Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers
May
31
7:30 PM19:30

Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers

One of the most recognized and sought-after saxophonists/vocalists, two-time GRAMMY nominee Mindi Abair has been electrifying audiences with her dynamic live performances and utter command of the saxophone since her debut album in 2000.  No one since Junior Walker has brought saxophone and vocals in one package to the forefront of modern music, with a raucous tone and dynamic stage presence.  She has garnered ten #1 radio hits, six Top 5 solo records and two #1 spots on the Billboard album charts.  In 2014, Mindi received her first GRAMMY® nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category, followed by a 2015 GRAMMY® nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for her solo LP Wild Heart featuring Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Trombone Shorty, Booker T. Jones, Keb’ Mo’, and Max Weinberg.  

The daughter and granddaughter of working musicians, Abair continues to captivate fans while evolving her sound.  In 2014, after two seasons as the featured saxophonist on the hit series American Idol, Abair released Wild Heart.  This LP showcased a compilation of grittier rock and soul tracks featuring some of the biggest names in music.  To help translate this sound to her live shows, Mindi enlisted longtime friend and The Boneshakers founder Randy Jacobs (Bonnie Raitt, Was Not Was, Willie Nelson) to inject his brand of Detroit Blues Rock.  The collaboration was undeniable, and it lead to an almost immediate decision to join forces creatively.  Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers features band leader Mindi Abair (Saxophone, Vocals), Randy Jacobs (Guitar, Vocals), Rodney Lee (Keys), Derek Frank (Bass, Vocals), and Third Richardson (Drums, Vocals). 

Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers LIVE in Seattle was released September 2015 to significant critical acclaim, and a 2 ½ year non-stop tour schedule across the US. 

n April 2017, the band took a short break to record their first studio record.  The EastWest Sessions was recorded over five days at legendary Hollywood recording studio EastWest Studios with renowned Blues Rock producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zepplin, Joe Bonamassa, The Black Crowes, Aerosmith).  The album, released September 15, 2017, is a powerful, bluesy, momentous, and deeply emotional journey.  It debuted #3 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart and hit #1 on the RMR Blues Rock Album chart in January 2018. The album features a track with iconic blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, and 2017 GRAMMY® winner in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category, Fantastic Negrito.

Mindi authored the book “How To Play Madison Square Garden - A Guide to Stage Performance” and serves as a National Trustee for The Recording Academy.

he artists she’s toured with and/or recorded with are a testament to her talent: Aerosmith, Gregg Allman, Smokey Robinson, Keb’ Mo’, Joe Perry, Bobby Rush, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Lalah Hathaway, Duran Duran, Adam Sandler, Lee Ritenour, The Backstreet Boys, Booker T. Jones, Jimmy Webb, Mandy Moore, Max Weinberg, Bill Champlin, David Pack, Mocean Worker, The Ides of March, Teena Marie, Bobby Lyle, and Jonathan Butler.

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Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear
Jun
1
7:30 PM19:30

Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear consists of Madisen Ward and Ruth Ward. They are a modern soulful/folk music duo from Independence, Mo. The band's debut album Skeleton Crew, produced by Jim Abbiss, known for his award-winning work with Arctic Monkeys and Adele, captures Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear in their most natural setting. The two tracked most of the tracks live, sitting across from one another in the recording studio. They didn't use a click track. With help from a handful of session musicians, the two Wards captured the sound they'd been making since those coffeeshop days.

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Banditos
Jun
2
7:30 PM19:30

Banditos

Banditos' new album Visionland is coming June 23rd, 2017. Produced by Israel Nash and Ted Young, the Birmingham/Nashville-based group’s second full-length has one foot firmly planted in reality as the other tip-toes in and out of mental complexities, self-perception and altered-state illusions. The results are revealing, exhilarating and profound.

Originally from Birmingham, AL, Banditos is a group - more like a gang, actually - of six 20-somethings, nowadays operating out of Nashville, close to, and simultaneously very far away from, the gleaming towers and industry hustle of Lower Broad and Music Row.

With the rugged power of a flashy Super Chief locomotive, the Banditos’ self-titled debut album bodaciously appropriates elements of ‘60s blues-fused acid rock, ZZ Top’s jangly boogie, garage punk scuzz a la Burger Records, the Drive-By Truckers’ yawp, the populist choogle of CCR, Slim Harpo’s hip shake baby groove, the ebullient folk of electric Dylan, gut bucket Fat Possum hill country mojo . From backwoods bluegrass, to slinky nods to Muscle Shoals soul and unexpected bits of doo-wop sweetness, the Banditos recall many, but sound like no one but themselves.

The members of the band first met playing in various punk and rock ‘n’ roll projects around Birmingham at D.I.Y., all-ages venues. In 2010, singer/guitarist Corey Parsons and singer/banjo player Stephen Pierce began busking around town and were soon asked to perform at their favorite local bar. Without a full band they invited friends Randy Wade (drums), Jeffrey Salter (guitar), and Mary Beth Richardson (vocals) to join them. 

Salter and Wade studied together at music school learning classical/jazz techniques, while Richardson’s background was mostly singing in church choirs. After some apprehensions from Richardson about taking the stage with an unrehearsed band, a last-minute trip to New Orleans with the group (which resulted in a stolen hotel Bible inscribed with the band’s lyrics) seemed to cure a case of the cold feet. The ensuing performance was raw and electric, and an ecstatic crowd response further cemented the members’ convictions to become a full band. The addition of bassist Danny Vines made the group complete.

The members soon moved into a house together in Birmingham, and after repeated tours through Nashville, decided to move the band there instead, where the music scene was bigger and more diverse. The sextet has since developed their unique and airtight sound, culminated through several years of enduring friendships and a roaddog touring schedule that has, at their count, numbered over 600 shows in three years. 

The group has been praised by NPR (“Three vocalists, a wicked guitarist who also plays pedal steel, a banjo, an upright bass and a hot-footed drummer guarantee that every song they play is stuffed with crazy rhythms and melodic energy.”), Rolling Stone (“Equal parts alt-country twang and garage rock bang...recalling everything from ZZ Top's greasy boogie to the Alabama Shakes' coed soul”), and Garden & Gun (“These six keyed-up twenty somethings mix a hodgepodge of sounds. Sometimes it’s barroom country backed by a rogue kazoo, and other times it’s a chicken-picking version of slow-burning soul behind the Janis Joplin–esque wail of Mary Beth Richardson”). They have performed across the world supporting acts like St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Blackberry Smoke, and Old 97’s, and notably at prominent events like Newport Folk Festival, Hangout Fest, and Rachael Ray’s Feedback.

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Dustbowl Revival
Jun
3
7:30 PM19:30

Dustbowl Revival

Over the past few years, The Dustbowl Revival has been making a name for itself with a vibrant mix of vintage Americana sounds. Critics have proclaimed that this eclectic eight-piece “would have sounded utterly at home within the hallowed confines of Preservation Hall in New Orleans' French Quarter” (Los Angeles Times) and their “upbeat, old-school, All-American sonic safaris exemplify everything shows should be: hot, spontaneous, engaging and, best of all, a pleasure to hear” (L.A. Weekly). Rob Sheffield, in Rolling Stone, hailed them as a great band “whose Americana swing was so fun I went back to see them again the next day.”

Their new eponymous album, however, finds the Los Angeles-based ensemble evolving and refining its music. Their always-joyous sound now reveals a more soulful, funky side that exudes deeper emotions and taps a more modern vibe. 

This exhilarating new sound jumps out on the album’s opening tracks, “Call My Name” and “If You Could See Me Now.” Drummer Joshlyn Heffernan and bassist James Klopfleisch lay down a righteous groove that trumpeter Matt Rubin and trombonist Ulf Bjorlin supercharge with their big blasts of horns. This Stax-style soul builds to a pair of showstoppers: “Good Egg” and “The Story.” The former is a dynamic number that showcases Liz Beebe’s sexy, full-throttled vocals as well as Bjorlin’s dirty trombone solo. On “The Story,” Beebe teams with band founder Zach Lupetin for an emotionally charged love song that features some infectious interplay between the horn players and the string-men (mandolinist Daniel Mark and fiddler Connor Vance). 

The album’s first single, “Busted,” also exemplifies the sonic leap taken by the band. Spotlighted by Beebe’s slinky jazz vocals, the song mixes traditional American music styles, like the blast of R&B horns and the in-the-pocket drums, with some inventive touches, such as a mandolin plucked like a hip-hop inspired piano, and the upright bass and fiddle played through wah-pedals. The group has said that recording “Busted” was like a door opening for them to create something familiar yet stylistically fresh.

 

Even the album’s more acoustic number, like “Debtors’ Prison” and “Got Over,” aren’t as old-timey as they might first appear. “Debtors’ Prison” initially suggests a throwback busker tune, but a closer listen reveals an all-too-contemporary ode with Lupetin singing about the struggles of trying to survive in today’s troubled economic times. Similarly, on “Got Over,” Lupetin delivers another modern-day portrait about a scuffed-up soul battling a whirl of problems who winds up “sitting on the kitchen floor … eating all the ice cream, 2 a.m. on a Tuesday.” Things get a little more optimistic on the sunnier, Bill Withers-inspired “Honey I Love You.” Featuring a guest spot by multi-Grammy-winner and fellow genre-bender Keb’ Mo’, this track serves up a timeless slice of sweet, silky soul music. 

The evolution in the band’s sound has been very much an organic one. Since Signature Sounds released their last album, With a Lampshade On, the Dustbowl Revival has been out on the road, winning over audiences with their free-flowing, joyous live performances. After playing more than 200 shows a year during the last four years, the Dustbowl Revival came to realize that they had outgrown the confining label of a retro-minded band playing music from a bygone era and needed to move in new directions. 

To help them achieve their adventurous musical vision, the band turned to the Grammy Award-winning producer Ted Hutt, who brought with him a background of working with a musically diverse set of acts. A founding member of Irish-American Celtic punk band Flogging Molly, Hutt has not only produced punk groups like Dropkick Murphys and The Bouncing Souls, but also the progressive acoustic outfit Old Crow Medicine Show (whose 2014 release Remedy earned Hutt the Grammy), Memphis Americana rockers Lucero and New York City roots troubadour Jesse Malin. With Hutt’s assistance, The Dustbowl Revival created what they have called “the tightest, funkiest thing we’ve ever attempted.” 

2017 marks the tenth anniversary of The Dustbowl Revival’s formation. It was back in 2007 when Lupetin, a Midwestern transplant to Los Angeles, posted an ad in Craigslist in hopes of creating a group inspired by brass band and string band traditions. Over the years, the group has been an inclusive outfit that frequently shifted in size before solidifying in its current eight-piece lineup.

In 2008, Zach Lupetin and The Dustbowl Revival released their debut album, The Atomic Mushroom Cloud of Love. They followed up in 2010 with You Can’t Go Back to the Garden of Eden, which included "Dan's Jam,” a song that won the Independent Music Awards’ “Americana Song of the Year.” The next year, the band, now known just as The Dustbowl Revival, put out Holy Ghost EP and their 2013 Carry Me Home CD featured more than 25 Dustbowl Revival-ists. That was also the year the L.A. Weekly crowned them the city’s “Best Live Band.”

The Dustbowl Revival found a bigger audience when Signature Sounds released With a Lampshade On in 2015. The video for “Never Had To Go,” starring band fan Dick Van Dyke, became an Internet sensation. The group went on to open for bands ranging from Lake Street Dive to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, while also appearing at such festivals as Delfest, Floydfest, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and, more recently, Norway’s Bergenfest and Tonderfest in Denmark.

This new album reveals the band moving in an exciting new direction. Instead of Dixieland jazz and Depression-era folk songs serving as musical mile markers, this CD mines an energizing vein of soul, funk and roots-infused rock that evokes the work of Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin and classic Stax recordings, and fits the band alongside such contemporaries as Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and St. Paul & the Broken Bones.

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The War & Treaty
Jun
7
7:30 PM19:30

The War & Treaty

The War and Treaty: the name itself represents the pull between trauma and tranquility, music inspired by darkness and despair that ultimately finds a higher spiritual purpose. It’s a sound manifested on the group’s upcoming EP, Down to the River

“The War and Treaty had the most infectious onstage presence.” — KATIE GABB (DC MUSIC DOWNLOADS)

For Michael Trotter Jr., the journey began in 2004, when he arrived in Iraq, an untested soldier stricken by fear and self-doubt. His captain made it his personal mission to see to Trotter’s survival. The unit was encamped in one of Saddam Hussein’s private palaces, and in a forgotten corner in its basement, they found a black upright piano that once belonged to the dictator himself. When Trotter shared the fact he could sing, he was encouraged to teach himself to play piano on that confiscated keyboard. “I wrote my first song after that captain was killed,” Trotter recalls. “I sang it for his memorial in Iraq.” Soon after it became his mission to sing at the memorial services for those that had fallen. For the next three years, he sang songs that brought solace and comfort to the members of his unit. His efforts eventually garnered wider recognition as well. He came in first place in “Military Idol,” the army’s version of “American Idol,” during a competition held in Baumholder, Germany. Following his discharge, he was featured on the Hope Channel program “My Story, My Song.” 

“The War and Treaty takes listeners through a soulful yet folksy journey”— SUSAN DIRANIAN (CBS DC)

Then he met Tanya Blount. Blount, a seasoned performer whose musical influences include Mahalia Jackson, Dolly Parton, Sister Odette and Aretha Franklin, was amazed by Michael. "His personality drew me in initial and then the sparks started to fly. I knew that I was hooked". recalls Tanya. The two fell in love, got married and used the experiences they had gained to create a new musical collaboration. 

“if your heart is thirsty for some warm comfort in a newfangled flask...lay your soul down here. This offering from The War and Treaty is pure joy”— LISA FISCHER (GRAMMY, OSCAR WINNER)

The couple then secured the services of musicians whose skills add a distinctive sound to The War and Treaty’s blend of roots music, blue grass,folk, gospel and soul. Recorded in Albion, Michigan, Down to the River  boasts a sound that’s both stirring and sensual, driven by joy, determination and an unceasing upward gaze. The music is visceral but never morose, flush with emotion but void of despair… a style that touches on a variety of genres, but never finds itself confined to anyone. The arrangements are uncluttered– harmonies, basslines, guitar and mandolin licks, settle drum patterns and keyboards create an immensely moving soundscape — but the sentiments and emotions are fully realized and soar with a steady, chilling assurance. “The recording process wasn’t like anything I ever experienced,” Tanya recalls. “This EP has allowed me to breathe musically. I feel like all I have wanted to express for the past ten years has come forth with what we’ve done. The combination of heart, soul and the overwhelming amount of love that Michael and I have for one another comes across in this record. “ 

“The War and Treaty, took the Red Clay Music crowd on an emotionally charged ride with stunning songs about love, loss, grief, heartache, redemption and love.”— JIM SIMPSON (NO DEPRESSION)

"I was sitting on the banks of the Euphrates River in Baghdad dreaming about one day being able to play and sing professionally for people all around the world,” Michael reflects. “As we recorded our music, I constantly had flashbacks of those desert dreams. I thought to myself that this is actually the perfect ending to usher in a new beginning in my life.”  

“From the first moment I heard the voices of Michael and Tanya Trotter I was a believer in their enormous talent. Their music feels steeped in the rich history of the blues, their stage presence is undeniable and together their voices are a force of nature. Those first few seconds of hearing them will grab a hold of you in the most exciting possible way”— ANN DELISI-WDET 101.9 FM

That beginning can be heard in the album’s first single “Hi Ho,” a WMNF hit that is now being heard on radio stations throughout the country. Still, for all their optimism and initial intent, The War and Treaty, knows that as their name suggests, perseverance is key to success. They continue to tour, their son in tow, hoping to share songs of reconciliation and humanity.

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The Stone Foxes
Jun
8
7:30 PM19:30

The Stone Foxes

They bear the torch of their predecessors with the knowledge that rock 'n roll can move a new generation. They’ve played in front of thousands at festivals like Outside Lands and Voodoo Fest, they’ve headlined the legendary Fillmore Theater in their hometown and they have supported acts like The Black Keys, Cage the Elephant and ZZ Top.  Now, with the release of their fourth album, Twelve Spells, they have solidified a place in their City's rich rock 'n roll history.  

