Win tickets to see Patty Griffin at the El Rey Theater in L.A.
October 28, 2015
Enter for a chance to win a pair of ticket to see Patty Griffin in concert at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on Friday, November 6th! We have two pairs of tickets to give away courtesy of Goldenvoice promotions.
Patty Griffin with Darlingside (!!)
The El Rey Theatre
5515 Wilshire Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA
Friday, November 6th
9:00 p.m. (doors at 8:00)
All Ages show
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Can something live comfortably in the traditions of the past, yet fully and eagerly embrace the ideals of the present at the same time? In a word: yes. And the latest recording from the Massachusetts-based band Darlingside proves it.
There are a handful of words that instantly come to mind when thinking about this quartet. Friendship, tradition, intimacy, respect, collaboration - eclectic words that work well together to describe the kind of music these guys make. And they are guys, too - four friends who've known each other for more than a decade. The quartet (Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner, and David Senft) met when they were all students at Williams College and they very quickly realized their combination of vocal ranges, musical ability and creative writing was compelling, to say the least.
Right from the get go, it's pretty clear to anyone who listens that Darlingside has a deep respect for the folk rock traditions of the 1960s and 1970s. At certain moments ("Go Back," "The Ancestor"), you might almost imagine you're listening to a contemporary of the Byrds, or Simon and Garfunkel, or the Beach Boys. Darlingside's harmonies are lush and lovely (and sometimes unexpected - in a good way), and the percussion-lite music they make with their guitars and cellos and banjos and fiddles and mandolins is rhythm driven and serves as the perfect frame for these four impeccably suited voices.
That Darlingside respects the traditions of the past is clear. And yet, this is a band that's also firmly fixed in today's contemporary music scene, deftly using different loop and electronic effects throughout the album - check out "Do You Live?," and, to even greater effect, "Volcano Sky." What's especially effective about 'Birds Say' is how seamless the whole thing sounds - the quartet dips back and forth between past and present easily - nothing sounds out of place, nothing sounds strange, everything flows together...and yet, surprises (an imaginary sword fight with a famous actor's doppelganger, for example, in "Harrison Ford") abound.
If you listen to just one song on this album, make it "White Horses." This is perhaps Darlingside's most obvious tribute to the folk-rock bands of the 1960s and it serves to remind us WHY those bands left such a lingering impression. There's something almost magical about the chord progressions, the gentle melding of banjo and guitar and the drone of the fiddle - not to mention the swell of the band's harmonies - that make "White Horses" the kind of song that reaches out and punches you in the heart. The lyrics drip with yearning and the whole thing serves as a reminder that our past always, somehow, effects our present. Another standout is "God of Loss." Again, in the same vein as "White Horses," the narrator looks back at the influences - some good, some bad - that shaped him into the person he is today.
Truthfully, there's something positive to be said about every track on 'Birds Say.' It's a compelling album, filled with evocative lyrics and top-notch musicianship...the kind of album that'll make anyone who hears it sit up and say, "Who IS Darlingside and when can I hear them again?"
Anyone who has followed Shawn Colvin's career for any length of time knows that she is very fond of covering songs. She can't help it. She got her start as a cover artist in a bar band. As good of a copy cat as she is, however, Colvin learned long ago that she had to make the songs her own by finding their emotional and/or musical pivot points and turning them inside out or upside down, depending on the piece. That's the beauty of interpretation, at least in the hands of a true songsmith like Colvin.
On her lastest album, 'Uncovered,' she puts her stamp on tunes by Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Robbie Robertson, Tom Waits, and others. "American Tune," "Acadian Driftwood," "Lodi," "Not a Drop of Rain," and "Hold On" all feel like natural fits for Colvin, while Stevie Wonder's "Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away" undergoes a complete reworking, as does Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" where Colvin swaps the wailing saxophone for a woeful steel guitar. She also invites David Crosby in to sing the harmonies. The resulting effect finds what was once a radio-friendly ditty of hope turned into a hauntingly achy dirge. And it's wonderful. Alternately, Colvin keeps some of the pep in the step of Crowded House's "Private Universe," but scales back its original, highly produced atmosphere to an intimate, solo guitar and vocal affair.
