The Avett Brothers – Bring Your Love To Me

The Avett Brothers (From left to right) Scott Avett, Joe Kwon, Bob Crawford, Seth Avett

Once again, The Avett Brothers do not fail to impress. The new album, Magpie and the Dandelion, is full of their classic sound, yet new melodies, harmonies, beats and ideas are prevalent throughout.

I’ve especially been enjoying Bring Your Love To Me. Seth Avett’s smooth, yet raw vocals will give you tingles. Especially the falsetto. The first verse was very relevant for me being that I’m a new dad:

Bring your love to me
I will hold it like a newborn child
One of my own blood
And I might just even sing a song
to keep it calm

The simple, yet unique guitar and banjo parts, accented by the piano, bass and cello will stir your heart. The drums entering at the end of the third verse have the same effect along with the rise in Seth’s vocals. Then comes the walk-up in the tag on the end of the chorus, instruments harmonizing with the vocals and one other, falling in unison. Love it.

I think this quote from the band’s website really sums up their style and why they have such a loyal fan base:

“The songs are honest: just chords with real voices singing real melodies. But, the heart and the energy with which they are sung, is really why people are talking, and why so many sing along.”
– See more at: http://www.theavettbrothers.com/band/#sthash.rzPXaUAp.dpuf

Listen to Bring Your Love To Me on Spotify and check out the whole album!

Bring your love to me
I will hold it like a newborn child
One of my own blood
And I might just even sing a song
to keep it calm

If you’re wondering, am I capable
God knows I am
And if it’s meant to be
I will go alone, God knows I can
Just not as well, and besides what kind of fun is there
to be had with no one else?

And I can only stand here still
And I can only hope you will
keep me in focus long enough to tell
I’m trying to help (that’s all)

Bring your love to me
I will hold it like a dandelion
One I want to save, one I want to keep
from the breeze that follows me and no one else

I can only stand here still
And I can only hope you will
keep me in focus long enough to tell
I’m trying to help

I may not be a Grobanite, but I’m a fan

Josh Groban

When I was asked to review the Josh Groban concert in Minneapolis, my first thought was honestly “popera.” I’ve always thought Josh Groban is extremely talented (both vocally and instrumentally) but being a self-proclaimed hipster musically, I may have turned my nose up a bit to his work.

I was able to delve deeper into his music over the past week and began to have a much greater respect for him. That admiration increased all the more seeing him perform live.

I read an article recently that I think really portrays his humility and addresses the genre confusion. Here’s an excerpt:

“But some misunderstanding about the genre is understandable,” Groban adds generously. “It’s kind of a new thing,” he says. “I’ve been put in this position where I’m paving my own road.”

If there must be a label for it, Groban prefers “traditional pop.”

“The pop music of yesteryear was more open-throated and was more full-voiced and did include vibrato,” he says. “I think we’re so used to voices so compressed within an inch of their lives now that when anything feels like a full-throated, open-sung song, people say, ‘Omigod, that must be opera.’”*

I see where Josh is coming from on this. As an amateur singer/songwriter, my vocal style has elements similar to Groban in vibrato and “full-voiced” singing, as he puts it. I really admire Groban for being able to pull from multiple influences spanning many genres, but remaining true to himself and not “selling out” for a watered-down form of his unique style. Even if this means less record sales in the long run, I’m confident the Grobanites will ensure Josh has no problem putting bread on the table for the rest of his career.

Speaking of Grobanites, they came out of the woodwork when I tweeted about my upcoming review! I was able to observe his loyal fans in person and they spanned from young teenage girls to grandmas and everything in between. Groban even joked at the concert, “I see a lot of men in the audience…that’s good. Maybe you were dragged here by your wife, your girlfriend….your grandma.” He’s definitely a charmer and a fantastic performer. I’m confident he kept everyone entertained throughout the show. Even the men.

Groban covered songs from a diverse collection of artists, including Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Webb, and Don McLean; not to mention the traditional songs like She Moved Through the Fair. He introduced the traditional Irish song saying, “I want to sing this at my wedding someday.” Girls screamed out in the crowd. He pointed toward the screaming, saying, “I’m gonna marry you girl.” And followed up with, “This is the Bieber moment of the show.”

As if his golden voice wasn’t enough to wow the crowd, Josh portrayed his musical versatility on the piano and even on the drums.

This was all magnified by Groban’s amazing band. Each member was a master of their instrument. I was particularly impressed with the band’s instrumental rendition of Aerosmith’s Dream On, featuring a fantastic violin solo by Christian Hebel. Groban’s music director and guitarist, Tariq Akoni, was also a highlight for me.

