Memphis foursome Star & Micey have been a live touring band for years, but now they've partnered with Nashville indie label Thirty Tigers for their studio debut. The album, Get 'Em Next Time, will be out on March 11th, and for a sneak peek of what to expect, Folk Alley has the premiere of the title track.
"Get 'Em Next Time" is a rocking, rollicking anthem and is the clearest example of the band's philosophy - "it's not about how many times that you fall down that matters," lead singer Nick Redmond chants, "It's about how many times you decide to get back up."
Much like the famous Rocky Balboa quote, "It ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard ya can get hit and keep moving forward." "Get 'Em Next Time" is about picking yourself up by your bootstraps and carrying on. In the theme of Rocky, guitarist and vocalist Joshua Cosby says of the song, "It's about getting back up for one more round in life."
Get 'Em Next Time is out on March 11 via Thirty Tigers, and is available for pre-order at iTunes and Amazon.com.
As their new album starts to make the rounds, the Cactus Blossoms -- aka Page Burkum and Jack Torrey -- have been garnering more than a few comparisons to the Everly Brothers. The duo's honey-sweet harmonies and yonder-days vibe certainly warrant the invocation, but this is just as much a band for -- and of -- today. And the 11 instant-classic songs on You're Dreaming, produced by JD McPherson, evidence as much.
Kelly McCartney: Quite a few bands have lately moved toward multi-lead unison vocals. Another bunch of artists are reaching back to the 1970s. You guys go against both of those grains, so what is it about this sound that inspires you?
Jack Torrey: I can speak for both of us and say that, if we could sing anyway we wanted, it would sound more like James Brown than the Cactus Blossoms. That's right: two James Browns singing at once. At the end of the day, I think we're just trying to make something that sounds beautiful with the tools we have. A lot of the songs I've written just show up at the doorstep of my mind fully formed, with a groove and melody that I can hear, and then we work out the arrangement and start playing it. Usually, the songs take us toward a sound, rather than being inspired by a style and trying to write within some construct. Maybe it goes both ways, sometimes. It can be hard to keep straight.
JD McPherson similarly bucks those trends. Was that a love-at-first-listen artistic romance?
The first time someone told me about JD, I remember how passionate the person was about telling me again and again that "he's really, really good." When I heard him sing, I was blown away! It was exciting to hear somebody like JD who is writing their own hard-hitting songs, and can sing whisper soft or blast it through the roof. Who knew that we'd be playing shows with him and working on our album a little while later?! We love JD!
What kind of gear was employed during the making of the record in order to get just the right tones?
When it comes to recording gear, I'm not the brightest bulb in the box, but I can tell you that there were a bunch of nice old microphones, compressors, and some other stuff all piped into a computer. We just stood on the other side of the microphones and did our best to remember the lyrics, so that one forgotten word wouldn't mess up a take with the band.
It was recorded 95 percent live, so our voices are in the kick drum microphone and the bass is bleeding into our guitar mics, which I think gives it a very natural, warm sound that you might not find in a recording with perfect separation on every instrument. Joel Paterson played guitar on the record and had a variety of '50s Gibson guitars. Our brother Tyler played some baritone guitar. Beau Sample is playing an amazingly loud upright bass that has to be 60 years old or something. Alex Hall engineered, mixed, and played drums on the record, so his musical sensibilities left a wonderful thumbprint on the album.
How do you know when you have a Cactus Blossoms song -- whether you write it or find it? Are there any special thematic parameters that work (or don't) in this style?
We know a song is gonna work for the Cactus Blossoms if we feel good singing it together. That seems to be the only requirement a song has to meet to make it into our repertoire.
Clearly, acid wash and neon fashions wouldn't send quite the right message, so you guys have a classic, though not thoroughly retro, visual aesthetic. What's the key to balancing then and now to make the whole package work?
Staying classy can be like walking a tightrope, and that's hard to do when you're wearing tight acid wash jeans. I salute those brave men.
'You're Dreaming' is out now via Red House Records and is available at iTunes and Amazon.com.
