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#NOWPLAYING Grant-Lee Phillips

Grant-Lee Phillips just released a brand new video for his track
‘King of Catasrophes’ of his latest album Widdershins

Donovan Woods – Both Ways

When Donovan Woods first began visiting Nashville from Toronto to write with some of the city’s pro songwriters, he was attempting to write songs for the radio – he liked what country artists were doing, but no one seemed interested in his compositions. Instead, he found that when he wrote the kind of songs he wanted to record himself, people began paying attention. That happened with “Portland, Maine,” a wrenching breakup song that Tim McGraw cut for his Sundown Heaven Town album.

“It was the first time I’d written something here where I thought, ‘I don’t care what happens to this – I am over the moon about this song and I’ll record it,'” he says, over a late breakfast during a recent visit to Nashville.

Other artists came calling – Charles Kelley recorded Woods’ “Leaving Nashville,” Billy Currington got “Sweet Love” and Charlie Worsham took on “The Beginning of Things.” So far none of them have been released to country radio, but they’re the kind of album cuts that leave a lasting impression with their mix of insightful storytelling and highly emotional undercurrents. Woods has specialized in that approach when making his own albums, which have earned him a spot in Nashville’s writers rooms, on Spotify playlists and at the Juno Awards, though his Nashville work hasn’t yielded any country radio smashes just yet.

“I think if I lived here I’d be doing a lot better,” he says. “But if I was doing better – if I had a Number One hit or something, I don’t know that you’d be able to get me in a sprinter van to drive across Canada. I don’t know if I’d do it if I had all of that money suddenly. I love music, but the drive to Victoria from Winnipeg – holy shit, you feel like you’re gonna die every kilometer.”

Woods addresses those long drives and the death-defying aspects of being a touring musician in “Truck Full of Money,” a standout track from his new album Both Ways, out Friday. A sweeping, orchestral rocker that feels massive compared to some of the hushed folk-rock that put Woods on the map, it makes a compelling case that he – like the album title suggests – can be both a top-notch songwriter and performer, even if those long stretches away from home are often a dance with mortality.

“Sometimes you’re in a hotel room and you did a show,” he says. “[You] couldn’t eat before the show because you’re too anxious and you just don’t want to be full onstage. By the time you’re done loading out, it’s like midnight so you eat a bunch of pizza at midnight and you go to a shitty hotel and lay there and you think, ‘Oh yeah, I could easily die in here.’

Both Ways captures Woods’ growing artistic ambition with bigger production and an expanded palette of sounds, suggesting those songs can exist comfortably alongside his more delicate acoustic numbers. With the latter, he finds crushing heartbreak in the mundane, as the couple in “Good Lover” solemnly moves out of the house they shared, or in “Burn That Bridge” – the video for which depicted two men falling in and out of love – where two friends forsake the world for each other before imploding. In another case, Woods sadly recalls a grade-school friend who developed a reputation for being tough and later died under mysterious circumstances in “Our Friend Bobby.”

“The more interesting thing to me was this growing up beside a person whose penchant for violence you benefited from when you were a kid, and then when you became older, [it was] ‘I don’t want anything to do with that,'” he says. “And he sort of languished. And those guys I grew up with who were so tough and popular in high school and elementary school, they’re kind of untethered now.”

 

Woods’ experimentation with a variety of new sounds leads him down some interesting roads, whether it’s the droning, swelling strings that underpin “Good Lover” or the melancholy synthesizer droplets on the workingman’s anthem “Easy Street.” As with the War on Drugs or Future Islands’ revival of hazy Eighties sounds, Woods’ deft touch and expert songwriting takes something that once sounded ultra-modern (then, later, cheesy) and turns it into aching melancholy.

“To me it’s indicative of ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ – that era of Springsteen, and now to me it sounds like blue-collar,” he says.

Both Ways concludes with “Next Year,” a meditation on mortality and the tendency to put off the important things until it’s too late. Woods recalls trying to channel the feeling of disappointing his son, who’d been carefully logging a list of things for them to do over the weekend when he had time.

“When Saturday came my son was like, we have to do that puzzle – he had checked off all the things I had put aside,” says Woods. “It was impossible to do all those things. I watched him realize I was full of shit and I felt so bad.”

It’s not hard to close one’s eyes and imagine a mainstream country performer claiming the song for his or her album. But Woods knows better than to try to aim for that outcome anymore – plus, it hardly matters when he does such a masterful job on his own, saving a little knife twist for the end that comes from a long tradition of tear-jerking country ballads.

“Third-verse death is the stock and trade of country music,” he says. “If you can find a way to kill somebody in the third verse, you better fuckin’ kill ’em. You might as well.”

