The New York Times published a story in the paper's arts section today about the history of Cincinnati-based King Records and those around town who have made it their mission to put the once-vital label back in the spotlight. The story mentions everyone from old-school King artists James Brown, Charlie Feathers and Nina Simone to current-day champions John Cranley, Elliott Ruther and Brian Powers.
RJ Smith, the author of the piece entitled "Rocking Cincinnati's R&B Cradle," was on hand for the King Records memorial back in mid-November, as well as the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, presented by the good peeps at CityBeat, later that night.
The superb, now veteran local Indie Pop group The Minor Leagues are gearing up for the release of their new album, North College Hill. The album was recorded last summer with Sean Sullivan at The Butcher Shoppe, the Nashville studio owned by legendary singer/songwriter John Prine and Grammy-winning engineer Dave Ferguson (Johnny Cash, U2, Ryan Bingham), and was recently mastered by Michael Bond from the band's label, Datawaslost. The Minor Leagues recently made the album's first single — "Ghost Maps" b/w "Please Don't Throw My Love Away" — available as a free download from their new website (www.minorleaguesmusic.com).
Rolling Stone has the first preview of Cincinnati-bred Funk superhero Bootsy Collins' anticipated forthcoming album, Tha Funk Capital of the World, which features a fascinating array of special guests and is slated for release April 26. The RS Web site is streaming the album's first single, "Don't Take My Funk," a groovy slice of bubbling Funk (you were expecting opera?) that has legendary Soul singer Bobby Womack on vocals and some guitar work from Bootsy's late brother and lifelong collaborator Catfish Collins.
Tonight at downtown club Main Event, three of Cincinnati’s best DJs will perform at a benefit to assist the musical pioneer who made their DJ careers possible. When news hit late last month that DJ Kool Herc was in the hospital, bleeding internally and enduring massive pain, many Hip Hop lovers with an understanding of the music’s origins and originators began plotting ways to help. Tonight’s event featuring Mista Rare Groove, Apryl Reign and DJ Pillo is one of several efforts across the continent (and probably globe) organized by appreciative fans to lessen the financial burden of Herc's mounting medical bills.
Indie Pop trio The Seedy Seeds are nearing the end of its first tour leg in support of the new album Verb Noun, which took the band coast-to-coast, wrapping up Friday in Columbus, Ohio. Local fans will have a few chances to see them in April — April 21 they do a free show at the Cincinnati Zoo with The Tillers and they'll join Walk the Moon April 28 at 20th Century Theatre in Oakley — or you can check out the band's new video for the album's lush Indie Pop title track below. The band has also offered up a free stream of their "Friends of The Seedy Seeds" project, featuring several musician pals covering tunes from Verb Noun.
Welsh musician Gruff Rhys is bringing his current unique (and brief) tour to Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center tomorrow (Thursday). The show starts at 8 p.m. Click here to grab your tickets.
attending the tour’s stop at the CAC will also be treated to an extra
rare bonus — Rhys’ Neon Neon project-mate and Cincinnati native Boom Bip (aka Bryan Hollon, who now works from out of the West Coast) will be
joining Gruff onstage after the main performance for a one-of-a-kind DJ
Rhys’ band Super Furry Animals released its major label debut, Rings Around the World,
in 2001 and the group appeared to be a successor to the throne occupied
by fading superstars like Blur and Oasis. The album (following SFA’s
excellent debut, Fuzzy Logic,
and a trio of experimental-oriented albums put out by king-maker Alan
McGee’s Creation Records) put a brilliant, creative spin on “Brit Pop,”
highlighted by fascinating sounds between the grooves, but also an
extraordinary knack for writing incredibly potent melodies. Rings
contained several hit-songs-in-waiting and did well in the U.K., but
never fully grabbed the ears of the U.S. mainstream like a few of the
band’s predecessors did.
While some artists would have simply gone back and cleaned up/out the sound of their potential breakthrough to appeal more to the mainstream, it soon became clear that Rhys and the Furries weren’t interested in pandering. The band had always been underlined by a progressive, adventurous streak (early works embraced Electronic and Ambient music, among other approaches) and it was evident that the opportunity to crossover or become a massive success was less important to Rhys and Co. than following their own creative whims. (By the mid-’00s, SFA had left the Sony family for the artist-friendlier confines of Rough Trade Records).
Rhys’ work outside of the Furries’ domain has been even more exploratory. Rhys’ eclectic solo albums have contained songs sung alternately in Welsh, English and Spanish. And he’s a huge fan of collaboration, working with artists like Mogwai, Sparklehorse, De La Soul, Gorillaz, Simian Mobile Disco and Brazilian artist Tony da Gatorra, to name a few. One of his most celebrated collaborations has been with Boom Bip; the pair’s Neon Neon project has been widely acclaimed, earning a Mercury Prize nomination in 2008 for the album Stainless Style (a loose concept piece about the life of John De Lorean).
Rhys’ current project/tour is a follow-up to Separado!, a feature film/multimedia venture during which film crews followed the musician as his “investigative concert tour” traveled through South America. The film followed Rhys on his journey to learn more about his “long lost, guitar-playing, poncho-wearing uncle, Rene Griffiths.” Given his musical output, it was fitting that Rhys’ intellectual and creative curiosity had led him down such another unique path.
