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Black Beehive - Big Head Todd and the Monsters Print E-mail
Saturday Listening
Written by Administrator   
Aug 10, 2014 at 10:00 AM

ImageSince their formation in the mid-'80s, Big Head Todd & the Monsters have continued to evolve and explore, moving beyond their Colorado club circuit roots to become one of the most adventurous, respected and durable bands in America. Through constant touring and a zeal to travel down new musical avenues in the studio, BHTM (as their dedicated fans call them) have honed their collective stew of influences into a trademark hybrid sound that's immediately recognizable. Now, with Black Beehive, their maiden release on Shout! Factory (February 4, 2014), the quartet has made its most personal and poignant album to date, a collection of new studio tracks that, says co-founder and figurehead Todd Park Mohr, "allows us to truly reach our audience through the language of the blues."

Recorded at Butcher Boy Studios in Chicago, Mohr's hometown of the past seven years, and produced and mixed by Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist Steve Jordan (whose previous production credits include John Mayer, Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke and Robert Cray), Black Beehive arrives a quarter-century after the group's debut album, Another Mayberry, first put Big Head Todd & the Monsters on the map beyond their home base. Today, the original trio-Mohr on guitar and vocals, Brian Nevin on drums and vocals and Rob Squires on bass and vocals-along with keyboardist/pedal steel guitarist Jeremy Lawton, who joined in 2004, are still opening themselves to new possibilities even as they further explore their roots. "It has some contemporary elements that bridge a gap between alternative pop and traditional blues," says Mohr about Black Beehive, whose title refers to the late British soul singer Amy Winehouse, the inspiration behind the album's title track.

The band approached the recording in an old-school organic fashion, playing together in the studio, which Mohr describes as "a big open space," and sticking to the basics. "I played resonator guitar on almost every song and most of the album is kind of simple: guitar, slide guitar, drums and bass," he says. "We only had two guests on the album. One was Eddie Shaw, who was Howlin' Wolf's harmonica player for many years, and Ronnie Baker Brooks, who played guitar. And Steve Jordan played on almost every track-various things, percussion, rhythm guitar."

Jordan, whose incredible career began when he joined Stevie Wonder's band as a teenager, later going on to perform in the Saturday Night Live band, Paul Shaffer's World's Most Dangerous Band on Late Night with David Letterman, and backing John Belushi and Dan Akroyd when they toured as The Blues Brothers, has an unbelievable production roster but is also well-known as a drummer. A member of the John Mayer Trio, Jordan also toured and recorded with Keith Richards and the X-pensive Winos, joined Eric Clapton for his 2006 European tour, and has also worked with Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, James Brown and more.

Mohr first met Jordan through the legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin, who died in 2011. "We were planning to have an 80th birthday party for Hubert," says Todd, "and Steve was the musical director. When Hubert passed away it ended up being a tribute at the Apollo Theater: Eric Clapton and Billy Gibbons and Keith Richards-there were probably 35 incredible musicians at this thing. I was immediately awestruck by Steve's command of the material and his understanding of it and his ability to get it done on short notice with all these people. I thought this guy would be an unbelievable producer for me to work with. I sent him some demos and he was up for it."

As he began writing material for the album, Mohr drew from both his own life experiences and events in the news. The title track was written following Winehouse's death. "I love her voice and her performances, and obviously her shenanigans were part of her persona," says Mohr. Several other songs were also ripped from the headlines, including "We Won't Go Back," which Mohr penned about the 2010 Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, and "Fear, Greed and Ignorance," whose topical lyrics declare that it's those three dishonorable traits that are "driving you America off the edge of the road."

Not every track is quite so pointed, however. "Hubert's Dream," is a nod to the late Mr. Sumlin, while album opener "Hey Delila" is Mohr's tribute to another blues giant, Memphis Minnie. "I happened to acquire a great example of her instrument, which was a 1941 Spanish National resonator guitar. Plus, she has an incredible life story," he says. "Everything About You" is dedicated to NASA, who called upon BHTM to awaken the Discovery space shuttle crew with their song "Blue Sky" in 2011, marking the first time live music was ever used for that purpose.

