Aplscruf's Music Blog

Jeff Finlin: Man On Fire

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Jeff Finlin. Photo Credit: Aidan Finlin

Jeff Finlin is on a hot streak lately, as prolific as ever. This year, he published a new book of poetry, a retrospective 20-song album dropping this month, earned certification as a Yoga-for-recovery counselor, started a RecoverYoga therapy and consultation program, has two books in the works regarding the program, and will produce a new album later in the year. Oh, and he’ll embark on a European tour, hitting The Netherlands and Ireland in November and circling back to the UK in 2017.

Aplscruf: Jeff, let’s start with your new organization, RecoverYoga, which you created to integrate the aspects of recovery from various forms of addiction or trauma with the practice of yoga. Is this something you can do from your home base in Colorado, or will you be training/counseling others off-site? Will you offer workshops? Do you have a book on the subject in the works, too?

Jeff Finlin: I can do RecoverYoga from anywhere. I’ll be doing workshops as well as counseling. There is one of two books that will be released next month called “365 Days of RecoverYoga”— It’s a 365 day reader.

The Seduction of Radha just published this summer. Please explain the meaning behind the book’s title as well as the common theme of seeking, restoring and uniting The Beloved throughout your poems.

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The Seduction Of Radha comes from yoga and life intertwined with writing and creation. In the Bhakti traditions of Hinduism that focus on Krishna, Radha is the incarnation of “the feeling of love towards Krishna”. She is considered to be his original Shakti [the female principle of divine energy]. As I’ve been practicing and reading and living, I’ve been able to become aware of how these fields of energy manifest themselves in relationship to my life, if I pay attention. The book is basically about the courtship we go through with the opening of our hearts and the dimensions of love and awareness we allow within our lives, and how that seems to work in the end. Although the story is not over.

Finlin recently produced a captivating, spoken-word video of one of the poems from The Seduction of Radha, called “A Love So Contagious”directed by Erik Lunde of Lunde Creative.

Here’s what Folk Radio UK had to say: http://www.folkradio.co.uk/2016/08/video-premiere-jeff-finlin-love-contagious/

You have a retrospective album coming in September from Man In The Moon/Warner Records. Life After Death: The Essential Jeff Finlin is a 20-song collection from your extensive catalog. How do these 20 songs represent you, and was there meaning or a method behind picking each? Do some speak to you more than others, or represent the man you were at a certain period of time in your life?

I think in picking the songs, I was trying to be aware of the songs that stuck out as unique or different, somehow. It was also important that the record held together as a piece of work—that it had some flow and could stand up on its own rather than just being a collection of songs thrown together.

Order your copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Life-After-Death-Essential-Finlin/dp/B01I6MJE28

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A brand new album in the works: The Guru In The Girl. Are you still in the recording process? What is your songwriting process? What inspires you to write? How do your songs stream in? Lyrics first, and then melody? Do they flow in together?

I’m still planning on finishing The Guru In The Girl—it’s just sitting there waiting on the right time. My writing process is very disciplined. I’ve written three-and-a-half books in the last six months. Book writing is different than songwriting or poetry. The latter of the two is more of a stream of consciousness to me at this point—it’s all action and no thought—just falling back on the muse and trusting that. As soon as it becomes intellectual, it’s over. Usually lyrics [stream in] first. I tend to be limited the most musically–basically I’m a drummer. There, I said it: The D Word.

You have two tours coming up, and will be playing with BJ Baartmans of The Wild Verband throughout The Netherlands. Have you played with him before?

Me and BJ go back a long way, and I recently hooked up with him again for the last tour of Holland.

After The Netherlands, you’ll be in Ireland with Clive Barnes and Pete Bruntnell. Are you looking forward to touring with them again?

I love touring with those guys. We have more than our share of fun. I also have one date with Pete in London next February.

Check out an article on Jeff, Clive, and Peter here: http://www.nottinghampost.com/peter-bruntnell-getting-fellow-folk-singers-jeff/story-28547885-detail/whatson/story.html#SdS3ZXPASe7WIWhf.01

Check Jeff Finlin’s website for store, tour, and other news: http://jefffinlin.com

Find him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jeff-Finlin-103176566463598/

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Many of Finlin’s poems and lyrics cross back and forth between the earthly and the ethereal. Here is my favorite poem from The Seduction of Radha:

While In Prison

While in prison

On my pillow

In my orange jump suit

(there’s a reason the prisoner and the monk both wear orange)

I contemplate the hours and her face

In mine

Still doing time

I look for the key

To the lock

In the physical

Underneath the vulture screaming

marking my days on the bedpost

For what?

What would I do if I got out?

Talking to her behind the glass

I contemplate her body

Twisting in the loft

Of a barn

In the Midwest

In another life

this tornado of imagination loves itself

and loves love

and Venus’

mouth

in retrograde

waiting for the archer

to sling his arrow across the sky

only to penetrate

and flower as emotion

and a love that

is really just my own

incarcerated by itself

banging its love me cup

on the jail bars of life

only to discover

the key is in the lock


Another video from Jeff Finlin from his previous album, My Moby Dick, entitled “I Killed Myself Last Night”. Move past the disturbing title and discover a powerful metaphor for spiritual awakening – the killing of one’s former self. What remains is Love. Shot and directed by Jeramey Johnson, Stagwood Pictures. Find the song on Jeff Finlin’s previous album (2013), “My Moby Dick”.

Support the independent artists who venture to your city and play in small clubs and venues. Support quality music.

 

 

 

 

 

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August 30, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Jeff Finlin | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Believers Play Oak Harbor Music Festival Sept 3, 2016

The Believers, featuring Craig Aspen and Cynthia Frazzini, are playing Oak Harbor Music Festival this Saturday, September 3 at 7pm. Originally from Seattle, they currently reside in Nashville and are coming back this week for the festival. They’ll join the rest of the original band, including: Dan Tyack, Stevie Adamek, and Garey Shelton.

