Tag: New Orleans LA

New Audio: The Wood Brothers Release a Bluesy Meditation on the Ego and Perspective

The acclaimed folk/roots/Americana act The Wood Brothers, comprised of  Boulder, CO-born 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 in the early 90s 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 cements their long-held reputation for live shows centered around performances that defy easy categorization — their delivery 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 previously recored material, the trio would write a batch of songs 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 out, they all thought they were 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. The material, which is centered around vivid character studies and unflinching self-examination attempts to find strength and solace in accepting what lies beyond our control — and ponders how we find contentment 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. Last month, 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 and unhurried yet simultaneously crafted. Kingdom In My Mind’s latest single is the slow-burning country blues “Cry Over Nothing,” a song that finds the trio meditating on the ego, perspective and fate with a playfully fatalistic sensibility. Much like its immediate predecessor, the song reveals the trio’s exceptional versatility while reminding the listener that the trio can essentially play anything with verve and soulfulness. 

“At the same time we were making this album, we were looking for some sort of philanthropic organization we could support with our music,”  Oliver Wood explains, “and in a bit of synchronicity, we came across this great group called Thistle Farms, which was based just down the street from our studio. Their goal is to help women who have been victims of prostitution or addiction to get off the street and into safe housing where they can participate in therapy and job training. The work they were doing was so inspiring and it felt like such a fit with the kind of album we were writing that we teamed up with them to donate a portion of ticket sales from all our shows. It’s our way of using what we’ve got to do whatever good we can in the world.”

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New Audio: The Wood Brothers Release a New Orleans Jazz-like Meditation on Circumstance

The acclaimed folk/roots/Americana act The Wood Brothers, comprised of  Boulder, CO-born 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 in the early 90s 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 insanely 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, 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. Since then, the act has released another live album, 2017’s Live at the Barn. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year or so, you’d recall that 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.

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 cements their long-held reputation for live shows centered around performances that defy easy categorization — their delivery 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 previously recored material, the trio would write a batch of songs 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 out, they all thought they were 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. The material, which is centered around vivid character studies and unflinching self-examination attempts to find strength and solace in accepting what lies beyond our control — and ponders how we find contentment 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. Interestingly, “Alabaster,” the album’s first single and opening track is a slow-burning and decidedly Dr. John/New Orleans-like jazz ballad centered around an empathetic portrait of a woman, who’s broken free from her old life and relocated far way for a much-needed fresh start. Featuring an incredibly novelistic attention to detail, the song manages to feel improvised and unhurried yet carefully crafted — but perhaps more important, it’s a reminder of the exceptional and versatile musicianship of a trio that can essentially play anything at anytime with soul. 

“At the same time we were making this album, we were looking for some sort of philanthropic organization we could support with our music,”  Oliver Wood explains, “and in a bit of synchronicity, we came across this great group called Thistle Farms, which was based just down the street from our studio. Their goal is to help women who have been victims of prostitution or addiction to get off the street and into safe housing where they can participate in therapy and job training. The work they were doing was so inspiring and it felt like such a fit with the kind of album we were writing that we teamed up with them to donate a portion of ticket sales from all our shows. It’s our way of using what we’ve got to do whatever good we can in the world.”

New Video: The Wistful Sounds and Visuals of Soaked Oats’ “Coming Up”

Comprised of Oscar Mein (vocals, keys), Henry Francis (guitar), Max Holmes (guitar) and Conor Feehly (drums), the up-and-coming Dunedin, New Zealand-based indie rock act Soaked Oats are one of the first Kiwi bands to sign to highly-regarded Australian label Dot Dash/Remote Control Records, the label home of acclaimed acts like Methyl Ethel, Carla Geneve, Gabriella Cohen and Total Giovanni, which marks a huge career step forward for the band. 

Slated for a June 14, 2019 release, the band’s newest EP Sludge Pop will feature their previously released, attention-grabbing tracks “Driftworld” and Shuggah Doom.” The EP’s latest single “Coming Up” is a wistful and reflective track, centered around shimmering guitars, twinkling keys, a motorik-like groove and an anthemic hook — and while being a striking road trip anthem, the song possesses the tacit understanding that things are fleeting; that the good times do end — and that eventually all you’re left with is the t-shirt, the pictures and nostalgia. “I had just written the first half of the lyrics as a poem. I was trying to personify a low morning in the immediate surroundings of a bedroom,” the band’s Oscar Mein says of the song’s creative process. “Henry [Francis] sent through a demo he had done, titled “coming up from behind,” and I started playing around with applying the poem to the song while working within the title he had given it. I wrote the last few lines in a more positive headspace with Tom Bell at Chicks Hotel, where we recorded it. Tom Healy added a bunch of nice stuff to this song, and it wouldn’t be what it is without him, especially that acoustic guitar that chimes through when we get grooving and the synth parts, too — plus a lot of other tasty bits.” 

