Tag: Americana

New Video: Ben Rice Longs for The Old New York in “Everything Changes”

Ben Rice is an accomplished singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer and owner of Brooklyn-based DeGraw Sound. As a producer and session guitarist, Rice has worked with the likes of Norah Jones, Jonas Brothers, Valerie June, Fletcher and The Skins. As a guitarist, Rice has played in couple of indie rock projects that signed with Warner Music Group and toured internationally with Arctic Monkeys, Band of Skulls, The Bravery and Brendan Benson.

Rice’s self-produced, self-engineered and self-mixed, full-length debut Future Pretend was written and recorded at his DeGraw Studio during the terrifying and deadly first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the sociopolitical upheaval of that year. The album which features contributions from the likes of producer Gian Stone, who has worked with Justin Bieber and Maroon 5; Norah Jones’ and Mavis Staples’ Pete Remm (keys); The Autumn Defense’s and Norah Jones’ Greg Wieczorek (drums); Raffaella’s and Leyla Blue’s Charlie Culbert (drums, production) and Eighty Ninety’s Abner James and Harper James is a personal and artistic reset for Rice, who saw Future Pretend’s creative process as an opportunity to process seismic life changes and connect with our tumultuous present. Featuring nine reflective songs that thematically finds Rice offering intimate and personal ruminations on culture, our society and personal evolution. Sonically, the album finds the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, producer and engineer embracing what he dubs “big city Americana,” which isn’t really about cowboy shirts, boots and twangy guitars but about yearning for a halcyon days.

Future Perfect’s latest single, the Damn the Torpedoes-era Tom Petty-like “Everything Changes” is centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, twangy guitars an anthemic hook and the sort of Romantic yearning for the past that New Yorkers are known for. The song finds Rice’s narrator lamenting about the passing of time and the inevitability of aging while shouting out beloved places and a long lost innocence. Certainly, as a 40 something, who finds his city phasing him out while losing the places I loved, the song hits me in a deeply personal and familiar place. As James Murphy once sardonically yet wisely sung “New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down . . .”

“I wrote ‘Everything Changes’about watching the city I grew up in change and realIzing that every generation of New Yorkers has probably experienced something similar,” Rice explains. “The things that to me feel like authentic aspects of the city that are now slipping away might have felt like the strange and new things that ushered in change to previous generations.”

Directed by Abner James, the recently released video for “Everything Changes” is split between footage of Rice and his backing band performing the song in a backlit studio and James Spenser Saunders, who plays a young New Yorker, walking the streets of the Lower East Side and stopping at some of the places Rice references in the song. Shot during the pandemic, the video captures New York at its eeriest with beloved bars, clubs and eateries closed or barely opened. The video captures a city going through some incredibly unforeseen and unimaginable changes, the seemingly unending sense of unease and uncertainty of our world and a palpable loss of innocence.

Snohomish, Washington-based Americana act FretlandHillary Grace Fretland, Jake Haber and Luke Martin — released their self-titled full-length debut to critical praise from Billboard, American Songwriter, The Boot, Gimme Country, Americana Highways and No Depression, who wrote that “this talented Americana band … has a bright future ahead of it.” Their shimmering and aching ballads, which feature elements of alt-country and indie rock have managed to amass over a million streams across the globe.

Much like countless acts across the globe, the rising Pacific Northwest-based trio embarked on a successful West Coast tour in early 2020 but subsequent tours across the US and Europe were put on indefinite hold as a result of the pandemic. However, during that time the band wrote and recorded their highly-anticipated sophomore Nich Wilbur-produced sophomore album Could Have Loved You. Slated for a March 26, 2021 release through Soundly Music, Could Have Loved You reportedly finds the band crafting material that sonically is equal parts Nashville country, Pacific Northwest indie rock and dream pop. Thematically, the nine-song sophomore album finds the band telling stories of lost love and hard-won yet necessary lessons learned.

Could Have Loved You‘s third and latest single “Too Much” is a shimmering honky tonk that’s a proudly defiant yet a bit tongue-in-cheek anthem for those who have honestly stopped giving a damn about what people think — and attempted to just live their own lives. Interestingly, the song is inspired and informed by personal experience:

“There was indeed a wedding in Capitol Hill where I drank too much, danced too much, smoked too much, regretted too much, and punished myself too damn much,” the band’s Hilary Face Fretland explains in press notes. “A trait I am still trying to remedy. The only inconsistency in the song is that sometimes you can be ‘too serious’ or ‘not serious enough.’ That was deliberate. At the end of the day, if you’re feeling too much of anything you’re just being too hard on yourself. And I personally can “feel” too serious and not serious enough in a matter of hours.”  