The free, three-day festival begins Friday, September 2. The motto of the festival: “Inspire Our Community With The Power of Music”. Thirty bands of various genres are scheduled to play, and all ages are welcome. Food, beer, and arts and crafts booths will be available, too.

I’m looking forward to seeing The Believers play with a full band. Aspen and Frazzini played a beautiful set in Fremont in 2014 at private club. Check the review of that wonderful night here and see another video from The Believers: https://aplscruf.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/dusty-45s-and-the-believers-at-a-private-club-in-fremont-wa/

 

August 28, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Oak Harbor Music Festival, The Believers | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SC4M: Americana Music Festival in South Central…England!

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SC4M Festival is an annual Americana music festival in South Central England–Winchester, to be precise. This year’s Festival will prove to be a great success. It’s a guaranteed “No Mud” event, as all shows are inside The Railway Inn in two locations: The Attic and The Barn (not a real barn–but a larger room inside the venue). The line-up alone is worth a drool, including headliner John Murry and festival mascot Peter Bruntnell. The festival begins at noon and runs into the wee hours. Check the full lineup and schedule here.

I posted a more concise article for No Depression here.

Oliver Gray, founder and promoter of SC4M, is a language instructor, author, musician, and all ’round music lover. Over the last dozen years or so, he’s been dipping his toes in that river of Americana music and its related tributaries and booking The Railway with the genre’s best artists. The annual non-profit festival is going on its seventh season at The Railway. According to Oliver, he founded SC4M “not to make money…but simply for fun, and because if we didn’t bring Americana to Winchester, no other bugger would. We had to accept from the start that this would be a hobby and not a business. Over the years, if you add everything up, we have made quite a substantial net loss, but had a huge amount of fun and satisfaction.” Oliver and his wife Birgit even offer up rooms in their home to the artists in order to keep expenses at a minimum.

I had the pleasure of meeting The Grays in April:

The rain poured down the day my husband Pat and I were supposed to meet Oliver Gray in a little village on the outskirts of Winchester. After touring Winchester Cathedral and paying my respects to beloved author Jane Austen (i.e., crying my eyes out at her grave), we hired a taxi to take us into the village.

We were originally going to meet Oliver at a local pub, but due to the incessant rain, he invited us over to his home instead, as he didn’t feel like venturing out. He gave us his address. That’s it? There were no numbered streets or house addresses–only names in the style of manor houses posted willy-nilly in front gardens and near doorways (think of your favorite English novel: Wuthering Heights, Thornfield Hall, Mansfield Park, etc., but in an average, residential neighborhood)–it was nearly impossible for us to find his home. Our taxi driver gave up and drove off a few minutes earlier after cruising up and down the neighborhood and checking Google Earth. We were stranded. “It’s got to be on this street, according to the GPS,” Pat said. Frustration etched his voice as the rain dripped off the hood of his jacket.

I looked up, and a familiar-looking man crossed the street and approached us. After a tentative introduction to make sure we were indeed Lisa and Pat (and he was indeed Oliver), he guided us directly across the street and up a set of stairs to his lovely home. Their house sign was posted high, near some shrubbery–we’d never looked up. He sat us down, served us tea, and said, “My wife Birgit asked me how I came to know you, and I really don’t recall. Right. So. How do I know you?” Laughter ensued as we became acquainted with each other.

As a writer and lover of music myself, I found Oliver through a Facebook group called Rollercoaster Records. I noticed we had several mutual musical friends. When I realized Oliver booked The Railway, I contacted him to inform him we’d be in town on holiday in April and hoped to meet up or go to a show. Unfortunately, our Winchester visit was on a Monday, and we missed a few shows around town by a matter of days; but we hit a home run by spending time with Oliver and Birgit that day.

Back to SC4M…

Oliver has a lively article on his SC4M page regarding the formation of SC4M, the festival, and the various mishaps of being in the booking/promotion business including flaky agents, drunken behavior, and a near murder, just to name a few. Of course, even the worst incidents are canceled out by fantastic bands, sold-out shows, and life-long friendships with artists and patrons. There is also a section dedicated to the nearly disastrous 2013 festival, and other bits of lore that took place over the last decade.

I included a snippet of Oliver’s article, which includes the birth of SC4M:

“It was at the Tower Arts Centre in Winchester and it must have been February 2000. My friend Richard had begged me to come and see a guy called Peter Bruntnell.

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“I had always had a strong prejudice against country music, with its attendant visions, in my mind, of soppy lyrics and redneck attitudes. It wasn’t rock. But Peter Bruntnell and his band did rock – like hell. The ridiculously young James Walbourne was simply one the best and wildest electric guitar players I had ever seen. There weren’t many people there, but that evening changed my life. Richard and I decided to become alt-country impresarios. Not to make money…but simply for fun, and because if we didn’t bring Americana to Winchester, no other bugger would.”

And so began Oliver’s foray into the world of promoting Americana music in Winchester.

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The Railway Inn, Winchester, UK

“We also had the perfect venue, in the form of The Railway in Winchester, a cosy pub that has a back room that feels just like a Texas roadhouse, with black walls, a sticky floor and a sweaty rock and roll vibe….We certainly didn’t think we’d still be doing it [thirteen] years later.”

The Lucky Mascot Returns:

“If you look at the list of our shows, you’ll see that the first one (on May 1, 2003) featured, naturally, Peter Bruntnell. Well, it would have to. The Bruntosaurus, as he is affectionately known, has played for us over twenty times…Peter is officially designated as our lucky mascot. In our opinion, he is the UK’s premier songwriter, but far more importantly, he is an absolute legend as a person. Luckily, our audience shares our enthusiasm and any show he features in will always draw a healthy crowd.”

Recently, I asked Pete Bruntnell about his experiences playing SC4M:

“We’ve been playing in Winchester for quite a few years now thanks to Oliver and Birgit. It’s always one we look forward to what with the great atmosphere they create, and the cheese and wine back at Chez Oliver’s after. If every town had an Oliver I’d be a rich musician!

