Nashville TN | Alternative
Exploring your emotions can make for a good song, but it's shining light on those which plague us all that builds the backbone of the truly great ones. Coupled with tireless melodies that seep into the small spaces between your bones; it's the kind of music that brings on little movements when life has gotten too stiff. This is what Caitlin Rose does best. Her lyrics -- visceral, illustrative, witty and wry -- are pieces of stories that examine matters of the heart through a unique lens that makes us all see a bit more clearly: from the loneliness of relationships, to palpable dissolving human connectivity, to the loss of love with none of the melodrama. At her core, Nashville's Rose is a storyteller and a song-crafter who is more interested in what's being produced than how it helps her along the way.
Though much of her acclaimed debut "Own Side Now" was personally-inspired, what stood out most was its ability to paint a picture and tell a near-cinematic story, from the simultaneous last puffs of both cigarette and relationship, to the delightfully seedy characters pocketed in a coin-toss on the streets of New York City. With her follow-up, "The Stand-In," Rose seems more interested in telling tales than spilling confessionals. "It feels more compelling to live through a song than it did having already lived it," she says. "The Stand-In" is a journey down a road she's always wanted to take: the path of the story-song. One track, "Pink Champagne," inspired by a Joan Didion short essay, accounts for the desperate, short-lived passions of a Vegas wedding. The emotions stem from both protagonists, but are dissected and recounted by the watchful eye of the chapel or some honest observer from within. This collection of songs seems bent on investigating relationships from different perspectives; male and female, young and old, left and leaving, but they all tackle the bitter farewells, romantic misunderstandings and endless responsibilities in life. Using fibers of her fringe country roots and the bold musical capabilities of fellow producers/co-writers, Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson (Justin Townes Earle), "The Stand-In" seamlessly melds pedal steel guitar with restless pop beats, creating lush instrumentals that build on the more spare construction of "Own Side Now." "These songs are all based in sentiment. We wrote the stories to convey a feeling." The result is infinitely more universal.
Rose doesn't like to categorize her music, but like the great songwriters of our time, what she creates is beyond easy classification. While she often mentions core influences like Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan and Patsy Cline, she's constantly absorbing books, movies, cultural ticks: when explaining her writing style, she pulls a quote from famed 1930's daredevil, Karl Wallenda who said, "being on the wire is life; the rest is just waiting." The quote is referenced in Bob Fosse's 1979 semi-autobiographical film, "All That Jazz." The film was written and directed by the famed choreographer turned director whose colorful personality and editorial brilliance became a lead inspiration in the making of "The Stand-In." In the context of the scene in which it's used, the quote comes off as a bit of a put-on, but somehow rings true for 'slave to show-biz' character Joe Gideon; and Rose as well for whom, all paths lead to the song. Much like Fosse, she tends to describe her work as restrained and deliberate, something evident on "Own Side Now." Though for "The Stand-In," she's taken a few leaps outside her comfort zone, making the result, as she puts it, something like a "first attempt at a high kick."
It's fitting that Rose wrote her first song at sixteen as a substitution for a high school paper. Even as a means to an end, she recognized the power of music, and of melody, to relay emotions and stories in the most gripping way possible. A youthful observer, she enjoyed hanging out after school at the local Waffle House drinking cups of coffee and quietly shaping bits of gossip into first person tales of woe.
Growing up in Nashville to music industry parents (her mother, Liz Rose, is a songwriter who found success working with artists like Taylor Swift, Leann Womack and others), Rose inherited her mother's "inclination towards melody -- the ability to naturally know where melody could and should go" early on and again credits her love of songwriting to a long list of influences, many of which would be easily found in either of her parents record collections. From Hank Williams to The Rolling Stones, she says, "I've always been more inspired by what others have done."
This is evident in her penchant for covers -- two have made their way onto "The Stand-In" ("I Was Cruel," by The Deep Vibration and "Dallas" by The Felice Brothers). She considers herself not just a writer, but an interpreter of song, eager to take works she admires and expose others to their brilliance and also reinvent them in a way that upon listening you might catch something you missed before.
"For me the intention behind any song is writing a good one," Rose says "and to create something worthy enough to share with other people" Rose's songs, however, are way beyond worthy. They're downright necessary.