I was also very impressed with the opening act, Judith Hill. Hill’s powerful voice is full of soul and her original songs were heartfelt and well-written. My favorite moment in her act was her opening medley on the piano including songs like Feeling Good, I’ll Be There and You’ve Got A Friend. Her duets with Groban (Particularly The Prayer) were beautiful.

Listening to Josh Groban’s albums pales in comparison to seeing him and his band perform live. It was a great experience musically and Groban’s antics and comments between songs created a fun atmosphere. He shared that he wrote and recorded most of his Illuminations album here in Minneapolis with Dan Wilson (Adele, James Morrison, Weezer, Jason Mraz, and many, many more) which was a very interesting, fun fact.

If you get a chance to see him live next time he comes through town, I recommend it.

Share your comments below!

*http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/music/why-you-shouldnt-call-josh-groban-an-opera-singer/article9119210/

The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem is a trio (now duo) from Providence, Rhode Island consisting of Ben Miller (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, drum kit, pump organ, trumpet, E flat horn, and rack harp), Jeffrey Prystowsky (bass, drum kit, vocals, pump organ, and acoustic guitar) and Jocie Adams (clarinet, vocals, pump organ, drum kit, electric guitar, and bass.) Jocie Adams has since moved on to pursue a solo career, but the music I’m highlighting here features her.

The band shared on their site they are working on a new album, but I’m not sure of a release date.

The first I heard of The Low Anthem was their collaboration with The Chieftains latest album, Voice of Ages. I have been delving into their previous releases (latest was 2010) and I am beginning to see how they fit into my favorite type of music (Americana, Folk, etc.)

Sometimes their sound reminds me of early Bob Dylan on songs like Apothecary Love. Other times Ben Miller’s vocals remind me of Glen Hansard; like on School Days Are Over – their song with The Chieftains (below.) Enjoy!

Interview with Yellow Red Sparks

Yellow Red Sparks

After listening through the self-titled album from Yellow Red Sparks a few times, I’ve determined the biography on the band’s website describes them very well:

“The California based indie-folk trio possess a staggering ability to take seemingly normal circumstances, rewrite them with an uninhibited honesty and wistful beauty, and turn them into vivid scenes as told through their unique brand of cinematic folk.”

I had the tremendous privilege of interviewing Yellow Red Sparks in anticipation of their upcoming show here in Minneapolis on July 21st. Check out the interview below and come see them at 7th Street Entry next weekend!

How did you all meet?
Josh and Goldy shared mutual friends when Goldy first heard some of Josh’s songs that were circulating among friends. He instantly fell in love with the songs, tracked drums to them (which were just vocals and guitar), and then got Josh to listen after a show one night. Josh liked the addition, and Goldy has been playing drums with him since. Sara Lynn was a drum student of Goldy who he later learned also played double bass. The rest kind of just all fell together.


How did each of you get into music and when did you decide to make it your career?

Josh grew up in a musical family and played around with a couple of bands before collecting his own songs under the name Yellow Red Sparks. Goldy had wanted to learn drums as a child but didn’t start playing drums until his late teens. Sara Lynn also grew up in a family that fostered and loved music, and started learning classical piano at age six. I don’t think any of us really ever consciously decided that we wanted to have a career in music, but rather just knew that music was something we loved and needed to have in our life. We all feel extremely thankful to be touring across the country doing what we love and visiting all these cities we have never been to before, but at the same time,  we are bewildered and amazed at how it all came together.

Who are your influences? What have you been listening to lately?
We generally have a similar taste in music…lots of oldies like Ella Fitzgerald and the Everly Brothers and also newer ones like Elliott Smith, The National, Radiohead, Nirvana, etc. Josh grew up with The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, stuff like that. We just all share a love for solid and heartfelt songwriting. We’ve been listening to the new National album a lot on this tour so far. The song “Pink Rabbits” is our favorite.


What does your songwriting process look like? How has it evolved since the days Joshua was a solo act?
Josh writes all of the songs (the melody and lyrics), and usually comes to us (Goldy and Sara Lynn) with a pretty much finished song. Our job is to add drums and bass or whatever other instrumentation we can to enhance the song. Sometimes Josh will come to us with some ideas he’s been messing around with, and then we’ll jam on them together and develop the song that way.

You said the songs on your self-titled release are each pieces of a larger picture. What would you say the theme of that picture is?
I would say it has a lot to do with overcoming and persevering through some heavy times. We all go through a lot of emotions, most of which are universal. The songs to me are very personal, but I think a lot of people can relate to them, because we have all felt overwhelmed by our circumstances at one time or another.