Among the album's other tunes, "Josephina" and "Seven State Lines" are what Mohr describes simply as "blues-based themes," while "I Get Smooth" is "a comedy piece." The cautionary tale "Travelin' Light" is the story of lovers who "threw away our hearts and fled" and the moving "Forever Bonnie" is based on a true story of a "gentleman who got a love letter delivered to him 53 years later by the Postal Service." Black Beehive also includes, as a bonus track, Big Head Todd & the Monsters' burning take on the Jimmy Reed blues classic "Baby What You Want Me To Do," a song that Jordan requested they cut.

For BHTM, Black Beehive serves as both a reaffirmation of the band's roots and a step into the next 25 years. Founded as a trio in Boulder, Colorado in 1986, Big Head Todd & the Monsters quickly built a strong reputation on the local club circuit. As word of their soulful and intense live show traveled around the nation they found themselves filling larger and larger venues. BHTM have now played Denver's historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre more than 20 times, and are embedded in the fabric of Colorado's music scene.

Beginning with Another Mayberry in 1989, critics noticed what audiences at BHTM live shows already knew. The All Music Guide praised the "subtlety of Mohr's lyrics" and his "individual world view." But it was the follow-up, 1990's Midnight Radio, that truly established the band as a creative force to be reckoned with. Its popularity led to a major label contract and the release of the platinum-selling Sister Sweetly in 1993. With subsequent albums such as 1994's Strategem and 1997's Beautiful World, the band earned a place among the top names on the jam band circuit, solidified by 1998's Live Monsters, the first official concert recording by Big Head Todd & the Monsters. Riviera was released in 2002, followed by 2004's Crimes of Passion, of which The London Times stated "American rock doesn't get anymore classy than this." Later that year, Live at the Fillmore was released to critical praise. All Music Guide called the release, the band's first with Jeremy Lawton, "loud, proud, and full of righteous raw ambience."

The band, which has always proudly controlled its own business dealings and marketing, gave away 2007's All the Love You Need through their email list, radio stations, and magazines. Their ninth studio album, Rocksteady, followed in 2010. Said Examiner.com, "With Rocksteady, the Colorado boys prove they can sprinkle in a plethora of differing music styles and still rock." 2011's 100 Years of Robert Johnson, the album preceding Black Beehive, found the group paying tribute to the pioneering bluesman while performing as Big Head Blues Club (along with other notable blues legends, including B. B. King, Charlie Musselwhite, Cedric Burnside, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Sumlin, Ruthie Foster, and Lightnin' Malcolm). The band toured behind the album with a few of the guest artists, marking some of the final performances by both Edwards and Sumlin. Mohr paid tribute to Sumlin in 2012 when he served as a featured artist at his tribute show at the Apollo Theatre.

With all of that history behind them, it would be easy for Big Head Todd & the Monsters to play the nostalgia card and fall back on past glories, but that's of no interest to them. BHTM still performs, and devoutly loves, the material that first brought them to their fans - material they now approach with a fresh, seasoned perspective. "As a writer and as a human being there's a big difference between being 21 and 47," says Mohr. "Having said that, I think a lot of those compositions are still lyrically sound, even though it's hard for me to imagine that I would have had the experience to write about the stuff I did. Obviously, I think the band has gotten better over the years because when you develop yourself you continue to improve, and I think we have improved musically. As a writer, I'm really pleased with where I'm at right now."

"A lot of it had to do with my experience with the Robert Johnson project," he adds. "That had a large impact on how I looked at music. For a large portion of my career, I've been trying to reproduce the success of Sister Sweetly, just as a touchstone of ‘this is a pop song, or rock-pop.' Pop songs have pretty narrow rules when it comes down to it. Generally you need a chorus and a bridge. The blues material from Robert Johnson's day, the prewar blues, was so fascinating to me because of the fact that it is pop music but there are no choruses. It's a different way of having repetition and themes and a different goal for a pop song. The music is shared by everybody because it's passed down through tradition. The whole spirit of what one is going for is radically different than pop and that really became exciting for me because I could see a new way to reach people."

When Big Head Todd & the Monsters launch their extensive national tour behind Black Beehive in January-which will continue through the summer and hit most major markets-they will be honing the album's ageless blues along the way, and simultaneously affirming their own longevity. It's clear that they possess a rare musical wholeness that has not only survived for 25 plus years, but still has them looking forward to creating music together night after night. "The other guys have shown great support of my songwriting and what I'm able to do, and all of the band members bring a lot to the plate, both musically and as a unit," says Mohr. "No one ever expects a band to last this long. We're very, very lucky."