Founded by brothers Shannon (vocals/drums/harp) and Spence Koehler (guitar/vocals), who came from the Sierra Nevada foothills near Tollhouse CA, The Stone Foxes started back in the Koehlers' SF State days in the Sunset District of San Francisco. Two weeks before they went on tour in 2011, they decided they needed a keyboard player and they added Elliott Peltzman from Fairfax, CA to play for a couple months...but he never left. They needed another drummer who could also play bass and guitar for tour in 2013, so Shannon called his high school friend Brian "The Buffalo" Bakalian...he never left either.  Their old friend Vince Dewald came in to jam one day later on that year, and after the Indiana kid started singing, playing his lefty guitar and his brother's right handed bass upside down, it was a done deal.  Finally in 2014, after convincing (basically begging) Vince's old bandmate to move back from his home town of Boston, Ben Andrews came out to play guitar and violin.  After their first practice with Ben, the circle was finally complete and they had beers at the Lone Star tavern on Harrison Street to celebrate their new-found brotherhood. 

The Stone Foxes are an experience to dive into, to get wild with, to sweat with.  "The Stone Foxes have an energetic style that's rooted in swampy, foot-stomping rock... ambitious arrangements with diverse moods ranging from acoustic twang to thunderous electric-guitar riffs." - NPR/WXPN "WORLD CAFE"

Invoking the audience with their commanding stage presence, even jumping down into the crowd if the mood strikes. Their fans know they are in for something action packed and they light a fire in the band, just as the band spreads fire back into them. Guitarists digging in, lead vocals changing between two unique voices with impassioned nuance, and keyboard and organ sounds that fill the space with smoke and burning embers. There are crunchy drum tones, wailing harmonica draws and violin cries that can silence even the most raucous of rooms. But this is not a sit-down-and-watch kind of event. Like Elvis once said about rock n roll, “If you feel it, you can’t help but move to it.” The Stone Foxes' live show brandishes this kind of dynamic passion on stage.  It's impossible not to feel it.

With the release of Twelve Spells, the band has chronicled their new beginning. The sounds they are creating are new with tinges of western darkness, punk, surf, and americana, but are strongly tied together by their everlasting rock 'n roll core.  Lyrics about gentrification, income inequality, romance, and heart surgeries pour out of their stream of consciousness.  It's a fresh rock 'n roll album that chronicles the years of their unification, taking on the issues of their lives and our times.    

"Garage rock gold...the sound of a band hitting their stride.” - PANDORA

“Perfect back-to-basics rock” - ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

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Nikki Lane
Jun
9
7:30 PM19:30

Nikki Lane

Nikki Lane’s stunning third album Highway Queen, out February 17th, 2017, sees the young Nashville singer emerge as one of country and rock’s most gifted songwriters. Co-produced by Lane and fellow singer-songwriter, Jonathan Tyler, this emotional tour-de-force was recorded at Matt Pence’s Echo Lab studio in Denton, Texas as well as at Club Roar with Collin Dupuis in Nashville, Tennessee. Blending potent lyrics, unbridled blues guitars and vintage Sixties country-pop swagger, Lane’s new music will resonate as easily with Lana Del Rey and Jenny Lewis fans as those of Neil Young and Tom Petty. 

Highway Queen is a journey through heartbreak that takes exquisite turns. The record begins with a whiskey-soaked homage to Lane’s hometown (“700,000 Rednecks”) and ends on the profoundly raw “Forever Lasts Forever,” where Lane mourns a failed marriage – the “lighter shade of skin” left behind from her wedding ring. On “Forever” and the confessional “Muddy Waters,” Lane’s lyrics align her with perceptive songwriters like Nick Lowe and Cass McCombs. Elsewhere, “Companion” is pure Everly Brothers’ dreaminess (“I would spend a lifetime/ Playing catch you if I can”). She goes on a Vegas bender on the rollicking “Jackpot,” fights last-call blues (“Foolish Heart”) and tosses off brazen one-liners at a backroom piano (“Big Mouth”).

“Love is the most unavoidable thing in the world,” Lane says. “The person you pick could be half set-up to destroy your life with their own habits – I’ve certainly experienced that before and taken way too long to get out of that mistake.” 

In 2014, Lane’s second album All or Nothin’ (New West) solidified her sandpaper voice beneath a ten-gallon hat as the new sound and look of outlaw country music. Produced by Dan Auerbach, the record’s bluesy Western guitars paired with Lane’s Dusty Springfield-esque voice earned glowing reviews from NPR, the Guardian and Rolling Stone. In three years since her Walk of Shame debut, Lane said she was living most of the year on the road.

Growing up, Lane used to watch her father pave asphalt during blistering South Carolina summers. She’d sit on the roller (“what helps smooth out the asphalt”) next to a guy named Rooster and divvy out Hardee’s lunch orders for the workers. “My father thought he was a country singer,” Lane laughs. “He partied hard at night, but by 6:30 AM he was out on the roads in 100-degree weather.” That’s the southern work ethic, she says. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but I was privileged with the knowledge of how to work hard, how to learn and to succeed when things aren’t set up for me.” Creativity was an unthinkable luxury, she adds. “When people told me I should try to get a record deal for songs I was writing, I was like, ‘that’s cute – I’ve got to be at work at 10 A.M.’” 

“Becoming a songwriter is one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done,” Lane says plainly. She describes writing her first song at age 25 like it was a necessary act of self-preservation after a devastating breakup. Many of her early songs, she said on Shame and Nothin’, were about the fleetingness of relationships she believed were permanent, she says. Lane’s main line of work in those days was a fashion entrepreneur (she’s currently the owner of Nashville’s vintage clothing boutique High Class Hillbilly). It brought her to cities around the country, New York to Los Angeles to Nashville. And like a true wanderer, Lane’s sound crisscrosses musical genres with ease, while the lonesome romantic in her remains. Even a soft song like, “Send The Sun,” with its lilting downward strum, is flush with bittersweet emotion. “Darling, we’re staring at the same moon,” Lane sings lovingly. “I used to say that to my ex,” she says with cheerful stoicism, “to try to brighten the long nights, stay positive.”

Highway Queen is poised to be Lane’s mainstream breakthrough. “Am I excited to spend years of my life in a van, away from family and friends? No, but I’m excited to share my songs, so they’ll reach people and help them get through whatever they’re going through. To me, that’s worth it.” 

“Lay You Down” is one of those unexpected moments for Lane. “That song was inspired by something Levon Helm’s wife posted on Facebook when he was sick with cancer,” Lane says. “I was just so moved by her telling the world how much love he felt from people writing to them, and moved that because of the Internet, I was able to see that love ­– even from a distance.” The song became surreal for Lane and her band when her longtime guitarist, Alex Munoz, was diagnosed with cancer while they were playing it. “It deepened my perspective and the importance of keeping everyone safe,” says Lane.

On the record cover, Lane looks out on wide, unowned Texan plains, leaning on the fearsome horns of a massive steer. Wearing a vintage Victorian dress, the stark photo invokes a time before highways existed. The symbolism isn’t lost on Lane. Highway Queen was a pioneering moment for her as an artist.

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Brian Owens & The Deacons of Soul
Jun
10
7:30 PM19:30

Brian Owens & The Deacons of Soul

When you hear Brian Owens sing, it’s hard to believe that anyone could find as much joy in music as he does. You would have to believe that his greatest goal is to thrill audiences and reinforce his reputation as one of America’s true soul music virtuosos.

On his new album, SOUL OF CASH, Owens offers up his own soulful take on timeless classics recorded by legendary Johnny Cash, including "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Walk The Line," Man In Black," and "Sunday Morning Coming Down." Each song is configured respectfully by Owens and his band, The Deacons of Soul (Alvin Quinn, Shaun Robinson, Rob Woodie), to preserve the genius of the original versions while demonstrating their universal meaning and adaptability. 

 

"The way I look at this project is not so much as a tribute, but more of an Americana soul project that features the music of Johnny Cash," says Owens, who has been lauded by Rolling Stone as a “vibrant soul singer who bridges a racial and generational divide." "One of the things I've come to know is that the soul of Johnny Cash is very similar to the soul of me."

 

"I get the sense from people that they think my connection to Johnny Cash is a strange one," Owens continues. "I don't know if it's because he's white or because I'm black. When people hear my original material, it leans more toward Marvin Gaye and that kind of vibe. But I really discovered my voice singing Johnny Cash music. When I sing music of some of my other influences, it's pulling from Marvin, Sam Cooke, and Curtis Mayfield. But when I sing Johnny Cash, you're hearing me because there's no reference point for me other than the song."  

 

Owens was 11 years old when first saw Johnny Cash on the popular TV series Columbo where Cash portrayed playing a televangelist and sang "I Saw the Light." Later in his mid-20s, Owens discovered him once again through the movie Walk The Line. "There was something about his life that resonated with me," Owens says. "From then on, I really got into Cash -- not only the music, but also the person."

In a country where everything feels so divided now and people are seemingly forced by the media to look at our differences more than what makes us the same, Owens says he thinks of Soul Of Cash a middle-of-the-road narrative.  "To me it says here's this guy, a white man born in the South, who's now passed on, and I, a young African-American guy born in the Midwest, raised on soul music, finding much common ground through music," explains Owens.  "What we have in common far outweighs the difference that I'm black and he's white, and that's 

what I want people to get from this project." 

Owens has accomplished a lot in his musical career. He was the lead singer for the U.S. military band Sidewinder that became an internet sensation. He says performing for the troops was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that helped shape and mold him as an artist and a person. Owens has since released three nationally distributed solo albums, opened for such notable artists as Ramsey Lewis and Michael McDonald, and has headlined his own tours from coast to coast. Owens has also performed at the World Series and for First Lady Michelle Obama and made numerous national TV appearances including Entertainment Tonight, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Fox & Friends, The Wayne Brady Show and more. 

A longtime resident of Ferguson, Missouri, Owens has led by example in launching numerous charitable initiatives. Through his LIFE (Leadership, Innovation, Faith and Excellence) Cultural and Performing Arts, he offers education in music, art and technology with the aim of empowering youth in his community.

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The Iguanas
Jun
14
7:30 PM19:30

The Iguanas

What if Americana actually encompassed ALL of North America? You'd have the Franco Acadian inflections of Canada, as best exemplified by the accordion, blues and jazz, the only truly indigenous music the US has ever produced, and the lilting grace and fiery passion of the music of Mexico. You'd also have New Orleans' premiere distillers of this continental musical melange, The Iguanas, and their new album Juarez.

Taking their cues from all of the above influences and then some, Juarez, the band's first studio album since 2012’s Sin to Sin, redefines the notion of Americana, crossing cultures, styles, eras...and even languages. It's as if Rue Bourbon, Muscle Shoals and Plaza México were all within earshot of each other and The Iguanas were the musical conduit between them. Based out of New Orleans for the past couple of decades save for a short, Katrina imposed exile in Austin the members of the Iguanas have (collectively or individually) played or recorded with everyone from Charlie Rich, Alex Chilton, and Willie DeVille to Emmylou Harris, Allen Toussaint, and Pretty Lights.

Their two decade ride has taken them all over the map musically and geographically, yet the inescapable patina of their hometown infuses every note they play.  Through eight studio albums, countless tours and Jazz Fest appearances, and a flood that did its best to take their adopted city with it, it's a testament to the band's endurance that the same four guys that started playing in the early 1990s are still together. Joe Cabral is philosophical about the band's persistence in the face of challenges that would have felled indeed have felled lesser bands. “First of all, this is all we know how to do; we're musicians. But more than that,” he continues, “we respect the power of the band as an entity, and each individual in the band steps up to play his part. When it's good, that's really what it's all about.” 

Rod Hodges agrees. “I don't want to get all heady and mystical about this, but it's not really an outward reward we're looking for. We all enjoy playing music, we all get along, and finding a group of people who can say that after all this time is a rare thing.”  

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La Misa Negra
Jun
15
7:30 PM19:30

La Misa Negra

La Misa Negra is a 7-piece band from Oakland, California, known for their unique blend of heavyweight cumbia and high-energy, Afro-Latin music.  On stage, they deliver an electrifying performance that explodes with infectious dance grooves and punk rock energy, powered by horn and accordion-driven riffs, a fierce rhythm section, and a vintage-inspired sound.  Since their live debut in the fall of 2011, La Misa Negra has toured the country, sharing stages and festival bills with the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, Lenny Kravitz, Thievery Corporation, SZA, Mon Laferte, Julieta Venegas, Ana Tijoux, Bomba Estereo, George Clinton, Antibalas, Budos Band, and Ozomatli.  On the strength of their wild and one-of-a-kind shows, they have gained a reputation as one of the most exciting live bands to emerge from the Bay Area in recent years, garnering a diverse fan base that transcends musical, cultural, and generational divides.

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The McCrary Sisters
Jun
16
7:30 PM19:30

The McCrary Sisters

“Singing with family means everything,” says Alfreda McCrary. “We’ve been out with the best of the best onstage and in the studio, but there’s nothing like singing harmony with your own flesh and blood.”

The list of artists the McCrary Sisters have collaborated with, both as a group and individually, reads like a stroll through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Johnny  Cash, Stevie Wonder), but with their exhilarating new album, ‘McCrary Sisters: Live,’ it’s clear that the McCrary women shine brightest when they’re center stage. Captured at Music City hotspot 3rd & Lindsley, the album marks the legendary quartet’s first concert release and showcases all of the ecstasy, passion, and heartbreak that have made them some of the most beloved and sought-after singers in Nashville.

A typical McCrary Sisters show overflows with kind of inimitable magic that can only come from sharing your life and love and art with your kin, but the remarkable performances documented here find the sisters hitting new heights of raw power and emotion. It felt like all of Nashville turned out to celebrate the group that night, and the atmosphere on the album is absolutely electric as the sisters feed off of the adoring crowd. The energy in their voices is palpable, as is their sheer joy at being joined onstage by band members old and new along with a slew of special guests, including several of their nieces and daughters. 

“We were all of one accord that night,” remembers Regina McCrary. “Everybody’s spirit and mind was set on the same thing, and the atmosphere was perfect. It was just so special to look around and see our girls up there carrying it on for the next generation, too.”

Bridging generations through music is a McCrary family tradition. The sisters—Ann, Regina, Alfreda, and Deborah—were born and raised in Nashville, TN, where they learned to sing at a young age from their father, the Rev. Samuel McCrary. The reverend was an original member of The Fairfield Four, the iconic vocal quartet whose towering influence transcended gospel music and inspired everyone from Sam Cooke to B.B. King. The McCrary household regularly hosted traveling gospel artists including the Staple Singers and Shirley Caeser, but soul, R&B, blues,  and country all had a place on their radio, which helped the girls develop into extraordinarily versatile singers.

“Music is music,” says Ann. “When it’s deep down in your soul, it doesn’t make any difference what kind it is. It’s easy for us to pull all those genres together in our songs because we grew up listening to all of them, and they still resonate in our souls.”

Marriage, careers, and family obligations took the girls their separate ways as they grew up,  and over the years, they faced more than their fair share of personal tragedy and triumphs, but music always sustained them. Regina may have had the most prominent gig of the bunch, joining Bob Dylan on the road for eight years and singing on three of his albums, but each of  the sisters continued to sing in award-winning choirs, on television, in studios, on stages around the world, and, of course, at home for the sheer love of it. Whether it was at Madison Square Garden or in the kitchen cooking supper, it didn’t matter; for the McCrary girls, to sing was to live.