New Video: JOVM Mainstays The Parson Red Heads Release a Poignant and Nostalgic Visual for “Falling Fading”

Portland, OR-based JOVM mainstays The Parson Red Heads — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production) and the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) – released their fifth album Lifetime of Comedy late last year through Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe. The album finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed sound and allowing to be remodeled and remolded. And while remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Head album, Lifetime of Comedy’s material as the band’s Evan Way contends in press notes was among the most collaborative they’ve written and recorded to date.

The members of the JOVM mainstays started recording Lifetime of Comedy early last year, and much like countless acts across our globe, they quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. Once studios could reopen safely, recording sessions continued at a snail’s pace for small, very intimate sessions.. And with much of the album’s material recorded in a decollate, touch-and-go fashion, Lifetime of Comedy seems imbued — and perhaps also informed by — a sense of perseverance and hope at all costs.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written about three of the album’s released singles:

“All I Wanted,” a classic Parson Red Heads song that superficially sounded as though it could have been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions but with a subtly free-flowing, jammier vibe that evoked the sensation of longtime friends creating something new with a revitalized sense of togetherness centered around incredibly earnest lyricism, born from lived-in experience.
“Turn Around” is a heartfelt deflation of devotion seemingly influenced by 80s and early 90s jangle pop that’s simple yet absolutely necessary. After all, sometimes all that ever needs to be said to our loved ones is “I’ll be always there.”
“Coming Along,” song that manages to balance lush and anthemic instrumentation with the sort of introspective lyricism that can only come from a living a full and messy life. And as a result the song is an accumulation of weariness, regret, wisdom, resiliency and hope that seems to say “yes, life will break your heart sometimes but we find a way to love, to dream, to love — and that’s what makes life endurable.
“Fall and Be Found” an expansive bit of cosmic Americana that thematically, was centered around two very different yet related things: the recognition of the wonderful, deeply human and seemingly fleeting moments of our existence (i.e., birth, childhood, friendship, love and the like) and the hope that better days are just around the corner.

Lifetime of Comedy’s fifth and latest single “Falling Fading” was the last song that The Parson Red Heads’ frontman Evan Way wrote for the album — and the last song they tracked in the studio. Like its predecessors, it’s a shimmering bit of cosmic Americana, but more importantly, the song is heartfelt and intimate portrait of an emotionally closed-off man, who takes stock of himself, his actions and his relationships with regret and shame. The song is yet another example of what I personally love about the band: their ability to talk about the big things and big emotions simply and earnestly.

Filmed and edited by Jared Lichtenberg, the recently released video for “Falling Fading” was filmed while the band was recording the final take of the final song of the album. Naturally, the song captures the band’s friendship, their passion for music and the joy they feel when they’re making music together. Because it was filmed about a month before the pandemic reminded us that our world is uncertain and frightening, it’s a nostalgic look at a time that we all know wasn’t that far off but feels like a lifetime ago. While we hope that we can all spend time with each other again — and soon — the video is also a poignant reminder that ultimately, it’s the people of your life and the time you’ve spent with the that’s the most important.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays The Parson Red Heads Release a Gorgeous Nostalgia-Inducing Visual for “Fall And Be Found

With 2017’s Blurred Harmony, Portland, OR-based JOVM mainstays The Parson Red Heads — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production), the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) and a rotating cast of friends, collaborators and associates — intended to do things much differently than anything else they did before: the band recorded and tracked themselves. They would set up drums and amps and furiously recorded their fourth album’s material after everyone put their kids to sleep, finishing that day’s session before it got too late.

As the band’s Evan Way said at the time, “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”

After the release of Blurred Harmony, the band’s founding member Sam Fowles left the band, and the band’s remaining members were frocked to ask themselves tough questions about both the future of the band and its creative direction. The band recruited their longtime touring guitarist Jake Smith to join the band full-time. They then decided that any new material they would write, would be be approached with a new lens.

The band’s fifth album Lifetime of Comedy was released last month through Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe, and the album finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed and beloved sound, and allowing it to be remolded and remolded. While remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Heads album, the material as Evan Way contends in press notes is among the most collaborative, they’ve written and recorded to date.