Last Updated ( Aug 30, 2014 at 01:02 PM )
On A Dark Highway - Jubal Lee Young Print E-mail
Saturday Listening
Written by Michael Pittman   
Jul 31, 2014 at 03:00 PM

ImageUsually, if you’re anything like me, you have to listen to an entire CD before beginning to get into the point, but there are times those times when you just can’t wait. Maybe you listen for a theme..or a streak of inspiration that helps you gauge the dimension of the project. Can’t do it this time, WELCOME BACK Jubal Lee Young! 

Right out of the chute comes Texas Pirate Radio and I can feel the night air against my skin and the wind whipping my hair into unrecognizable shapes as I rocket down the highway in an old Cadillac complete with those tricked out fins and the top down burning through the gas like a Sherman tank on a faraway battlefield.  

And that’s just for starters. 

Jubal Lee Young scores huge with On A Dark Highway. Sometimes hard and driving, sometimes reflective, often flavored with humor this is always gut-level honest music from a man whose musical heritage was forged in his genes and tempered by the endless road.  

Dad Steve Young and mom Terrye Newkirk long ago laid the foundations and Jubal almost has no choice in the matter, the music is as much a part of him as breathing.  

In the tradition of Roseanne Cash’s reverence for her father comes Jubal’s version of Steve’s White Trash Song and Terrye’s My Oklahoma. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both parents and I’m not sure there are any two songs that capture them like these two songs do.  

Ghosts of the Buffalo conjures up visions of the dusty boots and faded black hats of outlaw riders who probably felt the pain of the disappearing frontier as sharply as the native tribes did. 

There’s no doubt in any Texans’ mind that Texas girls are ohhh sooo somethin special and bragging on em just comes natural in Texas Girls while Under A Rock In Arkansas makes ya wanna sling a guitar over your shoulder and chew on the words right along with Young.  

The final track is also the title cut. Imagine you’re on the road reflecting on life, love and all things possible. Sometimes, maybe that reality isn’t all you hoped it might be.. “When you're on a dark highway/Static on the radio/Losing on your mind/And a woman from long ago/Things that might have been/People that walked away/With only the stars left shining/On a dark highway”.   

ImageSays Jubal, “I think that the title song is the essence of the album. It’s a bit of a travel log of the last few years. The underlying motif is the states I frequent and the people and places I have encountered. When the lights are out and the crowds have gone home; when the tour is over it’s just you riding down the highway, alone with your thoughts, being human.”  Well said, to which he adds, “I played 99% of the guitar on this record and I think it made a big difference.  I finally captured myself on an album”.  

Personnel on this record include Amanda Preslar. Originally from Mississippi she came to Oklahoma as a teen where she majored in music composition and now owns Preslar Music in Tulsa, OK. Having appeared on various projects in the past, this is the first time she has stepped into the limelight as a part of a duo. Her soulful voice lifts majestically above Jubal’s grit..with the pair able to almost create a third voice in the mix.  

If you’re already a Jubal fan, I don’t need to tell you that this, like his previous projects is a step down the road. I also don’t need to tell you that each record is better than the previous…and so it is with On A Dark Highway. Check him out at www.juballeeyoung.com.





Last Updated ( Aug 10, 2014 at 03:34 PM )
Around the Edge: 2014 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience Print E-mail
Written by Eddie Ferranti   
May 24, 2014 at 08:00 PM

ImageThey have a saying in Louisiana that goes "Laissez les bons temps rouler" that basically says "Let the good times roll". Not a better way to describe our recent trip to the great city of New Orleans for the 22nd Annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. Over the last two decades this classic event has raised more than 1 million dollars for local charities and educational causes. 

 It spans four days and there is something to enjoy at every turn in the form of swirlin', smellin', sippin' and all out food stuffin' of the most delicious varities! All of it presented in nothing short of First Class treatment from the Hotel Monteleone where we stayed and they hosted a killer kick-off Happy Hour on Thursday chocked full of supreme tidbits like giant shrimp, oysters, ribs , eggplant, chicken waffles and of course wine flowing like rivers. 