Charley Crockett – Lonesome as a Shadow

Growing up with a single mother in San Benito, Texas, the hometown of Tejano star Freddy Fender was not easy for blues singer Charley Crockett. Hitchhiking across the country exposed Crockett to the street life at a young age, following in the footsteps of his relative, American folk hero Davy Crockett, who lived a wild life on the American frontier. After train hopping across the country, Crockett set off to travel the world and lived on the streets of Paris for nearly a year before searching for home in Spain, Morocco, and Northern Africa.Charley returned home to Texas and released his debut solo album titled A Stolen Jewel in 2015, receiving critical acclaim and landing him a Dallas Observer Award that year for “Best Blues Act”. He released his sophomore record In The Night in 2016 and played over 125 shows that year. Crockett’s song “I Am Not Afraid” received international recognition from top tastemakers after being picked by NPR Music as one of the “Top 10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing” and featured on World Cafe. Now in 2018, Crockett releases Lonesome As A Shadow, an album recorded in Memphis at the legendary Sam Phillip’s Recording Service with producer/engineer Matt Ross-Spang. Backed by the Blue Drifters, this album was recorded live to tape during a long year of touring. It’s a musical gumbo that showcases the various depths of Crockett’s sound.

ARKANSAS DAVE Releases self titled album today

Arkansas Dave’s debut album features a variety of influences including blues, rock and indie and features 13 tracks. The self-taught musician recorded the album in only eight days at Muscle Shoals’ infamous Fame Studios where legendary musicians such as Will McFarlaneClayton Ivey and Bob Wray all recorded music.

Arkansas Dave may be releasing his debut record but he’s no stranger to the performing scene, having performed on several stages ranging from Austin to overseas in Hamburg, Germany. He’ll be hitting the road again in support of his newest effort, starting out in Little Rock, Ark. on Feb. 6. His late winter tour with several spring and early summer tour dates will conclude on June 22 in Switzerland. Top festivals he’s billed on include the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City, Miss.

It’s a romantic cliché to find an escape in music and the blues, but living that life is a different matter. Ask Arkansas Dave about growing up in a broken home, with fundamental Christianity on one side, and crippling drug-addiction on the other, and you can see in his eyes that this is no easy ride, and that at times music really was his only friend.

Chasing his dream of music, Dave played in bands, funding his music with a succession of jobs where he had to find his feet quickly – from busboy to assembly-worker in a trash-bag factory.

His wake up call came at the edge of a breakdown with a cataclysmic weekend epiphany. He headed home for a rare visit, and was persuaded to play a few songs to his family. The response he got from his grandfather sent his mind racing, only for him to find out the next week that his grandfather had died 24 hours later.

Determined to clean himself up, and sort his life, Arkansas Dave enrolled on an audio engineering course at Media Tech in Austin Texas, driving into town with a trailer loaded with all his possessions, ‘like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies’. And that’s where everything changed – the college was housed at that time in the famous Arlyn Studios, home to sessions from Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Ray Charles. Dave with his musical co-horts took the night shift at the studios – laying down tracks and learning the ropes.

A succession of bands followed, picking up a strong local following around Austin. The final part of his musical education saw Dave touring North America as a member of old bluesman Guitar Shorty’s band, where he learned ‘what it took to be a professional musician’

Fast forward to 2016 and Dave has written the album he’s always wanted to create – a wide ranging blues-rock based record that tells the story of his life, but resonates with all of us.

The project just needed one more ingredient, so enter the Swampers, the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. In a blistering eight-day recording session at Fame Studios the band laid down the backing tracks, and Dave returned to Arlyn to complete the vocals.

So the next chapter of Dave’s life is about to be written as he pulls his band together and takes his album out on the road – this time on a road that he’s building….

Photographer: Jaxology Studios

Josh Rouse Releases  New Album Love in the Modern Age   via Yep Roc Records 

“A fresh sonic direction” – Albumism
 “This is a masterful storyteller celebrating the nostalgia of his youth
with his own feel.” – Forbes
“A compact collection of cool, airy but caring songs about relationships in different stages of development or deterioration.” – Associated Press
 
“…intoxicating in an un-bummed-out Beck’s Sea Change sort of way.” – Paste
Today, singer-songwriter Josh Rouse releases Love In The Modern Age via Yep Roc Records.
Similar to his work on his album 1972 where he captured the aesthetics of a specific moment in time, Josh’s new album Love in the Modern Age takes inspiration from the sound and production of early 1980’s releases by The Blue Nile, The Style Council and Prefab Sprout. Also serving as inspiration were Roxy Music’s Avalon, Leonard Cohen’s Various Positions and I’m Your Man. Non-ironic touches like sax, handclaps, reverbed guitar, backing vocals and keyboards give the moody but infectious songs a New Romantic flair. 
Buy Love in the Modern Age:
 