Describe your experience working with Grammy winners Ryan Hewitt and Brian Lucey.*
It was an honor and completely unexpected. We never would have thought that we would be able to include such respectable names on our first record. They are both geniuses in their own right and totally normal and down to earth at the same time.

What are your hopes for the future of the band?
As of now, the plan is to just start touring more so we can reach as many people as we can and just get our music out there. We’re also hoping to start tracking some demos for the next record this winter.


Anything you’d like to say to your Minneapolis fans?

None of us has ever been to Minneapolis before, so we’re excited to come to your city and play for you! Also, tell your friends/brothers/sisters/grandparents to come to the show! And thank you!!!

Here’s the official video for the song  A Play To End All Plays. I hope to see you at the show on July 21st!

*The album was mixed by Grammy award winner, Ryan Hewitt (Avett Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, We Are Scientists), and mastered by multi-Grammy award winner, Brian Lucey (The Shins, Sigur Rós, The Black Keys).

Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

Laura Marling

Laura Marling is an English folk songwriter from Eversley, Hampshire. Her new album, Once I Was An Eagle, starts right in with a dynamic, captivating sound in the song, Take The Night Off.

The new album features sounds and styles that seem to traverse many genres and cultures. The use of what I believe to be a sitar, classical guitar patterns, hand drums and Marling’s purposeful dissonance in certain melodies give songs a Far East feel. Within the same song, Marling creates sounds that are reminiscent of country western, jazz or even 90’s rock.

Marling’s strong, sure voice and melancholy lyrics and melodies give the impression of a person well beyond her years. There are times when Marling’s voice reminds me of Patti Griffin or Brandi Carlile, but she definitely has her own, unique voice. A male counterpart in some aspects might be Jose Gonzalez, but I would consider Marling’s music more versatile.

I’ve highlighted the first track, Take The Night Off, below, but I recommend listening to the whole album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy8HrHO7aH0

The Last Bison at 7th St Entry (Opener: Marah in the Mainsail)

The Last Bison

I found out from my friend, Alec, that his band, Marah in the Mainsail, will be opening for The Last Bison at 7th St Entry (First Ave) tomorrow night (4/8/2013). I’ve seen Marah in the Mainsail live and I definitely recommend checking them out. After listening through The Last Bison’s debut album, Inheritance, a few times, I’m confident it will be an amazing show.

The Last Bison comes out of Chesapeake, Virginia. Not only this, but it would seem from their persona that they come out of 18th or 19th century Virginia. The band has been compared to Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists and Mumford & Sons – to name a few – but they’ve done a fantastic job of developing a sound that’s not only unique, but polished, complex and moving. With elements of folk, classical, and other genres, the band classifies themselves as “mountain-top chamber”. I would say their ability to blend rootsy Appalachian folk and orchestra music make this classification well-deserved. Another interesting fact is that front-man, Ben Hardesty, started the band with his father, sister and other friends from home; giving the band an organic sound and chemistry that comes through in their music.

I found an artist out of Austin, Texas a year or two ago on NoiseTrade named Austin Basham, and there are elements of his music that remind me of The Last Bison. I recommend checking him out as well.

This video gives a great bio about The Last Bison:

You can check out the info for the show at 7th St Entry and buy tickets here: http://first-avenue.com/event/2013/04/thelastbison

Check out the music video for the band’s song, Switzerland:

 

The Chieftains – Voice of Ages

The Chieftains

The Chieftains are probably the biggest name in traditional Irish music and have stayed true to this style for over 50 years.

The Chieftains’ new album, Voice of Ages, features some fantastic guest artists such as: Bon Iver, The Civil Wars, Lisa Hannigan, Punch Brothers, The Decemberists and more. These artists lend their sweet melodies and harmonies to The Chieftains traditional Irish folk style. My wife came home from work the other day while I was listening to the album and she said, “I feel like I just walked into an Irish festival or something.” That is a great way of describing a lot of The Chieftains music.

You can listen to the entire album on The Chieftains website: http://www.thechieftains.com/

As much as I love everything from Bon Iver, The Civil Wars and Punch Brothers, my favorite guest artist on this album is Lisa Hannigan. She sings a beautifully sad Celtic song called My Lagan Love.

You may recognize Lisa Hannigan from her collaborations with Damien Rice (9 Crimes, The Blower’s Daughter, Cold Water.) She has an incredible, soft, yet strong and beautiful voice and it’s perfect for this type of music. I can imagine this song being played over a somber battle scene in slow motion; snow falling in the foreground, no sound but the music as we see warriors shout their battle cries.

