Category: Blues

New Video: Up-and-Coming Blues Rock Act The Blue Stones Release a Disturbing and Timely Video for Arena Rock Friendly “Black Holes (Solid Ground)”

Comprised of high school friends Tarek Jafer (vocals, guitar) and Justin Tessier (drums, percussion, backing vocals), the up-and-coming alt rock duo The Blue Stones can trace their origins to when the duo, who had attended college together decided that they should start a musical project together. While being among an increasing number of blues-tinged rock duos including The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Royal Blood, and others, the duo cite Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, The Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper, MUTEMATH, My Morning Jacket, Jay-Z, Kanye West, J. Cole, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King as influences on their overall sound and aesthetic.

Jafar and Tessier spent seven years honing and perfecting their sound, during which they wrote and recorded an independently released EP. As the duo’s Tarek Jafar says in press notes, “It takes a lot to be a success. You have to stay proud and focused.” Building upon several years of hard work and dedication, the duo’s full-length debut Black Holes was released earlier this year— and the album, which features “Rolling With The Punches,” a single that has received placements on USA Network‘s Suits, Showtime‘s Shameless and ESPN‘s Monday Night Football and the attention-grabbing lead single “Black Holes (Solid Ground),” which has amassed 8 million streams, will further cement the duo’s growing profile for  playing blues rock that as the duo’s Justin Tessier says is “lean, raw, tight, without a wasted note.” Thematically, the album as Jafar explains is “. . . about being a young adult and entering the real world from a sheltered environment, like college. Feeling torn between taking the secure path or doing something that might be riskier but you’re passionate about . . . following what you love as opposed to sticking to the straight and narrow.”

Over course of the year playing across the national festival circuit with stops at Carolina Rebellion with MUSE and Queens of the Stone Age, and at Northern Invasion, Winnetka Music Festival and Bonnaroo Festival.  But let’s talk about the aforementioned, arena rock friendly “Black Holes (Solid Ground),” which is centered around big, bluesy power chords, thundering drums and anthemic hooks — and while clearly indebted to classic Delta blues, The Black Keys, The White Stripes and early Black Sabbath but with a subtly psych rock-leaning that reveals a twist on a familiar and winning formula.

Directed by Jason Lester and filmed in Los Angeles, the first official video from the band’s full-length debut is provoking, and considering the recent news stories about migrants and refugee seekers being tear gassed at our borders — disturbing and timely. As Lester says in press notes about the video treatment,  “When the band told me about how their great track was an exploration of the battles we fight within ourselves, my mind went instantly to Stanley Milgram’s infamous shock experiments of the early 1960s,” says director Jason Lester. “Using the setup of his obedience tests as a jumping off point, we constructed a visual representation of the struggle with the self — a person facing their own image in a mirror, pushed to the brink by a choice that must be made.”

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Comprised of Henry Hill Kammerer (guitar, vocals) and John Johnson (drums, percussion), the Portland, OR-based folk and blues duo Hillstomp have received attention regionally and nationally for a gritty and sincere,  rock ‘n’ roll-take on Americana/roots music that draws from hill country blues stomp, North Mississippi trance blues, Appalachian folk and blues, rockabilly and punkabiliy played on a drum kit made from assorted buckets, cans, BBQ lids and other ephemera and slide guitar. And over their 17 years together, the duo have toured with Reverend Horton Heat, JOVM mainstays The Devil Makes Three, and Southern Culture on the Skids among others.

Slated for an October 19, 2018 release through their longtime label home Fluff and Gravy Records, Kammerer and Johnson’s sixth full-length Hillstomp album Monster Receiver was recorded by Juniana Lanning and John Shepski with mixing engineer john Askew — and the album finds the band pushing their sound and songwriting into even more experimental territory with the album’s material seamlessly flowing from grungy folk, garage rock and intimate and tender ballads while featuring guest spots from Anna Tivel (violin), Hook & Anchor‘s Eric Clampitt (pedal steel) and I Can Lick Any Son of a Bitch in the House’s David Lipkind (harmonica). Interestingly, the album’s first single “Hagler,” is a grimy, psych blues stomp centered around shuffling drumming, chugging guitar and an explosive guitar solo that recalls the North Mississippi All Stars and fellow labelmate Drunken Prayer as its full of piss, vinegar and whiskey.

