Some things you know are just meant to be—but even when you do, it’s nice to get some outside affirmation. So while Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley were sure that their musical partnership was the right move at the right time, it was still welcome news when their debut Compass Records project, Before The Sun Goes Down, earned a nomination for the Best Bluegrass Album Grammy just about the time that Ickes took leave of the band he’d been in for over 20 years to make the joint venture the centerpiece of his career. And with the release of their new project, The Country Blues on July 8th the pair build on the first one’s strengths to take their unique musical conversation to an even higher level.
“Rob’s helping me to explore more of what to play and when to play it,” says Hensley, who’s made the transition from hot-shot guitar phenom to well-rounded instrumental and vocal powerhouse look easy. “I’ve been in a band for so long that I’m really enjoying the simplicity of the duo thing—and Trey’s done a lot of band stuff, too, so we’re on the same page,” responds Ickes, whose award-winning resonator guitar work not only helped to power famed bluegrass ensemble Blue Highway for two decades, but appears on hundreds of bluegrass and country albums. That same page extends to the other musicians who complement their work, starting with bassist Mike Bub and drummer John Alvey, who regularly accompany Ickes and Hensley on gigs around Nashville. “It works in so many different ways, we’ve done it duo, we’ve done some gigs with just John, we’ve done four piece, and we’ve done five piece with a fiddle,” notes Ickes. “Trey and I have always clicked, and when he and I know what’s going on, everyone else just grabs on—and that’s kind of the fun of the gig, it’s constantly changing.”
That fun pervades the 11 tracks on The Country Blues, even when the subject matter’s as mournful as the post-romance desolation of Hank Williams’ classic “May You Never Be Alone.” “I hate to use the word,” Ickes chuckles, “but we really did pick the material organically. Our gigs in town have acted as a workshop—you can try something new during a show at the Station Inn and work it out right there. So when we got into the studio, we just blasted through, doing a few takes of each song, without stopping for anyone to fix anything. And then Trey and I went through the takes to make our choices.”
That organic approach served well as recording sessions with regulars Mike Bub (bass) and John Alvey (drums) and a select handful of instrumental and vocal guests that included the likes of Vince Gill and Carl Jackson were sandwiched between long stints on the road as a duo. The unusual schedule allowed Hensley and Ickes to take what they were exploring on stages across the country and around the world into the studio, and the result is a set that expands the already wide-ranging palette of Before The Sun Goes Down in even more directions. “This guy is so versatile,” Ickes says of Hensley, “that we can do just about anything. The bluegrass stuff can sound really straight ahead, but then we can do something in the vein of the Allman Brothers, and that’ll sound authentic, too. We could do a Bob Wills album, and that would be great as well—I haven’t found anything he can’t do.”
Want proof? Check out the powerful Sonny Boy Williamson blues shouter, “One Way Out,” or the mixed regret and determination of “Won’t Give Up My Train,” memorably recorded years ago by Merle Haggard, or the ‘grassy dexterity of their original, “Everywhere I Go.” Need more? How about the insouciant funk of “Never Can Pray Enough,” imported from the Wood Brothers, or the southern rock of Charlie Daniels on “Willie Jones?” Then there’s the jazzy tour de force instrumental, “Biscuits And Gravy,” written by Ickes as a kind of tribute to pedal steel master Buddy Emmons and so much more; there’s even a nod to the Grateful Dead in “Friend Of The Devil,” a dazzling staple of the duo’s live shows.
Indeed, though the contributions from Alvey, Bub and the rest of a short but sweet list of friends who helped out complement the duo’s exciting work, there’s no doubt that it’s Ickes and Hensley who are front and center on The Country Blues—and that’s just how it should be. After all, when something’s meant to be, the best thing to do is to get out of the way and let it go.... See MoreSee Less
The Pearlsl are an Americana, Alt-Country, and Western Swing band that hail from Vancouver, WA. Their influences include The Band, The Eagles, George Jones, The Grateful Dead and The Everly Brothers, in addition to old Dixieland jazz and classic country. The Pearls are a vocal-driven band with songs that blend the spirit of travel and adventure with Cajun, gypsy jazz, bluegrass and country influences. The band is Patrick Tetreault (acoustic guitar, vocals), Buck Ryan (bass, vocals), Joe Haegele (drums, percussion), Nick O’Donnell (electric guitar, banjo, vocals), Robin Suskind (pedal steel), and Nikolette Divine (vocals). thepearls.band/
Pop Matters put it succinctly as they summed up Ian Moore’s career to date, saying " Sure, he’s got his peers, but he’s ballsier than Josh Rouse, bluesier than Josh Ritter, grittier than Matthew Sweet, brainier than Ryan Adams, and more muscular than Grant-Lee Phillips. Moore’s transformation from trade bluesman to restless pop chameleon maybe most closely echoed by Chris Whitley." Ian Moore is not easily tagged by genre and comparison, and in his diversity and understanding of form, he is unique in his time.
