. Bernadette Cooper
Thinking about country music, Kelsey Waldon muses, “If it’s a part of who you are, it’s a part of who you are.” And country music is very much a part of who she is, a part of who she's always been. The Kentucky singer/songwriter hails from Monkey's Eyebrow, in rural Ballard County where her family put down roots several generations ago. Even so, Waldon's musical tastes reach well beyond those borders, as evidenced on her new release, I’ve Got a Way.
Waldon was 13 when her parents divorced and, inspired by the music surrounding her, she started playing guitar as a means to make it through her teen years. Upon her arrival in Music City a few years later, Waldon toiled away 45+ hours a week in a minimum wage job and played gigs in any bar that would let her in the door and on the stage. Once she had a pocket full of songs, she released her debut album in 2014, The Goldmine. The set was met with open arms from both critics and lovers of the kind of country music that she makes — the kind born in bars and raised in honky-tonks, the kind leaning on pedal steel and driven by Telecaster.
As solid as the effort was, its follow-up isn't just a next step, it's a forward leap. After all, when you're a songwriter, a couple of years can contain a lifetime of lessons. And that wisdom is what seeps through on her sophomore effort which, like The Goldmine, was produced by Michael Rinne. For Waldon, “It’s a transition in letting go and also being absolutely comfortable in your own skin.”
Indeed, the newfound confidence and compassion with which she inhabits her place in the world comes through loud and clear on original cuts like “All by Myself,” “Don't Hurt the Ones (Who've Loved You the Most),” and “Life Moves Slow,” as well as her arrangements of Vern and Rex Gosdin's “There Must Be a Someone” and Bill Monroe's “Traveling Down This Lonesome Road.”
Perhaps because it was one of the first songs Waldon wrote this go-around,“All By Myself,” in particular, stands out as something of a thesis statement for the rest of the album, if not for life, in general. As she explains, “It is not a lecture, or a sermon, or a statement from me. I want it to be a statement for everyone, as a whole: The power is only inside of ourselves.”
Because no country record would be complete without a proper kiss-off cut, Waldon scratched out her own entry in that milieu with "You Can Have It." That kind of personal empowerment comes up time and again across I’ve Got a Way. In "Let's Pretend," that power emerges through the act of focusing on the good and choosing the kind as part of what Waldom describes as “a 'Storms Never Last' mentality” to relationships.
Closing the collection are "Traveling Down This Lonesome Road," which stands as her hard-edged hat tip to Bill Monroe and the music she grew up on, and “The Heartbreak,” which shows she can deliver a weeper, to boot. But this isn't the standard woe-is-me fare. Here, too, is a message of empowerment and empathy.
So, how does Waldon turn her messages into the country music that is so much a part of her? “Lay it all out, and sing it from the heart, way down deep,” she says. “If you do it that way, you don’t need gimmicks.”
With Otis Taylor, it's best to expect the unexpected. While his music, an amalgamation of roots styles in their rawest form, discusses heavyweight issues like murder, homelessness, tyranny, and injustice, his personal style is lighthearted. "I'm good at dark, but I'm not a particularly unhappy person," he says. "I'd just like to make enough money to buy a Porsche."
Part of Taylor's appeal is his contrasting character traits. But it is precisely this element of surprise that makes him one of the most compelling artists to emerge in recent years. In fact, Guitar Player magazine writes, "Otis Taylor is arguably the most relevant blues artist of our time." Whether it's his unique instrumentation (he fancies banjo and cello), or it's the sudden sound of a female vocal, or a seemingly upbeat optimistic song takes a turn for the forlorn, what remains consistent is poignant storytelling based in truth and history. On his sixth CD, Double V, Taylor unleashes intimate tales as he produces an aural excursion inspired by an unconventional childhood.
Otis Mark Taylor was born in Chicago in 1948. After his uncle was shot to death, his family moved to Denver where an adolescent's interest in blues and folk was cultivated. Both his parents were big music fans; "I was raised with jazz musicians," Taylor relates. "My dad worked for the railroad and knew a lot of jazz people. He was a socialist and real bebopper." His mother, Sarah, a tough as nails woman with liberal leanings, had a penchant for Etta James and Pat Boone. Young Otis spent time at the Denver Folklore Center where he bought his first instrument, a banjo. He used to play it while riding his unicycle to high school. The Folklore Center was also the place where he first heard Mississippi John Hurt and country blues. He learned to play guitar and harmonica and by his mid-teens, he formed his first groups' the Butterscotch Fire Department Blues Band and later the Otis Taylor Blues Band. He ventured overseas to London where he performed for a brief time until he returned to the U.S. in the late 60s. His next project became the T&O Short Line with legendary Deep Purple singer/guitarist Tommy Bolin. Stints with the 4-Nikators and Zephyr followed before he decided to take a hiatus from the music business in 1977. During this time he established a successful career as an antiques dealer and also began coaching a professional bicycle team. They ranked 4th in the nation and were known for having two of the best African-American riders in the country.
After years of prodding from his musical mentor (all-star bass player Kenny Passarelli), Otis returned to the stage. It was 1995, in an intimate room in Boulder Colorado's "Hill" district. He was joined on stage by sideman to the stars, Kenny Passarelli, and ace guitarist Eddie Turner. A magazine writer on hand reported: "The combination was magic, Taylor's unique singing style blended perfectly with Passarelli's rock steady virtuosity Turnet's rock-roll tinged riffs." Response to the "one-time gig" was so strong, Taylor decided to return to the music scene, playing select dates with Passarelli and Turner.
Two years later he released Blue Eyed Monster (Shoelace Music), which riveted the blues world and marked the emergence of a singer/songwriter who has, in his own words, "a way of saying something that seems to be more intense." Further, he says, "you can definitely see how I was forming. There was the Christmas song about a guy that killed his parents. Definitely getting ready to go that way, you know?" In 1998, he raised more eyebrows with When Negroes Walked the Earth (Shoelace) an album replete with unapologetic lyrics, stark instrumentation and a gut-wrenching delivery. Playboy magazine described it as "minimalist blues in the John Lee Hooker mode." Critics and music fans took notice and his talents as a vivid storyteller and accomplished guitar player were solidified. His gifts were further recognized in Summer 2000, with a composition fellowship from the Sundance Institute in Park City, UT.
If Taylor 's first two recordings cast a spell on the music world, listeners were officially entranced by White African (2001, NorthernBlues Music), his most direct and personal statement about the experiences of African-Americans. He addressed the lynching of his great-grandfather and the death of his uncle. Brutality became his concern in songs that fearlessly explored the history of race relations and social injustices. With this disc Taylor was officially blazing a trail. He earned four W.C. Handy nominations and won the award for "Best New Artist Debut."
White African was barely in record stores when he began writing the songs that would comprise Respect The Dead. Released in 2002, it made him a contender for two Handys in 2003; "Best Acoustic Artist" and "Contemporary Blues Album." Last year, he bent conventions again with his debut effort for Telarc Records, Truth Is Not Fiction. Here, Taylor took a decidedly electric, almost psychedelic path forging a sound which he describes as "trance-blues." Music critics were indeed captivated as the disc received lavish praise from USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, NPR and a nod from the Downbeat Critics Poll for "Blues Album of the Year."
He quickly followed up Truth with Double V, which marked his entrance as a producer and a collaboration with his daughter Cassie, who sings and plays bass. The album scored him a Downbeat Critics Poll win for an unheard-of second consecutive year, while Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Blender, and CNN all gave their thumbs-up. But perhaps the most meaningful accolade came from Living Blues Reader's Poll, which awarded Taylor (along with Etta James) with the "Best Blues Entertainer" title in 2004.
Telarc released Below the Fold, Taylor's seventh CD, in the summer of 2005. The album is a set of stylistically varied songs that point to a blues-based center but are awash with Appalachian country overtones and moody, psychedelic rock. Once again, the critics raved. Downbeat gave the album four stars, noting that Taylor "has a poet's soul, with a deep respect for the history of blacks in America and an unshakable curiosity about the human condition." Paste called him " a country-folk version of spontaneous, talking-blues master John Lee Hooker." The New Yorker dubbed his sound "Velvet Underground Railroad," and went on to proclaim that "he may drone but he never stays still, and when he moves he's always heading toward places you haven't seen." At year's end, Below the Fold landed in the number 12 slot on the Chicago Tribune's Top 20 album list.
And if the brilliant songwriting and the haunting voice weren't enough to turn the heads of audiences and critics alike, Taylor has also proven his instrumental chops with two consecutive Blues Music Awards nominations (2005 and 2006) for Best Instrumentalist in the banjo category.
In addition to traditional touring and recording, Taylor spearheads a Blues in the Schools program called "Writing the Blues." Conceived by his wife, he appears at elementary schools and universities around the country to offer advice, enlighten, and mentor students about the blues. "I start by asking them to write down what makes them sad; fears, disappointments, losses, whatever. It is just amazing to see some of these nuggets, these incredible thoughts. They are often simple sentences but so real, so sad, so true, so pure." For Taylor, it's an opportunity to connect with others and help others to connect with themselves. And, it allows him to do his part in ensuring that the blues, and the ability to share life experiences will continue in the next generation.
Taylor resides in Boulder, Colorado, where he lives with his wife.
￼Understanding the virtuosity of Reckless Kelly requires the perspective of where the band has been. Cody and Willy Braun grew up in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho. They moved to Bend, Oregon, and then migrated to that great musical fountainhead, Austin, Texas.
The band’s co-founders and frontmen toured the country as part of their father’s band, Muzzie Braun and the Boys, as children. They performed on The Tonight Show twice. Their father taught his four sons a professional ethic – integrity, persistence, hard work and professionalism – honed over three generations. They overcame hardships, struggled for recognition, and learned the lessons of the trial and error that defined them.