 Walk out the front door and the Royal Street Stroll encompassing the 200-900 blocks was on! For 3 hours you got to engage in a French Quarter street party amid the Vieux Carre's most opulent and venerable shops. The weather was not as hot and humid as Nawlins can be at this time of year and it added to the fun.

 It is hard to describe if you've never been, but you wear a wrist band and you get to sample everything from over 100 wineries to countless mouth watering delectables in generous portions. Music is featured on this night at every other block or so from big bands marching featuring the Krewe of Cork to horn playing foursomes to a sweet lady named Elli Perry who we got to have a nice chat with and will see her again! Rose and I covered every inch (including the 4-5 food truck lot) that we could and collapsed in the room with big smiles on our mugs! 

Image Friday was extra cool because we had a double dip of deliciousness on hand. Barefoot Wine rolled out the red carpet and invited us to thee epic Galatoire's where a five course luncheon was served complete with a different wine for each segment. Talk about flat out top notch treatment full of stories behind the creations of the wines themselves to the history of this great company. They've been around since 1986 and what they've accomplished is quite cool. The name Barefoot itself spawned from the stomping of the grapes to kickin' off your shoes and enjoying life and as winemaker Jen Wall says : "We like to cork a vacation in every bottle!" Dug that girl! Randy Arnold is another head cheese with Barefoot and you couldn't meet a finer group of fun loving people loving their jobs. Barefoot has created a charity program worldwide called Beach Rescue Projects where they get up to 300 volunteers to clean up trash and such while offering a party to go along with it. Their passion is making the world a better place through wine. Houston Music Review has already booked their venture in Austin, Texas cleaning up Lady Bird lake! Hats off big time to Marieke Bianchi and her side kick sweet Lauren Castelluzzo for hooking us up without a hitch.

Image Just when we thought we were having a great time, Friday and Saturday at the Convention Center happened for the Grand Tastings! Talk about traveling into the land of "skrump- diddley- umpshish!! Ladies get all dolled up and the party is on major for three hours each day. Extensive offerings from 75 chefs and selections of wines from around the world were bestowed upon us. This event is also handled in first class fashion with most of the selections having small wait times if not just walk up and partake of whatever you desire. And do not forget that Guiness 1800 Tequila and Stella Artois are represented also. Impossible to give credit to all of the fantastic grub we stuffed in our jowls, but I'll try to give some major standouts (which were many!): 

 -Hot shrimp and crawfish at Redfish Grille

-Sea scallops at Broussard's 

-Braised Chappapeela pork cheek fantastic @ Hyatt Regency New Orleans 8 Block Kitchen & Bar

 -Champagne Sorbet at The Creole Creamery 

-Ceviche Coctail at Victory NOLA 

-Bourbon and brown sugar glazed salmon at Dick & Jenny's

 -Eggplant stuffed with shrimp, crabmeat, and ham @ Pascal's Manale 

-Veal osso buco ravioli at Ruth Chris Steak House 

-Chicken shrimp marengo pasta at Sodexo-Tulane University 

-Chocolate pecan crunch was outstanding at Bourbon House 

-Smoked gouda mac n' cheese at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse 

-Superb lobster bisque at Galatoire's 

-Mouth watering grilled hanger steak @ Besh Steak 

-Yaka mein @ Ralph's on the Park 

-Plus plenty of refreshing Mountain Valley Spring Water all three days Just reading this list makes me long to be back there to relive how bad ass this event is! Also they have the "King of Louisiana Seafood" crowned at the 7th Annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off going on ,too.

Image On Friday and Saturday they hold multiple cool seminars ranging from 10:30am until 4:45pm covering every inch of wine making inside and out. By the time Sunday rolled around were were definitely shell shocked from all the lavish love that was bestowed upon us and we went to St Loius Cathedral to Thank the Lord for the experience! 

 In closing, I would like to send out a BIG hugaroo to sweet hard working Liz Bodet who made it all happen for us in a beyond professional manner indeed. Her new side kick Jessica was a peach, too along with all the employees at family owned Hotel Monteleone, especially Jani, Stephani and Raoul. In today's stress filled world we live in vacations are cherished more than ever when we get to take them. This one has happened three times for us and we can only pray that it comes our way again in the future. "Come To Your Senses" is their slogan and it fits quite well. Highly recommend this chance to enjoy one of the most fun loving cities in the USA.............It's worth every penny and goes to a good cause. 

