Cahoone readies for first full-band tour in 5 years!
We’re very excited to announce that Sera Cahoone is heading out on tour this September! This past year has seen her touring with the likes of Tift Merrit, Son Volt and Gregory Alan Isakov but now she’s ready to strike out on with her full band in tow to support From Where I Started.
We had some wonderful press for the album including the NPR First Listen Stephen Thompson wrote up here and CBC’s First Play here. This fantastic interview on Uproxx, a glowing No Depression review, this piece on LGTBQNation referencing the interview Cahoone had with Jewly Hight for NPR’s Songs We Love, Elle Magazine’s ’10 Best New Songs’ of March and a great American Songwriter piece. Beyond that Sera’s album received high praise from the Bluegrass Situation, Saving Country Music, Curve Magazine, KEXP, Paste, The Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, Seattle Metropolitan, Seattle Weekly and a ton more.
The world of American roots music is no stranger to Seattle songwriter Sera Cahoone. Even though her last three albums were on Sub Pop Records and she spent years at the top of the indie charts, she’s always had a streak of Americana that ran through her music, a love of the humble folk song that bolstered her art. She’s returning now to these earliest influences with her new album, From Where I Started (to be released March 24, 2017). Growing up, Cahoone first found her voice in Colorado dive bars, backing up old blues musicians at age 12 on the drums. Her father, a Rocky Mountain dynamite salesman, took the family along to mining conferences and old honky-tonks in the state. The sounds she heard there—the twang of country crooners, cowboy boots on peanut shells—have stayed with her all the way to Seattle, where she lives now, and the seminal indie rock bands she’s been a part of in the city (Carissa’s Weird, Band of Horses).
To make From Where I Started, her first new album since 2012’s Dear Creek Canyon, Cahoone traveled south to Portland to work with producer John Askew (Neko Case, Laura Gibson, Alela Diane). Askew brought together key Portland musicians like Rob Berger (Iron and Wine, Lucinda Williams), Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie) and Annalisa Tornfelt (Black Prairie) with Cahoone’s Seattle bandmates – Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan, Amy Ray) and Jason Kardong (Son Volt, Jay Farrar). The band lays a deep bedrock beneath Cahoone’s songs, supporting her arcing vocals and innovative guitar and banjo playing. The album is driven by a strong rhythmic sensibility, owed to Cahoone’s background as a drummer for indie rock bands. “A lot of my songs start as a beat, I add guitar, then lyrics at the end,” she says. “When I write songs I usually sit at my drum kit playing both drums and guitar at the same time.”
From Where I Started plays on the rougher, darker edges of the traditional love song. Like any good country album, the songs here deal with love and loss, but Cahoone also knows how to surround loss with hope, to temper a sad song with a turn in the major key. The optimism of the love song “Up To Me,” buoyed by fingerpicked guitar and banjo, gives way to the weary resignation of “Taken Its Toll,” with its plaintive pedal steel and echoing vocal harmonies. “Ladybug,” is a poignant song that followed the tragic death of Cahoone’s cousin Tawnee.
From Where I Startedrepresents a refocusing for Sera Cahoone. It positions her as a songwriter beholden to the old country sounds she grew up with, a songwriter who’s always been able to deftly translate a personal perspective into a universal view. It’s an album about falling in and out of love, finding new hope, and learning that the best way to move forward is to remember whereyou began.
‘I’ve just recorded an album with an American band,’ said Olivia Chaney, introducing a new song on her support slot for Shirley Collins at the Barbicanearlier this year. I remember hearing that remark and thinking it’ll be interesting to hear her in a band context with some transatlantic backing.
What I didn’t expect (although it would be entirely possible to work it out) was that she’d just recorded an album with The Decemberists. In case you don’t know, they are a very popular Grammy-nominated American indie rock band from Portland, Oregon. They’ve recorded seven acclaimed albums including 2011’s The King Is Dead – which reached No. 1 in the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.
To give you an idea of the scale of the contrast, Olivia has just over 1,500 followers on Spotify, The Decemberists more than 275,000. Don’t take that as a criticism, in my book Chaney should have much, much more than that…
Her debut album from 2015, The Longest River is a masterpiece, lauded by FRUK’s David Kidman as ‘eminently treasurable’, and receiving rave reviews in The Independent and The Guardian, alongside many others. So Chaney is definitely not an unequal partner here, albeit an emerging rather than an established artist.
