• At this weekend's Whispering Beard Folk Festival in Southeast Indiana, masterful Cold Spring, Ky., Americana group The Kentucky Struts debuted their great new music video for the ominous, creeping and soulful tune, "Country Road," from their The Year of the Horse album. The band made the video with Keith Neltner and Brian Steege, who worked on the documentary Charlie Louvin: Still Rattlin' the Devil's Cage. (Read more about the Struts recent album from CityBeat here.)
This week in my weekly local music column, Spill It, I wrote about the unexpected glut of really strong music events this week. Tonight may be the hardest of all to make a decision about. Let's work through this together, man. We'll find something for you to do.
• Catch a couple of Indie Pop success stories live and in person tonight in Covington as buzz bands Young the Giant and Cincinnati's very own Walk the Moon play Madison Theater, just the latest in a string of sold-out shows on the groups' current tour. We've been writing more and more about Walk the Moon over the past year (here's the latest), as the four-piece continues to charm the masses leading up to their debut album for RCA Records (late spring/early summer is the current target). Young the Giant is a little further along in its buzzdom, having released its first wide-exposure album, a self-titled affair on Roadrunner Records, in late 2010 (digitally)/early 2011 (physically). But YTG did a lot of legwork leading up to that point, building a following and airplay stats in Southern California as The Jakes, before becoming Young the Giant in 2009 and singing its deal. The band got a big shot in the arm after appearing at the MTV Video Music Awards last year; virtually unknown to most viewers, the band was featured between the likes of Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne, performing on some weird cubby-hole/light-box stage for 300 invited fans from their hometown of Irvine. Watch a clip below and read more here.
If you have tickets, tonight's YTG/WTM show starts at 8 p.m.; doors open at 7.
The summer music festival season is winding down, but area fans of Americana/Folk/Roots music of varying stripes have a big one to look forward to this weekend, as the fifth annual Whispering Beard Folk Festival returns to the Old Mill Campground in nearby Friendship, Ind., starting in just a few hours.
Founded in 2008, Whispering Beard has showcased both the old and new guard of Americana, mixing legends, contemporary favorites and lots of Greater Cincinnati area artists. This year is no exception; in fact, it may be the best lineup yet. Check the full rundown of performers below, as well as video clips from each day's headliners.
11:30 a.m. Easy Tom Eby
12:20 p.m. Red Cedards
1:10 p.m. Ben Knight
2 p.m. Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound
2:50 p.m. Rattlesnakin' Daddies
3:45 Kentucky Struts
4:40 p.m. Sassy Molasses
5:35 p.m. Al Scorch
6:30 p.m. Frontier Folk Nebraska
7:30 p.m. Charlie Parr
8:30 p.m. Pokey LaFarge and the South City 3
9:30 p.m. Whiskey Bent Valley Boys
10:30 p.m. Langhorne Slim
11:30 a.m. Jive Creek Ramblers
12:20 p.m. Billy Catfish
1:10 p.m. Terminal Union
2 p.m. My Brother the Bear
2:50 p.m. Shiny & the Spoon
3:45 p.m. Jeremy Pinnell & the 55s
4:40 p.m. Josh Eagle and the Harvest City
5:35 p.m. Henhouse Prowlers
6:30 p.m. Bloodroots Barter
7:25 p.m. Chicago Farmer
8:20 p.m. Caitlin Rose
9:20 p.m. The Tillers
10:20 p.m. Justin Townes Earle
11 a.m. Rabbit Hash String Band
11:50 a.m. The Blue Rock Boys
12:40 p.m. Mt. Pleasant String Band
1:30 p.m. Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers
2:25 p.m. Uncle Mike Carr
3:20 p.m. Magnolia Mountain
4:20 p.m. Ramblin' Jack Elliott (check out CityBeat's interview with the Folk legend here)
Weekend passes are $70 (it’s $40 for just Friday and Saturday and $20 for just Sunday). All-weekend on-site camping costs $40 or you can camp off-site for free (while spaces last).
Old Mill Campground is about an hour west of downtown Cincinnati. Here's a map from Fountain Square to Friendship.
View Larger Map
For complete info on this year’s Whispering Beard Folk Festival, visit www.whisperingbeard.com.
There isn't a huge stylistic gap between Steve Earle and John Hiatt, so it makes sense that they would make a good tour package (one that hits the Taft Theatre tonight for an 8 p.m. show). They're both moderately successful Americana artists with slavishly loyal fan bases and solid bodies of work over long careers (Hiatt having the earlier ’70s start).
To the curious mind, the billing begs the point: What else do Earle and Hiatt have in common?
