Tag: Chicago IL

Throwback: Happy 85th Birthday, Buddy Guy!

JOVM celebrates Buddy Guy’s 85th birthday.

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In 2004, Chicago-based producer David Vandenberg brought the Leeds-based funk act The New Mastersounds to the States as an opener for Greyboy All-Stars for what would be the acclaimed British act’s first Stateside tour. And as the story goes, Vandenberg took The New Mastersounds’ guitarist, bandleader and producer Eddie Roberts out to Rosa’s, a legendary blues club on Chicago’s West Side on Roberts’ first night in town to catch local blues legend Omar Coleman, who had been playing Rosa’s for decades. Interestingly, almost two decades later, Roberts would wind up producing Coleman’s forthcoming album Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times.

Slated for release this summer through Roberts’ own Color Red Music, the album’s title is an ode to The New Mastersounds 2001 debut, Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds — and in many ways Coleman’s album finds Roberts, an acclaimed musician, bandleader and producer taking on the role of curator and influencer, championing and supporting artists he believes should be heard and love, essentially paying Keb Darge’s support forward to a worthy act.

Earlier this year, I wrote about album title track “Strange Times,” a strutting and gritty synthesis of The Payback-era James Brown funk and Chicago blues featuring a looping bluesy guitar line, bursts of shimmering strings and a funky bass line that would Bootsy Collins‘ proud paired with Coleman’s powerhouse, soulful vocals. Lyrically, the song’s origins can be traced to a series of conversations Coleman had with Roberts during the album’s recording sessions about the bizarre, infuriating and tragic state of America during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the exchange between the two kept turning back to the fact that we were all living in very strange times. Coleman took that and ran with it, immediately scribbling out incisive and fiery lyrics that accurately describe life in our very moment with the song talking about the abject poverty, desperation and uncertainty that hardworking and decent folks everywhere face. As the old saying the rich get richer while the poor get sicker.

“Chicago,” Strange Times‘ latest single is a fiery song that hews to Chicago’s beloved blues tradition while brashly refusing to be pigeonholed. Much like its predecessor, it’s a bit of synthesis of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf-like blues and James Brown-era soul featuring an enormous horn line, a blazing harmonica solo and a strutting grove paired with Coleman’s soulful wailing. Starting with Coleman proudly announcing that he’s from Chicago’s West Side, the song talks about the things I love about that city: its a town inhabited by tough, hardworking people, who like countless people across the world are struggling to survive to keep their dignity intact, despite the despair, shittiness and inequity and inequality thrown in their path.

For the album, Roberts recruited an accomplished backing band that features himself, Ghost Light’Dan Africano (bass), Matador! Soul Sounds‘ Chris Spies (keys and organ), Dragondeer’s Carl Sorenson (drums), Lettuce‘s Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet), Michal Menert‘s Nick Gerlach (sax), Adrienne Short (viola) and Kari Clifton (violin) to help him with a sonic approach that would combine classic blues with funkier blues. And to capture the rawness and immediacy of the material, they recorded it straight to tape on Color Red Studios’ Tascam 388. “I hear Omar’s voice as a cross between Muddy Waters and Charles Bradley,” Roberts says. “I tried to reflect those qualities in music approach and songwriting as well as the way we recorded the album and built the instrumentation of the tracks.

Live Footage: The Black Angels Perform “Young Men Dead” at LEVITATION Festival

Levitation Festival (formerly known as Austin Psych Fest) can trace its beginnings to a simple idea devised by the members of  The Black Angels in the back of a tour van in 2007 — let’s invite all of our favorite bands and all of our friends for our version of a music festival. 

The inaugural Austin Psych Fest was in March 2008 and by popular demand, the festival expanded to a three day event the following year. Austin Psych Fest quickly became an international destination for psych rock fans with lineups featuring up-and-comers, cult favorites, legendary and influential acts and a headlining set from The Black Angels. Renamed Levitation in honor of Austin psych rock pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators, the festival has sparked an new, international psych rock movement while inspiring the creation of several similar events across the globe, including Levitation Festival events in Chicago, Vancouver, France and a SXSW showcase, as well as other special events in Europe and Latin America.

