Well before social media made it easier to connect directly to fans, veteran Cincinnati music legends Over the Rhine were already whispering in their fans’ ears via regular notes on the band website, written intimately and poetically by OTR’s Linford Detweiler (mostly). The direct, worded contact fit well with Detweiler and wife Karin Bergquist’s mystical, emotionally resonant music, which has earned the group a dedicated fan base that spans the globe.
Along with a series of excellent albums and mesmerizing live shows across the country and beyond, the couple’s fan-friendliness and fairly consistent engagement no doubt helped not only build that fan base, but also maintain it.
The tight bond between OTR (which has put out albums on its well distributed Great Speckled Dog label since 2007) and its fans was tested in 2010 when Detweiler and Bergquist came to them with a proposition.
Before sites like Kickstarter or PledgeMusic became the hugely popular resources for artists to “crowd-fund” projects that they are today, Over the Rhine (as well as a few others) was a step ahead of the trend, allowing fans to pre-order the album and kick in additional funds for bonus perks. The experiment worked incredibly well and the band ended up with a nice budget to record (with Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry, no less) the exquisite full-length, The Long Surrender, one of the group’s best (and best reviewed) albums to date, which ended up on many “Best of 2011” lists late last year.
The Long Surrender campaign was so successful — at least partially due to the members’ way of making fans feel like they are a part of the resultant records — OTR has returned to its fans for assistance, this time so they can record and release two new albums by the end of 2013.
In a letter on OTR’s website, Detweiler explains the two albums, the material for which has been crafted over the past few years. One of the albums is tentatively titled The Farm and will feature songs written about the couple’s past several years living in an old farmhouse in Highland County, Ohio. The duo even plans on hosting a live performance of the songs on their inspirational property to celebrate the release.
The other project is a new holiday album, Blood Oranges in the Snow. The album will be OTR’s third holiday release, following 1996’s The Darkest Night of the Year and 2006’s Snow Angels. Not your typical Christmas-classics toss-off LP, OTR’s holiday releases, as Detweiler writes, “(hopefully) capture some of the reality of a beautiful — but often conflicted and even heartbreaking — time of year.”
For more on how to donate, click here. There you’ll also find the different tiers and perks, which include everything from digital bonus tracks, a “thank you” in the album artwork and signed posters to a private house concert, admission to any OTR concert through 2014 and … a tree, to be planted on the twosome’s farm and dedicated to the contributor.
Potential donors will have a chance to be swayed by Over the Rhine’s sublime sounds this Saturday, as the group returns to the Taft Theatre to perform many of their holiday tunes (and other songs). This year's event is being billed as “An Acoustic Christmas Concert.” The concert begins at 8 p.m. with opener Lucy Wainwright Roche. Tickets are $37.50 (via ticketmaster.com) or $42.50 at the door.
For those hardcore fans who just can’t get enough, OTR presents its annual “Holiday Sunday Soiree,” a casual, intimate gathering at St. Elizabeth’s (1757 Mills Ave, Norwood). Tickets are not issued for Sunday’s 3 p.m. get-together; sign up and pay for admission to the event ($20) here and your name will be added to the guest list.
Since her 1994 indie debut, The Honesty Room, Dar Williams has attracted a diverse and pathologically loyal fan base with her quirkily hybridized Folk/Pop ministrations. Like an elegant gene splice of Shawn Colvin and Loudon Wainwright III, Williams can easily triangulate the emotional distance between breezy humor, somber reflection and crystalline heartbreak, on subjects as intimate as family and love and as broad as culture and politics, by finding the commonalities between them and translating them through her muse. Equally relevant is the fact that Williams hasn’t shied away from experimenting with her base formula over the past two decades; her desire to extend her reach is a testament to her restless creative spirit and her success in doing just that is a testament to her steadfast audience.