Pete’s latest video, “Mr. Sunshine” is featured on his new album Nos Da Comrade:

Per Oliver, the 2016 lineup will be smashing with John Murry’s return to the stage:

“Since he more or less demolished the place two years ago, we’ve been gagging to have John Murry back, this time in duo format with Neil Quigley. Headlining in the Attic we have one of Winchester’s greatest success stories, This Is The Kit, featuring Kate Stables and Rozi Plain. A massive bonus this year is a solo slot from our special guest Andrew Combs, whom we love to death.”

John Murry gave an emotional tribute to the Grays:

“Oliver and Birgit Gray mean more to me than I could ever fully express in words (and I’m told that I have a way with those damn things, though I’m unsure as to whether those who say that I do mean that I use them artistically or that my use of them tends to get me in trouble quite often…). Everything they do, they do out of the love; the love of music, the love of art, and the love of the artist.

“Playing SC4M and Winchester and, in earlier days, Southampton, has always felt like a brief vacation from the pressures of touring while staying with the Gray’s. I’m certain that, if shows I have done have been good, then the ones I have done in Winchester must have been some of the best I have ever done. Like playing for family I have never really had, I have always wanted to give those shows more than I have in me to give, only to see the wry excited smile that creeps across Oliver’s face as he stands in the audience that indicates I have done well. He’s the finest musical barometer I have ever met. His taste is immaculate, his understanding of the art behind it all is immense, and his love of rock and roll is insatiable. He and Birgit have seen more amazing acts perform than most of us could see in multiple lifetimes. They are heroic to me. Sincerely. Not because they ask nothing in return for the love, hard work, and money they put creating and promoting each yearly SC4M festival, but because they do it out of a sense of duty and responsibility with a dignity and humanity almost alien to the selfish world we live in today. I’ve played large festivals on a few continents, but I have yet to play a festival as superbly curated and consistently amazing to both perform at and attend as SC4M, and I doubt I ever will. It is more than an honor to headline this year’s festival, it’s a challenge. I WILL make Oliver and Birgit dance or cry or something! I have to. They’d expect nothing less. From any of us.”

Murry rocked The Railway in 2013:

Meanwhile, back at Chez Oliver’s…

Besides booking The Railway throughout the year and the annual SC4M Festival, Oliver and Birgit also host intimate shows in a beautiful pine-wrapped outbuilding on their property called Swiss Cottage. It’s quite a treat to meet a couple who love music so much that they built a place for bands to play on their property. It holds about 30-40 people, and the top-notch musicians who are invited to play at either venue are also invited to sleep in the Grays’ home, just steps from the cottage. Money collected for the shows goes directly into the artists’ hands.

The Grays support not only UK and European artists, but also American artists. Some Americans have actually enjoyed much more success overseas than in the US. There are too many bands to list, but a few who played Winchester include: John Murry, Richmond Fontaine, Jeff Finlin, The Believers, Dead Rock West, Chuck Prophet, and Fernando Viciconte.

I’ve played Swiss Cottage, too–well, okay, I played a mean round of ping-pong in Swiss Cottage on a rainy Monday afternoon.

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Craig Aspen, Oliver Gray, and Cynthia Frazzini at Swiss Cottage

Craig Aspen of The Believers, a Seattle band currently residing in Nashville, recalls his experience of their short stay with the Grays:

“Simply put, Oliver Gray is a taste maker. The Believers included The Railway on our last tour to the UK, because Oliver was booking acts that we loved and had shared the stage with back home in the States. People like Chuck Prophet and Jesse Sykes.
“I remember Cyd [Cynthia Frazzini] and I waking up very jet-lagged and rehearsing while Oliver and Birgit cooked dinner. After we ate, Cynthia went back to bed. Oliver and I went out for pints. I don’t care what anyone says, the best beer is made in England so don’t miss a chance to get out to the pub.
“We ended up at The Railway on a double bill with our friends from LA – Dead Rock West. What a great night. And then we were ‘off’ to the next place the morning after and didn’t even get to see The Winchester Cathedral. That’s always how it goes on tour…”

_________

The rain stopped. Oliver gave us a historical walking tour through the village. We strolled across the bridges of the twin rivers and arrived at the small train station to catch our ride home. Pat and I had a lovely time, and we were so pleasantly surprised by the Grays’ hospitality to a couple of Yankee strangers who shared their love of music.

If you plan on being anywhere near the UK in September, grab some tickets to SC4M Festival and go!

Support Oliver and Birgit and their unwavering commitment to bringing quality music to Winchester. Purchase Railway Tickets for SC4M here

See the complete SC4M lineup here

SC4M’s Facebook Page

Support the independent artists who venture to your city and play in small clubs and venues. Support quality music.

 

 

 

August 10, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Oliver Gray, SC4M, The Railway, Uncategorized, Winchester Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Massy Ferguson: Chasing Anti-Heroes and Hitting The Mark at The Triple Door

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Massy Ferguson at The Triple Door June 17, 2016. L-R: Tony Mann-keys; Ethan Anderson-vocs, bass; Dave Goedde-drums; Adam Monda-vocs, guitar (not pictured: Fred Slater-keys). Photo Credit: Jacob Knight

A Massy Ferguson show always turns into one big audience-participation party, but this night was even more festive because each guest received a copy of their new album, Run It Right Into The Wall with the purchase of their ticket. Hence the official name for the evening: The “Everyone Gets An Album” Release Party.

A few weeks before the show, Massy Ferguson hyped it up online, blasting us with Facebook and Twitter posts, videos, teasers, pictures, and album review links. Paul Kerr, prolific writer of the music blog Blabber ‘n’ Smoke recently gave a thumbs up to Massy’s new album, calling it a “solid slice of gritty roots rock”. Check out his lively review here: https://paulkerr.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/massy-ferguson-run-it-right-into-the-wall-at-the-helm-records/

By showtime, The Triple Door was nearly sold out, with only a few empty seats scattered about the venue. People who purchased VIP tickets (a mere $16 more than regular admission) were also treated to a pre-show party and meet ‘n’ greet in The Green Room which included food, signed CD’s, and a cassette (yes, an actual audio cassette) of the new album. Dig out the boom boxes and find a pencil!

