Tag: blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

The late bluesman Roscoe Chenier was born in the tiny town of Notleyville, LA. And although his sharecropper family were extremely poor, Chenier grew up within a deeply musical family. Although he was related to zydeco legend Clifton Chewier and bluesman Morris “Big” Chenier, his father, Arthur “Bud” Chenier, a cajun accordionist, who was frequently accompanied by his first cousin, fiddler John Stevens (the father of Duke Stevens) was the Roscoe Chenier’s bigger influence; in fact, Bud Chenier and John Stevens were best known for playing at popular weekend house parties, where Roscoe would soak up the music.

In 1958, Roscoe Chenier was invited to join one of the region’s hottest traveling bands in the region — CD and the Blue Runners, which featured Lonesome Sundown on lead guitar and three of the Gradnier brothers on harmonica, drums and bass. Chenier played with CD and the Blue Runners until 1970, finding enough work to survive as a bluesman despite the popularity of the British Invasion acts of the 1960s. However, as tastes changed, Chenier like a lot of the great old bluesman discovered, it was difficult to eke out a living — especially when some gigs paid maybe $6 per man per night. And throughout the better part of the 70s, Chenier began a succession of jobs as a truck driver while picking up the occasional hired gun gig, playing in the backing bands of Good Rockin’ Thomas, Good Rockin’ Bob, his old bandmate Lonesome Sundown, Clarence Randle and Duke Stevens.

By 1980, Chenier was leading his own band and through a combination of reputation, luck and skill, he was able to recruit a number of talented musicians while desperately trying to remain as financial independent as possible, which by the late 90s became increasingly difficult. And yet, Chenier and his band managed to play several of Europe’s most prestigious festivals including Blues Estafette (in 1992, 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2001), North Sea Jazz Festival, toured across Europe several times and released a few albums before his death in February 2013 including 1998’s Roscoe Style and 2006’s Waiting For My Tomorrow. Roscoe Chenier’s last record, featured a haunting and folksy, acapella rendition of the old gospel standby “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” that immediately brings the early Delta Blues to mind — in particular, Son House, Lightnin’ Hopkins, early Muddy Waters and the like.

Interestingly, ElectroBluesSociety, a Dutch blues act, comprised of Japser Mortier (drums, bass) and Jan Mittendorp (guitar, production), who worked with Roscoe Grenier on several releases and several European tours decided to pay tribute to their late friend by adding a spectral and moody arrangement Chenier’s vocal that’s appropriately bluesy yet subtly modern, while retaining the timeless vibe of the original vocal take.

 

 

New Video: Two from Boston-based Cinematic Psych Blues Act Matthew Stubbs and the Antiguas

Matthew Stubbs is a Boston, MA-based guitarist and songwriter/composer, who has been Charlie Musselwhite’s touring guitarist since 2007, and as a solo artist has released two solo instrumental record, drawing from the Memphis, TN soul/blues tradition, 2008’s Soulbender released through Vizztone Records and 2010’s Medford and Main released through Chicago, IL-based Blue Bella Records. In 2016, Stubbs, along with Just Lopes (organ), Chris Rivelli (drums) and Marc Hickox (bass) as an instrumental, psych rock-based project inspired by the desire of bringing back popular instrumental work along the lines Duane Eddy, Link Wray, Booker T and others, mixed with elements of garage rock, the blues, movie soundtracks and Afrobeat, — all while focusing on the vibe and energy of the live performance. 

The band’s self-tiled full-length debut is slated for a January 26, 2018 release and from “Death Grip” and ” Unwinder,” two singles off the soon-to-be released album, the material on the band’s self-titled debut manage to have a decidedly retro vibe, sounding as though they could have been part of the soundtracks to late 60s and early 70s B movies but with a tight groove; in fact, as Stubbs says of “Death Grip,” “The song was inspired by the wild scenes in those cult, car racing movies of the ’70s. I wrote it with that cinematic, yet frenetic approach in my mind.” “Unwinder,” on the other hand finds Stubbs and company, drawing from 60s psych rock and surfer rock and blues, complete with that soaring organ sequence — and they do so in a way that nods at The Castaways’ “Liar Liar” but with a subtle nod at shoegaze and dub. 

Earlier this month, I wrote about the  The Liza Colby Sound, a New York-based rock act comprised of Liza Colby (vocals), Tom McCaffrey (guitar), C.P. Roth (drums) and Alec Morton (bass) that has developed a reputation both across town and elsewhere for a swaggering and soulful take on blues rock, and for their frontwoman’s stage presence, which some  some have described as Tina Turner prowling the stage like Iggy Pop. And as you may recall “Cryin” off the band’s soon-to-be released EP Draw was a sultry, whiskey soaked, power chord-based rock song that paired Colby’s soulful pop star belter meets  Janis Joplin vocals with anthemic hooks and a propulsive backbeat; but as Colby explained in press notes, the song is rooted around a duality between muscular insistence and vulnerability, “‘Cryin” is the devastation of heartbreak. It’s an explosion of emotions. The manic, mixed with moments of complete composure. It’s thinking you have a winning hand and realizing it was shit.”