• They both began their careers as staff songwriters and launched performing careers after one of their songs became a hit for someone else (Johnny Lee for Earle, Three Dog Night for Hiatt).
• They've both been covered extensively by other artists, Earle by Travis Tritt, Robert Earl Keen and others, and Hiatt by Bonnie Raitt, Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and many more.
• They both signed with Epic Records for their first deal; Earle never recorded for them, while Hiatt did two Epic albums which sold poorly and expedited his release.
• Their second contracts were both with MCA; Earle had a pretty decent run with the label, including his 1988 hit Copperhead Road, while Hiatt's was a repeat of his Epic experience.
• They've both been nominated for Grammys, but Earle has a commanding lead with 14 nods and three wins, while Hiatt has been nominated twice with no mantle bling to show for it yet.
• They've both been married multiple times, but again Earle has the lead with seven marriages; Hiatt has only had three.
• Both have successfully dealt with substance issues.
• Both are balding; Hiatt has the lead here with more hair, but Earle compensates with a ZZ Toppish beard.
• Both will kick your ass in the live setting, so bring an extra ass.
Here's a clip for Hiatt's "Damn This Down," off his latest LP, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns.
And here is part of a documentary filmed during Earle's sessions for I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (also the name of his novel and, yes, both are based on the Hank Williams tune, which he covers on the album as a bonus track. The novel is centered around Williams mysterious "doctor" who traveled with the singer until his death, then disappeared).
UPDATE: The DJ Funeral Fresh release party has been moved from Tonic to Mixx Ultra Lounge (1203 Main St., Over-the-Rhine).
Local DJ Funeral Fresh (formerly DJ Skinny Fresh) is hosting a release party in honor of his new "remix tape" tonight at Tonic on Fourth. Fresh has worked shows with everyone from Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj to Soulja Boy and Jadakiss and he has been nominated for "Best Club DJ" at the Ohio Hip Hop Awards several years running. The new release project is called Da Party Life and Jay-Z features heavily throughout … and on the cover. (Lil Wayne, Beanie Sigel, Pharrell, 50 Cent and Foxy Brown also pop up in the mix.) Give it a listen at mixstack.com or download it for free here, then head to the event (billed as a new release/networking shindig) at 9 p.m. Admission is $5.
Here's the track "Bad Guy" from Fresh's new release:
• A pair of excellent, widely acclaimed and truly unique Indie/Avant/Anti-Folk artists (who are both quite prolific in their output) performs for free tonight in Northside at Mayday, starting at around 10 p.m. Wooden Wand is just one of the names songwriter James Jackson Toth performs under (it's also the project that's been most successful). Toth has collaborated with many artists and put music out on several different indie imprints, rarely falling in line with the rote expectations of a 21st century troubadour. Wooden Wand's vast discography includes cassette and CD-R releases, along with more standardly-issued albums and projects. Wooden Wand was lumped into the "Freak Folk" category when that was a buzz word five or so years ago, but, like other artists put into that box, his musical curiosity has led him to a sound that's impossible to pinpoint with two words. Toth is currently touring behind the double-disc release of his Briarwood album, which features several raw, unreleased demos.
Here's the video for "Winter in Kentucky" from Briarwood:
Jeffrey Lewis is an illustrator who decided to write some songs while he was studying drawing and literature in college. Lewis — whose sound is a bit more eccentric and broader than Toth's, coming off like Beck had he stayed true to his avant grade roots — still successfully pursued his comic book artist dreams (writing and drawing the series Fuff, among other projects), but he keeps plenty busy as a touring musician these days. And he combines his passions whenever possible — during shows, he plays "illustrated songs" that are accompanied by one of his illustrations. Lewis and Toth came up in music around the same time, but their current tour is their first time reconnecting after several years.
• MOTR Pub is also hosting a solid, free Indie show tonight featuring Cleveland Indie Pop up-and-comers Cloud Nothings and Brooklyn Electro/Dance/Pop duo Class Actress, which has had its music connected to various fashion happenings and glowing reviews. Founded and led by L.A. native Elizabeth Harper, Class Actress has been building buzz the past couple of years, earning comparisons to Depeche Mode, LCD Soundsystem, early Madonna and Human League. Read more about Cloud Nothings here and then check out the clip for Class Actress' song "Weekend" below. (CA opens tonight at around 10 p.m.).
• River City Extension extends its tour into Bogart's tonight for an 8 p.m., all-ages show. Admission is $7. RCE is preparing to release its sophomore album, Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger, in early June on XOXO Records. The Indie Folk crew produced a trailer for the new album. Why, yes, we do have it to embed — look below!