The Portland-based JOVM mainstays started recording Lifetime of Comedy earlier this year and much like countless acts across our globe, they quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. Once studios could reopen, recording sessions continued at a snail’s pace for small, very intimate sessions. With much of the album’s material being recorded in a decollate, touch-and-go period, Lifetime of Comedy seems imbued — and perhaps also informed by — a sense of perseverance and hope.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written about three of the album’s released singles:

“All I Wanted,” a classic Parson Red Heads song that superficially sounded as though it could have been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions but with a subtly free-flowing, jammier vibe that evoked the sensation of longtime friends creating something new with a revitalized sense of togetherness centered around incredibly earnest lyricism, born from lived-in experience.
“Turn Around” is a heartfelt deflation of devotion seemingly influenced by 80s and early 90s jangle pop that’s simple yet absolutely necessary. After all, sometimes all that ever needs to be said to our loved ones is “I’ll be always there.”
“Coming Along,” song that manages to balance lush and anthemic instrumentation with the sort of introspective lyricism that can only come from a living a full and messy life. And as a result the song is an accumulation of weariness, regret, wisdom, resiliency and hope that seems to say “yes, life will break your heart sometimes but we find a way to love, to dream, to love — and that’s what makes life endurable.

Interestingly, despite its 2:47 runtime, Lifetime of Comedy’s fourth and latest single “Fall and Be Found” is an expansive bit of cosmic featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitar, strummed acoustic guitar, a propulsive rhythm section and an enormous, soaring hook paired with Evan Way’s plaintive vocals. Interestingly, “Fall And Be Found” is centered around two very different yet related things: the recognition of the wonderful, deeply human and seemingly fleeting moments of our existence (i.e., birth, childhood, friendship, love and the like) and the hope that better days are just around the corner. And as a result, the song is a much-needed blast of hope when things seem at their most dire, while arguably being among the most hopeful song of their catalog.

“The song, ‘Fall & Be Found,’ is about a belief in the possibilities of beauty and transcendence in this world, both natural and supernatural,” The Parson Red Heads’ Evan Way explains. “It’s about embracing the idea that there is so much more to this life and existence than we ever really take time to acknowledge while we’re in the thick of it. More so now than ever, life often seems to be full of chaos, pain, heartache, confusion — not always, but often. And when we’re in the midst of those seasons, it often seems impossible to realize that despite that, there is beauty, there is an unexplainable magic in life and existence. This song is an attempt to communicate that, and an anthem proclaiming a belief that one day in the future, I believe we will see that reality, and know it in a more full and true way. ”

The recently released video for “Fall and Be Found” is a feverish collage of nostalgia-tinged found footage of young couples in love, kids playing each other and their parents as well as footage shot on family vacations and childlike animation. And much like the song it accompanies, the video captures life’s beauty, joy and meaning — but while hinting at the fact that there’s more to this world.

“The video captures so much of that beauty, magic, and mystery,” the band’s Evan Way says. “It’s mysterious without feeling foreboding, and it visually communicates that mysterious, unknowable beauty surrounding us all in such a profound way. “

Over the past three or four years or so, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of ink covering the Portland, OR-based JOVM mainstays The Parson Red Heads. The act — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production), the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) and a rotating cast of friends, collaborators and associates — can trace their origins back to when its founding members met while attending college in Eugene OR back in 2004, studying for degrees that as the band’s Evan Way once joked “never used or even completed.” 

Now, as you may recall, 2017’s Blurred Harmony found the JOVM mainstays actively intending to do things much differential than their previously released work — with the band recording and tracking themselves. They would set up drums and amps and furiously record Blurred Harmony‘s material after everyone put their kids to sleep, finishing that day’s session before it got too late. And as a result, Way says  “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”

After the release of Blurred Harmony, the band’s founding member Sam Fowles left the band, and the members of the band were forced to ask themselves tough questions about both the future of the band and its creative direction. The remaining founding members recruited touring guitarist Jake Smith to join the band full-time, and then they decided to approach any new material with a completely new lens. The end result turned out to be the band’s fifth album, Lifetime of Comedy.

Slated for a November 13, 2020 release through their longtime label homes Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe, The Parson Red Heads’ fifth album reportedly finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed sound and allowing it to be remolded. While remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Heads album, the material as Way contends in press notes are the most collaborative they’ve written and recorded to date. 

Initially starting the recording of Lifetime of Comedy earlier this year, The Parson Red Heads, like countless acts across the globe, quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines. And once studios could reopen, sessions continued at a snail’s place for small, very intimate sessions. With the material being recorded in a delicate, touch and go period, the album’s material seems to be deeply informed by a sense of perseverance and hope. Two things, which we need so much more of in our bleak and uncertain age.