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Ethan Anderson: Chasing anti-heroes. Photo Credit: Jacob Knight

Ethan Anderson, bassist and frontman for MF, officially kicked off the night by reading a heartfelt speech about the conception of this album, calling it the record Massy Ferguson was born to write. He spoke of all of the steps it took to get to this point in the life of the band. He spoke of his anti-heroes–those bands who were on the fringe, who didn’t swim in the main stream, such as The Replacements, Wilco, Son Volt, and The Boss himself, back in his Nebraska days. They were his mentors, his idols–just out of reach. Some he literally just missed in a green room or on a stage. Their latest album sonically touches these anti-heroes, but as more of an homage–never an imitation. They have a signature sound, and this one hits all the marks that make them Massy Ferguson. Maybe it’s a little more rockin’ than their previous albums; but as Ethan said, “They always were at their best with rock first, twang after.”

Keeping a band together for ten years is quite a feat these days, especially when one is on the left side of the dial, trying to make ends meet–trying to make it. Roll the video…

Following the speech and video, Nick Foster Band, a seven-piece Americana ensemble, primed the audience for party time. Foster, on acoustic guitar and vocals, shared beautiful harmonies with Jazmarae Beebe. The rest of the band was equally impressive on soulful folk songs and full-bodied jams.

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Nick Foster Band. Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography

DJ Indica Jones kept the festivities going between sets with some great spins from 80’s and 90’s pop, rock, and hip-hop. He involved the audience in sing-alongs and let them finish choruses with songs like Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”. He danced along, grooving to his own beat.

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DJ Indica Jones doing his thang. Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography.

The curtain rose and Massy Ferguson started their long set with five new tracks from Run It Right Into The Wall. All songs on the album except one were written by Massy Ferguson. The exception is “Firewater”, written by UK rocker Dave Woodcock (Dave Woodcock and the Dead Comedians). This up-tempo, jangling rocker fired up the audience as Adam Monda fueled them with his trusty #5 Fender. A makeshift dance floor started in the aisle.

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Ethan Anderson, Adam Monda, and Fred Slater. Photo Credit: Jacob Knight

They continued with some favorites, including “Renegade” and “Backwoods”, the latter receiving help from the audience as they clapped along to the beat.

Another new one, “Dogbone” includes a Creedence-inspired riff. During the song, Rainier tallboys magically appeared on the stage. While Adam dove into a psychedelic solo, Ethan rolled over onto the stage (with his bass, which is quite a feat), grabbed a beer, took a sip, and popped back up. The stage lighting matched the colors of their new album. Bonus.

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Ethan grabbing a Rainier and saving the bass. Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography.

Ethan interrupted the show to mention they have two new t-shirts designed by drummer Dave Goedde in the merch booth. Dave also designed the album’s cool cover. Ethan then threw two shirts out to the cheering audience before raising his Rainier for his traditional toast, in several languages.

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Dave Goedde kept a steady beat all night. Photo Credit: Jacob Knight

“Every time I say Hello, you answer…Hello!” Ethan yelled to the crowd, and they happily shouted along to this poppy tune from Victory & Ruins.

Ethan later dedicated “Set The Sun” to a friend in the crowd who was having a birthday this evening.What a perfect way to celebrate.

“Lagrande” from the EP Damaged Goods featured Tony Mann on keys, filling in for Fred Slater. Tony just recently moved back to the US from Costa Rica, and was a member of Massy Ferguson from its inception. It was great to see Tony play with the band again.

“Atlantic City”, a cover by Bruce Springsteen, reminded Ethan of driving home with Adam after a late night in Roslyn, a tiny resort town east of the mountains. The audience sang along to the somber, repetitive chorus.

Massy Ferguson blasted back from “Atlantic City” with “Front Page News”, an angry rocker, and the dance floor spread into the aisles. They kept the momentum going with “Powder Blue” –always a great song to do near the end when everyone is primed to yell “Powder Blue!” at the top of their lungs on Ethan’s cue.

The last song,  “Into The Wall” allowed the crowd to breathe briefly while nodding their heads to the pensive title track.

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The Almighty Flute! Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography.

Ethan then invited the entire audience onstage, and soon the stage was packed with happy revelers and dancers. He handed his bass to another capable musician while he brought out his almighty flute, a bittersweet sign that the rowdy night was coming to an end. They finished their high-energy set with a cover of “Can’t You See”, but the flute malfunctioned. It was missing an end piece. A roadie tried to do an emergency repair, but it didn’t hold. Ethan tore that thing apart as the dancers and revelers continued on, not caring or noticing that the flute solo was abandoned.

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Big Finish! Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography.

Ethan Anderson might have missed his anti-heroes, but tonight, he and the band hit their mark.”They exceeded the hype!” said a friend when the party was over.

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Ethan Anderson, Fred Slater, Adam Monda, and Dave Goedde somewhere in England. Photo Credit: Ethan Anderson

A few days later, Massy Ferguson revived the party and ran it right into The UK the rest of June and into the first week of July. The tour included shows in Bath, Brighton, London, and Scheffield, among others, culminating with a grand finale at Maverick Festival in Suffolk where they shared the stage with the brilliant UK-Americana artist Peter Bruntnell.

See their website for news, merch, and upcoming shows here: http://massyfergusonband.com/

Support the independent artists who venture to your city and play small clubs and venues.  Support quality music.

 

 

 

 

 

July 9, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Massy Ferguson, Rock, Seattle Rock, The Triple Door | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Aaron Lee Tasjan was Smokin’ at Anderson School

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Brian Wright and Aaron Lee Tasjan

It was another one of those nights where we looked around and wondered where the hell everybody was. Why wasn’t the entire city stuffed in this old gym watching this talented band from East Nashville? It was a free show! Just walk in, that’s all they had to do! It was a Wednesday in Bothell, for one thing.