Brooklyn Vegan premiered the album track “Salton Sea,” along with an early demo of the song. Forbes premiered “Businessman,” calling the album “a sterling collection that is joyous, upbeat and, most importantly, feels completely authentic. …There is no retro gimmick to Love in the Modern Age. This is a masterful storyteller celebrating the nostalgia of his youth with his own feel.”
Josh Rouse has solidified his status as one of his generation’s most acclaimed songwriters in both the US and Europe, where he’s lived on and off since 2004. Spending the better part of a year touring behind his critically acclaimed eleventh album, The Embers of Time, Rouse was ready for a change. “Coming off such a heavy record, I wanted to try something different,” he explains. “I wanted to explore new sounds and write with a fresh backdrop.” Trading in his trusty acoustic guitar for a synthesizer, Love in the Modern Age still bears Rouse’s distinct fingerprints even as it pushes his limits and forges a bold new chapter more than twenty years into his celebrated career.
Josh Rouse will kick off his tour in Europe in April, followed by North America in May. Click HERE for a full list of European/North American dates.
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES
 
May 9 – Washington, D.C. @Union Stage
May 10 – Woodstock, NY @The Colony Cafe
May 11 – Brooklyn, NY @The Bell House
May 12 – Cambridge, MA @Club Passim
May 13 – Philadelphia, PA @World Cafe Live
May 15 – Toronto, ON @Horseshoe Tavern
May 16 – Ferndale, MI @The Magic Bag
May 17 – Evanston, IL @SPACE
May 18 – Des Moines, IA  @Vaudeville Mews
May 19 – Minneapolis, MN @Dakota
May 20 – Milwaukee, WI @The Back Room @Colectivo
May 24 – Nashville, TN @3rd & Lindsley
May 25 – Atlanta, GA @Terminal West
May 30 – Seattle, WA @Triple Door
May 31 – Seattle, WA @Mississippi Studios
June 1 – San Francisco, CA @Chapel
June 2 – Santa Monica, CA @McCabe’s
June 3 – San Diego, CA @The Casbah

Singer-Songwriter John Craigie Shares “Scarlet” From New Album Scarecrow

John Craigie Shares “Scarlet”
From Vinyl-Only Album Scarecrow
 
On Tour Now
Opening Dates for Jack Johnson and Playing Summer Camp, Mountain Jam, and Pickathon Festivals this Summer 

“The lovechild of Mitch Hedberg and John Prine…”
– The Stranger
 Portland, OR-based singer-songwriter John Craigie shared “Scarlet,” the lead single from his new full length Scarecrow. The completely analog album, out 4/21, was recorded live to a 2 inch tape, mastered to tape, and cut straight to be pressed to vinyl.
“These are songs written for last year’s No Rain, No Rose, but were cut from the album because they’re slower and softer in feel than the rest of that album,” Craigie explains. “They are sort of homeless songs, which is one reason why I used the name Scarecrow. They are songs that are out alone in a field.”
The Vinyl District shared “Scarlet,” along with an essay from Craigie about his love for vinyl. “I have always loved records as a whole,” he writes. “Even when I was a kid it was very important for me to hear the whole record, in order, from start to finish. I liked going through the journey, some songs good, some songs bad. Seeing where the artist would place the ‘hits’ vs. where they would place the deep cuts. What songs they would open with, and which songs they would close with.”
Stream “Scarlet”
Craigie’s music is connecting with both audiences and various famous folks. Fellow troubadour Todd Snider notably hand-delivered a gift on-stage, and action hero Chuck Norris remarkably sent Craigie fan mail. Most notably, Craigie caught the attention of Jack Johnson, when his 2016 live LP Capricorn in Retrograde… Just Kidding… Live in Portland landed in Johnson’s car stereo during a California coastal road trip. Immediately becoming a fan, Jack reached out and Craigie soon found himself opening for him. This spring Craigie will play three amphitheater shows with Johnson. Other upcoming tour stops for Craigie include headlining shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, and festival performances at Summer Camp, Mountain Jam, and Pickathon.
Craigie truly has a unique live performance; between nearly each song of the set, there’s a “bit” he’s written that thematically leads into the next track. This moved Seattle weekly The Stranger to dub him “the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg.”
Craigie recently released his second live album LIVE – Opening for Steinbeck, a perfect example of his craft. Featuring his wry observational humor interwoven in both story and song, The Boot calls the album “a prime example of how Craigie mixes comedic tales and his musical storytelling in his live shows.” Stream Live – Opening For Steinbeck on Spotify and Apple Music, or purchase the CD here.
Pre-order Scarecrow here.
Tour Dates:
Apr 25 – South Burlington, VT – Higher Ground Showcase
Apr 26 – Portsmouth, NH – 3S Arts
Apr 27 – Boston, MA – The Red Room @ Cafe 939
Apr 28 – New York, NY – Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2)
Apr 29 – Philadelphia, PA – Bourbon & Branch
May 02 – Bozeman, MT – Live From The Divide
May 03 – Missoula, MT – Top Hat Lounge
May 04 – Billings, MT – Pub Station Taproom
May 05 – Rapid City, SD – Hay Camp Brewing Company
May 12 – Isla Vista, CA – Concert For The Coast
May 19 – Portland, OR – Live Wire Radio @ Alberta Street Pub
May 27 – Chillicothe, IL – Summer Camp
Jun 13 – Cincinnati, OH – Riverbend Music Center *
Jun 14 – Noblesville, IN – Ruoff Home Mortgage Center *
Jun 15 – Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre *
Jun 17 – Hunter, NY – Mountain Jam
Jun 28 – Laytonville, CA – Kate Wolf Music Festival (June 28 – July 1)
Jul 05 – Quincy, CA – High Sierra Music Festival (July 5-8)
Jul 19 – North Plains, OR – Northwest String Summit
Aug 03 – Happy Valley, OR – Pickathon (Aug 3-5)
* = opening for Jack Johnson

