“It all goes back to that John Lee Hooker session,” enthused Ben Harper. “Even John Lee mentioned it, saying: ‘yeah, yeah, you guys… that’s good. Yeah, yeah. You should stay with that. Do that.’”
Mississippi born Musselwhite is one of the most revered blues musicians in the world. The harmonica master, also a respected singer and songwriter in his own right, has won countless awards during his legendary career including induction into the Blues Hall of Fame and collaborated with innumerable musical giants of the past 50 years including Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder and the aforementioned Hooker, just to name to name a few.
A fan of the harmonica virtuoso since childhood, Harper begged an introduction to his idol at Australia’s Bryon Bay Blues Festival in 1996. Despite the difference in age and background, the two hit it off immediately. The next pivotal moment came at a 1997 session for John Lee Hooker where they locked in musically, finding a common language that is seamless and remarkable.
Since then, the two musicians have worked together over the years, including sessions for Solomon Burke’s Don’t Give Up on Me in 2002, on Musselwhite’s 2004 Grammy nominated album Sanctuary; the budding mates teaming on a version of Harper’s “Homeless Child” and on Harper’s own album Both Sides of the Gun in 2006. Each time Harper and Musselwhite played together it was lightning in a bottle. The more they played, the louder Hooker’s words echoed.
In the grand but all-too-rare tradition of full-album artist collaborations, Get Up! (Stax/Concord Music Group) featuring Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite is a modern blues classic. The release, Harper’s 12th studio album, surveys gospel, roots, country and R&B; the marriage’s fluid chemistry helping his multi-layered canvas expand as never before.
“Blues is a feeling,” Musselwhite points out. “It doesn’t have to be a certain chord change. You could have 1-4-5 chord changes without that feeling and it wouldn’t be the blues. B.B. King could sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and it would be the blues.”
Harper, Musselwhite and the band (guitarist Jason Mozersky, bassist Jesse Ingalls, and drummer Jordan Richardson) play this intense and emotional song-cycle with economical grit. Produced by Harper with co-production credits going to engineer Sheldon Gomberg, the band members and Grammy winning roots music producer Chris Goldsmith, Get Up! has a timeless feel, as if it had been recorded 40 years ago in Chicago at Chess Studios just as easily as the Carriage House in Los Angeles.
Recorded down and dirty, fast and live, Get Up! is an old school creation. This kind of musical chemistry demanded the approach. But its attitude, brash, assertive, disarming and vulnerable, is defiantly modern. This is a record Harper has always aspired to make but knew required the essential life experience. Get Up! proves it’s been time well spent. Visit Benharper.com
While it’s a rare commodity for a band to tour as consistently as Slightly Stoopid, the group’s diligent commitment to live music provides some insight into why it’s been a few years since the release of their last studio album. But on August 14, 2012, the Ocean Beach, California-based group—led by co-founders and multi-instrumentalists Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald—will drop their latest studio effort, Top of the World. As heard throughout the disc, the layoff between albums has not affected the group’s penchant for cooking up the tasty fusion and massive groove that permeates Stoopid’s trademark sound.
“We’re a touring act, and we’ve been on the road pretty much non-stop over the last decade,” explains Doughty. “It really came into play on the release of the new record. Our last studio record [Slightly Not Stoned Enough to Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid] was about three and a half years ago. But with the band, we were starting families, we’d been on the road so much, we really didn’t have time to sit down and focus on actually recording it.”
Doughty also admits that the creation of the band’s own recording studio and rehearsal clubhouse, within the warehouse district of Mission Valley (just inland of Ocean Beach), certainly aided the creation of Top of the World.
“In the past two years, we started our own studio, which really enabled us to make the record at our own pace, and to make the right record for us at this time in our career,” Doughty continues.
“What’s nice about it is having our own environment to record in and analyze the music, and it really lets you keep an organic feel. For us, I feel like it’s a step into the next level, as far as understanding the process of recording, understanding the process of songwriting. We took everything that we’ve learned over the years and really put it into this record.”