When the phrase “guitar hero” gets tossed around, it’s naturally in reference to some of the greatest six string figures in Rock history. But if there is a subset of that hallowed group — guitar heroes in waiting, as it were — then Natalie Wells surely deserves to be included on that hopefully short waitlist.
The Independence, Ky., native is quickly becoming one of the Greater Cincinnati area’s most powerful live forces with a guitar presence that stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the giants of Rock. A teenage student of the Blues, Wells felt an affinity for first generation masters like Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt and next gen ’60s acolytes like Johnny Winter, Big Brother’s Sam Andrews and James Gurley, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher and a host of others. Wells’ brilliance in her own guitar pursuits has been in her supernatural ability to absorb a rainbow of Blues and Rock influences and translate them through her own unique interpretive gifts. As she showed on her largely original debut, Mind the Gap, she may have learned from the greats but she’s much more interested in running the guitar flag a little farther up Rock & Roll Hill.
On her new mini-album, Live from Earth, Wells and her chugging rhythm section (bassist Curt Hall and drummer/vocalist Michael Hodges) offer up an all-cover set that simultaneously proves how much she loves her influences and demonstrates her translational power.
Live From Earth’s seven tracks represent just four factions of Wells’ estimable influences and they’re more than tangentially connected; Buddy Guy is one of the primary links between the old acoustic and new electric school of Blues, while Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower represent those who most effectively reimagined the Blues in a Rock context. Wells injects swinging new life into Led Zep chestnuts “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid” and “What Is and What Should Never Be” while distilling Hendrix’s complex chemistry to a simpler but still impressive formula with her takes on “Stone Free/Third Stone From the Sun” and his avowed classic “Voodoo Chile.”
Wells finds the heart of Guy’s gentle “My Love is Real” and the soul of Trower’s blistering “Day of the Eagle,” all delivered with her fluidly original guitar stylings and a voice that is part husky Blues shouter, part Cher Pop powerhouse. Wells may still has a few minor vocal timing issues to fine tune, but Live on Earth is solid evidence that her guitar chops are cooked to perfection and ready to serve to a wider audience.
At this point, Natalie Wells’ guitar does not gently weep; it cries a bucket of tears, screams with passionate abandon, howls like a steroid-amped wolf and demands to be heard.
On this day in 1987, the Beastie Boys' debut LP Licensed to Ill became the first Rap/Hip Hop album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard album charts. Though the band members today seem embarrassed by some of the ridiculousness evident all over the album (including, no doubt, the Wiffle Ball Bat-assisted sexual assault references), it could have been worse for the now-enlightened MCs, who originally wanted to title the record, Don't Be a Faggot. Columbia refused to release anything by that name so the group was eventually convinced to go with something a little less … dumb.
In 1999, Beastie Adam Horovitz wrote a letter to Time Out New York apologizing for their youthful indiscretions on that first album, saying he wanted to "formally apologize to the entire gay and lesbian community for the shitty and ignorant things we said on our first record. There are no excuses. But time has healed our stupidity. … We hope that you’ll accept this long overdue apology."
The Boys' still perform bits of Ill, but with some careful self-editing. Here they are doing "Brass Monkey" at Madison Square Garden a few years back.
But what we really wanna know is … when does Tom Carvel get his even-longer overdue apology?
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 7 birthday include celebrated French composer Maurice Ravel (1875); legendary Jazz sideman and producer, late drummer Lee Young (1917); one of the greatest frontmen in Rock & Roll history, J. Geils Band's Peter Wolf (1946); the man who played one of the most recognizable organ solos in Rock on "Whiter Shade of Pale," Procol Harum's Matthew Fischer (1946); Pop/Dance music performer Taylor Dane (1962); singer/songwriter for Louisville based Hard Rock crew Tantric, Hugo Ferreira (1974); and multi-instrumentalist with Funk/R&B/Rock & Roll legends The Isley Brothers, Ernie Eisley (1952).
Ernie Eisley was born in Cincinnati 60 years ago and he joined his brothers' group when he was old enough, playing bass on the band's "comeback" hit, the funky "It's Your Thing," in 1969. His bros — led by Ronald Isley — were already hugely successful, selling a million copies of their 1959 single "Shout," not to mention "This Old Heart of Mine" and "Twist and Shout," which, of course, became one of the group's biggest songs thanks to a cover version by a little British band called The Beatles.
When Ernie teamed up with his brothers, they became more of a "band" than a "vocal group," and enjoyed a long string of hits for which Ernie was crucial (either as songwriter or player), including "Fight the Power," "Between the Sheets" and a reworked version of their older tune "That Lady," this time featuring an amazing Rock guitar lead from Ernie.
