Ft. Lauderdale FL | Hip-Hop/Rap
To most people, jazz, hip-hop, funk, and classical are musical genres. But to revolutionary music group Black Violin, they're nothing but ingredients.
Combining a daunting array of musical styles and influences to produce a signature sound that is not quite maestro, not quite emcee, this group of two classically trained violinists and their DJ is redefining the music world-one string at a time.
With influences ranging from Shostakovich and Bach to Nas and Jay-Z, Black Violin breaks all the rules, blending the classical with the modern to create something rare-a sound that nobody has ever heard, but that everybody wants to feel.
When the members of Black Violin first learned to play their signature instruments-Wil B at the viola 14 years old and Kev Marcus the violin at the tender age of 9-neither could have foreseen that it would become their livelihood, though it was already becoming their passion. The two Florida natives first met while attending the Dillard High School of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, a school whose exceptional music programs served to nurture their already budding talents.
But it was not until the two were exposed to the work of legendary violinist Stuff Smith that the seeds that would one day become Black Violin were truly planted. Smith, born in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1909, was one of preeminent jazz violinists of the swing era, who went onto perform with names like Alphonse Trent, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Sun Ra throughout a long and storied career. His final album and most soulful, entitled "Black Violin," so inspired and influenced the young Kev Marcus and Wil B that they would eventually name their band in honor of the man who had shown them that there were no limits to what the violin could do.
After graduating from high school, both Wil and Kev were granted full music scholarships to college, Florida State and Florida International University respectively. It was at FIU that Kev first encountered the group's future manager, Sam G, with whom he and Wil soon formed a production company: DKNEX. Now they had a platform for their dream, and the talent and inspiration to back it up. Black Violin was born.
Once formed, the group wasted no time in making a name for itself, starting with the rigorous touring that would become a trademark of the group. Black Violin was making ripples in the music industry, but it wasn't long before these ripples became waves. In 2004, the group joined superstar Alicia Keys on stage at the Billboard Music awards, delivering a performance that made the tastemakers and music enthusiasts of America sit up and take notice. Not long after, in 2005, the group was awarded the coveted title of Apollo Legend by the esteemed Apollo theatre in Harlem, effectively confirming what many were beginning to suspect-Black Violin was on its way to the top.
The next step in BV's journey came in the form of Mike Shinoda, lead singer of legendary rock act Linkin Park, who had had his eye on the two virtuosos for a while. Impressed by their imaginative composition and finely tuned musicianship, he invited them along on a world tour with his hip-hop side project, Fort Minor. Finally granted the worldwide platform their talents deserved, the members of Black Violin now introduced their own brand of genius to audiences across the globe. In addition to Shinoda, BV has worked with musicians as diverse as P.Diddy, Kanye West, Fifty Cent, Aerosmith, Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin and the Eagles-among many others.
But Black Violin is only getting started. The group recently released its eponymous debut album-a record whose top notch production and musical cohesion make it feel like the work of seasoned veterans rather than industry upstarts, as many patrons of the iTunes store and Amazon.com are discovering for themselves. The group continues to tour far and wide, opening for hip hop mainstays like Fat Joe, Akon, and the Wu-Tang Clan in locations as diverse, as Prague, Dubai, and South Africa. The group's rising fame has also made it a highly desired act for celebrity events-Black Violin just recently provided the music at both Minister Lois Farrakhan's 75th birthday and at NFL star Santana Moss's wedding.
But beyond all the glitz and glamour, the members of Black Violin just want to give children the same opportunities that they had. With school music programs being culled all across the country, Kev and Wil are concerned that urban youth will not have the benefit of music as a positive alternative to other, more destructive pursuits. With this in mind, they have embarked upon a campaign of social change-using youth orchestras and reinvigorated music programs to show children and teens that they are capable of expressing themselves in ways they have never dreamed.
In an age where music is coming to be more and more defined by the labels given to it, Black Violin shows that music does not exist within a box, but rather exists in another space-one as open and unrestrained as the minds that produce it.
Springfield MO | Country
“This is awesome – Ladies and gentlemen, once again, The HillBenders!” The shouts and cheers of the 2012 Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival attendees fill the tent as the band tunes up for their encore. The guitarist, sporting a headband and John Lennon sunglasses, approaches the microphone. “Folks, we apologize in advance if one of us falls into your tent…we plan on playing all night tonight!” The supercharged crowd roars in response.