Where Lagan stream sings lullaby
There blows a lily fair
The twilight gleam is in her eye
The night is on her hair
And like a love-sick lennan-shee
She has my heart in thrall
Nor life I owe nor liberty
For love is lord of all.

And often when the beetle’s horn
Hath lulled the eve to sleep
I steal unto her shieling lorn
And thru the dooring peep.
There on the cricket’s singing stone,
She spares the bogwood fire,
And hums in sad sweet undertone
The songs of heart’s desire

Where Lagan stream sings lullaby
There blows a lily fair
The twilight gleam is in her eye
The night is on her hair
And like a love-sick lennan-shee
She has my heart in thrall
Nor life I owe nor liberty
For love is lord of all.

Some of my other favorites from the album:

Web of Sunsets – Fool’s Melodies

This local band is considered psychedelic folk or acid country; which I wasn’t even aware existed until today. The genre completely clicks when you hear their debut single Fool’s Melodies.

The band is made up of Sara Bischoff, Chris Rose and Sarah Nienaber. I’m going to keep it short today and let the music do the talking. Enjoy!

Frankie Lee – Ophelia

Frankie Lee

Local Minneapolis artist, Frankie Lee, will be performing tonight at The Ice House if you’re looking for a good show!

I heard Lee’s song Country recently on The Current and his simple, Americana Folk style caught my attention immediately. His album Middle West came out today and I feel this quote from his site provides a window into the record:

“YOU’RE INVITED TO RIDE ALONG THROUGH MIDDLE WEST ON A DREAM 
BED OF FOLK AND AMERICANA SOUNDS .  I FOUND THESE SONGS ON 
THE ROAD GOIN WEST TO CALIFORNIA.  WHEN I CAME BACK TO MINNESOTA
I MET A BUNCH OF CHARACTERS WHO HELPED ME PUT DOWN WHAT I’D 
BEEN HEARING IN MY HEAD.

WE RECORDED THESE SONGS LIVE (LOOKING AT EACH OTHER) IN A WAREHOUSE
 WITH A BUNCH OF REALLY WARM SWEATERS ON.  IT ONLY TOOK 2 NIGHTS 
TO MAKE AND 1 YEAR TO PUT IT OUT.  THE PEOPLE ARE RIGHT…
THE INTERNET IS GONNA SAVE MUSIC. HALLELUJAH!”

There isn’t much information about Frankie that I could find, but hopefully we’ll be hearing more about him now that his album has been released. At times, he reminds me of Ryan Adams, sometimes My Morning Jacket/Jim James, and at other times Bob Dylan.

The song below was recorded with the Real-Phonic Band and portrays a little bit bluesier side of Lee’s music.

For a very traditional country sound, you can also check out another local band, The Cactus Blossoms, at this show. Their music is reminiscent of Hank Williams and other patriarchs of the country and honky tonk genres. Especially the brothers’ honeyed harmonies, the twangy lap steel, lively fiddle and two beat rhythm.

Henry Thomas – Fishin’ Blues

So neither of these men at actually Henry Thomas, but  they are blues musicians that played around the same time. I thought it would make a better cover photo than Thomas’s actual photo

Alright, so I know this isn’t Throwback Thursday (in fact it is supposed to be new music Monday), but in my defense, unless you are a true Blues aficionado, Henry Thomas will probably be new to you. More importantly, it gives me the opportunity to not only expose you all to some of the best music of the last hundred years, but also to give you a history lesson – something I’ll never pass up. So, Henry Thomas – for someone so influential to the evolution of Blues music, we know very little him. Born in Texas in 1874 to a family of ex-slaves, he hoboed around for a few years in his teens and twenties, recorded twenty-three songs between 1927 and 1929, then disappeared, probably dying around 1930. We don’t know where he recorded his music, where he died, or really anything about him. We don’t even know if the picture of him below is actually him (although we’re pretty sure). And yet he was one of the greatest early Blues musicians, originator of the Texas Blues style of guitar playing which he created by adapting banjo picking to the guitar, and his songs have been covered by Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the Grateful Dead among others.

Henry Thomas – This is the best and only photo known of him.

I picked the song Fishin’ Blues (1928) to introduce you to Henry Thomas for several reasons. One reason is that it is his most well known song having been featured on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (which I’m obviously going to assume you are all intimately familiar with). More importantly however, it is an excellent example of his use of the quills, a traditional African-American pan flute. Finally, I picked this song because it is one of the most clear recordings he has. However, it is not close to the crisp music we are used to hearing today, so remember that this song was recorded who knows where under less than favorable conditions over 85 years ago and forgive the sound quality.