CityBeat Blogs - Music http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-35.html <![CDATA[Lonnie Mack 1941-2016]]>

Yesterday marked the passing of not only Prince, but another music legend — Lonnie Mack. Mack, who was born in Harrison, Ind., and cut his teeth in Greater Cincinnati’s nightclubs, died Thursday at his home in Tennessee from natural causes. The influential guitarist was 74. 

Recording locally and releasing early material on Cincinnati’s Fraternity label, Mack’s guitar playing is said to have been a major influence on many Rock superstar players, including Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. The pioneering guitarist was the second artist to receive the Michael W. Bany Lifetime Achievement Award from the Enquirer’s former awards program, the Cammys, accepting the award in 1998. Bootsy Collins, who won the award the year before, has said Mack was a giant influence on the development of his style. 

Mack is considered one of Rock & Roll’s first “guitar heroes.” He’s in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the International Guitar Hall of Fame, and should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Here’s the press release sent out by Alligator Records (Mack’s final label) late last night:

Groundbreaking guitarist and vocalist Lonnie Mack, known as one of rock’s first true guitar heroes, died on April 21, 2016 of natural causes at Centennial Medical Center near his home in Smithville, Tennessee. His early instrumental recordings – among them Wham! and Memphis -- influenced many of rock's greatest players, including Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and especially Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was 74.

Rolling Stone called him “a pioneer in rock guitar soloing.” Guitar World said, “Mack attacked the strings with fast, aggressive single-string phrasing and a seamless rhythm style that significantly raised the guitar virtuoso bar and foreshadowed the arena-sized tones of guitar heroes to come.” The Chicago Tribune wrote, “With the wiggle of a whammy bar and a blinding run of notes up and down the neck of his classic Gibson Flying V, Lonnie Mack launched the modern guitar era.”

Drawing from influences as diverse as rhythm and blues, country, gospel and rockabilly, Mack’s guitar work continues to be revered by generation after generation of musicians. He recorded a number of singles and a total of 11 albums for labels including Fraternity, Elektra, Alligator, Epic and Capitol.

Mack was born Lonnie McIntosh on July 18, 1941 in Harrison, Indiana, twenty miles west of Cincinnati. Growing up in rural Indiana, Mack fell in love with music as a child. From family sing-alongs he developed a deep appreciation of country music, while he absorbed rhythm and blues from the late-night R&B radio stations and gospel from his local church. Starting off with a few chords that he learned from his mother, Lonnie gradually blended all the sounds he heard around him into his own individual style. He named Merle Travis and Robert Ward (of the Ohio Untouchables) as his main guitar influences, and George Jones and Bobby Bland as vocal inspirations.

He began playing professionally in his early teens (he quit school after a fight with his sixth-grade teacher), working clubs and roadhouses around the tri-state border area of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. In 1958, he bought the guitar he would become best known for, a Gibson Flying V, serial number 7, which he equipped with a Bigsby tremolo bar. (After the release of Wham!, the tremolo bar became known worldwide as a “whammy bar”.) In addition to his live gigs, Lonnie began playing sessions for the King and Fraternity labels in Cincinnati. He recorded with blues and R&B greats like Hank Ballard, Freddie King and James Brown.

In 1963, at the end of another artist's session, Lonnie cut an instrumental version of Chuck Berry's Memphis. He didn't even know that Fraternity had issued the single until he heard it on the radio, and within a few weeks Memphis had hit the national Top Five. Lonnie Mack went from being a talented regional roadhouse player to a national star virtually overnight.

Suddenly, he was booked for hundreds of gigs a year, crisscrossing the country in his Cadillac and rushing back to Cincinnati or Nashville to cut new singles. Wham!, Where There's A Will There's A Way, Chicken Pickin' and a dozen other ecords followed Memphis. None sold as well as his first hit (though Where There's A Will earned extensive black radio airplay before the DJs found out Lonnie was white), but there was enough reaction to keep him on the road for another five years of grueling one-nighters.

Fraternity Records went bust, but Lonnie kept on gigging, and in 1968 a Rolling Stone article stimulated new interest in his music. He signed with Elektra Records and cut three albums. Elektra also reissued his original Fraternity LP, The Wham Of That Memphis Man!. He began playing all the major rock venues, from Fillmore East to Fillmore West. Lonnie also made a guest appearance on the Doors' Morrison Hotel album. You can hear Lonnie's guitar solo on Roadhouse Blues preceded by Jim Morrison's urgent 'Do it, Lonnie! Do it!' He even worked in Elektra's A&R department. When the label merged with giant Warner Brothers, Lonnie grew disgusted with the new bureaucracy and walked out of his job.

Mack headed back to rural Indiana, playing back-country bars, going fishing and laying low. After six years of relative obscurity, Lonnie signed with Capitol and cut two albums that featured his country influences. He played on the West Coast for a while and even flew to Japan for a “Save The Whales” benefit. Then he headed to New York to team up with an old friend named Ed Labunski. Labunski was a wealthy jingle writer that wrote "This Bud's For You" who was tired of commercials and wanted to write and play for pleasure. He and Lonnie built a studio in rural Pennsylvania and spent three years organizing and recording a country-rock band called South, which included Buffalo-based keyboardist Stan Szelest, who later played on Lonnie's Alligator debut. Ed and Lonnie had big plans for their partnership, including producing an album by a then-obscure Texas guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan. But the plans evaporated when Labunski died in an auto accident, and the South album was never commercially released. Lonnie next headed for Canada and joined the band of veteran rocker Ronnie Hawkins for a summer. After a brief stay in Florida, he returned to Indiana in 1982, playing clubs in Cincinnati and the surrounding area.

Mack began his re-emergence on the national scene in November of 1983. At Stevie Ray Vaughan's urging, he relocated from southern Indiana to Texas, where he settled in Spicewood. He began jamming with Stevie Ray (who proudly named Wham! as the first single he owned) in local clubs and flying to New York for gigs at the Lone Star and the Ritz. When Alligator Records approached Lonnie to do an album, Vaughan immediately volunteered to help him out. The result was 1985’s Strike Like Lightning, co-produced by Lonnie and Stevie Ray and featuring Stevie's guitar on several tracks.

Mack’s re-emergence was a major music industry event. Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ry Cooder and Stevie Ray Vaughan all joined Lonnie on stage during his 1985 tour. The New York Times said, “Although Mr. Mack can play every finger-twisting blues guitar lick, he doesn't show off; he comes up with sustained melodies and uses fast licks only at an emotional peak. Mr. Mack is also a thoroughly convincing singer.”  Other celebrities -- Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Eddie Van Halen, Dwight Yoakam and actor Matt Dillon -- attended shows during the Strike Like Lightning tour. The year was capped off with a stellar performance at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall with Albert Collins and the late Roy Buchanan. That show was released commercially on DVD as Further On Down The Road.

Mack recorded two more albums for Alligator, 1986’s Second Sight and 1990’s Live! Attack Of the Killer V. In between he signed with Epic Records and released Roadhouses And Dancehalls in 1988. Mack continued to tour into the 2000s. He relocated to Smithville, Tennessee where he continued writing songs but ceased active touring. In 2001 he was inducted into the International Guitar Hall Of Fame and in 2005 into the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame.

He is survived by five children and multitudes of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.


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<![CDATA[Veteran's Way]]>

Although The MudLarks! have only been playing together in this incarnation for the past six years, the band — which began life as the Go to Hells in 2010 and switched to its current moniker in 2012 — boasts an experiential timeline among its four members that, if viewed consecutively, would stretch back to a pre-Civil War calendar. Now that's entertainment.

The illustrious resumes that the individual MudLarks! — vocalist/guitarist T. Lothar Witt, guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Jimmy Davidson, bassist/vocalist Bob "Lamb" Lambert, and drummer Max Cole — have accumulated collectively over the past four decades is a core sample of some of Greater Cincinnati's most infamous and well-regarded bands across a broad sonic spectrum, from the glistening Indie Rock of The Libertines (now with the legally appended “US” tagged on) and The Highwaymen, the Punk slash of The Reduced, The Headaches and The Rituals and the experimental howl of 11,000 Switches, Cointelpro and BPA, to the twisted Americana stomp of the Wolverton Brothers and the New Wave bounce of Blanco Nombre and the Babettes. Then there's the long distance listings of The Reducers, Ricky Barnes & the Hoot Owls and probably a few that the quartet has inadvertently or deliberately overlooked due to time, tide, roadburn and hangover. 

