Category: folk

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays Black Pumas Perform Their Gorgeous Cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton, the act can trace its origins back to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native  Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he eventually met Quesada.

Now, as you may recall, the acclaimed Austin-based soul act their critically applauded and commercially successful self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that featured the smash hit “Colors,” which amassed over four million YouTubeviews —and being one o the most added songs to Adult Album Alternative (AAAA) radio. Along with that, the band had gone on a relentless tour schedule that brought their uplifting live show across North America and the European Union, including three separate stops in the New York area: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the acclaimed, Austin-based JOVM mainstay act had been covering Tracy Chapman‘s  smash hit “Fast Car” during their live sets — and their rendition has quickly become a fan favorite. Unsurprisingly, the song and its lyrics resonate deeply with Burton — and although the Black Pumas cover is fairly straightforward and loving rendition, it comes from a deeply personal place, as though Burton could have written it himself. “To me, ‘Fast Car’ is a song of hope, dreams and a relentless heart to go somewhere and be someone,” says Burton. “I learned the song when I first began to busk and of the covers that I knew, it garnered the most attention from the random passerby. As a musician and artist, I’m attracted to songs that make us reflect on our daily struggles for making life worth living for.”

Recently, Black Pumas performed their gorgeous and heartfelt cover of “Fast Car” on Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Interestingly, with each repeated listen of the Black Pumas cover, I’m reminded of what a great song “Fast Car” is — and how much I loved it.  Sometimes a great song is an artist reaching down within themselves to tell the truth as they see it, paired with their voice and a guitar — or whatever instrument they feel fit. 

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Black Pumas · Fast Car

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton, the act can trace its origins back to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native  Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he eventually met Quesada.

Now, as you may recall, the acclaimed Austin-based soul act their critically applauded and commercially successful self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that featured the smash hit “Colors,” which amassed over four million YouTube views —and being one o the most added songs to Adult Album Alternative (AAAA) radio. Along with that, the band had gone on a relentless tour schedule that brought their uplifting live show across North America and the European Union, including three separate stops in the New York area: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the acclaimed, Austin-based JOVM mainstay act had been covering Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car” during their live sets — and their rendition has quickly become a fan favorite. Unsurprisingly, the song and its lyrics resonate deeply with Burton — and although the Black Pumas cover is fairly straightforward and loving rendition, it comes from a deeply personal place, as though Burton could have written it himself. “To me, ‘Fast Car’ is a song of hope, dreams and a relentless heart to go somewhere and be someone,” says Burton. “I learned the song when I first began to busk and of the covers that I knew, it garnered the most attention from the random passerby. As a musician and artist, I’m attracted to songs that make us reflect on our daily struggles for making life worth living for.”

 

 

 

New Audio: Emerging Singer-Songwriter Anne Freeman Releases a Shimmering and Radio Friendly New Single

Anne Freeman is an emerging indie-folk singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up in Mississippi Delta, not far from Bobbie Gentry’s hometown of Woodland, MS. Although she’s starting out in her career, Freeman has already played festivals across Mississippi and has appeared on Mississippi Public Radio — and praise from American Songwriter. The emerging artist caught the attention of Fat Possum’s Graham Hamaker, who signed her to his label Muscle Beach. 

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding her, Freeman’s latest single, the Matt Ross-Sprang-mixed “Days Go By” is a shimmering and hook-driven song that sounds like a slick synthesis of Nashville and Muscle Shoals, while possessing a radio friendly studio polish. Interestingly, the song as Freeman explains “is about struggling to cut ties with a toxic friend but constantly getting lured back in. Everyone has someone or something in their live that makes them feel incredible for aw nile, but eventually leads them down a dark path.”

Interview: A Q&A with I AM SNOW ANGEL’s Julie Kathryn

Julie Kathryn is a New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, sound designer, producer and creative mastermind behind I AM SNOW ANGEL, a critically applauded solo recording project that has received critical praise from the likes of Huffington PostIndie ShuffleMagnetic MagazineCreem MagazineRefinery 29All Things Go and others.

