Cincinnati lost another excellent musician and performer over the weekend. Michele Feaster, singer for the Blues/R&B band II Juicy (which took its moniker from Michele's nickname) passed away on Aug. 7 after battling cancer for the past four months.
Cincinnati Electronic Rock four-piece Eat Sugar released its fantastic debut full-length Levántense! this past summer as a digital-only offering. But early next year, the well-received album — which scored a Cincinnati Entertainment Award nomination for 2010’s “Album of the Year” — will be reintroduced to the masses thanks to Eat Sugar’s label home, the wildly eclectic and widely respected Mush Records. The release is set for a Feb. 22 launch by Mush.
Local, acclaimed Indie rockers Wussy are gearing up to support its third release for Cincy imprint, Shake It Records. The self-titled affair will be released locally March 13 in conjunction with a release show at the Northside Tavern (the band also does a release show in Cleveland the following night). Wussy goes national on April 20.
There are a couple of things that have been on my mind of late, and this always seems like a decent forum to vent my musings, particularly since I'm not in therapy. First of all, what exactly constitutes medical attention for an erection lasting more than four hours? Does a stereotypically sexy nurse, um, give you a hand? Or does a mummified doctor from the bygone era of bone saws that could drop an oak tree and hand-cranked skull drills apply leeches to the affected area and then show you pictures of Yogi Berra and golf videos to bring down the swelling, so to speak?
While we wait for an answer to arrive, let's move on to the other, perhaps more salient issue that I've been pondering. As everyone knows, the end of the year brings the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominations, which then inspires a good deal of grumbling speculation about who has gotten nominated and, more importantly, who has not.
Look, no one understands better than I the elation that accompanies being recognized for your work. Six years ago I nabbed second place in the Non-Daily Newspapers Feature Personality Profile category of the Ohio Excellence in Journalism awards. I know, right? At the same time, I can count on fingers and toes the number of letters I've received over the years about things I've written, and many of those have been from the subjects I've written about just to say thanks.
My prized correspondence was from now-deceased Rolling Stone/Billboard editor Timothy White for getting the title of his Beach Boys biography wrong in a piece I wrote about Dick Dale. I had cited White's book as The Nearest Faraway Beach, largely due to my love of the Brian Eno song, "On Some Faraway Beach," and partially because I jotted down my notes in Joseph-Beth Booksellers when I was in the throes of a flu that would have eaten a vaccine for an appetizer. White's book was, in fact, The Nearest Faraway Place, and in it, he mentioned that Dale had been born in Beirut, Lebanon, among other interesting tidbits about the legendary guitarist. When I asked Dale about some of the entries in White's book, he countered with, "Does it say Dick Dale was born in Lebanon?" (he referred to himself in the third person, a lot). I said that it did, and he responded, "Then throw that book in the garbage."
It was a great quote so I used it in the story, which prompted White's letter, where he first corrected my idiot error and then clarified that he had interviewed Dale personally at a time when White speculated that Dale thought being born in Lebanon would make him seem more exotic (he was of Lebanese extraction), but when Beirut became synonymous with terrorism, he claimed Boston as his birthplace. All in all, though, he was very complimentary about the article.
As usual, I digress. As much as people love being hailed for their accomplishments, they are stung when they feel they've been passed over, for whatever reason, and that's completely understandable. It becomes slightly problematic when people demonize the process in an effort to explain their absence from the end result.
Here's the thing; those of us who comprise the nominating committee try not to take ourselves too seriously, but we are very serious about the task of establishing these nominations on an annual basis, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, we love music and we respect the people who make it. We also feel it is extremely important to recognize great work and to share that recognition with the entire music community.
And that's pretty much it. We don't have an agenda to push. We don't nominate our friends (although our friends sometimes get nominated). Speaking for myself, I really try to set personal feelings aside when the time comes to look at the past year and determine who has done work worthy of CEA recognition.
Of course, that determination is open to a certain amount of subjectivity. We are human beings, after all. That's why we cast our nets as far as we can, to make sure the nominating process is as fair as humanly possible. Is it a perfect system? Not hardly. But I think we've gotten it pretty close to right. This year we involved the public in the process and that helped widen the focus even further, but there still seems to be a certain amount of dissatisfaction about the nominees and conjecture about how they got there. In the final analysis, it boils down to a few simple facts. If you're nominated, congratulations; you've distinguished yourself in a music community that I honestly feel is one of the best in the entire country. If you win, huzzah and holy shit, you've further distinguished yourself within a formidable slate of your musical peers.
And if you're just a spectator, keep working. Keep doing what you do. The accolades are nice, but put things in perspective; at the end of the day, the CEAs are a party with door prizes. Prestigious door prizes, but door prizes nonetheless. And whether you're a winner, a nominee or neither of the above, don't allow your recognition or lack thereof to overinflate or devalue your sense of what you do. What matters is the work. Your work. Whether it garners you a nomination or not.
It's the same in any field of endeavor. How many painters wind up in museums in their lifetimes? How many athletes give their lives over to the sports they love for an almost microscopic chance to get a plaque in their respective halls of fame? Celebrity, wealth and notoriety are all fairly illusory. What matters is the work.
The immortal and forever great Frank Zappa may have put it best: "Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best."
And there it is, in it's simplest and most potent form. If you are out there, turning words and melodies in your head into real music with your hands, heart and soul, you are contributing to one of the best things in life. Awards are the icing on a cake that doesn't necessarily need to be iced. When you make great music, we are the winners. And we'd like to thank you. And God and our families and friends and our eighth grade English teacher who said we'd never amount to anything, because he was sort of right. Thank you.
Holidays are especially exciting times for children and, given the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., kids all over will likely be going to be getting a little extra love this season.
Zak Morgan knows kids. The Cincinnati-based singer/songwriter has already had an amazing career in children’s music, with his second self-financed album, When Bullfrogs Croak, earning numerous awards and acclaim, including a 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Musical Album for Children, a remarkable feat for an independent artist.
Morgan’s accomplishments and hard work (he notches over 200 shows a year for kids across the country) paid off with a contract with Universal Music’s kids’ music imprint, myKaZoo Music. His debut for the label, The Barber of the Beasts, came out in late October and would make a fantastic stocking-stuffer for the little ones this Christmas.
Like his previous releases, The Barber of the Beasts features artwork by famed local illustrator C.F. Payne and contains an extensive booklet of lyrics and drawings. The album also features some notable guests, from local musicians like Dan Dorff, Paul Patterson and Josh Seurkamp to nationally acclaimed artists like Robbie Fulks and locals Karin Bergquist (Over the Rhine) and the iconic Bootsy Collins.
But it’s Morgan’s magical stories and songs that are the focal point. There is a perfect formula for children’s music; like with kids’ films these days, many artists try to hard to make their albums “parent friendly” and tend to go overboard, while those who “dumb things down” tend to be the most annoying. Morgan’s gift is finding the perfect balance.
The Barber of the Beasts is for smart and imaginative kids and parents, seeming designed to be enjoyed together. Morgan is great with clever word play and he isn't afraid to drop a few “big words” (or at least unfamiliar words). That’s where the booklet’s excellent vocabulary guide comes in handy. Parents can go over words with their children, who will have not only been entertained by Zak’s fantastical storytelling, but will also learn something in the process.
Many of the tracks on Barber feature gorgeous chamber string arrangements, but there are also tunes like “Snow Day,” on which Morgan channels his inner Tom Waits (vocally), the shuffling, jazzy Pop cut “Swinging On A Star,” the Country-esque “Nancy Jane” and the great Bootsy collaboration, “The Case of the Dry Markers,” a swingin’, “spooky” Jazz struttin’ mystery with a Halloween vibe.
Here is the debut music video from the album for "The Case of the Dry Markers":
The songs and music are elegant and often downright majestic (particularly the ones with the spine-tingling string arrangements), while Morgan’s clever stories are loaded with a silliness that the young listeners will gleefully embrace.
I believe The Barber of the Beasts (which will specifically appeal to kids between around the ages of 1-8, but certainly fits the "fun for kids of all ages" bill) was released in time to make next year’s Grammy nominations. It will be a crime if it doesn’t make the cut. When it comes to children’s music, Zak is like the Bob Dylan of the genre — minus the curmudgeonly grumpiness, of course.
This Saturday at 1 p.m., Morgan and a host
of special guests will present the local release party for the album at
The Monastery recording studio (2601 Stanton Ave., Walnut Hills), the
performance/recording space owned and operated by producer/guitarist Ric
Hordinski (who also performed on, produced and co-wrote material on the album).
Tickets are available through brownpapertickets.com for $10 (or $20 for families of two-five people). Remaining tickets will be available at the door the day of the show for $15 (or $25 per family). Your ticket also includes food and admission to the post-show pizza party.
Following last week's announcement of the lineup for this year's MidPoint Indie Summer — free concerts every Friday on Fountain Square featuring an eclectic mix of local and nationally-touring Indie bands — kick-ass local promoters Self Diploma have unveiled who they have coming in for the Beats Summer Concert Series. Like Indie Summer, the Beats series features a blend of local and national acts. The concerts will feature some big names and hot up-and-comers in Hip Hop, Dance and Electronic music, including one of the best rising Hip Hop acts on the scene, The Cool Kids (Aug. 4).
Self Diploma has booked over 80 artists for the events, which kick off June 2. The concerts run through Aug. 25 and are open to all ages. Shows start at 6 p.m. and will be hosted by local DJ D-Lo.
Click here for updates and further announcements from Self Diploma. Here's the video press release for this summer's events, followed by the full sched.
ERIK '222' BARNUM
CALI KID DUBZ
MILK & COOKIES
DJ JOHNNY B
THE COOL KIDS
CJ THE DJ
THE CHAOTIC GOOD
JOLA THE TRUNK BOY
CHANCE THE RAPPER
The fruitcakes have been throw away, the eggnog is spoiled, the big ball dropped, the champagne is gone and we’ve all had time to reflect on 2008. Now, chin up, sport — it’s time to start looking ahead to 2009 and what lies ahead for Cincinnati’s local music scene.
If the first release of 2009 (well, the first to cross my desk anyway) is any indication, we’re in for another great year for locally crafted CDs. The “New Year’s Eve baby” of the local CD world comes from newcomers Hazle Weatherfield, a promising trio that celebrates its debut release with a show this Saturday at The Mad Hatter in Covington.
For many Cincinnati natives, seeing Jess Lamb perform her audition in Kansas City for the American Idol judges was the first time they had ever heard her powerful and emotive voice or seen her honest, determined spirit. But for anyone who has their ears to the ground in Cincinnati’s local music scene (or has drunkenly wandered into Japps on a Tuesday night) knew that Lamb was more than ready for the limelight. Lamb has been performing all across town for years and has consistently turned heads with her stable of classics and originals, paired with her pronounced and technical work on the keys. (In 2013, Lamb was nominated for an R&B/Funk/Soul Cincinnati Entertainment Award and performed at that year’s ceremony, a mini-clip of which was used in her initial biographical segment on Idol.)
But a rise in local and national exposure brings a great deal of opportunities and challenges tied together. And it is those opportunities and challenges that my series of posts following Lamb’s experience will reflect upon. Lamb is an indie artist to the core; she writes and records with many different projects beyond her solo work. She plays all around town in the hopes of steadily increasing her visibility. But how does an artist used to local coverage deal with the sudden influx in national attention? What effect will American Idol have on local attendance or the reception at her shows? Will there be any long term changes or will this ultimately be a flash-in-the-pan experience for Lamb? These are the types of questions that will be explored as the show carries on.
Of course, to answer where Lamb will be going, it helps to know how she even became a part of American Idol. It all happened by chance.
“I went to Columbus for what they call the ‘Bus Tour.’ Basically you go down there and stand in front of executive producers of the show. From there, they just call you and tell you where to go next. You’re just playing the waiting game after that,” Lamb says.
Lamb and her friend’s spontaneous trip to Columbus led to the next stage of the journey — performing for Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. (one of Lamb’s musical idols).
There was a month in between both auditions, leaving plenty of time to think and speculate. After the audition in Kansas City and the announcement of her participation on the show, Lamb has been speaking to the media while still finding time for her day job and performing at night.
With “Hollywood Week,” featuring the singers who made it past the initial auditions, approaching, Lamb’s Amercan Idol adventure is just about to truly take off. Here at home, she’s already seen a change in her local reception.
“I’ve felt a lot of support from the people that I look up to. Frankly, I’m shocked at the support. I’m shocked that a lot of people see where I’m going with this,” Lamb says.
After her audition aired, Lamb played a show in West Chester, where she was greeted by an entirely different type of crowd than the Main Street district mainstays. Instead of young people buying her shots, she was met by a group of older women who brought her flowers.
The crowds aren’t just growing at her shows either; her online presence has grown as well. American Idol fans have flocked to Lamb’s Facebook, Instagram, email box and Reverbnation page. So many, in fact, that Lamb is having a hard time keeping up with all the attention.
“There’s been so much [growth] on social media, so many great emails. I’m trying to respond to every email and I have to take hours out of every day to do it and it’s amazing, I love it,” Lamb says.
In many ways, that excitement is indicative of Lamb and her Idol journey thus far. It’s been a whirlwind of activity that is guaranteed to grow as the show progresses. But she has taken it all in stride and is taking every opportunity the show has provided her. We’ll just have to tune in to see what other opportunities arise in the coming weeks.
The Hollywood Week episodes of American Idol air locally this Wednesday and Thursday on Fox 19.
The MidPoint Music Festival returns to Over-the-Rhine (including inside the newly unveiled Washington Park, which hosts the main "Main Stage") Sept. 27-29. After weeks of speculation, we now we have the first lineup announcement for MPMF.12, which features, once again, top-line Indie artists — from new buzz groups and some current, critically-acclaimed favorites to a few true Alt music pioneers.
Longtime supporters Dewey's Pizza had the scoop on the announcement this morning. Visit them here on Facebook.
Below are the first 19 acts to be announced. About 150 to go! Stay tuned.
The Dirty Projectors
Willis Earl Beal
The Black Belles
J.C. Brooks & The Uptown Sound
Be sure to visit mpmf.com for all the latest updates and to score your tickets. VIP and “Early Bird” (read: discounted) all-access passes are available now through cincyticket.com here.
If you’d like some face time with the MPMF authorities, just head down to Fountain Square this Friday for the free MidPoint Indie Summer concert at 7 p.m. The event is a world tour of music, kicking off with local Ska/Reggae/Soul masters The Pinstripes, who join Malian artist Khaira Arby and Funk/Soul headliners The Dynamites.
Music Saturday: This weeks' CityBeat cover stars The Kentucky Struts have reached the end of their yearlong recording/art project, The Year of the Horse. After releasing one track online from the album each month in 2011, as well as showcasing a corresponding, horse-themed piece of art commissioned to accompany the song, the Roots/Country/Rock band will have copies of the full release available at Saturday's release party at Newport's Southgate House. The visual artists featured on the project are a mix of local and national artists, including Joshua Black Wilkins (also an acclaimed singer/songwriter), Rob Warnick, Karen Heyl, Matthew Shleton and Julie Hill. Some proceeds from the release show (featuring openers The Sundresses), as well as profits from prints of the artwork, will be donated to the Kentucky-based horse rescue organization, Speak Up For Horses. Click here and here for more on the project (and to look at some of the amazing art pieces). Below, take a gander at the pre-launch video, which explains the ambitious venture.