And so The MudLarks! — complete with two capital letters in one word and a Hamiltonian exclamation point — have assembled like a grizzled, creaky yet still powerful Transformer of wildly disparate but somehow completely compatible influences to create their singular Indie Punk mash up of local, regional and national music history in 10 tracks and a little over 46 minutes. Not bad for a bunch of guys whose next tour could be sponsored by AARP.

The MudLarks!'s eponymous debut disc, released by New York's Ionik Recordings Company, who also released the latest Wolvertons EP, Liberty Hotel, last year, whipcracks to immediate life with opener "Help Us;" guitars spark and smoulder like vintage Neon Boys/Voidoids while Witt roars with the phlegm-choked outrage of Johnny Rotten in his Pistols-to-PIL transition. It's the perfect launching pad for The MudLarks!'s first studio foray, as the foursome careens madly from the Pere-Ubu-disguised-as-accessible-Indie-Rock-outfit chaos of "Red Window" to the late-'70s-English-Punk-translated-to-downtown-NYC swagger of "Dirty Things" to the irresistible Iggy-Pop-James-Williamson tag-team cage squall of "You Love You."

The MudLarks! are equally adept at slowing down the pace when necessary. "Mea Culpa" drops tempo while maintaining a booted throat intensity and volume, "Losing Track" sounds like a Crazy Horse demo from Danny Whitten's lost heroin weekend sessions and "Love Has the Power" sways and pulses like The Dictators ballad that Handsome Dick Manitoba and his boys never attempted. And the album closes with the majestic "Sunrise," a towering five-and-a-half minute Punk anthem that somehow manages to corral all of the madness preceding it and herd it into a set-ending finale that explodes with the beautiful fury and smoke that typically accompanies a Rozzi fireworks display.


The reason The MudLarks! are able to tap into all these various power sources and not overload the system is not because they're simply familiar with their schematics, it's because they've lived with them so intimately for so long. They understand the nuts and bolts of every genre they've played, separately and together, over the past 40 years and they know perfectly well which parts are interchangeable and will ultimately provide the best performance. Witt and Davidson trade snarling guitar licks like Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe Jackson playing catch by smashing the ball back and forth to each other from bat to bat, while Lamb and Cole maintain an adaptable rhythm that they can easily shift from slow boulevard cruise to hyperspace warp jump in the blink of a bloodshot eye.

There has been plenty of concrete evidence within our own music scene lately to prove that age does not equal obsolescence — witness the triumphant returns of the Warsaw Falcons and Ass Ponys — and The MudLarks! are yet another sterling example of an assertion that author P.J. O'Rourke made 20 years ago in the title of his 1995 essay collection; Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut.

The MudLarks! play a free show at York St. Cafe in Newport Friday with The Tonics

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<![CDATA[LISTEN: Ill Poetic’s “It’s All Around”]]> Now residing in San Diego, Calif. (where he co-runs the Beat Box Records shop with another Ohio transplant, DJ Inform), former Cincinnati Hip Hop MC/producer Ill Poetic is readying his first new release since 2012’s The Synesthesia Yellow EP. The Silhouette Project is a five-song EP (with an accompanying short film) that is set for release on April 27. 

The new EP began as an entirely different project. Ill Poetic was working on a music video for The Synesthesia Yellow single “Silhouette.” The video grew into a short film and Ill Poetic changed course and created an entirely new EP, which he calls a “companion piece” to Synesthesia Yellow that also “exists in a universe of its own.”

“These are my words about love,” Ill Po says about the new project in a press release. “The record store opened me to genres of music I’d never been aware of but quickly fell in love with, greatly influencing my production. So the music is inspired by what I imagine my favorite artists and producers interpret love to be when they create. Each song is inspired by how I feel love translates through their music.”

On April 1, Ill Poetic’s made The Silhouette Project’s ethereal, melodic and soulful slo-mo jam “It’s All Around” available to stream on Spotify and purchase on iTunes. Check out the single via SoundCloud below. 

The EP is being released through Ill Poetic’s Definition Music, which has morphed into a music, art and film collective. You can find out more about Definition Music here.

Ill Poetic is embarking on a Midwest tour in support of the new EP that kicks of April 29 with a free show (it’s $5 for those 18-20) at Northside’s Urban Artifact. The show will also feature performances by Raised x Wolves, FAROUT, Jay Al, Hafrican and Ronin. Click here for details.


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<![CDATA[WATCH: Bummers Eve’s “I Want Your Drugs” Video]]>

Earlier today, music website Northern Transmissions premiered the music video for “I Want Your Drugs,” the endearingly noisy and melodic first song on Cincinnati fuzzy, lo-fi Rock trio Bummers Eve’s recently released self-titled full-length. The trippy sheen that coats the song (a highlight on the overall great LP) is reflected in the video’s psychedelic swirl of flickering, morphing and over-exposed imagery. I was going to suggest that the video also clearly shows the band has plenty of drugs, but it looks and sounds like the musicians are having a blast. So, by all means, give Bummers Eve your drugs. You might need less after watching the video anyway.



Bummers Eve’s debut was released in late February (on vinyl, cassette and CD) through Brooklyn label Almost Ready Records, which has put out music from a variety of cultishly beloved bands. Read CityBeat’s review of the album here. And listen to/download the album at Bummers Eve’s Bandcamp page here; you can also order the physical formats through the site. 


Bummers Eve recently put a lot of mileage on its van with a tour supporting the new release that included several shows in Austin, Texas during South By Southwest and dates on the West Coast. The tour wrapped up last week in Memphis. Keep an eye on the band's social media (here, for example) for the latest on the Bummers Eve, including future local show dates. 

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<![CDATA[Cincinnati Music, Mashed-Up and Live]]>

If there’s one benefit to being a part of Cincinnati’s small but mighty music scene, it’s the ability to meet and mingle with artists far outside of your own particular genre. This accessibility to other musicians and creators is what led to the Cincinnati Soundclash show, featuring Jess Lamb and the Factory, The Cliftones and Buggs Tha Rocka, at Over-the-Rhine’s Woodward Theater this Friday. The three 2016 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards winners will be joined by Dayton’s Moira and Cincinnati altrockers See You in the Funnies.


Lamb and The Cliftones met at the 2016 CEA awards show and immediately saw opportunities that couldn’t be passed up. Neither act had any major, local shows planned in the upcoming months, had the same date available and wanted to bring fans together for a night of vastly differing musical styles. (Read CityBeat’s recent interview with The Cliftones about their newly-released debut album here.) 


While Lamb and The Cliftones have been planning this shindig for months, Buggs Tha Rocka entered the picture on a more casual basis, by simply hanging out with Lamb and her group at their base of operations. Talking about music led to rough vocal melodies, which led to rough pre-recordings, which led to tons of polishing and mixing to produce “Take Two” and “Just Breathe” (listen below). The two tracks will be available to show-goers as a free download from Soundcloud, with physical copies becoming available in the future.


While each act will be bringing their own unique styles to the Woodward stage, they will also be intermixing their performances to give show attendees a truly unique experience. Lamb will perform with the The Cliftones and Buggs Tha Rocka will be showcasing the two tracks that he has recorded with Lamb and the Factory at their home studio. And that’s just the beginning.


In addition to Lamb’s “Industrial Gospel,” The Cliftones’ Reggae and Buggs Tha Rocka’s Hip Hop on display, Moira’s ethereal Pop sensibilities and See You in the Funnies AltRock drive will round out what is assuredly one of the more eclectic lineups seen in town outside of a major festival.


The show is 18 and up, tickets are $7 in advance here, or $10 at the door. Show starts at 8 p.m.

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<![CDATA[Joesph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Pop]]>

Forget about Kermit the Frog's emerald-tinted angst, it's not easy being Joey Cook. The erstwhile multi-instrumentalist and songwriter known for his work with Cincinnati Indie Pop crew Pomegranates has long been stockpiling songs and ideas for solo projects, but with the completion of his very first full-length album, There Comes the Lord, he found himself in the midst of a slight identity crisis.