McMenamins, an Oregon-based hotel, brewery, and restaurant chain, recently opened another fine facility here in Bothell, a neighboring town about 30 minutes northeast of downtown Seattle. The old Anderson School property has been transformed into a beautiful hotel, a large restaurant, several intimate bars and outdoor spaces, a pool with a tiki bar perched above it, a movie theater, and music venues. One venue is in a classroom-sized space; another, an outdoor stage in the courtyard; and the main venue is located in the old gym–or maybe it was the old cafeteria. Regardless, you know the look: a big box with high ceilings. It’s a good space for wedding receptions or class reunions, but an awkward space when you, as a band, have to play in front of a paltry crowd of 25, seated ’round a few round tables. Unfortunately, this is where Aaron Lee Tasjan and his band The Stoned Faces were set to play.

It was a beautiful evening, and there were lots of people milling around outside, sitting near the wood fire pits and propane heaters, eating and drinking. Inside, the bars, booths, and tables were fairly full for a Wednesday. We ate dinner outside first, and made it just in time to see the band load in on the low stage at the front of the gaping venue.

The two-set show started around 7:00.

Aaron Lee briefly introduced himself and explained how he is from East Nashville, not that Other Nashville…and dove into the first set with E.N.S.A.A.T.: “East Nashville Song About A Train”. Here’s a similar version he played at Red Clay Music Foundry:

“Junk Food and Drugs” shows off ALT’s guitar pickin’ prowess:

“12 Bar Blues” not to be confused with George Harrison’s lil’ ditty, “For Your Blues”–This humorous song had to do with the twelve bars the narrator in the song frequented. Watch below as he sing-talks his way through each bar.

One cannot help but make comparisons to Todd Snider, his East Nashvillian neighbor and occasional stage partner. Influences are found in his humorous anecdotes, drug-saturated characters, and even in a few of the melodies. More than once, I leaned over to husband Pat and whispered, “This could be a Todd song!” But Aaron Lee has a voice and a skill on guitar that goes unmatched. His upper register has a clarity to it that gave me chills, and at times, reminding me of Rodney Crowell. His nasty garage riffs and blues-laced jams were dazzling–techniques likely honed from his days with New York Dolls and Drivin’ and Cryin’. This was a rock band at times, under the heavy influence of East Nashville.

During the short intermission, both Brian and Aaron Lee greeted their fans and seemed appreciative to those who did make it to the show. More people trickled in by the time they jumped back on the stage.

“In My Life” the Beatles cover, was the first song of the mostly acoustic second set. It was a sweet rendition–just Aaron Lee, his beautiful tenor voice, and his acoustic guitar.

The spotlight then shifted to Brian Wright, a singer-songwriter and skillful guitarist in his own right. His voice surprised me. It had a rich, deeper tone that evoked emotion.

Just like Nashville needs a train song, they also require a murder ballad. Brian’s ballad is called “Maria Sugarcane”:

Brian also gave a shout-out to the late great Guy Clark and covered a moving rendition of his song, “El Coyote”.

Brian stopped to take a sip of his drink. Someone yelled out “Whiskey?” He turned, with a comedic pause and said, “It’s almost summer. It’s tequila–I’m not a savage!”

Meanwhile, Aaron happily picked along in support, adding harmonies where required. Wright had a fan in the sparse audience who knew all of his songs and requested one he hadn’t played in a while. He obliged, and told her that when the song is over, she’ll either thank him, or he’ll have to apologize. He donned his harmonica and played seemingly without any foul-ups, since she let out a whoop and applause at the end, along with the rest of the crowd.

During this second set, more people wandered in and took their places at back tables or stood along the sides by the bar. Maybe a total 50 people attended. It was so surprising, considering there was no admission fee. The double doors were propped open, letting their bluesy, twangy sound flow into the courtyard.

“$66.00 Blues” was part of the Big Finish of the evening. They brought up the rest of the talented band and jammed their way into Tom Petty’s “Refugee” and back, topping off the the fine set with a big ol’ cherry.

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ALT and The Stoned Faces: Brian Wright (guitar, vox), Jordan Solly Levine (drums), Aaron Lee Tasjan (guitar, vox), and Keith Christopher (bass)

Check ALT’s website for current merch, more information and updates regarding a new album dropping in October, and other tour news.

Check Brian Wright’s website for more info and purchase his new album, Rattle Their Chains.

Read more about Aaron Lee Tasjan and his band here:

http://nodepression.com/album-review/aaron-lee-tasjan-heads-east-nashville%E2%80%99s-songwriting-new-wave

 

June 3, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Alt-Country, Americana, Brian Wright, East Nashville, McMenamins | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Peter Bruntnell’s Nos Da Comrade – Five Stars

Nos Da Comrade - Peter Bruntnell

I wrote a short, five-star Amazon review of Peter Bruntnell’s latest album, Nos Da Comrade (2016). It’s a must-buy for Americana/pop/rock fans.

Check out a detailed, glowing review from Paul Kerr of Blabber ‘n’ Smoke here: https://paulkerr.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/peter-bruntnell-nos-da-comrade-domestico-records/

Purchase his merch through Amazon or directly from Peter here: http://peterbruntnell.net/store.php

Watch the video of the first song  on the album, “Mr. Sunshine”:

 

 

May 26, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Peter Bruntnell, Pop / Rock | , , , , | 2 Comments

Richmond Fontaine’s Swan Song in Seattle

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Richmond Fontaine played a final show in Seattle at The Sunset on May 14, 2016. L-R: Dan Eccles (guitar), Willy Vlautin (vocals, guitar), Freddy Trujillo (bass), Sean Oldham (drums). Photo Credit: Alicia Rose

It was a night full of contradictions. I’d never heard of Richmond Fontaine until just a few months ago. The Portland band have been around over 20 years. Last Saturday, they played a final show in Seattle. I’m now a new fan of a band that is breaking up. Great. I’m late to the party–er, funeral once again.