Phil Madeira – Providence

Most people who know Phil Madeira know him as one of the most seasoned players in Nashville. Since his arrival in 1983, Madeira has seen success in a plethora of different ways. He has quietly released five solo critically-acclaimed records and has shared the stage with Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, Leon Russell, and Jack White. If you can think of it, Phil Madeira has probably lived it; but that’s what most people don’t know about Phil Madeira – his own story – and he’s finally ready to tell it.Released on April 6, Providence is a rare look at the man behind the music, a chance for listeners to get to know Madeira’s own stories, after having spent decades helping other songwriters and musicians tell theirs. Click here to read Madeira’s interview with Rolling Stone Country + watch the video for “Gothenburg,” a song that celebrates his family’s immigrant experience.

Comprised of 10 songs, Providence gives listeners a closer look at Madeira’s life and the inner conflict of being raised in New England, yet feeling an undeniable attraction to the music of the South, “It’s an album full of love songs to where I’m from and where I’ve come to.” Songs like “Rich Man’s Town” reflect on his childhood in Barrington, a suburb of Providence, Rhode Island. Others, like “Dearest Companion” with the words “We’re Dixon and Mason, lost in translation. If love ain’t frustration, I don’t know what is,” make the connection between where he was raised and Nashville, his home of over 30 years.

Independently produced, the album is a complete change from anything he’s ever done, “I don’t know what happened, but I fell in love with piano again.” The record straddles his iconic Americana style and jazz, more specifically, a sixties jazz piano style. Made at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios, the live album features “three quarters” of The Red Dirt Boys, with Chris Donahue on bass, Brian Owens on drums, and Madeira providing lead vocals and piano. Will Kimbrough (also a Red Dirt Boy) lends guitar work on one songs, and jazz icon John Scofield adds guitar to another. Touches of brass and reeds round out the sound, but it all hinges on the trio of Madeira, Donohue, and Owens.

If Madeira has proven anything to the world, it’s his ability to bring people together in whatever capacity he’s working in. Though he didn’t intend on the “feel good” record having one overarching theme, he says the most important message is evident in the last track, “Gothenburg”, the Swedish city from which his maternal grandparents immigrated to America from. “It’s a reminder that most of us are immigrants. Most of us picked out a city and trusted that the community was going to embrace us, which is what Nashville has been to me.” Just like Nashville embraced Phil Madeira, Providence embraces the ultimate universal truth – we all have our differences but are, inherently, the same.<

As an instrumentalist, playing electric guitar, lap steel, accordion, dobro, or a Hammond B-3 with icons like Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Sixpence Pence None the Richer, Mavis Staples, and Garth Brooks — to name a few. As a producer, producing tracks for Keb’ Mo’, Emmylou, The Civil Wars, Humming People, The Band Perry, and the 2012 release of Americana Paul McCartney covers, Let Us In: Americana. As a songwriter, with a cut list that includes Alison Krauss, Amy Grant, Toby Keith, and The Civil Wars’ 2014 Grammy-winning single, “From This Valley.”