It wasn’t until the early 2000’s, though, that the sisters finally fulfilled their father’s dream and came together to form their own group. The quartet’s chemistry was immediate and undeniable, and Nashville (along with the rest of the world) quickly took notice. The Oxford American raved that the McCrary Sisters “brought a glimpse of heaven to recordings by Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, Allison Moorer, Mike Farris, and other Americana artists,” while the LA Times hailed “the exuberance in their voices,” and NPR said they demonstrate “the power of living history and the timelessness of family connection.” The sisters took their harmonies everywhere from The White House to PBS, in addition to recording and performing with major stars like Dr. John, The Black Keys, Martina McBride, Eric Church, and more. They joined the house  band  at  the  world-famous  Ryman  Auditorium  for  the  annual  Americana  Awards ceremonies, where they’ve backed Loretta Lynn and Jackson Browne among others, and released a trio of their own studio albums to critical acclaim. The most recent, 2015’s ‘Let’s Go,’ was a hit on both sides of the pond, with the Associated Press asserting that the album “speaks to the moment while ranking with the most potent roof-raising, pew-shaking music ever created,” and The Guardian praising “their close-harmony vocals [that] switch effortlessly between gospel, soul and foot-stomping R&B.”

That effortless genre hopping is a hallmark of the sisters’ sound, and it’s at the heart of ‘McCrary Sisters: Live.’ On show opener “David Dance,” the band blends Afro-beat horns and Caribbean rhythms underneath the sisters’ spiritual vocals, while “Hum And Moan” is a slow burning, slide guitar blues, and “Stones” calls to mind the avant-funkiness of Prince & The Revolution. The sisters wrote or co-wrote every track on the album save for show-closer “I’ll Take You There,” and despite the varied musical ground they cover, the songs are all  inextricably tied together through their optimism and resilience.

“If there’s a song that has a message that’s about loving and supporting and caring and reaching out, I’m in,” says Regina. “Any song that has a message about love and happiness and joy and peace, you’ve got me. That goes not only for the four sisters, but for our whole family. We love singing songs that will inspire and encourage and help motivate people to find their way and get to the light. That’s what this is all about.”

The sisters sing of brighter days to come on “Train”  and “Other Side Of The Blues,” assure us  that we’re not alone with “He Cares” and “If You Believe,” and offer up a reminder that no burden is too great to bear if you have faith on “Help Me” and “Bible Study.” Perhaps the concert’s most affecting moment arrives with, “Let It Go,” a song which Deborah wrote in the aftermath of a debilitating stroke that nearly ended her days as a performer.

“When I had my stroke,” says Deborah, “I remembered that God does things for a reason. That’s where I was supposed to be, with my sisters by my side. I thank God for my sisters because they’ve helped me in a lot of ways, and that whole experience gave me a deeper understanding of just how much I love being with them.”

That affection extends beyond the stage, too. In 2015, the sisters released their first book, ‘Cooking With Love,’ a collection of stories and recipes passed down from their mother, who was affectionately known in their family as Mudear.

“Our mom used to smile with so much pride to see how happy we were to sit down at the table and eat her food,” says Regina, her voice lighting up at the memory. “Everyone knew what an amazing cook she was. There were lawyers and businesses and hospitals that would ask her to cook big dinners for their banquets and conferences. She’d be in that kitchen for two or three days humming and singing and cooking. The book is most of her recipes, and it’s our way of paying tribute and showing our love to her memory.”

For the McCrary Sisters, showing love is what it’s all about. This album itself is an act of love: love for their family, who joined them on the stage and the audience that night to share in  their joy; love for Nashville, which introduced them to a whole wide world of music all in one city; love for their fans, who would so often ask the sisters after concerts for a way to bring home the transcendent night of music they’d just witnessed; and most especially, love for each other. Like any family, the McCrary Sisters have had their ups and downs, but at the end of the day, there’s only one rule.

“We don’t judge,” says Regina. “We just love.”  

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Harlan T Bobo
Jun
17
7:30 PM19:30

Harlan T Bobo

Turning up on the Memphis underground music scene in the late-90’s, Harlan T. Bobo first provided instrumental sideman duties in several local bands, including Viva L’American Death Ray Music, Love Clowns, and The Limes. Then, during the early part of the next decade, Bobo began to take to local stages under his solo guise, performing his own material inspired by personally-topical romantic sagas. Displaying an aptitude for set design and theatrics, Bobo soon amassed a sizeable regional following and gradually won hearts on a national level as Goner Records released his three solo albums of nakedly-emotional, garage-inflected singer-songwriter Americana, 2004/2005’s Too Much Love (initially self-released before picked up by Goner), 2007’s I’m Your Man, and 2010’s Sucker, respectively. Upon their release, the latter two albums received excellent Pitchfork reviews, as well as unanimously positive press across a wide array of other music-coverage outlets. Live shows started becoming visual affairs, with Harlan constructing 100% of the set pieces (angel wings, lighting, etc), and also during this time, Harlan and his music was featured in Craig Brewer’s reality series, $5 Cover, which aired on MTV in 2009. Accurate comparisons to Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Wilco have punctuated write-ups of Bobo’s albums and performances, and his albums have benefited from their anomalous nature amongst Goner Records’ more rock-oriented roster and the body of work the label has amassed over its almost 20 years of activity.

 

Having done string arrangements for Cat Power’s breakthrough album, The Greatest, Bobo continued to pursue similar avenues in 2010 and 2011 when he collaborated with The Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s conductor-less “Opus One” offshoot, the brainchild of Bobo-collaborator and longtime MSO cellist and composer Jonathan Kirkscey. Opus One was conceived behind the idea of expanding the Symphony’s local demographic audience, and Harlan’s songs were first suggested due to the compositional ease and harmonious manner for which they would fit together with a chamber orchestra. For Opus One’s 2010 – 2011 season, Harlan’s original songs were classically arranged by the participating MSO players and performed, with Bobo, as chamber pieces in front of non-traditional audiences at Memphis’ premiere underground rock club, The Hi-Tone Café. The collaboration garnered a great deal of glowing press locally and after-the-fact reviews online.

In 2011, Harlan, along with fellow Memphis music notables Jack Oblivian and Shawn Crips’ The Limes, successfully funded a 40-show European “Memphis Revue” style tour through Kickstarter. Having started to split his time between France and Memphis a few years ago (eventually settling in across the pond for good), Harlan T. Bobo continued to perform solo and tour Europe as such, but soon embarked on a different project, a super-group of sorts known as The Fuzz – in 2013. The band, aside from Bobo, is more or less a rotating cast of players including former members of the 90’s scuzz-punk band Action Family (itself with ties to legends Pussy Galore and Boss Hog) and drummer Bruce Saltmarsh. Playing 2013’s Goner-Fest 10 and subsequently releasing a self-titled album of garage-ragers on Italy’s Munster Records later that year, the Fuzz (not to be confused with Ty Segall’s band of the same name) have helped expand the breadth of the Harlan T. Bobo musical frame of reference nicely. The Fuzz toured the states during the summer of 2014

2014 has seen Harlan T. Bobo, now based in France with his wife and son, busier than ever with festival appearances, touring, the rerelease of Too Much Love (CD and digital with a bonus track) via both Goner Records stateside and Spain’s Beast Records. Also, Harlan has two album’s worth of solo material – the long awaited follow-up to 2010’s Sucker. The recordings, as yet untitled, find Harlan backed by European musicians, and are slated for release in Spring of 2015.  

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The Steel Wheels
Jun
21
7:30 PM19:30

The Steel Wheels

“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.”

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Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue
Jun
22
7:30 PM19:30

Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue

There's a hallowed hall, deep within the recesses of the heart, where an amazing truth resides: The power in your life can only be experienced when broken open and shared with the people who come into it.

Back in 2005, Mike Farris cracked open the hallway door when, for the first time since the age of 15, he was clean and sober. Recording what would become the critically acclaimed Salvation in Lights (2007), a resurrected Mike eagerly anticipated the future. But with two ruptured discs, back surgery and the death of his beloved manager Rose McGathy all within a few weeks of the record's release, a rolling fog settled in. And with it, denial.

Nevertheless, Mike's career was picking up steam. He won an Americana Music Award for New/Emerging Artist in 2008, followed by a Dove Award in 2010. His live performances at Bonnaroo, SxSW, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and others-were drawing rave reviews. Revered artists like Rodney Crowell, Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, and Marty Stuart were struck by his incomparable voice, and Mike opened shows for Patti LaBelle, Mavis Staples, Blind Boys of Alabama, Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby.

By 2010, having released the award winning SHOUT! Live followed by an EP for Nashville flood relief efforts, Mike launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his next record, an independent release. His fans generously funded the project.

Serious invitations kept coming: first, to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame's 16th Annual American Music Masters concert honoring Aretha Franklin, then TEDx Nashville, and then to the inaugural Austin City Limits Hall of Fame with Double Trouble.

Mike's spirited, soul-gospel fusion had found an enthusiastic audience, but denial has a way of biting back. Compared to his former life, he thought he was fine, but truth be told, Mike had become addicted to pain medication. The new album would have to take a back seat to a gut-check, life-changing recovery. Mike went to rehab and finally began excavating the root causes of his addiction with the help of support groups at AA and NA. An isolator by nature, he struggled laying all his burdens on the table to complete strangers, but gained encouragement through the stories of others. Each honest step led to fertile, hopeful ground.

What eventually emerged from that fertile ground is Shine For All The People, the evolution of true sobriety, of finding a new identity as a servant, first as a man but also as an artist. "I'd been working on the record before my recovery, and then there was a pretty huge delay," explains Mike, who signed with Compass Records. "I had to back up, take time to grab the ground, to re-acclimate, to learn how to live now, truly sober for the first time since I was a kid."

This new normal included getting back to the process of creating new music, but there was a distinctive trajectory shift in Mike. "So many avenues of music flow through me, 100s of years of music, the music that I grew up with-from Blues, Rock, R&B and gospel-there had always been this pressure to try to force it into a box that would sell somehow. It's crazy and overwhelming at times, the weight of trying to meet expectations and make a living, but this time, that all fell away. I know now that this gift only exists to encourage people in their struggles, and if there's any power in it, it's not from me."

Released in September 2014, Shine For All The People pushes beyond Salvation in Lights in that it reveals hope not in any glory to come, but in the failures and suffering of the present. "My music has always been first and foremost for the downtrodden, the wayward...people who've had to go up the rough side of the mountain. Even when it's upbeat and inspiring, there's always been an element of pain, because truth be told, we're all flawed. Not everybody knows it, but we all are."

From the opening Cuban/St. Louis blues horns of "River Jordan," originally written and performed by Blind Willie McTell, to the divine salvation of J.B. Lenoir's "Jonah & the Whale," to the determined stance of the Rev. C.J. Johnson's "Something Keeps on Telling Me," a chorus/mantra that Mike fleshed out into a song in the months after rehab…one listen, and it's clear there's something mystical in the waters here.

"When I first heard the Rev. C.J. Johnson's version, I could feel the air in that church get still, no music, only the sound of feet on the floor and hands in the air," Mike says. "I got such strength from it, I knew I wanted to add part of my story. With his words as the chorus, and with Brigitte DeMeyer helping me out, the song serves as a compass for anyone who has lost their way."

Mary Gauthier's soul-stirring "Mercy Now," one of the first songs Mike chose for the record, is clearly foundational to the whole. "The song just mystically appeared before me a few months before my Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer," he says. "Not only did it play a major role in just helping me deal with the year that followed, including his death, but brought comfort to my entire family."

Like other choice cuts on Shine For All The People, the songs simply arrived at the appointed time, Mike says. "There was a time when I carried all the songwriting on my shoulders, but then the ego gets in the way of what it should be. These days, I don't have to write everything. I just open the door and these songs show up...songs I need to hear in my struggle, songs I know people need to hear in theirs."

Whether rearranging songs of centuries past or infusing new lyrical life to half-songs, it becomes clear that Mike's vocal gift is simply the surface of a very deep well. Full-tilt originals include "Real Fine Day," a poetic account of the birth of Christian Blue Sky Farris that features some killer Kenny Vaughn guitar hooks-"easily one of the top three days of my life, that day," Mike says, and "Power of Love," an unforgettable, high-energy soul groove and already an audience favorite.

Shine For All the People, the 2015 Grammy Award winner for Best Roots Gospel album, bears witness to the determination of putting one foot in front of the other and to the power of music to get you there. "I've discovered that falling is a divine thing," Mike adds. "It's part and parcel of being human. The important thing is to keep the faith and keep moving on and on. Daring to be courageous enough to share our deepest burdens with each other is the greatest gift we can give."

Discography

  • Goodnight Sun (2002) Independent
  • Salvation In Lights (2007) INO/Columbia Records
  • SHOUT! Live (2009) INO/Columbia Records
  • Live From Westlake Studio B EP (2009) INO/Columbia Records
  • The Night The Cumberland Came Alive EP (2010) eOne Music
  • Shine For All The People (2014) Compass Records

Awards

  • 2008 Americana Music Association's New / Emerging Artist of the Year Award
  • 2010 GMA Dove Award - Traditional Gospel Album of the Year for SHOUT! Live
  • 2015 GRAMMY Award - Best Roots Gospel Album for Shine For All The People

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Liz Vice
Jun
23
7:30 PM19:30

Liz Vice

Liz Vice is a musician best known for her Gospel, soul, and R&B-infused album entitled, “There’s A Light”. Raised in Portland, Oregon and a recent resident of Brooklyn, NY. Ms. Vice has performed and/ or shared the stage with artist such as  Cody Chesnutt, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Temptations, Lecrae, Eric Early of (Blitzen Trapper), Josh Garrels, The Wood Bothers, Tunde Baiyewu (Lighthouse Family), Luz Mendoza (Y La Bamba), Eshon Burgundy (Humble Beast), and more. 

She has gained recognition as a performing artist being named one to keep an ear out for in such publications such as OPB’s One Song, NPR’s Live Wire, Noise Trade, Relevant Magazine, and Willamette Week.

No matter how large the venue, her genuine approach to her artistry and playful interaction with the audience makes everyone feel like they're sitting at home on the couch watching a friend sing their heart out. 

Having overcome many personal obstacles, she credits her adventurous life to not forcing anything. “It’s all about risk, and taking risk is never regretful…well, most of the time.”

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Ray Wylie Hubbard
Jun
24
7:30 PM19:30

Ray Wylie Hubbard

Ray Wylie Hubbard writes the kind of songs that make you want to ride along no matter where he’s going, because you know it’s gonna get strange somewhere along the way. Anyone who’s followed him over the long and winding path he has traveled already knows he possesses the kind of exceptional gift for observation that any songwriter yearns for. 

In the 1970s, Ray Wylie Hubbard joined country music "outlaws" Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson as part of the progressive country vanguard on the Texas music scene. Unlike the clean-cut crooners from Nashville, these Austin and Dallas cowboys grew their hair long and added a healthy dose of rock 'n' roll to their music. A leading figure of the progressive country movement, Hubbard is also well-known for authoring the perennial anthem "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother" recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker in 1973.               
                                                           
"And while that song certainly helped launch his career," noted David Goodman in Modern Twang, "its immense popularity has tended to obscure the depth and complexity of Hubbard as a songwriter and musician."

Hubbard's writing became deeply spiritual, dense with allegory and allusion, his musical landscape stalked by preachers with a pistol in one hand and a Bible in the other." Ten albums later, Hubbard has continued to solidify himself as an elder statesman of Texas Music and a songwriter's songwriter. In recent years, his music has found a comfortable place atop the Americana Music Charts where he continues to contribute to one of the most flourishing genres of the century.

Jim Caligiuri noted in the Austin Chronicle that "Hubbard has become one of the best singer-songwriters of our time. Since 1992, he's released a series of albums, each more impressive than the last."

In April 2015 Ray released The Ruffian's Misfortune to mass critical praise and will tour relentlessly in support of the new release. He will also release his autobiography "A Life...Well Lived" later in the year.

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Paul Thorn /Blind Boys of Alabama
Jun
29
7:30 PM19:30

Paul Thorn /Blind Boys of Alabama

The 2018 Levitt National Tour will feature acclaimed Southern raconteur Paul Thorn and his five-piece band as he teams up with five-time GRAMMY-winning Gospel legends, Blind Boys of Alabama, for a one-of-a-kind musical collaboration. Billed as the “Mission Temple Fireworks Revival,” the unprecedented co-headline Levitt National Tour was inspired by Thorn’s 2018 album Don’t Let The Devil Ride—a celebration of the first music Thorn ever experienced, journeying through classic gospel, soul and spirituals, and featuring contributions from Blind Boys of Alabama among other artists. Levitt audiences across the country will experience these exhilarating, soulful shows blending old-school gospel with rock, blues and country.

