The Howlin' Brothers
Meet The Howlin’ Brothers, a Nashville-based band that likes to keep one foot in tradition — and use the other to kick it right out the door.
On Howl, their first album for Brendan Benson’s Readymade Records label (through Thirty Tigers) set for March 5, 2013 release, they effortlessly dispel all kinds of preconceived notions — starting with the myth that Nashville means just country. We can also forget the words rock and pop, regardless of what their association with Raconteur Benson, who produced, might imply. (Although, we must note, they do rock — just not according to, um, tradition).
Though they certainly incorporate bluegrass rhythms, these Ithaca College graduates say they’re better described as Americana, where multiple hyphens are the norm and boundaries are not.
Perhaps because they veer frequently into old-time, country-blues and even Dixieland jazz territory, vocalist/upright bassist/banjo player Ben Plasse notes, “I think we’re more willing to take risks with arrangements and style. We’re not afraid to do anything we can pull off that that we think is groovy.”
And no, The Howlin’ Brothers are not siblings — nor even relatives. They do share a house just outside of Music City, and co-parent a 1½-year-old pit bull/border collie/bird dog “blend” named Cora Lee — who doesn’t howl . . . much. Coincidentally, siblings can be heard on Howl; members of Nashville’s Jypsi contribute harmony vocals to the gospel-graced closing track, “Mama Don’t You Tell Me.” Warren Haynes also guests, on “Big Time” (which he co-wrote with the band).
We should also mention that none of them was raised in the foothills of the Smokies or the Blue Ridge Mountains, or anywhere near a “holler” — though they sound as if they’d fit right in at the Carter Family Fold in southern Virginia. (And when they plop matching white felt hats on their dark locks, they look the part, too.)
Ian Craft did grow up not far from the Adirondack Mountains, in Homer, N.Y., just south of Syracuse. Jared Green was born and raised in Bayfield, Wis. Plasse was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and grew up in Lexington, Mass., just outside of Boston.
Craft’s first passion was drumming and percussion; he had steel drum bands in high school and college. Green grew up tickling the ivories next to his piano-teacher mother. He did the high-school rock band thing, playing covers at dances. Plasse remembers, “Music was just always in the house. I played guitar from about 14.”
All three wound up at Ithaca, where Craft studied percussion performance and Green and Plasse majored in classical guitar and recording. Craft and Green met, appropriately, at a recording session.
“My steel band was going into the studio to record a demo. Our bass player, Dominic Fisher (of Wood & Wire), was Jared’s roommate,” Craft explains. “Jared was the recording engineer. So I met Jared and I said, ’Hey, let’s pick some tunes sometime.’ I eventually moved into Jared’s place, and I met Ben through Jared. We all liked the same kind of music.”
Craft sat in with Plasse’s jam band once or twice, and Green joined Craft’s rock band as an electric guitarist. But by then, Green says, Craft had ignited his interest in old-time music.
“We realized that acoustic music was what we loved the best,” says Craft. “We just had so much fun doin’ it.”
Though Craft didn’t know Plasse well, he accompanied Green to Plasse’s college guitar recital. Plasse asked them to join him onstage. “We did some high-singing and three-part-harmony,” Craft recalls, “and Ben’s guitar teacher, Pablo Cohen, from Argentina — an awesome guy — came up to us afterward and said in a really thick accent, ’Who ees these guys? The Howlin’ Brothers?’ And we said, ’Hell, yes, we’re The Howlin’ Brothers!’ We’ve kept it ever since.”
Before they knew it, they were a band. After graduation, they hung around Ithaca, scraping by with house-painting jobs, then decided they might as well try their luck in Nashville. That was in 2005.
They’ve been making music full time for three years now, and previously self-released the albums Tragic Mountain Songs (2007), Long Hard Year (2009), Baker St. Blues (2011), and a compilation of live performances, Old Time All the Time (2012). These previous releases have been sold exclusively at shows until now, they will be available on the band’s website in 2013.
The trio met Benson through a mutual friend who hosts frequent picking parties, a favorite Nashville pastime. Searching for multi-instrument string players to perform on a Cory Chisel album, Benson asked around, and, according to Benson’s manager, Emily White, “Everyone said he had to talk to The Howlin’ Brothers.”
They ended up spending an entire month in the studio together.
“He was just so cool,” Craft says of Benson. “He loved us, and he was like, ’I’m making your next record.’ We thought he was joking.” But according to White, “When he brought them into the studio he freaked out and called me, saying that he really wanted to produce a record for the guys because they were such amazing players and had a killer thing going on.” Once they got over the shock of realizing he was serious, they created Howl, a mix of originals and classic and traditional covers.
“We always try to include some of our favorite traditional tunes, because it’s cool give a nod to the traditional stuff,” Craft says. But he insists, “It’s not a bluegrass album at all.”
Thirty Tigers A&R chief Kim Buie agrees. “The Howlin’ Brothers’ songs, while lyrically simple, pack the sonic wallop of blistering angst and attitude, contrasted by songs full of melodic heart tugs, and still more songs that are just plain ol’ killer,” she says.
But after working and touring with The Howlin’ Brothers, maybe Benson’s testimonial resonates the most. “The Howlin’ Brothers live the life they sing about in their songs,” he says. “They are authentic and the real deal through and through. On top of that, they are the hardest-working musicians I've come across. They play their instruments every waking moment and are truly possessed by music.”
