Dear Jerry: Celebrating the Music of Jerry Garcia
Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann's Billy & the Kids, Bob Weir, Allen Toussaint, Bruce Hornsby, Buddy Miller, David Grisman, Eric Church, Grace Potter, Greensky Bluegrass, Jimmy Cliff, Jorma Kaukonen, Los Lobos, moe., O.A.R., Peter Frampton, Railroad Earth, The Disco Biscuits, Trampled by Turtles, Widespread Panic, Yonder Mountain String Band, Communion Ft. Phil Lesh, Stu Allen, Grahame Lesh, Ross James, Alex Koford, Jason Crosby, No Lawn Chairs!
Thu, May 14, 2015
Doors: 5:30 pm / Show: 7:00 pm
Merriweather Post Pavilion
$175-$69.50, with VIP Packages available
This event is all ages
Ticket limit - For the general on-sale, please note that there is a four (4) ticket limit for all pavilion ticket types OR an eight (8) ticket limit for lawn tickets; per household, customer, credit card number, phone number, or email address for this show. Any patrons who exceed the ticket limit will have their tickets cancelled automatically and without notice.
The show is now sold out.
His tireless study of the world's music led Mickey to many great teachers and collaborators, including his partners in Planet Drum. Planet Drum's self-titled album not only hit #1 on the Billboard World Music Chart, remaining there for 26 weeks, it also received the Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1991-- the first Grammy ever awarded in this category. Planet Drum is one of twenty-nine recordings released on Mickey's the WORLD series on Rykodisc. The WORLD offers a wide variety of music from virtually every corner of the globe with releases like Voices of the Rainforest from Papua New Guinea and Living Art, Sounding Spirit: The Bali Sessions. In 2002, Mickey established The Endangered Music Fund to return royalty payments from many of these recordings to the indigenous people that produced them, and to further the preservation of sounds and music from around the globe.
In 2007, the Grateful Dead, one of the first cult acts in music, was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The peace-loving, daisy-smelling youth that once swarmed Dead shows, a.k.a. "Deadheads," have become the stock-broking, suit wearing, SUV-driving dads, moms, and grandparents who come see Weir to remember the days of freedom and hope, if just for a couple of songs.
In a review of one of Weir's recent solo acoustic performances in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, The Times-Leader raved "the audience cheered wildly at the first few notes of the instrumental intro, then heartily sang every word. Weir may have been the only one in the entire theater still seated as the first tune rang out." Jambands.com noted in a review of Weir's concert in Phoenix last year that "the solo form brought out new depth and parable."
Toussaint has crossed many paths in his illustrious 40 years plus career in music. He has produced, written for, arranged, had his songs covered by, and performed with music giants The Judds, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Patti LaBelle, Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack, Aaron and Art Neville, Joe Cocker, The (original) Meters, Glen Campbell, The Band, Little Feat, The Rolling Stones, Devo, Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Eric Gale and countless others.
His songs/productions have been featured in numerous films, including but not limited to, Casino, Moulin Rouge, and Maid in Manhattan. He served as Musical Director for the off Broadway
play, Staggerlee, which won the prestigious Outer Circle Critics Award.
Toussaint's career began in his early twenties when hired by the local Minit Records to supervise its recording activities, awaiting their arrival of Harold Batiste. Toussaint quickly accumulated an amazing string of hits for the label; producing, writing, arranging and often performing on tracks by Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Art and Aaron Neville, Chris Kenner, and Benny Spellman, putting his signature New Orleans sound on the map, an obvious continuation of the Domino/Bartholomew era.
Toussaint got his shot as a solo artist with a record for RCA. Two of his earliest tunes, "Java," which became a mega-hit for trumpeter Al Hirt and "Whipped Cream," the Herb Alpert hit, became instrumental standards. Toussaint then went on to team up with Lee Dorsey who was often backed by the funky rhythm section known as The Meters, turning out a string of hits that included "Working in the Coalmine," "Holy Cow," "Ride Your Pony" and many others. "Working in the Coalmine" was then recorded by The Judds; "Yes We Can" became a smash hit by The Pointer Sisters; "Sneaking Sally Though the Alley" was recorded by both Robert Palmer and Ringo Starr. Toussaint continued to put his mark on the music business with his arrangements on LaBelle's hit, "Lady Marmalade," continuing on with Patti through the early stages of her solo career. After establishing himself as one of the greatest songwriters, accredited to him by BMI Music, Toussaint was honored with a Grammy nomination for the 1977's song of the year, "Southern Night," performed by Glen Campbell. Years later, "Southern Night" was featured on the MCA's Grammy nominated compilation CD – Country, Rhythm, and Blues – where Toussaint teamed up with Country legend Chet Atkins, to perform his hit.
His career has spanned over 40 years, all adding up to include being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After years of writing, producing, recording, arranging, performing and conducting, Toussaint's music is continuing on. Several of his songs are commercial themes, "Yes We Can" (Slim Fast) and "Working in the Coalmine" (Wal-Mart). His productions are continuously sampled, introducing it to an entire new arena of listeners (Louie – ODB and Lady Marmalade (Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Missy Elliot)). Songs "Java" and "Southern Night" have both been credited and cited for over 2 million airings. The most recent of Toussaint's long list of honors and accolades is the Grammy nominated pop/vocal album of the year, The River in Reverse; Toussaint's collaboration with Elvis Costello followed by The Bright Mississippi nomination for Best Instrumental Album. Toussaint was also awarded the Grand Prix from France's Academia du Jazz, making Toussaint the first non-traditional jazz artist to be awarded such an honor. For Toussaint, Hurricane Katrina was the best booking agent and with that he has started to tour and perform before a whole new audience.
In 2012, Toussaint was inducted into the Song Writers Hall Of Fame and The Blues Hall Of Fame. 2013 has not slowed down either –Toussaint received an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from Tulane University along with Dr. John, Natasha Trethewey and his Holiness, the Dali Lama.
The truly amazing part is that there's more to come...
The 13-time Grammy nominee's commercial stock soared early on when "The Way It Is" – the title track of Bruce Hornsby and the Range's 1986 debut album – became the most-played song on American radio in 1987 and won ASCAP's Song of the Year award. "The Way It Is" and hits like "Mandolin Rain" and "Every Little Kiss" established Hornsby as a popular musician, while subsequent high-profile work with the likes of Don Henley, Willie Nelson, Charlie Haden and Bonnie Raitt made him an in-demand collaborator.
Though a talented and instantly identifiable singer, bandleader and pianist, Hornsby is a songwriter at heart. He is committed to portraying his songs in new ways that allow them to evolve and expand. This approach was further developed during his time spent playing over one hundred shows with The Grateful Dead between 1990 and 1995. Hornsby found a kindred spirit in the Dead, with their vibrant tradition of loosely blending folk, jazz, blues and improvisation.
Over the years, Hornsby has successfully ventured into jazz, classical, bluegrass and even electronica, reflected on acclaimed releases like the bluegrass project Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (2007) and the jazz trio album Camp Meeting (2007), with Jack DeJohnette and Christian McBride. The prestigious list of Hornsby collaborators now includes diverse figures like Ornette Coleman, Bob Dylan, Bela Fleck, Elton John, Branford Marsalis, Pat Metheny, Robbie Robertson, Leon Russell, Chaka Khan, Wayne Shorter, Squeeze, Tupac Shakur, Eric Clapton, Stevie Nicks, Bob Seger and Sting.