Another key ingredient to what makes Top of the World so special is the inclusion of several musical guests. “It really kept that ‘family atmosphere’ for us,” says Doughty. “I think it really shows in the music—it flows. It’s like one of those records that feels like it’s one giant song. It keeps building and building. For us, we couldn’t be happier. Top of the World speaks volumes as to where the band is today; just lyrically and musically, we’re really happy with the direction.”
“We had G. Love, Angelo Moore from Fishbone, Don Carlos, Barrington Levy, Ian Neville from Dumpstaphunk, Tory Ruffin from Morris Day and the Time and Fishbone, and singer/songwriter Angela Hunte. We’ve been friends with G. Love for over 15 years, and we’ve been able to work together quite a few different times in the studio. It seems like second nature. Whenever you’re recording with G., it’s almost like you’re really just hanging out with your bro, and you happen to hit record. We’ve done so many shows together and so many studio sessions, it becomes second nature. Angelo Moore to me is one of the greatest frontmen to ever step foot on a stage. As a fan and out of respect, I try to do something with Angelo every time we have a record, really. If you listen to his lyrics, his vocal performance—I don’t know who could keep up with Angelo on stage. Don Carlos from Black Uhuru is one of the legendary reggae singers of all time, and we’ve had the pleasure of working with him the last few years.”
Riffing on some of the album’s highlights, Doughty says “I really love ‘Hiphoppablues,’ the song G. Love did. I love the song ‘Way You Move,’ Ian Neville did a great guitar line throughout the whole song. We worked with Barrington Levy on ‘Ur Love,’ he is a true architect of the dance hall! Definitely ‘Ska Diddy’ with Angelo—it’s a fun rant and shout out to a lot of the nooks and crannies we play across the country.”
Besides recording at their own studio, Slightly Stoopid has always been extremely hands on when it comes to their career, going back more than a decade to when they founded their own record label, Stoopid Records.
“We started Stoopid Records around 2000,” Doughty clarifies. “At that time, we were in transition as far as what we were doing with our records, and we thought it would be good to have our own independent label—like Sublime showed us back in the day with Skunk Records. What’s nice is we’ve had a following with the fans, where people understand that Stoopid Records is Slightly Stoopid and other bands we want to help break out.”
“For us, it was a big turning point, as far as having complete creative control over everything we do. That’s something big for this band—we want to make the music for ourselves and for our fans. We don’t really make music for someone in an office that tells us something needs to be there. We’ve always had a very organic, do-it-yourself attitude. I think it’s paid off in dividends.”
In addition to the arrival of Top of the World, Slightly Stoopid should be very busy for the rest of 2012. “This summer, we’re doing The Unity Tour with 311. That was really cool— those guys approached us about doing a tour with them. For the last five years, we’ve been headlining all the amphitheater tours, so it’s kind of nice that we’re going to co-headline with them. It’s a good chance to not only play for our fans, but to play for 311 fans and show them the new direction of the new record. After the summer tour, we’re going to do a fall tour and a winter tour, stay on the road as much as possible, promote the record, and keep making more music.”
Slightly Stoopid’s current line-up, featured on the Unity Tour 2012, consists of Doughty (guitar, bass, vocals) and McDonald (guitar, bass, vocals), along with Ryan “Rymo” Moran (drums), Oguer “OG” Ocon (congas, percussion, harp, vocals), C-Money (trumpet), Dela (saxophone) and Paul Wolstencroft (keyboards). Additionally, “unofficial 8th member” Karl Denson of Greyboy Allstars also lent his talents throughout Top of the World, and is joining the band on tour this summer.
Nearly two decades into their ongoing metamorphosis, Slightly Stoopid continues to progress into new musical territory, defining their signature sound even further and creating a contagious feel-good vibe. An entire subculture has grown around the social statements the band makes with their music—and it’s been done entirely on their own terms.