The acclaimed New York-based artist and producer has developed a reputation as a highly sought after sound designer and producer working with Ableton and Splice.com – and she’s the co-founder of Female Frequency, a musical collective dedicated to empowering women and girls in the music industry.

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Photo Credit: Julia Drummond

TowerOfSONG

Last year, Julie Kathryn released her I AM SNOW ANGEL full-length debut MOTHERSHIP. Recorded in a cabin in the wintry Adirondack woods, the album is a concept album that touched upon themes of isolation, longing, love, paranoia and the paranormal. Since, the release of MOTHERSHIP, the New York-based artist, producer, sound designer has managed to be rather busy: she gave birth to her first child, collaborated on Sophie Colette’s attention-grabbing “In Love a Little,” and continuing on the momentum of a rather big year for her both personally and professionally, the New York-based recently released a gorgeous and spectral cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song,” featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, atmospheric synths and Julie Kathryn’s vocals. Interestingly, her interpretation of the song is centered around a plaintive yearning and vulnerability.

I recently exchanged emails with the I AM SNOW ANGEL mastermind for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. For this interview, we discuss the difficult balance of one’s creative live with being a parent, her collaboration with Sophie Colette, leveling the playing field for women producers and of course, her aforementioned cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” Additionally, as a result of governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – especially on small and mid-sized independent venues and the indie touring artists, who grace their stages has been devastating. Much like the other artists, I’ve interviewed this year, I’ll continue to ask artists how they’re getting by, how they’re keeping busy and of course, how this period is impacting their careers.

Julie Kathryn’s full-length album Mothership and her rendition of “Tower of Song” – and below the jump, check out the interview.

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WRH: You’re a new mommy. So before we start: Happy belated Mother’s Day. How do you balance the obligations and responsibilities of motherhood with your creative and professional life?

Julie Kathryn: Thank you! Being a mother is wonderful. It’s definitely been challenging to balance everything. Taking care of a baby feels like a full time job, as I expected it would, but I didn’t realize all the ways that I personally would be changed by motherhood – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Everything feels different now. I’m finding a way to make music in this new normal and I’m excited to see how it turns out.

 WRH: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions in almost every aspect of our lives. For most of us, the seemingly indefinite fear, anxiety, uncertainty, loneliness and boredom of the past few months of social distancing and quarantines have been overwhelming. How have you been holding up?  How have you been keeping busy? Binge watching anything?

 JK: This is such a strange and uncertain time. I try to make a gratitude list every day to keep me balanced and thankful, particularly for my health. Also, I’m lucky that I have a clear and immediate purpose right now – to take care of my son! He keeps me focused and in the moment. I’m very grateful to be able to spend this time with him. In my free time, when I can find some, I make music, practice yoga and yes, binge watch! Dead to Me (Netflix) and Breeders (FX) are two of my recent favorites.

 WRH: How did you get into music?

JK: I’ve always been very musical. I took piano lessons as a kid. I taught myself how to play the guitar during high school. For a while, I was an acoustic/Americana singer-songwriter. Eventually, I started engineering and producing my own material, and it became much more electronic. That’s how this project – I AM SNOW ANGEL – was born.

WRH: How would you describe your sound for those, who may be unfamiliar with I Am Snow Angel?

 Dream pop. Melodic, electronic. Ambient and earthy at the same time.

 WRH: Who are your influences?

 JK: For this project, I was definitely inspired by Imogen Heap, Portishead, The Postal Service, Massive Attack, and other electronic and trip hop acts. Over the years, there are a lot of songwriters that I’ve studied, like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Bill Withers. The National is a band whose albums I’ve played on repeat for months at a time. I also love the artistry of Thom Yorke, Lou Reed, David Lynch. I love moody electronic soundscapes by artists like Trentemøller and The Knife, and 80s synth /new wave music like Roxy Music and Yaz. I also spent a lot of time listening to late 90s female R&B —  Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Macy Gray.  The list goes on and on and it’s hard to encapsulate it.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

JK: Today, I’m listening to meditative sounds – Max Richter, Brian Eno. Recently, I’ve also been listening to rootsy alternative rock (Wilco, Neko Case, Sharon Van Etten).