The band’s latest single “White Light” finds the band pairing slow-burning power chord-based blues-inspired, classic rock with a psych rock-like melody, nodding at Led Zeppelin‘s “How Many More Times,” and “Ramble On,” complete with an anthemic hook but throughout the song, the song’s narrator questions what it is to actually be human. As Colby describes the song it’s a “psychedelic journey through the human existence.”

 

New Video: The Psychedelic Visuals and Arena Rock Blues Rock Sounds of Shadow of Jaguar’s “Don’t Want to Die Here”

Comprised of Brian Hubbert (vocals, guitar) and Andrew Oakley (drums), the New York-based indie rock duo A Shadow of a Jaguar formed in early 2015 in Boulder, CO — and as the story goes, the duo of Hubbert and Oakley bonded over their mutual desire to write and make the kind of music they felt was sorely missing from their local scene. Within a few weeks, the duo began writing and recording original material while honing their sound and live set playing shows locally and throughout the country; in fact, their debut single “Mama Needs the Bottle,” and its follow up “Keep On Knocking” were received to praise from the likes of AXS and Live for Live Music. 

Since then, the duo have been touring and writing and recording the material that comprises their soon-to-be released album RAW, recorded, mixed and mastered in Denver, CO, by Todd Divel and Justin Peacock at Silo Sound. And as the duo explains in press notes, the album, which is slated for release later this month, was made “to stick a big middle finger up at all the fears and doubts that plague us. The goal was to force upon people the uncontrollable urge to scrunch their faces and nod their heads. ” RAW’s latest single, “Don’t Want to Die Here,” will further cement the duo’s growing reputation for explosive, arena rock-friendly blues rock, along the lines of The Black Keys and others, but complete with a swaggering and boozy vibe. 

Directed and produced by Wondering Works and the members of A Shadow oF a Jaguar, the recently released video for “Don’t Want to Die here” features dancer Cara Diaz expressively dancing to the song in front of projections of country roads, explosions, billowing smoke, and other psychedelic splashes of color. 

New Audio: North Mississippi Allstars’ Explosive Yet Moody Tribute to R.L. Burnside

Comprised of Hernando, MS-based sibling duo Luther (guitar, vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums, piano, synth bass, programming and vocals), the sons of renowned pianist, vocalist and producer Jim Dickinson, North Mississippi Allstars are a critically applauded, commercially successful, multi Grammy Award- nominated, Grammy Award-winning Southern fried rock/blue duo celebrated their 20th anniversary together with a national victory-lap-like tour, and reportedly along the way, the duo booked studio time in Memphis, New Orleans, their father’s studio in Hernando, MS, and about six other cities, writing, tracking and recording their recently released eighth full-length effort Prayer for Peace, an album that finds the band based around the boogie blues and fuzzy funk of their live sets and a message of positivity, inclusion, hope and the power of familial bonds.

Co-produced by Boo Mitchell, and featuring guest spots from an incredible list of friends and associates including Oteil Burbridge, who has had stints with The Allman Brothers Band and Dead & Company; Grahame Lesh, a member of Midnight North and The Terrapin Family Band, vocalist Sharisse Norman, Dominic Davis, a member of Jack White’s backing band and Shardé Thomas, vocalist/fife player and daughter of Mississippi blues legend Otha Turner, Prayer for Peace features both original and covers and will further cement the band’s reputation for celebrating the blues’ legacy and history while pushing it into new, contemporary directions; in fact, the Electric Blue Watermelon: Screwed and Chopped EP found the band meshing the classic blues sound with Houston’s screwed and chopped hip-hop movement, creating a sound that was bluesy yet lysergic.

Interestingly enough, the first single off the Grammy Award-winning duo’s eighth full-length effort is a stomping, swaggering, arena rock-friendly cover of R.L. Burnside’s “Long Haired Donkey” that features explosive slide guitar riffs played through layers upon layers of effects and a tight groove. Reportedly, the song is a nod to the duo’s early years when fellow Mississippi bluesman R.L. Burnside took them under his wing. After Burnside’s death in 2005, the duo paid homage to their friend and mentor by adding “Long Haired Donkey” to their setlists, making it a live show staple before they officially put it on wax, 15 miles west of St. Francis Hospital where Burnisde spent his last days. And as a result, the recorded version possesses a moody and spectral vibe underneath the free-flowing, you-were-there improvised feel.