A University of Miami alum, Hornsby has also partnered with The Frost School of Music to establish the Creative American Music Program, a curriculum designed to develop the creative skills of talented young artist/songwriters by immersing them in the diverse traditions that form the foundations of modern American songwriting.
In July of 2006, Bruce Hornsby released a four CD/DVD box set titled Intersections (1985-2005). A full third of the music was previously unreleased and most of the familiar tracks were presented as unreleased live versions. The set also featured "Song H," a new composition that was nominated for a Best Pop Instrumental Grammy award in 2007.
Intersections is definitive in many ways, yet only tells part of the Virginia native's musical story. His three Grammy wins typify the diversity of his first decade of recording: Best New Artist as leader of Bruce Hornsby and the Range, Best Bluegrass Recording for a version of "The Valley Road" that appeared on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will The Circle Be Unbroken Volume Two, and a shared award with Branford Marsalis in 1993 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Barcelona Mona," a song for the 1992 Olympic Games.
The sales stats and breadth of his superstar collaborations (including being sampled many times by rap/hip-hop artists) speak volumes about Hornsby's unique fusion of mainstream appeal and wild musical diversity. His albums have sold over 11 million copies worldwide. Harbor Lights was the 1994 winner of the Downbeat Reader's Poll Beyond Album of the Year (meaning all music other than Jazz and Blues). Tupac Shakur co-wrote a new song over "The Way It Is" music with Bruce, using new words, called "Changes"; it was a major worldwide hit, selling 14 million copies.
Throughout the years, Hornsby has participated in several memorable events: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opening concert in September 1995, Farm Aid IV and VI, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival, Woodstock II (1994), Woodstock III (1999), and Bonnaroo in 2011. An avid sports fan, Hornsby, solo and with Branford Marsalis has performed the National Anthem for many major events including the NBA All-Star game, four NBA finals, the 1997 World Series Game 5, the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's all-time consecutive game streak, and the soundtrack to Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns.
Indeed, Bruce Hornsby's restless musical spirit continues to spontaneously push him forward into exciting new musical pursuits. He's currently working on a prospective Broadway musical titled SCKBSTD. He's composed and recorded several projects for filmmaker Spike Lee including endtitle songs for two films, Clockers (1995) (with Chaka Khan) and Bamboozled (2001). Most recently, he has written and recorded the score to Kobe Doin' Work, Lee's 2009 ESPN documentary on Kobe Bryant, and Lee's latest work, 2012's Red Hook Summer. Hornsby is also featured onscreen in and contributed music to the Robin Williams/Bobcat Goldthwaite film World's Greatest Dad (2009).
2011 brought the release of Bride Of The Noisemakers - an ambitious 25 track, double CD chronicling 2007-2009 live performances of some of the singer/songwriter and pianist's handpicked songs of the past 23 years. The songs are recorded live capturing the playful, freewheeling spirit of his longtime band The Noisemakers.
Such projects are consistent with Hornsby's lifelong pursuit of musical transcendence. "To me," says Hornsby, "it's always been about staying inspired, broadening my reach and moving into new areas. So it's a fantastic situation to be able to do that, and to continue to pursue a wide-ranging musical life."
Pop stardom has, for many years, attuned listeners to the arrival of shining new faces filled with vital new ideas, to which attention must be paid. Instantly. Briefly, for the most part.
It says here that there is another path, at least if what one cares about is music, and not celebrity. The steady lines in Buddy Miller's face, the passions which abide within his voice, and the effortless inflection of his guitar…all matched against words given shape by and with his wife, Julie, her writing and singing voice twining against his…they speak, as well, to the arrival of genius. Just not clothed in the baggage of youth.
It works like this: Malcolm Gladwell (the brilliant and best-selling synthesist of the varied research which seeks to explain how our brains work) recently summarized the research of a University of Chicago economist named David Galenson, who has been studying the age at which genius presents itself to the world. Two paradigms emerge. The precocious Pablo Picasso arrived as daunting and fertile talent in his early 20s, while the meticulous Paul Cézanne did not have an exhibition of his paintings until he was 57. Gladwell has also been advancing the thesis that it takes 10,000 hours to acquire mastery of any given skill.
This explains the slow, steady career arc of Buddy and Julie Miller.
Buddy will be 56 when Written in Chalk hits stores, though his work has been on regular exhibit since his wife, Julie (who is somewhat younger), began recording in 1990, and more so since he finally started making his own records in 1995. If his genius has not yet been widely recognized, no matter; the other musicians, they know. (There was a reason the final print edition of No Depression magazine proclaimed him to be artist of the decade, and it was not simply the mercurial humor of the magazine's two editors. It was the music.)
He has been a singer, and the successful writer and co-writer of songs other people sang, many of them country stars, including the Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack, and Brooks & Dunn. He has been a multi-instrumentalist and harmony singer for a succession of acclaimed performers, beginning with Julie, and then in prompt succession Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams. And, most recently, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. And he has produced records – in the studio he built in their home — released separately under his name and Julie's, and bearing their names together (as with Written in Chalk). That same living space has produced acclaimed albums by Solomon Burke, Allison Moorer, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
For some years it was Julie who stood center stage, first back in Austin, Texas, where they met (she didn't want the band to hire him), then in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and, finally, Nashville, where they settled in 1993, a short drive from Music Row. Along the way the Millers became close friends and supporters of Shawn Colvin, Jim Lauderdale, Peter Case and Victoria Williams, played in bands with guitarists Larry Campbell and Gurf Morlix, and drummer Don Heffington.
Worked on their art, slowly, surely. Perhaps uncertainly, but working, always. Beginning in 1990 Julie released four albums within the Christian market, and then two on the now shuttered roots label HighTone. Her last one, Broken Things, came out in 1999. Buddy has so far made five proper long players under his own name, though Julie's singing and writing voice is ever-present throughout. And then, at last, in 2001, they finally, formally released an album under both names.
Eight years later, one of the most respected creative teams in Nashville — and beyond — has returned with a new suite of songs.
All things being equal, it's a remarkable accomplishment. Both the album, and its making. Julie has had a tough time of it. Some years back she was diagnosed with fibromylgia (which is characterized by muscular pain, fatigue, and sleep deprivation), and so has had to cope with the ravages of a chronic illness. Five years ago her brother, Jeff Griffin, was struck by lightning while mowing their parents' yard. She is a woman who feels deeply, and there is a careful emotional raggedness to many of the songs she unveils here. (And an unexpected helping of humor and joy, and abiding faith, too.)
And Buddy…he's just been busy. In the two weeks he had set aside to finish this album last spring — originally simply to have been another Buddy Miller album — he was also trying to learn several dozens of songs he would be playing on tour with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. And to remember how to play the steel guitar he'd agreed to bring along for that gig. In between lining up production gigs, and the like.
It didn't get done. Or, rather, Written in Chalk didn't get finished during that particular two-week slot, though he tried. But instead of simply meeting a deadline and turning in what he had finished, Buddy set the album aside and went back onto the road. This left time and room for a duet with Robert Plant (which they played publicly for the first time as part of the Americana Music Association's 2008 Honors & Awards last September), and the additional gestation time seems to have emboldened Julie to become a full partner in the process. (Indeed, Buddy has only one co-write, and the balance of the album, save his well-chosen covers, comes from Julie's pen.)
