Category: folk

New Audio: The Wood Brothers Release a Bluesy Meditation on the Ego and Perspective

The acclaimed folk/roots/Americana act The Wood Brothers, comprised of  Boulder, CO-born 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 in the early 90s 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 cements their long-held reputation for live shows centered around performances that defy easy categorization — their delivery 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 previously recored material, the trio would write a batch of songs 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 out, they all thought they were 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. The material, which is centered around vivid character studies and unflinching self-examination attempts to find strength and solace in accepting what lies beyond our control — and ponders how we find contentment 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. Last month, 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 and unhurried yet simultaneously crafted. Kingdom In My Mind’s latest single is the slow-burning country blues “Cry Over Nothing,” a song that finds the trio meditating on the ego, perspective and fate with a playfully fatalistic sensibility. Much like its immediate predecessor, the song reveals the trio’s exceptional versatility while reminding the listener that the trio can essentially play anything with verve and soulfulness. 

“At the same time we were making this album, we were looking for some sort of philanthropic organization we could support with our music,”  Oliver Wood explains, “and in a bit of synchronicity, we came across this great group called Thistle Farms, which was based just down the street from our studio. Their goal is to help women who have been victims of prostitution or addiction to get off the street and into safe housing where they can participate in therapy and job training. The work they were doing was so inspiring and it felt like such a fit with the kind of album we were writing that we teamed up with them to donate a portion of ticket sales from all our shows. It’s our way of using what we’ve got to do whatever good we can in the world.”

Flora Hibberd is a rapidly rising London-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter — and with the release of “The Absentee” and “In Violence” off her recently released J.C. Wright–produced debut EP, The Absentee, the London-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter, who cites Nick Cave, Joan Baez and Jacques Brel among others, has already had her early work described as “intelligent and measured . . ” and her songs “deeply rooted in the timeless lyricism of Dylan and Cohen.”

Interestingly, as Hibberd says in press notes. “‘The songs of this EP emerged over months and years, and were refined in bars, apartments and on the streets. ‘The Absentee’ was written fifty metres below the English Channel, three years ago. ‘In Violence’ was written in 2017 in the garden of the Musée Rodin. Their influences are too many to name; random encounters with poetry, art, music and language in all its forms have bled into my writing in ways of which I am often unaware. They are about real people and real events. But they are also about impossible people, and impossible events. My hope is that they find you here, on the blurred edge between reality and dreams, in the half-awake place where the familiar merges with the unknown.”

“As Long as There Is Night,” the EP’s latest single is a gorgeous song centered around a spectral arrangement of shimmering and soaring strings, strummed acoustic guitar and Hibberd’s mesmerizing vocals. And while clearly drawing from a timeless folk tradition, “As Long as There Is Night” manages to simultaneously evoke a lingering and bittersweet fever dream and an aching longing for those things, places you can never get back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Rwandan Folk Act The Good Ones Latest is the Heartbreaking Lament of a Desperate Father

The Kigali, Rwanda-based folk act The Good Ones, which features core trio and founders  co-lead singer Janvier Hauvgimana, co-lead singer and primary songwriter Adrien Kazigira and Javan Mahoro can trace their origins back to the roughy 1978. The members of the band, who were children were taught music and how to play by Hauvgimana’s older brother. Tragically, Hauvgimana’s older brother, who was also blind, later died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The members of The Good Ones formed the band as part of the healing process after the genocide and interestingly enough, the band’s original trio featured individual members of each of Rwanda’s three tribes — Tutsi, Hutu and Abatwa — symbolically and metaphorically reuniting a country that had been split apart at its seams. But on a personal level, for each of the band’s founding members, the band was an active attempt to seek out “the good ones” after witnessing and enduring unthinkable horrors.

Most of the members of the band are small plot, subsistence farmers — with two of the band’s members living on family plots that  have been passed down through several generations. Because most Rwandans are very poor, instruments are very rare. Like countless musicians. who are poor and barely getting by, they find ways to be creative. Sometimes they may find and use a broken guitar. But in most cases, they’ll make their own instruments, sometimes incorporating their farm tools. 