Paul Thorn has created an innovative and impressive career, pleasing crowds with his muscular brand of roots music – bluesy, rocking and thoroughly Southern American, while speaking universal truths. Raised in Tupelo, Miss., among the same spirits (and some of the actual people) who nurtured the young Elvis generation before, Thorn has rambled down back roads and jumped out of airplanes, worked for years in a furniture factory, battled four-time world champion boxer Roberto Duran on national television, signed with and been dropped by a major label, performed on stages with Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, Sting, and John Prine among many others, and has made some of the most emotionally restless yet fully accessible music of our time. He’s also appeared on major television shows such as Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, been the subject of numerous National Public Radio (NPR) features and charted multiple times on the Billboard Top 100 and Americana Radio Charts.

Blind Boys of Alabama are recognized worldwide as living legends of gospel music. Celebrated by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) with Lifetime Achievement Awards, inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and winners of five GRAMMY Awards, they have attained the highest levels of achievement in a career that spans almost 80 years. Blind Boys are known for crossing multiple musical boundaries with their remarkable interpretations of everything from traditional gospel favorites to contemporary spiritual material by songwriters such as Eric Clapton, Prince and Tom Waits. They have appeared on recordings with many artists, including Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville, Susan Tedeschi, Ben Harper, Patty Griffin and Taj Mahal. Blind Boys of Alabama have appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, The Grammy Awards, 60 Minutes, The Colbert Report and many other television shows.

Levitt National Tour audiences are in for an electrifying evening of gospel meets blues meets rock!

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Stax Academy
Jun
30
7:30 PM19:30

Stax Academy

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.

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Jonny P
Jul
5
7:30 PM19:30

Jonny P

“Suppose all music is apple pie,” says Jonny P. “Every genre is apple pie, but soul music is the only one that’s served hot with ice cream on the side.” In just a few years the Bronx-born, Nashville-based singer- songwriter has served up some truly delicious tunes rooted in the sounds of the past but anchored firmly and irrevocably in the present, defined by disarmingly direct arrangements, a superlatively smooth vocal style, and an undying belief in the power of soul. “Soul music should invoke all the emotions. If it’s a crying song, you should be bawling your eyes out. If it’s a happy song, you should be grinning from ear to ear.” 

Jonny P is a soul visionary. In addition to wrapping his first role in the upcoming film by director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal (who won Oscars for The Hurt Locker), a fictionalized chronicle of the Detroit riots of 1967, he released his second EP, Good To You, April 21st. Working with mix engineer Tom Elmhirst (Adele, Frank Ocean, Amy Winehouse), drummer James Gadson (Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Herbie Hancock) and produced by Goffrey Moore (Momma Rosa: Bryan Blade), Jonny P has crafted a set of songs that showcase his superlatively silky vocals, his declarative melodies, and his less- is-much-more arrangements. Whether he’s posing a simple question (“Just Say I Do”) or promising lifelong devotion (“Good to You”), his music sounds both warmly familiar and vividly innovative.

“If you know anything about soul music,” he says, “you know for sure that it came from the church.” That’s exactly where this son of Jamaican immigrants spent much of his childhood, and that formative experience helped build the foundation for his musical career. “Being in prayer meetings and church services, I was introduced to a style of singing that comes right from the gut. You’d have people singing from their hearts, with a live band improvising on a Sunday morning, extending hymns and using music to embellish their faith. That captivated me. It showed me that music could tap into people’s emotions and help them express something in themselves.” 

Of course, any kid growing up in New York City will be exposed to every kind of music, and just walking down his block in the Bronx gave Jonny P a deep musical education. “Everybody’s got a massive system blasting out of the trunk. All sorts of music got to me and got a hold of me: hip-hop, Latin music, a lot of reggae. I heard it all. As many different colors of people as there are in New York City, that’s how many styles of music I heard as a kid. It was like the streets were talking to me all the time.” Those profound lessons still define his style and sensibility many years later. “Everything that I am, everything that I’m trying to accomplish—I owe every ounce of who I am to New York City. Growing up in the Bronx, you have no limits at all. You feel like you can do everything.” 

Upon arrival in Tennessee, Jonny P worked four jobs at once, driving all over town to earn money. While most music fans would use those commutes to blast their favorite tunes—to sing along with Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson—Jonny P turned the radio off. He sang to himself, drummed on the steering wheel, let his creative mind wander from one idea to the next. Snippets of songs came to him, fragments of melodies or stray rhythms or lines of lyrics. “I have to drive in silence. Some days it’s the only quiet time I have. If an idea sucks, then I’m the only who knows it sucks. If it’s great, only I know it’s great.” 

When a song is finished, he builds a demo at his home in East Nashville, playing all the instruments himself and laying them down one at a time: bass and drums, guitar and piano, then finally voice. “Every single ounce of it is work. I’ll work on a song from 10 o’clock in the morning until 1 AM.” 

This creative process, while time-consuming and laborious, not only weeds out the weaker ideas but results in gracefully minimalist arrangements that are quickly becoming Jonny P’s sonic signature. In 2014 he self-released his debut EP, Right to You (also produced by Goffrey Moore), which introduced him as one of Nashville’s most thrilling new voices, and his new material builds off that strong foundation. 

New songs like “Say I Do” and “It’s Our Time” deploy the fewest instruments possible to convey a dizzying range of complex emotions, from pure joy to measured melancholy. “Stuff that’s happening in society means it’s a tough time to be in this business, but as an artist it’s a great time to be alive. You don’t have to search far to find heart-grabbing things that need to be said.” 

Jonny P has a clear vision of how soul music can sound and what it can do in the 21st century. He’s no revivalist—primarily because he doesn’t believe soul needs to be revived. “It’s so important to me to add to the story of soul music. I don’t want to create a record that has to go up against Sam Cooke or Otis Redding or anybody like that. If I tried to create some thing that sounds identical to them, I personally would never spin that record. It’s just a moment in time that can’t be re-created. Hopefully I can help carry it forward because more than anything else, soul music is about right now.” 

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Rev. Sekou
Jul
6
7:30 PM19:30

Rev. Sekou

Noted activist, theologian, author, documentary filmmaker, and musician, Reverend Osagyefo Sekou was born in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in the rural Arkansas Delta. Rev. Sekou's music is an unique combination of North Mississippi Hill Country Music, Arkansas Delta Blues, Memphis Soul and Pentecostal steel guitar. In May 2017, he released "In Times Like These” produced the six-time Grammy nominated North Mississippi Allstars. AFROPUNK heralded the ”deep bone-marrow-level conviction” of his first album, “The Revolution Has Come”. The single, “We Comin'”--was named the new anthem for the modern Civil Rights movement by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  A consummate entertainer,  Paste Studio celebrated his barn-burning performance saying: "Rev. Sekou delivers the spiritual performance we need now."

A leading public intellectual, Rev. Sekou is releasing 5 books with Chalice Press—a publisher of progressive religious thought. Chalice Press is republishing Rev. Sekou's "Urbansouls: Meditations on Youth, Hip Hop, and Religion" and "Gods, Gays, and Guns: Essays on Religion and the Future of Democracy". His new titles are "The Task of the Artist in the Time of Monsters"; "This Ain't Yo' Daddy's Civil Rights Movement: Ferguson, Black Lives Matter and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr";  and "A Liberation Theology of Ferguson"; He has written widely on the 2011 killing of Mark Duggan by British police and the subsequent London riots, and is the author of the forthcoming "Riot Music: Race, Hip Hop and the Meaning of the London Riots 2011" (Hamilton Books). 

 

Rev. Sekou was a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Education and Research Institute at the time of Michael Brown Jr.’s killing, and traveled to Ferguson in mid-August 2014 on behalf of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (the country’s oldest interfaith peace organization) to organize alongside local and national groups. With the Deep Abiding Love Project, he has helped trained over five thousands activists in militant nonviolent civil disobedience through the United States.  He spent 6 weeks on the ground in Charlotteville, VA training clergy in response to the Unite the Right rally. 

Reverend Sekou is featured in Orlando de Guzman’s 2015 documentary film Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory. He was arrested multiple times during the Ferguson Uprising, including for ‘Praying while Black’ outside the Ferguson Police Department in September, alongside over 40 clergy, faith leaders and community members during the 500-strong Moral Monday protest during last year’s Ferguson October convergence, and, more recently, on Moral Monday 2015, as part of more than 50 people and faced federal charges following a sit-in at the Department of Justice. In February 2016, Reverend Sekou stood trial for his first arrest in Ferguson and was found not guilty. In May 2015, Reverend Sekou moved back to St. Louis to focus on organizing against police violence, predatory court systems, and economic and social injustice.

His documentary short film, Exiles in the Promised Land is based on his visit to a refugee camp and lecture in Beirut, Lebanon. It was selected for the Amnesty International Human Rights Film Festival (2009).  Having studied continental philosophy at the New School, systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary, and religion at Harvard University, Rev. Sekou has lectured widely, including at Princeton University, Harvard Divinity School, the University of Virginia, University of Paris IV - La Sorbonne, and Vanderbilt University, and is a former Professor of Preaching in the Graduate Theological Urban Studies Program at the Seminary Consortium of Urban Pastoral Education, Chicago, IL. Rev. Sekou was selected by Ebony Magazine’s Power 100, NAACP History Makers (2015), and on the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 100 –list of creative thinkers. He received the Keeper of the Flame Award from the National Voting Rights Institute and Museum in Selma, AL, and was appointed a Associate Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies.

Reverend Sekou served as Pastor for Formation and Justice at First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Boston. He was formerly Senior Pastor of Lemuel Haynes Congregational Church in Queens, served as Special Assistant on Social Justice to the Bishop for the Church of God in Christ, Senior Community Minister at New York’s Judson Memorial Church, and Social Justice Minister at Middle Collegiate Church, New York. He has been Fellow-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, and as Ella Baker Fellow at New York Theological Seminary's Micah Institute, he served as a strategist organizing clergy for economic justice in New York City.

He is a founding national coordinator for Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq (CALC-I), which represented over 300 faith-based institutions and organizations working to end the war in Iraq. In 2006, CALC-I led a civil disobedience at the White House at which more than 350 people were arrested, including sixty religious leaders. Reverend Sekou was a delegate to the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2010. was a member of the inaugural Dorothy Cotton Institute Palestinian/Israeli Non-Violence Project’s delegation of US Civil Rights leaders to the West Bank in 2012. Reverend Sekou served as Editor as Chief of Spare Change News, the nation's oldest continuous street newspaper, from 2012-2013.

Reverend Sekou also served on the National Political Hip Hop Convention Platform Committee and was Senior Adviser the 2004 Kucinich Presidential campaign. Following Hurricane Katrina, Reverend Sekou moved to New Orleans, founding the local Interfaith Worker Justice Center.

Rev. Sekou co-led an interfaith delegation to Haiti one month after the tragic earthquake.  He built toilets alongside the Haitian people. Based on a Lecture he delivered in Beirut, Lebanon, his short documentary film, Exiles in the Promised Land: The Quest for Home focuses on the plights of Palestinians, Iraqi, and post-Katrina New Orleans. The film was accepted at the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival.  Rev. Sekou was a delegate to the People's World Climate Change Conference in Bolivia. He was a delegate to the Interdependence Day Conferences in Istanbul, Turkey and Berlin, Germany. 

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Seratones
Jul
7
7:30 PM19:30

Seratones

Get Gone, the potent debut album by the Shreveport, Louisiana natives in Seratones, makes a strong case that this little-known corner of the state is fertile ground, musically speaking. A.J. Haynes (vocals), Connor Davis (guitar), Adam Davis (bass) and Jesse Gabriel (drums) serve up a combination of Southern musicality, garage rock ferocity, and general badassery.

Haynes’s powerful singing voice, first honed at Brownsville Baptist Church in Columbia, Louisiana at age 6, rings across every track. Davis’s bass and Gabriel’s playing propel every song with the grit, energy, and rawness of punk, the feeling of soul, and occasionally, a little jazz swing. The other Davis offers a clinic in guitar riffs, from swaggering blues to searing interstellar leads.

Recorded at Dial Back Sound studios in Mississippi, Get Gone is all live takes, a portrait of the Seratones in their element. Add the soul and swagger of a juke joint with the electricity coursing through a basement DIY show, and you’d begin to approach the experience of seeing this foursome live. The well-paced, multi-faceted set showcases a band dedicated to sonic exploration. “Don’t Need It,” which opens with a muscular swing and tight guitar lines, builds into a monster finish with a nasty corkscrew of a guitar line. “Sun,” a brawny thrasher, courses with huge, raw voltage riffs. “Chandelier,” a mid-tempo burner and vocal workout by Haynes, goes from croon to a crescendo that would shake any crystals hanging from the rafters.

Shared history in the city’s music scene brought the Seratones together a few years ago. All four had played together with one or another in various local punk bands, bonding through all-ages basement shows, gigs at skate parks and BBQ joints, and late nights listening to jazz and blues records. In a city of multiple genres, no fixed musical identity and a flood of cover bands, these adventurous musicians carved out their own path, personifying the do-it-yourself ethos. The group was quickly recognized after forming, winning the Louisiana Music Prize in 2013.

“Shreveport is always shifting its identity,” says Haynes. “You can do a lot of different things when it seems like every band is its own genre.”

Seratones’s music, created with collaborative songwriting and spontaneous creativity, is certainly their own, due perhaps in part to Shreveport’s unique sonic geography. The city sits at a nexus roughly equidistant from Memphis soul, Mississippi Delta Blues, and New Orleans jazz, with Texas swing located just over the nearby state border. The band’s sound draws from those touch points and more, ranging from Black Sabbath’s Paranoid to Kind of Blue. They’ll happily connect the dots between Ornette Coleman and Jello Biafra.

Seratones have different names for the amalgamation of styles found on their debut: Their own “expression of freedom,” music that’s “all about waking people up,” a safe space to feel what you want. However you choose to describe it, Get Gone is unexpected and unbowed, a head-snapping showcase of the twin pillars of Southern music, restlessness and resourcefulness.

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Yemen Blues
Jul
8
7:30 PM19:30

Yemen Blues

Conceived from vocalist Ravid Kahalani’s vision, Yemen Blues’ original music mixes of Yemen and West Africa influences with contemporary grooves from funk to mambo and the deep soul of old chants. Conjuring up a rich and diverse aural palette with the use of percussion, oud, horns, and strings, Yemen Blues coexists in both the past and present, at once timeless and modern. The collective is a true collaboration of top master musicians, its core including Ravid Kahalani, Itamar Doari, Rony Iwryn, Shanir Blumenkranz and Itamar Borochov.

Yemen Blues was founded by Ravid in 2010, a then rising star in Israel who grew up in a traditional Yemenite family. He learned the language and the traditional chants of his origin, and then extended his influences in the areas of Blues, Funk, Classic Opera singing as well North & West African soul.

He joined forces with internationally renown bass player and composer Omer Avital, and together they created a music vision that attracted media and promoters with their intense showcases. The addition of Israeli-Uruguayan percussionist Rony Iwryn, Israeli

percussionist Itamar Doari, New York trumpeter Itamar Borochov solidified the group’s diverse. In 2012 A known New York bassist and oud player Shanir Blumenkranz joined the band when Omer Avital left the band to focus on his own projects. These days, Yemen Blues more then ever developing their electrifying sound with Ravid's vision and the phenomenal core of Yemen Blues to a new album and powerful live show.

Yemen Blues’ myriad influences carry over on stage, where the ensemble navigates from the boisterous to the romantic, from joyous celebration to anguished balladry. Horns fire off emphatically,

percussion adds deep rhythmic textures, and the enchanting oud strums out subtle melodies. Frankly, Yemen Blues is one of the most gripping and fun live bands in contemporary music today.