No wonder they feel like they’re on Top of the World.
Since forming in Atlanta 15 years ago, instrumental electronic rock band STS9 has experienced a meteoric rise to the forefront of the international music scene. Consistently ranked among Pollstar magazine’s list of top-grossing touring acts, STS9—Hunter Brown (guitar/sequences), Jeffree Lerner (percussion), David Phipps (keyboards/synths) and Zach Velmer (drums)–continues to average over 5,000 tickets per city, boasting a genre defying list of opening acts along the way such as Snoop Dogg, Ghostland Observatory, Bassnectar, Thievery Corporation, Pretty Lights, NAS, Big Boi of Outkast and countless others.
STS9 truly does it all: from headlining stages at festivals such as the Ultra Music Festival, Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Lollapalooza and Electric Daisy Carnival, to selling out shows around the country as an acoustic set-up in opera houses or as an electronic act in amphitheatres, to performing with Jay-Z in arenas, to running their own record label, 1320 RECORDS, to using their voice as a platform for change and raising significant amounts of money towards activism efforts (including $150,000 to The Make it Right Foundation, paving the way to rebuild a house in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans). Pushing boundaries is all in a day’s work for STS9.
2013 was yet another big year for STS9. The band’s headlining Winter and Spring tour —their first months-long coast to coast outing in over two years—sold out the majority of their destinations with massive shows at Oakland’s Fox Theater, The Palladium in Los Angeles and Chicago’s Congress Theatre. The group then hit the festival circuit throughout the summer as they prep for the release of their next album, with headlining and/or main stage sets at Summer Camp, Wakarusa, Camp Bisco, and All Good. STS9 later hit the road for a co-headlining tour with Umphrey’s McGee, with huge stops at Chicago’s Northerly Island, Atlanta’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Philadelphia’s Mann Music Center, Boston’s Bank of America Pavilion, and the Filene Center at Wolf Trap outside of Washington, DC. The Summer concluded with the band’s annual sold out two-night run at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, while the entire year ended with a 5-Night run at The Tabernacle in Atlanta.
In 2014, fans will continue to be treated to STS9’s largest touring production rig ever. Building off the groundbreaking “Great Cycle Spectacle” design, the band is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to delivering one of the most visually stunning shows on the road today.
The release of the bands latest studio EP, WHEN THE DUST SETTLES (the eleventh album in their full discography), keeps with XLR8R Magazine’s exclamation that STS9 is “one of the country’s most intriguing, innovative outfits around.” The EP was released in 2011 and debuted at #1 on the iTunes Electronic Charts and in Billboard’s Top 25.
STS9’s self-owned record label, 1320 RECORDS was founded on the principles of collaboration, cooperation, and community. The goal is clear: bring the music to the people in the most conscious, unique innovative and savvy ways possible. By doing so, the distance lessens between artists and fans, putting the power back in the hands of those that make music and those that live for it.
Recorded in just two weeks not far from the band’s Philadelphia homebase, the Disco Biscuits’ sixth studio album Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens is their best attempt yet to capture the essence of their legendary live sets and distill it into a stereo-devouring electronic monster. On the heels of their powerhouse Fall 2010 tour, the Biscuits took over Studio 4 in Conshohocken, PA with Grammy Award-winning producer Phil Nicolo to turn out these nine classic Biscuits tracks, many of which have been staples of their live sets for the past decade. The end result is a cohesive album consistent with the band’s live roots – as eclectic and energetic as any of their signature shows.
Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens was unveiled to Biscuits fans for the first time with an exclusive stealth release at the landmark sold-out Camp Bisco 10 in July 2011. Fans gathered around car stereos to blast the collection of fresh jams before anyone else in the country could hear. The album was finally released worldwide to rave reviews as the Biscuits left the stage following their festival-closing Saturday night set. The band finished out 2011 with national appearances on the Identity Tour and a crushing five-night New Year’s Run featuring their first ever New Year’s concerts in Chicago.