Late last year, Levitation Festival’s record label, The Reverberation Appreciation Society announced the launch of a new live album series, Live at LEVITATION. Comprised of material played and recorded throughout the festival’s decade-plus history, the live album series specifically captures and documents key artists in the contemporary psych rock scene. Of course, many of these moments were also important moments of Austin’s live music scene. 

The live series’ first album Kikagaku Moyo — Live at LEVITATION featured two different Kikagaku Moyo sets — their 2014 Levitation Festival set, which was one of the Japanese psych rock act’s first Stateside shows and their return to Levitation back in 2019, during a sold-out Stateside tour, which included a stop at Warsaw that year with Japanese krautrockers Minami Deutsch.

Live at LEVITATION‘s second album The Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION features the festival’s founders The Black Angels. The Black Angels live album is comprised of material recorded at Austin Psych Fest 2010, 2011 and 2012, and captures a rare glimpse of the festival’s earlier, more humble days. And of course, for Black Angels fans, like myself, the album features live version of six songs from their first two albums — Passover and Directions to See a Ghost. “Since the beginning The Black Angels were meant to be heard live,” the band’s Christian Bland explains in press notes. “This record captures the rumble of the drums and amps, and the very essence of the way it should sound. Now future generations and new listeners can now hear how these songs were meant to be heard.”

The album’s first single was a hypnotic and equally menacing version of Passover single “Manipulation” that featured a mesmerizing guest spot from Elephant Stone‘s bassist, sitarist and frontman Rishi Dihr. And building up more buzz for the album’s release day — which is tomorrow — the band released the live album’s second and latest single, a muscular and menacing version of Passover single “Young Men Dead.” The accompanying live footage captures the band and their live sound with an uncanny fidelity.

This weekend is a big weekend for the band: As I mentioned their live album, Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION is slated for a digital and vinyl release tomorrow. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you’d recall that The Black Angels and MIEN frontman Alex Mass released his solo debut, a meditative and gentler take on the psych rock sound he’s developed throughout his nearly two decade career, inspired by the birth of his son Luca.

Much like countless other artists across the globe, the pandemic has put touring on hold indefinitely. So, Maas and his backing band — Bryan Richie, Jake Garcia and Rob Kidd — decamped to nearby Bastrop, TX to bring the live show that they had developed around the album’s material to the world through a live performance film, shot in the Texan city’s historic downtown.  “We shot this down in an old opera house built in 1889 and a 100 year old German tailor mercantile building in historic downtown, which is now Astro Records,” Maas says in press notes. “This session is a glimpse of what a tour on Luca would look like had we not been in a pandemic. It was a joy to get out and get back with the friends and collaborators I created this album with, and bring these songs to life. For now this is the world tour, and a look at what we’re looking forward to being able to do on stage when we are back up and rolling! Thank you to Jonas Wilson of Mr. Pink Records who asked me originally to film this in the beautiful city of Bastrop.” 

Featuring sections from Luca and three new songs, the live session shot in Bastrop, TX will stream as a Levitation Session on March 27, 2021 at 7:00PM Central.

Back in 2004, Chicago-based producer David Vandenberg brought the Leeds-based funk act The New Mastersounds to the States as an opener for Greyboy All-Stars for what would be the acclaimed British act’s first Stateside tour. As the story goes, Vandenberg took The New Mastersounds’ guitarist, bandleader and producer Eddie Roberts out to Rosa’s, a legendary blues club on Chicago’s West Side on Roberts’ first night in town to catch local bluesman Omar Coleman, a local blues legend, who had been playing Rosa’s for decades. 17 years later, Roberts wound up producing Coleman’s forthcoming album Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times.

Slated for release this summer through Roberts’ own Color Red Music, the album’s title is an ode to The New Mastersounds 2001 debut, Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds — and in many ways Coleman’s album finds Roberts, an acclaimed musician, bandleader and producer taking on the role of curator and influencer, championing and supporting artists he believes should be heard and loved.

Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times‘ latest single, album title track is a strutting and gritty synthesis of The Payback-era James Brown funk and Chicago blues within a classic 12 bar blues structure featuring a looping bluesy guitar line reminiscent of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, an enormous horn line, bursts of shimmering strings and a funky bass line that would make Bootsy Collins‘ proud paired with Coleman’s powerhouse, soulful vocals. Lyrically, the song’s origins can be traced to a series of conversations Coleman had with Roberts during the album’s recording sessions about bizarre, infuriating and tragic state of America during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the exchange between the two kept turning back to the fact that we were all living in very strange times. Coleman took that and ran with it, immediately scribbling out incisive and fiery lyrics that accurately describe life in our very moment with the song talking about the abject poverty, desperation and uncertainty that hardworking and decent folks everywhere face. As the old saying the rich get richer while the poor get sicker.

Roberts’ recruited an accomplished backing band that features himself, Ghost Light’s Dan Africano (bass), Matador! Soul SoundsChris Spies (keys and organ), Dragondeer’s Carl Sorenson (drums), Lettuce‘s Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet), Michal Menert‘s Nick Gerlach (sax), Adrienne Short (viola) and Kari Clifton (violin) to help him with a sonic approach that would combine classic blues with funkier blues. And to capture the rawness and immediacy of the material, they recorded it straight to tape on Color Red Studios’ Tascam 388. “I hear Omar’s voice as a cross between Muddy Waters and Charles Bradley,” Roberts says. “I tried to reflect those qualities in music approach and songwriting as well as the way we recorded the album and built the instrumentation of the tracks.”

Angel Ez is a Chicago-based indie singer/songwriter and producer, who currently creates music inspired by his own life experiences and emotions and anything else that may come at the moment. He recently finished a batch of material that’s slated for release at the end of this month — and the project will include his latest single, “When I’m With You,” a hook-driven slick pop song centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rattling beats and Ez’s plaintive vocals. Sonically, the track is a slick yet soulful synthesis of 80s synth pop and contemporary indie electro pop paired with lived-in lyrics.

New Video: Joanna Connor’s Soulful Cover of Luther Allison’s “Bad News Is Coming”

Joanna Connor is a Brooklyn-born, Worcester, MA-raised, Chicago, IL-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has publicly cited her mom (who I’ve actually met) and her mom’s record collection as being a major influence on her life and music. “She listed to blues, folk and rock as much as she could,” Connor recalls on her website. “So I heard Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal when I was kid, and got into the more obscure artists as I went on. And I saw all the Chicago bands, who came through town.” By the time, she was in her mid-teens, Connor was playing the Worcester and Boston club scene with her own band before relocating to Chicago in 1984.

Upon her arrival to Chicago, Connor was mentored by a number of blues legends, sitting in with James Cotton, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. After a stint in Dion Payton‘s band, Connor went solo with her own band, releasing her full-length debut, 1989’s Believe It, which began a string of critically applauded albums released through Blind Pig Records. Connor’s 2002 effort The Joanna Connor Band found Connor displaying the full extent of her influences as it featured “Different Kind of War” and a funky cover of “Slippin’ Into Darkness.” But just as the buzz and accolades were growing, Connor began a touring hiatus. “There were several factors: 9/11 had just gone down, the economy was changing and clubs were closing. But most of all, my daughter was pretty young at the time. She wound up deciding that she wanted to become a big-time basketball player, so that required dedication on both of our parts,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist explains on her website. That dream has come true: Connor’s daughter was awarded a basketball scholarship at Indiana State University, and Connor has pursued her career with a renewed fervor.

Although Connor wasn’t touring, she discovered that audiences were coming out to see her play renowned Chicago blues club Kingston Mines, where she began playing a weekly, three night residency most weekends, between gigs at larger clubs and festivals. “It’s become kind of an institution: You go to Chicago, you go to Wrigley Field and then you go see Joanna Connor,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist says. “The schedule is kind of brutal, but it’s great—Usually a packed house, with lots of adrenaling pumping. When it gets to be around midnight, the audience starts getting younger. And I love that—My son is 29, and he gets people looking at him and saying, ‘That’s your mom’?” (The schedule is brutal indeed: 3 two hour sets between 7:00pm and 5:00am Fridays and Saturdays — and until 4:00am on Sundays. The nights typically begin with an acoustic blues set, followed by two electric sets, as the crowds get younger.)