New Audio: Introducing the Arena Rock Friendly Blues Rock of The Blue Stones

Comprised of high school friends Tarek Jafer (vocals, guitar) and Justin Tessier (drums, percussion, backing vocals), the up-and-coming alt rock duo The Blue Stones can trace their origins to when the duo, who had attended college together decided that they should start a musical project together. While being among an increasing number of blues-tinged rock duos including The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Royal Blood, and others, the duo cite Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, The Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper, MUTEMATH, My Morning Jacket, Jay-Z, Kanye West, J. Cole, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King as influences on their overall sound and aesthetic.

Jafar and Tessier spent seven years honing and perfecting their sound, during which they wrote and recorded an independently released EP. As the duo’s Tarek Jafar says in press notes, “It takes a lot to be a success. You have to stay proud and focused.” Building upon several years of hard work and dedication, the duo’s full-length debut Black Holes is slated for an October 26, 2018 release — and the album, which will feature “Rolling With The Punches,” a single that has received placements on USA Network’s Suits, Showtime’s Shameless and ESPN’s Monday Night Football and the attention-grabbing lead single “Black Holes,” which has amassed 8 million streams, will further cement the duo’s growing profile for  playing blues rock that as the duo’s Justin Tessier says is “lean, raw, tight, without a wasted note.” Thematically, the album as Jafar explains is “. . . about being a young adult and entering the real world from a sheltered environment, like college. Feeling torn between taking the secure path or doing something that might be riskier but you’re passionate about . . . following what you love as opposed to sticking to the straight and narrow.”

Over course of the year playing across the national festival circuit with stops at Carolina Rebellion with MUSE and Queens of the Stone Age, Northern Invasion, Winnetka Music Festival and Bonnaroo Festival. Interestingly, Black Holes’ third and latest single is the sultry and anthemic “Be My Fire,” which sonically is indebted to The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix, North Mississippi All Stars as its built around enormous power chords, thundering drumming and arena rock friendly hooks — but while being centered around an urgent and plaintive yearning for someone, just out of reach. The song possesses a compelling name-taking and ass-kicking, swaggering bombast underpinned with a sincerity and earnestness. 

New Video: The Mischievous Silent Film-Inspired Visuals for Barrence Whitfield and The Savages’ “Let’s Go to Mars”

Formed by founding members Barrance Whitfield, Peter Greenberg, who has also played with Lyres and DMZ and Phil Lenker in the mid 80s, the Boston-based blues and soul act Barrence Whitfield and The Savages quickly developed a reputation for crafting primal and soulful blues, centered around Whitfield’s full-throttle soul screaming (in the spirit of Little Richard, Solomon Burke, and others), and for sweaty, dance party-like live shows. With their original lineup, the band released several attention grabbing records through Rounder Records, and as a result they toured with Bo Diddley, Tina Turner and George Thorogood, were a favorite of BBC DJ Andy Kershaw and won seven Boston Music Awards. The band reunited in 2011 with a new lineup that features Whitfield, along with Andy Jody (drums) and Tom Quartulli (sax), which has released three albums Savage Kings, Dig Thy Savage Soul and Under the Savage Sky and building upon their long held reputation, the band has toured with The Sonics, played at SXSW and have played on the BBC’s Later . . . with Jools Holland. 

Released earlier this year, Soul Flowers of Titan is Barrence Whitfield and The Savages fourth full-length album since reforming after a 25 year hiatus, and the album, which derives its name from the largest moon of Saturn, a planet which astrologically symbolizes pain and struggle was recorded in Ultrasuede Studio in Cincinnati, a town that was home to a number of classic and somewhat unknown independent labels, including King Records and Federal Records that were best known for a fostering a frayed and raucous sound during the 50s and 60s. Of course, knowing that history, the band couldn’t resist the urge to celebrate and expand on that legacy — with the album finding the band sonically meshing blues, punk, rock, garage rock and soul while thematically, the album’s material focuses on people shooting guns, separating, coming home (someday), falling in love, running around, leaving earth in search of someplace better, going crazy, drinking way too much coffee and thinking about the legendary Sun Ra. As a result, the material features a much heavier sound, B3 and Rheem organ playing from the band’s newest member Brian Olive and a live-in-the-studio urgency. 