While they continued to make only select appearances in 2012, including their debut City Bisco festival at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia, the band is already off to a strong start in 2013. Fresh off another first – ringing in the New Year at New York’s Theater at Madison Square Garden – they capped off their traditional January Colorado run in thrilling fashion at the 1STBANK Center with Bisco Inferno: Winter Edition, and planned an early return for April’s Feed The Rocks concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Fans and band alike look forward to continuing the momentum this summer at Camp Bisco 12 and beyond! Visit Discobiscuits.com
The big events come along once every three or four years. Take the Olympics or the World Cup – major happenings known as much for their rarity as for their unique ability to pull together a community of people. And while nobody would think of comparing a Dispatch concert to these global events, for their devoted fans the band’s 2011 concert tour, the first in a decade, is very big news indeed.
For those not aware of what happens when the members of Dispatch – Brad Corrigan, Pete Heimbold and Chad Stokes – get together to play, take a look at what happened during their last hometown appearance, 2004’s concert at Boston Hatch Shell. “The Last Dispatch” drew an audience in excess of 110,000 people from 25 countries – from as far away as Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The event which was expected to draw about 20,000, became the largest independent music event in history and was documented in a feature film THE LAST DISPATCH.
Or consider, for example, the band’s 2007 appearance at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Inspired to play together again to raise money for charities in Zimbabwe, the band quickly sold out the first night in just minutes, making Dispatch the first independent band ever to sell out the storied venue. “Dispatch: Zimbabwe” went on to sell out three consecutive nights at the Garden, moving more than 60,000 tickets in all. It was their first time playing together onstage in more than three years.
“It just blows our minds,” says Heimbold. “It’s amazing to us that people continue to spread the music years after we stopped touring, and we’re very grateful that our fans are so passionate.”
Founded in 1995 at Middlebury College in Vermont, Dispatch built their incredible following through a grass-roots DIY ethic that wholly ignored the usual routes to rock stardom: major labels, radio airplay, MTV and mainstream media coverage.
As the band’s fan base grew, they began releasing albums on their own Bomber Records label. Starting with Silent Steeples (’96), followed by Bang Bang (’98), Four-Day Trials (’99) and Who Are We Living For? (’00), the four albums, which feature the band’s eclectic musical style built around their patented harmonies, have sold a total of more than 600,000 copies in all.
“Our fans have stuck with us so far,” acknowledges Corrigan. “And we feel a desire to give them some new music. They’ve given us life, and we want to give them some life back. We just want to be as authentic as possible. We’re just so revved and fired-up to see what it will be like to stand together onstage again.” Visit Dispatchmusic.com
Few entertainers have attained the iconic status of Dwight Yoakam. Perhaps that is because so few have consistently and repeatedly met the high standard of excellence delivered by the Kentucky native no matter what his endeavor. His name immediately conjures up compelling, provocative images: A pale cowboy hat with the brim pulled low; poured-on blue jeans; intricate, catchy melodies paired with poignant, brilliant lyrics that mesmerize with their indelible imprint. Then there’s Yoakam the actor, who seemingly melts into his roles, impressively standing toe-to-toe with some of the world’s top thespians: Jodie Foster, Tommy Lee Jones, Forest Whitaker, Nicolas Cage. Add to that Yoakam the entrepreneur and you have a singular talent without peer.
Yoakam’s latest Warner Bros. album, 3 Pears, exemplifies his ability to incorporate multiple, competing influences into a piece of cohesive art. It balances his country core with a fiercely independent embrace of rock, Americana, pop and soul. It blends Yoakam’s respect for his musical predecessors with the collaborative assistance of modern singer/songwriter Beck, who co-produced two tracks, and current rocker Kid Rock, who co-wrote the hooky opener, “Take Hold Of My Hand.” But most importantly, 3 Pears builds on his trademark edginess with a notable, growing positivity.