The crowds increased even more after a video featuring a live version of “Walkin’ Blues” was posted by a Massachusetts-based fan on YouTube. “It was just a phenomenal thing that happened. I was getting calls from America’s Got Talent and movie people reaching out; I even had a Russian billionaire fly me to Spain to play a birthday party. I think people loved the combination: Here’s a woman who looks like somebody’s mom, and she’s playing like this. What I remember most was that it was 90 degrees that day, so I was wearing the coolest dress I had.”

Connor’s 14th album, the Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith co-produced 4801 South Indiana Avenue was released last month through Joe Bonamassa’s new blues label Keeping The Blues Alive. Deriving its name from the actual address of hallowed, Chicago blues club Theresa’s Lounge, 4801 South Indiana Avenue was recored at 4801 South Indiana Avenue — and the album finds Connor, Bonamassa, Smith and an impressive array of players digging deeply to conjure an authentic, ass kicking and name taking, non-derivative set of that good ol’ fashioned Chicago blues. “We want the listener to open that door, walk in, and feel to their core some of the magic that a place like that brought night after night. It was an honor to bring this to you, the listener,” Connor says in press notes. “This album is a homage to the blues school that I attended in Chicago,” Connor adds. “We attempted to capture the spirit of tradition and inject it with raw energy and passion.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the boozy and breakneck boogie woogie “I Feel So Good,” which captures a self-assured woman, who kicks ass, takes names and honestly just wants to have a roaring good time — all while featuring Conor’s blistering guitar work and powerhouse vocals. 4801 South Indiana Avenue’s latest single is a lovingly straightforward, no-frills, no filler and no bullshit rendition of Luther Allison’s haunting wailing blues “Bad News Is Coming.” Much like the original, Connor’s version is full of lived-in, late night heartache and regret — and the recognition that life is often full of incredibly difficult and painful decisions that will change the course of your life and of those you’re involved with.

“This is a Luther Allison song, and we chose it because we were all huge fans of his,” Connor explains in press notes. “I toured with him in Europe for almost ten years as his opening act, so it was an honor to record this haunting piece. Joe came up with the bell idea to further capture the mood.”

Appropriately shot in a Chicago blues club, the video is split between footage of Connor wailing and playing those blues like a heartbroken banshee, brooding in the club’s green room about the decisions she has to made — or already have made. And of course, because it’s a late night blues, we see her packing her gear and leaving the club with an uncertain future ahead of her.

Throwback: Black History Month: The Meters

Today is February 20, 2021. It’s the 20th day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

Mardi Gras was the other day and as a result I began thinking of New Orleans-and the city’s importance to American music and culture: an incredible and diverse array of artists have called New Orleans home. The Meters and their strutting, swampy funk came to mind. Countless acts have cited The Meters as an influence on them and their sound — and they’ve been sampled heavily by hip hop acts.

As I was looking for some live footage, I came across Dr. John’s TV special, Dr. John’s New Orleans Swamp, which coincidentally was the season finale of the Chicago-based PBS series Soundstage. Dr. John serves as an emcee and as a performer for the proceedings — and from what I understand, the show came on the heels of that year’s Destively Bonnaroo, the second consecutive album produced by the equally legendary Allen Toussaint and featuring The Meters as a backing band. Anyway, the show features a who’s who of New Orleans including Professor Longhair and Earl King. Of course, this is Nite Tripper-era Dr. John. Every single performance is amazing — and let it be a reminder of that New Orleans is the cradle of all of the music we love.

Live Footage: The Black Angels Performs “Manipulation” at LEVITATION Festival with Elephant Stone’s Rishi Dihr

Levitation Festival (formerly known as Austin Psych Fest) can trace its beginnings to a simple idea devised by the members of The Black Angels in the back of a tour van in 2007 — let’s invite all of our favorite bands and all of our friends for our version of a music festival.

The inaugural Austin Psych Fest was in March 2008 and by popular demand, the festival expanded to a three day event the following year. The festival quickly became an international destination for psych rock fans with lineups featuring up-and-comers, cult favorites, legendary and influential acts and a headlining set from The Black Angels. Renamed Levitation in honor of Austin psych rock pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators, the festival has sparked an new, international psych rock movement while inspiring the creation of several similar events across the globe, including Levitation Festival events in Chicago, Vancouver, France and a SXSW showcase, as well as other special events in Europe and Latin America.