The collaboration came about when Decemberists’ singer, guitarist and lead songwriter Colin Meloy opened a conversation with Olivia on Twitter. Like anyone with ears to please, Colin was a fan of Olivia’s debut, and the tweet exchange led to a support slot for Chaney on The Decemberists’ tour. It was during a late night conversation that Colin suggested, “Have you ever thought of having a backing group? We’ll be your Albion Dance Band.” It turned out to be the king of offers…
The fact that Meloy knew about No Roses by Shirley Collins and the Albion Dance Bandin the first place gives you an indication of his (and the band’s) deep love for British folk rock. And that he saw Chaney in the same mould as Collins demonstrates his appreciation of her as a major talent.
The offer came good and so good. The resulting collaboration The Queen of Hearts is a towering, majestic work. It is effortlessly confident, an album that shifts from pleasure to pleasure – a consistent collection superbly arranged and played. Produced and recorded by Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case) alongside Colin Meloy, it is at turns a nostalgic nod to the great British folk-rock albums of the late 60s and 70s but equally assured in a fresh, contemporary way.
The material is largely traditional, and much of it familiar to folk audiences. The Queen of Hearts, which opens the album, was learnt from Martin Carthy and versions have been recently recorded by The Unthanks and Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker.Willie o’Winsbury is about as familiar as it gets – only last year Jim Moray offered his own beguiling version, William of Barbary. So you might wonder if we need more interpretations of these trad songs. But they are sung so beautifully by Chaney, and The Decemberists bring fresh life to these age-old tales that familiarity is never an issue.
And what’s great is that (hopefully) these songs will get a much wider airing and appreciation because of their inclusion here. And it’s not just ballads that get The Decemberists treatment, a set of Morris tunes, Constant Billy (Oddington) / I’ll Go Enlist (Sherborne), has been deftly arranged by The Decemberists’ accordionist Jenny Conlee. True to their word, they sound like Prospect Before Us-vintage Albion Band. It’s two minutes of absolute, unexpected bliss.
The album is firmly in the rock end of folk often with electric guitar, drums, bass and hammond organ backing, augmented by harpsichord, accordion and violin. Sheepcrook and Black Dog positively rocks with fuzzy electric guitar a la Zeppelin’s No Quarter over which Chaney soars like Trembling Bell’s Lavinia Blackwell. Sheepcrook pushes the band into wyrd new realms, sounding like psychedelic folk legends The Trees.
The song segues into To Make You Stay making an eight-and-a-half minute psych-folk epic. Colin takes the lead vocals on this, the final track, a cover of the Lal Watersonmasterpiece from the album Bright Phoebus. And Colin is clearly having a blast singing this obscure but brilliant song. He also takes the lead on Blackleg Miner which owes much to the Steeley Span version but sounding much fresher and more upbeat here.
Another cover is a heart-stopping The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face sung by Chaney, which lays the ghost of the Roberta Flack-emoted version, with hints of the traditional Cruel Mother taking Ewan McColl’s standard back to its folk roots.
I really hope that this album is taken to heart by long-term folk fans on this side of the Atlantic because it’s nothing short of a love letter to the music and traditions we adore. The performances are passionate rather than studious, rawkus rather than reverential.
Joe Boyd, another American with a deep love for British folk (and a catalyst to the invention of British folk rock) is a fellow admirer of Chaney. ‘I’ve only heard Olivia a few times,’ says Joe. ‘But that’s enough to make me a fan.’
In his acclaimed account of his life in the music industry, White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, Boyd writes, ‘Why does England hate its own folk music?… In England, the mere thought of a morris dance team or an unaccompanied ballad singer send most natives running for cover.’ It’s an attitude I’m sure FRUK readers and listeners are only too familiar with, although it’s unlikely to be a perspective we share!
Boyd later shares an anecdote about American blues legend Taj Mahal who came to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, positively lapping up a performance by The Watersons, The Copper Family and various folk royalty. The unaccompanied harmonies on the traditional Thousands or More so enthralled Taj that he rose to his feet and joined in the chorus. ‘…his grin testified to the pleasure that evening’s music gave him,’ writes Boyd. ‘Perhaps it’s easier for foreigners.’