In the Time of Gods is Williams’ ninth studio album and, like the majority of her catalog, it is a work that somehow manages to be both spectacular and subtle. In keeping with her need to experiment, Williams conceived In the Time of Gods as a concept album with each song representing a particular Greek mythological archetype, while also weaving contemporary emotional, social and cultural concerns into the narrative. It’s an unlikely formula, and one that requires an almost impossible songwriting balance, but Williams was clearly up to the task, because In the Time of Gods stands with the best of her albums to date.
Part of its brilliance is that Williams uses the Greek pantheon as a launch point to create her own dieties and address her unique issues, proving that mythology must be both consistent to be permanent and malleable to be relevent. The element that drives all of this home is Williams’ impeccable songwriting skill as she finds the connective tissue between gods and goddesses like Hera (“I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything”), Hermes (“You Will Ride with Me Tonight”), Dionysus (“I Will Free Myself”) and Poseidon (“The Light and the Sea”) and places their gifted and flawed archetypes in real life situations with real life outcomes.
As always, Williams’ musical accompaniment in this endeavor is engaging and beautiful and exactly right, providing the consistency that runs through her estimable canon. With a surgeon’s skill, Dar Williams has grafted the wisdom, wonder and humanity of Greece’s ancient pantheon onto In the Time of Gods’ modern cautionary tales, further evidence of the contention that Williams is among the finest Folk/Pop songwriters of the last half century.
Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s frontman Richard Edwards may be the most tenacious man in rock. In 2009, the band’s Indianapolis home base was heavily damaged by fire, they were dropped by Epic after the controversy over Animal/Not Animal and the majority of the band quit.
That would have been the end of Margot for most guys, but Edwards resurrected his outfit with bassist Tyler Watkins and multi-instrumentalist Erik Kang and, with an impressive guest list, assembled and self-released 2010’s spectacular Buzzard, a clattering bit of Indie Rock brilliance that diverged from Margot’s early Chamber Pop explorations.
Last year, Edwards and a completely reconstituted MATNSAS generated their recording budget through the Pledge Music website and began tracking their fourth album, the noisily majestic Rot Gut, Domestic.
Much like Buzzard, Rot Gut seems more shambolic and scattered than it really is; like a pointilist painting, it pays to stand back in order to appreciate the work. On Rot Gut, Edwards and MATNSAS have crafted an amazing amalgam of Wilco’s artful squall (“Disease and Tobacco Free,” “Fisher of Men”) and Ryan Adams’ buzzy indie evocation of ’70s Rock (“Books About Trains,” “Arvydas Sabonis,” “Ludlow Junk Hustle”) while simultaneously managing to reference the atmospheric Pop that marked their first two albums. After 10 tracks of that, MATNSAS finish up with an amazing one-two punch; the dissonant and fuzzed out “The Devil” is followed, logically enough, by the exquisite balladry of “Christ,” a Randy Newman-meets-Paul Westerberg piano-and-ethereal-frippery hymn (“Jesus breaks your heart every night when He doesn’t come”).
The scariest thing about Rot Gut, Domestic is that Richard Edwards and Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s might have an even better album than this minor masterpiece in them.
I’m still getting used to my new digs here at The Daily Beat as everyone rushes about, delivering their stories with right-this-minute immediacy and what not. Of course, with my continuing effort to bring you up to date on the reviews from last summer and fall that were missed for a variety of reasons, my breaking news has all the timeliness of “Bin Laden is dead!” and “I’m so happy for Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries — it’s nice to see a celebrity couple in it for the long haul.”
Luckily, the early weeks of this new year, with a couple of well-stocked exceptions, are pretty light on titles, allowing me the time and space to revisit some deserving highlights from bygone months while checking out the latest and greatest from the new calendar. Wait, there’s something coming across the teletype in the Bunker — apparently, the war is over! The Falkland Islands are free at last!
Celebrate with new reviews, then some old reviews. Then a drink and possibly a nap.
Eclectic Cincinnati Reggae crew The Cliftones — one of the best Reggae outfits in the region — will be celebrating the release of their latest single, "Hold Steady," this Saturday with a show at Northside club Mayday. DJ Mowgli will also perform. Advanced tickets are available now for $7 here. The first 100 people through the door will receive a free download card giving access to the single.