 WRH: Earlier this year, you collaborated with Sophie Colette on “In Love a Little.” As you know, I wrote about the song earlier this year – and in a lengthy statement for the song, Colette wrote:

“Working with Julie was an amazing experience – it was very hands on and communicative. We sat side by side and made decisions together from the tracing to the comping to the mixing. I learned so much about Ableton and the possibility of different soundscapes that could be created outside of traditional instrumentation.

 It became apparent to me, that working with a female producer, who inherently applied these types of sounds to her own work, came with the advantage of being able to feel the same nuances of emotion without having to explain them to each other. Each session was an open-ended conversation and quite nurturing to be honest. Something about that female-to-female energy in a room is really powerful when the ego isn’t there.”

How was it like to collaborate with Sophie Colette? Do you find it easier to collaborate with women artists and producers?

JK: Working with Sophie was a lot of fun. I really like how our collaboration turned out. We were able to tease out some interesting emotional undertones in her song. I remember her showing me moody photos of an urban landscape at night in the aftermath of a storm, with the city’s colored lights reflecting in puddles on the dark streets.  She said, “this is my inspiration for the bridge.” We spent the day sonically recreating this idea, and it became the soundscape for the bridge of her song. It was a really organic process. I do end up working with a lot of female artists, and I find that we often have similar communication styles and a shared experience of coming up in the music industry.

WRH: How do we level the playing field, so that there are more women producers?

JK: For me, being visible as a female producer who can do it all – instrumentation, engineering, sound design, mixing – is important. When I was starting out in production, it really helped me to see other women who were doing it. Also, when I work with other artists, I share my knowledge and encourage them to learn production and engineering, in whatever capacity is appealing to them.

 WRH: What advice would you give for women artists and producers trying to make it?

JK: Have fun!! The process of producing music is intense and quite involved, so it needs to be a fulfilling one. If the production process is merely viewed as a means to an end (ie, the finished product), it’s more likely to feel like a chore or an insurmountable feat. But, if the very act of creating music is thrilling and emotionally rewarding, the finished product is just the icing on the cake – a bonus. Don’t worry about doing it “right.” There are many ways to produce music. When possible, seek out mentors and collaborators who support and elevate you.

WRH: You recently released a slow-burning and atmospheric cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” What drew you to the song?

JK: I love Leonard Cohen. His songwriting and performance style have inspired me for a long time.  I first visited the song a few years back when my dear friend Gus Rodriguez (he performs under the name Silbin Sandovar and is a wonderful musician, talent buyer, and connector of artists in NYC and beyond) asked me to cover a few Leonard Cohen songs in a tribute show he was putting together. I immediately felt connected to the lyrical content of this song, to the existential themes of isolation and loneliness that Cohen associated with being a songwriter.

 WRH: Instead of a straightforward note-by-note cover, you turn Cohen’s song into your song. Was that an intentional decision – and was that a difficult thing to do, considering how beloved his work is?

JK: It wasn’t really intentional. It felt very natural for me to re-imagine the song in this way, and I didn’t overthink it.

 WRH: So what’s next for you?

JK: I’m working on a new EP. In some ways, it’s a sequel to MOTHERSHIP, which I put out last year. So far, it feels ambient, emotional and layered. We’ll see where it goes. I’ll keep you posted. And thank you for talking with me!!

New Video: Acclaimed Norwegian Singer-Songwriter Ane Brun Releases a Gorgeous and Cinematic New Single

Over the past 15 years, the acclaimed Norwegian-born, Stockholm-based singer/songwriter Ane Brun has released 12 albums of gorgeous and cinematic folk and art pop through her own label Balloon Ranger Recordings that have included 2005’s sophomore album, A Temporary Dive, which led to a Norwegian Grammy Award win for Best Female Artist; 2008’s critically applauded Changing of the Seasons, which was praised by The New York Times; 2015’s When I’m Free, which NPR’s All Things Considered called “best record yet . . . her most sonically ambitious . . .;” and 2017’s Leave Me Breathless, a collection of covers and reinterpretations of hits by Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, and others.