About Phil Madeira:

The last of three children, Madeira was born in Rhode Island to a Baptist minister and a church pianist. He’s lived and breathed music since he can remember, but that didn’t always coincide with his religious family. By high school, he had joined the school band and eventually began to write songs and dabble in piano. From then on, Madeira continued on his own path. He left Rhode Island for Taylor University, a conservative, religious school in small town Indiana, to study art. He continued to write and play songs in his free time, but everything changed when he met popular Christian guitar player Phil Keaggy. “When I met Phil, he said, ‘I think you’re gonna be in my band someday,’ and sure enough, three years later, I was playing with this guy.” He joined Keaggy’s band in 1976, but after recording just one record, the band broke up. Five years later, he made the move to Nashville and was immediately embraced by the Christian world, but always knew that he belonged elsewhere. In the early nineties, Buddy Miller hired him for studio work, which eventually led to him joining Miller’s band and finding his place in Americana.

In 2008, Madeira joined Emmylou’s famed band “The Red Dirt Boys”, a group with alumnus like Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Al Perkins, and Buddy Miller himself. During the first campaign for Barack Obama, he became disheartened with the political climate and approached Emmylou with an idea. “I went to Emmylou and said, “You know? I want to do kind of a Gospel record. I want to do a record that says God loves everybody.” Shortly after, the two began working on what would become Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us. The critically-acclaimed album, released in 2012, featured an all-star track listing – beginning with The Civil Wars’ “From This Valley”. The album featured songs from the likes of Shawn Mullins, Buddy Miller, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Mat Kearney, Amy Stroup, John Scofield, Emmylou, and Madeira himself. The same year, the Americana Association asked Madeira to perform Mercyland at the legendary Downtown Presbyterian Church, as part of the AmericanaFest. A second volume was released in January 2016, that included Americana staples Will Kimborough, The Wood Brothers, John Paul White, and The McCrary Sisters; as well as newcomers like The Lone Bellow and Humming People, among others.

Long Tall Deb & Colin John – Dragonfly

Given the label, you’re probably expecting a blues album. There are traces of that here, but Long Tall Deb and Colin John move in several directions, sometimes blending genres within the song. But even when it is not clear what kind of music you   re listening to, it’s a compelling   even intoxicating   mix. This is not entirely new for this pair as it follows their 2015 EP Streets of Mumbai, which similarly used a bedrock of blues and soul accented by rock n    roll, surf, spaghetti western, noir jazz, pop, Americana, and world. The couple seems intent on musically reflecting their travels throughout America, Europe, India, and Nepal.

These are all original songs save the cover of Townes Van Zandt’s    Lungs.    The wide range of instrumentation primarily come from Colin John, with Deb singing. John (who also sings) is credited with all acoustic guitars, baritone guitar, baby sitar, lap steel and occasional bass and piano. Numerous guests add vocals and instruments throughout with Michael Landolt (Coldplay, O.A. R.) producing. The title is symbolic of change and transformation. You   ll hear the familiar strains of a lap steel to kick off the album, a crunchy blues shuffle in    On the Way Down,    pop in the radio-friendly title track and resounding electric guitars in the quietly rendered    Lungs.

According to Deb and John, they   re mostly creating a series of sounds you might associate with a car radio. In other words, songs full of choruses that you want to sing along with. This is especially the case in    I   ll Be the One    and    Trouble.       Remember Why (It   s Good He   s Gone)    is rife with spaghetti western motifs.    Pull the Pin    begins quietly with spooky chords before Deb becomes balladeer, perhaps the album   s best example of her pure, soulful vocals.    Horizontal Lightning    is surf music in slow motion.    Lights That Shine    is a slow-building tune, with another of their patented sing-along choruses.

Credit Long Tall Deb and Colin John for forging their own unique sound. It   s refreshing and captivating.

Grant-Lee Phillips – Widdershins

A taken-for-granted talent hits rich form

’Widdershins’ is an arcane word meaning counterclockwise or against the sun’s course. It’s considered unlucky. Grant-Lee Phillips revives it to question our path in turbulent times.

Although in his own career he has made unexpected lurches from country to 80s covers, this ninth album since he parked the Grant-Lee Buffalo band name sees a return to what he’s best at: emotional rock songs that marry grandeur and raw punch. Working again as a trio (with bassist Lex Price and drummer Jerry Roe) and recording mostly live over four days in Nashville, he’s activated his strongest instincts of urgency and intensity. Whether it’s sideways social comment blazing with guitars (Unruly Mobs), or poignant self-reflection with undulating melodies (King Of Catastrophe), this showcases his soulful, vulnerable voice, which never fails to catch every colour in a song. Locating the sweet spot where spontaneity and polish meet, Widdershins swings in all the right directions.