I witnessed a band’s wake before–Seattle’s North Twin, who delivered their own coup de grace just down the street at The Tractor about six years ago. I prefer it that way; at least there’s some closure. The death of Richmond Fontaine will be prolonged a few more months; but here in Seattle, they celebrated their long life surrounded by friends and musical family. There will be at least one more show in Oregon, and an Ireland/UK farewell tour in October before they pull the plug. They’re ending amicably and leaving us with a parting gift: a fantastic new album fittingly titled You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To.

I binge-listened to RF’s albums over the last few weeks, trying to catch up before we hit the show. Frontman and acclaimed author Willy Vlautin‘s lyrics paint desolate pictures of the downtrodden, lonely, broke, the unlucky, the abandoned–the outcasts of society. Tales of addiction, break-ups, desperation, and downward spirals are common themes throughout the ten albums. Some characters are likable losers who were dealt a bad hand in life or have paid dearly for their bad choices. But there is also a feeling, just a glimmer, a hint, that once in a while, one of those effed-up kids he writes and sings about is going to be alright. Each day that I listened, I always circled back to their latest  release, the thirteen songs on You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To. It’s depressing as hell at times, and yet I wanted to hear it again and again. I connected and empathized with the characters. The up-tempo melodies of some of the songs offset the melancholy lyrics. Balance.

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Willy Vlautin – Illustration by Nate Beaty

I also read Willy Vlautin’s first of four books called The Motel Life. Although the heartbreaking story and sympathetic characters absolutely gutted me, I wanted to read more and was sad that it had to end. I plan on purchasing the rest of his books. Feel free to do the same here: http://willyvlautin.com/store/ Rumor has it, his fifth book is in the works. According to Willy, when his personal life is falling apart, he writes songs. When he’s healthy, out jogging, he’s probably writing a book. Strangely, I had his name and the book’s title in my phone under “Books to Read” for a year–a strong recommendation from my friend Kari, artist and loving partner of David Corley, who also spent time with Willy and Co. in Ireland. I never made the connection until just recently.

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Be sure to purchase their merch!

I also was told by a friend, Oliver Gray (who is mentioned in the liner notes of at least one of RF’s albums), that Willy’s books must be read in order of publication. Oliver is not only a superfan, but a venue owner, promoter, music critic, and author. He has hosted RF shows in England for many years (RF has a huge cult following in The UK and Ireland) and befriended the band in the process. I just met Oliver in person while we were on holiday near London in April, just days before I found out about RF’s show date in Seattle.

One thing I love about live music is how it brings strangers together, bonding over the common love of a band. I made another new friend after I announced on Facebook I was attending this show. Allison, a superfan from Canada, traveled to Seattle with her husband Tony, and we met up at Hattie’s Hat for a chat beforehand. We have several mutual, music-loving friends, so it was only natural that we should eventually meet and instantly bond (while our patient husbands sat idly by). Although she’s been a fan for years, she had never seen RF in person, so she was thrilled to experience this final show.

The day of the show was dark, gloomy, and rainy–so contradictory to the blue-sky day before, which sizzled Seattle with record-breaking temperatures.

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We made our way to the very front of the stage, right after the doors opened. There is nothing like standing in the front row of an intimate venue. I love watching the band, up close and personal. I like catching their nuances: the onstage banter and inside jokes; a grimace while hitting a big chord; a tapping foot; a sly, knowing smile when a rare wrong note is hit; nimble fingers finding the frets; glances and nods when things are going well. RF was no exception. One could tell they have a healthy, brotherly bond with each other, even though their band was on its way out.

If they love each other so much, why are they breaking up? Read and listen to Willy Vlautin’s answers here:

Willy Vlautin was interviewed recently by Casey Jarman of Portland Monthly : http://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2016/4/15/willy-vlautin-on-richmond-fontaine-s-farewell-and-the-price-of-living-hard

While in Ireland, Willy also spoke with Martin Bridgeman on a radio broadcast regarding the breakup, the new album, and the crafting of his songs and stories: http://kclr96fm.com/folkroots-interview-willy-vlautin-152016/

The mature audience knew their band and were there to give them a final sendoff with support and love. Although I was a newbie here, I still felt accepted and comfortable among them. It was fun to watch the crowd, too, as many sang along with Willy or nodded their heads in acknowledgement to a song, and loudly clapped and whooped after each one.

Richmond Fontaine began the set with my favorite song off their new album called “Wake Up Ray”. Here is a live version from Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Willy’s lyrics tear at my heart:

Wake Up Ray

It ain’t no use, ain’t no use
Maybe some guys just ain’t meant to
I was living in Montana once and I was married
For a while it rolled so easy
But she got to where she couldn’t stand our place
She got to where she cringed at the way I slept and ate
I bought her a bird, a finch she called little Joe
And then one night she blew into a rage
In a snowstorm she ran outside and opened up the cage

Wake up Ray let’s get out of here
This town’s done nothing it’s clear but try to do us in

Wake up Ray, the sun’s coming up and still I can’t stop thinking
How can someone you love so much grow against you so?
All I did, all I did was try to toe that line
The same line you see everyone else toe
Now all I remember is running through the snow
Looking for Little Joe as the wind blowed

Wake up Ray, I need a cup of coffee in a bad way
Let’s get out of here this town ain’t done nothing
It’s clear but try to do us in

The Seattle show included most songs from their latest album and also dove into tracks from the last two decades.There were some last-minute changes to the original list, too. Their stage performance was tight, energized and faster-paced than some of their recorded songs–fueled, I’m sure, by the enthusiastic audience. Early on, longtime fans shouted out song requests, and Willy acknowledged a few with a wide-eyed nod, or laughed at their persistence.

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Willy would stop once in a while and explain the origin of a song, such as the dark and ominous “Hallway” from 2003’s Post to Wire. He said he used to meet a friend for breakfast at a cafe, and one day he didn’t show up. Willy went to his house and found the friend in his tighty-whities, hiding in the hall with a gun. Apparently, he was on a coke binge and had been up for three days. “He almost shot me that day. I never met him for breakfast after that.”

“Let’s Hit One More Place” from the new album was dedicated to Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5, who headlined this night. Willy said he’s been a fan of The Minus 5 for 20 years, and channeled Scott when he wrote this song.