Last Updated ( Sep 30, 2014 at 03:46 PM )
Reading a Blonde: Johnette Napolitano's Rough Mix Print E-mail
Written by Samuel Barker   
May 21, 2014 at 12:00 PM

ImageSometimes you’re late to the party. You arrive, the scene has broken up, only the crappy beer is left and most of the revelers have headed home. Usually, it is a bummer to roll up on, but sometimes, amongst the folks hanging until the bitter end, there is the person with all the stories from the night.

That analogy works two-fold in this tale/book review: my introduction to the band and Napolitano’s book.

I was never a Concrete Blonde fan until after the band’s initial demise. I was a senior in high school (way back in 1996) and was totally enamored with a girl, as is the case with most high school boys.

She listened to music I had never really cared about, because she moved in from the city. I was a beach kid and we were all REALLY into grunge and punk bands on the beach. If it was not louder and full of more angst than our hormones, we were not interested it in.

I also carried a guitar around with me all the time, working on songs and trying to look cool for her and any other female who might take notice. I just wanted to create some songs I could be proud of and other folks might dig. As teenagers, boys are pretty simple.

Luckily, my favor towards this girl made me open to her musical tastes, for better or, usually, worst. Most everything she shared with me ended up thrown in the dreaded, brown, pleather cassette case that became a graveyard for music I just could not enjoy. Only one real album stuck out with me and that was the virtually new, Still in Hollywood album from Concrete Blonde.

Still in Hollywood was the retrospective that got released, filled with live tracks, some covers and, in my opinion, better versions of songs than were on a lot of the proper albums. Songs like God is a Bullet were hard enough to keep me interested as a teenage boy and even softer songs like Joey were honest enough to not be denied.

I listened to this album a ton on the crappy stereo in the beat up old truck I drove around. When the girl who gave it to me chose to see someone else in a serious manner over me, it was my comfort. When I devoted myself to the art of music over the “looking cool” aspect, it was a definite influence along the way.

The childish crush I had placed on that girl had been moved to Johnette Napolitano and her band’s music. It was not long before I had purchased most of Concrete Blonde’s discography and just absorbed everything from the band. It meant a lot to me and still does.

Now, we fast forward to 17 years later. These songs and band have stayed with me for half of my life now and I still enjoy these songs. I still find new inspiration in the songs.

I do not care who you are in the music world, from rock icon to garage rocker, no one would give up the chance to have a conversation with someone they respect and enjoy. To hear about the stories behind songs and to learn the intimate details of the songs you love and learn from. Napolitano’s Rough Mix is that conversation.

When I first got the book, in a hand-addressed, padded envelope from Napolitano herself, I was excited. I was heading out for the afternoon, so I climbed in the car, tore open the envelope and thumbed through the pages, just looking. I was kind of bummed at first, this was not a memoir or autobiography, the initial appearance was that of a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book. I placed it back in the envelope and headed down the road with a bit of disappointment in my heart.

Finally, after digging the book out of the pile of guitar cables, soda cans and junk mail that make up my back floorboard, I was ready to give the book a proper reading, even if it was not what I really desired, I would see what it was and try to be subjective.

The intro had me worried, as it stated Napolitano had initially wanted to do a book of retrospective lyrics. This would have been interesting, but not what *I* wanted to read…sometimes we can all be a bit self-centered. Besides, I always felt Concrete Blonde’s lyrics were rather autobiographical and told Napolitano’s story in lyrical form.

ImageAs the book opened, there were lyrics pulled from Concrete Blonde songs with the stories that inspired them directly before or after them. Sometimes, multiple songs would have been inspired by a moment or a specific person, so you would have lyrics acting as bookends for the stories. It was a wonderful layout.

This is not an “I was born in…” type of story. This is the literal equivalent of sitting down with Napolitano and discussing her music and her times around Hollywood meeting people that created the strong emotions that found their way into Concrete Blonde songs. It brought about visions of sitting around a table in a kitchen, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and just letting the day go by until you’re eventually sitting in the living room floor with some beers, going through old records and photo albums.