In one sense, it’s remarkable in the way of any musician, athlete, or businessperson who bucks the odds.
In another, though, it’s utterly natural that Reckless Kelly, born in the dreams of the two Braun brothers and their heritage but nurtured in the bumpy road of maturity, became the very essence of Americana music in all its far-flung glory.
“We came along in that second wave of the movement,” Cody Braun says. “Son Volt’s album Trace had a major effect on us. People like Joe Ely, Ray Kennedy and Robert Earl Keen were always big supporters. Our goal was to make music that had a country vibe but a solid rock edge.”
In the end, all the recipe required was to just add water. Water facilitates life. It enriches the soul.
As Music Row magazine proclaimed, “In my perfect world, this is what country radio would sound like.”
It was about 20 years ago when NPR’s Morning Edition said: “It’s not easy to categorize the music of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, except that it’s hot.”
2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the Squirrel Nut Zippers most celebrated and commercially successful album Hot. Originally released in the summer of 1996, Hot was the follow up to the band’s critically acclaimed debut The Inevitable. By this time the group had already established a substantial live following across the country thanks to early support from NPR, college radio and non-commercial stations. Hot wound up selling over 1.3 million copies.
A newly re-mastered version of the album along with a bonus track: “The Puffer” returned to stores in July on Hollywood Records. Long out of print on vinyl, Hot has now made its glorious return to wax on 180-gram vinyl.
In honor of the 20th Anniversary of Hot, the bands visionary creator Jimbo Mathus, along with founding member and partner Chris Phillips (Drums), have crafted a brand new stage show including several leading musicians from New Orleans to serve up the bands unique musical flavor which owes its roots to that city.
Since July, the Squirrel Nut Zippers have been on tour for the first time in almost seven years. The band has performed at many major festivals this year including: Montreal International Jazz Festival, Strawberry Music Festival, LEAF Festival and the Exit Zero Jazz Fest. On top of that, they have had sold out shows in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Little Rock, Minneapolis and more. Fans are clearly excited the band are touring again.
“We are humbled and incredibly excited by the initial Zippers shows since the re-launch,” band leader Jimbo Mathus commented. “It’s not a reunion, it’s a revival! The band includes cutting edge talent from New Orleans and the songs have been brought to life in an exciting new way. But most things remain unchanged… An amazing experience for young and old.”
Plans are underway for the band to record a brand new album, which would be their first new studio album in seventeen years.
Justin Osborne needed a break. He'd been writing music and making albums since he was 15, and by the age of 26, he felt like he was spinning his wheels. He knew he needed a change, so he ended his old band Sequoyah Prep School and moved to Cuba. He thought he might be done with music for a while, but the songs just kept coming.
"I had this idea in my mind that I was going to try and join some kind of Latin American Leftist movement. I wanted to jump off a cliff," Osborne says. "Once I got there I immediately started hanging out with musicians and going to shows. I started showing them the songs from this project that was kind of just an idea in my head.
"They were like, 'man, don't throw away your passport, go home and continue to make music,'" he says. "I was encouraged by them to try again."
Osborne was already writing the songs for what would be SUSTO's 2014 self-titled debut when his producer Wolfgang Zimmerman introduced him to Johnny Delaware, a guitarist and songwriter who had moved to Charleston, South Carolina to make an album with the producer.
SUSTO is a Spanish word referring to a folk illness in Latin America that Osborne learned as anthropology student, meaning “when your soul is separated from your body,” and also roughly translates to a panic attack. For Osborne, the music of SUSTO was something he had to get out into the world.
SUSTO released their debut album independently and toured relentlessly to get the word out. They were an immediate hit in their hometown, packing venues, getting airplay at all the bars and even making a fan of Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell. "I got an e-mail from him, telling me he loved the record and wanted to meet with me and Johnny," he says. "That was actually the day I wrote my professor, and I said, ‘I'm not coming in.’"
The members of the live band that Osborne and Delaware recruited — Corey Campbell (guitar, keys, backing vocals), Jenna Desmond (bass), and Marshall Hudson (drums, percussion) contributed to SUSTO’s new album & I'm Fine Today, which will be released via Caroline. "We just wanted to go further. We started something with the first record, and we want to keep going in that direction," Osborne says of the album, which finds them taking the spacey country rock of their debut into the stratosphere, piling on layers of sighing keyboards, galloping rhythms and frayed, noisy guitar solos atop wistful melodies and lyrics that examine growing up and growing into yourself. “We put the first record out, and we worked hard, and it just feels like a good place to be,” he says, noting that while the first record focused on his own struggles, & I'm Fine Today is more concerned with looking at the world beyond the struggles in your head.
“I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that I just get to be here. It’s all perspective,” he says. “This album is about coming to terms with yourself and feeling okay with your place in the universe."
The 2017 Levitt National Tour will feature the critically acclaimed rising stars, The Suffers.
This 10-piece powerhouse of Gulf Coast Soul celebrates the rich diversity of the bands hometown of Houston masterfully melding classic American soul with genres as wide-ranging as rock, Latin ska, Cajun, hip hop, country and R&B. When asked about the origin of the self-coined term Gulf Coast Soul, lead vocalist Kam Franklin explained, When I think of the Gulf, I think of good food, humidity, diverse cultures, and this is all reflected in The Suffers. We come from different backgrounds, but it all comes together in our band and we create a gumbo of music. It might not make sense on paper to put a Latin percussionist with a gospel singer with a classically trained saxophonist with a jazz drummer, but for us, it works.This approach has already earned The Suffers a place on numerous artists to watch lists, rave reviews from Billboard, NPR and TheNew York Times and a growing international fan base and they’re just getting started! The Suffers are frequently praised for their heartfelt, high-energy live shows.
The combined force of the rhythm and horn sections contagious grooves and Kam Franklins soaring vocals has wowed audiences and critics alike in venues across the globe from small, intimate settings like NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, to large-scale festivals like the Newport Folk Fest and Austin City Limits Music Festival and South by Southwest, to popular late night television shows like The Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live! andThe Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Along with pushing musical boundaries, The Suffers are dedicated to 5 inspiring fans to live boldly and tap into their own potential. This dynamic band will move people of all ages and backgrounds, with their raw, fiery Gulf Coast Soul!
An accomplished Americana instrumentalist with foundations in jazz and swing music, Phoebe makes an impressive creative leap with this record. It’s the culmination of a five year journey that has taken her from her Austin roots through Music Row, Brooklyn, and even to India to study with seventh-generation master violinist Kala Ramnath. Along the way, Phoebe found her voice and delivered her most inspired set of songs to date — the soundtrack to her self-discovery.
Shanti’s Shadow marks an arrival for Phoebe Hunt, whose artistic and personal journey has deep storylines. These masterfully crafted songs are brought to life by the musicians Phoebe has gathered – each a virtuoso in their own right. Phoebe is skilled at taking seemingly disparate elements and pulling them together into a dazzling kaleidoscope of lush, coherent sound and rhythm patterns. The result is music that swells, crashes and breathes organically under Phoebe’s soulful, plaintive voice. Sounds of Americana and Texas Tinged Swing are woven with exotic rhythmic concepts culled from Phoebe’s time in India.
Shanti’s Shadow is always surprising yet comfortingly familiar. Prior to recording this album, the entire band traveled to India to study at an ashram outside of Pune with master violinist Kala Ramnath. In India, they practiced music, meditation and philosophy – sometimes spending as many as 10 hours a day working and re-working Tats and Ragas. This intense, experiential study is apparent in the seamless musical play and improvisation of Shanti’s Shadow.
Foxygen and Star Power is the Los Angeles songwriting duo of 24-year-olds Sam France and Jonathan Rado. In May 2011, France and Rado nervously handed off a CD-R of this homemade mini-opus Take the Kids Off Broadway (Jagjaguwar, 2012) to producer and visionary Richard Swift after his performance in a Lower East Side club. The duo, who had just mixed and burned the disc that very night, had been devotees of Swift’s outsider-pop oeuvre since high school, when they first began recording their own pubescent forays into oddball rock n’ roll (At least a dozen records were finished before they graduated high school).
Foxygen left the venue that night unsure whether Swift would truly listen or sling the disc into a dumpster on his way out. You’re reading this right now because Swift did listen. In fact, he fucking flipped for Foxygen’s bugged out, esoteric majesty and called upon them immediately to say as much. Eight months later, Foxygen was holed up for a week-long recording session at Swift’s neo-legendary National Freedom studio, creating what became their breakthrough, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Jagjaguwar, 2013), a precocious and cocksure joyride across California psychedelia.
2013 saw the mercurial success of 21st Century, and with it, heightened demands for tour planning, added press days, demands on resources, the sacrifice of personal relationships, and the indefinite delay of recording plans. The quick-fire success made for an altogether turbulent 2013 for the band. Foxygen’s always captivating live performances shifted from eruptive to sometimes frightening — and then, just put on ice altogether. But at the close of 2013, France and Rado found secret sanctuary in their new studio, Dream Star, and holing up in some of LA’s most famous hotels for more recording. Writing music together is what their friendship has always thrived upon. At Dream Star in the northernmost passage of LA’s valley, they reformed as a punk band called Star Power. And the result, the svelte, 82-minute …And Star Power, is a morphing, splice-and-paste journey through soft rock indulgences, psych-ward folk, cartoon fantasia, D&D doomrock, and paranoid bathroom rompers. Foxygen, now expanded into a 9-piece touring machine as Star Power, calls the album “a cinematic, auditory adventure for the speedy freaks, skull krunchers, abductees, and misfits…the radio station you can only hear if you believe.”