“Two Friends Lost At Sea” was based on another true story. One of Willy’s favorite Portland punk bands was Dead Moon. When people are excited about a band, they like to tell their friends. Sometimes, that leads to a wonderful shared experience. Other times, like in Willy’s case, it ruins the band for them. He made the mistake of introducing a girlfriend to the band. Later, she broke up with him. The next time he saw her was at Dead Moon’s show. She was making out with some new guy in the front row. Ruined.

Although he seemed a little shy onstage and mostly sang with his eyes closed, he was very personable, friendly, and humble in the merch line before and after the show. He greeted each fan, listened intently to their stories, and seemed grateful to them for showing up. There’s a self-deprecating charm about him, as if he is genuinely surprised by his fame and the fact that his books and music are treasured by so many people around the world.

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Freddy Trujillo and Willy Vlautin

Dan Eccles on lead guitar, just rocked. He was so entertaining to watch as he grimaced and head-banged through the set, his long hair trying to keep up with the beat. His nimble fingers delicately found each chord on the slower folk songs, but slammed the power chords with a full-body gyration. He had a minimal amount of pedals, but made excellent use of them to alter the sound to match a pedal steel guitar, add some serious fuzz, or the emphasize the twang in his Telecaster.

One of the last rocking songs of the evening, “Lost in The Trees” is from 2011’s The High Country. They also played this song at Kilkenny Roots Festival in early May, and are favorite performers there. Below, you can hear Freddy’s thumping bass, watch Dan shred that Tele, and be amazed at how seemingly effortless Sean is at holding the steady, commanding beat on drums. Willy’s grim lyrics and monotone vocals on this song give it a punk edge.

Near the end, a fan threw a Winner’s Casino (an actual casino and a song from 2002’s Winnemucca) satin baseball-style jacket, up on stage as they played their final song. Willy sported a big grin as he played. They later posed for a photo with the jacket, all smiles. It was a great way to close the night and to find closure with this beloved band.

Like some of Willy Vlautin’s characters in his songs and stories, the band mates are probably going to be alright after the breakup.Willy, Sean Oldham, and Freddy Trujillo are already members of another band called The Delines. Willy is planning to spend some time working on his next book. Dan Eccles also plays in a band with Portland legend Fernando Viciconte.

We can’t go back, but we can look ahead. They’re still with us, just transformed and scattered into new entities.

Bitter and sweet.

____________

Check out Richmond Fontaine’s tour updates for the rest of the year here:  http://richmondfontaine.com/dates

Listen and purchase their music through Bandcamp here: http://richmondfontaine.bandcamp.com/

I also posted a version of this piece to No Depression here: http://nodepression.com/live-review/richmond-fontaines-swan-song-seattle

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 18, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Alt-Country, Americana, Richmond Fontaine, The Sunset Tavern, Willy Vlautin | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Todd Snider Sells Out

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Aladdin Theater  Portland, OR

4/30/2016

Todd Snider sometimes tells the tale of when he almost sold out to Garth Brooks who wanted to change the lyrics to one of Todd’s songs, “Alright Guy” and record it on his rock album as alter ego Chris Gaines. The lyrics include the phrase, “maybe I smoke a little dope”, but Todd claims, “not that I do, it just rhymes with Pope.” Garth wanted to change the lyrics to something less, uh, damaging to his career. Todd’s friends told him he shouldn’t sell out, but he was “…already thinking about what kind of car I’d trade that fuckin’ van in for!”

Todd is the king of the yarn, a raggedy raconteur. On this particular evening, he told another Brooks tale about how one of Garth’s writers stole Todd’s song, “Beer Run”, claiming that if you change enough words and the melody, it’s not exactly stealing. So Todd, not wanting to have to get dressed up and go downtown and sit through meetings, had a brilliant idea and came up with his own song entitled, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and made sure to follow the writer’s advice. Now, Todd can tell the story in much more detail, followed by a rollicking version of the song in question. Fans lined up in front of The Aladdin Theater in Portland know that. All three shows sold out.

Saturday morning rolled around, and I wasn’t in the mood to drive three hours to Portland in heavy traffic. My weekends are piling up, and I was longing for quiet time at home. P purchased tickets weeks ago, though, so that was that. Also, I feared Todd Snider’s solo show wouldn’t hold up to the ones we’ve seen in the past where he was animated and engaged—and so funny. There were rumors circling about his health and how he’s not the same ol’ Todd when he’s in Hard Working Americans, even though the supergroup rocks. I heard he was feeling better, and ready to take on these three nights in his home state.

When we were about to head out the door, I received a call from our friend C who was headed back home after seeing Todd’s second show. He absolutely raved about how Todd was dialed in, was engaged with the crowd, had the audience in stitches with his stories in between songs, and was musically in fine form. Suddenly, I was ready to take on Todd Snider again. Let’s hit the road!

Off we went, running into snags of traffic in Tacoma and near the border, crossing the great bridge that spans The Columbia and into Portland. We inched our way downtown and relied on GPS to find our hotel. After meeting our friend L at Hair of The Dog Brewery (the best brewery in Portland in our not-so-humble opinions), we headed to the show.

We stopped by The Lamp next door to The Aladdin  first and met a few more friends for a bite to eat. I love the Todd Snider culture. Everyone there in the group met at either a Todd show or some other related show, like Widespread Panic, Phish or Grateful Dead, etc. We actually met our friend L in 2009 at a Todd show in Reno.

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We found seats stage right and settled in. The show started after 8 with Rorey Carroll, a beautiful female folk singer with a sultry, ethereal voice and a sailor’s mouth. Todd came out and introduced her, and mentioned he is producing her album. She had a lanky awkwardness about her that was endearing to the audience, who cheered her on throughout her short set. We enjoyed her set, drawn in by her vocals and ballads as she lightly strummed her acoustic guitar. In between songs, she bantered with the crowd. There were many people who attended all three shows, and they were calling for songs near the end and she argued about which ones she was going to play. “Not the murder song!”