What it comes down to is this: No matter who wrote the songs, 'Uncovered' is a Shawn Colvin album through and through.
As artists move through the world, they see and feel things that less-sensitive people don't. Then, they retreat to their creative spaces and translate those experiences into music, paintings, and words, as best they can. Patty Griffin has long had her eyes and heart trained on the stories unfolding around her in the lives of the overlooked and the underestimated. Occasionally, she even turns her gaze inward to express the trials and tribulations she, herself, is enduring. With 'Servant of Love,' Griffin shares both of those perspectives wrapped up in the most elegant and urbane musical setting she's offered to date.
To be sure, Griffin has never stood still for long, musically. She quickly evolved her sound away from her brilliantly sparse 'Living with Ghosts' debut album to her wonderfully dense 'Flaming Red' second effort. Since then, she's struck various balances of folk, blues, country, jazz, and soul. 'Servant of Love' gives each of those styles their time in the sun on incredibly intricate compositions.
Because of that craftsmanship, 'Servant of Love' comes off as somewhat detached on the first and second listens. There's no "Moses," no "Goodbye," no "Rain" to hang your hat on here. Instead, from the opening piano salvo of the title track, Griffin challenges her listeners to take a journey with her. From the swampy lurch of "Gunpowder" to the gentle lilt of "Made of the Sun" to the mournful lull of "You Never Asked Me," Griffin gracefully -- sometimes heartbreakingly, always triumphantly -- climbs her way toward an artistic height she's been pointing to for 20 years now.
Some might insist that comparing Rayland Baxter to Paul Simon is inappropriate, the likening of a go-kart to a Mercedes. But that would be overly reductive and dismissive of Baxter's burgeoning talent. Baxter isn't a carbon copy of Simon, to be sure, but how can anyone listen to "Mr. Rodriguez" and not hear the similarities vocally, musically, and poetically?
Setting that comparison aside and looking at Baxter in relation to only his previous work, 'Imaginary Man' represents a sizable leap forward for him. Whereas 'Feathers & Fishhooks' found him wandering through a more rural aesthetic, this effort urbanizes the space with heartier production elements -- thick guitars, churning organs, and lush strings echo, gurgle, and swirl through cuts like "Young Man," "Oh My Captain," and "Rugged Lovers" giving Baxter's delicate tenor that much more heft. While the adventurous pieces are certainly fun and lively, offering Baxter grittier spaces in which to roam, it's the quieter moments ("Rugged Lovers" and "Lady of the Desert," in particular) that allow his inner romantic to really revel.
Rayland Baxter's 'Imaginary Man' is out now on ATO Records and is available at Amazon.com and iTunes.
After six critically acclaimed releases over the course of 10 years, the unbridled Americana force that is Langhorne Slim recently issued his seventh project, 'The Spirit Moves.' Slim got sober two years ago and became a meditator in order to harness his energy in a whole new way. The resulting songs speak for themselves, reflecting the new level of openness and clarity that have emerged in the aftermath of that seismic life shift.
Kelly McCartney: You've had a few different firsts with this new record. For one: co-writing. The results are clearly positive, but how'd that go for you in the process?
Langhorne Slim: My process on this record was... and maybe it's always been this way... I have some songs that come to me like the great gifts that songwriters have talked about from the beginning of songwriting. That occurs to me, thank goodness, from time to time. A lot of them are battles and they'll come in through bits and spurts, little pieces that are floating around my head. Eventually they start to accumulate and drive me a little crazy, and I'll just have a ton of recordings on my phone and bits and pieces floating around my head.