Yemen Blues has toured extensively over the past several years, performing for enraptured audiences across the globe. Top musicians from around the world are taking notice as well.

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JD McPherson
Jul
12
7:30 PM19:30

JD McPherson

Undivided Heart & Soul (2017)

“I was having nightmares every night, thinking, ‘Wow, they’re going to hate this,” says JD
McPherson.

When he talks about his new album, Undivided Heart & Soul, there’s no glimmer of self-adulation, or even the confidence one might expect of a veteran artist. Instead, there’s a snapshot of McPherson’s creative process bringing the record to life, a journey filled with fear and change, then boldness, and, eventually, catharsis.

The best rock music has a story to tell. This record chronicles a series of upheavals, frustrations, roadblocks, and kismet—a cross-country move, failed creative relationships, a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity, and learning to love making music again by letting go.

McPherson calls moving his family from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, to East Nashville a decision based “on opportunity” and one he was reluctant to make but notes the profound influence the city has had on his new crop of songs.

“Up to this point, I thought I knew what I was doing with songwriting, that I don’t do this or that,” McPherson says. “Writing with people who co-write for a living…maybe I saw myself as John Henry, and them as the steel-driving machine.”

Along with collaborations with fellow Oklahoman Parker Millsap, Butch Walker, and Aaron Lee Tasjan, McPherson’s selections for Undivided Heart & Soul include many deeply personal themes: “Let’s Get Out of Here While We’re Young” shares writing credits with longtime bandmate Ray Jacildo and McPherson’s wife Mandy. He also delved into character profiles, both fictional and based on real-life experiences, stories McPherson has held onto but never thought of as fodder for songwriting, such as the Las Vegas bus station interlude detailed in “Style (Is a Losing Game).”

“That seems like a pretty normal thing for a singer-songwriter to do, to write about personal experience, but I really have never done that,” McPherson says. “It felt great but it also was tough at the same time. The thing is, John Henry is trying to beat the machine because he’s in awe of it. It was a lot of me saying, ‘You’re really good at this, and I have a hard time doing it.’”

With a group of soul-baring tracks taking shape, McPherson and crew scheduled studio time to help force the issue. It quickly became apparent that these sessions were not going to work, bringing McPherson’s momentum to a halt.

To clear his head, he flew to Los Angeles at the invitation of friend and longtime supporter Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, who was also recording at the time. McPherson, Homme, and his Queens bandmate Dean Fertita played around with some songs, with Homme pushing McPherson outside of his comfort zone in a no-stakes environment.

“His thing was, ‘I’m going to throw all kinds of crap onto your songs that you’re not going to want to hear, and you’re going to play ridiculous stuff you wouldn’t normally do,’ and Dean was kind of the calming presence,” McPherson says.

McPherson calls the getaway “the most fun I’ve had since I was 15 years old” and returned to Nashville with a clear head, internal filters successfully stifled, ready to move forward.

That fresh perspective in tow, McPherson learned that the long-shot “backup” studio, the legendary RCA Studio B in Nashville, was willing to host his band for the making of the record. RCA Studio B was fundamental to the creation of the “Nashville Sound,” and the ghosts of some of the greatest songs in history live within its walls: Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” and Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” among them.

Artists who choose to record at Studio B are met with a rigorous list of requirements, including using a recording method appropriate during the studio’s heyday. Since the studio is a working museum by day, the entirety of McPherson’s workspace had to be reset at night: Load in all equipment in the late afternoon, work until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., and leave no trace nightly. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

“Those rules would probably turn a lot of bands off, but they turned us on, 100 percent,” McPherson says. “I really love walking into a classic studio as much as I love getting my hands on a really old guitar. I like knowing that something was used for a long time and has good things in it.”

But this isn’t an old Nashville record, by any measurement, nor is it the record McPherson set out to make, with credit due to co-producer Dan Molad (also the drummer for Lucius).

“There’s a pretty broad gap in our tastes, what we do and what we’re into,” McPherson says. Where he’s as likely to lean on The Cramps as he is Irma Thomas for inspiration, Molad’s left-field production suggestions included a Casio synthesizer and running a Fender Rhodes through a tape delay. (McPherson nixed the former; the latter became the signature sound of one of the record’s tracks.) “We ended up learning a lot from each other, and he did a lot of stuff I’d have never thought to do.”

During the song “Let’s Get Out of Here While We’re Young,” JD sputters the line “We’ve worn out all the songs we’ve sung.” This is not a statement McPherson takes lightly.

“This record was difficult for me to make, difficult to write, difficult to record. It took a lot for me to say that I can’t force these songs to be the way people are expecting,” McPherson says.

Undivided Heart & Soul is a statement record, one that asserts McPherson as he is now, battle-weary but stronger than ever. 

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Sammy Miller & The Congregation
Jul
14
7:30 PM19:30

Sammy Miller & The Congregation

Sammy Miller and The Congregation are on a mission to put the generosity back into jazz and bring art back to the people.

We play joyful jazz -- music that feels good. It is a style that entertains, enriches, but most of all uplifts.

A native of Los Angeles, Grammy®-nominated drummer Sammy Miller has become known for his unique maturity and relentless focus on making music that feels good as a drummer, singer and bandleader. Upon completing his Master's at The Juilliard School, Sammy formed his ensemble, The Congregation. As a band, they are focused on sharing the power of community through their music -- joyful jazz.

Arts Nova selected The Congregation for the 'Makers Lab' in 2017 to produce their original theater jazz show, "Great Awakening." While independently the band members have performed and recorded with notable artists including Wynton Marsalis, Iron and Wine, and Jason Mraz at venues including the White House, Lincoln Center and the Hollywood Bowl, they have opted to stick together to spread joy throughout the world.

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Peterson Brothers
Jul
15
7:30 PM19:30

Peterson Brothers

The Peterson Brothers combine youthful energy and modern influences with old-school blues, soul and funk to a create a sound that is uniquely their own. Their live shows feature jam-band style improvisation.

Led by Glenn Jr., 21 and Alex, 18, the Peterson Brothers have toured throughout the United States, and had the opportunity to play with and open for the likes of Gary Clark Jr., Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Buddy Guy, the late B.B. King and other musical greats. They have also played festivals throughout the U.S., including the Chicago Blues Festival, Minnesota State Fair, Riverbend Festival, Austin City Limits Festival, Ogden Roots and Blues, King Biscuit Festival, Old Settler’s Music Fest, Kerrville Folk Festival, Lancaster Blues & Roots, Allentown Blues, Brews & Barbecue, and many more.

With a standing room only weekly residency at Austin’s famed music hall, The Continental Club, the Peterson Brothers have been referred to as, “The future of Austin music” by Mark Murray of Sun Radio, and “Some of the most talented musicians I have seen come out of Austin” by Jamfeed.

"The Peterson brothers, two barely-legal sibling guitarists from Texas, played one
 of the funkiest, most fun headline sets the festival has seen.” -The Morning Call

“You can’t help but smile when you watch them play” -Texas Lifestyle Magazine

“Their set was bristling with fun and infectious energy” -Austin360.com

“The Peterson Brothers Band  just rolled into Houston and killed
 it with blues, funk and some good ol rock n roll....” -Hanks Americana Radio

“The Peterson Brothers delivered an amazing blues and R&B set
 that was part Isaac Hayes, part Stevie Ray Vaughan and part Stanley Clarke.”
-Twangville.com

“The only thing missing from the Peterson Brothers Band is the
 word "amazing" at the front of the name.” -San Antonio Express-News

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Stars at the Shell: Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real
May
10
8:00 PM20:00

Stars at the Shell: Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real

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GENERAL ADMISSION - $20 IN ADVANCE/ $25 DAY OF SHOW

STARS AT THE SHELL IS A FUNDRAISING EVENT BENEFITING THE LEVITT SHELL. 

The Levitt Shell presents 50 free concerts each year.  Our mission is building a stronger Memphis community through free music, finding common ground in a diverse audience.  All proceeds from Stars at the Shell support the free concerts.  We thank you for your support!

    LUKAS NELSON & PROMISE OF THE REAL

    Since forming 10 years ago, the buzz surrounding Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real has been intensifying. Lukas’ profile continued to rise when he contributed three songs and heavenly vocals to his dad Willie Nelson’s 2012 album, Heroes, their voices blending with potent DNA. Then two years later, life took another turn skyward when Neil Young decided to make Promise of the Real his touring and studio band. Young has guided the grateful young musicians ever since as they’ve backed the legend on tour around the world and on his two most recent albums.

    The band woodshedded; averaging more than 200 shows a year.  Drawing on Lukas’ lineage as well surrogate uncles like Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and the classic rock and roll of J.J. Cale, The Band, Clapton era Delaney and Bonnie and of course mentor Neil Young, they began to develop their own distinctive style of American music.

    Coming of age in a celebrated musical family, Lukas Nelson learned early on that true originality is hard won, never given. Doubtlessly blessed with a measure of musical ability, it’s clear that his natural gifts have been honed by a singular devotion to craft and a deep appreciation for the sacrifice a creative life requires. Elated by the way things have come together so beautifully, Lukas is gratified that POTR have earned this moment and seized the opportunities that have led to this album—all perfectly capturing what he’d heard in his head 18 months earlier.

    “It’s just amazing how things have flowed,” Lukas marvels. “It feels divine in a way.”

    A few special notes about this event:

    • Gates open at 6:00pm.
    • Food and beverages (including wine and beer) will be sold at multiple concession stands throughout the area.
    • No outside food, drinks, coolers or pets are allowed at this event.
    • This event is rain or shine.
    • Because this is a fundraiser, no refunds are available.
    • Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome in General Admission seating areas. 
    • The Levitt Shell is wheelchair accessible.
    • No professional photography, video or audio recording equipment.
    • Kids 12 and under are admitted free in general admission area only.  
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    The Blue Stones
    Oct
    20
    7:00 PM19:00

    The Blue Stones

    Canadian indie-blues duo THE BLUE STONES released their long-awaited second full-length album “Black Holes”.

    The Blue Stones 2012 release “How’s That Sound?” was featured on Bandcamp’s best-selling list in 2013. Their smash single “Rolling with the Punches” propelled the band forward as it featured on hit television shows including Suits, Parks & Recreation, Necessary Roughness and Battle Creek. To date, “Rolling with the Punches” has garnered more than 1,000,000 views and spins between YouTube and Spotify.

    “Black Holes” is a darker departure from the band’s previous blues-rock issue. Nevertheless, fans and critics very much recognize their sound. Canadian rock legend Ian Blurton took the lead on production. Guitarist/vocalist Tarek Jafar mentioned “He lent deep insight to the songwriting process; the songs were a lot better after our writing sessions together,” The album was mastered by Jim Diamond of Ghetto Recorders, who has also produced and recorded albums for The White Stripes.

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    Emily Barker
    Oct
    15
    7:00 PM19:00

    Emily Barker

    Emily Barker’s new album Sweet Kind of Blue is love story, between Barker and Memphis.

    To understand how this love affair began, you have to go right back to the start… Barker grew up in remote, rural Western Australia; a childhood that was blessed with an almost idyllic, roaming freedom instilled not only an itinerant spirit, but also a mighty work ethic that has seen her playing over two hundred shows a year and on the cusp of releasing what will be her tenth studio album (including her albums with The Red Clay HaloVena Portae and last year’s acclaimed debut as part of country trio Applewood Road).

    It is largely thanks to John Peel that Emily Barker first settled in the UK. After leaving home to see the world, she ended up on the Cambridge folk scene, and formed the band, the-low-country. Just as she was considering resuming her studies back home, Peel started playing them on Radio 1, so she stayed. Her music has since been described as “heartfelt songwriting… bridging the gap between folk, country and Fleetwood Mac” (The Times), “ambitious and beautifully wrought” (Q), while the Guardian applauds her “gift for great melodies.”

    This gift has not gone unnoticed by film makers, resulting in Barker penning and performing theme songs for award-winning television dramas Wallander and The Shadow Line as well as an entire musical score for Jake Gavin’s poignant and well-received 2015 road movie, Hector, starring Peter Mullan.

    Since taking a hiatus from multi-instrumental all-female group The Red Clay Halo, with whom she made four albums, Barker has been edging closer to the sources of her musical inspiration. At a tender age, her mother taught her to sing harmonies while her father introduced her to his record collection (they didn’t own a television). And then as she entered her teens, she discovered the blues and soul of Aretha FranklinKoko Taylor and Bettye LaVette, and that’s where this story really begins.

    In recent years Barker has made herself at home in Nashville and Memphis, performing, collaborating and basking in musical history. In Nashville in 2014 she formed the trio Applewood Road with Tennessee-based songwriters Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace. Their eponymous LP was recorded at Welcome to 1979 studio in Nashville. Applewood Road was a regular on best-of-2016 album lists, they toured extensively, played Glastonbury and Cambridge Folk Festivals and made numerous television appearances.

    On a visit to Muscle Shoals, Barker was shown around Fame Studios, where she fell in love with the old equipment used to record Aretha FranklinOtis Redding and Etta James. Soon after arriving back in the UK, she cropped her hair, got a slick black suit and a beautiful 1937 Gibson, and recorded a stripped-down solo album at analogue Toe Rag studios in East London (where The White Stripes recorded Elephant). The seeds of Sweet Kind of Blue were well and truly sown.

    Meanwhile, plans for her new record started taking shape soon after. She was introduced to Grammy-winning producer Matt Ross-Spang, and the two hit it off straight away. Ross-Spang was the catalyst that brought Barker and Memphis together – born and bred in “Bluff City”, he honed in on where Barker’s roots lay as soon as she played him the songs she had been writing for the album.

    Sweet Kind of Blue was recorded in June 2016, at the legendary Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, where the tapes have been rolling since 1960. Phillips opened his dream studio (he called it “the Cape Canaveral of studios”) after he and his artists Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and B B King outgrew Sun Studio, a few blocks away.

    The stars were perfectly aligned for the Memphis sessions. Barker brought her songs, her guitar, that cathedral of a voice and her irrepressible freewheeling spirit. Ross-Spang was riding high following his Grammy for Jason Isbell’s Something More than Free, and the runaway success of Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. Sam Phillips’ son Jerry, and granddaughter Halley, welcomed Barker into the fold and couldn’t tear themselves away from the studio throughout recording. And as each track was laid down, Barker, her band (you will have heard these musicians on Cat Power’s The Greatest as well as records by Neil YoungBooker T and the MGsAl Green and many more) and everyone in the control room fell a little bit more in love with each other. Spines tingled and eyes did not remain dry.

    The result is an intoxicating blend of Barker penned songs about loves lost, heartrending humanity, the rush of the road trip and the sheer glory of a new love. The first single, ‘Sister Goodbye’, is a soulful tribute to one of Barker’s guitar-slinging heroes, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, while the title track, ‘Sweet Kind of Blue’ captures the beautiful urgency of missing a new lover. Its name, says Barker, “also nods to the record’s blues elements, with blue-eyed soul being the ’60s term for white artists performing rhythm and blues”. But the making of Sweet Kind of Blue is a love story in itself, between Barker and Memphis.

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    Royal Studios 60th Anniversary
    Oct
    14
    7:00 PM19:00

    Royal Studios 60th Anniversary

    An anniversary celebration of Royal Studios' 60th Anniversary will be taking the stage as part of the 2017 Orion FCU Free Music Concert Series at Levitt Shell

    FREE music, great times, family friendly, food trucks, concessions, outdoors, and more! Levitt Shell strives to strengthen and build community by providing FREE music in a great environment.

    Entertainment starts promptly at 7:00PM.

    Line up: 

    1. Deering and Down 
    2. Devil Train 
    3. Joe Schicke 
    4. Mike Doughty 
    5. J Howell 
    6. Lil Al and G Rube 
    7. Uriah  
    8. Gangsta Blac 
    9. Mojo Medicine Machine 
    10. Rusty Pieces 
    11. Orlando 
    12. Kia Johnson 
    13. Barbra Blue 
    14. Preston Shannon 

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    FreeWorld
    Oct
    13
    7:00 PM19:00

    FreeWorld

    FreeWorld has been an independent, regionally touring, ever-evolving Memphis-based musical ensemble since 1987, and are currently celebrating their 30th Anniversary in 2017. Drawing from influences as broad-based as Booker T. & the MGs, John Coltrane, Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead, Steely Dan and The Meters, these brothers under one multicultural groove have remained a consistently entertaining and informed voice on the Memphis music scene since the groups inception.