Cook couldn't release the album under his given name since that had already been claimed on Bandcamp by last year's seventh place finisher on American Idol. He considered using his proper first name but there was the risk of confusion with local R&B/Hip Hop sensation and 2016 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards New Artist of the Year nominee Joseph Nevels, aka JSPH. In the end, Cook chose to adopt the creatively misspelled moniker Joesph as his solo banner.

Although There Comes the Lord is largely Cook's true solo construction — his Pomegranates bandmate Isaac Karns appears on the quivery reverb '60s AM Pop of "Jesus" and the epic and sprawling closer "Spirit of the Lord," and his sister Alisa provides vocals on three tracks, but otherwise it's all Cook he has fashioned a band, including Pomegranates bassist Pierce Geary and ex-Kickaways guitarist Devyn Glista on drums, which he's dubbed Joesph in order to play the new album as well as other material he's written.

According to Cook, last Saturday's intimate release show at White Whale Tattoo in Walnut Hills was a rousing success, and the album is already generating online sales.

As for the album itself, There Comes the Lord is a marvel of influence, invention and translation. Cook blends a brilliant evocation of ’60s and ’70s Pop and Rock with a thoroughly modern Indie Rock ethic in a raw and immediate home recorded atmosphere that serves as the soundtrack for an intriguing concept.

Cook, who self-identifies as Christian, has created a song cycle that imagines what it might have been like to stand in the presence of the physical manifestation of Jesus in the Godspell/Jesus Christ Superstar era that spawned a generation of long-haired believers who came to be known as Jesus freaks.

The difference is that Cook doesn't attempt to contemporize his message in an effort to appeal to millennials, nor does he use There Comes the Lord as a pulpit to proselytize and ultimately convert. He merely tells this interesting story in a wonderfully musical, lyrical and compellingly listenable manner.

The album begins with the title track, which comes into focus through a gauzy haze of moody Synth Pop melodicism as Cook intones quietly, "Oh, the Lord, He's right here, He's right here," until the song's midway point when it explodes into a propulsive mash-up of the Polyphonic Spree and The Flaming Lips. At the song's conclusion, "There Comes the Lord" returns to the relative calm of its introduction, but Cook maintains his blissful church choir perspective from beginning to end

On "Jesus," Cook offers up a twisted Curt Boetcher/Association/’60s sunshine Pop flashback with a reverbed Byrds undertone - they are the band that originally noted Jesus was just alright, after all - as well as a uniquely modern revelatory lyric ("He showed me some shit I never knew before He came..."). And "Jesus" morphs buzzingly into the compelling Psych Folk Pop  of "Wind Hovering Over Water," which quivers with the lysergic introspection and melancholic portent of the last iteration of The Monkees, when the quartet wanted to be Rock mystics and Mickey Dolenz had dibs on the shamanic frontman role.

Cook's ’70s evocation comes to a crescendo on the album's final four tracks; the gentle Harry Nilsson-meets-Velvet Underground warble-and-strum of "At a Well," the Kinks go-go cage dance of "My Master's House," and the Bowie demo snippet of "The Rolling Stone." It's all reminiscent of that magic time four decades ago when bands' theologies could easily co-exist with their musicologies, and the results could be spectacular.

Cook saves spectacular for the big 12-minute finish of There Comes the Lord. "Spirit of the Lord" opens with a Floydian synth drone/march and the imploring lyric, "Master, why did you let them take you?" which quickly erupts into the kind of organized chaos that Alice Cooper orchestrated to perfection, which leads to a Beatlesque "Blackbird" homage which in turn devolves into a Brian Eno soundscape, trembling on the surreal edge of perception.

And with that, There Comes the Lord is over all too soon. Cook has said that he's got at least a couple of albums' worth of albums stockpiled in his archive; if that material is anywhere near as engaging and mesmerizing as There Comes the Lord, Joesph could be gearing up for one of the most thrilling and provocative solo careers to emerge from a Cincinnati band in quite some time. Good news indeed.

Stream/purchase There Comes the Lord here.

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<![CDATA[Pop Empire Debuts New Track, “Pysche”]]>

Pop Empire first came together in 2009 as a duo. The group featured Henry Wilson, an audio engineer who worked on video sessions — like the cool one-shot live music video series, The Emery Sessions — with his father, renowned photographer Michael Wilson, and he has also done production and mastering work with Cincinnati acts like Aaron Collins, ADM and Shadowraptr. With Cameron Cochran (currently with The Midwestern Swing), the twosome released an EP and a full-length, 2011’s The Devil’s Party, before parting ways. 


But that was far from the end of Pop Empire. Singer/songwriter/bassist Wilson joined forces with guitarist Ryan Back and the pair release the Future Blues LP in 2014, showcasing the strengthening of the Blues-tinged Psych Rock sound for which Pop Empire has become known. 


The growth and evolution of Pop Empire continues as the band approaches the May release of a new EP, The Violent Bear It Away (the exact date is TBA). Now a trio with the addition of drummer Jake Langknecht, the group is in peak form, and the new tracks reflect the musical chemistry and potent live energy of the current configuration.


“These songs were written through a collaborative process since we began playing in our current three-piece Garage Punk setup,” Wilson says about the forthcoming EP, which features four tracks and was recorded by Wilson and the band at their Northside practice space. 


Here is the premiere of the EP track, “Psyche,” a trippy, glammy strutter that brings to mind a blend of T Rex and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. 



After The Violent Bear It Away’s release, Pop Empire is planning to support the EP with Midwestern and East Coast touring in June. Hometown fans won’t have to wait that long to see the band. The trio plays Northside Yacht Club on March 12 with locals Orchards, New Jersey’s The Off White and New York’s Psychiatric Metaphors. And on March 22 at Northside’s The Comet, Pop Empire and Us, Today will be the special guests of Dawg Yawp, which is playing the club’s every-Tuesday residency this month

Keep tabs on Pop Empire’s latest happenings here

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<![CDATA[REVIEW: Jims – ‘Mandarin’ EP]]>

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. 


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<![CDATA[National Premieres for Cincy Rockers]]>

A pair of Cincinnati Rock bands had new projects revealed today on a couple of popular and far-reaching music websites. 


Wussy’s music video for “Dropping Houses,” the first single from the band’s forthcoming Forever Sounds album, debuted on Stereogum this morning. The clip was made locally, directed by Lightborne’s Scott Fredette (who gets a shout-out in the accompanying write-up and also plays with local band Culture Queer). Check the clip out below.


Forever Sounds is released by the Cincy imprint Shake It on March 4 and the band plays a pre-release show this Saturday at Woodward Theater. Read CityBeat’s cover story on the band from last week here.



Meanwhile, another band with national/international attention on them growing, Electric Citizen, has its second album for the Riding Easy label, Higher Time, due for release May 13 (you can pre-order here). Today the website for popular Rock mag Revolver premiered a new song from the album, “Golden Mean.” Click here to listen


The Higher Time track “Evil” can be heard below.


Electric Citizen heads out on an extensive European tour supporting Wolfmother beginning in April. 


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<![CDATA[Bunbury Announces 2016 Lineup]]>

This morning, organizers of the Bunbury Music Festival — which returns to Cincinnati’s riverfront (on stages throughout Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove) June 3-5 — announced the lineup for this year’s event. This is Bunbury’s second year under the ownership of Columbus, Ohio-based concert promoters PromoWest Productions and its fifth overall. 


Scheduled to perform at the 2016 Bunbury festival: The Killers, Florence + the Machine, Mudcrutch (featuring Tom Petty), Tears for Fears, Haim, Ice Cube, Of Monsters and Men, Grimes, Big Grams, Umphrey’s McGee, The Neighbourhood, X Ambassadors, Elle King, G. Love & Special Sauce, Charles Bradley, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Bayside, The Wombats, The Dear Hunter, The Mowgli’s, Diarrhea Planet, Grizfolk, Cincinnati native Cal Scruby, Here Come the Mummies, Austin Plaine, Red Wanting Blue, Oddisee, Coleman Hell, Lany, Whilk & Misky, Connor Youngblood, PVRIS, Louis the Child, Foxing, Lydia, The Shelters and Holy White Hounds. 


Cincinnati-area acts booked to perform so far include Dead Man String Band, Dawg Yawp, Mad Anthony, Automagik, Leggy and Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound.


Three-day passes are available now for $169 (single day tickets will also be available for $89). VIP ticket options are also available. Click here for more info.


