Last night, the music of Cincinnati — past, present and future — was on glorious display at Covington's Madison Theater. Yes, we realize it's a little weird to have the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (which celebrated its 13th birthday last night) in Kentucky. But the Madison provided a more casual "Rock & Roll" atmosphere than past years' events, so, just as airport developers did in the ’40s, we've decided to claim Covington as Cincinnati, at least for one night.
The "bar" ambiance (and lack of a smoking ban in Kentucky) kept everyone off the sidewalks and in the venue, though we're certain many woke up this morning with the old "my clothes and hair smell like smoke" complaints. Fear not: Official CEA2010 gasmasks and Hazmat suits are being produced as you read this.
Over the past decade-plus, Cincinnatian Eric Diedrichs has continually made splashes on the local music scene with the Pop/Rock band The Simpletons and his Cari Clara project (a mostly solo venture in the studio, but also a live band). A few years back, Diedrichs moved to Lexington, Ky., but Cari Clara continued, the live version of which (though largely on hiatus the past year or so) still featuring mostly Cincinnati area musicians — Eric’s brother Mark Diedrichs, Greg Tudor, Jason Arbenz (also of Goose), Josh Hagen and 500 Miles to Memphis frontman Ryan Malott.
Last summer, Diedrichs digitally released his fourth effort for Deep Elm Records, the elegant, evocative 10-track album, Midnight March. This Friday, Diedrichs returns to Cincinnati to celebrate the album’s physical release at Northside Tavern. The free local appearance will feature the full Cari Clara band, plus Cincinnati’s Ohio Knife and Dayton’s Motel Beds as openers.
Diedrichs recorded and produced the expansive and engrossing Midnight March in his home studio in Lexington and the crisp sound welcomes the listener to come inside and get lost in the unique textures and tide-like tempos and structures. Though a lot of “one-man show” albums lack a certain warmth and cohesiveness, Cari Clara is the rare all-solo effort that sounds and feels like a large, full band. But the music is rarely grounded, instead relying on a magical, ethereal aura upon which the songs hover.
Diedrichs has skills to spare — he’s an amazing vocalist, brilliantly able to translate emotion into words, melody and voice, and his top-notch musicianship (on guitar, bass, piano and a variety of programming and other instrumentation) is apparent on first listen. But as Cari Clara grows and evolves, the way Diedrichs constructs and conducts the varying sounds and layers has become dazzling, adding an extra level of enchantment to his always stellar songwriting prowess.
Midnight March is best listened to in full (once you start, you’ll have a hard time stopping anyway), a victory for the dwindling art of making a cohesive album and not just slapping together a collection of songs. Diedrichs says the album is something of a “coming of age” story, saying it’s “an emotional exploration of my own journey from childhood to adult.” That thematic thread is something everyone can relate to and Diedrichs’ lyrics have never been better.
From the shiver-sending ambiance of “When You Knew It” and orchestral, acoustic guitar-driven “Homage to Excess” to the slinky verses and charged, towering choruses of “Battle Hymn” and the Radiohead-meets-Postal Service slowburn of “Safe,” Midnight March is loaded with musical drama, with practically each song building from a hypnotic hush to exhilarating crescendo. With deft arrangements and orchestration, provocative lyrics and brain-burrowing melodies, Diedrichs has made the recording of his career. And, in many ways, it feels like he’s just getting started.
Deidrichs has the talent to become a career artist; hopefully Midnight March reaches the wider audience Cari Clara deserves so he is able to do just that.
Click below to preview and purchase Midnight March.
Cincinnati's Heartless Bastards are gearing up for some heavy promotion for their third album, The Mountain, due from Fat Possum Records on Feb. 3. Along with a non-stop string of tour dates with The Black Keys, Gaslight Anthem and Andrew Bird, the group has a scheduled appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on Feb. 10.
Lately, we’ve been ridin’ this down-home Folk/Americana/Indie wave in the Queen City music scene. Jake Speed. Wonky Tonk. Frontier Folk Nebraska. Wussy. Fairmount Girls. Gul'durnit, we love ‘em!
Maybe it’s our hospitable river-town tendency to have a big, open heart for such middle American tunesmithery. Maybe it started with our love for the Ass Ponys and their AltCountry ways back in the ‘90s. Who knows?
Nothin’ wrong with any of this, mind you. But I’d like to take a moment on this here blog to clue you into a small contingent of freaky, confrontational local bands from the past that were the furthest thing imaginable from such comparatively downright friendly musical acts.
Music Tonight: Rootsy Connecticut-based trio Plume Giant performs at the Rohs Street Cafe in Clifton Heights with Columbus, Ohio's Deadwood Floats and Cincinnati's own Molly Sullivan (check out Sullivan's lovely, unique track "Bad Weather" here). Plume Giant released its self-titled debut EP last year, drawing praise from Seattle to New Haven, and travelled up and down the east coast in support. The Indie Folk trio — built around timeless songs, amazing three-part harmonies and pure, naked acoustic guitar/viola/violin backing — is taking on the Midwest this month, touring in advance of its first full-length, due this coming spring. Click here to listen to the EP and enjoy the Plume Giant song "Old Joe the Crow," performed live below.
What are your favorite memories from the Southgate House?
On Monday night/Tuesday morning this week, as news that the popular Newport music venue would cease to exist (in its current state, at least) leaked out, I watched a steady stream of comments on Facebook respond to the news with a mix of stunned disbelief and sad nostalgia, as fans of the club shared some of their best stories and memories.
Many people were quite emotional, and I wondered why I wasn't having similar feelings. Since the late ’80s, I had been a frequent visitor to the club, and, over the entire span of my 20 years writing about music in Greater Cincinnati, I have consistently covered events at the venue. I was not totally unmoved by the sudden announcement, but I certainly wasn't as shaken as others appeared to be.
In the days after local TV news reported on the death of David Hebert — a longtime drummer better known to everyone as “Bones” — it was clear that the New Orleans-style memorial procession (a nice nod to Hebert’s hometown) and gathering in Northside in the wake of his shooting at the hands of police was going to be the image most (especially those who didn’t know him personally) would remember. The large group of friends who came together amidst the deep hurt and shock showed how much Bones meant to the community and was a testament to his kind spirit. As the police investigation continues and those friends skeptical of the “official report” try to find justice, some local musicians moved by the sudden, violent death of Bones are using their skill set to express their feelings about the situation.
Local singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist S.R. Woodward is not your average clean-cut, guitar-strumming, doe-eyed heartthrob. No, this guy is far too weird for that racket. Combining slightly-flat-yet-charming harmonies sung in a baritone warble with peppy, synthesized musical backing tracks, he’s a troubadour of minimalist ditties that lie somewhere between cheeky and heartfelt.
Walk the Moon was one of my personal highlights from the recent MidPoint Music Festival, where the band played a high-energy set wonderfully showcasing its dance-friendly beats, New Wave jubilance and Art Pop creativity. As solid as the foursome is live, I was still a bit stunned by how advanced, imaginative and proficient Walk the Moon comes across on its enchanting debut album, i want! i want!, which is to be released Saturday in conjunction with a multimedia event at The Mockbee.