Soul Flowers of Titan’s latest single “Let’s Go To Mars” is centered around a boozy, and shuffling power chord riff that brings Howlin’ Wolf and George Thorogood to mind but paired with lyrics inspired by an early 70s documentary on Sun Ra that its songwriters Peter Greenberg and Phil Lenker saw multiple times, and as a result there’s a mischievous yet plaintive ache to go off someplace that may be better than Earth — or least someplace, where you can live freely and not be bothered by the cruelty and viciousness of humanity. Directed by Eric Baconstrip, the recently released, animated video further emphasizes the song’s mischievous vibes while nodding at classic, silent films. 

New Video: Berlin’s Alice Phoebe Lou and Olmo Team Up for a Sparse and Atmospheric Blues Duet

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Cape Town, South Africa-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alice Phoebe Lou, and as you may recall, Lou has developed a reputation for a fiercely independent, punk rock-like DIY approach to her ethereal folk music. And although her parents were documentary filmmakers, Lou took piano lessons as a child and as a teenager, taught herself to play guitar. When she turned 16, Lou spent a summer vacation visiting her aunt Paris, where armed with an acoustic guitar, she met a number of buskers and other street performers — some who taught her poi dancing.

Upon graduation, Lou went to Europe — first landing in Amsterdam, where she made money as a poi dancer, before relocating to Berlin, where she became a well-known and well-regarded busker, performing interpretations of popular songs and her own original material, and eventually developing her own unique sound.  With the release of her 2014 self-released debut EP Momentum, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist began receiving international attention — and as a result, she spent the following year performing at a number of TED events in London and Berlin.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Lou released her critically applauded, 2016 full-length debut Orbit, which saw her garner a nomination for Best Female Artist at that year’s German Critics’ Choice Awards, as well as a set at the 27th Annual Conference for the Professional Business Women of California, which featured keynote speakers Venus Williams, Judy Smith, and Memory Banda. Lou spent much of that year on the road, touring to support her debut effort, sharing bills with Sixto Rodriguez, Boy & Bear, Allen Stone and Crystal Fighters. Additionally, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter played three, sold-out multimedia events at the Berlin Planetarium — and by demand, she added two additional planetarium shows to her 2017 tour itinerary.

Along with the Berlin Planetarium shows, Lou recorded a live version of “She” with the live performance video, shot during two different Berlin area shows going viral, receiving more than 2.5 million YouTube streams, and the song was featured in the major motion picture Bombshell: The Hedy Lamar Story;  in fact, the song was shortlisted for an Oscar for Best Original Song. Adding to an incredible run of critical success, Lou released her latest EP, Sola at the end of last year.

Lou released a studio version of “She” back in February, which coincided with a number of international tour dates to build up buzz for her highly-anticipated sophomore album.  But before that, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist collaborating with the Bologna, Italy-born, Berlin-based blues singer/songwriter and multi-instrumetnlist Franceso Lo Giudice, best known as Olmo. Much like Lou, Olmo spent his summers going to a different city or two with a lap slide guitar, busking and soaking up the local vibes. Upon finishing his studies at the University of Bristol, Lo Giudice got heavily into production — so much so that he left a band he started Amoa Mass, relocated to Berlin and started his solo project, which meshes the blues with electronic music. Interestingly enough, Lou and Lo Giudice’s collaboration can trace its origins to when they met while busking in Berlin, and their latest song together “Devil’s Sweetheart” was reportedly written and crafted within an hour — and the song is a sparse, atmospheric yet cinematic track centered around a looping twangy, blues guitar line, a moody string arrangement, and the duo’s uncanny harmonies. Sonically, the song brings to mind Daughn Gibson’s dusty, old-timey sample-based take on country and the work of the legendary T. Bone Burnett.

The gorgeous and moodily shot video for “Devil’s Sweetheart” features some spectacular aerial performances by Valia Beauvieux and Dennis Macaofrom the Berlin based circus crew Birdmilk Collective.

