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by Brian Baker 02.13.2014
Posted In: Local Music, New Releases, Reviews at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: To No End's 'Peril & Paracosm'

Nick Dellaposta is a graphic designer, web developer, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for Cincinnati/Dayton band To No End. If he did brain surgery on the side, he'd be Buckaroo Banzai. 

And for a guy with little discernible local profile, Dellaposta has a metric ton of history that begins with learning guitar and writing songs at age 14. His father Bob fronted the Broken String Band and the pair gigged together when Dellaposta the younger was a college student, which led to eventual studio experiences. 


Dellaposta formed To No End in 2012, leaning more toward an emphasis on the Dayton market; shortly after the band's first gig, Dellaposta took them into the studio to record their debut album, last year's Curio, a rootsy, Blues-drenched work that tapped into the Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Black Crowes/Gov't Mule end of the spectrum.


To No End's sophomore album, Peril & Paracosm, comes almost exactly a year after the band's debut, trumpeting a slight change in line-up and a new and darker sonic vision. Along with original drummer Patrick Lanham, new bassist Eli Booth and contributing guitarist/now full-fledged member Grant Evans, Dellaposta has invested TNE with an expansive and moody vibe that mines '70s Hard Rock like Budgie and UFO ("The Afterlife," "Bad Apple") while sharpening everything to a contemporary razor's edge. 


Peril & Paracosm finds Dellaposta exploring darker lyrical themes which naturally results in a brooding and muscular soundtrack that is both an extension of and departure from Curio's brighter sonic perspective. There's also a slightly more psychedelic feel to some of the tracks on Peril & Paracosm, and when TNE drifts into a rootsier Gov't Mule direction this time out ("Good Intentions," "When the Time Comes"), there seems to be a greater conviction, a more desperate passion and a deeper understanding of both the influence and its translation. 


We can only hope that the release of Peril & Paracosm signals To No End's expanded local presence because this kind of loud is always welcome.


Below is Peril & Paracosm track "Good Intentions." For more on To No End, click here


 
 
by Mike Breen 07.17.2015
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, New Releases at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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‘American Originals’ Pops Concert Recording Due in September

Recording from January celebration of American Roots music featuring the Pops and national/local Americana performers gets a release date

Back in January at Music Hall, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, under the direction of conductor John Morris Russell, presented its unique “American Originals” concerts. During the performances, the orchestra collaborated with several local and national Folk/Americana artists to perform and celebrate the music of Stephen Foster and other early songs that are the foundation of the “Great American Songbook.” 

Read CityBeat’s cover story on the project here.


Rosanne Cash, Aoife O’Donovan (who recently returned to join the Pops for its Fourth of July concert at Riverbend; read our interview with her here), Dom Flemons (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Joe Henry joined Cincinnati area artists Over the Rhine's Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, members of the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and others to perform specially arranged versions of Foster compositions like “O! Susannah,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Camptown Races” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” as well as traditional numbers like “Red River Valley,” “Kumbaya” and “Amazing Grace.” 


A live recording of the concert featuring 17 songs will be released on Friday, Sept. 11. (You can pre-order it now here from Amazon.)


Here is the detailed track listing for the American Originals release (via cincinnatisymphony.org):


1) “O’ Susannah” (written by Foster, arranged by Chris Walden and with Joe Henry on vocals)


2) “Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair” (written by Foster, arranged by Rob Mounsey and with Aoife O’Donovan and Karin Bergquist of Over the Rhine on vocals)


3) “My Old Kentucky Home” (written by Stephen Foster, arranged by Rebecca Pellett and featuring Rosanne Cash on vocals)


4) “Amazing Grace” (traditional, arranged by Pellett and featuring Aoife O’Donovan and the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars)


5) “Rolling River: Sketches On Shenandoah” (composed by Peter Boyer) 


6) “Why, No One To Love?” (written by Foster, arranged by Pellett and featuring Over the Rhine’s Bergquist on vocals and her OTR partner Linford Detweiler on Rhodes keyboard)


7) “Old Folks At Home” (by Foster, arranged by Timothy Berens and featuring Dom Flemons on vocals and harmonica, Timothy Berens on banjo and Paul Patterson on fiddle)


8) “Kumbaya” (traditional, arranged by Berens and featuring Timothy Lees, Kathryn Woolley, Gabriel Pegis and Scott Mozlin on violins and Richard Jensen on djembe