After a brief intermission, Todd Snider came out to hearty cheers and started his long set with “In Between Jobs”.

He spoke of his problems with his back and his arthritis, and how he got to the point where he could only sit down to play. He took a couple months to rest and recover and feels better now. It showed in his performance. He was on point–dialed in, as our friend C said. He was chatty and engaging, honest and self-deprecating. He deftly plowed through song after song, with heart and humor. I only heard one bobble with lyrics, and we must give him credit. In one of the first shows I ever saw him play, he’d forgotten the lines to one of his songs and had to stop and back up. “I forgot the words. But think of how many I remembered!” Classic.

Setlist (as listed on Todd Snider’s Facebook Page) with my notes to the right:

In Between Jobs
Happy New Year
[18 Minutes Into]
[Final Night]
In The Beginning
[HWA Church] – Todd spoke of his time as frontman with Hard Working Americans. He said he enjoyed playing with HWA because he could sing a few lines and step away from the mic as they went into some long jam session. He could nod his head and spin around a little, just 10 feet away from what he used to do in the audience anyway, so why not do it on stage?  But fans of his solo work would knock on the tour bus after the show, confused, offended, and upset that he wasn’t up on stage spinnin’ yarns and playing his acoustic guitar: “Is this what you’re doing from now on?” And Todd would respond, “No, this is what I did tonight.”
Greencastle Blues
[The Last Three Nights]
Too Soon To Tell
[The Last Verse…]
Beer Run
[Garth Brooks Story]
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Is This Thing Working
The Last Laugh
Carla
The Devil You Know – After the song was finished, he raised in arms in triumph like a prize fighter and exclaimed, “That song had a lot of words, too!”
Looking For A Job
[Jewett Sucks]
Doublewide Blues – with one of the lyrics changed to “I don’t get out much anymore since terrorism…”
Vinyl Records
Alright Guy – An audience singalong of the chorus ensued
D.B. Cooper – the ballad of the local hero/villain who jumped out of an airplane with a bag of stolen money, never to be seen again
Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues – one of the songs which put Todd on the musical map in the 90’s
[Drive-Thru Story]
Stuck On The Corner >
Johnny B. Goode – “Most of my songs are based on this song’s melody…”
[Grateful]
[Jerry Jeff Walker Story] which stretched out to a coked-up evening decades ago where Todd was flopping like a fish outta water on Jerry Jeff’s dining room table. The next morning, Jerry Jeff was standing naked over Todd as he lay on the couch, exclaiming, “Never again, boy, never again.”
Mr. Bojangles -Mr. Bojangles in Santa Fe at 3 am – One of those once-in-a-lifetime magical moments when Todd and Jerry Jeff are out in the middle of nowhere, on a deserted street in Santa Fe, and here’s this kid playing “Mr. Bojangles” on guitar, with a hat on the ground, busking for tips. And here’s Jerry Jeff, the author of the song, soaking it all in. Todd thought twice about telling the kid he’s playing the song that was written by the man standing in front of him. When the busker was finished, Jerry Jeff unloaded his wallet into his hat (well, Todd embellished, I believe, when he said his change, his bills, his credit cards, his car keys…), and they walked away. Of course, Todd then played a tender version of “Mr. Bojangles” in honor of his friend and mentor, Jerry Jeff Walker.
e:
Big Finish
Good News Blues
Freebird – Freebird. Yes, he actually played “Freebird”, without irony, and with heart, to finish the evening. A final prize fighter stance, a smile, and a wave goodbye.

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May 3, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Folk, Rorey Carroll, Todd Snider | , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Corley’s New EP and Tour

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Cover art and design by Kari Auerbach

David Corley, whose triumphant story is now legendary among the world of independent music, has come back from the dead (literally) to produce a new 2016 EP entitled, appropriately, Lights Out. This EP, again produced by Hugh Christopher Brown, is a follow-up to Available Light, his debut album released near the end of 2014.

Where Available Light was quiet and introspective Americana with a couple of rockers, this new EP rocks and rolls, circa 1970. Corley doesn’t hold back on sing-talking his way through each song, with powerful, shaggy vocals in the forefront. There is such a great, up-tempo 70’s groove throughout the whole album. It’s heavy on guitar, organ (with a serious nod to early Petty), and drums, but still as lyrical and poetic as Available Light. He does slow down a bit and sings a country-blues tale of bad timing and missed opportunities on “Blind Man”, which includes the mournful whine of a harmonica, reminiscent of a Willie Nelson song.

Please check out Cara Gibney’s heartfelt article and interview with David, which includes the real-life story behind “Blind Man”, working with Sherman Holmes, and partner-love Kari Auerbach’s artistic interpretation of the album cover: http://nodepression.com/interview/lights-out-david-corley

Listen to and purchase the entire EP here: David Corley – Lights Out on Bandcamp

David is touring Europe starting this week in The Netherlands and moving to Ireland for Kilkenny Roots Festival over the weekend, starting May 1. Check out the incredible lineup here: http://kilkennyroots.com/

Check out David’s full tour here: http://davidcorleymusic.com/shows/

More articles on David Corley:

http://nodepression.com/interview/david-corley-wishes-right-star-and-debut-album-soars

http://nodepression.com/interview/david-corleys-irish-odyssey-moving-past-new-album

Official Video of “Easy Mistake” from Available Light:

 

 

April 26, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, David Corley, Music, Rock | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jeremy Nail – My Mountain

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Jeremy Nail, native Texan and singer-songwriter, just released My Mountain, eleven alt-country / Americana gems set in solid gold and produced by Alejandro Escovedo. I will direct your attention to my friend Paul Kerr’s review, a work of poetic prose:https://paulkerr.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/jeremy-nail-my-mountain/

Also, Cara Gibney posted an insightful interview with Jeremy on Rocking Magpie’s site here: https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/jeremy-nail-exclusive-interview-by-cara-gibney/

Watch the official video of the title track, “My Mountain”:

 

Photo Credit: Stevan Alcala

 

April 25, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Alejandro Escovedo, Jeremy Nail, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments