I keep waiting to receive a new release from the locally-based label Phratry Records that is subpar. The label — specializing in Indie/Post Punk/Punk-flavored sounds — is celebrating its sixth anniversary this month and its next release is its 22nd so far. The law of averages would suggest that, especially given the imprint’s increased output in the past year, at least one stinker would sneak by. But every time I click on a new MP3, slip in a new CD or drop the needle on the latest release’s vinyl version (Phratry’s offerings usually come in all three formats), I never fail to be impressed. And that 22nd release — the full-length debut from Cincinnati’s State Song, Dear Hearts & Gentle People — is definitely not the stink-bomb I’ve been half-expecting from Phratry. In fact, it may just be the label’s finest offering yet.
Check it out — the new Cincinnati Entertainment Awards site is up and the ballot is ready. Get your vote on now — the window is a little shorter than normal this year. Voting ends Nov. 10. Let us know what you think of the nominees and categories. Be nice!
Legendary Bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley is scheduled to close the show with a set, as part of the CEA's celebration of the legacy of King Records, which began 65 years ago. With the Stanley Brothers, Ralph was an important member of the King roster and a pioneer in his field. Another King tribute at the show is also in the works. Stay tuned.
Pick up a CityBeat today and check out the cool ad art for the CEAs, crafted by local musician Jason Snell. A sampling of the art can be seen above and at the CEA site.
— Mike Breen
With Forecastle and Lebowski Fest both celebrating their 8th anniversaries this weekend in Louisville, Ky, it’s hard to believe there’s room at the inn! But I found the Motel 6 just north of town, across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Ind., that did indeed have a vacancy for me. Almost immediately after checking in, I get a call from my old partner in crime, my once and future Bonnaroo buddy, photographer extraordinaire Keith Klenowski. He’s waiting for me at 5th and Main in downtown Louisville by the main entrance to this year’s Forecastle Festival.
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.
Recently, local singer/songwriter Maurice Mattei and his band, The Tempers, celebrated the release of a live album recorded last December at a Christmas show at Covington's Madison Theater. While The Tempers Christmas Show does include a few holiday classics (Lieber & Stoller's "Santa Claus is Back in Town" and Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run"), the bulk of songs are Mattei originals and not exactly of the "Christmas" variety. (Listen to the whole release here.) Still, it's a great release, as the band takes advantage of the live-recording format — the songs exude a palpable, occasionally Punk-like energy. Check out one of those non-holiday tracks, "Made a Mess of It," in music video form below. (Maybe the "Vixen" in the line "Listen to the vixen in the ol' hoosegow/Funny that's the only kinda milk cow" is "Vixen" from Santa's slave-reindeer team?)
The song — which originally appeared on the release The Tempers Perform The Best of Maurice Mattei Volume 3 — was made into a video by Dave Miller from Southern Californian design/illustration company Deluxerider, who has done several clips for Mattei songs, including the Chuck Berry X-mas tune (posted below, as well).
Local Blues musician Phil Blank lost his battle with cancer and passed away on Jan. 15. He was 57. A memorial service for the veteran singer/harmonica player/guitarist is scheduled for Jan. 30 at the Staley-Crowe Funeral Home in Deer Park starting at noon.
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.
One of the coolest, more unique musical experiences to be had in Cincinnati is at the concerts presented by The Loft Society, an on-the-down-low, speakeasy-like venue housed in the top-floor loft of an apartment building on Calhoun Street in University Heights (next to Mayra’s restaurant). Programmed and hosted by Al Williams, the Loft has been featuring artists on the more exploratory side of Jazz (with occasional guests from other genres) for the past two decades. The atmosphere is relaxed and communal and set up as a great listening experience first and foremost (obnoxious chatter during performances is strongly frowned upon). If you’ve yet to visit, Saturday’s “A Tribute to MLK” concert is a great place to start.
An impressive and eclectic roster of local bands will transform an otherwise stark Loveland VFW hall into an artsy, flashy, sorta hippy-ish Rock ‘n’ Roll venue for this year’s third annual Adjust Your Eyes Music and Arts Festival, June 26 and 27. The two-day, two-stage, multimedia extravaganza, which is the brainchild of Grasshopper Juice labelmeister and Wonky Tonk/Chick Pimp band member Nick Mitchell, will feature not only upwards of 28 bands but also art by Jacklyn Howard and CincyStar Glass and stage lights and visualizations by Bunk News.