Music City Roots feat. Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge, Andy T - Nick Nixon Band, The Smoking Flowers, Tim Easton, & Magnolia SonsPop/Rock
With so much marital strife popping up in the local rags these days, it’s nice to see at least one couple who are doing better than ever. The Smoking Flowers — aka the dashing duo of Kim and Scott Collins — are playing Music City Roots this week, and their album 2 Guns (no relation to the action movie) is getting a proper national release via City Hall Records. A scorcher of a fuzz-folk record that’s equal parts country charm and rock ’n’ roll wildin’, 2 Guns blazes with a fire you’re not going to find on your average Americana record. The dynamic between the Collinses shares the tension and love of a good marriage and a great band — and it’s on the shortlist for our local albums of the year. The fact that Kim is in remission from breast cancer only makes it sweeter.
Boston MA | Jazz
Following his Grammy-nominated 2009 debut Sounding Point, virtuoso guitarist Julian Lage returns with the evocative and finely wrought Gladwell - the second effort by his offbeat, eclectic group.
The album unfolds according to a fanciful and story-driven plan, as Lage explains: "We began playing with the idea of creating a story we could use as a guiding light in our writing process.... The result was the development of an imaginary and forgotten town known as Gladwell.... As a metaphor, Gladwell presented us with a clear architecture, to compose songs that evoke feelings of people and places we hold dear."
"Some songs specifically identify with particular parts of the town," writes Lage, "while other pieces simply fit into the overall concept and musical direction. The intention of the music is to encourage the listener, at every turn, to take a step towards the unknown...."
As with Sounding Point, Gladwell reflects Lage's wide-ranging musical interests and talents, ranging from chamber music, American folk and bluegrass to latin, world, string-band tradition and modern jazz. The album also exhibits contemporary singer-songwriter aesthetics.
The leader's fluid improvisations and rich, beautifully captured tone on electric and acoustic guitars anchor the music at every step, but the contributions of the band members are equally indispensable.
"Dan has a background in classical composition as well as improvisation," says Lage, "so he brings a sense of curiosity to the band that is deeply rooted in a variety of traditions. From Aristides we've learned a tremendous amount about how to play as a chamber-like ensemble, how to utilize dynamics and blending, and how to move and breathe as a unit. The sound of cello has opened our ears to the world that lives between classical music and jazz and it is amazing to witness how Aristides so uniquely marries the two. Tupac is like a conductor of energy, using his diverse palette of colors to shape and inform the music - his approach is never static, and it is exhilarating to share in his passion for uncovering new approaches. Jorge [who was the first member to join the band] has an incredible grounding force that enables the band to really take off in any direction at any point in time - I feel Jorge's presence as kind of like the narrator of a story, always keeping an eye on the bigger perspective while remaining an active participant at every turn."
Lage's recent trio appearances with fiddle master Mark O'Connor (also collaborating with the violinist's group, "Hot Swing") and bass giant John Patitucci have only strengthened the imprint of Americana and acoustic music on his work. In fact, Lage debuted on record at age 11 on Dawg Duos (1999), featuring David Grisman, Vassar Clements, Edgar Meyer, Béla Fleck and more. "Those were my heroes," Lage marvels. (He went on to recruit Fleck for three tracks on Sounding Point)
"Working with Mark O'Connor made me realize you can bring that simplicity and elegance of the guitar to the main stage," says Lage. "A lot of times growing up I felt the guitar had to be more like a saxophone or a piano - it was never really encouraged in jazz to use capos or open tuning, for instance. With Mark I felt I had permission to cultivate those sonic elements, and I discovered so much new music, like 'Freight Train' or old bluegrass tunes, or old-time music. It's so coupled with the design of the instrument. When you're playing that music on the guitar, it's as though all the lights are green."