Making Movies is an American rock and roll band that entrances audiences with their interweaving of Afro-Latino rhythms and psychedelic rock'n'roll riffs. Armed with their ambitious and politically charged new album, I Am Another You, the band punches out one high-energy song after another with theatrics and improvisation littered throughout. Their culture gives way to dynamics too: at times front-man Enrique Chi trades his electric guitar for a folkloric Panamanian mejorana, and the Chaurand brothers hop off drums and percussion to instead supply the rhythmic pulse with dueling zapateados, a traditional dance from Guadalajara, Mexico.
The band's political idea is straightforward enough that they can express it in four words: “We are all immigrants.” In supporting that cause, a portion of all proceeds from the upcoming album will go to the National Immigration Law Center. I Am Another You comes out May 26th.
“... tough to classify into one genre, which ... makes them that much more appealing.” — CNN
“the band synthesizes what’s happening in ... Latin music better than anyone else out there today.” — MTV
This show has become an annual favorite at Levitt Shell.
The Stax Music Academy Summer Music Experience is a 4-week intensive music program that provides not only music education but also a stable, positive environment for 150 middle and high schoolers. With classes in Stax Records history, songwriting, music production, and music business, students learn how to write and record their own songs, protect their works of art, market themselves using web-based tools and digital media, and gain teamwork and leadership skills while working within a peer group.
The Summer Music Experience culminates with a Grand Finale Concert at your very own Levitt Shell.
“Few groups have come as far in such a short period of time as The Steel Wheels…” – NPR’s Mountain Stage
“What sets The Steel Wheels from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia apart from many bands is the combination of their stellar instrumentals, accentuated by the one of a kind lead vocal of [Trent] Wagler, and keenly supported by strong harmonies. Eric Brubaker on fiddle, Jay Lapp on mandolin, and Brian Dickel on bass weave in and out intricately throughout this record, painting vivid imagery which flows effortlessly, just teasing the lyrics enough to allow them to resonate within you.” - Country Standard Time
Wild As We Came Here, 2017
Hailing from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, The Steel Wheels are familiar with the traditions of folk music and how a string band is supposed to sound. In fact, they’ve been drawing on those steadfast traditions for more than a decade. Yet their name also evokes a sense of forward motion, which is clearly reflected in their latest album, Wild As We Came Here.
“I think we’ve always been able to write new songs with different landscapes. However it was really enjoyable for us, creatively and artistically, to depart from the straight-up acoustic sound that we’ve been known for,” says Trent Wagler, who plays guitar and banjo in the band and writes most of the material. “I’m excited to see what happens. There are fans out there who are ready for this and who have been waiting for us to do this.”
While on tour supporting Josh Ritter, the band forged a friendship with Sam Kassirer, who plays keyboards for Ritter on tour and has produced a number of his albums. While The Steel Wheels had been considering other producers and maybe recording in Nashville, they chose to follow their instincts all the way to rural Maine, where Kassirer owns a recording studio inside a renovated farmhouse from the 18th century. All four band members – Wagler, Eric Brubaker (fiddle), Brian Dickel (upright bass), and Jay Lapp (mandolin) – hunkered down for a week and a half to create Wild As We Came Here.
“It’s a gorgeous set-up,” Wagler says. “I didn’t grow up in a big city and I never made a record in a big city. It’s much more my style, and our style as a band, to completely hole up – probably more than we ever have – for 10 full days in Maine. I left the house for a couple of bike rides but I never went to a restaurant or a store the whole time I was there. We ate on site, we slept on site, and we recorded. It was a very immersive experience, top to bottom.”
Afternoon hikes amid the fall foliage helped them clear their heads, ensuring that everyone could stay focused on the task at hand – which in retrospect was quite daunting. The Steel Wheels had about 40 original songs stowed away before the sessions. Only two or three had ever been played live and the band had not arranged any of them.
“One of my favorite parts of the process was taking the first couple of days to rehearse and arrange the songs all in one room, with Sam offering his insights,” Brubaker says. “We had enough time to really build the songs from the ground up, examining each one to see what elements would best highlight the mood we were trying to capture.”
Wild As We Came Here is a significant leap for the band, which started its journey in 2004. Wagler, Dickel, and Brubaker studied at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, about an hour from Charlottesville. (All four members of the band grew up in Mennonite families.) Wagler and Dickel were in a punk/alternative band until acoustic music lured them in.
Wagler soon started crafting songs and learned flat-picking. Dickel took classes on building guitars. They briefly played as a duo before Brubaker joined on fiddle. Lapp eventually came on board after getting to know the band from the local folk circuit. In 2010, following a variety of EPs and LPs, the ensemble officially branded itself as The Steel Wheels, a tip of the hat to steam-powered trains, industrial progress, and the buggies of their Mennonite lineage.
Lapp says, “We found we really enjoyed singing and playing music together and it happened so naturally. To make it even better, everyone listens very well to what the other is playing, making it a total group experience. I've never worked with such a collected and well-spoken group of men, and it makes the experience of touring and performing a pure joy.”
Then as now, The Steel Wheels’ style weaves through Americana and bluegrass music, folk and old-time music, and the acoustic poetry of the finest singer-songwriters. By incorporating percussion and keyboards into the sessions for the first time, Wild As We Came Here adds new textures to their catalog, as themes of discovery and perseverance run throughout the collection.
The album begins with “To the Wild,” which explores the fascinating and unusual relationship that modern society has with the great outdoors, from exploitation to preservation. Wagler wrote the title track after reading a news story about a desperate man who starts bidding at a land auction – even though he had no way of paying for it – in order to prevent oil and gas companies from destroying the natural beauty of the area.
Meanwhile, the idea behind “Broken Mandolin” was inspired by a few lines from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See, which takes place during World War II. Wagler describes “Take Me to the Ending” as essentially a bluegrass apocalypse – “like a sense of coming out from the bunker and there are still a few people playing fiddle tunes.”
Of course, exquisite harmonies remain a strength of the band, shining through on “Sing Me Like a Folk Song.” By making a social statement in uncertain times, listeners will want to lend their voices too. More than a decade into The Steel Wheels’ career, the simple act of singing together – something that carries them back to their Mennonite heritage – is still incredibly special. The stunning closing track, “Till No One Is Free,” provides an elegant ending to the band’s most satisfying album yet.
“It was my favorite studio experience from start to finish, by far, of any project we’ve ever done,” Dickel says. “A super-relaxed and experimental vibe coupled with some genre-stretching sounds really did it for me. I think we pushed ourselves much further than previous albums and I think we will push our fans a little too. Both of those are exciting to me.”
Mix the skills and strengths of the Flecktones with a bit of Punch Brothers and add a dash of Gaelic Storm and you get one of the best live acts to come out of Ireland in recent years, the multi-awarded winning We Banjo 3. With a 7 time all Ireland banjo champ, a 4 time banjo champ, and another member who is an all Ireland champ on both fiddle and Bodhran, and with a passionate lead vocalist like a young Springsteen adopted by the Chieftans, the result is truly unforgettable. On both sides of the Atlantic the word is out about this group.
“String Theory” was recorded by Tony O’Flaherty at Sonas Recording on the side of a mountain in the County Kerry and mastered by Eric Boulanger at The Bakery in Los Angeles.
In summer of 2015 the band was featured on 9 straight weeks of American Celtic Fest appearances followed by an invite to perform at the annual “Friends of Ireland” luncheon on Capital Hill in Washington D.C. attended by House Speaker Paul Ryan, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Now the band is rapidly gaining favor in the Bluegrass and Americana world as evidenced by their invite to Merlefest in April 2016.
“Count yourself among the fortunate. You are about to hear something new, something fresh, something daring, something that befits the bright, flamboyant spirit of the Banjo itself.” – Paul F. Wells, Director Emeritus, Mid Tennessee State Univ.
“They were absolutely the hottest show at this year’s Irish Fest in Milwaukee…the weekend featured the birth of a new force in Irish music” – LiveIreland.com
“It’s as if the Punch Brothers, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and the Chieftains all got together for a battle of the bands but decided to pool their resources instead. The future of World Music has arrived.” – Elmore Magazine
Lifelong couple, both romantic and musical, Alyssa and Doug Graham have been performing together since they were teenagers, but fully committed to embracing their duo-ness with the release of The Graham’s debut, Riverman’s Daughter, in 2013.
2014 saw them play over 100 shows in support of that album, including a three-week run in Australia, which culminated with a performance at the Sydney Blues & Roots festival. The album was released on their own 12 South Records worldwide, except in Australia where Sony Music released it; in the U.S. RD spent 11 weeks in the Top 40 at Americana Radio.
No strangers to the media, they have appeared on Woodsongs, ABC TV and CBS Morning, and have been praised by American Songwriter, USA Today and the New York Times.
With their sophomore album, Glory Bound, which was produced by Wes Sharon (John Fullbright, Parker Millsap), The Graham’s expanded their roots-based sound to include more propulsive and dynamic songs, as influenced by the speed and energy of their recent cross-country train travels, where the songs came together.
Concurrently, they released a live album and film, Rattle the Hocks, both produced and directed by Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, which chronicles their train-bound excursions and the influence of train travel on American roots music.
Liz Brasher is a contralto singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist influenced by the soul, blues, country, gospel, rock and pop of the 50's & 60's. Together with the Gentlemen of Rhythm (Todd Kerstetter - bass, Lee Corum - drums), they combine to form performances that demand the attention of all watching.
She comes out of the South.
Charlotte, North Carolina, and grew up before the war and after the time of peace. Her father was an Italian. Her mother a Dominican who loved the Church. She got her musical beginning there. She beats the story out of her music. It jumps and hollers and shouts. It reaches out and takes your mind. She sings, but her music talks.
Miss Rhythm in lights. Traveling in her own car with her own band down South, like it was the ‘50s. Riding through the land of man, dressing in sheds and outhouses by candlelight. Hanging gowns in dressing rooms, looking like a million bucks.