Late last year, Levitation Festival’s record label, The Reverberation Appreciation Society announced the launch of a new live album series, Live at LEVITATION. Comprised of material played and recorded throughout the festival’s decade-plus history, the live album series specifically captures and documents key artists in the contemporary psych rock scene. Of course, many of these moments were also important moments of Austin’s live music scene.

The live series’ first album Kikagaku Moyo — Live at LEVITATION featured two different Kikagaku Moyo sets — their 2014 Levitation Festival set, which was one of the Japanese psych rock act’s first Stateside shows and their return to Levitation back in 2019, during a sold-out Stateside tour. Live at LEVITATION’s second album The Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION features the festival’s founders The Black Angels. Comprised of material recorded at Austin Psych Fest 2010, 2011 and 2012, the album captures a rare glimpse of the festival’s early days — and for Black Angels fans, like myself, it also features six songs from their first two albums, Passover and Directions to See a Ghost.

The Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION is slated for a March 26, 2021 digital and vinyl release through The Reverberation Society, and as The Black Angels’ Christian Bland explains in press notes, “Since the beginning The Black Angels were meant to be heard live. This record captures the rumble of the drums and amps, and the very essence of the way it should sound. Now future generations and new listeners can now hear how these songs were meant to be heard.”

The album’s first single is hypnotic and menacing live version of Passover single “Manipulation” that features a mesmerizing guest spot from Elephant Stone’s bassist, sitarist and frontman Rishi Dihr. The accompanying live footage was filmed at Austin’s Seaholm Power Plant.

Claudia Ferme is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter and the creative mastermind behind the existential dream pop, solo recording project Claude. Ferme began crafting songs inspired by Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Angel Olsen and Weyes Blood during her senior year of college in Bloomington, IN as a way to deal with the dread and fear she felt with being finished with school and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life.

The project became fully realized when she returned to Chicago during the spring of 2018. After meeting other musicians, Ferme decided to form a backing band for the project and started playing shows locally. And since 2018, Ferme’s music has landed on a number of Spotify and YouTube playlists, including Spotify’s Fresh Finds, The LazyLazyMe, BIRP, My Old Kentucky Blog, and Hype Machine.

Ferme’s Claude debut, Enactor EP is slated for a February 12, 2021 release through Side Hustle Records/The Orchard. The EP’s second and latest single “Everything’s Great” coincides with the most recent impeachment hearings dominating the media landscape again — and it manages to tie back to the song’s origin: “I wrote this song after Trump got elected,” Ferme says in press notes. “It felt like the world was ending and I wanted to somehow poke fun at his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.” Centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, gorgeous yet brooding strings and Ferme’s plaintive and ethereal vocals, “Everything’s Great” manages to tap into the deep in the soul exhaustion of the Trump Administration. The song is a gentle call for escapism as a form of self-preservation when everything is on fire — with the song’s narrator essentially saying “turn off your phone, so you can stop doom scrolling — and take a moment to daydream.” Maybe we should all take that advice every now and then.




New Video: Chicago’s Koalra Releases a 120 Minutes-Inspired Single and Visual

Formed in 2019, the Chicago-based indie rock quartet Koalra have quickly established a sound and songwriting approach that’s heavily indebted to 120 Minutes-era alt rock — i.e. The Cure, Dinosaur Jr., Ween, Sonic Youth, Boyracer, and The Thermals, as well as contemporaries like No Age, and Waaves.

Since their formation, the members of the Chicago-based quartet have been remarkably prolific: they’ve released two albums — 2019’s self-titled debut, last year’s Surprise Lights EP and The Wakes. Adding to their growing reputation for being prolific, the act will be releasing their third full-length album Into the Waves this year.

Koalra begin 2021 with their latest single off Into the Waves, “Water’s Push.” Centered around layers of shimmering guitars, a propulsive rhythm section centered around an angular bass line and rousingly anthemic hook, the breakneck “Water’s Push” finds the act firmly cementing the 120 Minutes-era sound that has begun to win them attention while expanding upon it with a subtle hazy, shoegazer quality.

Shot in hazy, security camera footage, the recently released video for “Water’s Push” follows a young boy as he drags a plastic skeleton around a variety of situations — and interestingly enough, the video is fittingly period specific.