Hailed by All About Jazz as "a giant in the making," Lage grew up in California and was the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary, Jules at Eight. He gained pivotal early exposure as a protégé of legendary vibraphonist Gary Burton, recording and touring with Burton on two projects: Generations (2004) and Next Generation (2005). Other recent high-profile sideman appearances include Lucky To Be Me and Let It Come To You by longtime friend and close collaborator, pianist Taylor Eigsti. Having reunited with Gary Burton for live engagements beginning in 2010, Julian can also be heard this year as a member of the "New Gary Burton Quartet" on the forthcoming CD, Common Ground (featuring Scott Colley and Antonio Sanchez).
With his previous Sounding Point, Lage arrived at a unique approach to composition and ensemble craft, a searching yet accessible sound that earned him his 2009 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. The music was "a major find," declared Time Out New York - "springy, intelligent chamber Americana that fits perfectly into a spectrum of Nonesuch-style players like Bill Frisell and Chris Thile's Punch Brothers." This new album represents another stage in that evolution, building on the proven strengths of and solidifying a unique identity for Lage's working band but continuing to open new doors and exploring new horizons. As Lage himself puts it: "Welcome to Gladwell.”
Brooklyn NY | Singer-Songwriter
Although initially drawn to the electric guitar, by his mid-teens Chris Eldridge had developed a deep love for acoustic music, thanks in part to his father, a banjo player and founding member of the seminal bluegrass group The Seldom Scene. Eldridge later gained in-depth exposure to a variety of different musical styles while studying at Oberlin Conservatory, where he earned a degree in music performance in 2004. During his time at Oberlin, Eldridge studied with legendary guitarist Tony Rice. After graduating he joined the Seldom Scene with whom he received a Grammy nomination for the album Scenechronized. While still playing with the Seldom Scene he moved to Nashville, TN where he was a founding member of the critically acclaimed bluegrass band The Infamous Stringdusters. At the 2007 International Bluegrass Music Association awards Eldridge and his Stringdusters bandmates won Emerging artist of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year for their debut album, Fork in the Road. Meanwhile, in 2005 he had caught the attention of mandolinist Chris Thile, who enlisted him, along with banjoist Noam Pikelny, violinist Gabe Witcher, and bassist Greg Garrison to start working on an ambitious side project. The project centered around a suite Thile was writing whose goal was to fuse the aural traditions of folk with the intellectual rigors of formal composition. In March, 2007 the quintet premiered the suite, The Blind Leaving the Blind, at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. Soon after they decided to focus all of their collective energies into band and Punch Brothers was born.
Andy T - Nick Nixon Band
Nashville TN | Blues
Both men have decades-long resumes that account for their mature, informed styles. Andy Talamantez abbreviated his given name to the stage-friendlier Andy T during his first high-profile gig, touring the world with blues legend Smokey Wilson.
Like many kids growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, the first blues Andy heard as a teenager was British blues, courtesy of Eric Clapton and Cream on The Ed Sullivan Show. He rapidly traced the music from there, assimilating elements of the vocabularies of Peter Green, Rory Gallagher, B.B. King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, T-Bone Walker and others until striking out on his own. He performed in various bands around Southern California until 1996, when Los Angeles-based Wilson practically plucked him off the stage for his first tour. In 1998 Andy also began playing with Guitar Shorty, a Houston native known for his blistering six-string attack and on-stage acrobatics.
During his seven years on the road with Smokey and Shorty, Andy learned how to back up a vocalist with economy and perfection as he honed his own playing style, developing a clean, mile-wide tone that cuts to the essence of every song he plays with absolute precision — an approach comparable to that of living Texas blues legends Jimmie Vaughan and the new CD’s producer Funderburgh. Andy recorded only one album during that time, 2003’s Ready To Roll by Smokey Wilson and the Andy T Band.
“The biggest lesson I learned from Smokey and Shorty was the importance of putting on a good show,’ Andy relates, “because they were great showmen. I also assimilated the finer points of managing a band.” He’s picked up a few more tips over the years performing with Funderburgh, Philip Walker, Charlie Musselwhite, Lonnie Brooks, Finis Tasby, William Clark, Rod Piazza, Kid Ramos, Kim Wilson and a host of others.