Buddy was born near Dayton, Ohio, to an Air Force family, and mostly raised in Princeton, New Jersey. Julie Griffin was born and raised in Waxahachie, Texas. They met, in 1975, in Austin, when he auditioned for a band she was in. She didn't take to him right off, but they've been married a long time.
Only a couple of such confidence and competence could chance the emotional honesty of Written in Chalk. Only musicians of such renown could round up collaborators like Larry Campbell (who has played with Dylan, Levon Helm, and one or two others), keyboard player John Deaderick (Dixie Chicks, Mindy Smith), drummer Brady Blades (Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle), and singers like Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and that guy who used to be in Led Zeppelin.
But, in the end, only Buddy and Julie Miller could make a record this good.
--written by Grant Alden
On board with the upheaval in naming CHIEF one of NPR’s Top Albums of The Year, renowned critic Ann Powers writes:
“Mainstream music is full of macho dudes in faded designer jeans, but it’s rare to find an artist with enough sophistication and self-awareness to make the outlaw persona feel genuine. Enter Eric Church: The North Carolina native honky-tonker who fully embraces country clichés, but sharpens them with wit, chronicling wild nights and epic hangovers with just the right amount of critical distance, and single with the cool world-weariness of someone who’s lost a few lovers and parking-lot fights.”
Rolling Stone, SPIN, iTunes, and the Los Angeles Times also joined the crusade in granting Church coveted end-of-the-year ‘top album’ accolades, and the release of CHIEF earned RIAA Gold Certified sales in only six weeks, helping to launch fan-favorite party anthem and third single release “Drink In My Hand,” to No. 1 on the country radio charts. Furthermore, positioned at the apex of life-long achievements for Church, he experienced the exhilaration of his first-ever GRAMMY nomination with CHIEF for Best Country Album.
Having kicked off Eric Church: The Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour on January 19 in Fort Smith, AR, Church is bringing his raucous live show to arena-filled venues from New York, NY to Minneapolis, MN, Chicago, IL, Nashville, TN and everywhere in between in 2012 with special guest Brantley Gilbert.
"Normally, you have No. 1 singles before you have No. 1 albums and arena tours, but for us, it was the other way," says Church who began planning the arena tour months before ever reaching the singles summit with “Drink In My Hand." Cultivating a devoted fan base without sacrificing musical integrity and self-expression, Church has built up his following slowly, but the hard work is finally proving to have paid off.
Reflecting on his creative process when crafting the game-changing album CHIEF, Church used his opportunity to make a new record provided by his success to push his creativity and live show even further. “I have a theory that all of us only get a small window of time to make records when people will really listen and care,” he says. “It's up to us to move the needle. People like Waylon and Cash or Garth and Strait - they all took the format and said ‘We're going over here,’ and they all changed the direction of the music a little bit.”
Although his debut album, Sinners Like Me, established him as one of the most acclaimed new songwriters in country music; and the follow-up, 2009’s RIAA Gold Certified Carolina, produced the singles “Love Your Love the Most” and “Smoke a Little Smoke,” which—along with the continually escalating popularity of his hard-charging live show—elevated Church to the top ranks of today’s country stars in early 2011 at which point Church decided to take a step back to give some thought to his next creative direction.
“I took about a month off and went to a cabin in North Carolina,” he says. “We’ve always blazed our own trail and I was trying to figure out where it needed to go and, honestly, I wasn't sure. So, I didn't go anywhere for a month. Writers came out and we just wrote songs all day and all night. That really stoked the creative flame. Then, I spent the next six months on tour writing whenever I could.”
The songs that resulted illustrate Church’s impressive range. Some of the titles like his first career No. 1 Billboard single “Drink in My Hand” or “Hungover and Hard Up,” instantly show that he’s still comfortable with the expectations of his rowdy live audience. “You’ve got to know what's going to fire them up,” he says, “but, you also need to give them a twist, something they can't just go back and get from the other two records.” Other songs, like the ambitious “Springsteen” or “Like Jesus Does,” reveal complicated emotions and sophisticated song structures.
Perhaps the bravest track on CHIEF is the first single, “Homeboy,” a provocative appeal from one brother to another to get back on track and make peace with his family that was recently RIAA Gold Certified.
“‘Homeboy’ deals with social issues and with everyday life,” says Church. “It was pretty challenging for me to take that term ‘homeboy’ and use it as slang, as a destination, and then at the end, as a spiritual place. Sonically, it's like three or four different songs. It’s not something people are used to,” he continues, “and there can be a price to pay for that. I’ve had people say ‘that's strange,’ ‘it's odd’—things that some people might run from but, I think it's fantastic.”
When it came time to record the album, Church had a sound in mind that felt different from his first two releases. “This record, more than anything else I've done, is breathing and alive,” he says. “There’s a wildness to it. It’s untamed and not very harnessed.”
This energy started with the singer’s own role in the sessions. Much of CHIEF was cut live in the studio. Church played guitar with the band (and for the first time on record, electric guitar on “Like Jesus Does”) and some of the final versions even use the original tracking vocal.
Church gives credit to producer Jay Joyce, with whom he has made all three of his albums, for helping to bring this excitement out on the tracks. “There’s just a comfort level with Jay,” he says. “We’ve both learned to sit back and let each other try different paths and get farther out there. A lot of stuff we just tried, like the handclap loop on ‘Homeboy,’ just because we weren’t afraid. We never thought there was anything we couldn’t do. I think it’s the most aggressive record I’ve made because of that.”
Though Church’s focus on CHIEF is on looking forward rather than looking back, he does acknowledge that the surprising success of chart-topping single release “Smoke a Little Smoke” allowed him to explore and experiment with his new songs. Church explains, “This was the first time I picked a single because of the reaction on the road and it paid off.” And his desire to capture the intensity of his live show on record is indicated right in the title of the new album. "‘Chief' is my nickname on the road," Church reveals. "When it's show time, I put on the sunglasses and the hat, and that's how people know it's game time. This album was made from a live place; we recorded it with the live show in mind, so it just seemed right to make that the title."
If there is one thing country music needs more of, it’s the attitude that is driving Eric Church, the approach behind every song on CHIEF, the fearlessness that lets an artist swing for the fences and try to leave a mark on history. “There were safer choices I could have made for sure, but I just can't feel that helps anybody,” he says. “If you have any respect for the music, you'll use each chance you get to try to be one of the ones who moves the flag.”
Midnight was recorded and mixed at Barefoot Studios in Hollywood with producer Eric Valentine, whose own diverse discography—from Queens of the Stone Age to Nickel Creek—evidences a similarly adventurous spirit and openness to possibility. If Valentine’s studio work has a distinguishing characteristic, it’s his hard-hitting sonic signature, which is on display throughout Midnight’s dozen tracks. The core studio band consisted of Potter and Valentine on most of the instruments, with Burr on drums and percussion. In addition, members of Potter’s longtime band The Nocturnals: guitarists Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco and bassist Michael Libramento contributed to the sessions, as well as former tour-mates and friends including singer-songwriter Rayland Baxter, Audra Mae, Noelle Skaggs of Fitz & the Tantrums, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, and Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age.
For more than a decade and a half, the members of Greensky Bluegrass have created their own version of bluegrass music, mixing the acoustic stomp of a stringband with the rule-breaking spirit of rock & roll. They redefine that sound once again with their sixth album, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted.