As the Pines, songwriters David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey -- along with keyboardist Alex Ramsey -- have set their sights high on their new album, Above the Prairie. The capaciousness of the music and melodies therein give them plenty of room to wonder and wander, as they search for the ever-elusive answers to the existential questions everyone asks.
"Above the Prairie is where intention and actuality dissolve, and eventually, resolve," Huckfelt says. "Life is so far beyond an inexact science, our tech-no-logic age gives us no apparatus to deal with uncertainty and anything not immediate. Between who we are and who we wish we were, where we are and where we think we should be, the human response lags."
To craft the collection, the Pines recruited a handful of local talents who just happen to be some of the brightest lights of the Americana world -- Greg Brown, Iris DeMent, Pieta Brown, and Bo Ramsey, who co-produced the album. The album's coda, "Time Dreams," finds the pair sidling up to Native American activist/poet John Trudell.
All of those guests make perfect sense when the band's mission and the album's meaning is taken into consideration. "Music is the forest, creating something breathable (oxygen) out of something we can't convert (carbon dioxide). The corporate state turns our spirits into factories, so much pollution per square inch," Huckfelt continues. "Above The Prairie is about trying to find where the air goes clean again, the pause between the ocean floor and the bends. It's just a feeling, floating upon an attempt at honesty. Just songs, here for awhile then gone like every other living being."
Above the Prairie will be released on February 5 via Red House Records and is available now for pre-order at iTunes and Amazon.com.
Not that many artists get to album number 15 in their career. With Experienced (due out February 26), flatpicking phenom Larry Keel hits that milestone... and he does so with more than a little help from his friends. Though Keel and bandmate Will Lee wrote the seven songs, they turned to a bevy of guest players to fill out the sound -- Sam Bush, Del McCoury, Peter Rowan, Keller Williams, Jason Carter (The Del McCoury Band), Mike Guggino (Steep Canyon Rangers), and Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass).
"Will and I both had some good, original tunes on deck that we were ready to record, so that was simply the launch point of this particular album," Keel explains. "It's just so exciting and dream-come-true to me that I was able to get my friends/heroes together to lend their musical talents to this project. My core band, the Experience, had already polished all these tunes, but once we got these ultra-special guests involved, we were able to see the songs come to even greater fruition."
One of those songs, "Fill 'em Up Again," found its inspiration in two tried-and-true bluegrass tropes: music and moonshine. And it reflects the free spirit that comes when the two mix and mingle. "This tune by Will is roughly based on a regular pickin' party he and I used to go to up in the mountains of Virginia, where the moonshine always flowed like a never-ending river," Keel says. "Of course, I can't reveal the name and location of this private hillbilly country club oasis, but suffice it to say, it was a wonderful group of good-time, $#!+-talkin' fellas who regularly met there when the wives gave them the 'hall pass' to do their thing at the camp. And the host had an amazing talent for producing top-quality shine, in a variety of tasty flavors (or just clear) and in abundant supply. If that's not something fun to write and sing about, I don't know what is."
When bluegrass giants like Alison Krauss, Ron Block, and Bela Fleck take an artist under their wings, the talent must be off the charts. Such is the case with Sierra Hull, the young roots music phenom who branches out on her fourth record, Weighted Mind, under Fleck's watchful eye. Like many of her contemporaries, Hull is interested in moving the old forms forward, consciously and creatively... and with all due respect. And that's exactly what she does on the new album.
Kelly McCartney: How do you define bluegrass? And how would you like your music defined and talked about? Is there a way to put it in a box without boxing it in?
Sierra Hull: When I think of bluegrass, my traditional way of explaining would be: high energy music played with acoustic instruments -- typically guitar, mandolin, banjo, upright bass with fiddle or Dobro. It's a very instrumentally driven music with a traditional style of harmony singing and improvising. However, the word bluegrass means something different to everyone, and I think that's a good thing! If Mumford & Sons or String Cheese Incident lead someone to Bill Monroe because of their connection to bluegrass -- that's amazing. I'm not a fan of boxing anything in as it never seems to lead to creativity.
When someone asks me what kind of music I play, I usually say something like "a contemporary form of bluegrass music featuring mostly original material." I think I say that because I'll always feel a connection with my roots as a bluegrass musician. I'm proud to have come from the bluegrass community, and I really love that scene. I've had people describe my recent music as jazz, classical, Americana... so I don't know. It's all in the ears of the listener.