So far I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles:

  • All I Wanted,” a classic Parson Red Heads song that superficially sounded as though it could have been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions but with a subtly free-flowing, jammier vibe that evoked the sensation of longtime friends creating something new with a revitalized sense of togetherness centered around incredibly earnest lyricism, born from lived-in experience.
  • “Turn Around” is a heartfelt deflation of devotion seemingly influenced by 80s and early 90s jangle pop that’s simple yet absolutely necessary. After all, sometimes all that ever needs to be said to our loved ones is “I’ll be always there.” 

“Coming Along,” Lifetime of Comedy‘s third and latest single continues an incredible run of anthemic material centered around the sort of introspective songwriting that can only come from living a full and messy life. And as a result, there’s an accumulation of weariness and regret mixed with resiliency, wisdom and hope that feels intimately familiar and necessary. Personally, much of their material has felt as though it speaks to me about my life, and the things I know and have felt with the exact words I would have said if I could put it all on paper. But at its core, the song has a road trip playlist friendliness paired with a lush yet unfussy arrangement and production.

“’Coming Along’ resulted from countless rehearsals, just spending lots of time playing it through, finding the arrangement that felt right, where each little piece fit,” The Parson Red Heads’ Evan Way explains inn press notes. “It’s a really fun song, because over the course of its 5 minutes, it manages to feature each member of the band in really great ways: the engine of the song, Brette and Robbie holding down the driving underpinning that bookends the song; Jake’s beautiful and melodic electric guitar skipping over the top of the driving groove; Raymond’s counterpoint pedal steel swells and Farfisa instrumental breakdown; my gritty guitar solo that comes in towards the end before handing things back off to the power of the full band; and the signature lush vocal harmonies filling out the verses.”


Cf Watkins is a North Carolina-born, Nashville-based Americana/pop singer/songwriter, who spent the past the past nine years living in Brooklyn, before relocating to Nashville last month. Performing since she was 14, she has shared stages with an impressive array of acts including Langhorne Slim, Futurebirds, Chatham County Line, Wilder Maker, Lowland Hum and Alpenglow while developing a sound and approach that draws from her North Carolina roots.

2016 saw the release of Daniel Goans-produced full-length debut I Am New, was recorded at White Star Sound, as well as the attention-grabbing single “Frances and Jack.” Watkins’ latest album, the Max Hart-produced Babygirl portrays its creator growing both as a person and as an artist. “When I think about my last album, I feel I was writing songs about weakness,” Watkins says. “With this album, I made a conscious effort to write songs about the power of choosing yourself.” Thematically, the album touches upon empowerment while being both a coming of age story and an ode to female friendship. “Romances have come in and out of my life, but through it all, the relationships that continue to open my heart the most are grounded in the women I’ve known,” says Watkins. “This is an album meant for other women to hear — with songs that are both vulnerable and powerful.”

Babygirl‘s latest single, album title track “Babygirl” is an unfussy yet slickly produced song that further establishes the rising North Carolina-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter’s pop-leaning take on Americana. Centered around jangling guitars, fluttering flute a soaring hook and Watkins’ expressive and gorgeous vocals, “Babygirl” reminds me a bit of Nicki Bluhm and S.G. Goodman — but while being an achingly tender declaration of devotion and fidelity to a dear friend; a devotion that’s deeper than even romantic love. “I wanted to honor my female friends and honor the beauty of female friendship– the romance and freedom of female friendship,” Watkins says. “To me, that feels like the ultimate love.”

Portland, OR-based The Parson Red Heads — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production), the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) and a rotating cast of friends, collaborators and associates — can trace their origins back to when its founding members met while attending college in Eugene OR back in 2004, studying for degrees that as the band’s Evan Way once joked “never used or even completed.” 

The members of the then newly formed Parson Red Heads spent the next year writing songs and rehearsing constantly. “We would rehearse in the living room of my house for hours and hours until my roommates would be driven crazy — writing songs and playing them over and over again, and generally having as much fun as a group of people can have,” Way fondly recalls. “We weren’t sure if we were very good, but we were sure that there was a special bond growing between us, a chemistry that you didn’t find often.”