Folks who haven't suffered much can’t appreciate it.
For Liz, music’s simple and music’s complex. Music is Pop Staples’ tremolo-soaked guitar riffs. It’s Libba Cotten’s simple genius. It’s Mahalia Jackson’s glorious voice. It’s soul. It’s Motown. It’s the Wall of Sound and the Wrecking Crew. It’s labels like Stax and Vee-Jay, Sun and Chess, King and Fame. It’s all been done before, but ain’t nothing new under the sun.
It seeps into her and pours out. So when she sings, what comes out is what she feels. No more. No less. But what she feels is all of it.
She’s got it together as good as any ever can and puts more into a song than most people put into a lifetime. She’s got no gimmicks. No gambles. No gestures. She’s pure. She doesn’t just play music. She explodes. Real Gospel. Real Country. Real Soul and R&B ballads. The truth. The baddest feeling that’ll make you feel you lived.
"Full of sophisticated musicianship and striking lyricism" - Living Blues Magazine
An exceptional stage presence, guitarist / singer-songwriter Cécile Doo-Kingué blends blues, afro-roots and soul to create a unique sound. Born and raised in New York City, first generation from Cameroon, she has lived in the USA, France, and is now an adopted Montrealer.
Considered one of Canada’s most electrifying and versatile guitarists, she has shared a stage and/or recorded with Montreal Jubilation Choir, Blind Boys of Alabama, James Blood Ulmer, Bernard Purdie, Jim Byrnes, Michael Jerome Brown, Tricia Foster, Scarlett Jane, United Steel Workers of Montreal, amongst many, and has opened for many icons including Canned Heat, John Prine, Eric Andersen, Angélique Kidjo, Youssou N’Dour and Manu Dibango. In 2008, Cecile and Gern f. of USWM started Chick Pickin’ Mondays, a night promoting women singer-songwriters.
June 2010, Cecile released her debut solo album Freedom Calling to critical acclaim. In 2011, CBC commissions Doo-Kingué to write Home, a song on immigration. Gris, released in 2012, also praised by press and music lovers alike, earned Cécile the 2013 Fondation SPACQ Edith Butler Award for Excellence in Francophone Songwriting. Doo-Kingué toured both albums extensively across Canada and Europe, firing up clubs, listening rooms and festivals alike with her face-melting playing, rich vocals, and sharp and genuine banter with her audience.
February 2015, Doo-Kingué releases her third solo album Anybody Listening Pt. 1: Monologues, the first chapter of a trilogy exploring blues, roots and life in their myriad of aspects (Monologues solo acoustic, Dialogues full band, Communion live), showcasing Doo-Kingué’s songwriting in its rawest form. The album earned her accolades and multiple Maple Blues Award nominations for her exceptional guitar playing, soulful vocals, and powerful songwriting.
January 2016, Doo-Kingué releases the second chapter of her trilogy exploring blues, roots, and life in their myriad of aspects. Anybody Listening Part 2: Dialogues features her strength and versatility as an all-around guitarist and musician, from blues to jazz to folk to soul to rock n’ roll. Fiery licks and seamless melody compliment her deep, laid-back voice throughout the album, leaving no doubt as to the guitarist’s oneness with the instrument, nor the unity of her sound. Surrounded by a stellar cast of Montreal’s finest musicians, Doo-Kingué presents an eclectic collection of contemporary blues adding to the social commentary of Anybody Listening Part 1: Monologues, and celebrating life and music with fellow artists she is a fan of, in spaces that exude positive energy. The first two chapters of the trilogy have generated international critical acclaim from blues and roots media including Living Blues and Blues Matters magazines, as well as several engagements in international roots festivals, and over 150 tour dates across Canada.
Cécile Doo-Kingué is quickly earning a stellar reputation and a place alongside Canada’s current roster of great guitarists. Powerful and raw, Cécile Doo-Kingué’s guitar prowess, lyrics, and sound make for enthralling and intimate communion.
In the tightknit musical community of Austin, Texas, it’s tough to get away with posturing. You either bring it, or you don’t.
If you do, word gets around. Praises are sung. And one day, you find yourself duetting with Bonnie Raitt, or standing onstage with the Allman Brothers at New York’s Beacon Theater and trading verses with Susan Tedeschi. You might even wind up getting nominated for a Best Blues Album Grammy — three times in a row. And those nominations would be in addition to your seven Blues Music Awards, three Austin Music Awards, the Grand Prix du Disque award from the Académie Charles-Cros in France, and a Living Blues Critics’ Award for Female Blues Artist of the Year.
There’s only one Austinite with that résumé: Ruthie Foster. And with the release of her latest album, Joy Comes Back, the Recording Academy might want to put its engraver on notice. Because every note on it confirms this truth: It’s Ruthie’s time.
The small rural town of Gause, TX had no chance of keeping the vocal powerhouse known as Ruthie Foster to itself. Described by Rolling Stone as “pure magic to watch and hear,” her vocal talent was elevated in worship services at her community church. Drawing influence from legendary acts like Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin, Ruthie developed a unique sound unable to be contained within a single genre. That uniqueness echoes a common theme in Foster’s life and career - marching to the beat of her own drum.
Joining the Navy was one way for Ruthie to stake out her own path. It was during her time singing for the Navy band Pride that her love for performing became apparent. After leaving the service, Ruthie signed a development deal with Atlantic Records and moved to New York City to pursue a career as a professional musician.
A deal with a major label would seem to be a dream come true for a budding artist. But the label wanted Ruthie to hand over her authenticity in exchange for being molded into a pop star. In another bold move, she walked away from the deal and returned to her roots, moving back to the Lone Star State.
Returning to Texas, Ruthie solidified her place as an up-and-coming singer/songwriter and began a musical partnership with Blue Corn Music. Her studio albums for the label began with Runaway Soul in 2002, followed by The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster in 2007, The Truth According to Ruthie Foster in 2009, Let It Burn in 2012 and Promise of a Brand New Day in 2014. Her live shows, which she has referred to as a “hallelujah time,” have been documented on the album Stages in 2004 and the CD/DVD release Live at Antone’s in 2011.
Now comes Ruthie’s latest - Joy Comes Back - again on Blue Corn Music. When she recorded this album, Foster wasn’t merely singing about love and loss; she was splitting a household and custody of her 5-year-old daughter. Music was her therapy.
In the warm confines of Austin producer and former neighbor Daniel Barrett’s studio, she found a comfort level she’d never before experienced while recording. It gave her the strength to pour the heartache of her family’s fracture and the cautious hope of a new love into 10 incredible tracks, nine of which are by a diverse array of writers ranging from Mississippi John Hurt, Sean Staples and Grace Pettis (daughter of renowned folk singer Pierce Pettis), to Chris Stapleton and Black Sabbath. Yes, Black Sabbath: Foster reimagines “War Pigs” as a jam session with Son House. She also covers the Four Tops’ “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever,” written by Ivy Jo Hunter and Stevie Wonder.
And she makes each one hers, aided by some special guests. Derek Trucks drops slide guitar into the title tune; bassist Willie Weeks (Bowie, Clapton, George Harrison) plays on the Foster-penned “Open Sky”; and drumming legend Joe Vitale (Crosby, Stills & Nash; Eagles) appears on several tracks. Local hero Warren Hood (“Champ Hood’s boy,” as Foster calls him) lays fiddle and mandolin on Hurt’s bluegrass-tinted “Richland Woman Blues.” Barrett plays guitars, drums and percussion; other contributors include the core members of Ruthie’s touring band, Samantha Banks and Larry Fulcher.
At one point, Barrett described the album to Hood as “some blues, some folk, some soul, some rock, some gospel.” Hood replied, “Sounds like Ruthie Foster music.”
A joyful musical tour of the territory between New Orleans and Austin. Ball’s voice can break your heart with a ballad or break your back with a rocker. - Boston Herald
The title track of MARCIA BALL’s new album, The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man, is an irresistible tale of true love at the travelling carnival. It’s a story that nobody but Ball could spin, filled with vivid details, universal truths, and a rambunctious sense of fun and desire. With raucous horns punctuating Ball’s legendary piano pounding and emotional, melodic vocals, the song kicks off the CD of eleven originals and one glorious cover (Hank Ballard’s He’s The One). The release mixes Ball’s Gulf Coast blues, New Orleans R&B, swampy Louisiana ballads, and jumping, Tex-‐Mex flavored zydeco into a one-‐of-‐a-‐kind musical gumbo, a sound she has been perfecting over the course of her legendary career.
The Texas-‐born, Louisiana-‐raised musical storyteller has earned worldwide fame for her ability to ignite a full-‐scale roadhouse rhythm and blues party every time she strolls onto the stage. Her groove-‐laden New Orleans boogie, deeply soulful ballads and rollicking Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-‐of-‐a-‐kind favorite with music fans all over the world. In 2010, she was inducted into the Gulf Coast Hall Of Fame and in 2012 into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. She’s received a total of six Living Blues Awards and nine Blues Music Awards (and has a whopping 42 nominations). She’s received five Grammy Award nominations, including five of her six previous Alligator albums. Always a songwriter of renown, Ball delved deeper into songwriting than she ever had in her career with her Grammy-‐nominated 2010 Alligator release, Roadside Attractions, creating one of her best and most personal albums.
On The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man, Ball continues that trajectory, drawing her listeners deep into her music with instantly memorable melodies and imaginative imagery. Her songs paint vibrant musical pictures richly detailed with characters, flavors and scenes straight out of Louisiana, Texas and the Gulf Coast. From the poignant Just Keep Holding On to the fresh start of Clean My House to the surprising and timely The Squeeze Is On to the southern warmth of Human Kindness, Ball has delivered a set of songs so well written and so well performed, she’ll astound and delight her longtime fans and give newcomers plenty of reasons to join the party. Featuring her stellar, road-‐tested road band, with help from friends Delbert McClinton and Terrance Simien and production by Grammy-‐winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Joe Louis Walker, James Cotton, Susan Tedeschi), The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man is happy, moving, joyful, stirring, thought-‐ provoking, danceable and fun.