Like the band's own name, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted is a collection of opposites, full of dark psychedelic swirls, bright bursts of acoustic guitar, soundscapes, solos, freethinking improvisation, and plenty of sharp, focused songwriting. It's wild and wide-ranging, showing off the diversity Greensky Bluegrass brings to every live show. At the same time, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted is unmistakably a studio album, recorded during two different sessions — one at Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, North Carolina; the other at the Mountain House Recording Studio in Nedarland, Colorado — that comprise the band's longest block of recording time ever. The result is an 11-track album whose songs cast a wide net, mixing the full-throttle energy of a Greensky Bluegrass concert with the nuanced approach of a band that's still eager to explore.
"You can call us an acoustic ensemble, or a drum-less rock band, or a rock & roll bluegrass band," says mandolin player Paul Hoffman, who, along with guitarist Dave Bruzza, handles most of the album's writing duties. "All of that shifting identity has taught us to cover a lot of ground. There's a flow to this album, just like there's a flow to our setlists. There are some aggressive, rocking moments. Some bouncy, funky moments. An acoustic think piece or two. It's a balance of moods and textures that we create as a band, almost like a mix tape."
Formed in 2000 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Greensky Bluegrass kicked off their career playing living rooms and open mic nights across the Midwest. By 2005, they were touring nationally, and by 2006, they were playing the first in a long series of appearances at the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Bandmates Hoffman, Bruzza, dobro player Anders Beck, banjoist Michael Arlen Bont, and upright bassist Mike Devol spent most of the following decade on the road, fine-tuning a live show modeled not after the toned-down production of traditional bluegrass music, but the full-on spectacle of rock.
"We play two sets of music every night with a big light show, and really care about creating a large scale production," notes Bruzza, adding that, "the goal isn't just to play important music. We want to cultivate an experience, where people can escape from their everyday lives for a minute and put their worries aside."
Playing as many as 175 shows per year, Greensky Bluegrass have graduated to headlining status at some of the country's most iconic venues, selling out amphitheaters like Red Rocks and world-class auditoriums like the Ryman. They've become a regular name on the festival circuit, too, adding Bonnaroo, the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Austin City Limits, Forecastle, and Outside Lands to their touring schedule. Supported by a grassroots audience whose members often travel for hours to see the band, Greensky Bluegrass are still a proudly independent act, enjoying the success of a major-label act — including a Number One debut on the Billboard Bluegrass chart for their fifth album, 2014's If Sorrows Swim — without giving up complete control of their own business.
Released on the band's label, Big Blue Zoo, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted kicks off with "Miss September," a song that splits its focus between Hoffman's mid-tempo melodies and the band's instrumental solos. Most of the album's tracks strike a similar balance, showcasing a group whose vocal hooks and flat-picking skills share the spotlight equally. Meanwhile, the guys stretch their legs on "Living Over" — an improvised, seven-minute knockout that's already become a live staple — and show surprising restraint with "While Waiting," a slower song whose ebb-and-flow arrangement often finds no more than two bandmates playing at once. "Room Without a Roof" features some of the group's most layered production to date, with electric instruments adding some thick sonic padding, while "More of Me" cranks up the drama, with Hoffman singing about heartache over a bed of minor-key guitar arpeggios.
"We tend to have a darker sense to ours songs than most acoustic bands," Bruzza adds, "but we still have light moments, too. We're trying to explore the textures and sounds we can make, while still having the instrumentation of a bluegrass band. There aren't many rules. We'll run a dobro though an amp on a song like 'Past My Prime.' We can get pretty epic. This album is a crazy carnival one minute, and it's a psychedelic Pink Floyd jam the next."
Equal parts dark, driving, and dynamic, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted is Greensky Bluegrass at their best, fusing the fiery fretwork of their live shows with the focus of a true songwriting outfit.
The release, his first studio album in seven years, is the next step in their collaboration on last year's Sacred Fire EP, an effort Rolling Stone called Cliff's "best music in decades… [his] tenor still soars." With the groundbreaking 1972 film The Harder They Come celebrating its 40th anniversary, Cliff—who starred in the movie and contributed the title cut, "You Can Get It If You Really Want," "Many Rivers to Cross" and "Sitting in Limbo" to the soundtrack—is still going strong in a career that has spanned almost 50 years and includes his native Jamaica's highest honor, the Order of Merit. In REBIRTH's autobiographical "Reggae Music," Cliff recounts going to see famed Jamaican producer Leslie Kong in 1962 to convince him to work with him, releasing Cliff's first hit, "Hurricane Hattie," when he was just 14.
"Jimmy is one of my musical heroes and I've been responding to his music my entire life," said Armstrong, who had never met Cliff before, but was once recommended to him by mutual friend Joe Strummer of The Clash. Gathering Armstrong's studio band, the Engine Room (bassist/percussionist J Bonner, drum/percussionist Scott Abels, organ/percussionist Dan Boer and piano/lead guitarist Kevin Bivona), the first song they tackled was a cover of Rancid's "Ruby Soho," a ska-tinged number from the band's 1995 album …And Out Came the Wolves about a musician having to tell his lover he's headed for the road.
"I had no idea it was one of Tim's songs, but I liked it and could identify with the sentiments," said Cliff. "I never really had the opportunity to hear his music, but it was a great thing how we hit if off in the studio."
They also worked on a cover of The Clash's "The Guns of Brixton," a song about the growing tension in Brixton at the time. Ironically, Strummer's last session ever was with Cliff on "Over the Border, a song from Jimmy's 2004 album, Black Magic. It was at that time Joe talked up Armstrong as someone who might make a good collaborator for him.
"It was inspiring working with Tim because even the sound of the album feels like we went back to the '60s and '70s," said Cliff. "I had forgotten about a lot of the sounds and the instruments we used then, and we brought that all back."
"Now the tides have turned/And the rewards we have earned/Bringing us good feeling/Set our hearts a-reeling." "Our Ship Is Sailing"
While REBIRTH is named after what Cliff perceives as his own artistic revival, the reggae pioneer has never really been away, working with a who's-who of other rock legends over the years, including the Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello and Annie Lennox, his songs covered by the likes of Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Cher, New Order and Fiona Apple. His patented sweet tenor is the most recognizable vocal in reggae along with his only fellow Jamaican Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Bob Marley. Last year, he made a triumphant appearance at the Bonnaroo festival that put him back on the pop music map.
"The album is about my rebirth as an artist and as a man, but also about the rebirth of the world," says the man whose 1970 "Vietnam," has been dubbed by Bob Dylan "the greatest protest song ever written," and served as a centerpiece in Paul Simon's acclaimed 2011 tour, the performer citing it as his original inspiration to record "Mother and Child Reunion" with Cliff's band in Jamaica.
Never a stranger to politics, Jimmy continues as a voice of power and conscience, especially on songs like the opener, "World Upside Down," a song written by the late reggae pioneer Joe Higgs back in the '70s with lyrics updated by Cliff. "I made it for the world today," he added.
Other socially conscious songs on REBIRTH include "Children's Bread," with its harsh refrain, "They took the children's bread and give it to the dogs… The time has come for us to right the wrongs." Much of the material was inspired by his tour of African countries like Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana.
"Africa is like an injection for me," he explained. "Being there gave me that high feeling—the songs just poured out."