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<![CDATA[REVIEW: Siegelord’s ‘Ascent of the Fallen’]]>

Since its formation in Feb. 2013, Siegelord has been biding its time and waiting for the right moment to strike. After several sound, image and name shifts, the Cincinnati-based Metal band finally found its footing and began building a legion of fans. The quartet (vocalist Ulfr, guitarist Therod, drummer Sieven and bassist Warg) may have taken its sweet time releasing its first full-length, Ascent of the Fallen, but spinning the 12-track debut is enough to get any listener prepped to strap on some armor and go to war, even if it is just in the mosh pit.

Fans of Ulfr, Sieven and Warg’s previous band, local Folk Metal crew Winterhymn, can definitely hear some stylistic similarities. But where Winterhymn focuses its efforts on the Folk aspects of its formula, Siegelord leans more heavily upon Black and Death Metal to craft its battle anthems. Both bands weave orchestration into their songs, but Siegelord trade in the violins and keys for powerful blasts of horn and sprawling synths to give their tracks a more tribal and feral edge. These are not odes to honorable warriors but to conquerors and bloodthirsty warlords. and the musicianship reinforces that distinction.

Each members’ individual inspirations permeate every track. Ulfr’s love of Behemoth and Gwar fills every growled and shrieked line, Sieven’s Hardcore background can be heard in his bombastic cymbal crashes and heavy-handed pounding. Therod’s thrashy riffs, reminiscent of Amon Amarth and similar acts, along with Warg’s classically constructed bass rumbles fill the rest of the bloody picture. Throughout, the synth and horns add a flourish to each song and enhance each track’s intended mood. The driving, violent call to arms of “Gatebreaker” just wouldn’t be the same without a bellow from the horn, calling the fighters to one singular purpose — in this case, a massive, track-ending breakdown.

While the music itself is suitably brutal, Ulfr’s lyrics are what sets Ascent apart. The album is autobiographical in many ways, as Ulfr weaves a tale of the four characters banished from their realm and exiled to an inhospitable desert, ultimately finding a way to make their new homeland truly theirs. Sprinkled throughout are several interludes where Ulfr expands on the story he weaves. These tracks avoid feeling like filler due to Ulfr’s savage, spoken delivery, which elicits a shiver or two from the listener. Furthermore, “Siegelord” and “Warchief of Fallen Spirits” take time to develop Ulfr, Sieven, Warg and Therod’s individual backstories.

Buried within the fantastical saga that Ulfr shares are some true-to-life revelations regarding deception, lies, love lost and overcoming exceptional odds at all costs. In many ways, Ascent of the Fallen is a literal title and the band’s material benefits from not relying simply on classical fantasy tropes or focusing too heavily on creating a concept album to construct its tale.

Siegelord’s inception was a tumultuous one, coming out of very real, personal schisms. While most of these divisions have healed with time, their memory helped fuel the creation of an album that ties together many familiar influences and mechanics, but ultimately is able to rise above them. The intelligent use of Ulfr’s commanding vocals, riffs that cut like a broadsword, drumming and bass that crashes across your chest and driving orchestration has led to an album that may have taken several years to finally complete, but was worth the wait. Local Metal fans need only to listen to the album before exclaiming, “Praise the fuckin’ Lord.”

Siegelord's new album can be purchased (digitally or on CD) here

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<![CDATA[Cincinnati Entertainment Awards 2016: The Winners]]>

Last night at the Madison Theater in Covington, CityBeat hosted the 19th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, honoring Greater Cincinnati’s rich music scene. Check out this week’s CityBeat for a full wrap-up. In the meantime, here’s who won what:


World Music/Reggae: The Cliftones

Jazz: Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra

Singer/Songwriter: Kate Wakefield

Country: Taylor Shannon

Punk/Post Punk: Tweens

Indie/Alternative: Us, Today

Rock: Wussy 

Electronic: Black Signal 

Blues: The Whiskey Shambles

Bluegrass: Rumpke Mountain Boys

Folk/Americana: Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle

Hard Rock/Metal: Casino Warrior

R&B/Funk/Soul: Krystal Peterson & the Queen City Band

Hip Hop: Buggs Tha Rocka

Best Music Video: Molly Sullivan – “Before” 

New Artist of the Year: Dawg Yawp

Best Live Act: The Cliftones

Album of the Year: Honeyspiders – Honeyspiders

Artist of the Year: Jess Lamb


If you missed the show in person (or perhaps your memory is a little foggy), you can watch a replay courtesy of ICRC-TV below.

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<![CDATA[Watch the 2016 CEA Live Stream Here]]>

If you can’t make it out to this Sunday’s Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony at the Madison Theater, you can still watch the performances and see which local musicians won by watching this year’s live stream, brought to you again by the folks at ICRC-TV. 

Starting at 6:45 p.m. the show, featuring performances by The Slippery Lips, The Whiskey Shambles, Rumpke Mountain Boys, Noah Wotherspoon Band, Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Shuffle, Abiyah and Jess Lamb, will be simulcast on YouTube. You can watch below:



The show will be rebroadcast television on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. (channels TBA; we’ll keep you posted). 


If you’ve never been and want a taste of what the CEA parties are like, here are the links for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions. 


If you’re attending this year’s event in person Sunday, doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are available in advance here and also at the door. Click here for more info. 

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<![CDATA[Cruisin' with Rockers]]>

CityBeat was on-board for all the fun of the seventh annual ShipRocked cruise, sailing from Miami to Costa Maya, Mexico last week. The cruise provides a unique experience for diehard rock fans to get up close and personal with their favorite bands on the high seas. 

ShipRocked is made up of a tight-knit group of fans called “ShipRockers” They are divided into two categories: Survivors who have endured  previous ShipRocked cruises, and first time cruisers called Newbs.The ShipRocked group of friends stays in touch with each other year-round through a Facebook forum where cruisers can support each other and reminisce about their amazing cruise experiences. 

Diehard Shiprockers start a day early on Sunday night at the official pre-party at the Clevelander Hotel in South Beach, where fans saw performances by The Dead Deads and a surprise acoustic performance with Joe Hottinger and Lzzy Hale from Halestorm.

Halestorm kicked off the party playing “Apolcolyptica” off their new album, Into the Wild Life, and continued to play their hits for an hour as the Norwegian Pearl sailed away from Miami.

While on board, fans saw live music everyday from 1 p.m. until 2 a.m. These fans go from show to show with no nap in sight to see all of the bands perform live. Every band performed two to three shows while on-board to give each person a chance to see every  show. Bands included Halestorm, Five Finger Death Punch, Seether, Nonpoint, HellYeah, Stitched Up Heart, Red Sun Rising, Helmet, 10 Years, Avatar, We Are Harlot, Doll Skin, The Dead Deads, and many more.

Besides the non-stop Rock, other activities also take place, like Deck Wars, where fans competed against each other with members on Nonpoint band teams. Some activities were canceled due to the high winds at sea, but there was always something to do between your favorite band performances. Whether you started your day with Rock & Roll yoga, participated in scavenger hunts or tried your hand at late night karaoke.

Cruise ships in general are pretty fancy, so you really never get over the sight of dudes with mohawks and huge tattoos sipping beverages and eating their four-course meals on fine china.

On Tuesday, Avatar performed as the sunset over day two. Avatar was the most fan-requested band to be added to the ShipRocked lineup and the Swedes did not disappoint. Their high energy show kicked off a night of music that included We Are Harlot, Seether and an on-fire set by HellYeah on the deck that may have been the loudest of the week.

Band members can be seen all throughout the boat taking photos and talking to fans. All bands also participate in meet and greets, where fans can meet and take a photo with their favorites on Tuesday and Thursday. 

The cruise pulled into Mexico on Wednesday and cruisers could disembark for a beach-party option in Costa Maya, where Like a Storm led beach wars and fans could relax with an open bar on the beautiful Mexican sandy beaches.

One of the highlights of Wednesday night was seeing The Stowaways perform. The Stowaways were assembled by Danny Hill with guitar axe throwers like Dave Ellefson of Megadeth/Metal Allegiance, Oli Herbert from All That Remains and Bumblefoot. The band pulled in as many artists onboard as possible and practiced for many hours on Monday and Tuesday to pull off a show that highlighted everyone on stage. Special tribute was made to Scott Weiland and there was also an all-hands-on-deck finale tribute to Lemmy Kilmister and Motorhead.