Ian carries on a legacy that runs deep in his blood. From before he could speak, he was learning music from many of the Texas greats, and that process deepened and widened as he started to play guitar as a teen. Spending countless hours on stages and back rooms, playing with his idols and mentors, and picking up the intrinsic knowledge of music that can only be learned on the stand in Austin. Ian was baptized in these fires and his career has mirrored that way of thinking. Each record, though always true to his voice, is a departure from the last, and challenges his listeners to keep up. He continues to recombine the sounds, looking back on a long road of tradition with a head-on fire with new ideas.
Ian has toured with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, ZZ Top, and Paul Weller. He has performed on hundreds of radio and television shows, including the Late Show with David Letterman, the Today Show, a recent DirectTV special, and even a part in Billy Bob Thornton's feature film Slingblade! He has 4 top 20 Billboard hits, 8 albums to his name, and countless music awards. He has spent the last two decades touring from clubs to stadiums throughout US and Europe, and has cemented his place as a Texas music icon.
Strange Days is Ian's latest release, and continue on the tack started last year with his soul covers record, The Noble Art. It dips back into the psychedelic side of soul and funk music, channeling Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and P-Funk. High concept takes on man’s darker natures (the first tune Strange Days is based on Joshua Oppenheimer's 'Act Of Killing) vacillate with gentle love songs, and Ian's brit-rock influences make appearances, especially on the mod sounding 'Indian Red'. "Mary Go Round', the album's closer sounds like a Syd Barret/Nina Simone mashup, a soulful, vulnerable mediation on the dark night of the soul. Ian's eclecticism is pretty much guaranteed at this point, as he's made it a primary marching order throughout his career, but it's his juxtaposition of this with his classic, soulful singing and fiery guitar playing that make him a totally unique creature. The hooks and arrangements make Strange Days a joy to listen to, and there are sonic rewards throughout, but it's real power is in the duality of shaking your ass and elevating your mind.... See MoreSee Less
Laura Stevenson is finally learning not to worry. After more than a year of national and worldwide touring following the release of her critically acclaimed album Wheel, both headlining, and alongside such varied acts as Against Me!, The Go-Go’s, Kevin Devine, Tim Kasher of Cursive, and The Gaslight Anthem, the songwriter made the move from her between-tour home base of Brooklyn, to upstate New York’s Hudson River Valley. There, she rented a nineteenth- century Victorian, a former brothel in a cement-mining town-turned hippie-enclave, and converted the attic into a makeshift studio. It was in this space that she and her band went to work arranging and demoing the eleven songs she had written that would make up Cocksure, Stevenson’s fourth album. The record features musicians Mike Campbell, Alex Billig and Peter Naddeo, who in various incarnations have performed with her for over seven years, as well as newcomer Samantha Niss, a long-time Hudson Valley resident and the veritable go-to drummer of the region.
Where 2013’s Wheel was full of lingering uncertainty, harkening to Stevenson’s folk and country leanings, Cocksure is a straightforward, to the point, emboldened rock and roll album. Although some existential dread still peaks through the cracks, Stevenson treats themes as heavy-hearted as sudden and tragic death, self-imposed exile in small windowless rooms, and that back-of-your- mind anxiety that the road you’re on may not be the right one, as their own signs of life; a life that is brightly colored by those realities.
Sama Dams - Avant-Indie, Experimental, Post-Rock - Portland
From the budding music scene of the Upper Midwest comes the cutting edge Front Porch Americana soundscapes of The Last Revel. This powerfully talented trio of multi-instrumentalists from Minneapolis, Minnesota so naturally blends the genres of Folk, Rockabilly, Old Time String-Band and Rock to create a sound that is as equally original as it is timeless. The Last Revel trio utilizes their multi-instrumental abilities to bring the acoustic guitar, upright bass, fiddle, 5-string banjo, harmonica, kick drum and three-part vocal harmonies together to consistently deliver “Bombastic live performances,” as well as delicate and haunting folk ballads.
With their second, self titled, album released in May of 2015, The Last Revel further demonstrates their ability to create rich and delicately textured recorded material with a modern “tip of the hat” to the storied history of American folk music.