"Let's keep on moving…There ain't no stopping until we say so" "Our Ship Is Sailing"
But it is the more personal songs, like "One More," "Reggae Music" and "Our Ship is Sailing" which get to the heart of Jimmy Cliff's music, and his own artistic renewal as he heads out on a summer tour that began in Brooklyn in June with a concert streamed on NPR Music. Among his future plans are more acting roles, including a possible sequel to The Harder They Come, as well as continuing to write songs inspired by the classic soundtrack.
"I have not become the artist I believe I am," he told Rolling Stone last year. "I'm not done at all. I want to become a stadium act."
REBIRTH is the next step in that direction.
The son of a State Department official, Jorma Kaukonen, Jr. was born and raised in the Washington D.C. area, with occasional extended trips outside the United States. He was a devotee of rock-and-roll in the Buddy Holly era but soon developed a love for the blues and bluegrass that were profuse in the clubs and concerts in the nation's capitol. He wanted to take up guitar and make that kind of music himself. Soon he met Jack Casady, the younger brother of a friend and a guitar player in his own right. Though they could not have known it, they were beginning a musical partnership that has continues for over 50 years.
Jorma graduated from high school and headed off for Antioch College in Ohio, where he met Ian Buchanan, who introduced him to the elaborate fingerstyle fretwork of the Rev. Gary Davis. A work-study program in New York introduced the increasingly skilled guitarist to that city's burgeoning folk-blues-bluegrass scene and many of its players. After a break from college and travel overseas, Jorma moved to California, where he returned to classes and earned money by teaching guitar. It was at this time, that a banjo-playing friend invited him to join a rock band, and although Jorma's true passion was roots music, he decided to join. In fact, the new band The Jefferson Airplane got its name from Jorma, who was given the joke nickname Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane, parodying the names of blues legends.
Jorma/Jack Jorma invited his old musical partner Jack Casady to come out to San Francisco and play electric bass for The Jefferson Airplane, and together they created much of The Jefferson Airplane's signature sound. Jorma and Jack would jam whenever they could and would sometimes perform sets within sets at Airplane concerts. The two would often play clubs following Airplane performances. Making a name for themselves as a duo, they struck a record deal, and Hot Tuna was born. Jorma left The Jefferson Airplane after the band's most productive five years, pursuing his full-time job with Hot Tuna.
Over the next three and a half decades Hot Tuna would perform thousands of concerts and release more than two-dozen records. The musicians who performed with them were many and widely varied, as were their styles—from acoustic to long and loud electric jams but never straying far from their musical roots. What is remarkable is that they have never coasted. Hot Tuna today sounds better than ever, playing with the energy of their youth and the skill that they have developed over the year.
In addition to his work with Hot Tuna, Jorma has recorded more than a dozen solo albums on major labels and on his own, beginning with 1974's Quah and continuing with his recent acoustic releases on Red House Records—2007's Stars in My Crown and his new CD River of Time, produced by Larry Campbell and featuring Levon Helm. With experience that would have many musicians putting together retrospectives
But performance and recording are only part of the story. Jorma and his wife Vanessa Lillian have operated one of the worlds most unique center's for the study of guitar and other instruments. Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp is located on 125 acres of fields, woods, hills, and streams in the Appalachian foothills of Southeastern Ohio. Since it opened in 1998, thousands of musicians whose skills range from basic to highly accomplished gather for weekends of master instruction offered by Jorma and other instructors who are leaders in their musical fields.
Fur Peace Ranch
A multitude of renowned performers make the trek to Ohio to teach at Fur Peace Ranch and play at the performance hall, Fur Peace Station. It has become an important stop on the touring circuit for artists who do not normally play intimate 200-seat venues, bringing such artists as David Bromberg, Roger McGuinn, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Warren Haynes, Lee Roy Parnell and Chris Hillman. Students, instructors, and visiting artists alike welcome the peace and tranquility -- as well as the great music and great instruction -- that Fur Peace Ranch offers. Jorma Kaukonen is constantly looking to take his musical horizons further still, always moving forward and he is quick to say that teaching is among the most rewarding aspects of his career. "You just can't go backward. The arrow of time only goes in one direction."
Although the album's name and title song were inspired by a National Geographic article about real life wolves in the wild, the band—David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin—saw parallels with their struggle to gain mainstream rock success while maintaining their Mexican roots. Perez, the band's drummer, once called their powerhouse mix of rock, Tex-Mex, country, folk, R&B, blues and traditional Spanish and Mexican music "the soundtrack of the barrio." Three decades, two more Grammys, a worldwide smash single ("La Bamba") and thousands of rollicking performances across the globe later, Los Lobos is surviving quite well -- and still jamming with the same raw intensity as they had when they began in that garage in 1973. The band chronicles a key moment of their expansive journey on Disconnected In New York City, a dynamic live album that marks the band's 40th anniversary and launches their new association with 429 Records.
Recorded over two nights in December 2012 at The City Winery in NYC, the engaging 12-song set celebrates Los Lobos' great legacy as a freewheeling and unpredictable live band, which most recently includes touring in Europe with Neil Young and Crazy Horse in June 2013. Disconnected in New York City features fresh interpretations of songs from throughout their three decade recording career, including their first ever live recording of "La Bamba," their worldwide pop crossover hit from the 1987 film which reached #1 on the U.S. and UK singles chart and whose video won a 1988 MTV Music Video Award. The collection covers the band's 25 year studio discography, from "Gotta Let You Know" (a bouncy zydeco rocker driven by Hidalgo's accordion from How Will The Wolf Survive?) through "Tin Can Trust," a bluesy rock ballad that was the title cut from their last studio release in 2010.
By design, Disconnected in New York City has songs that have been longtime staples of Los Lobos' tours mixed with other gems that had somehow fallen by the wayside over the years. The mix includes the mid-tempo shuffling rocker title track from The Neighborhood (1990); the easy flowing and whimsical (thanks to Berlin's jazzy sax solo) "Oh Yeah" (from This Time, 1999); the spirited, traditional flavored, Rosas penned Spanish language "Chuco's Cumbia" (from The Town and the City, 2006); the graceful and spiritual "Tears of God" (from By The Light of the Moon, 1987); "La Venganza de Los Pelados," a fiery burst of Latin rock fusion with mariachi textures (from The Ride, 2004); the soulful, simmering blues of "Little Things" (from The Town and The City, 2006); the Latin blues funk classic "Set Me Free Rosa Lee" (from By The Light of the Moon); and two mid tempo funk pop/rock tunes from 2002's Good Morning Aztlan, "Maria Christina" and "Malaque."
As per the literal meaning of its title, Disconnected In New York City sets itself apart from Los Lobos' other acclaimed live recordings (most notably, 2005's Live At the Fillmore) by stripping down the instrumentation for a mostly acoustic affair. Lozano, who drives the grooves with his bass and also plays the deep-bodied Mexican 6-string acoustic bass called the guitarron, says, "It's funny because when the venue hired us, they specifically requested that we do something acoustic to fit its smaller dinner house vibe. The idea popped into our heads to ask them if we could record it and they were cool with that.
"We're well known for our electric, high energy performances but we've done acoustic stuff for certain smaller auditorium tours," he says. "Playing these songs acoustically makes them feel more intimate. We notice that when you play softer and quieter, the audience tends to pay attention to everything we're doing. When you play rock, they're thinking more about rhythm than melodies and lyrics, but playing them this way allows for more subtle elements of the songs to stand out."