The word "prodigy" gets attached to you on a regular basis. How do you accept those sorts of accolades while keeping your focus on the job/music at hand?
I try to not think about it much. I think the word "prodigy" has stuck because I started so young. The older I get, the more I think that particular word will fade and, hopefully, people will just think of me as an artist. It's really encouraging and humbling to receive any accolades at all, though. It makes me want to keep pushing to be a better musician and performer.
When you first started playing, what was the dream you dreamed?
To be like my heroes! I've known since I was eight years old that I wanted to play music for a living more than anything. I wanted to make albums, travel, and perform, and become the best musician that I could.
Is there a way to sum up how it feels to work with folks like Alison Krauss and Bela Fleck?
I feel really blessed to have been able to work so closely with some of my biggest heroes. I'm not sure I'll ever get over the thrill of it. I still love them the way I did as a kid.
It feels like there's a wonderful new wave of young roots musicians on the rise -- you, Mipso, Parker Millsap, Sarah Jarosz, and others. Do you guys get together and compare notes? Are you conscious of creating history as you go along?
I am surrounded by an amazing generation of musicians. Some of my peers, I've known since we were like 12 years old and we've grown up with each other at festivals, etc. I'm really inspired to look around and see what so many of my friends have accomplished. It's an exciting time and I think we're all just trying to find our way... whatever that means.
Sierra Hull's, Weighted Mind, is out on January 29 via Rounder/Concord Music Group and available at iTunes and Amazon.com.
Solitude - it's a powerful force. For some, it's the kiss of death, a fate to be feared. For others, it's the preferred method of walking through life.
In her non-stop life of touring and talking, mingling and performing, solitude, for Aoife O'Donovan, is a rare and precious thing. And when she was able to find an unexpected day or two of solitude during the past couple of years, she felt grateful. Turns out, solitude was the key she needed to unlock the songs on her second solo album, In the Magic Hour.
With a voice that's awesomely appealing in its contradictory nature - it's gritty and determined and sweetly gentle at the same time - O'Donovan explores the connections between loneliness and ambition, gratitude and longing, sorrow and joy. From tip to tail, this recording from the now-defunct Crooked Still alum is mesmerizing.
Each of the 10 songs highlight O'Donovan's many musical talents: the pitch-perfect sweetness of her voice shines through in a loving tribute to her late grandfather in the traditional "Donal Og" and in "Magpie"; she (again) proves her worth as a card-carrying wordsmith, inviting you to lean in and listen closely to every single word on the album's opener, "Stanley Park" and in the title track, "Magic Hour"; she shares her dogged determination not to let life weigh her down in "Hornets," and she demonstrates a perfect understanding of how to layer and balance voice and instruments on "Porch Light."
Produced by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Neko Case), O'Donovan invited lots of friends to join her on In the Magic Hour. Listen for contributions from Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Chris Thile, Nate Query and many others.
In the Magic Hour is out now via Yep Roc Records and is available at iTunes and Amazon.com.
Ben Caplan - Deliver Me - Birds With Broken Wings - Coalition
Jason Isbell - How To Forget - Something More Than Free - Southeastern
Harry Manx (live) - Don't Forget To Miss Me - Road Ragas LIVE - DogMyCat
Tedeschi Trucks Band - Anyhow - Let Me Get By - Fantasy/Concord
Taj Mahal - Cakewalk into Town - The Essential - Columbia
Aoife O'Donovan - Stanley Park - In The Magic Hour - Yep Roc
The Milk Carton Kids - Freedom - Monterey - ANTI
Rita Hosking - Power Moving In - Frankie and the No-Go Road - Rita Hosking
Rita Hosking - Our Land - Frankie and the No-Go Road - Rita Hosking
Luther Dickinson - Hurry Up Sunrise - Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger's Songbook) Volumes I & II - New West
Leo Kottke - Little Martha - A Shout Toward Noon - Private music
Dylan LeBlanc - Cautionary Tale - Cautionary Tale - Single Lock
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