Like the band's previously released single — "Hard Ground," released in January — The Cliftones once again have some legendary ears/mixing fingers involved with "Hold Steady." "Hard Ground" was mixed in D.C. by Jim Fox, who has worked with icons like Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs, Barrington Levy and Culture. For "Hold Steady," DJ Prophecy (known for work with Bassnectar and Glitch Mob) handled the mixing, while Dub legend Scientist handled mastering duties.
Here's the exclusive stream of "Hold Steady":
MusicNOW, the popular new music festival founded by Cincinnatian Bryce Dessner of internationally acclaimed Indie Rock band The National, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year when the fest returns March 11-15 at Music Hall, Memorial Hall and first-time venue Woodward Theatre.
On March 10, the Over-the-Rhine fest will be celebrated with the digital release of a compilation album featuring musical highlights from MusicNOW’s first nine years. MusicNOW- 10 Years will feature previously unreleased performances by Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Grizzly Bear, My Brightest Diamond and others.
The album’s “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations” by Sounds of the South, a project featuring Vernon, Sharon Van Etten, Megafaun, Matthew E. White and Fight the Big Bull, was recently released as a preview.
“The first track ‘Trials, Troubles, Tribulations’ gets at the spirit of the compilation and the event. It is an American bluegrass gospel song written by Estil C. Ball. Here it is performed by Sounds of the South, a project featuring Justin Vernon (Bon Iver, Volcano Choir), Sharon Van Etten, Megafaun, Matthew E. White, and Fight the Big Bull. The project, organized by Megafaun, initially appeared at Duke Performances in North Carolina and MusicNOW in Cincinnati, Ohio, and subsequently traveled to Sydney Festival in Australia.”
In the press release for the album, Dessner says, ““Many of my most significant memories as a musician have taken place in Cincinnati during the MusicNOW Festival over the last 10 years. When we started, we were driven to create an intimate music festival that was as much a creative refuge for the artists as it is for the audience to partake in intimate and rare performances. We have celebrated works in progress and new commissions, new collaborations and detailed music of all kinds regardless of genre or popularity."
This year’s MusicNOW festival features appearances by Stevens, Nico Muhly, So Percussion, Timo Andres, concert:nova with Jeff Zeigler, Cloud Nothings, Will Butler and more. The National will also perform at the festival on March 13 at Music Hall with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Click here for full details and ticket info.
Sounds of the South "Trials, Troubles, Tribulations"
Robin Pecknold "Silver Dagger"
Sufjan Stevens "The Owl & The Tanager"
eighth blackbird "Omie Wise"
My Brightest Diamond "I Have Never Loved Someone"
Dirty Projectors "Emblem Of The World"
Tinariwen "Imidiwan Ma Tenam"
Tim Hecker "Chimeras (Live) 2011"
Colin Stetson "Nobu Take"
Owen Pallett "E Is For Estranged"
Erik Friedlander "Airstream Envy"
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy "Love Comes to Me"
Grizzly Bear "While You Wait For The Others"
The Books with Clogs "Classy Penguin"
Andrew Bird "Section 8 City"
Justin Vernon "Love More"
Detroit producers/Electro musicians Ryan Spencer and Adam Pressley formed its new project Jamaican Queens last year, following the demise of their previous band, Prussia. The pair bonded over a mutual love for Hip Hop production, something that would find itself central to Jamaican Queens winding sound. Together less than a year, the twosome's single "Kids Get Away" introduced the newcomers with a sound that blends EDM, Hip Hop sounds and rhythms and a somewhat psychedelic brand of Indie Pop.
The band calls its music "Trap Pop," a reference to the Trap style of Hip Hop that is something of a successor to the old Southern Crunk style. Still, you won't mistake Jamaican Queens' music for T.I.'s — JQ's unpredictable, fluttering style recalls MGMT's last two albums had the Electronic aspects of their music been more prominent.