    Featuring current band members that range in age from 18 to 87-year- old jazz saxophone legend Dr. Herman Green (who has performed &/or recorded with the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, B.B. King, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Phineas & Calvin Newborn, Bob Weir, Stephen Perkins and a host of others during his 72 year professional music career), FreeWorld is literally; new school meets old school, and has been variously described as ;The best of Memphis, New Orleans, San Francisco - all rolled into one fresh & excitingly unique musical experience!

    They've also had the privilege of sharing the stage with a wide variety of musical legends over the years, such as Levon Helm, The Memphis Horns, Billy Preston, Bootsy Collins, Richie Havens, Blues Traveler, Derek Trucks, Hot Tuna, Los Lobos, Merl Saunders, Dr. John, Timothy Leary, John Sinclair, The Bar-Kays, Ann Peebles, Steve Cropper, James Cotton, Mojo Buford, Jimmie Vaughan & Double Trouble, Susan Tedeschi, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, and Widespread Panic just to name a few.

    FreeWorld was honored to receive a coveted Brass Note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame in 2012, and have a brand new studio CD entitled “What It Is” set for release in the Fall of 2017, recorded at Ardent Studios here in Memphis (featuring a special guest appearance on drums & vocals by Jody Stephens of Big Star fame), and mixed by the incomparable Dave Aron at Hollywood Way Studios in Los Angeles, CA.

    Keep your eyes & ears tuned in to FreeWorld throughout 2017, as this celebratory year stands as a proud milestone in the band’s musical odyssey that now spans almost a third of a century.

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    Love Light Orchestra
    Oct
    12
    7:00 PM19:00

    Love Light Orchestra

    Love Light Orchestra is the real-deal Memphis Blues. The kind of sophisticated blues and jazz sounds you would have heard floating from the windows of The Palace on Beale Street in the 40’s and 50’s.

    LLO features Blues Music Award-winner John Nemeth on vocals, Joe Restivo on guitar, Tim Goodwin on bass, Earl Lowe on drums, Gerald Stephens on keys, and a five piece horn section that includes Marc Franklin, Scott Thompson, Art Edmaiston, Jason Yasinksy, and Kirk Smothers. The band has recently signed to Blue Barrel Records and the group is working on a full-length release with producer Matt Ross-Spang.

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    Lady Rizo
    Oct
    8
    7:00 PM19:00

    Lady Rizo

    Updated: 10/8/2017

    Due to local, forecasted conditions in the area caused by Hurricane Nate, we made the very tough decision to cancel tonight's show with Lady Rizo in hope that an alternate location could be found. Her fantastic management team was able to do so and will be putting on the show themselves at Clayborn Temple. For more information regarding the show, check out Lady Rizo

    Thank you for your patience and understanding. These are very tough calls, especially when they have to be made in advance, and we do our best to meet the needs of our artists and audience. We hope to see you all back out with us later this week with great free music by Lovelight OrchestraFreeWorld's 30th AnniversaryRoyal Studios, and Emily Barker. Full lineup www.levittshell.org or download the Levitt Shell app.

    The NY Times described the Lady Rizo stage show as a “…fierce but kindhearted fusion of comedy, burlesque, performance art and rock ’n’ roll.” What’s not to love? She will be bringing a family friendly and fun for all ages version to Memphis.

    Having veritably invented “caburlesque” with her 2005 show Lady Rizo & the Assettes, she went on to earn a 2010 Grammy for a collab with, of all people, Yo Yo Ma. Now, in advance of the release of her second album, she’s got a quite fabulous new single, “Hit of You,” which BlackBook premieres here.

    Never one to record the obvious, the song comes off like Queen’s “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon,” as produced by Sgt. Pepper era George Martin, and performed in 1930s Weimar. Got that?

    She elaborates, “It’s about the feeling of euphoria that you associate with the best lover or a really great audience. [It features a] Lewis Carroll pitter-patter rap, and feels like falling down a rabbit hole.”

    Totally.

    The follow up to her 2013 debut album Violet will be released this August 18. And it’s fittingly titled Indigo – which is known to be the color of perception and intuition.

    “It’s like a tour of a grand old house,” she says of the album, “Every song is a different room.”

    We can’t wait to get lost in it.

    Website

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    Paul Thorn
    Oct
    7
    7:00 PM19:00

    Paul Thorn

    Paul Thorn’s new album Too Blessed To Be Stressed stakes out new territory for the popular roots-rock songwriter and performer. “In the past, I’ve told stories that were mostly inspired by my own life,” the former prizefighter and literal son of a preacher man offers. “This time, I’ve written 10 songs that express more universal truths, and I’ve done it with a purpose: to make people feel good.”

    Which explains numbers like the acoustic-electric charmer “Rob You of Your Joy,” where Thorn’s warm peaches-and-molasses singing dispenses advice on avoiding the pitfalls of life. The title track borrows its tag from a familiar saying among the members of the African-American Baptist churches Thorn frequented in his childhood. “I’d ask, ‘How you doin’, sister?’ And what I’d often hear back was, ‘I’m too blessed to be stressed.’” In the hands of Thorn and his faithful band, who’ve been together 20 years, the tune applies its own funky balm, interlacing a percolating drum and keyboard rhythm with the slinky guitar lines beneath his playful banter.

    Thorn’s trademark humor is abundant throughout the album which was released August 19, 2014 on Perpetual Obscurity/Thirty Tigers. “Backslide on Friday” is a warm-spirited poke at personal foibles. “I promised myself not to write about me, but I did on ‘Backslide,’” Thorn relates. The chipper pop tune is a confession about procrastination, sweetened by Bill Hinds’ slide guitar and Thorn’s gently arching melody. “But,” Thorn protests, “I know I’m not the only one who says he’s gonna diet and just eat Blue Bell vanilla ice cream on Sundays, and then ends up eating it every day!”

    “Mediocrity Is King” takes a wider swipe, at our culture’s hyper-drive addiction to celebrity artifice and rampant consumerism. But like “Everything Is Gonna Be All Right,” a rocking celebration of the simple joys of life, it’s done with Thorn’s unflagging belief in the inherent goodness of the human heart.

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    Dylan Leblanc
    Oct
    6
    7:00 PM19:00

    Dylan Leblanc

    Dylan LeBlanc knows second chances don’t come around often. But, neither do voices like his.

    Overwhelmed by the speed his gift would take him, from Applebee’s server to “the new Neil Young” in a matter of months, he walked away from an unlikely major label deal after releasing two critically acclaimed albums. He slipped into a blur of booze and self-doubt. Exhausted and damaged at just 23-years-old, Dylan came home to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to write a new life for himself.

    In between the moments of clarity and a few familiar falls, he also wrote a new album, Cautionary Tale: a collection of shimmering, arresting songs with the same haunting vocals that caught the attention of Lucinda Williams and Bruce Springsteen, now with a sharpened edge honed by hastened maturity.

    “This record is about me getting honest with myself,” says Dylan. “I had to let the guilt about the past go and find a new truth within myself. This time, I felt like I really had something to say.”

    To help him say it, he sought out long-time friend Ben Tanner, the same guy who had secretly helped Dylan record his first songs after hours while working at fabled FAME Studios. (He also introduced a 16-year-old Dylan to Wilco, George Harrison, and Ryan Adams by way of an external hard drive). In between touring with Alabama Shakes, Ben was beginning to engineer records again at the label he started with another friend of Dylan’s, Grammy Award-winning musician John Paul White, formerly of the Civil Wars. The two both produced and played on Cautionary Tale.

    “They prevented me from burying my words,” says Dylan. “Doubt can often be my first instinct, and I’ll try to cover things up with more elements to hide my voice, but I made up my mind to trust them. I heard Merle Haggard say once that the singer is secondary to the song, and they both helped me build a strong foundation for the emotions I was feeling.”

    The stripped down aesthetic that John Paul and Ben have made their label’s calling card sets Dylan’s voice in a light bright enough to see the patina the last few years has left behind.

    “I spent a lot of time writing about programming and conditioning and the idea of ego,” says Dylan. “I don’t want to rely on my circumstances or the past to say why I am the way I am anymore. A lot of my songs like ‘Cautionary Tale’ and ‘Look How Far We’ve Come’ are about trying to break out of a vicious cycle. I was wondering if I could find my solutions from within—if I could believe in something beyond the present.”

    If Dylan was wandering through a cemetery with his first album Paupers Field (“Songs are like headstones to me,” he told The Guardian), Cautionary Tale is an abandoned desert town. He reflects on what once was, and if anything could be again. At times, he wonders if the signs of life he sees on the horizon are real or just a mirage. Phantasmic, warbling voices in the background rise to meet his own and fade into the ether; ghostly guitar riffs echo in the emptiness around him.

    Finding the right arrangement and words was a more deliberate effort for Dylan this time. After feeling lost in the “mania” of recording his first two albums, he relied on Ben and John Paul to help him collect the pieces of his vision.

    “I’ve definitely become more disciplined. I don’t count on things like inspiration anymore,” says Dylan. “I learned so much from putting songs together with John Paul. Anything he does, it’s always going to be well-thought-out and well-placed. I’m naturally an improv guy, but now I see how that can be more limiting than planning your next move.”

    That new-found discipline shows. Never one to write out parts, Dylan methodically scored the stunning string sections with violinist Kimi Samson and cellist Caleb Elliot. To form the polished rhythm section he wanted to drive songs like “The Easy Way Out” and “Beyond the Veil,” he paired drummer Jeremy Gibson with Alabama Shakes bassist Zac Cockrell (“I wanted it to feel like a Bill Withers record or Al Green—soulful, but tight.”)

    While Dylan will be the first to admit he wasn’t ready to stand on the stages he played early in his career, there’s no doubting he is now. With a recalibrated compass, he’s back on the road opening sold-out shows for British singer-songwriter George Ezra, another artist praised for a wizened voice beyond his years.

    Dylan will continue to support George through September 2015, including a show at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium. Next, he’ll embark on his solo tour with dates throughout the South, Midwest, and New England.

    “After everything I’ve gone through, I still love putting records out and singing for people, no matter how big or small the crowd,” says Dylan. “It’s the only thing I want to do, and now I get to keep doing it as a more well-rounded person. I guess I’m blessed or whatever the hell you want to call it.”

    Website | Facebook

    Sponsorship Available 

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    Shaun Johnson Big Band Experience
    Oct
    5
    7:00 PM19:00

    Shaun Johnson Big Band Experience

    Well hello there.

    Ever heard of a big band covering Rihanna? Get ready, my friend.

    We’re happy to introduce you to what we call the new evolution of big band music – born of rebellion – and we owe it to Sinatra to keep that evolution alive and kicking.

    How good are we? Glad you asked.

    We have musicians who have toured with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Robert Randolph and the Family Band and New Kids on the Block. This group is nothing if not upfront: it’s one of those rare cases where everything you know is right in the name:

    You’ve got Shaun Johnson, an Emmy-winning singer/songwriter who’s sold nearly two million albums as part of the nationally known vocal group, Tonic Sol-fa.

    Then there’s the big band sound. Few acts can channel Sinatra as he softly croons about lost love, inhabit Citizen Cope as he belts one out, and then segue into the theme from Spiderman without any indication that these musicians, these eras, and these styles were ever anything but destined to go together.

    Finally there’s the experience. Our sound is centered on innovation to ensure that while each performance is an experience, no two experiences are exactly the same. And, let’s face it: being relatively new to the game not only means BBE has a fresh sound, but that your audiences can hear that sound.

    Looking for a group heavily influenced by the big band era, but which never – not for one moment – feels as if it lives anywhere but the present? Live with us.

    The Shaun Johnson Big Band Experience

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    Sam Outlaw
    Oct
    1
    7:00 PM19:00

    Sam Outlaw

    "There's a tender heart beating for you..."

    Cynicism comes easy, but having a soft heart takes real guts. Sam Outlaw's new album Tenderheart dares to tread gently and look inward, with unapologetic sentiment and un-ironic nods to country music's greatest neon rainbow chasers.

    Since the release of his 2015 debut Angeleno, Outlaw remains one of LA's only modern country singers to earn international acclaim. And with his follow-up Tenderheart he shows an impressive refinement of his artistic identity. Sonically, the album further elaborates Outlaw's "SoCal Country" sound: a sun-bleached, Baja-influenced twang that deftly points to country's neo-traditionalists and LA's legendary singer-songwriters. Thematically Tenderheart is a thesis on self-discovery and the power of love - a course set with the opening chords of "Everyone's Looking For Home." The opening track is a cinematic, mariachi-laced meditation on Outlaw's own conflicted quest for peace amongst the chaos of his chosen path.

    Along the way he also takes a look around, and Tenderheart's revelations are most potent when filtered through Outlaw's distinctive Los Angeles vantage point. "Bottomless Mimosas" is emotionally hollowing in its portrayal of west coast existentialism while "Bougainvillea, I Think" and "Dry In The Sun" round out this trio of ‘Los Angeles songs' that explore the city's faded beauty and define "SoCal Country" beyond instrumentation.

    "Trouble," one of the album's standouts, makes being bad sound pretty damn good with determined ‘Side A' swagger and kicks off a song cycle that chronicles a heart's bend, break and mend. "She's Playing Hard To Get (Rid Of)" showcases acerbic wit in teary three-four time, setting the scene for "Two Broken Hearts" - a wounded lovers' getaway story with an open ending. Over the course of these thirteen songs it becomes increasingly apparent why his clever intertwining of country tropes and crisp modernism has so impressed country music fans, critics and songwriters alike. (Alt-country pioneer Ryan Adams just recently praised Outlaw, calling his work "beyond great songwriting".)

    Angeleno's critical acclaim also led to 18 months of international touring. He entertained thousands of festival-goers with a prime slot at Stagecoach, made four trips to Europe, toured Australia twice and played several hundred gigs in the USA. After all those miles it's fitting that Tenderheart bottles the energy of the songs that have become mainstays of his live show. Fan-favorites like "Diamond Ring" and honky-tonk sing-along "All My Life" finally get proper studio treatment, along with "Look At You Now," a regular highlight of his acoustic tours overseas - where Outlaw is nominated for AmericanaUK's International Album of the Year alongside Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price.

    Not one to mess with a winning combination, Sam called on many of the same musicians that made Angeleno such a success: harmony singer Molly Jenson, pedal steel pro Jeremy Long and guitarist Danny Garcia, along with Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) and Bo Koster (My Morning Jacket). Produced by Martin Pradler and Outlaw and recorded in the San Fernando Valley, Tenderheart also features Erwin Vasquez and Mariachi Teocuitatlan, a local mariachi group who appeared in the video for Angeleno's title track.

    Now two years into his new life, Outlaw has learned that great dreams can only be achieved at great cost. And at its core, Tenderheart is the outcome of another lesson learned: if your heart stays true, the sacrifice is worth it.

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    Bruce Sudano
    Sep
    29
    7:00 PM19:00

    Bruce Sudano

    Bruce Sudano has had his hand in some of the 20th century’s biggest hits, sung by megatalents from Michael and Jermaine Jackson to Dolly Parton and Donna Summer, his late wife. At this point, he could easily rest on his musical laurels. Instead, he recorded an album about life right here, right now, in this 21st Century World. And he filled it with hard questions, some well-aimed finger pointing and poignant observations about the human experience — for better and worse.

    “I’ve always been somebody who writes about what I’m going through,” Sudano says, “because I believe that if this is something I’m feeling, other people are going to be able to relate to it as well. With this record, I’m trying to provoke people to think. I want to start a dialogue about what’s going on in our culture and our society.”