Perez laughs when he calls the Los Lobos Unplugged experience "folk music for the hearing impaired - it's still loud because the acoustic instruments are amplified! The idea of making a record like this came from never having the opportunity to work some of our favorite songs from over the years into our usual sets. Because most tours are done in support of new albums, the fresh material we play means that some favorite older tunes fall away over time. When we thought about making another live album and what would make it different, the logical concept was to revisit songs we haven't played in a while but had been requested by a lot of fans. We had already documented our rock show with Fillmore, so we felt kind of liberated to take another approach with this one.
"There are two challenges releasing a live album, though," Perez continues. "One is choosing certain songs over other ones. It's like having kids. We love Tommy as much as Johnny but one day Johnny gets to go the park today and Johnny stays home. In spite of this, we do cover a lot of ground. The biggest problem is the way people sometimes perceive live albums, like they're an afterthought put out to fill some kind of gap. Bands love doing them but fans don't always pay attention. But historically, it can be a license for great creativity. Jimi Hendrix did Band of Gypsies to fulfill his last recording commitment, but it was one of the most incredible recordings he ever made. Because Disconnected in New York City marks a key anniversary and the start of us working with a new label, we put a lot of thought into the project, from its design and structure and how we performed the songs."
Steve Berlin is Los Lobos' saxophonist, flutist and harmonica player who met the band while still with seminal L.A. rockers The Blasters. He joined the group after performing on and co-producing (with T-Bone Burnett) their breakthrough 1983 EP …And A Time To Dance. Though he wasn't jamming with the others way back in the "Krypton days" (as Perez calls it) in the barrio garage, Berlin felt it was important to find a special way to mark his cohorts' 40th year--just as they had done on their 30th by inviting special guests (Dave Alvin, Bobby Womack, Elvis Costello, Mavis Staples) to be part of their 2004 date The Ride.
"Trying to figure out a way to acknowledge 40 years as a band is harder than you might think," he says. "We got to play with all of our heroes on our 30th so what was something we had not done? So, like Louie said, we thought the best thing was to bring back songs we rarely if ever play and put them into a fresh context. We wanted to create something of value for our fans that would reflect the mutual appreciation we share with them – starting, of course, with 'La Bamba,' which we had never documented live before. I think it was important also that once we knew the set lists for the shows that we would eventually choose the final tracking from, we didn't over-think the arrangements. We only rehearsed these shows for a single day. The coolest part of how Disconnected worked out is that we hadn't been doing some of these songs long enough to worry about how to pull them off. And because we performed them acoustically, we couldn't just blast everyone with power and skate through them. We had to be present and make the choices that occurred to us in each moment."
Around the time of their last big anniversary Rolling Stone magazine summed up that distinctive, diverse and spontaneous Los Lobos aesthetic perfectly: "This is what happens when five guys create a magical sound, then stick together for 30 years to see how far it can take them." Most fans know that the group came together from three separate units. Hidalgo, the band's lead vocalist/guitarist (whose arsenal includes accordion, percussion, bass, keyboards, melodic, drums, violin and banjo) met Perez at Garfield High in East LA and started a garage band. Rosas, who plays guitar and mandolin, had his own group, and Lozano launched a power trio. "But we all hung out because we were friends and making music was just the natural progression of things," says Perez. "Like if you hang around a barbershop long enough, you're going to get a haircut."
Looking back at the historical and cultural sweep of the band, Lozano sees the release of Disconnected In New York City as Los Lobos coming full circle. "A lot of people forget that though we were rock musicians when we got out of high school, the band started off as an acoustic outfit," he says. "We wanted to play Mexican folk music because those were our roots and there was this whole Chicano awareness thing happening back in the early 70s. We started to pay attention to our traditions and culture, and focused on those styles of music for years. We studied music from every region of Mexico, learned how to play all these authentic instruments. So that's what we did for ten years until we decided to play rock again by bringing in drum and electric bass.
"We were playing this restaurant gig for two years, and some small local clubs, playing the same songs, when people in the crowd started shouting out, 'Do you know any Beatles or Grateful Dead tunes?'" Lozano adds. "Soon we got fired from the restaurant and headed back to the garage to write our first original songs that were rock with some accordion on them: 'Let's Say Goodnight' and 'How Much Can I Do?' We made a little tape and gave it to the guys in The Blasters, which included Steve Berlin, when we went to see them live on Sunset Strip. They loved our tunes and invited us to open their show at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, which was the first time Los Lobos performed on the other side of the Los Angeles River. We played some originals and old favorites by Hendrix, Cream, The Yardbirds and Beatles – all the stuff we loved as kids. The icing on the cake is that the audience loved it, too."
Critical acclaim and a solid national and international fan base has built a
dedicated following that grows each year. Whether touring across the globe,
headlining music festivals, or sharing the stage with such celebrated acts
as the Allmans, The Who, or Robert Plant, among others, what keeps moe. at
the forefront of the music scene is not only the energy and vitality of
their music and songwriting, but the showmanship in which it is delivered.
From its humble, inconspicuous beginnings as a local bar band in Buffalo in
the late 1980s, to headlining Radio City Music Hall two year's straight on New Year's Eve, moe.'s journey has been one of hard work, perseverance, and
dedication. Their music is clever, melodic, refined; their performances are
entertaining, mesmerizing and epic. There's a reason that Rolling Stone
magazine placed Chuck and Al among the top twenty new "guitar gods," why the pair were featured in Guitar World and Modern Guitar; why Jim and Vinnie have been featured in Drum! magazine; why Rob in Bass Player and State of Mind magazines - all in the same year - because they're that good!
Critically acclaimed for its songwriting and studio work, the group's 2001 studio album, DITHER, was awarded four stars by Rolling Stone. 2003's WORMWOOD received four stars by Blender Magazine. Their two latest efforts, THE CONCH and STICKS & STONES, received rave reviews including Rolling Stone, Paste, and Blender magazine. In honor of their 20th Anniversary, the band released SMASH HITS, VOLUME 1. Billed as a "Young Person's Guide to moe.", the album features band and fan favorites – some recast in new recordings that showcase the band's ongoing evolution. "It's what we and others perceive as our strongest crowd pleasers of the past twenty years," Rob muses. "It's a compilation that you can listen to over and over again. Something your mother might enjoy."
The band continues to tour extensively: from San Fran to Amsterdam, from Tokyo to Toronto, from Chi Town to Bean Town, from Austin to Atlanta, playing and packing venues large and small, or intimate and grand. Long a featured act at music festivals, they have performed at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Langerado, and Vegoose, to name a few; yet made time to promote and perform at their own festivals - Summer Camp, Snoe.down, and moe.down.
moe. was recently inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, being recognized not only for the impact they have made in their hometown, but for their charitable work on a national and international level as well. The band hosted a Tsunami Benefit concert at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City on February 10, 2005 and raised $150,000 for Tsunami survivors. The concert earned moe. its second Live Performance of the Year Jammy Award. moe. also raised over $100,000 for various charities, including the Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina survivors and for the music department at Bradley Elementary in Utica, NY, to help keep music in children's lives.
moe. kicked off their 20th anniversary in style, hosting a two-night stand in New York City at Roseland Ballroom, which included a special benefit concert for WHY (World Hunger Year) http://www.whyhunger.org/. Throughout 2010, moe. continued to bring awareness to World Hunger and other issues, working with Headcount, Freedom for Burma, and many other charities.