Tim Kasher, with his bands Cursive and The Good Life or as a solo artist, has continuously pushed musical boundaries over his career, which has produced 17 LPs and EPs over 20 years. His fearless attitude is easily evident: he’s known for switching up sounds between his bands or his solo work (even switching up sounds on each project’s albums), crafting intricate concept albums (two of which – Cursive’s 2003 LP The Ugly Organ and 2012 LP I Am Gemini – featured play-like stage directions), and transforming songs originally conceived as a soundtrack for his self-penned screenplay into a standalone album (The Good Life’s 2007 release Help Wanted Nights).
Kasher’s forthcoming third solo album No Resolution (which will also be the first release from 15 Passenger, the new label founded and run by Cursive) is no exception, delivering what is arguably his most ambitious and intrepid work to date.
No Resolution is the natural continuation of Tim Kasher’s constantly evolving body of work. It is his most cinematic creation, a moving and cathartic collection of soundscapes that feels more like a suite of movements than a standard pop album, complete with instrumental breaks conjoining the nine songs. Fittingly, the 15 pieces will be featured in Kasher’s directorial debut film of the same name, which he also wrote, to be released later this year. Across the album’s strong story the characters – an engaged couple on the brink of a break up – grapple with the specific and the broad, including the restlessness of adulthood and smothering external pressures; relationships in various states of transition and the walls built within them; distrust, indecision, and despair; and the existential anxiety that drives a deep need to leave a mark on the world.
Filled with lush arrangements, No Resolution is some of the most beautiful and finely orchestral music from Kasher, yet it is also his most subdued and understated work. The string arrangements that dominate the album don’t simply hang in the background or accent the pretty melodies, they move the songs forward and force out the melodies as guitars do in traditional hard rock music. There is also a warm sophistication to No Resolution, with its fluid vibraphone tones, and also exhibits Kasher’s deft pop hand, with sudden horn blasts and dynamic shifts.
Ever since the release of her debut album Was Right All Along in 2009, Allison Weiss' world has been on fire. The album gained immediate notoriety with major media spotlighting Allison's use of the then brand new concept of crowdfunding. She went on to release the critically-acclaimed follow up Say What You Mean (2013), plus a handful of EPs throughout the years, including her latest release Remember When (2014). The New York Times calls her "strong and impressively tart" while Paste Magazine declares her music "expertly displays the urgency and emotion that can really only be captured by a young artist bent on being earnest and open with her audience."
That air of relatability wafts throughout all the songs on New Love, Allison's new record available worldwide on October 2. It was inspired by Weiss's recent move to Los Angeles and, wait for it... a new love. The change in geographic scenery can be heard in "Golden Coast," which was co-written with fellow folk-rocker Jenny Owen Youngs, and tackles the trepidation that often comes with making a major life change that's necessary but nerve wrecking nevertheless. Then there's "Back To Me," which is the kind of hopeful pop song with upbeat melodies but heartbreaking lyrics about the one who got away and, sadly, isn't ever coming back. Most striking is the album's anthem and standout single, "Who We Are," a complicated and cognizant ode to equality and acceptance that's just begging for you to sing along.
“Some people are impressionists. These guys leave an impression.” Says Bill Miller, owner of JohnnyCash.com, about Cash'd Out (Douglas Benson vocals, George Bernardo drums, and Stephen Rey bass), a San Diego based band, that channels Johnny Cash in about as close a manner to the real thing as it gets. After eleven years, hundreds of thousands of miles on the road and many more fans, those fans continually tell the group how grateful they are that Cash’d Out carries the torch of the Johnny Cash Show.
Besides music critics anointing Cash’d Out the “next best thing to Johnny Cash” the highlights have been many: W.S. Holland, Cash’s longtime drummer, has sat in with Cash’d Out; front man, Douglas Benson, has played Johnny’s cherry sunburst Guild guitar (courtesy of Mr.Miller); “Cindy Cash came to a show and was moved to give me a glass locket that was her father’s,” explains Benson; and longtime Cash manager Lou Robin has also been to several Cash’d Out shows, and claimed that if he closed it eyes it was like “going back in time.”
The band’s live shows respectfully reference the late, great Man in Black's Sun Records and early Columbia era sound, combined with the energy of the classic multi-platinum live recordings from Folsom Prison and San Quentin. The group's genuine love (and authentic recreation) of Johnny Cash’s music and its universal appeal fans of all ages and of virtually all musical genres makes each Cash’d Out show a must-see event. Or as Miller says, “Some people are impressionists. These guys leave an impression.”