That thought might explain the alchemy of Offa Rex. Chaney is undoubtedly one of the freshest and most exciting talents of the British folk scene, but teamed up with The Decemberists might just mean this music goes mainstream (please!). Anyone who’s seen or heard her knows that Chaney is cool, and I don’t believe that The Decemberists are on a mission to make British folk cool. I think they had no idea it wasn’t ‘cool’ in the first place.
Legendary guitarist and contemporary blues artist Bobby Messano has been around the block a time or two having been the music director for Steve Winwood, Lou Gramm and Country artists Jimmy Wayne, Rodney Atkins and Steve Holy. He also released seven of his own albums and between 2012 and 2016, Bobby played over 400 shows in 32 states to over a ½ million people.For his newest album “Bad Movie” set for a release on April 14, 2017, he combines his wealth of experience as a well-traveled musician to deliver some straight talk on the state of the world. The collection of fifteen incredible songs written with major co-writers Jon Tiven, Larry Weiss and Steve Kalinich runs the gamut from down and dirty blues to soaring Americana, straight ahead roots rock, a touch of country with slices of reggae, funk and soul; all styles Bobby has mastered in his diverse career that earned him a place in the NJ Blues Hall of Fame.
The trill of one of his custom guitars at the opening of the title track ‘Bad Movie’ simmers for a moment before igniting into the fiery tirade of a man who’s been done wrong, delivered via raucous Texas blues. The groove then shifts into the slinky soul blues of ‘Come To Your Senses,’ written by Queen founder Brian May and Jon Tiven, an unearthed gem that allows Bobby to plead his case for a lover’s return over a groove reminiscent of ‘The Thrill Is Gone.’ He then uses his Strat and vocal skills to dig deeper on the brooding ballad ‘Why Water A Dead Rose,’ laying his heart on the table. Trading out for an acoustic dobro Bobby takes us on a trip thru’ some Hill Country Blues he calls the ‘Road to Oblivion,’ traveling light and taking his sweet time. Bobby takes clever liberties with current political catch phrases and adds some heavy-duty horns and full-tilt blues rock guitar for the bombastic call-out of folks on both sides of the aisle ‘Unconventional Wisdom.’ The veteran bluesman then imparts a bit of wisdom on the funky Memphis soul-styled ‘Too Good To Be True,’ and updates the familiar Bo Diddley beat chant adding spaced out sonics to the mix of “If The Phone Ain’t Ringing, It’s Me Not Callin’.” Then lays out his plan for self- preservation on the rockin’ ‘Never Too Late To Break A Bad Habit.’ The subtle swing and sardonic double-entendre lyrics of ‘I Thought We Had This’ has the feel of a Randy Newman tune.
The album highlight sure to hit the airwaves is when the genuine country girl from Muscle Shoals, Alecia Elliott, joins Bobby for the acoustic-driven duet ‘Water Under The Bridge,’ questioning what are we all willing to do to save the world. The smooth island sounds buffer the heartache and deep blues of ‘You Left Me No Choice,’ while ‘The Girl That Got Away’ is dripping with bourbon-soaked despair and tasty guitar leads. Bobby boldly jumps into the immigration debate and declares we are all Americans and created equal on ‘We Need A Blessing’ and continues his call to action on ‘Is It Too Much To Hope For A Miracle.’ Bobby finishes out the set with the optimistic rock ‘n’ roll anthem ‘American Spring,’ pledging that “this boy is going to stick around and sing.”
“Bad Movie” will surely open new conversations between the artist and those who’ll listen, giving him more opportunity to share what he believes.
Rick J Bowen
Bobby Messano is a legendary guitarist and Contemporary Blues Artist who has released seven solo albums, placed songs in many TV network and cable shows and played on over 50 major label and Indie albums. His playing has been heard on everything from MTV jingles to Benny Mardones’ smash hit ‘Into The Night.’ The celebrated guitarist has played on records by Clarence Clemmons, Franke & The Knockouts, Joe Lynn Turner and STARZ, and produced the 60’s hit act, “The Shadows of Night.”