Luella and The Sun
This band includes Melissa Mathes (vocals), (Joe McMahan (guitar), Jon Radford (drums), and Adam Bednarik (bass)....although Adam Binder occasionally subs in on bass.
All these fine folks have been doing exceptional musical things in town for some time now but this seems to be a magical combination. Melissa's vocals are hypnotic and jazz-inflected, with Joe's spectral blues guitar and the groove-obsessed rhythm section of Jon and Adam... It all adds up to a shockingly refreshing take on a classic rootsy sound. They've recorded a debut 10" EP and we'll be celebrating the release of that with an intimate in-store performance. It's a must.
Esmont VA | Country
Nashville songwriter Jonny Fritz’s work ethic and boldness have paid off in spades. It’s been a big year for Jonny, with opening stints for Alabama
Shakes, Deer Tick, Dawes, Shooter Jennings and rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson and kudos from CMT and Rolling Stone, among many others. He’s signed a deal with indie label ATO Records (he actually signed the deal with gravy at Nashville landmark Arnold's Country Kitchen) and Loose Records in Europe, and his third full-length album, Dad Country, is set for release on April 16, 2013 (April 15 in Europe).
Produced by Jonny and Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, recorded at Jackson Browne’s Los Angeles studio and finished up in Music City, USA, this is a breakthrough album, balancing Fritz’s earthy trademark humor and unfiltered worldview with some of his darkest material to date. The album has a Nashville sound kept aloft on a sure Southern Californian wind, no doubt from the influence of his backing band: Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, Tay Strathairn and Wylie Gelber of Dawes, Jackson Browne, and his Nashville band of Spencer Cullum Jr, Joshua Hedley, Taylor Zachry and Jerry Pentecost.
Dad Country is also his first release under his real name, Fritz, with Jonny ditching the “Corndawg” moniker he’d carried since his early teens. Now a music veteran with a decade of touring under his belt, he’s grown into an accomplished, mature voice in country music. Says co-producer Goldsmith, "Funny as they can be at moments, his songs access realities and experiences that we’re all familiar with but sometimes fail to consider the depths of. I was really honored to work on the record. We tracked for two days and arranged the songs on the spot. Everyone really responded to each other's ideas and the whole experience was really inspiring and easy. I chalk it up to the quality of Jonny's songs on this record."
After nearly a decade spent on the road (since his late teens), it was well-earned luck that brought Jonny together with dream team that would bring Dad Country to life – including none other than Jackson Browne. Originally scheduled to record at another Los Angeles studio, Jonny and co-producer Taylor Goldsmith were left scrambling for a backup plan when their original producer flaked. As it happened, they were playing a show in Hollywood that week and Browne was in attendance. After the show, Browne approached Jonny and, learning of their troubles, generously offered up his studio. Just three weeks later, they were all holed up at Browne’s, recording the new record.
Fritz and Goldsmith had rehearsed most the songs together, but the rest of the band had to learn them run-and-gun style in the studio, nailing many of the songs on the first time ever playing them together. In just four days, they pounded out 14 tracks in one long, inspired rush and this excitement pervades the results. “It was really spontaneous,” Fritz says.
“We just pulled it out of our proverbial asses as we went along.” Fritz later re-recorded two of the songs that had evolved significantly on the road since the studio session – the Red Simpson-esque “Fever Dreams” and down-home lament “Ain’t It Your Birthday” – using his own band back in Nashville. With these, the record was ready and dead-on with Jonny’s vision of Dad Country.
Like his songwriting heroes Tom T. Hall, Michael Hurley, Roger Miller and Clint Black, Jonny can turn phrases 'til you’re dizzy, all while plucking your heartstrings or capturing a sharp, lonesome vulnerability that never seems lost or brooding. For Jonny Fritz is no tear-in-the-beer sap moaning over his lost love and troubles. He’d rather cry running marathons than sitting on a barstool. Rather than Outlaw Country, he prefers we think of him as “someone’s weird Dad” and a musician of his own bent. He writes his every song with that deep country-music impulse to turn real experience into lyrical form.