9) “Slumber My Darling” (by Foster, arranged by Chris Walden and featuring O’Donovan on vocals and guitar)


10) “Aura Lee” (by Foster, arranged by Pellett and with Henry and Ed Cunningham on vocals)


11) “Foster's Folly” (by Foster, arranged by Berens)


12) “Ring, Ring The Banjo” (by Foster, arranged by Walden and featuring Flemons on banjo and bones
 and Cunningham on fiddle)


13) “Red River Valley” (traditional, arranged by Berens and featuring the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars)


14) “The Battle Cry Of Freedom” (composed by George Frederick Root and arranged by Berens)


15) “Beautiful Dreamer” (by Foster, arranged by Mounsey with Cash on vocals)


16) “Hard Times Come Again No More” (by Foster, arranged by Berens and featuring Over the Rhine, with Bergquist on vocals and Detweiler on guitar)


17) “Camptown Races” (by Foster, arranged by Mounsey and featuring the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars, as well as Cash, Flemons, Henry, O’Donovan and Over the Rhine on vocals)





 
 
by Mike Breen 06.18.2014
Posted In: Local Music, Live Music, Music News, New Releases at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Mixtapes Frontman Finds Catharsis with New Solo Album

Ryan Rockwell releases Indie Pop solo album 'I Hate How Normal I've Become' as name-your-price download

Cincinnati Pop Rock quartet Mixtapes formed about four years ago and immediately hit the road with a relentless dedication. The band’s hard work paid off and it has experienced great success, building a dedicated fan base across the country with great live shows and hook-drenched, nationally-released albums and singles. 


As anyone who has seen Mixtapes live knows, the band’s shows are adrenalized, sweaty fun and their music, while growing more mature and diverse with each release, is sheer fist-pumping, singalong joyfulness. 


Frontman Ryan Rockwell was living the dream. But somewhere along the way, his life became more like a nightmare. The fact that Mixtapes’ launch coincided with the death of his father certainly played a part in Rockwell’s difficulties. Though details are vague, according to a press release, Rockwell “started to watch himself deteriorate and become the type of person he hated the most. He tried things he never thought he would and got dangerously close to not making it out.”


"I had never felt more alone," Rockwell says in the release. "Friends that I have had for years literally just stopped talking to me, stopped responding, a large number of them. I turned to the only thing I knew, and I started writing about it. I don't know who was wrong or who was right, but I know how much it hurt and people that I have helped and would do anything for left me when I needed help the most. Other people stepped up and saved me. I don't place blame though … I became a different person for awhile. 


Rockwell was trying to understand what was going on in himself to make him so unhappy, but found it difficult to express. So he did what he does best and channeled his emotions into writing and recording songs. Working with friends Kamal Hiresh and Zach George and using the name Youth Culture, Rockwell hit the basement and created what would become the 10-track album, I Hate How Normal I’ve Become, an accomplished and eclectic collection of songs that, while still instantly catchy, possess much more darkness than Mixtapes’ jubilant Punk Pop. 


Rockwell released the Youth Culture album late last month as a “pay-what-you-want” (yes, even if you want to pay nothing) download. 


“This is an album for people going through things they don't like to talk about or know how to express,” Rockwell says. “We did it all ourselves and paid for it all ourselves. First and foremost, we want you to hear it — which is why it's free. If you like it enough, we'd very much appreciate a donation to recoup costs and eventually put it out on vinyl. But as always with everything I've done, I just want it to get out there, so thank you so much for taking the time to listen; there's a lot of bands out there, thanks for giving this a spin."


Listen to I Hate How Normal I’ve Become below, then click the player to grab your very own copy. 


Fans worried that Youth Culture might signal the end of Mixtapes, fear not. The band is currently crisscrossing the United States on the massive Vans Warped Tour, which it'll be a part of until August. (The band is slated to appear at the Warped Tour’s Cincinnati stop on July 16 at Riverbend Music Center.)

 
 
by Brian Baker 02.04.2014
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music Video, New Releases at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Black Owls' 'Wild Children'

If you are even a marginal fan of Black Owls (whose members split time between Cincinnati and Granville, Ohio) and have not yet visited their Bandcamp page to purchase a copy of their recent recorded triumph, Wild Children (which came out late last year), off with you. I'll wait. 

