Tag: Muscle Shoals

Alan Evans is a songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known for being the co-founder of acclaimed jazz fusion trio and JOVM mainstays Soulive. Back in 2008, while Soulive was on a break from touring, Evans spent his time producing, recording and mixing bands from around the world in his Western Massachusetts-based recording studio. On his days off, he would go into the studio and play guitar, recording a collection of material that he didn’t feel fit Soulive but wanted to release under his own name — Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers wound up becoming Evans’ guitar playing alter ego.

Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers’ latest single, the strutting “Good Thang” features an All-Star cast of funk and jazz musicians that includes DJ Williams’ Shots Fired‘s and Rubblebucket’s Darby Wolf (organ), The Curtis Mayflower’s Pete Aleski (guitar), Akashic Record‘s and BT ALC Big Band’s Brian “BT” Thomas” (trombone), ALC Funktet’s and BT ALC Big Band’s Alex Lee-Clark (trumpet), BT ALC Big Band’s Tucker Antell (alto and tenor saxophone) BT ALC Big Band’s Jared Sims (baritone sax) and Kim Dawson (vocals), who contributes sultry vocals to a Daptone meets Muscle Shoals-like anthem, complete with an enormous horn section and an even bigger hook.

“Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers is all about spontaneous creation for me and the very creative friends I get to call on to be a part of it. ‘Good Thang’ is a perfect example,” Evans says in press notes. “Initially I went into the studio, picked up the guitar and let whatever I was feeling come out without worrying about what kind of song it was.” He continues, “Before I knew it, I had a really great feeling bed of bass, drums and guitar laid down. From there, I asked my great friends Darby, Pete, Brian, Alex, Tucker, Jarad and Kim to take what I started and record exactly what inspired them to play. That is the best part of making music for me, creating something that will inspire people.”

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The rising Lincoln, NE-based soul and funk act Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal — Josh Hoyer (vocals, keys), Blake DeForest (trumpet), Mike Keeling (bass), Benjamin Kushner (guitar) Harrison El Dorado (drums) — formed back in 2012, and since their formation, the act, which features some of the Lincoln area’s most acclaimed musicians, has received attention nationally and internationally for a boundary crossing sound inspired by the sounds of Stax Records, Motown Records, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The Lincoln-based quintet have developed a reputation for being of the area’s hardest working bands: releasing four, critically applauded albums, including last year’s Do It Now, the members of the rising soul act have played hundreds of shows and have made several tours across the Continental United States and two European tours, opening for the George Clinton,Charles Bradley, Booker T. Jones, and Muscle Shoals Soul Revue and others.

Further cementing their reputation as one of the Plain States’ hardest working bands, the members of the Lincoln-based soul act will be releasing their Eddie Roberts-produced fifth later later this year through Color Red Records. “Hustler,” the album’s cinematic, third and latest single is a strutting bit of soul, prominently featuring Hoyer’s soulful, Tom Jones-like vocals, a commanding horn arrangement, a sinuous bass line, shimmering organ arpeggios and an enormous and rousingly anthemic hook. While seemingly possessing elements of The Payback-era James Brown, 70s Motown, Muscle Shoals, Daptone and Memphis soul in a seamless yet period specific synthesis, the upbeat track manages to be one-part much-needed proverbial kick in the ass and one part much-needed rallying cry for our unprecedented and uncertain moment, centered around the assuring yet forceful line “When the world wants you to sink or swim, I ain’t goin’ under.”

Things may be bleak right now but keep fighting y’all. There’s much hard and necessary work to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Monophonics Release a Swooning and Shimmering Ballad

Since their formation, the Bay Area-based soul outfit Monophonics — Austin Bohlman (drums), Ian McDonald (guitar, backing vocals), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), Max Ramey (bass) and Kelly Finnigan (lead vocals, keys) –have developed an approach that continues in the classic and beloved tradition of Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records: much like their influences, the Bay Area soul outfit’s material is centered by an incredibly cinematic sound that draws heavily from classic soul, heavy funk, psych rock  recorded on vintage analog recording gear. This is paired with a healthy amount of old-fashion woodshedding, crafting and McDonald’s and Finnigan’s late night overdubs and studio work. “We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can,” the band says in press notes. 

Monophonics’ third full-length album It’s Only Us is slated for a March 13, 2020 release though Colemine Records. While the album will further cement their long-held reputation for being an act that’s keen to creating and playing a heavier and edgier version of classic soul, and for arguably being one of the Bay Area’s best classic soul-inspired acts, the album reportedly is a reflection of what the band sees as the current, troubling direction of our world. Thematically, the album touches upon much-needed messages of unity in a fractious and divisive world, strength, resilience and acceptance. Also, sonically, It’s Only Us reportedly finds the rising soul act gently refining their signature sound with a healthy dose of new and warmer textures. 