Now, as you may recall, the Rwandan folk act’s forthcoming album Rwanda, You Should Be Loved is slated for a November 9, 2019 release through Anti- Records, and the album’s material can be traced from a batch of over 40 songs that the band’s Adrien Kazigira had originally written. Most of the material thematically centered around meditations on his 13-year-old daughter Marie Clare and the life-threatening tumor that has afflicted her left eye. Interestingly, the album was recorded live and without overdubs on Kazigira’s farm  — and the sessions were imbued with loss’ their longtime collaborator and producer Ian Brennan‘s mother died and a former bandmember and founding member had both died during the sessions.

While the album was recorded during a period of profound loss for the band and their producer, the album focuses on a variety of things in the bandmembers’ lives and experiences. Rwanda, You Are Loved’s first single “The Farmer” celebrates the critical role farmers play in society and to a national — but it’s also an aching lament, acknowledging the bitter irony that farmers often can’t feed their own families and are struggling to barely get by. Built around a sparse arrangement of strummed guitar, harmonized vocals, the song is a timeless one that has seemingly been sung by generations upon generations across the world — and in a variety of languages. The album’s second and latest single “Where Did You Go Wrong, My Love” is a heartbreaking song that’s one part aching lament, one part desperate plea, one part bittersweet reminiscence over the loss of innocence of a young one, as the song is about a father’s desperate attempt to rescue his daughter from going down a bad path in her life. And as a result, the song is imbued with the powerless fear that countless parents have felt about their children. Much like it’s predecessor, the song is centered around a gorgeous yet sparse arrangement: al looping and shimmering 12 bar blues-like guitar, galloping percussion and the interwoven harmonies between the band’s primary songwriter Kazigira and co-lead vocalist Havugiamana.

Sonically, the material may draw comparisons to bluegrass, country, Americana and acoustic, Mississippi Delta Blues but while coming from an older, primordial source. Countless artists consciously aim to create something timeless, the members of The Good Ones somehow manage to seemingly do so in an effortless, breezy fashion while talking about the plight of their fellow farmers, countrymen and working men. (The song features a guest appearance from Wilco’s Nels Cline.)

New Video: City and Colour’s Achingly Lonely Visual for “Astronaut”

Throughout the course of 2019, I’ve written quite a bit about the St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada-born singer/songwriter and guitarist, Dallas Green, the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and commercially successful folk rock/alt country solo-recording City and Colour. Interestingly, Green may arguably be one of the most successful Canadian artists of his generation: he’s won 3 Juno Awards, including two Songwriter of the Year Awards — and in Canada he has 3 Double Platinum-certified albums, 1 Platinum-certified album and 1 Gold-certified album.

Now, as you may recall, Green’s sixth album, the Jacquire King-produced A Pill for Loneliness is slated for an October 4, 2019 release through the acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter’s Dine Alone Records imprint, Still Records. The album’s first single “Astronaut,” which marks the first bit of new material from Green in over 4 years, and the track manages to be one part slow-burning, honky tonk ballad and one part towering and anthemic hook-driven Slowdive and The Verve shoegaze, centered around a lonely life on the road, far from friends, family and loved ones. “I always think of the relationships in my life that have been fractured because I ended up doing what I do for a living,” Green says of the new single. “I’m always gone, wandering around and singing songs. However, it weighs on my family and friends. I’m asking for ‘one more year.’ I left home at 21 to go play my guitar. It’s lonely, but it’s because I yearn to wander, I’m aware of how lucky I am.”

Directed by Maxxis, the recently released video stars City and Colour’s Green alone in an empty movie theater as space and aeronautical imagery is projected on the big screen — although briefly the astronaut becomes real. The video manages to evoke the aching loneliness at the core of the song: after all, what can be lonelier than an empty movie theater, with your thoughts, regrets and dreams? 

Green will be embarking on an extensive North American tour that will feature back-to-back nights in Nashville, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and New York. One night in each of those cities will take place in a seated theater, featuring Green playing an intimate solo show with stripped down versions of songs across his catalog with Ben Rogers, the first artist to sign onto Green’s new label.  The second night will feature Green and his touring band playing in general admission rock and indie rock venues with Ruby Waters opening. You can check out the tour dates below.