There were weather issues that forced the cruise to move live performances scheduled for Thursday indoors. Five Finger Death Punch was one of the cruise headliners that was supposed to close out the whole event on the pool deck stage. In true ShipRocked family fashion, when the storm rolled in the band stepped up immediately and said they would play two back to back shows inside the Stardust Theater so that all fans could see the final show. The band played until 2 a.m. to make sure everyone could close out the party in true Metal fashion.

For Amy Harris' photos from 2016's ShipRocked, click here.

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<![CDATA[Eagle is On the Wing]]>

I first encountered the phenomenon that is Josh Eagle on a warm August evening four and a half years ago. We were meeting for an interview to discuss his then new album with his band, Harvest City, A Good One is Hard to Find


When I located him at Northside Tavern, he was seated in a corner of the patio, engrossed in a book, something lofty and cool as I recall. Before we'd said a word to each other, my initial impression of him was that he seemed like a homegrown Jack Johnson, a hippie surfer boy that had somehow been incongruously dropped, like David Bowie's man who fell to earth, in the landlocked limbo of Ohio. But as he wove his tale of creating his own unique brand of Americana/Roots/Folk and, by proxy, his life, it struck me — he was no stranger in a strange land. He recounted a boozy evening that spontaneously led to a stint on an organic raspberry farm in Hawaii, and how that experience blossomed into the epiphany that he had merely traded one paradise for another. It was clear his home had given him the inspiration, the brushes and colors with which to work, and his songs became the canvas onto which he could interpret and transfer his feelings about his real life experiences and the ephemeral melancholy and joy that resulted from them. 


I went into the inteview as a big fan of the music, and left an even bigger fan of the man who made it.


Josh and I have subsequently crossed paths innumerable times, at MidPoint, Bunbury, the CEAs, local shows (his own and other bands) and at Class X Radio, where he guested one evening in 2013 to promote his self-titled third album before heading north to play a gig. Every time he and I have found ourselves in the same vicinity, the outcome was always the same — "Great to see you" pleasantries and personal updates, followed by a conversation that typically factored in triumphs, misfortunes, advances and reversals, all discussed with Josh's sublime sense of humor and the irrefutable logic that the bad times would pass and the good times should be savored while they lasted. 


At his most downcast, Josh has always been optimistic, hopeful and upbeat. Those are the qualities that I will personally miss the most when Josh and his girlfriend Jacqueline Hull leave Cincinnati to begin a new leg on life's grand tour in one of the most adventurous locales on the planet, New York City. Jacqueline's marketing job has made her an offer that makes the relocation incredibly attractive, and Josh will do what he does best, which is make music and find work to fill the gap.


Before Josh and Jac's departure on Feb. 5, the pair will be hosts and stars of their own farewell tribute at Newport’s Southgate House Revival this Sunday at 2 p.m.tmp_1453480629691 It promises to be a raucous and emotional event.


"It's actually going to be in the afternoon, because I wanted kids to be able to come, like a family day," Josh says over lunch at Melt in Northside. "I want people to feel so warm and fuzzy that they're losing their minds, and what better way than to have the kids."


The possibility of a New York move came up last year when Josh did a bit of world traveling and he and Jac spent a few days in the environs of New York.


"I've always wanted to live in a place like that," Josh says. "I went to Paris, Barcelona and Madrid this past year, and you can't just pop into CVG and go straight there, you've got to go to a big hub. So when we got out at JFK, we decided to stop there for five days. We were like, 'Ha ha, we could do this,' joking around a little bit, not really considering it an option. But we knew our time had passed in Cincinnati. We felt like we had made great friendships and done great things here, but what else is out there for us?"


The gauzy NYC fantasy became an attainable reality when Jac discussed the idea of a transfer with her employer, and an actual offer turned the joke into a plan.


"Then it was like, 'What's Josh going to do?,’ ” he says. "I'm going to continue to do what I've always done — write songs, release albums, write stories and try to make it work. And usually I have. It's been great, it's been fun for me. But today I applied for a job at the Brooklyn Brewery, because I've got to have something else besides the arts that pays way too much to the landlord. But we're beyond excited."


Josh and Jac recently made an exploratory trip to New York to check out the housing situation and, against all odds, wound up finding an apartment in Brooklyn. With that part of the equation solved, the pair returned to Cincinnati with a rather strange sensation.


"We feel like that's our home already," Josh says. "We came back and we were a little melancholy. It was like, 'We just left our home. We just paid the guy a couple grand and we came back here. This feels weird.' But we're pumped, we're excited for the opportunities. To me, it's one of the greatest and definitely most diverse cities in the whole world." 


Josh has several New York music contacts and plans to get settled and then continue to cultivate those relationships in order to re-launch his career. It's an odd construct for the singer/songwriter, essentially going back to square one with his music.


"First I've got to make sure that every place I play has a backline, which a lot of them do. I researched this," Josh says with a laugh. "I'm not going to be bringing my PA and my amp everywhere I go. I'll be pretty much guitar and harmonica in hand and I should be good to go. I'm really just reaching out in that way, and then seeing what other people want to play. I feel like I'm really starting from scratch again, but in the way I did when I was 15, 16 and I was figuring all this out. I've got a good amount figured out, and how to do it, it's just making the right contacts, and finding people that I like and that like me. Both sides. And Jacqueline and I have been singing together for the past year so if she'd be into continuing to do that, we'll continue to write songs together." 


In the nearly three-year gap since his eponymous 2013 album, Josh has compiled somewhere between 20 and 40 new songs, which are in various stages of completion; somehow in the next couple of weeks, he's planning on doing some recording with the Harvest City's Tommy Cappel and The Ready Stance's Wes Pence. Last year, he and Jac assembled a video crew, cooked everyone dinner and the the crew shot the two of them singing their songs at their kitchen table, which they logically titled The Kitchen Sessions. The results are available to view on YouTube.



Josh has also devoted time to writing short stories, and has some unique ideas on how to distribute them into the wider world.


"My original idea was, instead of just doing a record, 10 songs and there it is, to do two songs a month, with a short story," Josh says. "Sadly, with the whole Spotify crap, it seems like people are doing bits of songs. Not that I want to give up on the idea of a full album, but this is just an experiment to see how receptive people would be to do that for six months. Twelve songs, and six stories. Is that the right math? I'm not a calculus professor."


To begin, Josh is planning to present the songs and stories independently and gauge the interest level. If it's sufficient, he'll look at the possibility of a publisher.


"I'll see how I feel about it and how other people feel about it first, before going into vast landscapes," Josh says. "But I'm having fun trying out the short story thing. Might as well do something with them. I'm sick and tired of reading them, that's for damn sure."


Josh and Jac's send-off show at the Southgate is shaping up to be a star-studded affair, with former members of the Harvest City and a slate of special guests lined up to bid the couple a fond if somewhat tearful adieu.


"My pals are coming, and it happens that they're really good," Josh notes. "Mark Becknell, who plays with Queen City Silver Stars and Frontier Folk Nebraska and does his own solo stuff, which is fantastic. Jeremy Smart, original guitar player for Harvest City, will be there and Matt McCormick, who used to play with Shoot Out the Lights and he's with Frontier full-time. That'll be the core. Then Joe Mitchell from the Mitchells will be coming in, David Faul from the David Faul Band, Travis (Talbert) and Michael (Hensley) from Frontier Folk. 2 p.m. is when (openers) The Mitchells will start, they'll do a set, Jacqueline and I will probably do some solo Kitchen Sessions stuff, and some fun covers. It's going to be a bittersweet day, for sure. A lot of 'Hey, haven't seen you in awhile, great to see you, goodbye.’ ”


Two weeks later, the pair will head east.


"I'll put the dog in the front of the cab and the cat on my lap and load our stuff in the U-Haul and bounce," Josh says. "We've been here a long time, but we've got that itch."

And with that, Josh will begin writing a new chapter in his big book of What Next. His time in Cincinnati has been fruitful, to be sure; he's recorded three well-received albums, two with Harvest City, his songs have been placed on Stalker, House and American Pickers, he took home the Singer/Songwriter Cincinnati Entertainment Award in 2012, and he's sitting on a pile of songs that could be the album that breaks him big, in New York and beyond. Not that he's fishing on that side of the boat, mind you. As he has always done, Josh Eagle will take things exactly as they come, he'll ride the crest of any wave the universe challenges him with and he'll ultimately coast safely into shore. Maybe he's a hippie surfer boy after all.