The Owls' fourth album is nothing less than the maturation of a supremely talented band that has been patiently waiting for the right pieces to fall into the right places almost from the beginning. The installation of drummer extraordinaire Brian Kitzmiller and the relocation of vocalist David Butler away from the drummer's chair and to the front of the stage was the first necessary shift, while adding second guitarist Brandon Losacker as a frenetic foil to Ed Shuttleworth's tightly coiled brilliance was inspired and equally required.

The bass position has been problematic only in its temporary nature; Nancy/National bassist Mike Brewer left to pursue his own thing, the thunderously wonderful Alan Beavers was forced from his role due to back issues and Goose four stringer Sammy Wulfeck was almost psychotically overextended and had to bow out; his work is all over Wild Children, a

tantalizing hint at what he brought to the Owls and further proof of his longstanding chemistry with Kitzmiller. (For the record, both Beavers and Brewer guest on Wild Children and remain welcome alumni in the Owls' extended family.)



On the whole, Wild Children is an expansion of the Owls' sonic mission statement of cross-pollinating early '70s-era Glam (see Bowie/Mott/Marc Bolan) with late '70s-era New York Punk (via Tom Verlaine's Television, Richard Hell's Voidoids and Lou Reed's simple fury). A good many of the songs on Wild Children have been worked out in live sets over the past year or so and will be familiar to anyone who has haunted the band's numerous local appearances; the effervescently charged "Incandescent Vultures," the melodically moody "She Invented Air," the propulsive and sinewy title track, produced into a beefy studio anthem. There's even a re-recording of "Julias Morningstar," one of the Owls' most recognizable and popular tracks from their 2008 debut, Lightning Made Us Who We Are. Wild Children shows that the Owls are gelling nicely and becoming even more comfortable and confident in the brilliant niche they've created for themselves.


And while Wild Children is patently excellent and an absolute necessity, perhaps even more exciting is the two-track glimpse into the Owls' future just revealed by Kitzmiller. A result of recent sessions featuring former Doc & the Pods/Roundhead four-stringer Kip Roe, an absolute prince of a human being and the perfect piece to complete the Owls' puzzle, the two songs find the quintet sounding less like the brilliant sum of their influences and more like a blazingly original band that has effectively incorporated their heroes into their creative vision without showing a seam

or dropping a stitch. "Gasoline" is a hard-charging, manic and relentless three minute thrill ride (and a prime candidate for the first single from the album that it will eventually crown), while "Rook" muscles along with the shivering, shimmering energy that has defined the Owls' best work over the past six years. These two as-yet-unmastered tracks show Black Owls evolving into a focused unit of astonishing power and unlimited potential.


More. Soon. Please. 


Black Owls perform for free this Friday at Newport’s Southgate House Revival in the Lounge room during The Black Angels/Roky Erickson concert in the venue’s Sanctuary.

 
 
by Mike Breen 04.10.2013
Posted In: Local Music, Live Stream, New Releases, Music News at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Cincy's Mixtapes Debut New Song on The A.V. Club

Rock crew slates new LP, Ordinary Silence, for June 25 release

Local Pop Rock crew Mixtapes' first track from their forthcoming full-length Ordinary Silence premiered today on The A.V. Club, The Onion's non-parody (yet still often funny) arts and entertainment website.

The little hyper-catchy slice of melodic heaven "Elevator Days" will be featured on Mixtapes new album, Ordinary Silence, which is scheduled for release on June 25 through California-based independent label, No Sleep Records. If radio had a brain, this tune would be a radio smash. But, well, you know …

Singer/guitarist/songwriter Ryan Rockwell says "Elevator Days" is "a song about being so stuck that short of running away or crying you feel hopeless,” says Rockwell.  “It's a song about realizing that every day I judge everyone around me and never realizing I'm the one that needs to change. 90 percent of our problems with other people i think are actually ourselves, it can be an awful realization, and also a necessary one.”

Click here to listen to the track or check out the YouTube version below.
If you pre-order the new album, you'll receive an automatic download of "Elevator Days."


The 14-track album was recorded with Eric Tuffendsam at Moonlight Studios in Fairfield, just like Mixtapes' debut release, Even on the Worst Nights, which came out just last year. The band is gearing up for a massive cross-country tour starting in May, which will culminate with a couple of weeks on the Vans Warped Tour. Mixtapes is slated to appear at the Warped Tour stop at Riverbend in Cincinnati on July 30.

Click here to read our interview with Rockwell from last summer.

