JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates the legendary and incomparable Mavis Staples’ 84th birthday!
JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates the 108th anniversary of Roebuck “Pops” Staples birth.
JOVM’s William Ruben Helms belatedly celebrates Mavis Staples’ 83rd birthday.
JOVM celebrates Mavis Staples’ 82nd birthday.
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.
One of the greatest thrills I’ve had as a music fan, was somehow getting last-minute tickets through a broker to see Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers with Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden back in June 2008. Up until, catching Bob Dylan with Mavis Staples at The Beacon Theatre, that 2008 concert was the most I had ever spent for concert tickets — and I don’t regret it for a single second. God, hearing all of great songs live.
Petty would have turned 70. And much like Prince, I doubt Petty was capable of writing a terrible song. I wanted to celebrate Tom Petty’s birthday — and i think you should, too. I’ll be playing some of his music today, and will feel grateful for all of those songs. Happy 70th Tom. Happy birthday to you, wherever you are.
Throughout the course of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the legendary Chicago-born singer, actress, and civil rights activist Mavis Staples. Going into a deep dive into her career as a member of the Staple Singers and and a solo artist will be a bit gratuitous — but throughout her career, she has received commercial and critical success, as well as a proverbial boatload of accolades. Stapes has received eight Grammy Awards nominations with the Staple Singers, winning one — a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004. She also received a Grammy nod for a collaboration with longtime friend Bob Dylan. And as a solo artist, she’s been nominated for five Grammys, winning two — Best Americana Album for 2010’s You Are Not Alone and a Best American Roots Performance for 2015’s ”See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.”
She also has been nominated for 11 Blues Music Awards, winning nine, including Album of the Year for 2004’s Have A Little Faith, which featured Song of the Year and album title track “Have A Little Faith.” She’s also won three Soul Blues Female Artist Awards — one in 2004 and back to back wins in 2017 and 2018. Staples was also inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Staple Singers in 1999, was a Kennedy CenterHonoree in 2016 and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.
Today is the legendary vocalist’s 81st birthday and I personally wanted to wish the national treasure a very Happy Birthday. May there be at least another 80 more!
Founded by Greg Musso, Jacques Daoud and Bruce Sherfield, MAajunga Spirit Orchestrais a Paris-based collective of like-minded artists, musicians and vocalists, who are deeply influenced by soul and gospel. Last year, the collective received international attention, when their single “Hold On” was featured in Remy Martin’s “Team Up For Excellence Campaign.”
Building upon the growing attention of “Hold On,” the members went into the studio to write and record their debut EP, Hold On.“The reaction to ‘Hold On’ was overwhelming.” producer and founding member Greg Musso says in press notes. “We decided to take this unique opportunity to continue spreading the music that we believe brings people together in spirit – mind, body, and soul.”
Produced by the collective’s Greg Musso and recorded live at Paris’ Midilive Studios (formerly known as Vogue Studios), known for seminal recordings by French artists like Françoise Hardy, Jacques Dutronc and Johnny Hallyday, the EP will further establish and expand upon the sound that won them international attention. Of course, the EP will feature, the attention grabbing, EP title track “Hold On,” a much needed bit of uplift and resolve centered around a gospel chorus, soulful led vocals and soaring keys. Sonically and thematically, the song manages to mesh the swaggering and hip-hop influenced gospel of Kirk Franklin with the soulful spirituals of Mavis Staples. Certainly, in these difficult and unusual times, the song’s positive message should resonate with all of us: we’re all gonna have to hold on — to hope, to each other, to each single day — until this passes.