By all accounts, for this "legendary jam band," as Rolling Stone magazine
recently described them, it would be best to keep your eyes on this band and
your ears tuned in to their music. Witness history in the making. This is
welcome news for the moe. faithful and the band's ever-expanding fan base.
Yet - even better news for the world of rock and roll - moe. has finally
come into their own.
“This isn’t about us going back to our musical roots per se,”says lead singer Marc Roberge, who founded O.A.R. in 1996 with his Rockville, Md. high school classmates, drummer Chris Culos, guitarist Richard On, and bassist Benj Gershman (saxophonist Jerry DePizzo joined while the group was at Ohio State University). “It’s about us getting inspired by the place we came from. We’d drive the same roads, visit the old haunts, spend time with our people. Rockville was the catalyst then, and it’s the catalyst now.”
For the first time in a while, the band found that visiting their Maryland hometown gave them a sense of peace. For years, they had been pushing themselves to reach new levels of success, searching for their place in the world. Plus, turbulent times within their personal lives had led them to a slightly disconnected state.“I went home to Maryland many times while making this album and based these songs on all the familiar feelings that Rockville gave me,”Roberge says. “I tried to focus in on the simple things that always made this band so creative and driven. For everyone in the band, this was a restart. We’ve been hanging out, enjoying life, letting things go…The whole album is about a reboot.”
That sense of renewal is evident on the first single, the deep, yearning “Peace.”“As we were writing it, I felt the weight of three years lift off my shoulders,”Roberge says. “We wrote it about getting back to that even playing field after you go through turbulent times. It’s about what I see people going through all around me, everyone deserves second, third, fourth chances.”
Roberge wrote “Peace”with Blair Daly and Nashville-based producer Nathan Chapman, best known for his work with Taylor Swift, after Roberge introduced himself to Chapman at an event in Los Angeles. The two got along so well that, in addition to “Peace,”their writing sessions yielded three other songs: “Favorite Song,”“Two Hands Up”and “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off.”Chapman produced “Favorite Song”and “Two Hands Up,”while Gregg Wattenberg, who co-wrote O.A.R.’s No. 1 smash, “Shattered (Turn the Car Around),”produced “Peace.”Chapman and Wattenberg shared production duties on “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off.”With those four tracks serving as the foundation for the album and as a boost to the band’s confidence, Roberge produced the rest of the tracks on THE ROCKVILLE LP including a co-production with Jerry DePizzo on “The Element.”“We felt like we were on to something with an overwhelming freedom to chase down some more songs,”Roberge says.
THE ROCKVILLE LP, which was recorded in Nashville, Bethesda, Md., and Brooklyn, N.Y., features some of O.A.R.’s most diverse, intricate songs to date. Bold horn arrangements weave in and out of several of the tunes, including “Irish Rose”sequel and DePizzo showcase, the jangly, story song, “Caroline the Wrecking Ball,”as well as the ambitious “The Architect,”a song adored by longtime fans, but one O.A.R. had never committed to an album before.
Pure joy and light-heartedness infuse album opener, the spiky infectious anthem, “Two Hands Up,”and the irrepressible reggae-tinged “Favorite Song”in which Roberge cheerfully references dozens of song titles. “We were driving down roads in Nashville and Maryland feeling nostalgic harkening back to the days of endlessly flipping through the radio dial singing loudly to your favorite songs. This song is an ode to the hit, to recognize the pure joy you can get from a song and some rolled down windows.”
O.A.R. is renowned for its intense, vibrant live show —including selling out Madison Square Garden twice —and the communal feeling it shares with its fans. With each studio album, the band has endeavored to achieve that sense of immediacy. On THE ROCKVILLE LP, “it comes the closest,”Roberge says.”Every live band I know will always want nothing more than to carry their live performance onto the album. It’s an elusive thing to capture, so I’ll never say we nailed it,”Roberge says. “But I can guarantee we put that same live show energy and passion into each minute of THE ROCKVILLE LP and we can only hope the audience feels that.”
For a group who've always been difficult for journalists to place inside a stifling genre box, Last of the Outlaws proves to be the group's most direct artistic statement yet, placing them within striking distance of the commercial success enjoyed by acts far their lesser. But few of these in-vogue outfits have the experience or mileage on the road that RRE has accumulated in well over the course of a decade.
"We've been together for 12 years now," states Todd Sheaffer, singer, guitarist and the band's chief songwriter. "We started out playing a more string-oriented bluegrassy style and this album is perhaps the biggest departure we've had since that starting point. It's just a natural development; it hasn't been influenced by anything in particular. We've always just done our own thing. We were around when the big bluegrass craze hit, which started with O Brother Where Art Thou, and we'd make records and people would accuse us of getting in on the whole bluegrass fad. No, we were just playing the music we play. Then that came and went, and here we are still playing. Now there's this folk-pop craze, and our music always had elements of folk-pop in it. But we'll still be around playing Railroad Earth music after all this, because that's what we do."
The origin of Outlaws is rooted in Railroad Earth's own backyard of Sussex County in the most rural part of New Jersey. It was there in a town called Knowlton, where mandolin player John Skehan went to a house to answer an ad about a piano for sale. Once he stepped inside, he realized he was where RRE would be making their new album.
"The house is set back from the road, so you don't really see it," describes Sheaffer. "But it's something to see. When he built the house, he made this big room with a studio in mind."
"We started talking about recording and I said, 'Well I know this space and it's big enough where we can all set up and play,'" Skehan explains. "Tim [Carbone – violinist] went there, checked it out and talked to the owner, Dean Rickard, and he turned out to be just the nicest guy in the world and he really became an important part of the equation for this album."
John wound up passing on purchasing the piano, but its old keys can be heard prominently across the scope of Last of the Outlaws, as he flexes his chops on the instrument he learned before switching to the strings. "It wasn't exactly intentional at first, but we wound up with a fair bit of piano on the record," he admits. "We were trying new stuff out and it was there, so we figured we'd see what happens."
Last of the Outlaws also features the most adventurous and experimental piece in the RRE canon yet, a 21-minute-long suite comprised of seven movements ("All That's Dead May Live Again", "Introit", "Tuba Mirum", "Lacrimosa", "Dies Irae," "Face with a Hole" and "In Paradisum") and designed after what Sheaffer says is a kind of requiem mass.
"That's the shape it kind of took," Skehan explains. "It came down to an after-fact for me trying to come up with names for some of the instrumental sections because I'm really bad at naming things like that (laughs). But after it came together we were thinking about how the themes relayed between the two songs that bookend all the other movements. It occurred to me that there was a strong theme of death, but also the hope of rebirth. It got me to thinking along the lines of a mass and that if I look through some of the actual titles of movements in a requiem mass, some of them might fit or reflect the mood of some of the instrumental portions. I read through the translations of the Latin and realized that, even though they're meant to be sung, these kind of relate and fit together between the opening and closing themes."
Last of the Outlaws also includes such standout tracks as "Chasin' A Rainbow", "One More Night On The Road," and the album's gorgeously soulful title cut, "The Last of the Outlaws," a trio of tracks that perhaps stand as some of the most straightforwardly "No Depression"-esque material the Earth have committed to record yet. These tracks may have more in common with Americana bands like The Jayhawks or Wilco than much of RRE's back catalog, but they still maintain that musical-conversation style of playing that makes their sound so unmistakable. Some of the album's edge was no doubt bolstered by mix engineer, Ted Hutt, best known for his work with such groups as the Dropkick Murphys, The Gaslight Anthem and the Bouncing Souls, as well as great acoustic music like Old Crow Medicine Show and Audra Mae.