Jamaican Queens' first full-length, Wormfood, is due in February and was mixed by Christopher Lazlo Koltay, a former Cincinnati musician who has been enjoying a successful engineering/production career in Detroit the past several years, working with artists like The Dirtbombs and Akron/Family. Here's the song that has garnered the band the most attention so far, "Kids Get Away."
Besides being rid of this depressing winter weather, there's another great reason for local music fans to be excited about the coming spring. One of the more celebrated and acclaimed bands in and outside of Cincinnati, Wussy, will release its new album, Attica, on May 6. The recording will be the band’s fifth full-length of all new material and is once again being issued on the local label Shake It Records.
Below is a “rough mix” of the Attica track “To the Lightning.”
Shake It has also announced that Wussy — which scored both Artist of the Year and Album of the Year (for Strawberry) honors at the 2013 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards — will have its excellent 2007 album Left for Dead re-issued on “baby blue” vinyl in honor of 2014’s international Record Store Day (April 19).
Click here for Wussy’s comprehensive website for more info and to sample music from throughout the band’s entire career.
Casino Warrior is a name that many local music fans aren’t aware of. So far, the quartet (bassist Kevin McNair, vocalist and guitarist Miguel Richards, guitarist Billy Buzek and drummer Chad Wolary) has only played two real shows, one of which was its recent EP release party. But rest assured, based on the strength of the band’s live performance and its new, riff-laden, five-track release, the name will become much more recognizable quickly.
Centaur EP follows in the same vein as other Rock/Metal hybrids that are currently dominating many a longhairs’ playlist. If the likes of Red Fang, Black Tusk, Orange Goblin or old The Sword cause your skull and brain to repeatedly high five, then the Centaur EP is right up your alley. Richards and Buzek’s guitar leads show considerable chops; there are enough riffs in these five songs to warrant several back-to-back play-throughs just to unravel the heavy layers. Guitar nerds will be overjoyed; the rest of us will just bang our heads until we get a nosebleed.
Of course, riffs are great, but unless the floor tremors and eardrums pop, the Metal equation is only halfway completed. That’s where McNair and Wolary come in. McNair’s low-end rumbles through the mix and sets up shop in your chest. Playing this record at a high volume (as if there was any other allowable setting) is liable to shake things off the wall. Beware of any loose china or pictures of grandma that you may have sitting around your sound system. Wolary’s skin work rounds out the quartet and he brings the thunder; at times, it sounds like Zildjian gave the Incredible Hulk a gear sponsorship. And Hulk definitely smashes.
Richards’ vocals walk a fine line between ’70s Rock clean singing and the current-day growls. Each chorus and verse is delivered with a ferocity that makes the lyrics even more hilarious. I cannot wait for more people to get their hands on the album, learn the words, and yell “Horse balls!” when Casino Warrior performs “Centaur” at its next gig. In fact, each song on the EP is as ridiculous as the last. When your subject matter involves chupacabras, pterodactyls and the aforementioned centaurs, things are bound to get a little weird.
Of particular note is the song that Casino Warrior closed its EP release show with — “Pig Roast.” The track starts with a tribal rhythm from Wolary that’s worthy of accompanying a Fury Road war party, along with a bassline gut-punch courtesy of McNair. Shortly thereafter, Richards and Buzek join in with an earworm of a riff and Richards’ beefiest vocal delivery on the record. His ode to our great city demands attention before the band transitions to an extended outro that allows Richards and Buzek to show off their soloing abilities. And, what do you know — they’re amazing at more than just riffing.
As a whole, “Pig Roast” exemplifies what Casino Warrior is capable of. The band has a rhythm section that lays a rock solid foundation of groove upon which the guitars build a temple to the Riff Lords of old. The songs are more than the sum of their parts — and their parts already have quite a few big numbers involved. The guys have created a rare release that is musically serious, but still fun; heavy, but still accessible.
If you’re a Cincinnati Rock and/or Metal fan, do yourself a favor and jump on the Casino Warrior bandwagon now — it’s about to get much more crowded.