 
 
by Mike Breen 08.23.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, New Releases at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Free Salsa Galore Tonight on the Square

Latest "Salsa on the Square" compilation CD to be given away free

Fountain Square's popular Thursday evening "Salsa on the Square" concerts/dances — featuring top Salsa/Latin Jazz groups from across the area (and sometimes beyond), numerous dancers and even free Salsa lessons (right at the scheduled 7 p.m. start time) — are coming to an end for the summer, with two more dates left. Like all concerts on the Square, the event is free and tonight and next Thursday you can also score a free Salsa compilation EP.

"Volume 4" of the Salsa on the Square CD compilation series features five tracks by performers from this year's concerts on the Square, including locals Cla've Son, Azucar Tumbao,  Son del Caribe and veteran local favorites Tropicoso, plus a cut from tonight's Salsa on the Square headliners, Bay Area ensemble Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel.

Only 500 Salsa on the Square comps are available; half will be given out tonight and the rest next Thursday, when Tropicoso closes out the series.

Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel will be making the most of their Cincinnati visit (though based in San Francisco since 1999, drummer/group leader Andres grew up in Cincinnati, where he first found his drumming groove).  The group also performs downtown at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $10. Read more about Andres and Co. from this preview from when they were in town last year.

Here's a clip of Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel performing "Estampa Cubana" in 2009.

 
 
by Nick Grever 03.02.2016 83 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, New Releases, Reviews at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Jims – ‘Mandarin’ EP

Sweet Ray Laurel and Smoke Signals… member releases dynamic debut solo effort

An EP can be a risky endeavor for any musician. The shorter run time leaves little room for a filler track; the artist has to make their impression and showcase their style in the span of time it takes for some full-lengths to start stretching their legs. Of course, crafting a journey for the listener is a bit easier when their leader is a scene veteran with a wide array of releases to his name. And that’s exactly what makes Northern Kentucky resident Jimmy Snowden’s new EP, Mandarin, so enjoyable. (In his solo guise, Snowden is billed as simply “Jims.”)

Snowden is a member of Cincinnati-area acts like Smoke Signals… and Sweet Ray Laurel, and each of his projects places a spotlight on his myriad influences, from unpredictable Post Punk to acoustic-guitar-driven Indie Pop. Mandarin’s five tracks are undeniably Snowden’s design, each showing a fragment of his musical sensibilities. As a whole, they coalesce to provide a complete picture of the artist and his broad skill set. Snowden wrote, performed, and recorded the EP entirely on his own, and Mandarin bleeds Snowden’s individual playstyles as a result.

The first track, “Systems,” has an initially startling introduction. The track features vocal loops layered over downplayed percussion and acoustic guitar, which lead to a track that mixes unease and catchy melody in equal measure. It highlights Snowden’s more experimental qualities before allowing the rest of the EP to showcase his more traditional, Indie roots. It may not initially line up with the rest of the EP’s auditory aesthetic, but it’s an important track due to its insight into Snowden’s more forceful proclivities.

What follows are four tracks that thematically fall in line more evenly than what “Systems” initially hints at. “She’s Down” and “Hey Nola” feature driving guitar riffs and unconventional percussion set just under Snowden’s emotive singing voice. Snowden’s layering techniques are in full effect on each track. At times, it sounds like Snowden was running between instruments during recording to give each their own standout moment in the mix. The guitar is the star of the show, with Snowden crafting licks that enter your eardrum, weave into the folds of your brain and take up residence long after the disc has stopped spinning.

On the final tracks, “LOVE” and “ALONE,” Snowden takes his formula and makes subtle shifts to alter the mood and take the listener to a more introspective and thoughtful place. “LOVE” introduces keys at critical points of the song to create an almost mournful tone to the balance of guitar and upbeat percussion. Snowden carries the same feeling into “ALONE” by stripping away almost every layer that he had so carefully constructed on the previous tracks and focusing mainly on his vocals and guitar. What comes out on the other side is an artist laid bare. It’s a song that easily climbs beyond its self-imposed limitations and works as a suitably antithetical bookend with EP opener, “Systems.”

While Mandarin’s run time is a scant 14 minutes, Snowden is able to expose his listeners to the many elements of his musical style that enables him to be a part of so many disparate bands and be successful with all of them. Mandarin is a release that gives new listeners a fantastic introduction to Snowden’s skills. But for those of us who are already aware, it’s a solid reminder of his eclectic talents.