Born in Montana and raised in Virginia, Jonny grew up in the middle of mountains and weirdos of every allegiance, developing a blind man’s ear for the slightest turn in a tale or human voice. He dropped out of school and left home early, totally undaunted, and toured the country on his motorcycle, selling just enough music to keep his freedom and stay ahead of bitterness. “If I could sell three CDs a night, I would have enough for gas and to make it to the next town.”
Cramming six lifetimes into six years and collecting triumphs and heartaches every corner of the globe, he eventually wound his way toward Tennessee. "Not because I wanted to break in over on Music Row and 'make it,' because I knew I didn't really belong there," he says. "I wanted to learn the ways of country music ... to get my education in this cool old world that exists only in Nashville."
While immersing himself in the music world, Jonny began running marathons from Philadelphia to Barcelona and pounding out his signature leather works- the dog collars and guitar straps- seen all over Nashville and half the musical universe. He found himself in NYC for year trying to save a relationship, and its slow, painful unraveling (and demise) inspired Dad Country's bleakest, heartrending tracks, including "All We Do Is Complain" and "Have You Ever Wanted to Die."
These days, life has never been better for Jonny Fritz. He's back in Nashville again and putting down roots- and has even gone and bought himself a house. "It just keeps getting better. Now, the band is getting paid, I'm getting paid, everybody's happy, and we're packing 'em in when we play."
"This is the dream life. I couldn't really ask for anything else."
The Bottle Rockets
Saint Louis MO | Rock
In a country where interstates don’t take you to new places, but to the same places, where everywhere you go you’ve already been or you’ve just left, The Bottle Rockets’ new album absolutely nails a sound and a vibe with a palpable sense of place. Lean Forward is suffused with the determination and resilience of their distinctly midwestern roots; theirs is a celebration of pragmatism and tempered optimism, not the delusions and exhortations of glassy eyed zealots—they aren’t going to fall for that. Oh, it’s a flat out, smoking rock record, too.
Lean Forward continues the Rockets’ creative resurgence ignited by 2006’s Zoysia. Reunited with producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (who ran the knobs on the Bottle Rockets’ seminal albums The Brooklyn Side and 24 Hours A Day), the Bottle Rockets do what no other band does better — look into the hearts and minds and faces of the dying small towns in America and crafts populist anthems with the sympathetic eye of Woody Guthrie and sonic stomp of Crazy Horse. They are songs that demand the windows be rolled down and the volume turned up. And with the hooks, you’ll wonder how they make such problems sound so good …
Lean Forward is stacked with a sharp lyricism and gritty fatalism that looks off the front porch for inspiration, and has the locked down groove of a band on top of its game. “The Long Way” looks on the bright side of the path not intentionally taken and works into a joyous song-ending jam. Songs like “Done It All Before” and “Get on the Bus” shine with an irresistible buoyancy, as does “Shame on Me” which gets to the meat of the relationship matter that, despite our best intentions, we’re all gonna screw up. “Hard Times” whips up a ZZ Top-inflected boogie with effortless mastery and a dual guitar attack that’ll put some much-needed flare back in your jeans.
On “Kid Next Door,” the lyrics bypass protest in favor of simple commentary on a war coming home, making it a far more powerful song no matter where one stands on the issue. It’s a stone cold classic and handled with the deftness and conviction that speaks to the Rockets’ sober-minded realism. To see that they’ve still got scruffy punk moxie to spare, look no further than “The Way It Used To Be” and the channeling of Bo Diddley via the Stooges on “Nothing but a Driver.”
With their 15th anniversary now in the rear view mirror, the Bottle Rockets show no signs of letting up. Lean Forward is an album that celebrates the forces of erosion not earthquakes, of the marathon not the sprint. Honed in their towns and on their back roads, it is distinctly the Bottle Rockets. Rather than be confining, this identity broadens the appeal and strength of their music far from their backyards into our own. Their specificity speaks universally and the message is a simple one: Lean forward, man, because it beats falling back.
Joe Fletcher and The Wrong Reasons
Providence RI |
Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons is an Americana band that began in Providence, RI in 2005. In the center of this revolving cast of musicians, songwriter Joe Fletcher remains at the helm of this country blues-based outfit while still playing many solo acoustic shows throughout the land every year.