“The music just kind of dropped in, in that way,” Yoakam reflects. “Music is a bit of a mystery. Like all emotions are. And I think maybe it was something I needed to express and to share with the world at large, something positive when all of us are kind of carrying around this collective, emotional weight.”
Much has been written about the Kentucky-born, Ohio-raised Yoakam being too country for Nashville when he first sought out his musical fortune in the mid-80s, but the truth is his music has always been too unique, too ruggedly individualistic to fit neatly into any one box. Like the icons he so admires – Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Buck Owens – Yoakam is one of a kind. He has taken his influences and filtered them into his own potent blend of country and rock that honors his musical predecessors and yet creates something beautifully new. Visit Dwightyoakam.com
Celebrating their 20th anniversary as modern day rulers of old school funk, the seven-piece Brooklyn-based juggernaut Lettuce drops their third studio album Fly—a decidedly raging slab of relentless groove, hyper-charged syncopation and psychedelicized soul anthems. Having blown up stages from coast to coast last year, ranging from The Fillmore in SF to Terminal 5 in NYC, Bear Creek Music Festival to Camp Bisco and all points in-between, Lettuce entered Brooklyn recording studio The Bunker this winter with a fresh batch of road-tested material and a revitalized sound honed razor sharp by a year spent on the road.
“We’re more together and set to crush than ever before,” says drummer and chief songwriter Adam Deitch of the all-star group that he and his accomplished band-mates cut their teeth with back in their Berklee School of Music days. That much history, along with the A-list crop of projects that each member has taken on away from Lettuce, gives the group a bottomless well of musical ideas and unrivaled chemistry—in fact, referring to themselves as a band of brothers. “I was in a practice room at 16 with Kraz, Zoidis, Shmeeans and Deitch and it all clicked,” says “lead” bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes. “We all felt rhythms in similar ways. We were all about the pocket from day one.”
On Fly, the pocket is deeper than ever. “People tend to look at funk as a one-trick pony, “ says Deitch, but the record smashes those limits by drawing on a range of styles that can be traced from the early ’60s through the early ’80s, incorporating plenty of modern hip-hop sensibilities—heavy bass, kick and snare—along the way.
Having evolved and refocused since 2008’s Rage! without ever dropping the beat, Lettuce is getting ready to take audiences to the cosmos with Fly in the trunk and a high-octane tour on the horizon. “Lettuce is like a Learjet that wasn’t getting clearance from the tower,” says Jesus. “But we’re done just rolling around on the runway.” They’re not asking for permission, so put your tray tables in their full, upright and locked position. This plane’s itching for lift off. Visit lettucefunk.com
Gramatik’s Beatz & Pieces Vol. 1, released July 2011, is his first album on Pretty Lights Music. With over 80,000 tracks sold in the past two years on the highly influential electronic music site Beatport.com, and after topping a number different genre charts, it is clear that Gramatik has matured from a curious kid, attracted to soundscapes, to a world-class producer. Visit Gramatik
Twenty years after the release of their self-titled debut and eight years since their last live performance together, the original lineup of G. Love & Special Sauce return with their first album in nearly a decade. Built on the trio’s signature hip-hop blues sound, Sugar finds vocalist/guitarist/harmonica player G. Love (aka Garrett Dutton), upright bassist James “Jimi Jazz” Prescott, and drummer Jeffrey “The Houseman” Clemens breathing new life into their groove-heavy, Chicago-blues-infused brand of stripped-down rock & roll. “The goal for the album was to make it really raw and immediate, with live takes and live vocals and everybody playing so that it all comes together in that intangible way,” says G. Love. “That’s what our music is all about.”