I didn't do it on purpose, but I was out there working with Kenny [Siegal] in Catskill, New York, and I was playing him some of the new tunes... or the ideas. He was just effortlessly, in the beginning, kind of finishing my musical thoughts in a way that I hadn't experienced ever before. And I had never really sought that out before. I don't remember the beginning stages of the process. I just recall being in Nashville and building up these songs for a month or two, starting to feel very frantic and anxious and freaked out. [Laughs] Because what happens is, eventually, you have to get this thing out or else it weighs your soul down. It becomes a physical feeling, a kind of uneasiness. To get it out is certainly therapy. Then I could be a little bit calmer for a little while until the ideas would build up again and start driving me mad. Then I would retreat to the Catskills with Kenny and we would drive each other completely bat-shit crazy, but come out with songs. [Laughs] It was certainly madness. I don't know what our method was, but... it worked. We got songs that I'm really proud of.
For two: sobriety. So what do songwriting and performing bring to your self-reflection and recovery and working through things?
I never attempted shyness through art or music. Some people connect with what I do and like it. Some people think it's too over the top. I really find strength in being open and being vulnerable, in some ways. Something like getting sober and needing to... I had a lot to prove to myself and others -- that I could take that step, make that change, and live that way, number one. Music is my air, in a lot of ways. It's the driving force in my life. I hadn't, for 15 years, performed or written or really been creative without some whiskey or wine or some other thing. I always had something. And something turned into a crutch that I was dependent on. I want to be dependent on love and friendship and music, but in a healthy, positive way -- relationships that move me and keep me on my toes.
I was a very passionate kid. It got me in a lot of trouble when I was a kid. And that fire never went away. Now I'm a passionate 35-year-old man. I was pissing on my own flame for a while and sort of tempting it to see if it would stay awake. And it did. But it was having problems. That flame needs to stay awake and alive and be a healthy fire. I think for a lot of people who are very, very passionate, you can get yourself into trouble. I've done it my whole life. One of my main goals is to keep that energy and that intensity and that passion for it all... for life, for music, and for love. But to refine it and to unite with my inner bad-ass and not be a bee-otch to anything. Because it's not me. That's not my true self.
It makes more sense now that you are a meditator which, for someone known for a sort of uninhibited energy, is a bit unexpected... and yet not. I would imagine that's part of how you are able to now refine and harness all that energy. So what are the best lessons you've learned or the best gifts you've gotten from that practice, personally and/or professionally?
To be still is an immense gift, when you put it onto yourself, when you struggle with restlessness or anxiety with addiction -- or anything, I guess. Life is beautiful, but very challenging for us all, in ways. To be still and just breathe and allow yourself to be soft and try to be kind to yourself... our society and a lot of what most of us are all about are not really tying to the soul. It's a lot of this exterior stuff that I believe is dangerous, in a lot of ways.
And I'm a part of it, too. I'm not wagging my finger. It's a lot of "Where can we go and what can we achieve outside of ourselves?" And I'm continuing to find, through music and now through meditation and other things, I don't know about the answers, but a lot of what I have been looking for is already there. I believe that deeply. Meditation can help with that. I've always been a restless guy. That restlessness and passion and fire has allowed me a career. But it also has presented me with a lot of problems and a lot of challenges.
Do you feel like the 'The Spirit Moves' is a new beginning altogether or is just the next chapter in the Life of Langhorne?
Uhhh... both. It's the new beginning of the next chapter, I guess.
Or it could be a whole other story.
It's a whole new book, but it's still little ol' me. Maybe it could be... it's not a sequel when it's a book... but, yeah, a new book but the same theme. I've opened the same heart, but it's opening in a different way. That ain't the end of that book. There's a lot more to go.
I keep talking about hippie things, like energy and spirits, but it's because I believe in it. And when these changes have been going on in my life, I've felt the shift in that energy. So when you write a song, I suppose it's going to be a little different. I didn't sit down and say, "I'm going to write a song about being sober now." Similar to when I've gone through a break-up, music never works for me like that. It's always been more of a spiritual, energetic thing in that it's not a conscious process. It moves through me. But it moves through me differently now, I suppose, than when I was always somewhere else. [Laughs] For better of for worse, I'm right here, man. For better or for worse. And I'm grateful to feel that. It's not always easy, but not everybody gets out of the other end.
Langhorne Slim's 'The Spirit Moves' is out now via Dualtone Music and available at Amazon.com