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<![CDATA[Review: Madonna in Louisville]]>

Madonna performed in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday for the first time ever. "The Material Girl" took the stage at the KFC Yum! Center around 10:30 p.m., but fans didn’t seem surprised, since the tour has had late starts each night. The tour stop is one of 64 cities on her Rebel Heart Tour.

Madonna has been the “Queen of Pop” for three decades. Most everyone would agree that she paved the way for all of the current reigning Pop stars, including Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Rihanna and she proved that she still reigns supreme on Saturday night in Louisville. She appeared on the heart-shaped arrow stage in a grand Samurai-themed setup and immediately let everyone know “I’m Madonna Bitch!” as only Madonna can. 

"The Rebel Heart Tour" is filled with spectacle: a host of top dancers and elaborate stage design and set pieces, with Madonna at the center of it all. Even with the grand stage setup that takes 23 semi trucks to pull off, she remains the focus, with her over-the-top personality highlighting her art and athleticism.

The show features four themed sets clocking in at around 30 minutes each, with seamless transitions. The show opened with "Japanese inspired Samurai performance" theme, followed by "Rockabilly Meets Tokyo," "Latin Matador Gypsy" and "1920s Flapper," and each was defined equally by the music, costuming and choreography.

The music reached all the way back to 1980s “Holiday” era, but seemed to disappoint some fans because she doesn’t play the original arrangements of her classics. Most of the show highlighted her most recent album, Rebel Heart. Older songs, like "Material Girl" and "Dress You Up," were reinvented for the stage performance so that they could be inserted into the different themed sections of the show.

“Like a Virgin” was performed by a solo Madonna on stage, but took an EDM/Hip Hop turn for the worse. "Like A Prayer" and "True Blue" were both stripped down to their basic elements. “True Blue” was played as an almost acoustic song on a ukulele sitting on her  Rockabilly Car Shop stage setup, 

Madonna still rides the line between overtly sexual themes on stage and providing a show to which one could bring the whole family. During a few interludes she spoke directly to the Kentucky audience and at one point saying “In the words of Colonel Sanders, my six-pack is finger licking good” as her dancers all showed off their six-pack abs for the crowd. Sex was also a main theme for one set change, as the amazingly talented dancers performed acrobatics on beds in front of the big screen images that looked straight out of the Truth or Dare movie.

The show was a time capsule that took fans through albums that fill 30 years of Pop Music. Madonna showed everyone that she is still on top and, in her words, “Nobody fucks with the Queen.”


 

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<![CDATA[Slice of Cincinnati: Sabbath Records]]>

Guitarist Coleman Williams can barely see through his overgrown hair as he leans over a 12-string guitar while he strums out “You Knew This Was Coming” for local electronic act Dark Colour’s upcoming Animal EP. The song is the last to be complete after two days of recording in Over-the-Rhine’s Sabbath Recording. Williams lays down the finishing touches.

Although he can’t seem to play the chords right on his first try while the sound engineer, Isaac Karns of the Pomegranates, records him, the chords suddenly come flawlessly from Williams’ fingertips as he practices before the next take. “Cole is like an endangered species,” Karns says. “He plays this amazing stuff when you’re not recording and then you’re like, ‘No! Do it again!’ ”

For Sabbath Recording, late-night music means polishing tunes with intricate details that dramatically transform songs, such as the 12-string guitar that helped turn the aggressive, almost chaotic “You Knew This Was Coming” into a more Poppy dance track reminiscent of Depeche Mode.

Jacob Merritt, also of the Pomegranates, came up with the idea for Sabbath when he discovered a love for recording while in college about 10 years ago. Though his interest in recording was put on hold while the band took off, Merritt began investing in instruments and gear for a studio and started hunting for the perfect space when things began to wind down.

Merritt and Karns hope that any artist who walks through their doors leaves with a more defined or reinvigorated purpose for their music. The idea is for the artists to feel refreshed and energized about who they are and what they are doing.

“If you work from that place, I think the other things are likely to fall into place sonically or musically,” Karns says.

Merritt says he tries to make artists very comfortable and eliminate any awkwardness from working with someone new. At Sabbath, the day always begins with time to ask questions, read from a thought-provoking book and have meaningful conversation meant to open the artists up.

“Bands consistently comment on how much more connected they feel with their bandmates,” Merritt says. “If you aren't communicating as best you can, you might be missing out on your best creative work. I really love seeing musicians grow as songwriters and thinkers during their time at the studio.”

The goals of Sabbath Recording are just like the name suggests — it is a place where artists can take time to rest, disconnecting from the stresses of everyday life in order to focus on something they enjoy. To symbolize this, artists leave their shoes at the door as they walk into the studio designed to be a place of healing.

“Before starting, I always ask the artist if they love the songs, or their voice, or instrument or whatever we will be working on that day and have them respond,” Karns says. “It's small, but sometimes just saying aloud, ‘Yes, I love my voice,’ can be a great way to internally prepare for the day.”

The intimate, uplifting recording sessions are what make Sabbath unique among other studios and opportunities for musicians in Cincinnati. The team’s dedication to giving every artist the best experience possible is evident in even the small things they do, from strategically structuring sessions to keeping the studio stocked with drinks and a snack pile so artists don’t have to leave in search of nourishment.

“Jacob and Isaac put their hand in the creative direction of the music because they feel so involved with the projects they bring in there,” says Dark Colour vocalist Randall Rigdon. “Their connection with the artists set them apart from other studios, where engineers can tend to act more exclusively as technicians.”

In the two years that the studio has been open, artists from all over the country have checked in. Merritt says they are open to working with anyone — and taking the time before and during sessions to really understand who they are working with.

While Karns is currently putting the finishing touches on Dark Colour’s Animal, which will be released with the Montreal-based label Kitabu Records this spring, he is also excited to finish up the quirky, trippy lounge-Punk debut album from S.R Woodward. Karns is also developing a narrative-driven, collaborative experimental podcast project.

The team’s former bandmate from the Pomegranates Joey Cook will also check into Sabbath to work on his fever-dream-Psych-Disco record, which Merritt says “will be an odyssey.”


Inquiries: sabbathrecording@gmail.com

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<![CDATA[Cincinnati Entertainment Award Nominees Announced (Updated)]]>

On Jan. 31, 2016, the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards winners will be announced at the 19th-annual ceremony/show/party at Covington’s Madison Theater. Today we are happy to announce the nominees for the CEAs, which are presented by CityBeat and honor Greater Cincinnati’s rich and eclectic music scene. 

Again this year, the public was invited to submit nominee suggestions via an online ballot; a list of the top vote-getters in each category was given to members of the CEA nominating committee for consideration. The committee, which features local music writers, club owners, radio DJs and others, helped decide the final slate of nominees in the genre categories, as well as categories for Best Live Act, Singer/Songwriter and Best Music Vide  (which are open to all genres). Public vote decides the winner of a majority of the categories; the nominating committee determines the winner of the Critical Achievement categories (Album of the Year, New Artist of the Year and Artist of the Year). 


This year’s nominees include several artists who have previously been nominated (or won) CEAs, as well as numerous first-time nominees. Walk the Moon have scored two Artist of the Year CEAs in past years and return to the category after exploding internationally with its ubiquitous, Platinum-selling hit “Shut Up and Dance” and Talking is Hard album (both released towards the end of 2014). Singer/songwriter Jess Lamb, who kicked off 2015 by appearing as a contestant on American Idol (and is a previous CEA performer and nominee), earned five nominations, including her first Artist of the Year nod. Artist of the Year nominee Wonky Tonk (the Indie/Country guise of Jasmine Poole) also earned nominations in the Singer/Songwriter, Best Music Video and Country categories, following a 2015 that saw her Stuff We Leave Behind album earn widespread national acclaim. Perennial Hip Hop nominee Buggs tha Rocka, who has been working with indie Hip Hop legend Talib Kweli’s Javotti Media label and played the 2015 A3C Hip Hop fest in Atlanta and Cincinnati’s own Ubahn fest, earned his first Artist of the Year nomination. 