Last year, I wrote about “Chances,” It’s Only Us’ lush and uptempo bit of two-step inducing soul that sounds like a crate digger’s dream of stumbling across some obscure and dusty Northern soul or classic American soul from the mid 60s. But at its core, the song warned empathetic lovers to think twice about giving that straying lover another chance, making the song an aching and age-old tale of the difficulties of saying goodbye to a no-good lover — even when it’s absolutely necessary.  It’s Only Us’ second and latest single, album title track “It’s Only Us” is a lush and swooning track, centered around an achingly gorgeous brass line, shimmering keys and guitars, a sinuous bass line and Finnigan’s soulful and vulnerable crooning — and while being both subtly psychedelic and cinematic in a way that recalls Curtis Mayfield, Issac Hayes and others, the song, as the band’s Kelly Finnigan explains “is about the first time you tell someone you love them. It’s that moment in life so many of us have had where we make ourselves our most vulnerable. While on the outside, it has the qualities of a traditional love song, underneath it is an anthem for humanity. Right now, we are witnessing a time where so many people feel polarized and there is a divisive mood in the country. inside the story is a message of unity, trust and acceptance that goes beyond falling in love.” 

 

Since their formation, the Bay Area-based soul outfit Monophonics — Austin Bohlman (drums), Ian McDonald (guitar, backing vocals), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), Max Ramey (bass) and Kelly Finnigan (lead vocals, keys) –have developed a approach that continues in the classic and beloved tradition of Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records: an incredibly cinematic sound that draws from classic soul, heavy funk, psych rock and classic American song craft, recorded on vintage analog recording gear. Along with that there’s a healthy amount of old-fashioned woodshedding and McDonald’s and Finnigan’s late night overdubs and studio work. We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can,” the band says.

Simultaneously known as an act that’s keen to create a heavier version of classic soul, and as one of the best contemporary purveyors of the classic soul sound by those in the know, the Bay Area-based act’s  third album It’s Only Us is slated for release next year through Colemine Records. Reportedly, the album is a reflection of what the band sees as the current direction of the world while thematically touching upon messages of unity, strength, resilience and acceptance. Sonically, the album finds the band gently refining their signature sound with a healthy dose of new and warm textures.

“Chances” It’s Only Us‘ first single is a lush and uptempo bit of two-step inducing soul that’s one part deep, crate digging Northern soul and classic American soul, centered around a propulsive drumming, a sinuous bass line, fluttering vibraphone, shimmering guitar, bold and lustrous horns. Out in the front of the mix, Finnigan and background vocalists the Soul Mates sing lyrics warning empathetic lovers to think twice about giving that straying lover another chance, making the song an aching and age-old tell off about the difficulties of saying goodbye — even when it’s necessary.

 



Live Footage: Acclaimed Singer/Songwriter Dylan LeBlanc Performs “Renegade” at FAME Studios

Dylan LeBlanc is Shreveport, LA-born and based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up in a very musical home. LeBlanc’s father was a country singer/songwriter. who performed in various bars and clubs across the region. At a very young age, LeBlanc acquired a unique musical education, in which he frequently spent late nights watching his father and other musicians record at the studios, where his father play as a studio musician. Naturally, the Shreveport-born and-based singer/songwriter and musician was intrigued and became a musician himself, eventually playing in his first band, an alternative rock band by the name of Jimmy Sad Eyes Blue with another local musician Daniel Goodwill. 

As the story goes, Goodwill inspired LeBlanc to begin writing his own music. After spending a few years with Jimmy Sad Eyes Blues, LeBlanc was forced to attend rehab. Following rehab, LeBlanc decided to pursue music full-time instead of returning to high school. He joined Muscle Shoals Punk Rock band, replacing its lead singer, who left the band to join Sons of Roswell — and as a member of the band, Dylan toured throughout the region. A few years later, he co-founded the band Abraham, a band that also featured Alabama Shakes’ Ben Tanner, who at the time was also the house engineer at FAME Studios. 

When LeBlanc turned 19, he left Abraham to pursue a solo career. He signed with Rough Trade Records, who released his full-length debut, 2010’s Paupers Field, which featured “If The Creek Don’t Rise,” a collaboration with Emmylou Harris. To support the album, the Shreveport-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist opened for the likes of Lucinda Harris, The Civil Wars, Laura Marling, George Ezra and Calexico. Building upon a growing profile, LeBlanc’s sophomore album 2012’s Cast the Same Old Shadow was released to critical praise, with The Guardian calling the album’s songs “as beautiful as they are bleak,” and the album itself, “eerie rather than unsettling.” That year, LeBlanc opened for Bruce Springsteen, First Aid Kit, The Drive By Truckers and Alabama Shakes. 