After a solo LP for Capitol and a successful series of releases on Rounder, Ball joined the Alligator Records family in 2001 with the release of the critically acclaimed Presumed Innocent. The CD took home the 2002 Blues Music Award for Blues Album Of The Year. 2004’s So Many Rivers, 2005’s Live! Down The Road, 2008’s Peace, Love & BBQ and 2010’s Roadside Attractions all received Grammy Award nominations as well as critical and popular acclaim.
Born in Orange, Texas in 1949 to a family whose female members all played piano, Ball grew up in the small town of Vinton, Louisiana, right across the border from Texas. She began taking piano lessons at age five, playing old Tin Pan Alley tunes from her grandmother’s collection. From her aunt, Marcia heard more modern and popular music. But it wasn’t until she was 13 that Marcia discovered the power of soul music. One day in 1962, she sat amazed while Irma Thomas delivered the most spirited performance the young teenager had ever seen. According to Ball, “She just blew me away; she caught me totally unaware. Once I started my own band, the first stuff I was doing was Irma’s.” In 1966, she attended Louisiana State University, where she played some of her very first gigs with a blues-‐based rock band called Gum.
In 1970, Ball set out for San Francisco. Her car broke down in Austin, and while waiting for repairs she fell in love with the city and decided to stay. It wasn’t long before she was performing in the city’s clubs with a progressive country band called Freda And The Firedogs, while beginning to hone her songwriting skills. It was around this time that she delved deeply into the music of the great New Orleans piano players, especially Professor Longhair. “Once I found out about Professor Longhair,” recalls Ball, “I knew I had found my direction.”
When the band broke up in 1974, Marcia launched her solo career, signing to Capitol Records and debuting with the country-‐rock album Circuit Queen in 1978. Discovering and honing her own sound, she released six critically acclaimed titles on the Rounder label during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1990, Ball—collaborating with Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton—recorded the hugely successful Dreams Come True on the Antone’s label. At the end of 1997, Marcia finished work on a similar “three divas of the blues” project for Rounder, this time in the distinguished company of Tracy Nelson and her longtime inspiration, Irma Thomas. The CD Sing It! was released in 1998 and was nominated for a Grammy Award. In 1999, Marcia and her band appeared in the nationally televised Public Television special In Performance At The White House along with B.B. King and Della Reese. Marcia has been featured on leading television and radio programs, including Austin City Limits and NPR’s Fresh Air and Piano Jazz. She performed in Piano Blues, the film directed by Clint Eastwood included in Martin Scorsese’s The Blues series which aired on PBS television nationwide in 2003. Marcia has also appeared The Late Show With David Letterman with The New Orleans Social Club, where she not only reached millions of people, she helped to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. In 2012, she had a role in the independent film Angels Sing starring Harry Connick, Jr., Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson.
Ball has been the subject of stories in many national publications, including USA Today, Keyboard, DownBeat, Billboard, and in newspapers from coast to coast. She has twice performed on A Prairie Home Companion, appeared on World Cafe and Whad’Ya Know?, Public Radio International’s Studio 360, as well as on XM/Sirius satellite radio. Ball has been featured on the covers of The Austin Chronicle as well as Blues Revue magazine, as well as in countless lead stories in entertainment sections of publications around the country.
The New York Times says, “Marcia Ball plays two-‐fisted New Orleans barrelhouse piano and sings in a husky, knowing voice about all the trouble men and women can get into on the way to a good time.” Living Blues declares, “Her originals sound like timeless classics and southern soul masterpieces that else can imitate.” Of the new album, Ball says, “I don’t make a record until I no one have to have something to say, stories to tell, messages to impart. I try to make records that are true to me,” she continues, “and this one couldn’t be truer.” On The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man, the message is loud and clear: Marcia Ball has plenty of surprising and thought-‐provoking stories to tell, and the two-‐fisted piano prowess, sweet and soulful vocals and superlative songs with which to tell them.
The spotlight on Nashville, with its musical values and timeless traditions, is currently bright. And no band embodies what’s right about 21st century Nashville more completely than the quintet known as Humming House.
It’s the way they weave together threads of Music City’s folk, soul, and bluegrass legacies. It’s in the inspirational and revealing songwriting. It’s in their acoustic instrumentation, presenting mandolin, fiddle, acoustic guitar and bass in fresh roles. It’s in the pleasant tension between rousing energy and nuanced arrangements. And it’s in the voices, with two complimentary stylists up front and backed by the full band’s rapturous harmonies.
Revelries, due out March 24, 2015 on Nashville label Rock Ridge Music, is the third recording bearing the Humming House name, yet it’s something of a debut. Version one of the band came together in 2011 when songwriter Justin Wade Tam called on some friends from a local Celtic music jam to flesh out recordings of songs he’d written. The sessions, assisted by Tam’s star producer colleagues Mitch Dane and Vance Powell, mixed strains of bluegrass and Irish braided with vintage swing and open-throated early 60s hootenanny folk music. Humming House earned some quick attention for videos of its infectious songs “Cold Chicago” and “Gypsy Django.” They landed performance slots with tastemakers such as Lightning 100, Daytrotter and the Americana Music Association festival. They had chops, respect, and trajectory.
After that, two personnel additions galvanized the band. Leslie Rodriguez brought a lustrous female vocal to mesh with Tam’s hearty singing. And fiddler Bobby Chase brought classical training and down-home fire. That rounded out a band of highly skilled instrumentalists, including Josh Wolak on mandolin and Ben Jones on acoustic bass. Between the five of them, there’s scarcely a genre or period that somebody in the band hasn’t spent time learning or embracing, from Leslie’s early love of show tunes to Josh’s time playing bluegrass to Bobby’s occasional beat boxing. They’re the picture of East Nashville’s melting pot musical culture, and Revelries is the first album these musicians have written, arranged and recorded together.
As complete as they are in the studio and on record, Humming House is fundamentally and emphatically a live band. With scarcely a tube’s worth of amplification or electricity and a drum kit’s worth of percussion distributed among the band members, they emit force on stage and demand attention. They’ve rocked rooms of all sizes and played Forecastle Festival, Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots Festival, and the Cayamo Cruise with the elite of Americana. They opened the new Music City Roots hall in The Factory in 2014, sharing the bill with Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell.
Vocals are the emotional core and lure of Humming House. They are five voices deep, with a galvanizing male/female twin attack over the top. Tam and Rodriguez sing as soloists or a duet, depending on the song. Humming House works out careful hand-offs and big harmonies, including frequent passages that are just vocalizing, chanting beautiful music on top of their robust instrumental attack.
The title of Revelries comes from a lyric in the tenth track on the album, “Carry On,” a feisty and ambitious song in which delicate charango plays counterpoint to a muted guitar. The rhythm is jagged and intoxicating. By the time we get there we’ve heard the striding opener “Run With Me,” the quick-stepping waltz “Fly On” and Leslie’s showcase song, the smoldering and bluesy “Nuts, Bolts and Screws.” The album’s first single, “Great Divide,” is a fervent ode to travel, motion, and new frontiers—a recurring theme that’s also touched on in the fiddle and accordion-driven “Hitch Hike” and the rapturously romantic “Freight Train.” A classic jazz ribbon of smoke drifts through the magic “I’m A Bird.” And then, after “Carry On,” Revelries concludes on the drifting “Atlantic”—a throwback folk song that evokes old sea shanties.
If the new Nashville means anything, it’s about musicianship and authenticity. Quite often that results in sounds that are fascinating and appealing to critics and fellow musicians. Occasionally, artistry emerges that’s both profound and widely appealing. And when it does, as with Humming House, it’s cause for revelry.
Beulah. It’s a small, complicated word with a tangle of meanings.
It’s the title of John Paul White’s new album, his first in nearly a decade, a remarkably and assuredly diverse collection spanning plaintive folk balladry, swampy southern rock, lonesome campfire songs, and dark acoustic pop. Gothic and ambitious, with a rustic, lived-in sound, it’s a meditation on love curdling into its opposite, on recrimination defining relationships, on hope finally filtering through doubt.
Beulah is also a White family nickname. “It’s a term of endearment around our house,” White explains, “like you would call someone ‘Honey.’ My dad used to call my little sister Beulah, and I call my daughter Beulah. It’s something I’ve always been around.”
Beulah is also something much loftier. For the poet and painter William Blake, Beulah was a place deep in the collective spiritual unconscious. “I won’t pretend to be the smartest guy in the world,” says White, “but I dig a lot of what he’s written. Beulah was a place you could go in your dreams. You could go there in meditation, to relax and heal and center yourself. It wasn’t a place you could stay, but you came back to the world in a better state.”
And perhaps the music on this album originated in that “pleasant lovely Shadow where no dispute can come.” According to White, the songs came to him unbidden—and not entirely welcome. “When these songs started popping into my head, I had been home for a while and I was perfectly happy. I wasn’t looking for songs. I didn’t know whether any would pop back in my head again, and I was honestly okay with that. I’m a very happy father and husband, and I love where I live. I love working with artists for a label that I think is doing good work.”
Far from the grind and glamour of Nashville—where he worked for years as a working songwriter before stepping into the spotlight himself—White settled in his hometown of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a wellspring of gritty Southern rock and soul since the 1960s. Together with Alabama Shakes keyboard player Ben Tanner and Shoals native Will Trapp, he founded and runs Single Lock Records, a local indie label that has released records by some of the Yellowhammer State’s finest, including Dylan LeBlanc, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and legendary songwriter and keyboard player Donnie Fritts. The label is based in a small ranch house a stone’s throw from White’s own home, which would come in handy when those songs started invading his head.