The layout of the book serves itself well by creating the visual, as well. You see everything laid out and with the editing notes still in the margins, you can almost see Napolitano correcting the locations of places the stories took place and having moments of clarity about the early parts of the stories due to the timeline that is created by the end of the story. It makes the whole book seem more personal this way.

The joy of this book is that it is a quick read and can easily be re-read time and time again. The stories are interesting enough and the little bits around the edges can add more to the experience each time. I highly recommend picking the book up if you are a Concrete Blonde fan or just a fan of finding the source of inspiration. 

Around the Edge: 26th Annual Folk Alliance Conference 2014 Print E-mail
Written by Eddie Ferranti   
Apr 21, 2014 at 08:16 PM

A milestone arrived in my life recently when I turned 60 years young. To celebrate I did what I like best-go see live music! It started with The Hollisters, then Randy Weeks, followed by Mike Stinson and then the grand finale of 3 days in Kansas City for the 26th Annual Folk Alliance International. Rose and I attended the one in 2012 in Memphis and eagerly awaited this year's blow out. It was certainly that and then some. If you've never been, it is a non-stop blur of music starting at 2pm in the afternoon and basically ending when you want it to end in the wee hours of the morning. Attending gigs in showcase format in the eleven rooms provided was a lot indeed, but follow that with in hotel room shows sitting on beds and the like is mind boggling. You HAVE to do a "scorecard" in advance to keep up with the format and get the best bang for your buck. That being said, it is impossible to talk about all we saw, but there was very little that we did not care for. HMR has decided to do a "Baker's Dozen" of the acts that grabbed us the most over the conference. Here ya go!


ImageThis duo based in Nashville via New York City we're a charming down to earth and fun team. HMR was welcomed with open open arms to there "residence" Room 750 since we did an advance review on their current CD "Riverman's Daughter" http://www.houstonmusicreview.com/mambo/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2347&Itemid=3. In the said room they had a back drop of a boat house that they lived in Louisiana on to get their inspirations to do the album. Alyssa has a tough ass sassy brassy persona and it blends well with hubbie Doug Graham's laid back delivery. Their hats were cool all weekend, too! They've known each other since age seven and the chemistry is sweet indeed. Their soulful bluegrass delivery mixed with Americana rock scores major on tunes like "Band In The River", "I Miss Your Bones", "Loved By A Good Man" and mellow smooth "Jericho". Loved their ability to bring there tales of love, loss and yearning for more in a fast paced killer style. http://www.thegrahamsmusic.net/ is where to find this up and coming band that HMR will follow major.


We had seen this Nashville based band once in Conroe in 2013 at Dosey Doe Music Cafe and were very impressed. To say this outfit is a folk band is quite a stretch to me. Rock is more of a fit and they do it so effortlessly led by the multi-talented Tom Pryor on pedal steel and electric guitar. They have quickly risen to the forefront of the Americana scene for good reason. Killer highlights were Willie P. Bennett tune "Start of Day" and steamin' "Smokestack Lady" that had people dancing in the ballroom! The frontman, Cruz Contreras, keeps the whole ball of lush harmonies and brazen badassness together with Trisha Gene Brady's tender vocals, Robert Richards on bass and Bowman Townsend on drums rounding out this tight knit band. "Runaway Freeway Blues" is their latest album and this hard touring squad is going nowhere but up for damn sure. www.keithcase.com/theblacklillies.com


Talk about another band that is anything but folk and it is this sister trio out of Stockholm, Sweden. Greta, Stella and Sunniva Bondesson are now based in Nashville and should only enhance their popularity. HMR has been hitched to their wagon for 3 years now and they seem to be getting even better. Their wild banshee approach to a stage show is quite impressive and the packed ballroom even seemed a bit stunned at the energy these three lasses churned out. "Banjopunk" is one of many monikors they've been tagged with and their soaring harmonies rock ya back on your heels. "Little Wild Life" is their third album coming out very soon and I'm sure these attractive women are going to march all over the USA leaving rubble in their wake! http://www.baskery.com/