Brun’s forthcoming (and still untitled) full-length album is slated or a fall release through her own label, and the album’s latest single, the self-recorded and edited “Trust” is a hauntingly gorgeous and cinematic track centered around an atmospheric arrangement of strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering synths and Brun’s gorgeously expressive and plaintive vocals. “It’s a song about letting go of all doubt and just letting yourself fall into the hands of fate, and trust that it’s all going to be alright,” Brun explains in press notes. “It was first written as a romantic song, but as we’re in this state of uncertainty around the planet, I feel it has gained more meaning.” 

Before the single’s official release, Brun invited fans from around the world to join in for a pre-listening party and online chat. “Many of the people who participated were alone in their homes or with their cat or dog, a partner or their family. Some were in quarantine because they were infected with the coronavirus or because they work in healthcare,” Brun says. “What we had in common was that we were all affected by this difficult situation, and most of us were isolating from the outside world. We also felt a need to trust and meet other people. It was magical to come together like this.” The recently released video will resonate will many of us, who have been isolated and feeling alone and desperately wanting to be in touch with another person.

I’ve written a bit about the Ipswich, UK-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Hannah Scott over the past couple of years. And as you may recall much of her work is influenced by her own personal experiences, including  a year she spent working on an olive press in rural Tuscany, Italy in her late teens, her diagnosis with a form of arthritis, which causes severe joint pain and fatigue, as well as the experiences of the people in her life.

Several years later, Scott met her collaborator, Italian-born multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Stefano Della Casa when they were both in London. But as the story goes, they both recognized that they may have encountered each other years earlier, when Scott used to pass through the train station that Della Casa worked in at the time. Interestingly, when Scott and Della Casa began working together, they also quickly recognized that they had a deep and abiding creative connection despite coming from vastly different backgrounds: Della Casa had a difficult upbringing and troubled early adulthood while Scott had been lucky to have a supportive family and relatively happy childhood.

Both artists firmly believe that their musical collaboration has provided an outlet to support each other through difficult times and in a relatively short time, they’ve built up a profile both nationally and internationally with write-ups in MOJO, Songwriting Magazine , Clash Magazine and in The Guardian as a “New Band of The Day.” They’ve also received airplay on  Bob Harris’ and Dermot O’Leary’BBC Radio 2 shows and have been on  BBC Introducing’s “Track of the Week” three times. They’ve opened for  Seth Lakeman and 10cc , and played at Mondo.NYC Festival a couple of years ago.

Since I caught her at Mondo.NYC, Scott has been pretty busy releasing new material including 2018’s full-length Pieces of the Night which firmly established Scott’s sound and approach: emotive and heartfelt songwriting paired with a cinematic production featuring organic instrumentation — acoustic guitar, cello and vocals — with atmospheric electronics. Last year, she released the gorgeous Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head-era Coldplay-like “Walk a Wire,” which managed to be one of the Ipswich-born, London-based singer/songwriter’s most urgent songs, as it’s a plea to the listener to take a chance to open up to life and possibility before it’s too late.

The Della Casa co-written and produced “Shape” is the latest single from the JOVM mainstay and it’s also the latest single off her forthcoming full-length album. Centered around a cinematic production featuring twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, Scott’s emotive vocals and an enormous hook the song further cements the sound and approach that has won Scott attention across the blogosphere. Much like “Walk a Wire,” the song showcases her narrative-based songwriting, with the song recounting the story of how her maternal grandmother refused to accept her mother’s engagement to her father, threatening to never speak to her mother again if they got married. Her grandmother kept her word for over 20 years. As a result, the song expresses an overwhelming sense of regret and loss, as well as the sense of time rushing by and missing the small yet very important things — the birth of one’s grandchild, Christmases and the like.

 

 

New Video: Night Flight’s Gorgeous and Mournful Meditation on Loss and Grief

With the release of their debut EP, 2017’s Wanderlust, its follow up, 2018’s Carousel EP and that year’s full-length debut, the London-based indie folk act Night Flight, led by its Rye, UK-born, London-based primary songwriter and frontman Sam Holmes quickly developed a reputation for crafting material that paired earnest lyrics, enormous hooks and cinematic-leaning instrumentals. 