New Orleans’ Grammy-nominated The Hot 8 Brass Band Band will accompany the release of their fifth album, ‘On The Spot’ (due late March, via Tru Thoughts), with an extensive tour including their biggest London headline yet at The Roundhouse as well as key spots across Europe, Australasia and North America.
Stirring up excitement ahead of the album and tour, lead single “Working Together”/“Keepin’ It Funky” (out 16th Dec) has been gaining support from Jamie Cullum (BBC R2), Garth Trinidad (KCRW) and Craig Charles (BBC R2/6Music). The latter tastemaker also stars in the “Keepin’ It Funky” video, which sees him leading the crowd of revellers in a raucous Hot 8 parade performance on London’s Clapham Common. Wherever they are, Hot 8 bring the unique, undiluted energy of the New Orleans Second Line parades.
The new record has its roots firmly in live performance, and in true Hot 8 style it pairs hard-hitting, heart-on-sleeve sentiment with party-fuelling beats, hooks and grooves. ‘On The Spot’ refers to the glorious, rare moment in a New Orleans parade when the band stops to take a break but keeps noodling with their instruments to please the crowd. Vibing and keeping the energy up, when they’re completely in the moment they sync up and the magic happens – a new tune is created. On The Spot. Buzzing with the live, spontaneous synchronicity which has fuelled their development from the Second line parades of New Orleans to the forefront of the global scene over the last two decades, the new LP sees Hot 8 committing this spirit to record – and in the live arena the tunes are set to blow up.
“We are privileged to tour and to tell the stories of life in our city, to keep alive the memories of our band members who have passed, as well as all the musicians who have gone before”, says band leader and tuba player Bennie Pete. “We can’t wait to share this new music and party with our fans, who help us to keep pushing ourselves on”.
The last year has seen Hot 8 Brass Band reaching out ever further; having celebrated their 20th Anniversary with the ‘Vicennial: 20 Years Of The Hot 8 Brass Band’ album in late 2015, they have toured almost constantly since. Delighting crowds with their rambunctious mix of hip hop, funk and inimitable Big Easy jazz, they have sold out strings of headlines alongside festivals including BST Hyde Park (supporting Mumford & Sons), North Sea Jazz, Secret Garden Party and WOMAD. They wrapped up the summer at Madness’ House Of Common event with their jubilant New Orleans-style parade, before being welcomed with open arms by fans and media on a mini tour of France in autumn.
Mixing an old school street brass approach with funkier currents and hip hop vocals, Hot 8’s magnificent originals are juxtaposed with fresh versions of Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder, The Specials and Basement Jaxx (and of course their anthemic take on Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”, which recently re-launched with a new video that is nudging 1 million YouTube hits). The ‘On The Spot’ Tour is set to bring these essential cuts to an even wider audience, while cementing the next generation of Hot 8 classic tunes in the hearts and minds of fans.
Always in demand, this year Hot 8 have performed radio sessions including BBC 6Music Morning Show, BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends, Jazz FM, BBC Radio Scotland and BBC R3; these add to in-depth interviews with Mary Anne Hobbs (6Music) and BBC World Service’s Outlook programme, touching on tragic stories from Hot 8’s history which chimed especially intensely with listeners in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. A recent mini-documentary, Hot 8 Brass Band: 20 Years In The Making, has also helped to tell the story of this indefatigable musical and cultural force at a pivotal point in their evolution. Hot 8’s incredible tale, which comes across in their life-affirming and powerful music, has also previously featured in Spike Lee’s two New Orleans documentaries, When The Levees Broke and The Creek Don’t Rise, and David Simon’s HBO series Treme (in which the band played themselves), to add to extensive features across the world’s media.
One of the great New Orleans acts, Hot 8 have pushed on through a barely imaginable series of trials. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the separate deaths of five band members, and the horror of trumpeter Terrell “Burger” Batiste losing his legs, have tested these men almost to breaking point. They honour their lost friends and work towards the future of their community by putting their energies into positive projects at home as well as touring as much as possible. They march together and they play their music, not merely as though, but because their lives depend on it.
Transcending genres and trends, Hot 8 have performed and collaborated with artists from Lauryn Hill to Mos Def to the Blind Boys of Alabama, and were nominated for a Grammy in 2013 for their second album ‘The Life and Times Of…’. 2015’s acclaimed ‘Vicennial...’ exemplified their ability to honour their city’s musical traditions while forging their own powerful legacy – a story that continues apace via the ‘On The Spot’ album and tour.