“Honestly, I tried to avoid them, but then I realized the only way I was going to get rid of them was if I wrote them down. I got my phone out and I’d sing these little bits of melody, then put it away and move on. But eventually I got to a place where it was a roar in my head, and that pissed me off.” Due to his experiences as a gun-for-hire in Nashville, White was reluctant to romanticize the creative process, to turn it into a spiritual pursuit. “Then one day I told my wife I think I’m going to go write a song. She was as surprised as I was. I went and wrote probably eight songs in three days. It was like turning on a faucet.”
Most artists would kill for such a downpour, but White was wary of the consequences. He knew that writing songs would lead to recording them, which would result in releasing them, and that means touring and leaving home for weeks at a time. “As soon as I write a song, I start thinking what other people might think of it. I’ve talked to friends about this: What is it about us that makes us do that? Why can’t I just sit on my back porch and sing these songs out into the ether? I don’t have an answer for it yet, but I think it’s just part of who I am. I need that reaction. I need to feel like I’m moving someone in a good way or in a bad way. I need to feel like there’s a connection.”
White threw himself into the project, no longer the reluctant songwriter but a craftsman determined to make the best album possible—to do these songs justice. He cut several songs at the renowned FAME Studios in his hometown, where Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, the Allmans, the Osmonds, Bobbie Gentry, Arthur Conley, and Clarence Carter recorded some of their most popular hits.
One product of those sessions is “What’s So,” which introduces itself by way of a fire-and- brimstone riff, as heavy as a guilty conscience—the kind of riff you wouldn’t be surprised to hear on a Sabbath album. But White’s vocals are gritty and soulful, a product of the Shoals, almost preacherly as he sings about earthly and eternal damnation: “Sell your damn soul or get right with the man, keep treading water as long as you can,” he exhorts the listener. “But before you do, you must understand that you don’t get above your raisin’.” It’s the heaviest moment on the record, perhaps the darkest in White’s career.
At the other end of the spectrum is “The Martyr,” one of the catchiest tunes White has ever penned. The spryness of the melody imagines Elliott Smith wandering the banks of the Tennessee River, yet the song is shot through with a pervasive melancholy as White wrestles with his own demons. “Keep falling on your sword, sink down a little more,” he sings over a dexterous acoustic guitar theme. This is not, however, a song about some unnamed person, but rather a pained self-diagnosis: “These are the wounds that I will not let heal, the ones that I deserve and seem so real.” White knows he’s playing the martyr, but he leaves the song hauntingly open-ended, as though he isn’t sure what to do with this epiphany beyond putting it in a song.
The rest of Beulah was recorded in the Single Lock offices/studio near White’s home. “I can be more relaxed about the process. We can all just sit there and talk about records or baseball without feeling like someone’s standing over our shoulders. That’s a big deal to me, not to feel pressured. And I’m only about twenty yards away from home, so I can walk over and throw a baseball with my kids or make dinner with my wife.”
Some of the quieter—but no less intense—songs on Beulah were created in that environment, including the ominously erotic opener “Black Leaf” and the Southern gothic love song “Make You Cry.” As he worked, a distinctive and intriguing aesthetic began to grow clearer and clearer, one based in austere arrangements and plaintive moods. These are songs with empty spaces in them, dark corners that could hold ghosts or worse. “There were certain moments when Ben and I would finish up a song, listen back to it, and think how in the world did we get here. But that’s just what the songs ask for. These are the sounds in my head. This is the sound of me thinking and living and breathing and doing.”
Once White had everything assembled and sequenced, it was time to give the album a title, to wrap everything up for the listener. Beulah stuck—not only because of family history or Blake, but because White realized that making music was his own trip to Beulah. “If you had to sum up what music is for most people in this world, it’s that. It’s that escape. It’s that refuge. You go there and you come back and you use that to help you with your life. You always have that as a place to go.”
Delhi 2 Dublin was a happy accident born out of Vancouver’s Celtic Fest in 2006. Their sound started as an electronic fusion between bhangra beats and Celtic fiddle and has since grown into anything from dub reggae to breakbeats to just straight up happy dance music.
Founded by Tarun Nayar (of Beats Without Borders cred), Sanjay Seran (at the time hailing from live bhangra act Signia), and Ravi Binning (a professionally trained bhangra dancer and dhol player), it was obvious D2D had something people wanted.
Word spread about their ridiculously energetic live show, and these road-warriors have been touring constantly since: mesmerizing crowds at many of the top festivals across Canada and the US, blowing people away in the UK, Australia, Germany and Malaysia as well as performing to awe-filled audiences in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Dubai.
Described by one magazine as the “United Nations of rock ‘n’ roll”, the last 9 years of incessant touring have seen Delhi 2 Dublin become one of Canada’s most buzzed-about bands.
In 2013 Melbourne 5 piece, Jakubi, uploaded their first track to Soundcloud. It was a hit. 50,000 plays by the end of the second week. Their second single was the same and then again their third. Now, with their fourth single “Couch Potato” circulating, the band has amassed over 2,500,000 plays worldwide.
This brought the band to the attention of labels across Australia, America and Europe – with new emails from even more A&R reps arriving almost daily within the first few weeks of a new tracks circulation. With all this momentum Jakubi have gone into 2014 focused. Their aim; to release their debut EP, to hit twice as many venues on their next Australian tour and to do their debut tour of the USA.
Their songs use a mix of sounds to draw in the listener. From VERY catchy reggae inspired guitar to clever synth and of course the hip hop sounding drum fills, it definitely makes sure the listener understands exactly what’s going to happen next; you’re about to start dancing. Lead vocals are the responsibility of Jerome Farah, his seamless transition between natural vocals and his use of a talk box adds a diversity to the music that only keeps you bopping along to the music. With a bunch of sold out shows, some incredible festival performances and with over 2,000,000 plays under their belt we know that this is definitely the beginning of something exciting.
I first heard of Shannon McNally through John Leventhal, who described her vocal skills as having just the right amount of girlish smoke. At the time I was looking for just the right singer to make a cameo appearance on a song I was recording called “Famous Last Words of a Fool.” Trusting John’s appraisal---from his description I imagined something of a cross between Joan Jett and Lauren Bacall---I set about tracking the mystery singer down. What I eventually discovered in the small town of Holly Springs, Mississippi was this dark-eyed beauty who wrote grown-up songs, played a pretty mean Fender Stratocaster and, at times, sounded a lot Jesse Mae Hemphill. From our first meeting I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was the right man for the job of shepherding the next Shannon McNally record into existence. Now that the record is made, I hope music lovers around the world will come to know what I and many others already know: This girl belongs in the Americana Music spotlight.
"She has the voice: bruised, smoky and ornery, right at home where country and soul meet. She has the melodies and the timing - she’s irresistible.” — Jon Pareles, The New York Times
“McNally ….sensual, swaggering, smokey. …..exhibiting an ability to depict pleasure and pain with an explicitness that seems deceptively natural for such a reasonably young songwriter.….a healthy dose of lowdown country and ragged soul..McNally's sound bears a timelessness that's truly uncommon.” — Austin Chronicle
“She is probably rock’s most talented undiscovered gem. This woman with the confident voice, pin-point lyrics and effortless guitar playing….Shannon McNally can rock your socks off at the same time she is hitting you over the head with words that actually make sense.” — Glide Magazine
The Legendary Shack Shakers’ roadshow has earned quite a name for itself with its unique brand of Southern Gothic that is all-at-once irreverent, revisionist, dangerous, and fun. Led by their charismatic, rail-thin frontman and blues-harpist JD Wilkes, the Shack Shakers are a four-man wrecking crew from the South whose explosive interpretations of the blues, punk, rock and country have made fans, critics and legions of potential converts into true believers.
After taking more than a year off to work on other projects (including JD Wilkes's book "Barn Dances & Jamborees Across Kentucky"), the band is re-mobilizing in the fall of 2014 much to the excitement of many a Shack Shaker fanatic. Despite the group’s time off, their reputation for intensity has stuck with them.
On stage, JD has been compared to the likes of Iggy Pop, David Byrne, and Jerry Lee Lewis. The Nashville Scene named Wilkes “the best frontman in Nashville” in 2002, while former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra has called JD “the last great Rock and Roll frontman.” Having joined the band in early 2012, garage blues guitar player Rod Hamdallah--who also lends his prowess to Wilkes's side project ‘JD Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers'--is back in the Shack Shakers’ lineup. The rhythm section is rounded out with Brett Whitacre on drums and Mark Robertson thumping out the upright bass.
Although not legendary upon being named, the band has grown into its reputation the last several years due to their heavy tour schedule, six critically acclaimed studio albums, and songs that have been featured on television shows such as HBO’s True Blood. Past tour mates and fans include Reverend Horton Heat, Rancid, The Black Keys, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, and Hank Williams III. Robert Plant is also a noted Legendary Shack Shakers fan, and picked the band to open for him on his 2005 tour of Europe. Plant named the band's third albumBelieve as one of his favorite records of 2005. The list of esteemed admirers goes on to include horror novelist Stephen King, who listed “CB Song” as among his iPod’s Top Five in a 2008 Entertainment Weekly article. Such a wealth of devoted fans over the years has only added to the mystique that the Legendary Shack Shakers possess, carrying them down the road toward new creative pursuits and barn-shaking tunes.
Hailing from the streets of Memphis, soul music flows through Gedeon Luke’s veins in rainbow colored hues. Weaned on the gospel infused sounds of Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield and Al Green and inspired by the rock ‘n roll passion of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Gedeon and his band The People are here to crash through the boundaries of music and society, to bring Love, Peace and Soul to the world.