This is the typical energy of any HillBenders performance. The dynamic bluegrass quintet from Springfield, MO with their high-octane shows, tight harmonies and stunning instrumental prowess, have been winning fans and making waves at every festival they have been invited, and consequently re-invited to since their formation in 2008. Recently signed to Nashville-based roots music company the Compass Records Group, the HillBenders will release their new album Can You Hear Me? on September 25th, presenting an intensely charismatic album imbued with the spirit and energy of their live shows. “Our music appeals to anyone that can enjoy a fun performance. We share a passion for the music, a passion to perform,” says guitarist Jim Rea, “It’s evident we have fun on stage. People come up to us and say sarcastically, ’liven up!’”
Thus the challenge in recording Can You Hear Me?” was clear — the band had to capture their undeniable live appeal on the twelve tracks, eight of which are originals. Lead singer and mandolinist Nolan Lawrence with Jim Rea and his cousin Gary Rea on guitar and bass respectively, banjoist Mark Cassidy and Dobroist Chad “Gravy Boat” Graves channeled the rawness and intensity of bands like Newgrass Revival into the carefully executed arrangements. They worked closely with roots music engineer and producer Bil VornDick for an album that aligned their diverse tastes and styles while showcasing the collective talent of each band member, including a grassified cover of the Romantics’ “Talking in Your Sleep” and Hal Ketchum’s country hit, “Past the Point of Rescue,” which includes a samba-grass breakdown after the second chorus.
The album-opening “Train Whistle,” is a rambling train song, a staple to the bluegrass band, though the band hesitates the genre distinction. “Bluegrass is where we found our voice as performers, so we feel like we owe a lot to it. We have one foot in bluegrass all the time while the other is reaching out and exploring our interests in rock and roll, jazz, funk and Americana,” says Chad. By winning the Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition in 2009 and the National Single Microphone Championship the following year, the band became favorites on the bluegrass festival scene with their own brand of acoustic fusion. “A lot of people, even at the more traditional festivals, tell us ’You guys are so fun to listen to!’ This comes from the die-hard traditionalists. They are saying that it is really refreshing to see something new. At the same time we’re not afraid to be looked down upon – all of that formality melts away when we just be ourselves.”
The HillBenders recognize their ability to bridge the gap between the common music consumer and the bluegrass genre, selecting material for the album that defies any hillbilly stigmas. Nolan comments, “With our widely varied influences, we’re all trying to bring in songs that unify. We wanted to pair bluegrass with the other American music we grew up with —rock and roll!” Their festival appearances also reflect the crossover; the band recently played the very traditional Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival and the esteemed Philadelphia Folk Festival on back to bay days on the same weekend.
Still, the heart of the new album draws from the band’s live performances. Nolan adds, “If the music isn’t played with intensity, you can tell. You have to play the music with that passion or it just isn’t going to sound right.” Can You Hear Me? is an album that showcases a young band with ambition and talent at a volume that comes across loud and clear.
Pembroke Ontario Canada | Singer-Songwriter
April Verch has never sounded more comfortable in her skin than she does now, in the second
decade of her career as an internationally touring Canadian fiddler, step dancer and singersongwriter. Her ninth album, Bright Like Gold, captures a woman who’s fleshed out her
identity and is in full command of her gifts, a woman who’s grown from a prodigy into an
enduring artist—one of music’s most unforgiving public transitions—with grace and grit to
The April Verch Band—rounded out by bassist and clawhammer banjo player Cody Walters and guitarist Hayes Griffin, who has a Masters in jazz improv from the New England Conservatory— is an energetic, virtuosic, tradition-celebrating outfit, not to mention one that’s not soon forgotten when they depart the stage. It doesn’t hurt that the thrilling grand finale involves Verch fiddling and step dancing—and often executing two entirely different intricate rhythmic patterns—at once.
Something else that’s downright impressive is the range of material Verch, Walters and Griffin inhabit on the new album. She’s so fluent in folk traditions—the Canadian ones she was born into and the American ones she later found her way to—that old fiddle tunes like those featured in the Canadian medley “Dusty Miller,” “Fiddle Fingers” and “Grizzly Bear” and the Appalachian medley “Edward in the Treetop,” “Yellow Jacket” and “Quit That Tickling Me” sound positively reinvigorated. Originals like her instrumental waltz “Morris & Boris” and country courting number “The Only One” are clearly made to last.
What makes the latter song even more special is that Bluegrass Hall of Famer Mac Wiseman’s voice is on it, and he’s not the only guest of note. Premier old-time fiddler Bruce Molsky joins Verch for some handsome dual fiddling on “Evening Star Waltz,” and bluegrass banjo icon Sammy Shelor appears on “Davy Davy” and “Folding Down the Sheets.” Griffin’s “Foolish Heart” offers a playful take on western swing, Walters' “Raven In the Hemlock” unfurls melodic surprises and Verch’s “Broken” and “Sorry” have real emotional heft. The fact that she also chose to include “No Other Would Do”—the only song her dad’s ever written— perfectly completes the musical circle.