Lyric Video: The Hauntingly Beautiful and Old-Time Folk of Rwanda’s The Good Ones

Primarily centered around its core, founding trio of co-lead singer Janvier Hauvgimana, co-lead singer and primary songwriter Adrien Kazigira and Javan Mahoro, the Rwandan folk act, The Good Ones, who hail from the outskirts of the nation’s capital Kigali, can trace their origins back to about 1978, when its members, who were still children, were taught music by Hauvgimana’s older brother. Sadly, Hauvgimana’s older brother, who was also blind, later died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The members of The Good Ones formed the band as part of the healing process after the genocide and interestingly enough, the band’s original trio featured individual members of each of Rwanda’s three tribes — Tutsi, Hutu and Abatwa — symbolically and metaphorically reuniting a country that had been split apart at its seams. But on a personal level, for each of the band’s founding members, the band was an active attempt to seek out “the good ones” after witnessing and enduring unthinkable horrors. 

Most of the members of the band are small plot, subsistence farmers — with two of the band’s members living on family plots that  have been passed down through several generations. Because most Rwandans are very poor, instruments are very rare. The members of the band do what poor people everywhere do. They find some truly creative ways to get by out of necessity — sometimes they may find and use a broken guitar; other times they may borrow a friend’s guitar; but in most cases they’ll make their own instruments, sometimes incorporating their farm tools.  As the band’s primary songwriter Kazigira writes material that routinely features interwoven, intricate harmonies between himself and co-lead vocalist Havugimana that may remind some folks of classic American Bluegrass — but also acoustic, Mississippi Delta Blues.  

Slated for a November 8, 2019 release through Anti- Records, The Good Ones’ forthcoming album Rwanda, You Should Be Love can trace its origins to a batch of over 40 songs that the band’s Adrien Kazigira had originally written. Most of the material centered around meditations on his now 13-year-old daughter Marie Clare, and the life-threatening tumor that has afflicted her left eye. Recorded live and without overdubs on Kazigira’s farm, the sessions were imbued with a further sense of loss: their longtime collaborator and producer Ian Brennan’s mother died and a former bandmember and founding member had both died during the sessions. The album also features guest appearances from an All-Star team of indie rock stars, including Wilco’s Nels Cline, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and Fugazi’s Joe Lally. 

Interestingly, despite the massive number of profound losses in the bandmembers’ lives, Rwanda, You Are Loved’s first single “The Farmer” celebrates the critical role farmers play in society and to a nation but it’s also an aching lament, acknowledging the bitter irony that farmers often can’t feed their own families and are struggling to get by.  Built around a sparse arrangement of strummed guitar, harmonized vocals, the song is a timeless one that has seemingly been sung by generations upon generations across the world — and in a variety of languages. 

Comprised of Boulder, CO-born siblings Chris Wood (upright bass, electric bass, vocals) and Oliver Wood (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals), and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, the acclaimed folk/roots/Americana act The Wood Brothers can trace the origins of their musical careers back 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.

Oliver moved 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. As the story goes, at Ellis’ behest Oliver Wood began to sing — and then 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, moved to New York, where in the early 90s he co-founded the critically applauded Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW), an act that became one of the stalwarts of the downtown New York jazz and abstract music scenes. After pursuing separate musical careers for the better part of 15 years, Oliver Wood’s King Johnson and Chris Wood’s Martin Medeski & Wood played on the same bill at a show in North Carolina that famously featured Oliver sitting in with his brother’s band. “I realized we should be playing music together,” Chris Wood recalled.

Soon after, the duo recorded a batch of Oliver’s songs, channeling the shared musical heroes of their youth while centered around their own musical strengths — Oliver’s songwriting and Chris’ forward-thinking, adventurous musicianship. A demo 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, 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. Since then, the act has released another live album, 2017’s Live at the Barn. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year or so, you’d recall that 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.