Live he has played guitar and been the music director for Steve Winwood, Lou Gramm and Country artists Jimmy Wayne, Rodney Atkins and Steve Holy. Bobby has played BAMFEST, The Charleston Blues Festival, Smokin’ In Steel, Summerfest, Charlotte Speed Street, Blues Brews & BBQ, Blues At The Beach, Bayfront Blues Festival, Deltaville Seafood Festival, Willow River Blues Fest, Ambassador Blues Fest, Colonial Beach Blues Festival, and Southern Maryland Blues Festival. Between 2012 and 2016, Bobby played over 400 shows in 32 states to over a ½ million people.
The guitarist’s last five albums (“Holdin’ Ground,” “Bobby Messano Live In Madison,” “That’s Why I Don’t Sing The Blues,” “Welcome To Deltaville” and “Love & Money”) have garnered airplay on over 275 blues radio shows and his music is heard daily on SiriusXM’s “Bluesville.” “That’s Why I Don’t Sing The Blues” was on the American Blues Scene’s Top 5 Chart for 24 weeks and was named 2012 Top Blues Rock Album (USA) by Blues Underground Network. On December 22, 2012, Bobby was inducted into the NJ Blues Hall of Fame.
“Love & Money,” released in April 2015, was nominated for a Blues Blast Music Award for “Best Rock Blues Album.” It debuted on the Billboard Blues Chart at #7, peaked at #1 and spent a total of nine weeks in the Top 10. It was also #7 on the Billboard Heat Seekers Chart and Top 40 on both the Billboard Rock and Indie Charts.
One of Canada’s most mercurial artists, Joel Gibb is the lead singer, songwriter and choir captain of TheHidden Cameras. Forming in Toronto in 2001, Gibb and his gang of musical provocateurs have createdmusic and live performances legendary for their raucous, unfettered celebration of freedom and sexuality.
Released on the eve of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations, ‘Home On Native Land’ is an inquisitiveode to Gibb’s homeland; it’s a stealthy return to Canadian soil both philosophically and physically. Afterrelocating to Berlin for some time, The Hidden Cameras pick up and head west to commune with musicalancestors and explore the gentle folk sounds of the Canadian countryside. But as with everything Gibbdoes, there’s a darker undercurrent flowing beneath the Canadiana terrain. With the title ‘Home On NativeLand’ being a play on the national anthem line ‘home and native land’, this title questions the definition andidentity of Gibb’s nation, referencing the raging debate about repatriation of First Nations in Canada. Everthe master of subversion, Gibb arches an inquiring eyebrow at the personal as well as the political throughhis songs, returning to themes of belonging and identity from within. As a commanding, provocativefigurehead of the LGBTQ community, Gibb inhabits the guise of the lonesome cowboy to his own ends,plumbing the depths of musical memory and delivering a beautiful album of lifeaffirming experiences in allit’s colours along the way.
‘Home On Native Land’ was written and recorded over ten years by Gibb with friends, bandmates and iconsincluding Rufus Wainwright, Feist, Neil Tennant, Bahamas, Ron Sexsmith and Mary Margaret O’Hara. Gibbonce again assembles a band of musical accomplices and takes them on an adventure in revisionist history,forming a chorus of voices over a score of dulcet tones and twanging rock. The album makes new offers tothe Canadiana genre with infectious melodies (“Big Blue”) and wild hymns (“Drunk Dancer’s Waltz”),overarched by Gibbs’ trademark, honeyed vocals and sighing guitars. His talents as a songwriter andcomposer remain undimmed, his on point lyrics oozing with hopefulness, joy and sorrow.
Alongside several new compositions, ‘Home On Native Land’ also borrows from the classic countrysongbook, reimagining soulful standards like “Dark End of the Street,” and “Don’t Make Promises” originallyrecorded by Tim Hardin. “Log Driver’s Waltz” is a cover of one of the most successful and beloved Canadianfolk songs of all time. On “He is the Boss of Me” Gibb turns the tables and covers himself, giving a classicHidden Cameras song a proper studio recording, transforming it from an early 4track demo from 2001debut EP ‘Ecce Homo’.