In 2006, the band relocated to Los Angeles, with the hopes that they would take music seriously and become a real band. The members of the band moved into and shared a one bedroom apartment in West Los Angeles. “Eventually the population of our 1 bedroom ballooned to 7 — all folks who played in our band at that point, too,” Way says of the band’s early days in Southern California. The Parson Red Heads quickly became mainstays in a growing, 60s-inspired folk and psych folk scene primarily based in Los Angeles’ Silverlake and Echo Park sections. “We played every show we could lay our collective hands on, which turned out to be a lot of shows. We must have played 300+ shows in our first two years in L.A.  . . . . We practiced non-stop and wrote a ton of songs, and eventually recorded our debut album King Giraffe at a nice little studio in Sunland, with the help of our friends Zack and Jason,” Way recalls.

After the release of King Giraffe, The Parson Red Heads spent the next three years writing new material and touring, which eventually resulted in their sophomore album, 2011’s Yearling. The album was partially recorded at Los Angeles-based studio Red Rockets Glare with Raymond Richards, who had then joined the band to play pedal steel and in North Carolina at Fidelitorium with The dB’s Chris Stamey. After finishing the album, the members of the band decided to quit their day jobs and give up their apartments to go on a lengthy tour with their friends Cotton Jones. After the tour was completed, they relocated to Portland. 

With their first two albums, the band had developed a reputation for performing an uninhabited live show, in which they could easily morph from earnest folk to ass-kicking rock anthems with their sound and approach being inspired by The ByrdsTeenage FanclubBig StarCrosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Jackson Browne. Interestingly, with the band’s third album 2013’s Orb Weaver, the band desired to capture the energy and sound of their live sound.  “We’re always made records that were more thought-out,” Way says of Orb Weaver

2017’s Blurred Harmony found the JOVM mainstays actively intending to do things much differential than their previously released work — with the band recording and tracking themselves. They would set up drums and amps and furiously record Blurred Harmony‘s material after everyone put their kids to sleep, finishing that day’s session before it got too late. And as a result, Way says  “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”

After the release of Blurred Harmony, the band’s founding member Sam Fowles left the band, and the members of the band were forced to ask themselves tough questions about both the future of the band and its creative direction. The remaining founding members recruited touring guitarist Jake Smith to join the band full-time, and then they decided to approach any new material with a completely new lens. Slated for a November 13, 2020 release through their longtime label homes Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe, The Parson Red Heads’ fifth album Lifetime of Comedy reportedly finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed sound and allowing it to be remolded. While remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Heads album, the material as Way contends in press notes are the most collaborative they’ve written and recorded to date. 

Initially starting the recording of Lifetime of Comedy earlier this year, The Parson Red Heads quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines. And once studios could reopen, sessions continued at a snail’s place for small, very intimate sessions. With the material being recorded in a delicate, touch and go period, the album’s material seems to be deeply informed by a sense of perseverance and hope. 

Earlier this month, I wrote about “All I Wanted,” Lifetime of Comedy‘s first single was classic Parson Red Heads — a breezy yet carefully and thoughtfully crafted song centered around shimmering guitars, twangy steel pedal. rousing sing-a-long choruses, saccharine bursts of multi-part harmonies, Evan Way’s plaintive vocals and incredibly earnest lyricism, born of lived-in experiences. And while superficially sounding as though it could have easily been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions, the track possessed a subtly free-flowing, jammier vibe, that evokes the sensation of longtime friends creating something new with a revitalized sense of togetherness. Interestingly, Lifetime of Comedy‘s second and latest single “Turn Around” is a shimmering and heartfelt declaration of devotion but unlike its predecessor, it sound as though it were influenced by classic 80s and early 90s jangle pop, complete with soaring organs. It’s the sort of sweet and timeless love song that’s deceptively simple yet absolutely necessary. Sometimes all that ever needs to be said to our loved ones is “I’ll be always there.”

“‘Turn Around’ started as a lot of the songs I’ve been writing these days do – as a half-jibberish sung melody line, sung into my phone’s voice memo while driving,” The Parson Red Heads’ frontman Evan Way explains in press notes. “It stayed in that form for a good year before I found it, dusted it off, and brought it to the band. This song is a testament to the strength of the bands collaborative writing on this album. Everyone’s parts are so integral to the song’s small and simple beauty. It’s a simple love song, the lyrics a statement of devotion – in many ways, it is like a classic old Parson Red Heads song, in both theme and sound, but it has this element of The La’s or The Charlatans in it that I just love. And Raymond (Richards, multi-instrumentalist and producer) was able to help us get such a great mix of guitar sounds, 12-strings, Nashville strung electric – a great balance of being lush without being over-crowded.”  