Dylan LeBlanc’s third full-length album, the John Paul White-produced 2016’s Cautionary Tale featured Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and was praised by the likes of NPR and No Depression. Supporting that album, he wound up touring with the likes of Anderson East, The Wood Brothers and others. 

Interestingly, LeBlanc’s fourth album, the recently released Dave Cobb-produced Renegade finds the Shreveport-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist and his backing band attempting to write the sort of songs that matched the atmosphere that they were bringing live. “So, I started with ‘Renegade,’ which was fitting since I felt myself going in a new, more intense direction with this record. In the studio, I let go almost absolutely and let Dave Cobb do his work. It was a different experience for me-how focused Cobb was and how quickly we would get live takes down, mostly in one or two takes and never more than three. It left me spinning at how quickly it all came together. Over the course of ten days Renegade was complete and ready for mastering. And I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you.”

“Renegade” the album title track and first single off the recently released album is a shuffling and atmospheric, minor key rocker, centered around an atmospheric hook, shimmering, pedal effected guitars and LeBlanc’s lilting falsetto, and while clearly being indebted to Damn the Torpedoes-era Tom Petty, the carefully crafted reveals a novelistic attention to psychological depth, as it tells the story of two star-crossed lovers — one, who seems desperate to leave, the other, who is desperate to stay. 

Directed by Alysse Gafkjen, the recently released video was filmed at Muscle Shoals’ legendary FAME Studios. Interestingly, the live session was a sort of homecoming for LeBlanc, who who began working at the studio when he was 16 — and where he later began recording his own music. “It was surreal and brought me back to a time and place that I had almost forgotten,” LeBlanc says of the sessions. “The only place where time always seems to stand still.” 

New Video: A David Lee Roth Meets Fraggle Rock Party from Hell with Nicole Atkins

JOVM mainstay Nicole Atkins is a Neptune, New Jersey-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter, best known for a sound that draws influence from 50s crooner pop, 60s psych rock and psych pop, soul music and Brill Building pop; in fact, some critics have compared her sound favorably to the likes of Roy Orbison and others. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Atkins has publicly cited the favorites of her parents’ record collection as being major influences on her, including The Ronettes, Johnny Cash, The Beach Boys, The Sundays‘ Harriet Wheeler and Cass Elliot.

Now, as you may recall, Atkins’ fourth full-length album Goodnight Rhonda Lee was recorded at Fort Worth, TX‘s Niles City Sound, with a production team featuring Austin Jenkins, Josh Block and Chris Vivion and was mixed by the Alabama Shakes‘ Ben Tanner, and the album, which was written while Atkins was in alcohol rehab and afterward, and began to see her life with a different sort of clarity and honesty; in fact, Rhonda Lee was the name, she gave to her hard partying, hard living former life and self. Interestingly, the album, which was released last year was the first batch of original material from the New Jersey-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, and it marked a decided sonic departure from her three previously released albums. Goodnight Rhonda Lee‘s first single “A Little Crazy,” a duet with Chris Issak was a delicate and soulful ballad that clearly nods to some of Atkins’ earliest influences — in particular, Roy Orbison with a hint of Patsy Cline. “Darkness Falls So Quiet,” the album’s second single was a stomping and soulful track that nodded at  Dusty Springfield.  “Sleepwalking,” Rhonda Lee’s fourth single featured a shuffling early  Motown Records-like arrangement that immediately brought to mind  Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, and even Charles Bradley. 

“Brokedown Luck,” Rhonda Lee’s latest single is a shuffling and stomping 12 bar blues-based track that finds Atkins and her backing band nodding at Muscle Shoals, Motown and Daptone, as well as a smidge of Sandra Rhodes sadly under-appreciated country meets soul album Where’s Your Love Been; however, the song captures a narrator, who has reached the end of her rope and recognized that she’s spent way too much time, drinking, fucking up, drinking some more, fucking up some more — and at the end, the same empty, ridiculous rut that she began with; but there’s some clarity and the hope that this time, the song’s narrator may be able to get it right.

Directed by puppet maker/puppeteer and filmmaker Kevin Kelly, the recently released video for “Brokedown Luck” was shot at Asbury Park’s The Asbury Hotel and is essentially a David Lee Roth-like party from hell featuring Elvis impersonators, Hunter S. Thompson, Floyd from The Shinning and hallucinatory scenes with animation and puppets. As Atkins explains of the video treatment, “When I was a kid there was so much cool stuff on tv to get into. I was obsessed with puppets, claymation and animation like Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock and Gary Panter’s puppets and art in Pee Wee’s Playhouse and even the little David Lee Roth singing cheeseburger dude in the movie Better Off Dead. Those things stuck with me for my whole life. It was always a dream of mine to be able to combine some of those elements along with my music in a video.”