The group split in the ’80s — Ernie found success with Isley-Jasper-Isley, the group formed with brother Marvin and his brother-in-law — and joined forces again in 1991; littlest bro Marvin retired in 1997 (and passed away two years ago), leaving only Ernie and Ronald. In 2001, the Isleys hit the charts with "Contagious," which made them the only group to have a Top 100 hit in six decades in a row (from the ’50s-’00s). The Isleys were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — a no-brainer, really — in 1992. While Ronald embraced being embraced by contemporary R&B and Hip Hop artists from R. Kelly to Tupac Shakur (and spent some time in the jail for tax evasion in more recent years), Ernie retreated from the spotlight somewhat, working with community groups and schools in St. Louis, where he now lives. But he still hits the road from time to time with Ronald and has continued to work as a solo artist.
Ernie has also participated in the "Experience Hendrix" tribute tours of the past few years. It's fitting — Hendrix played guitar with the Isleys when Ernie was 11 years old, even living with the Isley family in New Jersey for a couple of years before becoming hugely successful on his own.
Here's a fantastic archival video from Soul Train featuring The Isleys performing "That Lady."
On this date in 1962, a pre-performance speech by legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, seen by some as an attack on guest pianist — the almost equally as legendary Glenn Gould — caused quite a stir in the Classical music world. The concert was to feature Gould performing Brahms' "First Piano Concerto," but apparently the pianist and music director (Bernstein) disagreed on how it was to be performed. The New York Philharmonic concert came towards the end of the orchestra's final season at Carnegie Hall.
The disagreement was largely over tempo — Gould felt the composition should be played very slowly. Before the intermission, the orchestra played selections by Carl Nielsen. Fearful that Gould would not even show up (he was notorious for last-minute cancellations), Bernstein had the Philharmonic prepared to play Brahms' First Symphony just in case. Gould showed, but to prepare the audience for the unorthodox performance, Bernstein took to the podium and delivered the controversial introduction/disclaimer/diss. (Bernstein delivered the same speech at a preview performance the night before.)
Don't be frightened. Mr. Gould is here. He will appear in a moment. I'm not, um, as you know, in the habit of speaking on any concert except the Thursday night previews, but a curious situation has arisen, which merits, I think, a word or two. You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception and this raises the interesting question: "What am I doing conducting it?" I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith and his conception is interesting enough so that I feel you should hear it, too.
But the age old question still remains: "In a concerto, who is the boss; the soloist or the conductor?" The answer is, of course, sometimes one, sometimes the other, depending on the people involved. But almost always, the two manage to get together by persuasion or charm or even threats to achieve a unified performance. I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. But, but this time the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer. Then why, to repeat the question, am I conducting it? Why do I not make a minor scandal — get a substitute soloist, or let an assistant conduct? Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much-played work; Because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist, who is a thinking performer, and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to call "the sportive element", that factor of curiosity, adventure, experiment, and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you
Many critics wrote about the intro and viewed it as the conductor's way of saying, "If this sucks, it's his fault." And many took Gould to task for his interpretation of the music (though some musicologists later said Gould's version was a correct reading of the material). Gould, for his part, said he enjoyed the performance and liked that it caused some in the audience to boo. Columbia had planned to release a recording of the performance but backed off given the controversy. Bootlegs spread like wildfire and Sony Classical, years later (in 1998), released the recording with Bernstein's remarks in tact. In the liner notes, Gould is quoted as saying, "Soloists and conductors disagree all the time. Why should this be hidden from the public, especially if both parties still give their all?" Bernstein also didn't seem too bothered by the controversy and he never stopped praising Gould's unique talent.
Here's a clip of Bernstein and Gould getting along just fine in 1960, performing Bach's "Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Warren Haynes, Gerry Mulligan, Merle Haggard and Cobra Starship's Alex Suarez.
Music Tonight: The Mad Hatter in Covington this evening hosts a full lineup showcasing the new breed of "Power Pop" — young bands evolving from so-called "Pop Punk," embracing classic Pop/Rock songwriting and developing a sound that is potentially more timeless. Georgian band Cartel headlines, as they gear up for a new EP release (due next month) that will serve as the band's first since 2009's hook-feast, Cycles, which showed clear progress in songwriting and execution. Tonight's Mad Hatter show (the kick-off date on the band's brief Midwestern tour) begins at 6 p.m. and tickets are $15. The Upset Victory, Action Item, Don't Wait Up, 21st Streamline and The Getaway warm things up.