Building upon a growing profile, the London-based act’s recently released EP White Noise is the long-awaited follow up to their full-length debut — and thematically, the EP’s songs explore disillusionment, isolation and self-reflection in the midst of personal recovery. Interestingly, White Noise’s material was written during a period of transition for both the band and for its frontman personally: the EP was predominantly written in Holmes’ hometown of Rye. “There are moments on it that feel darker than anything we’ve done before,” the band’s Sam Holmes says in press notes. “The production is still considerate of the songs, but there’s more imagination. Hopefully the music conveys the range of emotions felt in moments of high change; loss, nostalgia, self-doubt and positivity.”

The EP’s latest single is the shimmering and achingly mournful “Rye.” Centered around strummed acoustic guitar, Holmes’ expressive vocals, gently padded drums and a  soaring hook, the cinematic song, which manages to recall Parachutes-era Coldplay and others explores newfound solitude and nostalgia in the midst of grief over a profound loss — while paying homage to Holmes’ hometown. 

Directed by Jonny Ruff and the band’s Sam Holmes, the recently released video for “Rye” is a gorgeous and cinematically shot visual centered around longing, nostalgia and the emptiness of loss as we see a couple, which includes Imogen Comrie driving around in a car — but sometimes going in reverse, sometimes going forward. Towards the end, we just see Comrie driving by herself, and it turns the song into a heartbreaking tear-jerker. 

New Video: Brooklyn’s Holy Hive Releases a Playful Visual for Mournful Single “Broom”

Holy Hive is a Brooklyn-based soul act featuring:

Paul Spring, a St. Cloud, MN-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist. Spring spent his formative years studying ancient languages, poetry and classical guitar before making a name for himself as a folk artist, who self-released seven albums, including a well-received children’s album Home of Song.
Homer Steinweiss, a Brooklyn-born and-based drummer, who has played, toured and recorded with a who’s who of contemporary music including Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars, The Jonas Brothers, St. Vincent, Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings– before settling into a highly-south after session player.
Joe Harrison, a Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist who has played with Frank Dukes and Charles Bradley.
The band can trace its origins to when Spring and Steinwess met on a Minnesota farm through their respective girlfriends, who actually are cousins. Steinweiss and Spring soon began a long-distance friendship, which, over time developed into a folk music recording project. Harrison, was working at a studio assistant at The Diamond Mine Studios at the time and he started to sit in on the duo’s sessions, eventually joining the band as a full-time member in 2015 when the band began recording as Holy Hive.

In 2016 Spring relocated to New York and the members of Holy Hive were invited to tour with JOVM mainstay Lee Fields. That tour dramatically changed their approach and sound: after the tour they began exploring the relationships between the traditions and lyricism of folk and the aesthetics and rhythms of soul music — by seamlessly meshing them into something anachronistic yet uniquely theirs. And with a new sound, they began honing their sound with a year-long monthly resident at Red Hook, Brooklyn-based dive bar Sunny’s with a rotating cast of collaborators. Then they spent the next couple of years working on folk and soul inspired material that thematically focused on love and loss.

The end result is the band’s long-awaited full-length debut Float Back to You. Slated for a May 29, 2020 release through Big Crown Records, the album is the follow-up to their critically applauded debut EP Harping and a string of well-received singles. Recorded at Diamond Mind Studios, the album was produced by the band’s Steinwess and consists of 10 originals, a cover of Honeybus’ “Be Thou By My Side” and a re-working of the old Irish folk standard “Red is the Rose.” The album also features an impressive array of guest stars including Mary Lattimore (harp), El Michels Affair’s Leon Michels (sax, keys), The Shacks’ Shannon Wise (backing vocals), The Roots’ Dave Guy (trumpet), Nick Movshon (bass) and Spring’s wife Sophia Heymans (piano).

Float Back to You’s latest single is the shimmering and mournful blue-eyed soul meets 60s folk-like “Broom.” Centered around shimmering guitar chords, a steady backbeat, a gorgeous yet soulful arrangement and Spring’s aching falsetto, the song can trace its origins back to their first tour with Lee Fields. “At the time, we were a folk trio with nylon guitars playing Nick Drake inspired arrangements,” the band’s Homer Steinweiss recalls in press notes. “These songs did not go over too well with the So-Cal soul audience. Inspired by Lee’s music, we saw a need to write a more soulful song to appeal to them. After covering Donnie and Joe Emerson’s ‘Baby’ in San Diego, Joe made some chords, Homer laid a beat and paul activated the falsetto to make this tune.”