Nick’s musical education began in his native Nashville, singing in church as a young boy. Interestingly, he began performing opera after his high school music teacher heard the rich resonant tones that seem to naturally leap from his throat.
“I had to actually learn how to sing ’wrong’ after that, when I decided I wanted to sing rock ’n’ roll and blues at clubs and dances,” Nick explains, chuckling.
His first working band was King James and the Sceptres, a rock ’n’ roll outfit with Nick in the royal role. He became versed in the practicalities of the music business while playing clubs on Nashville’s famed Jefferson Street, which was Music City’s answer to Memphis’ Beale Street African-American entertainment district well into the 1970s, when disco undermined the live music market.
“There were clubs all up and down Jefferson,” Nick recounts. “Jimi Hendrix was one of the guys on the scene. You’d see him walking down the street with his guitar over his shoulder. I was running buddies with Jimi and Billy Cox, who played in Band of Gypsys with Jimi later on. At that time Johnny Jones was the hottest guitar player in town. He influenced Duane Allman and Jimi, although Larry Lee always had the best stage presence. Larry and Billy both played with Jimi at Woodstock.”
The Smoking Flowers
Nashville TN | Rock
When you listen to The Smoking Flowers, leave any preconceived notions behind, because if you think you’re listening to country, they’ll switch to rock. Or they’ll lull you in with a gentle waltz tempo, then come in with vocals that are reminiscent of punk. And the exquisite harmonies will certainly grab you. For this husband-and-wife duo, living together, working together, writing together and playing together unite to form a sound that’s distinctly theirs.
Americana singer/songwriter Tim Easton has been driven westward both geographically and musically since his college days in Ohio. On his 5th album, Porcupine, the Joshua Tree, CA resident lets a myriad of guitar riffs rooted in blues, country, rockabilly and campfire folk set the color for observational lyrics capturing life from the desert to the sea. The new album finds Tim's storytelling skills as sharp as quills, possibly inspired by his friend and pal Lucinda Williams. One of Porcupine's shining moments is the wistful two minute pop-folk jangle "7th Wheel" (conjured by the same spirits that entered the room while Browne and Frey wrote "Take It Easy"). Easton, known for his incessant touring (from Dublin to Anchorage to Ft. Wayne to Jacksonville), will be on the road, supporting Porcupine for a long time.
Nashville TN | Rock
Magnolia Sons is a nostalgic rock and soul group based out of Nashville, Tennessee. They are a 12-piece supergroup composed of artists and musicians from all over the United States. Their music is a tribute to the vintage sound of classic rock and soul from the 1960's and 1970's created by writers Austin Aguirre and Benjamin A. Harper. In the time of the resurgence of record collections, Magnolia Sons is both a throwback and a breath of fresh air. Inspired by The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops and the Temptations, Magnolia Sons have a sound that harkens back to the sound of 60's soulsters and American Band Stand, and as a 12 piece, they definitely fit the retro profile. While many older fans will recognize the sound from their own record collections, it is new for many of their younger fans who can be found dancing along to the catchy tunes at many of Nashville's venues.
Nashville TN | Country
Jim Lauderdale is a Grammy® Award winning musician and one of the most respected artists working the Bluegrass, Country and Americana music communities today. He is considered one of Nashville's "A" list of songwriters with songs recorded by artists such as Patty Loveless, Shelby Lynne, Solomon Burke, The Dixie Chicks and George Strait, who has had numerous hits with Jim’s songs. Jim’s music has been featured recently on the ABC hit show “Nashville” and he had several tracks on the soundtrack of the successful film “Pure Country.” Jim is also in high demand as a player, touring with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rhonda Vincent and Elvis Costello.
Jim, who frequently collaborates with legends like Ralph Stanley and Elvis Costello, is also a critically acclaimed solo artist with dozens of studio releases, including his latest Carolina Moonrise, written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter and Buddy and Jim the critically acclaimed new duets album recorded with long time friend Buddy Miller of which Mojo states: “Miller and Lauderdale's duets has both the easy familiarity of old friends and the musicianship of old pros.”