Snowden hosts a free EP release party for Mandarin this Saturday at 10 p.m. at The Crazy Fox Saloon (901 Washington Ave., Newport). Click here and here for updates, show dates and more. 


 
 
by Mike Breen 03.25.2014
Posted In: Music News, Live Stream, New Releases, Local Music at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Buffalo Killers Tease Forthcoming Release

Area rockers unveil “Poisonberry Tide” from debut album for Sun Pedal Recordings

Local faves Buffalo Killers are gearing up for the May 13 release of Heavy Reverie, the trio’s first record for Warner Music Group subsidiary Sun Pedal Recordings. Today the band revealed the new album track “Poisonberry Tide,” a delicious slice of Pop Rock that is reminiscent of Guided By Voices and Superdrag and is one of the catchiest songs the band has ever released. 



The label still has a few limited edition “bundles” of the new album available for pre-order. The bundle includes Heavy Reverie on CD and vinyl, as well as a digital download that includes the unreleased song “Don’t Cry to Me.” The package also includes a vinyl test pressing (with hand-drawn artwork by the band members), a T-shirt and a poster. Click here for more info


Buffalo Killers will do some regional dates in April (including a Cincinnati album release show April 12 at MOTR Pub) before heading out on a wider tour in May and June. Dates so far include a performance at Pioneertown, California’s Freaks for the Festival II. At the fest, the band will perform right before the solo project of Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes (Chris Robinson Brotherhood); Robinson has been a longtime, vocal supporter of the trio. 

 
 
by Brian Baker 05.01.2015
Posted In: Music News, Music Commentary, New Releases at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Musicians Pay Tribute to Influential, Gone-to-Soon Singer/Songwriters

Remembering Elliott Smith and Jason Molina as they get the full-album tribute treatment on a pair of recent releases

Tribute albums are typically divided into three categories. They’re either a) bankable artists covering high profile subjects (or, infrequently, famously known cult figures); b) cool/respected artists covering cool/respected artists; or c) some weird hybrid of the first two. 

Two recently released tributes fall squarely in the second category, with Avett Brothers frontman Seth Avett and rising Americana/Rock vocalist Jessica Lea Mayfield taking a quietly beautiful stroll through a sampling of Elliott Smith's exquisite catalog on Sing Elliott Smith, and Frames frontman and solo artist in his own right Glen Hansard honoring his great hero and friend Jason Molina on It Was Triumph We Once Proposed: Songs of Jason Molina, which was available last month.


There are odd connections between the two projects. In the general point of interest sense, both are posthumous tributes. Smith died in 2003, apparently by his own hand, and Molina succumbed in 2013 after a long battle with alcoholism. And on a more personal level, by the sheerest of coincidences, I've interviewed both of the subjects of these two tributes.


Back in 2000, I spoke with Smith while he was still touring on Figure 8, which had come out earlier that year. And in 2003, I was assigned a feature on Songs: Ohia, fronted and braintrusted by Molina, who had just finished an album he titled The Magnolia Electric Co., which marked the end of Songs: Ohia and the shift to the band named after his new album. Both were fascinating and heartfelt conversations with artists who were amazingly self aware but not at all self absorbed, quietly brilliant songwriters who had an almost pathological need to extract their musical impulses from the dark well of their ultimately troubled souls.


Hansard — who came to prominence as the voice, guitarist and primary songwriter for Irish Rock band The Frames before establishing a side project (Swell Season) and solo career and hitting semi-big with the movie Once and his soundtrack, featuring the Academy Award-winning hit "Falling Slowly" — was so inspired by Molina's deeply emotional and confessional songcraft that the first fan letter he ever sent to a fellow artist was to Molina. Back in 2005, two years after I'd interviewed Molina, I had the rare opportunity to witness the pair's personal and professional bond firsthand.


At my second South by Southwest experience, I followed former The Onion music editor Stephen Thompson to see a Frames appearance at one of Austin's innumerable daytime parties. Stephen was a huge Frames fan and the band knew him well; he had done enough to help expose the band to American audiences that they thanked him in the liner notes to Burn the Maps.


When we arrived at the venue, the band members were wandering through the crowd just prior to their set and Stephen made a beeline for them. He introduced me to The Frames, but there was a dark, diminutive and somewhat familiar presence in the circle who was clearly with the band but not as a member. Glen Hansard spoke up, in his pudding thick Irish brogue, and said, "This is Jason Molina."