Portland, OR-based The Parson Red Heads — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production), the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) and a rotating cast of friends, collaborators and associates — can trace their origins back to when its founding members met while attending college in Eugene OR back in 2004, studying for degrees that as the band’s Evan Way once joked “never used or even completed.”

The members of the then newly formed Parson Red Heads spent the next year writing songs and rehearsing constantly. “We would rehearse in the living room of my house for hours and hours until my roommates would be driven crazy — writing songs and playing them over and over again, and generally having as much fun as a group of people can have,” Way fondly recalls. “We weren’t sure if we were very good, but we were sure that there was a special bond growing between us, a chemistry that you didn’t find often.”

In 2006, the band relocated to Los Angeles, with the hopes that they would take music seriously and become a real band. The members of the band moved into and shared a one bedroom apartment in West Los Angeles. “Eventually the population of our 1 bedroom ballooned to 7 — all folks who played in our band at that point, too,” Way says of the band’s early days in Southern California. The Parson Red Heads quickly became mainstays in a growing, 60s-inspired folk and psych folk scene primarily based in Los Angeles’ Silverlake and Echo Park sections. “We played every show we could lay our collective hands on, which turned out to be a lot of shows. We must have played 300+ shows in our first two years in L.A.  . . . . We practiced non-stop and wrote a ton of songs, and eventually recorded our debut album King Giraffe at a nice little studio in Sunland, with the help of our friends Zack and Jason,” Way reminisces.

After the release of King Giraffe, The Parson Red Heads spent the next three years writing new material and touring, which eventually resulted in their sophomore album, 2011’s Yearling. The album was partially recorded at Los Angeles-based studio Red Rockets Glare with Raymond Richards, who had then joined the band to play pedal steel and in North Carolina at Fidelitorium with The dB’s Chris Stamey. After finishing the album, the members of the band decided to quit their day jobs and give up their apartments to go on a lengthy tour with their friends Cotton Jones. After the tour was completed, they would relocate to Portland.

Simultaneously, the band had developed a reputation for performing an uninhabited live show, in which they could easily morph from earnest folk to ass-kicking rock anthems with their sound and approach being inspired by The ByrdsTeenage FanclubBig StarCrosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Jackson Browne. Interestingly, with the band’s third album 2013’s Orb Weaver, the band desired to capture the energy and sound of their live sound.  “We’re always made records that were more thought-out,” Way says of Orb Weaver.

The Portland-based band’s fourth album, 2017’s Blurred Harmony found the band actively intending to do things differently than they did on their previously released work — with them and recording and tracking themselves: frequently, they would set up drums ad amps and furiously record Blurred Harmony‘s material after everyone put their kids to sleep, finishing that day’s session before it got too late. And as a result, Way says  “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”

After the release of Blurred Harmony, the band’s founding member Sam Fowles left the band — and the members of the band were forced to ask themselves tough questions about both the future of the band and its creative direction. The remaining founding members recruited their touring Jake Smith to join the band full-time, and then they decided to approach any new material with a completely new lens. Slated for a November 13, 2020 release through their longtime label homes Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe, The Parson Red Heads’ fifth album Lifetime of Comedy reportedly finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed sound and allowing it to be remolded. While remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Heads album, the material as Way contends in press notes are the most collaborative they’ve written and recorded to date.

Initially starting the recording of Lifetime of Comedy earlier this year, The Parson Red Heads quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines. And once studios could reopen, sessions continued at a snail’s place for small, very intimate sessions. With the material being recorded in a delicate, touch and go period, the album’s material seems to be deeply informed by a sense of perseverance and hope.

“All I Wanted,” Lifetime of Comedy‘s first single is classic Parson Red Heads — breezy yet careful and thoughtfully crafted song centered around shimmering guitars, twangy steel pedal, rousing sing–a-long choruses, saccharine bursts of multi-part harmonies, Evan Way’s plaintive falsetto and incredibly earnest lyricism, born of lived-in experiences. And while superficially sounding as though it could have easily been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions, the track manages to possess a subtle free-flowing, jammier vibe. If you pay close attention, you can literally feel longtime friends creating something with a revitalized sense of togetherness.

Featuring a regretful and brokenhearted narrator, “All I Wanted” thematically is full of the hindsight and regret of someone looking back at the past — their past selves, their past mistakes and misgivings — and wishing that there was some way that they could undo it, so that they could remain in a relationship that they desperately prized above everything else. And yet, there’s a tacit recognition that while you may pine for the past, you can’t ever get it back. In fact, life does what it always does — pushes and forces you forward.

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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.”