Fighting through childhood poverty, rejecting the gang violence and drug abuse that surrounded him, Gedeon looked to music, family and faith as his beacon. Refusing to be hardened by the mean streets, Gedeon brings pure joy and passion to his music and his life.
His debut record, “Live Free and Love” was cut old school style, throwing his band The People and special guests in a room and laying it down live. It follows no trend. It’s Love, Peace and Soul. It’s Gedeon Luke.
Join us for a very special pre-season show as we show appreciation to all of our first responders. Performance by the Stax Music Academy Alumni.
Bill Hurd is a welcome feature at any Memphis venue catering to jazz fans. His mastery of the alto and tenor saxophone is reminiscent of Coltrane and his virtuosity on soprano and baritone sax is equally impressive.
Hurd has recorded with Kirk Whalum, Isaac Hayes, Maurice White, Greg Curtis, Phil Perry, Kevin Whalum, J. Blackfoot, and Wendy Moten and with fellow legendary Memphis musicians like Floyd Newman, Rod McGaha, Rick Braun, and Lester Snell.
But Bill Hurd’s genius is not limited to music. He is also known as Dr. William C. Hurd, a practicing Ophthalmologist. In addition to his medical degree, he has an MBA from M.I.T. and a B.S. in engineering from Notre Dame (where he was an All-American captain of the track team and named Notre Dame's 1968 Athlete of the Year). Furthermore, Hurd has patented inventions of medical devices relating to his work as an eye surgeon. His two sons are honors graduates of Notre Dame, and his wife of 42 years is a Tennessee Circuit Court Judge.
Obviously, Bill Hurd has high standards, and those standards extend to choosing the members of his quartet. Tom Lonardo (drums), Sidney Kirk (keyboard), and Erroll Thomas (bass) are all considered among the South’s finest musical talents. And you’ll hear how it all comes together on this performance captured live in Memphis, TN.
The Southern Comfort Jazz Orchestra has a long reputation of musical excellence at the University of Memphis. The group is comprised of 17 outstanding full-time university student musicians ranging from undergraduates through doctoral candidates. The ensemble performs a wide range of styles from composers Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington to modern composers such as Jim McNeely and Bob Brookmeyer. The group continually performs and records new student compositions, commissions, and new works from outside composers on an annual basis.
Past performances have included a tour of Europe and presentations at the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference, and the Tennessee Music Educators Association convention. Most recently the group was honored to be a part of the National Endowment of the Humanities "Looking at Jazz" series held in the Mid-South.
They have recorded two CDs, "Voices" and "Out of the Bluffs" for Select-O-Hits, Memphis.
The Rhodes Jazz Ensemble, the college’s big band, is directed by John Bass and performs multiple times per semester on campus and around Memphis.
Born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and reared in Nashville, Joyce Cobb first sang in her grandmother’s church. At an early age the influence of music was present in her home environment. Both parents were avid music lovers, with an emphasis on Jazz.
Joyce’s career spans from live orchestrations for Nashville’s WSM radio and television stations, to live performances in Europe. She landed a record deal with a subsidiary of Stax Records just before the label folded, but continued her recording career with West Coast-based Cream Records. Under the direction of Wayne Crook of Shoe Productions, she wrote, sang, and performed the single "Dig the Gold" that earned her a NO.42 spot in Billboard Magazine. Maestro Alan Balter, conductor of the Memphis Symphony, heard her sing at the Peabody Hotel in 1990 and Cobb has since been invited to perform with the symphony on numerous occasions.
Carl & Alan, the twins were born in Tokyo from a Japanese mother and an American father. They grew up in an international environment in Hong Kong from ages 3-15. They moved to the vibrant music city of Memphis, TN in USA at age 15. At age 11 they decided to form a rock band with their older brother named Kevin. He assigned Carl to play drums and Alan to play bass and that's how they ended up on their instruments. They arrived in Memphis determined to pursue music and soon after they joined the world renown Stax Music Academy and found a love for jazz. They learned to improvise sitting in at jazz clubs in Memphis. At age 17, Donald Brown discovered them in his university recruiting tour and they became his pupils. In 2014, they recorded their first album titled ‘The Sound of Music’ with Kirk Whalum as the guest artist and Donald Brown on piano/producing. They have been touring in Japan and Hong Kong, their home countries every summer. In the summer of 2016 they played their own concert with Yosuke Onuma, one of Japan's premier guitarists, for a packed house of 400 people in Akita, Japan. They are currently still studying under Brown at the University of Tennessee to refine their skills and widen their musical perspectives to deliver their own sound of music. They have lived in 3 countries and traveled to more than 20 countries. With their international experience, the world is their stage and only the sky is limit.
For more information please visit www.carlalanmaguire.com
REACH is an Instrumental Jazz Fusion group based out of Memphis, Tennessee that formed in the Fall of 2011. REACH strives to push the boundaries of musical development while still maintaining the ability to relate to people and to overall just have a good time. While the main direction leans more towards Jazz Fusion, they do not restrict themselves to other styles of music. The band has influences that range over many genres, such as Funk, Latin, Reggae, Rock, and Blues, which is clear in their playing. These influences along with each members musical background proves that diversity is a key factor in REACH's music.
Greg Langston- Guitar
Alex Morgan- Guitars
Zach Nixon- Saxophone
Cedric Taylor- Keyboards/Synthesizer
Zechariah Frink- Bass
Robinson Bridgeforth- Drums/Percussion
Weather Report, The Yellow Jackets, Victor Wooten, Snarky Puppy, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller, James Brown, The Meters, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea Electrik Band, Bobby Mcferrin, Van Halen, Guthrie Govan, Pink Floyd, BB King, Bob Marley, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson, Prince, John Coltrane, Bob Minstner, Chris Potter, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Keith Urban, Frank Gambale, Return To Forever, Miles Davis.
Balkan Beat Box first exploded out of Brooklyn’s underground music scene in 2005 with a self-titled debut that unleashed into the world their Mediterranean-inflected, globalized electronica sound.
Founded by Ori Kaplan (DJ Shotnez and ex Gogol Bordello) and Tamir Muskat (producer Asaf Avidan and Ape Records, ex-Firewater) the band built their reputation on explosive live shows. Shortly after forming, Balkan Beat Box drafted their collaborator Tomer Yosef to be the group’s frontman, and his wild onstage energy has been galvanizing audiences ever since.
The three emerged as a cohesive songwriting trio on 2007’s Nu Med, which featured Tamir hand crafting beats and samples, Ori orchestrating melodies and Tomer writing the hard-hitting lyrics. With the release of 2010’s Blue Eyed Black Boy, the group took their already well-traveled sound to Belgrade and other Eastern points. Their fourth album, GIVE, reveals a harder edge. Inspired by protest movements across the globe—from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street and Israel’s social protests—the album speaks out against social ills while presenting a cautious hope and energizing spirit for our time. The band’s also a hit with other musicians and has been sampled by Mac Miller and Diplo on "Goosebumpz," and Jason Derulo on "Talk Dirty," a #1 hit around the world.
One of the most driving forces on GIVE is fatherhood—not surprising considering all three members of the group have recently become fathers. It’s a role that’s made each of them more aware of what’s happening in the world, and how they’re changing the planet that their children will inherit. The change is more than philosophical, however. It also inspired the band to pick up new instruments, from children’s toys to analog synthesizers.
“It was kind of a crazy vibe in the studio sometimes,” Tamir says with a laugh. “We were recording some of our most hardcore songs ever, but our kids were there, running around and playing in the middle of everything. It reminded us that we’re fighting for something, not just against everything.”
Vocalist, songwriter, performer and multi-instrumentalist Eleanor Tallie has been captivated by the groove of American music since her childhood in Israel. Classically trained on the cello and raised in a household of musicians, Eleanor began writing original lyrics and music when she was 12 years old and studied classical music for 15 years. After completing her studies, she traveled throughout Israel performing original songs in Hebrew.
In 2011 Eleanor joined a blues band and travelled with the band internationally as the lead vocalist and songwriter. She toured the Netherlands twice, performing in 13 different cities before she moved to the United States in 2013. Making Memphis her home, Eleanor toured extensively and performed 180 shows in over 30 states in the US within the time span of a year and a half. In the spring of 2015, Eleanor began working on her own sound, which she defines as Neo-Funk: a mixture of funk, neo-soul, R&B, jam, jazz and hip-hop elements. With the combination of an optimistic perspective and her love of funk and groove, Eleanor found herself absorbed in the stylings of influential neo-soul and R&B artists.
For her debut recording, Eleanor assembled a team of carefully-selected musicians, including 2016 Grammy-winning engineer and producer, Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell and his son, Uriah Mitchell. A first time collaboration between the father and son, Uriah lends his talents on the EP with a number of rousing hip-hop contributions.
An album designed to elevate the mind and uplift the soul, No Turning Back perfectly captures Eleanor Tallie’s jaw-dropping vocals and powerful songwriting. While the record certainly falls into the definition of Neo-Funk, it is hard to overlook the variety of genres and subgenres which emerge when drifting from track to track. Throughout the recording process, No Turning Back became a symbol of mindfulness as it developed into something much more than a simple studio recording. Each track on this EP embarks on a different journey through the heart of human emotion.
Eleanor elegantly bridges the gap between her past and her future on No Turning Back. The story told behind these songs is one of relationship challenges (“I Tried”); an inner calling for change of perspective (“Hell or Heaven”); A long-awaited love finally found (“Sunlight”); an understanding and celebration of the present (“My Present”); optimistic observations to live by, which include a hypnotic prayer in Hebrew, accompanied by a strumming sitar (“Gotta Be Happy); and a sassy song that gives listeners a little kick, explaining what a real man really is all about (“A Real Man”). This EP will make you want to shake it. It captures a sound that is both timeless and new, and on a deeper level, has a message that is worth hearing over and over again. Life is a present, so celebrate it.