Directed by Jake Munro, the black and white video for “Coming Up” follows the band during their travels in a 34 foot 1980s RV that they called home for their 10 week, 20,000 mile DIY-styled US tour last year. The viewer follows the band through urban, suburban and rural America, passing through mobile home parks, farms and waterfalls — with stops at underground DIY venues. Unsurprisingly, the video further emphasizes the song’s nostalgic vibes, while capturing the longing for a profound experience you’ve once had. “The footage was captured on mountains of rolls of Super 16 and Super 8mm film. Jake (Munro) and I retreated to a cabin on New Zealand’s wild west coast of the South Island and spent days trawling through it all to find the excerpts that fitted and established the progression found within the song,” Mein says of the video. “Jake threw the word ‘painstaking’ around to describe his experience of the process. We had a good time. The main destinations we see in the video are Virginia, Nashville, New Orleans, and NYC.”

Live Footage: Elley Duhe Performs “Savior” on Vevo DSCVR

Elley Duhe is a up-and-coming Mobile, AL-born Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, who was raised in the small Gulf Coast towns of Vancleave, MS and Dauphin Island, AL. Duhe grew up in a rather musical home — her father and uncle were musicians, who are connected to the New Orleans music scene. Her father bought her a guitar when she turned 14 and by the following year, Duhe had begun her music career in earnest, signing in coffee shops. She quickly graduated to playing gigs in bars, restaurants and private parties, gaining enough exposure to be booked to open for a number of national acts. The Mobile, AL-born singer/songwriter was also connected with songwriters in Nashville, Los Angles and Austin, where after dropping out of high school and getting her GED, she spent three years honing her craft. 

Duhe emerged as a solo artist of note in 2016 with the release of two attention-grabbing singles — “Millennium,” a collaboration with electronic producer Tarro that amassed 2 million streams of YouTube and 1.4 million streams on Spotify and “Immortal” which amassed 4.5 million streams on Spotify and nearly 1 million streams on YouTube. Adding to a growing profile, the Snakehips remix of “Immortal” amassed 770,000 Spotify streams. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, she released her ILLA and Cool & Dre co-produced single “Fly” last year. However, 2018 may be the biggest year of the Mobile-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s career to date: This summer saw the release of “Happy Now,” an attention-grabbing collaboration with Russian-German producer Zedd and “Tie Me Down,” a collaboration with Gryffin, as well her debut EP Dragon Mentality. 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts on Vevo’s Vevo DSCVR series, and as you may recall, Vevo DSCVR is Vevo’s emerging artist platform that curates the best up-and-coming artists — acts that the site believes will have a significant impact on the future — to perform their best material. Throughout its run, Vevo DSCVR has featured and impressive and eclectic array of artists including Jack Garratt,James Bay, Years & Years, Wolf Alice, Sam Smith, Jorja Smith, Maggie Rogers, Alessia Cara and Ella Eyre among others. This past year has seen Vevo DSCVR inviting up-and-coming pop artists Billie Eilish, Bülow, Donna Missal and Charlotte Lawrence. Recently, Vevo invited the Mobile-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter to perform the swaggering and anthemic “Savior.” 

Next year looks be a big year for Duhe as she was added to Vevo’s list of 2019’s Artists to Watch. 

 

Currently comprised of primary songwriting and founding duo Laura Fisher (vocals) and Jeremy Marx (guitar), along with Jonathan Arcenueax (drums), who has played with Toonces, Julie Odell and Debuache; and Devin Kerrigan (bass), who has played with Toonces, Bionica, Gravity A, the New Orleans-based indie rock act Tranche have developed a reputation locally and regionally for a sound that meshes elements of dream pop, shoegaze and grunge in a way that’s dark and moody yet familiar. In fact, their anthemic, mid-tempo “Wishing on the Water” brings to mind Concrete Blonde, JOVM mainstay Chelsea Wolfe, PJ Harvey and others, as the track is centered around shimmering, delay and distortion pedal fed guitar, four on the floor drumming, a soaring hook paired with Fisher’s powerhouse vocals, expressing a profound yearning.

Interestingly, as the band’s Laura Fisher told me through email, “‘Wishing on the Water’ is born of deep and relentless reflections on the current state of our world, in all of it’s dark dystopian inclinations and tragic beauty; in particular I explore the separation and perception of reality vs. mind. Sometimes I feel like our most modern technologies purposefully breed paranoia and dissociation. Or maybe those are just inherent parts of human nature?