First-time CEA nominees this year include Country artist Taylor Shannon, Jazz player/composer Brad Myers, Metal newcomers Casino Warrior and jazzy Soul/Pop ensemble Krystal Peterson & the Queen City Band.


The New Artist of the Year category (as well as other promising new performers) will again be spotlighted at CityBeat’s Best New Bands showcase at Bogart’s on Jan. 16. This year’s New Artist of the Year nominees are Dawg Yawp, Coconut Milk, The Skulx, Go Go Buffalo, JSPH and Mutlimagic. New Artist nominees from the 18th-annual awards program returning to the CEA ballot this year in a big way include Leggy, Honeyspiders and Noah Smith. 


Public voting opens at noon on Monday, Dec. 21 here.


Bluegrass

Mamadrones

Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers 

The Missy Werner Band 

Rumpke Mountain Boys 

Comet Bluegrass All-Stars 

My Brother’s Keeper 


Country

Jeremy Pinnell 

Bulletville 

Dallas Moore

Wonky Tonk  

Noah Smith 

Taylor Shannon


Folk/Americana

Arlo Mckinley & The Lonesome Sound 

Willow Tree Carolers  

Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle 

Young Heirlooms 

Honey & Houston 

Wilder


World Music/Reggae

Elementree Livity Project 

Baoku 

The Cliftones 

Queen City Silver Stars 

Mayan Ruins 

Know Prisoners 


Rock

Mad Anthony 

Wussy 

Alone at 3AM 

Lovecrush 88 

Honeyspiders

Zebras in Public 


Hard Rock/Metal

Electric Citizen 

Ethicist 

Moonbow

Lift The Medium 

Casino Warrior

LiViD 


Singer/Songwriter

Wonky Tonk (Jasmine Poole)

Jess Lamb 

Kate Wakefield  

Royal Holland (Matt Mooney) 

Dallas Moore 

Daniel Van Vechten 


Indie/Alternative

Motherfolk 

Us, Today 

Daniel in Stereo 

Jess Lamb 

The Yugos 

DAAP Girls 


Punk/Post Punk

Leggy 

The Slippery Lips 

Tweens 

Tiger Sex 

The Z.G.s 

Vacation 


Blues

Noah Wotherspoon Band 

Silver Pockets Trio 

Kelly Richey 

Sonny Moorman 

Johnny Fink and The Intrusion 

The Whiskey Shambles 


R&B/Funk/Soul

The Almighty Get Down 

Krystal Peterson and the Queen City Band 

The Perfect Children 

The Cincy Brass 

Freekbass & the Bump Assembly 

JSPH  


Jazz

Brad Myers 

Dan Karlsberg and the ’Nati Six 

The Faux Frenchmen 

Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra 

Blue Wisp Big Band 

The Hot Magnolias 


Hip Hop

Napoleon Maddox 

Ilyas Nashid 

Sleep 

Buggs Tha Rocka 

Abiyah 

Mix Fox 


Electronic

Moonbeau 

Ethosine 

Black Signal  

Skeleton Hands 

Playfully Yours 

Umin 


Best Live Act

Tiger Sex 

The Whiskey Shambles 

The Yugos 

The Slippery Lips 

Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle  

The Cliftones 

Honeyspiders 

Noah Smith  


Best Music Video

Molly Sullivan - "Before”

 


Jess Lamb - "Memories" 


Automagik – “Pop Kiss” 


Playfully Yours – “Colorvision”  


Puck – “Ruined”


Electric Citizen – “Light Years Beyond”


Wonky Tonk – “Denmark” 

"Denmark" by Wonky Tonk from Mopics on Vimeo.

Zebras in Public – “John Doe”


Critical Achievement Awards

Album Of The Year

Honeyspiders – Honeyspiders 

Us, Today - T E N E N E M I E S 

Dawg Yawp - Two Hearted 

Honey & Houston – Barcelona 

Jess Lamb - Circles 

Noah Wotherspoon Band – Mystic Mud 

Dan Karlsberg - The ’Nati 6

The Sundresses – This Machine Kills


New Artist Of the Year

Dawg Yawp

Coconut Milk

The Skulx

Go Go Buffalo

JSPH 

Mutlimagic


Artist Of The Year

Leggy 

Walk the Moon 

Jess Lamb

Noah Smith 

Wonky Tonk

Buggs tha Rocka 


UPDATE: The CEA ballot is now live. Start voting here.
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<![CDATA[Locals and Legends]]>

David Rhodes Brown's Warsaw Falcons and Nick Dellaposta's To No End could not possibly be any further from each other on the musical continuum. 

The Falcons, recently reborn with the classic lineup of Brown on guitar/vocals, the thunderous John Schmidt on bass and the irrepressible Doug Waggoner on drums, are Rockabilly personified, heavy on the Rock and hypercaffeinated to the point of heart palpitations. 


At the other end of the spectrum, Dellaposta's To No End is a Prog-tinted Blues unit with a propensity for lilting atmospherics and visceral Pop/Hard Rock anthemics.


Oddly enough, both bands are touting new releases, and each one is, in different ways, associated with a legendary entertainment figure. The Warsaw Falcons' new EP, Warsaw Falcons Live with Bobby Keys, features the work of the saxophonist sharing the title, one of Rock's most travelled and compelling sidemen who boasted near-membership with The Rolling Stones and sessions with Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Carly Simon and three of the four Beatles, among many others. 


To No End's new video for the track "Twisted Knives" from its third album, Remora, features the on-screen talents of Michael Parks, one of Hollywood's most versatile and durable actors whose television credits include Then Came Bronson in the late '60s and Twin Peaks in the '90s, and who has since become part of Quentin Tarentino's ensemble of reliable players.


The Warsaw Falcons' latest archive release is a five-song excerpt from a live recording done at Top Cat's in Clifton in the very early '90s. Keys, already a fixture in the industry (his iconic blowing was all over the Stones' Sticky Fingers, one of Rock's acknowledged masterworks), had played with Brown in Nashville and had become a semi-official member of the Falcons, eventually guesting on their 2003 album Right It on the Rock Wall.


At the time of the Top Cat's gig, Brown had just returned to Cincinnati to care for aging mother, and had reassembled the Falcons for occasional in-town performances. Bassist John Schmidt reclaimed his spot with the band, while guitarist George Cunningham and drummer Maxwell Schauf rounded out the quartet.


For the Top Cat's recording, the Falcons blew through a jumped-up set of band faves with Keys, visiting from Nashville to lend his towering sax fills. Although there was a good deal more material delivered at the Top Cat's set, the five tracks on the EP represent the songs where Keys was most directly and completely spotlighted. And Live with Bobby Keys might well stand as the most incendiary and pulse pounding 22-and-a-half minutes released this year.


The release starts with the rafter-rattling thrash of "Jello Sal," a five-minute Rockabilly workout featuring Brown's distinctive vocal rasp and his and Cunningham's slinky yet muscular guitar gyrations, grounded by Schmidt's bedrock solid bass and Schauf's technicolor timekeeping. On the EP’s second track, "Sometimes," Keys intros the song by thanking the Falcons for inviting him to the gig and pledging his admiration for Cincinnati and its desire to Rock and Roll. 


"That's what we do," Keys declares in his authentic Texas accent. "Rock and roll!" 


What follows is the Falcons' version of a ballad, a slow-cooking slab of meaty, bluesy Rock that gives way to its primal impulses and howls with blood-boiling intensity, even as the band maintains an almost laconic pace. Brown and the Falcons mix a jaunty Blues stroll with an effervescent Chuck Berry bounce on "You Can't Do That to Me," switching to spy-theme noir for the insistently smoky and sultry "Two Cigarettes in the Dark" and finishing with a pulsating version of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels' classic cover of the Righteous Brothers' "Little Latin Lupe Lu," with Brown doing his best hip-twitching, lip-hitching impression of Elvis while the band kicks up its heels and swings with deliberate abandon.


Through it all, Keys — who passed away last year at age 70 — does what he always did best; find the emotional heart of the songs and then play the living hell out of them. Keys had the intuitive gift to know when to serve as a brilliant supporting accompanist or elevate his position to an equal partnership in the arrangement, as evidenced by his call and response lick-trading on "Jello Sal." Brown says there may be more recordings of Keys in the Falcons' extensive and as-yet largely unplumbed archive. Based on the results of Live with Bobby Keys, which was officially be released at a Thanksgiving Eve extravaganza at the Southgate House Revival, we can only hope there's a lot more.