 

Dan Sultan is an acclaimed Fitzroy, Australia-born, Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who started playing guitar when he was four and wrote his first song when he turned 10. As the story goes, his mother’s friend gave the young Sultan an old electric guitar, and he began playing gigs at local pubs. In 2000, Sultan met a fellow singer/songwriter and guitarist Scott Wilson at a Williamstown, Australia pub and the duo began writing songs together. As Wilson recalled in an interview “What struck me at first was that he [Sultan] could play piano and guitar, and he was a great foil for what I was doing . . . After a while playing together, he said, ‘Can I Sing this one?’ I said, ‘Do you know the words?’ . . . [he had a] might voice. A lot people can play guitar . . . not many can sing like that.”

Sultan’s  Scott Wilson-produced, full-length solo debut, the genre-defying Homemade Biscuits was released in early 2006 and consisted of tracks written by Wilson or co-written by Sultan and Wilson, and a featured number of local musicians and collaborators, including Lazare Agneskis, Neil Gray, Elijah Maiyah, Lochile McKlean and Ben Wicks. Sultan’s debut also featured two attention grabbing tracks — “Your Love Is Like a Song,” which won a 2007 Deadly Award for Single Release of the Year, and “Rosyln,” a song Sultan wrote about his mother, who was a member of the Aboriginal “stolen generations,” which he performed during 2007’s National Day of Healing concert. Adding to a growing profile that year, Paul Kelly invited Sultan to record a cover of Kev Carmody’s “This Land Is Mine” for a compilation tribute album of Carmody’s work titled Cannot Buy My Soul — and with a backing band of Eugene Ball (trumpet), Ben Gillespie (trombone), Joshua Jones (bass), Peter Marin (drums), Ash Naylor (guitar) and Gina Woods (keys), Sultan and company played Australia’s festival circuit over the next two years or so, including set at the Sydney Festival and the Queensland Music Festival.

Sultan’s sophomore album 2009’s Get Out While You Can was a massive, commercial success as it charted on the ARIA Albums Chart Top 100, eventually reaching #1 on the independent Australian charts and was a Triple J featured album. Along with that, Sultan won ARIA Music Awards for Best Male Artist and Best Blues & Roots Album, and Australian Independent Records Awards for Best Independent Artist and Best Independent Blues & Roots Music Music.

In early 2014, Sultan opened for Bruce Springsteen‘s Melbourne and Hunter Valley shows during his Australian tour, which Sultan promptly followed up with the release of his third full-length album Blackbird, an album that reached #4 on the ARIA Albums Charts and spent 13 weeks in the Top 50 — and the album won a Best Rock Album Award at that year’s ARIA Awards. Building upon an impressive year, Sultan released the Dirty Ground EP, which reached the ARIA Albums Chart Top 100.

 

Sultan’s fourth album, 2017’s Jan Skubiszewski-produced Killer was nominated for three ARIA Awards — Best Male Artist, Best Rock Album, and Best Independent Release. Interestingly, Killer Under a Blood Moon EP which was recorded over the course of four days finds Sultan continuing his successful collaboration with Skubiszewski — but also collaborating with some of Australia’s brightest and most talented, up-and-coming talents, including A.B. Original, Camp Cope, Meg Mac and Gang of Youths‘ Dave Le’aupepe to reinterpret a series of tracks from Sultan’s commercially successful fourth album as a way to give his material new bodies, new ways of being while having a good time doing so. Unsurprisingly, the album is part of a growing trend of artists from wildly disparate genres collaborating together to create music that’s unique and difficult to pin down, frequently challenging the status quo of the major record labels and mainstream genre boundaries.

The EP’s latest single “Drover” features Gang of Youth’s Dave Le’aupepe taking over vocal duties on a swaggering, arena rock-friendly blues centered around power chords, stomping beats, a looped choral sample and an anthemic hook reminiscent of The Black Keys. It’s a marked and muscular departure from the soulful and blues original that manages to retain the song’s bluesy vibe.

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been following me through my various social media platforms, you’d know that I’ve been in Chicago for the past few days for a conference related to my day job — and of course, while in town I’ve been running around to see friends, eat good food, drink good beers and catch as much live music as I could possibly take in. Naturally, while en route here and towards the bars, music venues and restaurants I’ve eaten in, I’ve spent it listening to a variety of music — especially Chicago blues, particularly my favorites, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. Check out this (mostly) Windy City-inspired playlist below. (Of course, there will likely be additions as I’m commuting to and fro for the next few days, so feel free to keep checking it.)