"It certainly is the most rock approach that we've taken on an album," admits Sheaffer. "I just wrote what I wrote and we played it the way we felt made sense."
Adds Skehan, "We never really set out to be just an acoustic band from the get go. But in playing live, we all began experimenting with rock 'n' roll rigs, amps, pedals and effects and for these acoustic instruments. Todd has always had a very unique guitar tone because he plays a Martin acoustic, but through delay and overdrive. Tim's violin cuts through almost like an electric guitar. Taking these bluegrass string instruments and treating them like a rock band is really cool."
And while RRE may not be looking for any kind of crossover appeal, Last of the Outlaws is just too good of an album to be ignored. But regardless of where the next step in the evolution of this band takes them, the strong and loyal following Railroad Earth have established these twelve years, and over 1000 concerts, will remain unshakable in their assurance of keeping the group in the game for the long haul.
"I feel that Railroad Earth has a longevity that transcends whatever 'of-the-moment' frenzy there happens to be, and our fans are always there for us." Sheaffer asserts. "We've played on bluegrass festivals. We've played rock festivals. We've played hippie festivals. We've played traditional festivals. It doesn't matter. Our music encompasses all those things and it still is just Railroad Earth music."
With only select shows scheduled for 2014, when The Disco Biscuits take the stage, it is not to be missed.
Trampled By Turtles formed in 2003 in Duluth, Minnesota. From their beginnings on the Midwestern festival circuit, they have reached new heights with each album. The release of 2012’s Stars And Satellites saw the band play to more fans than ever, sell close to 100,000 albums, make their first national television appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, and have their first concert feature, Live at First Avenue, broadcast on Palladia. This year will see the band headline Red Rocks Ampitheatre for the first time and the kickoff of their own festival, Festival Palomino, which will take place September 20, 2014 outside Minneapolis.
Lead songwriter Dave Simonett has been especially affected by change over the last few years. He relocated from Duluth to the city of Minneapolis. “When I lived in Duluth, I think I took connection with uncivilized nature for granted. There, I had to drive 20 minutes and I was in the middle of nowhere, and I did this almost daily,” says Simonett. “This was a very important ritual for me. Solitary time in a nearly untouched landscape is my version of church, so I think there is a bit of loss of religion in a lot of my work these days. I've always been a little obsessed with our struggle to stay connected to our simple animal side, the part of our nature that lived off the earth, hunted live game, worshipped trees and mountains. I believe a lot of sadness is caused by feeling disconnected with the rest of nature. A lot of what is instinctual for us is beaten down and frowned upon in modern society. It has to be confusing for the subconscious.”
Wild Animals found Trampled by Turtles working with a producer for the first time in four studio records. The band placed themselves in the capable hands of longtime Duluth, MN compatriot Alan Sparhawk of the band Low and engineer B.J. Burton (Poliça, Megafaun, Volcano Choir) who crafted a sonic landscape that was spatial and new at Cannon Falls, MN’s Pachyderm Studio (Nirvana, The Jayhawks).
Says Simonett on working with Sparhawk: “Alan is one of the most musically courageous people I know and that’s exactly the attitude we were looking for. He’s great at taking a song from its false conclusion all the way down to its very core and then building it back in new and interesting ways.”
And on Burton’s contributions: “He has an exciting way of looking at sound. He shares Alan’s courage in music in that he’s ready to take organic sounds and push them to new places. He’s extremely technically skilled but not tied to any recording dogma.”
The band’s signature harmonies are intact, although the contributions that Sparhawk and Burton added created a new depth. Tim Saxhaug, the band member who has traditionally done much of the vocal arrangement says, “The production team pushed the band to consider new ways of approaching harmony, and the result 'opened our ears.' I wasn’t sure that recording could feel new after six studio albums, but that went away on the first day. Making this album was the most creative I’ve ever felt in my life.”
When asked about themes in his writing, Simonett says, “I’ve always felt they’re just various ways humans have attempted to explain the unexplainable. To keep the fear of the darkness that waits for all of us at bay. The death of a loved one, the parting of friends, the changing leaves, the loss of love. All the little parts that come and go. In a way it’s refreshing because the knowledge that nothing will ever stay the same offers innumerable opportunities for rebirth. “
Sparhawk adds about the band’s relationship, “The sound that caught my ear was there from the beginning and stands to this day: I call it the 'wall of strings.' Taking instruments we have heard for generations, the Turtles dive in with post-punk energy and selflessness. Everyone has a part in the arrangement that leans on and enhances the others, always serving the song. The message is not about individuals - it's about what can be done when people get together, apply their heart and soul, and make a little room for each other. Music has always had that potential, but it's rare when it actually happens.”
Erik Berry says of the band's chemistry, "From the earliest times we started playing, there has always been a real hard-to-define quality about our chemistry, something special. It’s been a treat to find that more than ten years in we still can turn new corners, at least new-to-us corners, together in the way we approach a song or a sound and still with that quality. That something that makes us, us."
Wild Animals is the sound of a band at the peak of their potential, strengthened from a decade together, winning some and losing some, but growing none-the-less. The album captures the intense nature that goes with being alive, melding the universal and the personal.
In February, Widespread Panic kicked off their 25th Anniversary year by returning to the site of their first-ever performance where they played two shows in their hometown of Athens, GA. Following the shows on February 15th, the State of Georgia’s House of Representatives and Senate passed resolutions in honor of the band’s 25 years of music, service, charity and longevity. Members of Widespread Panic stood on the floor of the House and were recognized before The General Assembly, followed by an acoustic performance for all in attendance. The band recently made their first appearance at the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas at ACL Live at The Moody Theater where they performed the first-ever combined SXSW showcase and Austin City Limits television taping, which will air later this year (date TBA).
Stronger than ever after 25 years, Widespread Panic remains one of the top touring acts in the US. The band continues to play to packed arena, amphitheater and festival crowds, and setting attendance records throughout the country. Widespread Panic’s fans travel from all over to be a part of their legendary live performances, where every show is its own special event.
Allen shares the Grateful Dead's commitment to making each performance a unique event, from preparation to execution. He will perform multiple shows before playing the same song twice, and even then, that song will not be realized in quite the same way.
Allen's captivating soulful delivery (both vocally and instrumentally), freakish improvisational ability, and exceptional guitar tone have gotten the attention of some of the preeminent figures in the genre. He regularly works with Phil Lesh, and has also done sets with Bob Weir, and Bill Kreutzmann. Allen is perhaps most known for fronting Melvin Seals' tribute to the Jerry Garcia Band from 2004 to 2011. In 2010, he received more national acclaim when he toured with Dark Star Orchestra. He currently plays with his band, Mars Hotel, as well as the all-electric Bob Dylan tribute band, Ghosts of Electricity.
After touring with the Long Island Youth Orchestra to countries such as China, Russia, Australia and Cuba, Crosby expanded his classical horizons by embracing other varied art forms, such as Jazz, Funk, Rock and Latin music. His two solo albums, "Out of the Box" and "Four Chords and Seven Notes Ago" display his diverse array of virtuosic talents, as he switches instruments from song to song, as well as the styles of music he creates and explores. Crosby continues to develop his own style of music, by fusing the Classical he was raised on with the Jazz that inspires his melodic maneuverings.
Merriweather Post Pavilion
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, Maryland, 21044