Possessed by music. Sounds like a great next-album title, especially for a band called The Howlin’ Brothers. But let this one sink in for a while first. Because it’s going to. For sure.
Ben Plasse – upright bass, banjo, vocals
Ian Craft – fiddle, banjo, vocals
Jared Green – guitar, harmonica, vocals
Nashville TN | Country
Austin TX | Rock
Austin-based indie rock band Uncle Lucius is set to release its new studio album, “And You Are Me,” on August 28, 2012. Recorded in Austin and Nashville, “And You Are Me” finds Uncle Lucius stretching their musicianship and reeling in eleven songs that punch with a fullness reminiscent of The Doors to early Black Crowes. Uncle Lucius takes rock and roll from its deep roots, pushes it onward by putting their own honest interpretation of new rock sounds with elements of r&b and blues added. The band includes Kevin Galloway on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Hal Vorpahl on bass, Mike Carpenter on lead guitar and vocals, Josh Greco on drums and percussion and Jon Grossman on lead vocals, and keys. The first single and video for “Pocket Full of Misery” will be serviced to radio and video outlets shortly.
The new album comes on the heels of a three-year run of tour dates that took Uncle Lucius across the continent strapped with 2009â²s “Pick Your Head Up,” a self released album hailed for bringing rock and roll back to its heyday sound. Packed into their van the band toured everywhere from the corners of both coasts and throughout the Midwest from their Austin TX home pushing their rock and soul shows into late nights throughout the country. Songs from this 2009 album were featured on TV shows such as Castle and Friday Night Lights.
The band continues to tour leading up to the release of And You Are Me, and they pride their live show as a sacred and energetic experience, with a belief that this is still the truest form of communication with their fans.
Waco TX | Singer-Songwriter
For Brian Wright, life as a traveling troubadour began in Mclennan County, Texas near the highway and the trains. That is where his father took a job that required a great deal of travel, making the family VW van Wright’s first crib. Consequently Wright feels most at home
when on the road, and this movement has helped shaped Wright’s sense of bare-boned lyrics and achingly beautiful songs that seem both distant and intimate at the same time.
After spending his early twenties on the Austin/Waco/Dallas bar circuit, playing everything from punk to covers, Wright flipped a coin to decide his future home, either New York City or Los Angeles. Going West won the day. Today, at the age of 33, when not touring, he resides in Los Angeles where he is a fixture in the LA music scene. For the last six years he has been the front man and lyricist for his band Brian Wright and the Waco Tragedies, a band that has gathered a devoted audience across the country.
“When people ask what I sound like I usually say I’m somewhere between Woody Guthrie and Velvet Underground,” says Wright. It’s true but there is also hints of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark fused with a bluesy slide guitar and a simple, but enchanting Paul McCartney like bass line. Wright’s newest release House on Fire, boldly declares a new chapter in his life as a musician and producer. His two previous albums, Bluebird and Dog Ears were recorded with a live band in the studio, both in a span of three days. These were done in an attempt to capture the true essence of the band’s energy. House on Fire approached the recording process from a different angle. The album is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of Brian’s to play every instrument on the record. This album took time, craftsmanship, and a sustained passion to produce a sound that reflects Wright’s newest chapter in his journey as a musician and songwriter. The result is an album that truly reflects the man behind the voice. With House on Fire, Wright doesn’t just write songs, he composes short stories with images and characters, fusing the rural beauty of old time country with the echoes of rock n’ roll.
“I love playing in my band, sitting in with fellow musicians, but this album finally allowed me to make the music the exact way it was in my head.” The fourteen songs on House on Fire further cement Wright’s quest to becoming a premiere singer/songwriter. The album is co-produced with Mike Vizcarra, who created a studio in a one-room Laurel Canyon apartment, coincidentally the same hovel that was once the home of Waco’s most famous former resident, Steve Martin.
Fort Saskatchewan Alberta Canada | Folk
Joe Nolan traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to record his third album “Goodbye Cinderella”. The album was produced by award-winning producer Colin Linden and featured some of Nashville’s most storied players including Spooner Oldham (Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Neil Young) on keyboards, Charlie McCoy (Bob Dylan, Elvis, Simon & Garfunkel) on harmonica, Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp) on acoustic bass, Chris Donahue (Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant) on electric bass, Bryan Owings (Emmylou Harris, Tony Joe White, Delbert McClinton) on drums, along with producer Linden (Bruce Cockburn, Lucinda Williams) on electric guitars and vocals. The record was brilliantly recorded by John Whynot (Blue Rodeo, Loreena McKennitt) who also contributed keyboards on a few songs. The recording features 10 new Joe Nolan compositions and shows a quantum leap in maturity and confidence. Joe’s beautiful combination of sweet, sad lyrics and haunting vocals come from a deep well that shows a young man’s heart and an old man’s soul. Protest songs, love songs, songs with questions and songs with answers created a collection that has the listener wanting more. His live performances are mesmerizing and the audience connects to Joe’s soft, honest and heart-felt delivery. Praise for “Goodbye Cinderella” came from many directions. The reviews are stellar, the recording was quickly picked up for distribution in Europe with a commitment for Joe to embark on his first European tour in the spring of 2012, and more recently, Joe was nominated in the Best New/Emerging Artist category at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Joe has been performing non-stop over the past few years building an ever growing fan base. He has been sharing stages with established artists that include Todd Snider, Colin Linden, Sam Baker, Gurf Morlix, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, Mathew Barber, Oh Susanna and the legendary Peter Asher.