    In the very first song, “Your World Now,” he wonders whether younger generations will step up to cure the world’s ills, while encouraging them to try. With “It Ain’t Cool,” he chastises “a selfish society,” and in “Common Sense,” he pleads for understanding, sacrifice and compromise. In a voice that conjures comparisons to a less-psychedelic, less British Donovan, he also implores, Come on people use your heads/We need common, common sense.

    “People seem to have forgotten middle ground,” says Sudano, who also trains his pen on issues such as our self(ie)-obsessed social media culture, religion and hypocrisy, homelessness and other subjects that need addressing.

    In one particularly powerful song, “When Cinderella Dies,” he examines single motherhood and the challenges women who find themselves in that situation face. When Summer passed away in 2012, they’d been together 35 years — 32 as husband and wife. Eventually, he started dating again — and found himself listening to too many stories that sounded distressingly similar.

    “I started running into all these middle-aged women with kids, abandoned by their husbands, feeling discarded, left carrying the load and just struggling, trying to figure out who they were now that the fairytale had died, asking ‘How do I carry on with my life and who am I now? What is my dream? Do I even have one?’ That got me thinking about the state of marriage and what a mess it is; about the breakdown of marriage in our culture and the lack of commitment.”

    But even though he dissects society’s ills, Sudano still delivers notes of hope, one of which comes in the form of the first cover song he’s ever recorded: Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution.”

    “I’ve always had this philosophy that I’m a songwriter, not a singer. A singer can cover somebody else’s songs. But a songwriter should sing their own songs,” he explains. But his producer, Mike Montali of the rock band Hollis Brown, talked him into it. Montali was asked to produce after he and Sudano “developed a musical simpatico” during a European tour.

    “I wanted somebody with a different perspective than me to produce this record, because I’ve been doing it for a long time, and you develop habits,” Sudano says. “I also wanted it to be more under-produced than produced. As I have evolved as this solo guy, it’s more and more coming down to me and my guitar and my point of view. I want the message to be clearer, with fewer frills. I just really want to communicate.”

    When he speaks, the longtime Los Angeles resident’s accent still conveys his strong New York roots; in fact, his first child is named Brooklyn. (He and Summer had two daughters; Brooklyn stars in the new NBC series Taken, and Amanda co-founded the band Johnnyswim. Sudano also raised stepdaughter Mimi.)

    Sudano was 4 when he began making music, first on accordion, then on guitar and piano. He started getting paid for it at 12. By the time he was 20, he had a hit, “Ball of Fire,” co-written with his mentor, Tommy James (“Hanky Panky,” “Mony, Mony,” “I Think We’re Alone Now”), who recorded it with his band, the Shondells.

    “He was the first person to take me under his wing, to take me into a recording studio, write with me and basically show me how it was done, in the real world,” Sudano recalls. “He took me out of the neighborhood and put me in the music business. We’re friends to this day.”

    Sudano had co-founded the band Alive N Kickin’ in 1968; in 1970, James wrote and produced their top-10 hit, “Tighter, Tighter.” Five years after leaving that band, Sudano co-founded Brooklyn Dreams. That same year, 1977, he met Summer, who began writing with the band. They penned “Take It to the Zoo” for the Thank God It’s Friday film soundtrack, then the band appeared as the Planotones in the film, American Hot Wax. They hit No. 4 with Summer duetting on “Heaven Knows,” and in 1979, Summer and the band wrote the No. 1 pop and R&B hit “Bad Girls.” It became the title song to the most popular album of her career.

    In 1980, Sudano released his first solo album, which contained “Starting Over Again,” written with Summer about his parents’ divorce. Dolly Parton turned it into a No. 1 country hit. Fifteen years later, Reba McEntire took it to No. 19. In 1985, Sudano co-wrote the Grammy-nominated Michael and Jermaine Jackson duet, “Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming (Too Good to Be True).” After years spent managing Summer’s career, as well as playing and singing in her band, Sudano released another solo album, Rainy Day Soul. That 2004 release gave him three top 10 adult contemporary hits, and New Music Weekly’s Adult Contemporary Artist of the Year award. “It's Her Wedding Day,” a track from his third solo album, earned him the 2009 New Music Weekly Adult Contemporary Song of the Year award.

    Bruce has returned to touring as well.  These days you can find him performing alongside an eclectic group of musicians.  From the wildly successful band Johnnyswim to the iconic British band The Zombies, or jamming with young rockers Hollis Brown, Sudano is back on the road re-engaging with audiences.  In addition to recording and touring, he is also working alongside the team behind the monster theatrical hit, Jersey Boys to produce a Broadway musical about Summer set for 2018.

    Sudano says he’s glad to have new chapters in life. “There’s a song on my last album called ‘Never Too Late to Dream.’ That is exactly my philosophy,” he notes. “I feel very vibrant at this point. Going through losing my wife [to lung cancer] was the one bad thing that ever happened in my life. But I was like, ‘OK, Bruce, you have this other chapter to write, so get on it.’”

    And he has. Though the album’s final track, “Coney Island Days,” is a wistful song about missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential, it also references dreams that never die. And Sudano’s dreams are still very much alive.

    “I’m engaged in life, I’m inspired and I’m on fire,” he says. In a 21st Century World, that’s a good place to be.

    Website | Facebook

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    Opera Memphis
    Sep
    28
    7:00 PM19:00

    Opera Memphis

    Opera Memphis is back at the Levitt Shell during this year's 30 Days of Opera! 30 Days of Opera is exactly what it sounds like: 30 days of totally awesome - totally FREE - performances by Opera Memphis all over Memphis and the MidSouth. A fan favorite, our yearly Levitt Shell performance is full of fun for operaphiles and newbies alike. Think of it as Opera's Greatest Hits with pop music favorites and exciting surprises thrown in for good measure. Bring the whole family and join us for this event - one of the highlights of our year!  For more information, visit operamemphis.org.

    Sponsorship Available

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    Dirty Dozen Brass Band
    Sep
    24
    7:00 PM19:00

    Dirty Dozen Brass Band

    Celebrating 40 years since their founding in 1977, New Orleans-based Dirty Dozen Brass Band has taken the traditional foundation of brass band music and incorporated it into a blend of genres including Bebop Jazz, Funk and R&B/Soul. This unique sound, described by the band as a musical gumbo, has allowed the Dirty Dozen to tour across 5 continents and 30 countries, record 12 studio albums and collaborate with a range of artists from Modest Mouse to Widespread Panic to Norah Jones. Forty years later, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band is a world famous music machine whose name is synonymous with genre-bending romps and high-octane performances.

    Website | Facebook

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    Deedee Bridgewater
    Sep
    23
    7:00 PM19:00

    Deedee Bridgewater

    Rhodes College and Levitt Shell Partnership

    For the past six years, the Mike Curb Institute for Music at Rhodes College and The Levitt Shell have worked as community partners to provide access and educational opportunities for the Memphis community through music. Building on the strengths of each organization, the partnership has resulted in a variety of concerts and community events that have explored the breadth of Memphis music both past and present. Artists who have visited Memphis as a result of this partnership include Grammy award winners and NEA recognized artists such as Rosanne Cash, George Coleman, and Charles Lloyd, as well as important local musicians. The partnership has also given students from Rhodes College, the STAX Academy, and Shelby County Schools performing opportunities and access to professional artists. In addition, important community events and archival opportunities have been created through this partnership supporting the Benjamin Hooks Public Library, the Manassas High School alumni association, and area musicians whose stories have been underrepresented in the narrative of Memphis music.

    This year, the partnership continues with an appearance by Dee Dee Bridgewater and her return home to Memphis. Bridgewater, a three-time Grammy Winner, TONY Award Winner, and 2017 NEA Jazz Master, is among the most accomplished jazz performers in the world. Bridgewater was born in Memphis, where her father, Matthew Garrett, was the band director at Manassas High School in the 1950s during the time when George Coleman, Charles Lloyd, Hank Crawford, Harold Mabern, Frank Strozier were students. Her recent album Memphis (recorded at the legendary Royal Studio) signals a return by Bridgewater to her roots and her hometown, and explores the influence the city had on her during her early years.

    The Mike Curb Institute at Rhodes and the Levitt Shell are thrilled to present this concert for the Memphis community, and to host a series of community discussions and interactions with students in conjunction with her appearance in Memphis.

    Past Series Highlights:

    1. Six concerts at the Levitt Shell, including Rosanne Cash, Charles Lloyd, George Coleman

    2. Over 20,000 attendees at these concerts

    3. Numerous clinics, discussions, and oral history projects connected to these concerts for area students, as well as performing opportunities for over 30 local professional musicians

    4. Rhodes Office of Alumni Relations has hosted receptions in conjunction with Family Weekend

    5. Community partners engaged through this partnership have included:

      1. Levitt Shell

      2. STAX Music Academy

      3. Shelby County Schools

      4. Benjamin Hooks Public Library

      5. Manassas High School Alumni Association

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    Memphis Renaissance: Going On From Here
    Sep
    22
    7:00 PM19:00

    Memphis Renaissance: Going On From Here

    New Ballet Ensemble dances a narrative of the human experience – its highs, lows, and hopes for the future – accompanied by spoken word passages and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra playing music from legendary black artists, including rarely-performed works by pioneering classical composer William Grant Still and Duke Ellington, with a finale from Marvin Gaye. It answers Dr. King’s question – “Where do we go from here” – with an optimistic community pledge: “We’re going on together.”

    This unique presentation continues the creative alliance between New Ballet Ensemble & School, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Levitt Shell that began in 2015 with Memphis Renaissance + Harlem, performed to a packed audience of 4,500.

    Memphis Renaissance: Going on from Here is a Collaborating Partner of the National Civil Rights Museum’s MLK50 commemoration. 

    Sponsors:

     

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    Southern Avenue
    Sep
    21
    7:00 PM19:00

    Southern Avenue

    Southern Avenue is a Memphis street that runs from the easternmost part of the city limits all the way to Soulsville, the original home of Stax Records. Southern Avenue is also the name of a fiery young Memphis quintet that embodies its home city’s soul, blues and gospel traditions, while adding a youthful spirit and dynamic energy all their own. “If Memphis music is a genre, this is it!” proclaims American Blues Scene, and Rock 103FM calls Southern Avenue, “The most-talked-about band in Memphis.”

    Their self-titled debut album is a breath of fresh air with its own unique blend of gospel- tinged R&B vocals, roots/blues-based guitar work and soul-inspired songwriting. And Southern Avenue’s upcoming release on the fabled Stax label is a testament to the young combo’s talent and vision.

    Southern Avenue features five young but seasoned musicians who came from diverse musical and personal backgrounds to create music that spans their wide-ranging musical interests, while showcasing the powerful chemistry that the group has honed through stage and studio experience.

    Southern Avenue encompasses Memphis-born, church-bred sisters Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson, respectively a soulful, charismatic singer and a subtle, powerful drummer; guitarist Ori Naftaly, an Israeli-born blues disciple who first came to America as an acclaimed solo artist; versatile jazz-inspired bassist Daniel McKee; and the band’s newest addition, keyboardist Jeremy Powell, an early alumnus of Stax’s legendary music academy.

    The band members’ diverse skills come together organically on Southern Avenue, scheduled for release on February 24, 2017 via Stax Records, a division of Concord Music Group. Produced by Kevin Houston (North Mississippi Allstars, Lucero, Patty Griffin), the 10-song album features guest appearances from Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and trumpeter Marc Franklin of the Bo-Keys. But it’s Southern Avenue’s own potent musical chemistry that drives such sublimely soulful originals as “Don’t Give Up,” “What Did I Do,” “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” “Love Me Right” and “Wildflower.”  The band also pays tribute to its roots with an incandescent reading of Ann Peebles’ Memphis soul classic “Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love.”

    The seeds for Southern Avenue’s birth were planted when Ori Naftaly, who’d grown up in Israel with a deeply rooted passion for American blues and funk, came to Memphis in 2013 to compete in the prestigious International Blues Challenge. That experience led to Naftaly moving permanently to Memphis and successfully touring the United States with his own band. 

    Although his talents were embraced by American audiences, Naftaly felt constrained in his own band, feeling the need to include a more expansive, collaborative musical vision.  That opportunity arrived when he met Memphis native Tierinii Jackson, who’d gotten her start singing in church, before performing in a series of cover bands and theatrical projects. 

    According to Ori, “When I saw Tierinii perform, I thought, ‘This is why I came to America.’ I met her and we clicked. At our first rehearsal, she told me that her sister was a drummer, and she thought it would be great to have her in the band. We had such a good vibe, and suddenly I didn’t care so much about my solo thing.”

    “I initially clicked with Ori really well, but it was his project,” Tierinii remembers. “Then he came to me and said ‘I want this band to be a collaboration, I want this to be our vision and our music.’  So we started writing together, and that’s when I realized that we were really the same, musically.”

    “We started over,” Naftaly continues. “We threw out most of the songs I’d been playing in my solo band, and Tierinii and I wrote a whole new set, and we became Southern Avenue. The more we played together, the closer we got, and the more we became a family. We started getting a different kind of crowd, and from there things escalated quickly.”

    “Ori said, ‘My band is done, this is y’all’s band,'” Tierinii recalls. “We all quit our other gigs and started focusing on this, working and writing and living together in a way that you don’t experience when you’re playing somebody else’s music. Now we’re playing songs that we wrote ourselves and we’re playing them from our hearts. That is when I realized that we had something special.”

    Despite not having a record deal, Southern Avenue quickly found success touring in America and Europe. They won additional attention playing some prestigious festivals and competing in the International Blues Challenge, in which they represented Memphis. Less than a year after the band’s formation, they were signed to the resurgent Stax label. 

    “I feel like being on Stax is a responsibility,” says Tierinii. “I grew up in Memphis, seeing the name Stax everywhere. It was a constant presence, and now it’s up to us to live up to that. I feel like this band can be a platform to do a lot of positive things for the city of Memphis. I want to change the world, but Memphis is home.”

    Tierinii views Southern Avenue as “a perfect soundtrack to our first year together. We wrote these songs in our first nine months of being a band. We’d all done so many things and come from so many different places, but the music represents all of us.

    “It’s been a real crash course,” she continues. “We haven’t been a band for very long, but what we have feels very special, and it’s made us a strong unit. I think that we represent something that people need to see right now.”

    “This band has already made our dreams come true,” Ori concludes. “I’ve waited all my life to be in a band like this, and it’s amazing to me that I get to play with these people every night. Our goal is to keep doing this for a long time and leave our mark. We’re trying to build a legacy.”

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    Trout Fishing In America
    Sep
    17
    7:00 PM19:00

    Trout Fishing In America

    Trout Fishing in America is the long-standing musical partnership of Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet. The name, taken from a Richard Brautigan novel, seems almost as incongruous as a picture of this musical duo: Ezra Idlet (guitar) stands six feet eight inches and Keith Grimwood (bass), five feet five and one half inches. Ezra is more playful and extroverted while Keith is more serious and reserved. Each of them bring out the best in the other and the joy that comes from this musical interaction is contagious and impossible to deny.

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    Country Blues Festival
    Sep
    16
    7:00 PM19:00

    Country Blues Festival

    Join us for the Country Blues Festival!