When I asked Jeremy for his input, he noted that the song isn’t so much a story as it is a ‘literary wishing well.’ Which I love. It’s also super accurate considering I was greatly inspired lyrically by the images conjured in Marlon MacAllister’s novel Meld Resistance (as well as it’s illustrations by Yona Yurwit). Musically, I think the riff just came to Jeremy and we played with it, developing the hook together. I wrote the verses. It felt like channeling all of our favourite grunge anthems into something new and for 2018.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Meshell Ndegeocello Releases Tender and Joyful Cover of Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, JOVM mainstay Meshell Ndegeocello– and as you may recall, the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist was born Michelle Lynn Johnson in Berlin, Germany and was raised in Washington, DC.  When she turned 17, she adopted the name Meshell Ndegeocello, with the surname, as she has explained meaning “free like a bird in Swahili.”

In the late 80s, Ndedgeocello gigged around DC’s go-go circuit, playing with a number of local acts including Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence before unsuccessfully trying out for Living Colour’s bassist spot, after Muzz Skillings left the band. Deciding to go solo, Ndegeocello eventually caught the attention of Madonna, who signed the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist to her Maverick Records. Most readers will remember her commercially successful collaborative coverof Van Morrison‘s “Wild Night,” with John Mellencamp, a single that peaked at #3 on the BillboardCharts in 1994 and “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” peaked at #73 later that year. Adding to a rapidly rising profile, she collaborated with the legendary Herbie Hancock on a track for Red Hot Organization’s AIDS awareness, tribute compilation Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which was named Time Magazine‘s “Album of the Year.”  Her coverof Bill Withers‘ “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)” was a #1 Dance Hit in 1996 and was briefly featured in the major motion picture Jerry Maguire, and she landed Dance Top 20 hits with “Earth,” “Leviticus: Faggot,” and “Stay.” Along with that she collaborated with Madonna, playing bass on “I’d Rather Be Your Lover,” and contributing a verse at the last minute, after Tupac Shakur had criminal charges filed against him. Ndegeocello has also collaborated with Chaka Khan, rapping  on “Never Miss the Water,” a single that landed #1 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with the likes of Basement Jaxx,Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti,The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissetteand Zap Mama.

Throughout her lengthy career, Ndegeocello has managed the rare feet of achieving commercial success while arguably being one of the most uncompromising and iconoclastic artists of the past 25 years — all while being credited as being at the forefront of the neo-soul sound, thanks in part to a genre defying and difficult to pigeonhole sound that draws from hip-hop, classic soul, jazz, rock, reggae and singer/songwriter pop. Over the past few years, Ndegeocello has been rather busy — she wrote and composed a musical influenced by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, titled Can I Get a Witness?: The Gospel of James Baldwin and released a gorgeous tribute album to the legendary Nina Simone, which featured collaborations with fellow JOVM mainstay Cody ChesnuTT and others.

Ventriloquism, Ndegeocello’s later album was released earlier this year, and the album finds the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist covering songs by  TLC, Janet Jackson, Tina Tuner, Prince and others, who have been influential to her and her work — but with her unique take. As the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist explains in press notes, “Early on in my career, I was told to make the same kind of album again and again, and when I didn’t do that, I lost support. There isn’t much diversity within genres, which are ghettoizing themselves, and I liked the idea of turning hits I loved into something even just a little less familiar or formulaic. It was an opportunity to pay a new kind of tribute.” Ventriloquism’s first single was a coverof Force MD‘s smash hit “Tender Love,” that found Ndegeocello turning the slow-burning, 80s piano ballad into a folksy, Harvest-era Neil Young/Fleetwood Mac track, complete with shuffling drumming, twinkling Fender Rhodes and harmonica. Though she eschews some of the song’s cheesiness, which makes it endearing in its own right, Ndegeocello’s cover retains the song’s earnestness — pointing out that a well-written pop song can reach for something downright timeless. 

The album’s latest single is a cover of Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity,” that briefly nods at Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” as it’s centered around loose, bluesy guitar chords, shuffling drumming and a New Orleans brass band-like bridge — and while retaining the song’s sultry nature, Ndegeocello manages to pull out and further emphasize the song’s tenderness.  Much like its predecessor, the new single continues Ndegeocello’s commentary on society’s narrow expectations on what music created by and performed by black artists should sound like and be like. 

Directed by the Cass Bird, the recently released video for “Sensitivity ” was specifically released in conjunction with the end of Pride Month — and in our dark and uncertain age, the video is a much-needed burst of joy and humanity, as the video was specifically cast to focus on faces, body types and identities that are less conventional, less celebrated and often misunderstood, capturing these people at their most vital, most joyful and most human — whether dancing, tenderly embracing, kissing and loving. Certainly, the world would be a much better place if there was more love and more gentle and human moments.