Meanwhile, To No End's new release, Remora, the band's third album since forming in 2012, is not only musically dichotomous from the Falcons' EP, it's quantitatively different as well, with an additional 11 tracks over two discs. But, as noted, the one area where the two bands intersect is in their use of a celebrity guest to enhance their presentation. 


With TNE, it's the presence of famed actor Michael Parks in the band's video for "Twisted Knives." TNE frontman Nick Dellaposta secured Parks' services for the video through Dellaposta's lifelong friend Josh Roush, whose journey is the subject of "Twisted Knives," perhaps the most personal and deliberately direct song he's ever written. 


A decade ago, Roush departed Ohio for Los Angeles, where he has worked in the film industry in various capacities, which led to a position last year on the set of director Kevin Smith's horror film Tusk. During production, Roush met and became friends with Parks, who had a role in Tusk. When Dellaposta invited Roush to partner up to produce the "Twisted Knives" video (the two had worked together on TNE's first video, "Somethin' Wrong with You"), the pair decided to ask Parks if he would be interested in appearing the video, which is largely made up of eerie atmospheric footage that Roush has shot himself over the years.



As for the rest of Remora, Dellaposta takes To No End further down the similar path he and the band explored on last year's excellent Peril & Paracosm, which blended the Kenny Wayne Shepherd-meets-Warren Haynes

Blues direction of the band’s debut with a blistering ’70s Hard Rock energy. In addition, Dellaposta has divided Remora into a pair of 30-plus-minute sides that are stylistically distinct. The harder Side A is subtitled “The Underworld,” while the gentler and more contemplative Side B is themed “The Great Unknown.”


“The Underworld” songs clearly follow Peril & Paracosm's general blueprint, with Dellaposta and guitarist Grant Evans soaring and scorching with the intensity and focus of '70s guitar heroes like UFO's Michael Schenker and Budgie's Tony Bourge, polished to a contemporary but never overproduced shimmer. The opener and ostensible title track, "The Afterlife II (The Underworld)," is a perfect example of Dellaposta's modern Blues/Hard Rock translation, a riff-laden celebration of the forms painted with a new brush. The guitars careen and howl while the rhythm section of bassist Eli Booth and drummer David Nester provide a sturdy but flexible foundation for the song's shifty mood swing between jaunty minor key melodicism and darkly menacing wordplay. 


Elsewhere, "Shatter" starts out with the reflective quiet of an O.A.R./Red Wanting Blue ballad but becomes more forceful and expansive as the song unfolds. "Everybody Talks" offers an indiosyncratic New Wave clockwork guitar motif that displays an interesting new songwriting wrinkle for TNE, while "Like Hell" and "Play That Card" show that Dellaposta's heart will never stray too far away from his KWS/Gov't Mule roots — even if they come out in fascinatingly different ways.


Remora's second "side," “The Great Unknown,” dials down the volume but not the songwriting intensity. Two songs from “The Underworld,” "Twisted Knives" and "Trash Day," are reprised on the second disc, with "Twisted Knives II" presented in an almost Folk/Americana light. "Trash Day" is similarly counterpointed between the pummeling Zeppelinesque boogie of “The Underworld” version and the lilting yet still powerful take of "Trash Day II.” And for sheer beauty, look no further than the acoustic heart-tug of "Hinterland Empire," a gorgeous evocation of The Beatles' classic "Blackbird."


While Remora's 16 songs would have fit comfortably onto a single CD, Dellaposta was clearly more interested in thematic continuity than production costs. Rather than interspersing Remora's more sedate songs with its amped-up fist-pumping anthems, Dellaposta and To No End show two different sides of themselves to suit your listening moods, further proof of his thoughtful creativity and amazing talent.


Warsaw Falcons’ Warsaw Falcons Live with Bobby Keys is currently only available at live shows (look for copies in brick-and-mortar, local-friendly record shops soon). Click here and here for show updates and more.


For more on To No End, click here. Remora is available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. Click here and here for more on the album and the band.


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<![CDATA[All Jazz Hands on Deck]]>

That old trope about doers doing and non-doers teaching holds no currency with saxophonist Dave McDonnell. The Chicago native relocated to Cincinnati six years ago to complete his doctorate Jazz studies at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which ultimately led to positions at UC and the University of Dayton, teaching both music and music technology.

At the same time, McDonnell never abandoned his love for performance, composition and recording. Early in his Jazz career, McDonnell divided his time between waiting tables, teaching private music lessons and playing in an impossible number of bands; he even worked with Elephant 6 icons Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control (studio sessions with the former, touring with the latter).

Family life and academic rigors forced McDonnell to dial down his band participation — he currently works with Michael Columbia, Diving Bell and Herculaneum — but his reduced roles also provided him the impetus to resume exploring his own work, leading him to assemble a coterie of friends and bandmates from his Chicago experience (guitarist Chris Welcome, bassist Joshua Abrams, drummer Frank Rosaly, vibraphonist Jason Adaiewicz and cellist Tomeka Reid) and form the Dave McDonnell Group.

Utilizing a blend of crafted and precise composition and free-form improvisation, McDonnell created a masterful and acclaimed debut album, last year's the dragon and the griffin. The album was by turns contemplative and explosive, but always guided by the spirit of Ornette Coleman's similarly constructed pieces, where the tunes' purposefully written passages set the tone and established a foundation and framework for the band's circuitously invigorating spontaneity.

Just a little over a year and a half later, McDonnell and his Group (a version of which features Cincinnati players for area live shows) have returned, once again eschewing upper-case titling and stodgy tradition on the appropriately christened the time inside a year, his debut for esteemed Chicago Jazz label Delmark. While McDonnell adheres to his winning compositional-vs.-improvisational strategy on the time inside a year, he also adds a new wrinkle with a slightly older piece from his canon, namely his three-movement suite "AEpse," which grew out of his doctorate studies at CCM and which he debuted in Chicago two years ago.

"AEpse" stands in contrast to the grooves, shifting rhythms and dazzlingly intricate harmonics of the rest of the time inside a year. "AEpse," as a three-part, 11-minute piece of music, explores a chilly soundscape of electronic expanse, appointed by Reid's mesmerizing cello incantations, which drift through McDonnell's constructed atmosphere like smoke in a virtual opium den. But rather than present this sonorously beautiful piece as a whole, McDonnell chose to intersperse the three "AEpse" movements within his gyrational Bop tracklist, allowing them to serve as way stations along the album's journey.

And what an impressive journey it proves to be. Opening with the quietly propulsive "Bullitt," moving into the slinkily engaging and sensual "Vox Orion" and on to the jaunty "The Contract with Bees," McDonnell displays his considerable skills as both a powerful frontman and a generous bandleader, jumping to the fore with appropriately frenetic flurries of notes or delicately woven passages, or yielding the floor to Adasiewicz's fluid and enchanting vibraphone runs or Welcome's always brilliant guitar contributions, all of it made possible by the gymnastics of Abrams and Rosaly's limber and diverse rhythm section.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the swinging, shattering "Baker's Man," which begins and ends with the band in unison on the song's loping theme and fills its center with a dissonant Sun Ra/Zappa/Beefheart explosion of sounds and ideas. As atypical as it is sonically to the rest of the time inside a year, it perfectly points up McDonnell's incredible compositional skills and DMG's extraordinary ability to go completely off the map and then return to the radar in a fraction of a heartbeat.

Cincinnati has enjoyed a long and storied Jazz tradition, spawning some of the most profoundly talented and inventive players in the country, but even its most revered alumni must be sitting up and taking notice of the jaw-dropping accomplishments of Dave McDonnell and his innovative and musically curious Jazz collective. Clearly McDonnell's depth and breadth of experience informs every second of the Dave McDonnell Group's incredible output, but it is the application of that experience to his own work that is so consistently impressive. Two years and two albums in, and the anticipation of where DMG might head next is palpable and exciting.

THE DAVE MCDONNELL GROUP, with guitarist Brad Myers, bassist Peter Gemus and drummer Dan Dorff, plays Urban Artifact on Tuesday at 8 p.m.



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