Directed by Sesse Lind, the recently released video for “Broom” is shot on a Long Island City, Queens industrial rooftop — and we follow the band’s Homer Steinweiss as he kind of jazzercises to the song.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays The Wood Brothers Release a Nostalgic and Wistful Video for “Little Bit Sweet”

Over the better part of the past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed folk/roots/Americana act and JOVM mainstays The Wood Brothers. And as you may recall, the act which is comprised of  Boulder, CO-born and currently Nashville-based siblings Chris Wood (upright bass, electric bass, vocals) and Oliver Wood (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals), and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, can trace some of the of origins of the act and their musical careers to when Chris and Oliver were children: Their father, a molecular biologist, frequently performed old folk and roots music songs at family gatherings and campfires and their mother, a poet, instilled a passion for storytelling and turn of phrase.  As children and teens, they bonded over a mutual love of bluesmen like Jimmy Reed and Lightinn’ Hopkins; however, as they got older, their musical and professional paths would wildly diverge.

When they were young men, Oliver Wood relocated to Atlanta, where he picked up gigs in playing guitar in a number of local cover bands before landing a spot in Tinsley Ellis‘ backing band. At Ellis’ behest Oliver Wood began to sing — and shortly after that, he founded King Johnson, a hard-touring band that released six albums of blues-tinged R&B, funk and country over the next 12 years of his life. Meanwhile, Chris Wood studied jazz bass at the New England Conservatory of Music, and upon graduation relocated to New York where he co-founded the critically applauded Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW), an act that quickly became one of the stalwarts of the ’90s downtown New York jazz and experimental music scenes.

After pursuing separate and rather disparate musical careers for close to two decades, Oliver’s King Johnson and Chris’ Martin Medeski and Wood played on the same bill at a North Carolina show. During Martin Medeski and Wood’s set, Oliver sat in with his brother’s band. And as the story goes, the brothers instantly realized that they needed to be playing music together. Shortly after that set, the brothers recorded a batch of Oliver’s songs, which channeled the shared musical heroes of their youth while showcasing their own individual strengths — Oliver’s songwriting and Chris’ forward-thinking, adventurous musicianship. An early batch of demos landed The Wood Brothers a deal with Blue Note Records, who released their 2006 John Medeski-produced debut, Ways Not To Lose, a critically applauded effort that was Amazon.com’s editors’ number 1 pick for folk and made NPR’s “Overlooked 11” list.

Building upon a buzz-worthy profile, the act released 2008’s Loaded and 2009’s covers EP, Up Above My Head before moving on to Nashville’s Southern Ground Artists, who released 2011’s Smoke Ring Halo, 2012’s Live Volume One: Sky High and Live Volume Two: Nail and Tooth and 2013’s Buddy Miller-produced The Muse. Shortly after the release of The Muse, the members of the trio relocated to Nashville, marking the first time that Chris and Oliver Wood have lived in the same city in several decades. 2015’s Paradise was the first album in which all three members of the band shared songwriting credits, as they were all in the same city to work on and refine material. They followed that up with another live album, 2017’s Live at the Barn.

Last year, I caught the acclaimed trio at The Vic Theatre in Chicago, during their tour to support their sixth, full-length album, the self-produced and recorded One Drop of Truth. And although at the time, I wasn’t familiar with them before the set, they proved their reputation for being one of the best touring bands in contemporary music to me during that set. Now, as you may recall, earlier this year, the acclaimed Nashville-based trio released another live album, Live at the Fillmore, which was recorded over the course of a two night stand at San Francisco’s historic music venue. The album further cemented their long-held reputation for live shows centered around performances that defy easy categorization — their delivery seems to lives at the intersection of arena rock energy and small theater intimacy, all while blurring the lines between folk, rock, blues, soul, funk and Americana. In between a busy touring schedule, the trio found the time to write and record the highly-anticipated follow-up to One Drop of Truth, Kingdom In My Mind.