ImageThis band revolves around the husband and wife duo of J.T. Nero and Allison Russell. HMR had already been big fans of AR's project of "Po' Girl" and found her collaboration with Nero was very nice. It had an energetic familiar yet strange sound mixing guitars with her clarinet. His rough country soul with her silky smooth hopping tenderness is an awesome pairing. Strong vocals and upbeat licks were abundant on tunes "Prairie Lullaby", "All the City Girls", "Good Dream" and rambunctious "Trampoline" ! They had an infectious rapport with the audience and are a non-stop touring bunch even with a seven week new born in tow. Now that is dedication folks and HMR will "flock" to see these Birds again. http://www.birdsofchicago.com/


This band is based out of Nashville and the duo of Doug and Telisha Williams hails from Virginia. Their set came aggressively right at you from the get go with Talisha's stand up bass twirling and Doug's guitar humming. Wild Ponies sound had a definite sexy rockin' Patsy Cline feel to it and at the same time very cute countryness to it. "Trouble Looks Good On You" was smokin' hot along with "Truth Is". Their debut CD, "Things That Used To Shine" has a very live feel to it because it was done in 3 days without use of overdubs by producer Ray Kennedy who has been a Grammy winner for his past works. These heavy hitter roots rockers got our attention major and deserve yours, too folks. http://www.wildponies.net/


ImageThis Austin, Texas duo has been on HMR's radar since their aggressive Americana sound tickled our fancy at the SWRFA in 2012. Stuart and Hillary Adamson can bring a tear to your eye with their sincere lyrics while rockin' your butt right out of your seat! They have a nasty in a good way delivery that oozes with a sultry gumbo flavor. Hillary had a cool dress on with cherries on it and might as well been cherry bombs the way the action exploded off the stage. No better example is tune "2 Wrongs Make a Right" ! It is so refreshing to see a team that shares a true love for one another and wants you see their hearts beating while they wear them on their sleeves! A SUPER NO BRAINER TO GOBBLE YA UP SOME FLYIN' A'S WHENEVER THEY ARE IN EARSHOT. http://www.flyinas.com/


BAJ has been a friend to HMR since we first caught him in Memphis at FAI 2012. He has a new album coming out this summer titled "Out of the City" and he was featuring it throughout the weekend. High Viscosity is the title of the 3-piece band he's featuring and it has a lot of his self jamming major with an Allman Brothers feel to it. Killer cuts were "Meet Me in the River" with smoking electric riffs, Title cut which spoke of trying to find the country these days to see the stars, "Fetch A Pail" a song he co-wrote with Nashville's Jonnell Mosser, "Carolina's Dream" where BAJ absolutely killed it with an acoustic dreamy sound and the first cut off the new album "See You Wasting Time" where down south jammin' took over. You can't meet a more down-to-earth dude like Jones and here's hoping his CD takes off and helps him get where he deserves to be. http://www.brianashleyjones.com/


This cat out of Okemah, Oklahoma is blazing a hot trail akin to other great songwriters from that state named Leon Russell and Jimmy Webb. His last album, "From The Ground Up", got him a Grammy nomination in 2012 and was one of the most highly rated debuts of all time. He literally packed the big Century C room and had bad ass Mike Meadows on percussion with him. He has the ability to be spellbounding the way he churns his songs out in a screeching poignant manner that has to be seen to feel the passion. HMR has seen him a lot and we are excited that he has another album titled "Songs" coming out in May 2013. His star is burning bright and we wish this off-the-wall character all the best down the musical road of life. http://www.johnfullbrightmusic.com/


This trio out of Vancouver,BC Canada was yet another band that was anything but folk. Greasy lightning hot rock oozed from the stage as they blasted their way thru their set ! This act had the yougest crowd that we saw in attendance the whole weekend at FAI. Their second album, "LeBoeuf", was released in April of 2013 and the band tour back and forth across Canada a bunch and rocked many summer festivals, too. "Classic Car" was a good example of the swagger and grit these guys bring to their songs and it is a small wonder why they've been linked to folks by the names of JJ Cale, Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams to describe their bad to the bone sound. All I know is there is something in the water up there north of the border. Only shame is HMR doesn't get up there often to catch awesome talents like these gents. Keep rockin' and the rest will take care of itself. http://www.stevebrockley.com/