Verch, leader of this self-assured ensemble, is claiming her power as an artist and a woman, and taking charge of her recording process. Produced by Verch, Walters, Griffin, and their engineer Chris Rosser, Bright Like Gold is, quite literally, the album of Verch’s life.
It’s a wonder to behold Verch pulling off those pristine double-time triplets with her feet, and the myriad other ways she’s made good on the promise she showed at a tender age by becoming an artist in touch with roots and in her element. She won't be the one to mention her championship titles to you, or even the fact that she represented Canada's fiddling tradition by performing in the Opening Ceremonies at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. “The accolades are important and noteworthy and special to me,” she says, “but what I think is most impressive to me is that I’ve been doing this full time since 2000. We make a living playing music that we love and it touches other people. I feel like we’re extremely lucky to do that, but also I work really hard, not just at the music, but at every aspect of our career, to make that happen. That we find a way to make it work, and have had that kind of longevity, that's impressive to me.”
And rightfully so. Verch has perfected the art of winning fans for life.
Nashville TN | Country
From their first down-beat in 2002, through tours with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, The Greencards have won hearts and acclaim for their multi-dimensional Americana vision.
Their new album, Sweetheart of the Sun produced by Gary Paczosa (John Prine, Alison Krauss, Sarah Jarosz) is filled with songs that reference water, along with the often-related concepts of motion and travel. The Greencards co-founders Kym Warner and Carol Young focused on those aspects of their lives to craft a unified sonic document, one that catalogues their journeys while transporting listeners to a beautiful, welcoming world.
Drawing on their Aussie upbringings, their American experiences and their restless natures, The Greencards use imagery and instrumentation to evoke moods and suggest movement; the songs themselves ebb and flow like tides.
Young and Warner have traveled far, literally and metaphorically, since forming The Greencards in 2003 after transplanting themselves in Austin TX. Their debut album, Movin’ On, earned them a deal with Nashville-based Dualtone Records, so they headed east. Weather and Water, Viridian, Fascination and The Brick Album followed, along with two Grammy nominations, a 2006 Americana Honors & Awards win as New/Emerging Artist Of The Year, and a number one position on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart.
Not only does the guest list in this wonderful body of music contain some of Nashville and Austin’s finest, Sons of Fathers, Aoife O’Donovan and Gusters’ Luke Reynolds, it’s also a short-list of The Greencards favorites – purposely gathered together as a gift of sorts to their supportive fans. The band’s last release, 2011’s “The Brick Album”, was a collaboration with those fans; donors who helped get it made even got their own “bricks” in the album art. But this time, says Warner, “We wanted to turn the tables and give back.” Yes, Sweetheart of the Sun is one special voyage. The time to book passage is now.
“This imported band is making some of the finest Americana around.”
“Laid-back tunes that land in a sweet spot halfway between Americana and bluegrass.”
– TIME MAGAZINE
“Their album is simply stunning.”
Nashville TN | Rock
Matt Butcher is no stranger to travelling. Born in England to Christian missionaries, he lived in Amsterdam and Colorado before moving to Orlando, Florida. His love of music began at an early age, listening to his parents spin classic records on the turntable - Van Morrison, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen. Many of these influences would inform his later work. His first band The Heathens, a rollic…king country-rock outfit, released their album “Big White House” in 2006. The album garnered favorable reviews and won the group a devoted following throughout Central Florida. The Heathens disbanded in 2007 and Butcher subsequently embarked on his solo career. His debut album, “Me and My Friends,” produced in conjunction with Justin Beckler, saw release in 2008 to uniformly rave reviews. The Orlando Sentinel dubbed it one of the ten best albums of 2008. Colored by pedal steel, piano, and acoustic guitar, the album displayed a somber and mature approach leading Reax Music to call it a “ dewey-prairie mix of wistfulness and confession”.
The following year saw Butcher and his backing band The Revolvers headlining shows throughout the Southeast and opening for such notable national acts as The Avett Brothers, Conor Oberst, and Jason Isbell. In 2010 Butcher toured heavily throughout the Southeast without The Revolvers as a solo performer, heralding positive reviews like Ray Roa’s comments on a show in Tampa, “ held the crowd captivated with a voice uniquely his own, and a guitar playing style that is deceptively complex… Butcher is well on his way to crafting a songbook rich with vivid imagery.”
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."