Interestingly, their latest album, Live at the Fillmore, which is slated fora a September 6, 2019 release through Honey Jar Records/Thirty Tigers Records will be the newest edition to an ongoing series of live concert recordings. Recorded over a two night stand at San Francisco’s historic venue, the album finds the band continuing to build upon their reputation for the sort of performances that defy easy categorization — their delivery manages to live at the intersection of arena rock energy and intensity and small theater intimacy while happily blurring the lines between folk, rock, blues, funk, Americana and trailblazing. And in the case of Live at the Fillmore, the album features a career-spanning set that finds the act rising to meet the history of the room — all while showcasing the skills that have won them acclaim. “That room just feels like a classic from the moment you arrive,” Oliver Wood says of the iconic space. “All of our heroes have performed there at one time or another, and it’s really special to be able to walk in their footsteps. It inspires us every we time we get on that stage.”

“The longer we play together, the more we can read each other’s thoughts and anticipate each other’s musical choices, so we’re always evolving and reinventing aspects of our show,” Chris Woods adds. “The venue we’re performing in plays a big part in all of that, too. We made our last live album at Levon Helm’s barn, which is a very small, intimate place, but The Fillmore’s much bigger, and you can really hear that reflected in the scale of these performances.”

Live at the Fillmore‘s latest single “Keep Me Around” is centered around some delicate fingerpicked guitar, a sinuous bass line, the trio’s impeccable harmonizing and a soaring hook. Of course, you hear some amazing musicianship and otherworldly simpatico. And in some way, the song finds the band pushing their sound and approach in the direction of the the free flowing jam-like sound Levon Helm and The Band — but with an arena rock immensity.

The Wood Brothers are currently on tour, bringing their live show to venues across the country. Sadly, they’re not in the New York Metropolitan area but if they’re playing in a city near you, you should catch them. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates

8/16 – Jackson Hole, WY – Jackson Hole Live *
8/17 – Big Sky, MT – Moonlight MusicFest
8/19 – Crystal Bay, NV – Crystal Bay Club Casino
8/20 – San Rafael, CA – Terrapin Crossroads (Sold Out)
8/21 – San Rafael, CA – Terrapin Crossroads (Sold Out)
8/22 – San Jose, CA – City National Civic **
8/24 – Jacksonville, OR – Britt Festival Pavilion **
8/25 – Seattle, WA – Woodland Park Zoo Amphitheatre **
8/27 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory Concert House **
8/28 – Salt Lake City, UT – Red Butte Garden **
9/5 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre ^
9/8 – Chattanooga, TN – Moon River Music Festival (Sold Out)
9/21 – East Aurora, NY – Borderland Music and Arts Festival
10/16 – Pensacola FL – Vinyl Music Hall
10/17 – Ponte Vedra, FL – Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
10/18 – Wilmington, NC – Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
10/19 – Greensboro, NC – The Carolina Theatre
10/20 – Black Mountain, NC – Leaf Festival
10/25 – Placerville, CA – Hangtown Music Festival
11/7 – Roanoke, VA – Shaftman Performance Hall ^^
11/8 – Highlands, NC – Highlands Food & Wine Festival ^^
11/9 – Louisville, KY – Headliners Music Hall ^^
11/10 – Cincinnati, OH – Taft Theatre ^^
11/12 – St. Louis, MO – The Pageant ^^
11/13 – Kansas City, MO – The Truman ^^
11/14 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue ^^
11/15 – Madison, WI – Barrymore Theatre ^^
11/16 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue ^^
12/3 – Baton Rouge, LA – Manship Theatre ^^^
12/4 – Houston, TX – The Heights Theater ^^^
12/5 – Austin, TX – Paramount Theatre ^^^
12/6 – Dallas, TX – The Kessler Theater ^^^
12/7 – Tulsa, OK – Cain’s Ballroom ^^^
12/9 – Omaha, NE – Slowdown ^^^
2/27 – 3/1 – Punta Cana, DR – Avett Brothers at the Beach

* w/ Upstate
** w/ Colter Wall
^ w/ Fruition + Steep Canyon Rangers
^^ w/ Nicole Atkins
^^^ w/ Katie Pruitt