ImageYet another killer Canadian outfit whom we had the pleasure of seeing at FAI 2012. Down to earth bloakes who have a "Werewolf" growlin' type sound that is infectious and their jams out of nowhere are common place. They can do ballads and then self described stomping scrap yard funk all in one ball of wax. a rare combination of rawness linked with experienced talent that grabs on to you and won't let go. Excuse me titles are off, but cool cuts were "There Ain't No One", "Pretty Mona", "Once I Was a Rich Man" and thumpin' bad ass "Cold in Kentucky" ! Seeing this band live is beyond a passionate display and again I wished they'd stray south a bit more which they said they were going to try and do. Keep your fingers croosed and go catch 'em. http://www.crookedbrothers.com/


This sweetie based out of Austin, Texas is yet another HMR keeper that we saw first at Almost Austin House Concerts and then in Memphis at FAI 2012. Her soulful definitive strong voice has a captivating nature to it and she was found playing all over the place with many different artists including Sam Baker, Jimmy Lafave and her hubbie Danny Schmidt. Her showcase was with three other ladies called the "Greats" and it was. Her debut release on Red House Records, "Call It My Garden", vaulted her to critical acclaim such as Texas Music Magazine's Artist of the year . The compassionate sound that is Carrie Elkin is a heart warming experience indeed. She draws comparisons to Patti Griffin and her one song almost brought my Rose to tears in a showcase bedroom gig. Hoping to run her down way more often that we have for sure. http://www.carrieelkin.com/


ImageThis four sister act out of Fort Collins, Colorado was thee find of FAI for HMR. Whether on stage in packed Century C room or sitting on a bed soaking them in the experience was hypnotic and wonderful. They derive their name from the first letter of each sister and each plays with unbridaled passion. Soaring footloose and fluffy harmonies and face-off jams with mandolin and fiddle rocked. They made my draw drop open when they laid out Led Zepplin's "The Battle of Evermore" and nailed it major. Other monster tunes were "Rooftop" complete with Liza doing a rap and killer lyrics like "Call me crazy or call my bluff....givin' it cuz I can't give up!" Unpredictable and stunning were other adjectives that came to mind and HMR all over these young up and coming lasses. http://www.shelmusic.com/


Melbourne,NSW Australia made the Baker's Dozen in the form of Jordie Lane. He had a deep sounding smokey blues voice which resonated quite nicely. He showed to be a truly diverse individual with an attractive lady friend (never caught her name) in a big white furry hat who played "everything" including her necklace and a guitar case! They harmonized wonderfully and both had an incredible sense of humor that created belly laughs. "Blood Thinner" is latest release and tunes "Feet Fall" and "I Could Die Looking At You" were winners like this dude is. He's accomplished a lot for somebody in their 20's and is based in LA these days so exposure should not be a problem going forward. http://www.jordielane.com/


Here's a list of groups and people who touched us in a warm way and just didn't have enough time to cover all of them, but love them none the less!

David Olney , Sergio Webb, Mary Sack, Will Sexton, Bill Kirchen, Matt Harlan, Mike Meadows, Irene Kelley, The Roys, Anne McCue, F5Four, Belle Plaine, Ellis, Moors and McCumber, Sweet Low Down, Suzie Vinnick, Evie Laden, Reed Turner, Dalis Allen, Brian & Pam Kalinec, Rouse House Concerts, Libby Koch, Barnes House Concerts, Midnight Roses, Jenni Findlay, Ordinary Elephant and Whiskey Shivers!

In closing, it is amazing what a wonderful event all the Folk Alliances are. Seminars, Exhibit Halls, Silent Auctions and even Yoga & Tai Chi are offered throughout the Conference! Hugging and smiling NEVER gets old with all the caring people that are associated with the event. The Westin Hotel were very fine hosts and their staff deserves a big hugaroo, too. Plus all the volunteers who work behind the scenes stuffing tote bags and giving directions to all the showcases and such.

Louis Jay Meyers, Executive Director of FAI, probably sums it up best with: "The goal of FAI is to grow and strengthen the Folk and Traditional music community by making sure there are more and more people playing and sharing music. The future looks bright." Hell I need my sunglasses on right now bro! God Bless and HMR hopes we've shed a bit of light to the experience that is Folk Alliance International. Go see for yourself and do not forget the Regional Folk Alliances held in between. HMR all over SWRFA in Austin in September!

Last Updated ( Sep 30, 2014 at 03:47 PM )
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