I shook his hand and reminded him of our phone conversation and the Rockpile feature two years previous. He greeted me warmly and we talked about what we'd seen at the festival to that point and what we hoped to see going forward. We spent a good 10 minutes in this convivial manner, right up until The Frames took the stage and were announced. After that, his unwavering focus was on the band; he watched and listened as though he was occupying the front pew in church during a sermon he knew for an absolute fact would change his life for the better. He stood in rapt attention, soaking in every word, every note and every nuance and with good reason — The Frames were a mesmerizing live force back then.


At the set's conclusion, Molina immediately swiveled toward me and we exchanged jaw-dropped exclamations of disbelief. Within a few minutes, Hansard made his way to Molina's side and the two began critiquing the performance, Hansard pointing out the flaws and Molina categorically dismissing them. I laughingly thought to myself as I headed to the door and the next party, I'll bet their roles will be diametrically reversed when Magnolia Electric Co., the band that Songs: Ohia had morphed into, plays later this week and Hansard is the fan in the front row. It reminded me of something Molina had said regarding the fact that he was already thinking past the album he had just finished. 


"I can do better," he said without hesitation. "My next one, I'm already sweating it. Since the day I walked out of the studio, I've been working on the next one. I don't feel like this one failed, but I'm still looking for the better one."


I thought about Hansard's face as it must have looked while he watched Molina's appearance in Austin, Texas, a decade ago, and imagined the sadder but equally beatific visage he must have exhibited in the studio as he was translating the five tracks that comprise It Was Triumph We Once Proposed. This brief and beautifully executed EP serves a similar purpose as Hansard's distant but never forgotten fan letter, as he pays loving tribute to his long personal friendship with Molina and to the work that first illuminated his immense talents to the world.


Hansard assembled a group of longtime Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co. collaborators/friends to record a heartbreaking quintet of Molina compositions, all Songs: Ohia tracks and all lending themselves perfectly to Hansard's passionate and sensitively wrought translation. Molina often worked at the creative intersection of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, and Hansard taps into that shivery vibe with a true fan's boundless devotion and a true friend's immeasurable grief. On the one-two punch of the powerfully poignant "Being in Love" and the achingly beautiful "Hold On, Magnolia," Hansard illuminates the raw, wrenching wisdom of lines like, ”We are proof that the heart is a risky fuel to burn," and the prescient "You might be holding the last light I see before the dark finally gets ahold of me." And just like Molina's life and amazing musical output, Hansard's It Was Triumph We Once Proposed is both immensely satisfying and far too short.



The other contender for Most Amazing and Deserved Tribute of the Year is Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield's Sing Elliott Smith, a (relatively) spare and loving bow to one of this generation's most insightful and contemplative songwriters. After his shredding turn with Portland’s Heatmiser, Smith turned down the volume for his home-recorded solo debut, Roman Candle, which was followed by his equally nuanced eponymous sophomore album and then the jewel in his crown, 1998's Either/Or, which director Gus Van Zant cherry-picked for his soundtrack to his masterpiece Good Will Hunting. Smith scored an Academy Award nomination for his song "Miss Misery," and the success of the soundtrack and his almost uncomfortably vulnerable performance at the Oscars vaulted him into a spotlight that he never actively pursued.


By the time of our 2000 interview, Smith had managed to come to uneasy terms with the maelstrom of fame that resulted from Good Will Hunting and Either/Or's tangential success. It had required him to think about his work in pedestrian ways, to explain it in a fashion that would be understandable to people with little understanding.


But through it all, Smith remained true to his own process, trusting that, regardless of outside opinions, expectations or interests, he continued to create the kind of music he wanted to hear in the manner that he wanted to create it. And he knew that, no matter how much anyone involved in his career wanted him to pull Either/Or 2 out of his magician's hat, the only thing that would truly satisfy his artistic nature would be to create what came out of him organically, without being conjured or forced.


"I don't think it was on my mind," Smith said about making the Beatlesque Figure 8 in the wake of major-label debut XO, Either/Or and Good Will Hunting. "I was just making up songs the way I always do. I mean, it was never going to sell millions of copies, so there wasn't that kind of pressure."


That may well be why Sing Elliott Smith is so incredibly successful as a tribute. Smith's songbook is among the most revered in contemporary music and the acclaim that has been lavished on Avett and Mayfield since their debuts is both effusive and deserved. Given all that, there's little risk involved at any level of this project.