The Blind Boys of Alabama have the rare distinction of being recognized around the world as both living legends and modern-day innovators. They are not just gospel singers borrowing from old traditions; the group helped to define those traditions in 20th century and almost single-handedly created a new gospel sound for the 21st. Since the original members first sang together as kids at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in the late 1930s (including Jimmy Carter, who leads the group today), the band has perserved through seven decades to become one of the most recognized and decorated roots music groups in the world.
Touring throughout the South during the Jim Crow era of the 1940s and 1950s, the Blind Boys flourished thanks to their unique sound, which blended the close harmonies of early jubilee gospel with the more fervent improvisations of hard gospel. In the early 1960s, the band sang at benefits for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and were a part of the soundtrack to the Civil Rights movement. But as the years passed, gospel fans started to drift away and follow the many singers who had originated in the church but were now recording secular popular music. And the Blind Boys, who refused many offers to ‘cross over’ to secular music, also saw their audiences dwindle. However, the Blind Boys persevered and their time came again, starting in the 1980s with their starring role in the Obie Award-winning musical “The Gospel at Colonus,” which began a new chapter in their incredible history. It’s almost unbelievable that a group of blind, African-American singers, who started out touring during a time of of whites-only bathrooms, restaurants and hotels, went on to win five Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and to perform at the White House for three different presidents.
Few would have expected them to still be going strong—stronger than ever, even—so many years after they first joined voices, but they’ve proved as productive and as musically ambitious in recent years as they did in the beginning. In 2001, they released Spirit of the Century on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label, mixing traditional church tunes with songs by Tom Waits and the Rolling Stones, and won the first of their Grammy Awards. The next year they backed Gabriel on his album Up and joined him on a world tour, although a bigger break may have come when David Simon chose their cover of Waits’ ‘Way Down in the Hole’ as the theme song for the first season of HBO’s acclaimed series The Wire. Subsequent Grammy-winning albums have found them working with the likes of Ben Harper, Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Willie Nelson.
In 2013 the band worked with Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) to release I’ll Find A Way, a powerful collection of gospel and spiritual songs new and old, featuring some of the Blind Boys’ most fervent vocals as well as contributions by a new generation of Blind Boys fans, including Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, Patty Griffin, and Justin Vernon himself.
Their most recent album, Talkin’ Christmas!, a collaboration with Taj Mahal, continues the band’s streak of creating original and interesting work. It includes new versions of Christmas standards, covers of hidden gospel gems, and seven brand-new holiday songs - six of which are the first Christmas songs ever penned by the Blind Boys themselves. The new original songs include the title track ‘Talkin’ Christmas!,’ a funky tribute to the power of Christmas featuring Money Mark on keyboards, and the compassionate ‘What Can I Do?,’ which features Taj Mahal on vocals and is one of two songwriting collaborations with Stax Records soul legend William Bell. The album also features a hand-clapping rearrangement of the usually-slower classic ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ and a refreshingly intimate, acoustic version of ‘Silent Night.’
The Blind Boys' live shows are roof-raising musical events that appeal to audiences of all cultures, as evidenced by an international itinerary that has taken them to virtually every continent. The Blind Boys of Alabama have attained the highest levels of achievement in a career that spans over 75 years and shows no signs of diminishing. “We appreciate the accolades and we thank God for them,” says Jimmy Carter, a founding member and the Blind Boys’ current leader. “But we’re not interested in money or anything other than singing gospel. We had no idea when we started that we would make it this far. The secret to our longevity is, we love what we do. And when you love what you do, that keeps you motivated. That keeps you alive.”
After his release from prison, Jake (John Belushi) reunites with his brother, Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) -- collectively known as the "Blues Brothers." Jake's first task is to save the orphanage the brothers grew up in from closing, by raising $5,000 to pay back taxes. The two are convinced they can earn the money by getting their old band back together.
VIP Pre-Concert Dinner & Drinks at 6:00pm
St. Paul & The Broken Bones at 7:30pm
Mavis Staples at 9:00pm
Mavis Staples will go down in history as one of the greatest gospel singers of all time, the breathtaking voice powering one of America's great family bands, The Staple Singers. From the traditional gospel music of the 1950s to the 1960s protest songs that underscored some of the decade's most dramatic social changes, from the self-empowerment anthems of the 1970s to the soulful love tunes and mature Americana of more recent years, Staples and her family have consistently created some of the best and most inspirational music of the past half-century. Mavis Staples’ latest release, Livin’ on a High Note, released February 2016, features songs written especially for her by a diverse range of artists, including Nick Cave, Ben Harper, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Neko Case, M. Ward, Tune-Yards and Son Little. Coinciding with the release of the new album is the HBO documentary, Mavis!, that traces Staples' career and that of her family's.
St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Grit, elemental rhythm, tight-as-a-drumhead playing, and a profound depth of feeling: these are the promises of a great soul band. And St. Paul & The Broken Bones deliver on those promises with performances that harken back to classic soul roots while extending the form with electrifying potency. Front man Paul Janeway’s handle “St. Paul” is a wry allusion to the vocalist’s grounding in the church. Like many a legendary soul singer, Janeway, a native of the small town of Chelsea, Alabama, was raised on the gospel side, in a non-denominational, Pentecostal-leaning local church. Virtually no non-religious music could be heard in his devout household. Janeway says, “The only secular music that I heard at all was a ‘70s group called the Stylistics, and Sam Cooke. That was about it. The rest of it was all gospel music. When I was about 10 years old, I was groomed to be a minister. My goal in life until I was about 18 years old was to be a preacher.”
VIP Experience - $150/single ticket
Begin the evening at 6 p.m. with complimentary signature cocktails, drinks and dinner in the new Community Square at the Levitt Shell. VIP guests will receive reserved parking and reserved VIP seating for the concert. VIP guests will enjoy complimentary food and drinks before the concert, and access to the VIP cash bar and VIP restrooms during the concert.
General Admission - $45/ticket
General admission is open lawn seating in the general admission seating area. Tickets are $45/ticket in advance, or $50/ticket if purchased at the door.
Doors open at 6:00 p.m.
All proceeds from this event support the more than fifty free concerts and events held at the Levitt Shell each year. We thank you for your support!
- Food and beverages (including wine and beer) will be sold at concession stands.
- VIP ticket holders will have free food and drinks pre-concert, and VIP cash bar during concert.
- This event is rain or shine. No refunds.
- Lawn chairs and blankets are welcomed. VIP ticket holders will have seating provided.
- The Levitt Shell is wheelchair accessible.
- No outside food, drinks or pets allowed at this event only.
- No professional photography, video or audio recording equipment.
- Kids 12 and under are admitted free in general admission area only.
Mavis! is the first feature documentary on gospel/soul music legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples and her family group, The Staple Singers. From the freedom songs of the ’60s and hits like “I’ll Take You There" in the ’70s, to funked-up collaborations with Prince and her recent albums with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Mavis has stayed true to her roots, kept her family close, and inspired millions along the way.
The regular Levitt Shell Free Music Fall Concert Series will be taking a break Oct. 7-9 for an event rental. This is NOT a Levitt Shell show but is a private ticketed event put on by our good pals, Drew Holcomb & Friends. To purchase tickets for this event, please check out their website: www.moonriverfestival.com
If the University of Memphis wasn’t considered a musical hotbed in the past, it will be after the “This Is Memphis” festival on October 2nd, 2016. Put on by the University’s student record label, Blue Tom Records, the festival boasts some of Memphis’s top new musicians, including the Band Camino, Kyndle McMahan, Drew Erwin, and The PRVLG.
The Band CAMINO has found recent momentum, releasing their debut EP "My Thoughts On You", building a strong local fan base, playing Beale Street Music Festival, and landing on the Spotify Viral USA Charts. Formed in August of 2015, the band draws influence from giants of the current alt-rock scene, such as The 1975, The Killers, and Coldplay, while channeling vibes of 80s pop hooks and arena rock anthems.
Already known for her role in the Memphis Ukulele Band and the Mason Jar Fireflies, Kyndle McMahan has made quite the name for herself in Memphis. Her incredible voice has led to a strong local performance schedule and landed her in David Porter’s Consortium MMT program as an Emerging Star.
Singer-songwriter Drew Erwin has already made himself known on some of music’s biggest stages. At the age of 16, with no performing experience, America voted him the YouTube Audition winner on America's Got Talent Season 7. Since his television appearance, he has shared the stage with Cody Simpson, Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Allen Stone, and YouTube sensations Megan & Liz.
PRVLG was founded on a shared ideology that music has the power to bring people of different backgrounds together. The band formed as a spin off of the supergroup Bluff City Soul Collective, known for their fusion of genres like jazz, funk, and soul. True to their name, it is their privilege to bring their musical experience to you.
The “This Is Memphis” festival is produced by Blue Tom Records, a record label made up entirely of University of Memphis students.
There’s something strange yet familiar about Motel Mirrors—like an old photograph of a place you think you know, but don’t quite remember having visited. If the collaboration was obvious to LaVere, the style was obvious to Keith: he wanted to emulate the classic 50s and 60s country duets — George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. The two dove into their respective record collections, searching for songs they could make their own.
Three covers — Mickey & Sylvia’s “Dearest,” “Your Tender Loving Care” by Buck Owens and Susan Raye, and Red Foley’s “As Far As I’m Concerned” — blend seamlessly with originals by Keith and a co-write for the pair, “That Makes Two of Us.”
Timeless is a good word for it. If you put the needle down and close your eyes, you might mistake yourself for being somewhere else. At another time, in a different town. In a bar, listening to a band of strangers, whose voices are at once, both fleeting and familiar.