Throughout the band’s history together, the trio’s creative process would generally begin with the band writing songs before they got to the studio and then deliberately set out to record them. However, Kingdom In My Mind found the band beginning the process of writing and recording without initially realizing it: When they started, they all thought they were just simply breaking in and test driving their new Nashville recording studio/rehearsal space by tracking a series of extended, instrumental jam sessions.

“If we had known we were making a record, we probably would have been too self-conscious to play what we played,” Chris Wood reflects on the writing and recording process of their forthcoming album. “At the time, we just thought we were jamming to break in our new studio, so we felt free to explore all these different ways of playing together without worrying about form or structure. It was liberating.”

“We weren’t performing songs,” Oliver adds. “We were just improvising and letting the music dictate everything. Somebody would start playing, and then we’d all jump into the groove with them and see where it went. Normally when recording, you’re thinking about your parts and your performances, but with these sessions, we were just reacting to each other and having fun in the moment.”

After listening to their jams, the members of the band realized that they captured something undeniably alive and uninhibited. Much like a sculptor, Chris Wood took those sprawling improvised recordings and began to carefully chisel out verses, choruses, bridges and solos until distinctive songs began to take shape. From there, the band divvied up the material that spoke to them most and began writing lyrics both separately and together.

Thematically the album is an extensive meditation and reckoning with circumstance, mortality and human nature centered around vivid, almost novelistic character studies and unflinching self-examination. The material’s cast of characters all attempt to find strength and solace in accepting what lies beyond our limited control, ultimately pondering how we find contentment and peace in a confusing, chaotic and frightening world. “We all have these little kingdoms inside of our minds,” the band’s Chris Wood says in press notes.  “And without really planning it out, the songs on this album all ended up exploring that idea in some way or another. They look at the ways we deal with our dreams and our regrets and our fears and our loves. They look at the stories we tell ourselves and the ways we balance the darkness and the light.”

But while the lyrics dig into deep philosophical territory, the arrangements draw from a broad sonic and stylistic spectrum. Earlier this year, I wrote about the slow-burning, Dr. John/New Orleans-like jazz ballad “Alabaster,” a song centered around an empathetic portrait of a woman, who has broken free of her old life and relocated far away for a much-needed fresh start. And while featuring an incredibly novelistic attention to detail, the song manages to feel improvised yet simultaneously crafted. Kingdom In My Mind‘s second single was the slow-burning country blues “Cry Over Nothing,” a meditation on the ego, perspective and fate told with a playfully fatalistic sensibility. Sometimes, even the sky is against you — and there ain’t a thing you can do about it.

The album’s third and latest single “Little Bit Sweet” interestingly enough features soTme of the album’s first bit of improvised instrumentation from those early jam sessions. Centered around a bouncy bass line and shimmering guitars, the song is part old-timey lament and part world-weary sigh focusing on mortality, the passing of time and getting older, and the impermanent nature of all things — especially love. And yet through the tears and heartache, there’s a sense of acceptance and awe of the things that the song’s narrator can’t understand. It just is — and sometimes it’s weird and wonderful because of that.

The recently released video created by Austin, TX-based artist Gary Dorsey combines old-timey collage-based lamination and live band performance footage that manages to emphasizes the wistful and world-weary nostalgia of the song. “Lyrically the song speaks to the yins and yangs of love—every kind of love,” The Wood Brothers’ Oliver Wood explains. “How the value and preciousness of love is matched by its fragility and fleetingness. The images in the lyrics are from personal experiences, and the connected feelings should feel pretty universal.”

Gary Dorsey adds: “As I listened to ‘Little Bit Sweet,’ I felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. I was taken back to my grandparent’s house, memories of climbing trees, playing in the tool shed, and the smell of old oil cans. For the video, I wanted to relate the beauty of those memories and how safe all of that felt for me, that feeling of the people that you love watching over you throughout your life. I hope that I’m taking the viewer on a journey that reminds them of those younger days and family memories, reminds them of the loved ones that may have already left this life, and perhaps brings back a bit of that childhood wonder we all wish that we could get back.”