The blending of the two principals' voices was the only unknown and that particular question mark is definitely straightened into a boldface exclamation point with Avett and Mayfield's brilliant opening duet on Either/Or's "Between the Bars." Avett's stylistic path from Punk provocateur to rootsy Americana troubadour to genre melding alchemist is a pretty fair match to Smith's own journey, and Mayfield's weary optimism lines up well with Smith's gloomy hopefulness. Together, Avett and Mayfield are the perfect translators for Smith's hushed (and not so hushed) odes to the anguish and bittersweet joy of love and modern life and they coalesce almost effortlessly on brilliant lines like, "Nothing's gonna drag me down/To a death that's not worth cheating." 



It's moments like that one from "Baby Britain" that make Sing Elliott Smith resonate so clearly from start to finish. It's particularly poignant when Mayfield takes the lead on "A Fond Farewell" — from the album Smith was working on at the time of his death, released posthumously as From a Basement on the Hill — and she sings words that seem so startlingly prescient coming so close to Smith's sad end; "A little less than a happy heart/A little less than a suicide/The only thing that you really tried/This is not my life, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/It's not what I'm like, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/Who couldn't get things right."


Avett and Mayfield offer a broad core sample of Smith's amazing catalog (only 1995's self-titled sophomore album isn't represented), and the pair's affinity for and love of their subject's work is evident in every trembling note and emotional lyric. At almost 37 minutes, Sing Elliott Smith is a full album but it feels impossibly short and is over well before the listener is ready for it to be done. If ever there was a release that warranted the often-dreaded subtitle of Volume 2, it would be Sing Elliott Smith.


It seems only proper that the final words in this piece should be reserved for the subjects of these two tributes. First, an interesting comment from Jason Molina about his songwriting process led to a philosophical statement about his musical belief system.


"I almost write the music at the same time I'm trying to think of who could best put this onto tape, and that goes right down to the engineer," he noted. "Maybe it's a cowardly way to work because I don't take all of the burden onto myself, but ego should never be part of the music."


And finally, Elliott Smith addressed the media's tendency to label him as "melancholy," which morphed into an explanation of the simple reality that labels have tried to manipulate and contradict throughout their long and checkered histories.


"As soon as someone calls you a songwriter, you automatically get the melancholy tag," Smith admitted. “Also, 'Why aren't you playing dance music?' and 'Why are your songs so sad?' They're just clichés. If it wasn't those, it would be different ones. You can't always expect people to relate. There are all kinds of people, and some people understand each other and some people don't. NSYNC sells nine million records, so there's nine million people that can relate, and I'm not one of them. So even if you sell millions and millions of albums, there's always going to be somebody who doesn't get it. If you want to be creative and do what you do, it's going to be kind of idiosyncratic."


Long live the idiosyncratic artist, and the memories of those who left us way before their creative dreams were fulfilled.


 
 
by Mike Breen 05.08.2014
Posted In: Live Music, Music Video, New Releases, Local Music at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
founding father_matt chmielewski

Founding Fathers Offer Album Preview Saturday

Cincy Funk/Dance Rock band to issue four-song EP at MOTR Pub gig

Cincinnati Alt Funk/Dance Rock quartet Founding Fathers have built a buzz locally over the past few years with their energized live shows and infectious, slanted grooves. The band has been hard at work lately in the studio, recording those grooves for a forthcoming full-length.


Earlier this year, Founding Fathers gave the public its first taste of the new recorded material in the form of a music video for the track “Stop, Drop and Roll.” The clip, directed by Bangout Films, mixes some cool live performance footage with woozy visuals that show a blurry, surrealistic night of barroom debauchery (including some creepy, hallucination-worthy dudes with smiley faces for heads). The video wonderfully matches the blustery, more rocking side of Founding Fathers’ sound, which also shows elements of avowed influences like LCD Soundsystem and Talking Heads. If you remember — and loved — Columbus, Ohio's Funk Punk greats Royal Crescent Mob, “Stop, Drop and Roll” should be right up your alley.


 


Founding Fathers performs a free show this Saturday night at MOTR Pub and fans in attendance will have a chance to hear even more of a preview of the forthcoming full-length. The band is offering up a special four-track EP/album preview to those in attendance. Saturday’s show starts at 10 p.m. Vito Emmanuel is also on the bill. 


For more on Founding Fathers, click here

 
 

 

 

 
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