Here's the trailer for Rhys' "psychedelic western musical," Separado!
current “investigative tour” is another adventure in genealogy and
travel, as the artist (again trailed by a film crew for a planned
movie sequel/music/prose/photo project) journeys through North America to find
the burial site of John Evans, another distant relative who allegedly
left Wales in the late 1700s on a quest to verify the legend of a
Welsh-speaking tribe of Native Americans.
Rhys put this call out to anyone with info that could help: “Gruff urges anyone with clues regarding Evans’s unknown burial place; imaginary volcanos; wandering tribes of Welsh Speakers, or lingering river reptiles to come to the shows, where their help with his investigations will be appreciated and featured in the movie.” You might even make the film's final cut just by showing up and checking out the show.
Rhys’ performance will include music, discussion, his cutting humor and more. As the trailer above suggests, and anyone who’s seen SFA live knows (the band's criminally under-attended show at the Southgate House many years ago was one of my all-time favorite concerts), don't go into one of Gruff’s appearances with too many expectations because, most likely, they’ll be blown out of the water.
A new track from The National leaked last week and it serves as a good mini-preview of the Cincinnati-bred group’s headlining appearance at National guitarist Bryce Dessner’s MusicNOW festival on May 15 at Music Hall. The track “Think You Can Wait” comes from the soundtrack to the upcoming film Win Win by director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor). The song features guest vocals from pal/collaborator Sharon Van Etten, who is scheduled to open the band’s MusicNOW show (and, I would guess, perform “Wait” with the group).
Those retro/modern/futuristic urban-gothic sonics are perfectly reflected in the brand new video clip for "Oxygen." The ominous video — written by Thomas Stemrich (Director) and Josh Chiara (Director of Photography) of local band Holy Beast — was shot over three days in Northside and Over-the-Rhine.
The nutshell synopsis of the video:
"In New Berlin, in the basements of post-industrial mansions, lost youths pray to shrines for nothing and participate in rituals that don’t matter. But tonight, one of New Berlin’s daughters is through with the minutia, ready to dive beneath the insincerity of cult posturing, and finally awaken the beacon of change that swells beneath the city streets. Will this be another lost night in Neverland or will she finally meet the beast of her dreams?"
Stemrich and Chiara have made other music videos, including "Night Drive" for the local act Polar Sky (Polar Sky and Skeleton Hands both record for locally based Racecar Productions). Sharfe says "Night Drive," and now "Oxygen," are unofficially akin to part of a "series," with the Polar Sky clip setting the "New Berlin" tone initially, and the Skeleton Hands' video taking it further.
"In the New Berlin videos, we see Cincinnati through a dystopic lens," Sharfe says. "Prostitutes, cults, deities, people with holes in their torsos. Strange stuff."
Skeleton Hands are currently taking pre-orders for copies of Gone on vinyl. Click here to get in on the action. "Oxygen" will be available as a single this fall through Racecar. The single release will feature remixes, including ones by Kontravoid and the aforementioned Polar Sky.
The duo also returns to the MidPoint Music Festival this year, coming up towards the end of September in various venues around Over-the-Rhine and Downtown. Skeleton Hands is slated to perform at 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, at MPMF venue Below Zero Lounge (on Walnut Street, next to Emery Theatre). Click here for MPMF tickets (or visit Fountain Square Friday night between 8-11 p.m., where you can buy tickets in person — one night only — for $10-$20 off).
Entertainment Weekly's website recently debuted a bizarre music video for Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider's cover of "Mack the Knife." The clip features Eric Nally, singer for internationally renowned, Cincy born-and-bred hard rockers Foxy Shazam, as a nerded-up emcee introducing Snider before a less-than-enthused small crowd. The song is from Snider's album of covers, Dee Does Broadway, which includes Broadway cameos from Bebe Neuwirth and Patti LuPone. The video clip also includes a cameo by modern Prog Rock legend Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Translatlantic). "Mack the Knife" is rendered fairly straightforward by Dee … at first. (You just knew he wasn't going to take it anymore.)
Snider is a Foxy fan, apparently. On a morning show in L.A. recently, he shouted-out the band to viewers, calling them "Queen meets The Darkness … so brilliant!
It's not the first Rock veteran to take notice of Foxy's talent. Nally co-wrote songs with Justin Hawkins of The Darkness, Meat Loaf and others for Meat Loaf's 2010 album Hang Cool Teddy Bear. Here's "California Isn't Big Enough (Hey There Girl)," which Nally and Hawkins wrote together. (Foxy and the since-reunited Darkness have been touring together a bunch lately, a match made in flamboyant Rock & Roll heaven.)
Every year, a compilation featuring several of the artists performing at the MidPoint Music Festival is lovingly compiled to give an overview of some of the fest’s participants. MPMF10’s comp has been assembled and you can listen to it right here, right now. While the amount of already well-known acts performing at MPMF10 is something that makes the event exceptional this year, the comp reflects the high quality of the lesser-knowns as it’s made up of tracks by the superb up-and-comers performing at this year’s fest.