In addition to making music together, Buddy and Jim also co-host “The Buddy & Jim Show,” recently described as “…highly entertaining…” by NPR’s Fresh Air. Each week Buddy and Jim invite artists to Buddy’s home studio in Nashville, where they tape performances and in depth interviews with a wide variety of artists and friends. Jim also hosts the popular Music City Roots each week from the Loveless Barn in Nashville and since winning "Artist of the Year" and "Song of the Year" at the first "Honors and Awards Show" held by the Americana Music Association in 2002, he has subsequently hosted the show each year.
Jim is the subject of a new documentary, directed by Australian filmmaker Jeremy Dylan called “The King Of Broken Hearts.” The feature length documentary tells Jim’s unconventional and prolific story from his North Carolina roots, being immersed in the country music scenes in both New York City and Los Angeles, to breaking through in Nashville as a songwriter.
Jim's musical influences, including the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley and George Jones, can be heard in his songs with his unique sense of melody and lyrical expertise. He won his first Grammy Award in 2002 with Dr. Ralph Stanley for Lost in the Lonesome Pines (Dualtone) and then for The Bluegrass Diaries (Yep Roc) in 2007. In addition to previously mentioned releases, as a performer Jim is credited with production, writing and collaborating on over two dozen albums including Wait ’Til Spring (SkyCrunch/Dualtone 2003) with Donna the Buffalo and Headed for the Hills (Dualtone 2004) his first total project with Robert Hunter, Planet of Love (Reprise 1991,) Pretty Close to the Truth (Atlantic 1994,) Every Second Counts (Atlantic 1995,) Persimmons (Upstart 1998,) Whisper (BNA 1998,) Onward Through It All (RCA 1999,) The Other Sessions (Dualtone 2001,) The Hummingbirds (Dualtone 2002,) Bluegrass (Yep Roc 2006,) Country Super Hits, Volume 1 (Yep Roc 2006,) Honey Songs (Yep Roc 2008), Could We Get Any Closer? (SkyCrunch 2009,) Patchwork River (Thirty Tigers 2010) and Reason and Rhyme (Sugar Hill Records 2011.)
Jim's musical influences include the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley and George Jones. These influences and his unique sense of melody and lyric help forge a sound that is truly his own. As a performer his credits include production, writing and collaborating on albums such as, "Wait 'Til Spring" with Donna the Buffalo, "Headed for the Hills” with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, "I Feel Like Singing Today" and the Grammy winning “Lost in the Lonesome Pines” with Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys.
His second solo bluegrass album, “Bluegrass Diaries” (Yep Roc 2007) won a Grammy in the “Bluegrass Album of the Year” category. His next album, “Honey Songs” was released in February 2008, and features an incredible lineup of musicians including James Burton, Garry Tallent, Al Perkins, Glen D. Hardin, Ron Tutt, Emmy Lou Harris, Patty Loveless, and many more.
Jim’s solo albums include “The Hummingbirds” (Dualtone 2002), “The Other Sessions” (Dualtone 2001), “Onward Through it All” (RCA 1999), “Whisper” (BNA 1998), “Persimmons” (Upstart 1996), “Every Second Counts” (Atlantic 1995), “Pretty Close to the Truth” (Atlantic 1994), and “Planet of Love” (Reprise 1991), as well as two releases in 2006, “Country Super Hits, Volume 1” and “Bluegrass” (Yep Roc), Grammy winner "The Bluegrass Diaries" (Yep Roc 2007), "Honey Songs" (Yep Roc 2008) "Could We Get Any Closer?" (Sky Crunch 2009) and "Patchwork River" (Thirty Tigers 2010).
"It's been a particularly great period for me," says Lauderdale. "Thanks to the records - I'm performing more and more, which I love. And I love that I can play the Opry one weekend, a jam-band festival the next and then a bluegrass festival the following week. That's really inspiring to me and I think there's a real thread there. The roots are the same for all of them and that's the music I'm interested in."