    Line Up: 

    Blue Mother Tupelo

    Rising up from the dusty Delta lowlands and muddy bayou banks of Indianola, Mississippi through the bluffs of Memphis to the mountains of east Tennessee, comes the unique Southern Soul sound of Blue Mother Tupelo. Paste Magazine wrote, "Blue Mother Tupelo is quite possibly the best husband and wife duo you've never heard of. Micol and Ricky Davis play swampy, gospel-tinged southern soul-blues. Micol displays the full-bodied vocal fire of Janis Joplin, while she rattles and slaps her tambourine with the ecstasy and know-how of a black gospel choir member. Ricky plays muscular, stabbing figures on acoustic guitar and dobro, and the two join in close, soul-searing harmonies like only intimate kin can; a heady blend of otherworldly longing and thisworldly passion, bodies swaying and tambourines shaken emphatically." BMT's dreamy rendition of the Paul Anka classic, "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" was included on the big screen in the closing scene of the movie, "Daltry Calhoun" (Miramax Films). Their critically and fan acclaimed album of original songs, "Heaven & Earth" made waves across Americana radio worldwide, debuting at #2 behind Kris Kristofferson on the EuroAmericana Chart and hitting the Top 40 on Americana radio in the USA, and remained in the Top 40 of Roots Music Report's "Roots Rock" Chart for a year. Ricky, Micol & Katie Armiger co-wrote the song, "Playin' With Fire" recorded by Katie Armiger, that reached the Top 50 on the U.S. Country Airplay Chart and remained there for weeks. Blue Mother Tupelo's newest album "Only Sunshine" released in 2014, featuring 10 original songs including co-writes with the award-winning and highly-regarded Kim Richey, Will Kimbrough & Ryan Tyndell; was announced by Something Else Reviews "Best of 2014 (Non-Jazz)" (alongside new albums by Lucinda Williams, Jack White, Seth Walker, Mingo Fishtrap, Me-Shell Ndegeocello and the Drive-By Truckers). BMT has shared the studio, shows and the stage with many well-known, well-respected, wonderfully-gifted recording and touring artists. BMT's new-upcoming album will be released Spring 2017. Ricky & Micol have an insatiable ingrained heartfelt passion for traversing the purest depths and heights of music and BMT is just getting started! Blue Mother Tupelo is American music that will pull you in, to stomp and sway all night long.

    Reverend John Wilkins

    Though born in Memphis, Tennessee, Reverend John Wilkins is a child of the North Mississippi Hill Country. His mother was born in Holly Springs and his father was from Hernando. While Wilkins grew up in the city, family parties and neighborhood picnics featuring country blues, and fife & drum bands were never farther than a short drive over the Mississippi state line.

    John Wilkins' father, the venerated blues and gospel singer Robert Wilkins, was the principal influence on his young son's development as a musician. Wilkins' father had made a series of recordings in the 1930s that included the original "Prodigal Son" (initially recorded as a secular song called "That's No Way To Get Along"), which was later recorded by the Rolling Stones. The elder Wilkins developed a gospel style that was based on his earlier country blues style - a style that developed into the rock 'n' roll sound that Memphis, and then the world, would later claim as it's own.When the young John Wilkins was learning to play guitar, he picked up his father's gospel and country blues styles.

    He also absorbed the citified soulful sounds that were being pioneered by local musicians and recorded by legendary Memphis labels like Sun, Stax and Hi. As he approached adulthood in the 1960s, John Wilkins could be found playing in church, at parties, and at clubs. Like his father before him, Wilkins walked a similar musical line between the sacred and secular. He played guitar on O.V. Wright's famous 1965 single "You're Gonna Make Me Cry" and later in the early 1970s recorded as a member of the M & N Gospel Singers for Style Wooten's Designer Records.

    In the early 1980's, Wilkins life came full circle when he followed his father's call to ministry. He became pastor of Hunter's Chapel Church and ever since, Wilkins has led a congregation that includes generations of Tate county locals, as well as the late fife players Othar Turner and Napolian Strickland and their families, and numerous other regional parishioners and North Mississippi musicians.

    In earlier times, legendary Hill Country bluesman Fred McDowell and his wife Annie Mae were members of Hunter's Chapel congregation. It was they who, in the mid 1960s first introduced the Hunter's Chapel Singers to the world on the outstanding album called Amazing Grace for Testament Records. "You Can't Hurry God" is Reverend John Wilkins' debut full-length album. In it he showcases an individual sound that is regional and universal. This recording is a culmination of a lifetime spent learning from, and ministering to some of the luminaries of North Mississippi and Memphis. And, this sound can have only been made by a child of the North Mississippi Hill Country.

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    Jonathan Blanchard
    Sep
    15
    7:00 PM19:00

    Jonathan Blanchard

    Soul Singer, songwriter actor and preserver of the Negro Spiritual, Jonathan Blanchard has successfully released his first studio album entitled “Freedom’s Soul…..the REVOLUTION”.  Freedom’s Soul was recorded with live musicians in Memphis, TN and Atlanta, GA.

    Brought forth from the historical roots of Memphis, Freedom’s Soul, is easily one of today’s most dynamic and powerful musical works.  A culmination of musical genres, steeped in soul music and lessons learned.  With an inspiring message and originality,  Freedom’s Soul “takes you there”, with every song.  There is truth, pureness and clarity in the message, and simple genius within the compositions.  This album is a fusion of Soul, Funk, Jazz, Spirituals, and R&B.  “As a creative spirit, your creations will either manifest freedom or bondage in the souls of those who bare witness”.  Blanchard would describe his lyrical content as simply being “Honest”.  The genius is in the commonality and practicality of how he expresses his views on an array of subject matter.  Blanchard is heavily influenced by Memphis Artist who preceded him such as EWF, The Bar-Kays, Isaac Hayes, and WC Handy…who also maintained a since of being current and relevant.

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    Alex Cuba
    Sep
    14
    7:00 PM19:00

    Alex Cuba

    Following the release of “Healer”, Alex Cuba's forth studio album, it has been an eventful year. He opened for Sheryl Crow two nights in Hollywood Bowl, won the singer songwriter category at the Latin Grammys 2015 and was nominated for the Latin Pop category at the 2016 Grammys. All this from the small town in northern Canada where Alex Cuba has lived and independently produced music for 12 years. After completing tours in Canada and making best of lists for NPR and CBC for Healer for 2015 Alex celebrated Canada Day in Ottawa playing for Prime Minister Trudeau and made 1M streams on Spotify for the single Sarah. Alex is now preparing a new soulful, melody rich production that has him in Montreal, Spain, Los Angeles and Victoria for an April 2017 release.

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    John Kilzer
    Sep
    10
    7:00 PM19:00

    John Kilzer

    Hide Away finds John Kilzer turning in a new set of songs in that rich, cross-genre tradition, with the help of Memphis’s established musical community and members of the up-and-coming generation as well. Alvin Youngblood Hart, Luther Dickinson, Steve Selvidge, Bobby Manuel, Greg Morrow and Kirk Whalum, among others, all show up to help Kilzer bring it home. It’s a testimony to John Kilzer’s respected standing in the Memphis music community, and it’s the reason Hide Away marks a return to top form for a songwriter who knows, personally and professionally, how music can move, can shake, can heal us.

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    Brian Owens & the Deacons of Soul
    Sep
    9
    7:00 PM19:00

    Brian Owens & the Deacons of Soul

    When you hear Brian Owens sing, it’s hard to believe that anyone could find as much joy in music as he does. You would have to believe that his greatest goal is to thrill audiences and reinforce his reputation as one of America’s true soul music virtuosos.

    On his new album, SOUL OF CASH, Owens offers up his own soulful take on timeless classics recorded by legendary Johnny Cash, including "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Walk The Line," Man In Black," and "Sunday Morning Coming Down." Each song is configured respectfully by Owens and his band, The Deacons of Soul (Alvin Quinn, Shaun Robinson, Rob Woodie), to preserve the genius of the original versions while demonstrating their universal meaning and adaptability. 

     

    "The way I look at this project is not so much as a tribute, but more of an Americana soul project that features the music of Johnny Cash," says Owens, who has been lauded by Rolling Stone as a “vibrant soul singer who bridges a racial and generational divide." "One of the things I've come to know is that the soul of Johnny Cash is very similar to the soul of me."

     

    "I get the sense from people that they think my connection to Johnny Cash is a strange one," Owens continues. "I don't know if it's because he's white or because I'm black. When people hear my original material, it leans more toward Marvin Gaye and that kind of vibe. But I really discovered my voice singing Johnny Cash music. When I sing music of some of my other influences, it's pulling from Marvin, Sam Cooke, and Curtis Mayfield. But when I sing Johnny Cash, you're hearing me because there's no reference point for me other than the song."  

     

    Owens was 11 years old when first saw Johnny Cash on the popular TV series Columbo where Cash portrayed playing a televangelist and sang "I Saw the Light." Later in his mid-20s, Owens discovered him once again through the movie Walk The Line. "There was something about his life that resonated with me," Owens says. "From then on, I really got into Cash -- not only the music, but also the person."

    In a country where everything feels so divided now and people are seemingly forced by the media to look at our differences more than what makes us the same, Owens says he thinks of Soul Of Cash a middle-of-the-road narrative.  "To me it says here's this guy, a white man born in the South, who's now passed on, and I, a young African-American guy born in the Midwest, raised on soul music, finding much common ground through music," explains Owens.  "What we have in common far outweighs the difference that I'm black and he's white, and that's 

    what I want people to get from this project." 

    Owens has accomplished a lot in his musical career. He was the lead singer for the U.S. military band Sidewinder that became an internet sensation. He says performing for the troops was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that helped shape and mold him as an artist and a person. Owens has since released three nationally distributed solo albums, opened for such notable artists as Ramsey Lewis and Michael McDonald, and has headlined his own tours from coast to coast. Owens has also performed at the World Series and for First Lady Michelle Obama and made numerous national TV appearances including Entertainment Tonight, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Fox & Friends, The Wayne Brady Show and more. 

    A longtime resident of Ferguson, Missouri, Owens has led by example in launching numerous charitable initiatives. Through his LIFE (Leadership, Innovation, Faith and Excellence) Cultural and Performing Arts, he offers education in music, art and technology with the aim of empowering youth in his community.

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    Lady Wray
    Sep
    8
    7:00 PM19:00

    Lady Wray

    Virginia-born singer/songwriter Nicole Wray has everything you’d want in a singer: an infectious Jackson-5-family-member flare, a range like Aretha’s, and a church upbringing that’s brought a pure, healing texture to her voice. But the struggle she’s been through has made her more than a singer. Nicole Wray is an artist.

    When talking about Queen Alone, her first solo album in some time, Nicole explains, “It’s a reflection of my soul. It’s who I am today.” And aptly so. Released on Brooklyn’s Big Crown Records, Nicole is writing and singing songs about her life. And yet to even start to know her soul, you have to go back to the beginning.

    Growing up in Portsmouth was tough at times for Nicole. Of course, there were aspects of teenage normalcy: the Sundays in church, hanging out with friends, her first real job as a temporary telemarketer. At the age of fifteen, life opened up quickly when Missy Elliot paid a visit to Nicole’s family home to audition her on the spot. Missy was there on the rumored strength and quality of her voice. Instantly blowing her away, she signed and left with Missy that night. Two years later, in 1998, she had a hit gold single off a solid debut album (Make It Hot). Suddenly she was part of a team that included late ‘90s R&B and rap royalty: Missy, Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Playa, Timbaland and Magoo. She made it. And fast.

    However, the only hint of a second album was a single (“I’m Lookin’”). As rapidly as she achieved success, Nicole then found herself needing to re-make it. By late 2001, her time with Missy and company had run its course. They amicably parted ways and Nicole, once on top of the R&B world, was unsure of what was next.

    It was a very low, but important, point in her life. While her passion and talent propelled her forward–friends disappeared and her purpose seemed unclear. While neck-deep in this struggle, Damon Dash and Roc-A-Fella Records called. They signed an album deal and by 2004 she had a new single that was getting healthy play (“If I Was Your Girlfriend”). In what was starting to be a pattern, just as things were looking up, Roc-A-Fella then (famously) split and despite the strong single, there wasn’t enough push to get her sophomore album out. Once again, industry factors beyond her control took charge. Like a recurring dream, Nicole found herself in a familiar situation. Having just been in the spotlight, and then again back living the “real life.”

    Besides the fickleness of the industry, life was also testing her. Nicole’s father and his drug addiction strained her parents’ marriage, family members had run-ins with the law, and friends passed away too early. Motivated by the pain, she pushed on, and through this duality of regular life and fame, Nicole came into her own. No longer that shy girl from Virginia, letting people write her lyrics and dictate how she sang songs–Nicole was more in control of what she wanted and was a smarter and sharper vocalist for it.

    Maintaining her connection with Damon Dash, she did a few guest spots. Nicole’s powerful voice had a huge presence on The Black Keys’ Blackroc project in 2009 which led her to recording background vocals on The Black Keys’ Grammy-winning LP, Brothers.

    In 2013, Nicole paired up with London vocalist Terri Walker and released the album Lady. On Truth & Soul Records, Nicole and Terri had a backdrop supplied by the same musicians that helped make Aloe Blacc a global smash and Lee Fields a household name. Pitchfork said of the LP: “The singers clearly relish the opportunity to indulge in a little comfort food soul, resulting in an infectiously fun set with broad, cross-generational appeal.”

    Once again, Nicole was tested. Terri parted ways with the group to pursue her own projects shortly after the album’s release–despite rave reviews and upcoming travel dates. Nicole could’ve stopped as well. Instead, she carried the Lady project herself, show to show, town to town. In the face of frustration and decisions beyond her control, Nicole stepped up and took charge. She knew that she could make this happen. The Lady project allowed Nicole to showcase her impeccably strong and unique voice as well as her succinct poetic prowess for song writing. She found herself renewed and in a realer place, a place where success and frustration honed her talent and drive. She wasn’t just a singer anymore—she was tapping into something altogether different.

    Fast forward to now–the transformation from singer-for-hire to pure artist is evident in this new full-length solo release, Queen Alone. Reunited with the top-class musicianship from the Lady project and with Big Crown’s own Leon Michels and Daptone / Dunham’s Tom Brenneck handling production, Nicole says she is “Singing out loud now–singing from the stomach.” Back in 1998 she was coached how to sing. Today, after stutter-stepping in and out of the industry, there is a new soul and substance to her songs–all of it from her life.

    Almost echoing her new record, Nicole says, “You have to go through something for it to be real.” She has been living with one foot in fame and the other in real life. The result is clear: she’s feeling something real in her music again. And it’s hard for us as listeners not to follow suit.

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    North Mississippi Allstars
    Sep
    7
    7:00 PM19:00

    North Mississippi Allstars

    North Mississippi Allstars are back with PRAYER FOR PEACE and couldn’t we all use one of those right about now? Founded in 1996 by brothers Luther (guitar and vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums, piano, synth bass, programming and vocals), the now venerable band are entering their second decade with what is unquestionably the most vital album of their brilliant career. Released by Sony Legacy, PRAYER FOR PEACE sees North Mississippi Allstars continuing to think globally following 2013’s Earth-shaking WORLD BOOGIE IS COMING. That album, the band’s seventh studio recording, proved the planetary sensation its title promised, with The Guardian simply declaring it the North Mississippi Allstars’ “best yet.” Now North Mississippi Allstars weave their bred-to-the-bone musical sensibility with a potent message of positivity, inclusion, family, and hope. As ever, songs like the powerhouse title track and “You Got To Move” – the latter featuring accompaniment from Hill Country Blues guitar hero Kenny Brown and award-winning singer/bassist Danielle Nicole – pay homage to the band’s long lineage of musical heroes, celebrating the blues’ extraordinary legacy while reshaping and pushing it into contemporary relevance with fatback funk, slippery soul, and pure unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll.

    The majority of PRAYER FOR PEACE was recorded at Memphis’ famed Royal Studios with the great Boo Mitchell behind the board. The hard-touring band also recorded as they traveled the country, lighting up studios in St. Louis, Kansas City, New Orleans, Brooklyn, Austin, and of course, their legendary father Jim Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch in the Allstars’ own Hernando, MS. A number of old friends join the congregation, among them bassist Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band, Dead & Company), Graeme Lesh (Midnight North, The Terrapin Family Band), vocalist Sharisse Norman, bassist Dominic Davis (Jack White), and singer/fife player Shardé Thomas, daughter of Mississippi blues giant Otha Turner. Simultaneously master curators, expert revivalists and forward-thinking visionaries, the Dickinson brothers have crafted their most daringly creative and provocatively topical collection to date. PRAYER FOR PEACE stands tall as yet another milestone marking North Mississippi Allstars own unique place in the American musical tradition. 

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    Making Movies
    Jul
    16
    7:30 PM19:30

    Making Movies

    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

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    Foxygen
    Jul
    15
    7:30 PM19:30

    Foxygen

    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 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.” 

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    Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers
    Jul
    14
    7:30 PM19:30

    Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers

    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.

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