Recorded mainly at Brushfire Records’ “Solar Powered Plastic Plant” studio in Los Angeles, Sugar captures the unstoppable energy of a band who got their start in Boston bars in the early ‘90s and still play up to 150 shows a year. “We wanted to take it back to the old-school vibe of the first record, those rich, warm sounds from when we were rocking small clubs and going on that acoustic feeling,” says Prescott. To deepen that dynamic and push their sound into new directions, G. Love & Special Sauce called in guest musicians like Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo (who appears on three of the album’s tracks), soul/R&B singer/songwriter Marc Broussard, and the legendary vocalist Merry Clayton (best known for her duet with Mick Jagger on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”). “Recording at Brushfire was one of those super-magical sessions—it just felt right and really true to the style of this band,” notes G. Love, who also recorded several of Sugar’s tracks in Seattle with Clemens and bassist Timo Shanko.
While most of the first songs G. Love penned for Sugar were written in response to a recent breakup, the album ended up morphing into a gritty but joyful look at the thrill and grind of getting by as a musician. At the album’s heart is the swaggering title track, which fuses Elmore James-inspired slide licks with big and bouncy hip-hop beats. That mood is matched on tracks like “Good Life” (a Bo Diddley-style jam powered by the fiery guitar work of David Hidalgo), “Saturday Night” (a steamy serenade to New York City, laced with sultry vocals by Alabama-bred folk/soul singer/songwriter Kristy Lee), and “Weekend Dance” (an all-out party anthem fueled by sweet and smoldering horns, co-written by Eric Krasno and featuring rapper Shamarr Allen). Meanwhile, “Too Much Month” serves as a brilliantly bittersweet ode to being broke (“I got too much month for the end of my money/And not enough money for the end of the month”), and “Nite Life” slyly warns of the dangers of rock & roll living in its groove-laden take on John Lee Hooker’s “Whiskey and Wimmin.”
Peppered throughout Sugar are a handful of love songs of all stripes, from the moody, brooding breakup ballad “Windshield Wipers” to the bruised but breezy “Cheating Heart” (featuring Eric Krasno on lead guitar and background vocals) to “Bad Girl Baby Blues” (an acoustic, guitar-and-vocals-only track whose lyrics spin a daydream tale of an ideal night at home, complete with drinking red wine out of pawn-shop-bought glasses). And on “One Night Romance” (written by Kristy Lee and featuring vocals from both Lee and Merry Clayton), Sugar turns soulful and seductive in its harmony-soaked plea to “come get unlonely with me.”
In bringing Sugar to life, G. Love & Special Sauce mined musical sources as varied as the hypnotic blues-guitar work of John P. Hammond and John Lee Hooker, the boundary-bending rhythms of The Meters and Lee Dorsey, and the infectious beats and seamless flow of hip-hop pioneers like A Tribe Called Quest, The Beastie Boys, and De La Soul. And although each band member brings his own distinct influences to their creative collaboration—G. Love’s lyrics draw inspiration from the street-wise storytelling of Lou Reed, Prescott is highly studied in New Orleans jazz, and Clemens’s drumming references everything from early-‘70s Nigerian funk to the rocksteady era of reggae—Sugar again reveals the uncommon intensity and power of their musical synergy. “There’s a certain natural, unspoken chemistry between the three of us,” says Clemens. “Because we’re all very different individuals and oftentimes do our best communicating through our instruments, we’re able to meet in a musical conversation where others might not be able to.”
For G. Love & Special Sauce, that conversation began back in 1993, when G. Love serendipitously took the stage as a fill-in opening act at the Irish pub where Clemens’s then-girlfriend waited tables. “I’d had this idea that I needed to find a kid who could play blues but also rap, and that’s exactly what I got,” says Clemens. “It was like, ‘This is the kid that’s speaking the language I hear in my head.’” Then 19, G. Love had recently moved to Boston from his native Philadelphia, where he first picked up a guitar at age eight and spent much of his teen years as a street musician. “I grew up right by a place called South Street where there were a lot of street performers, from puppeteers to this guy playing Mozart on wine glasses to classical guitar players,” he says. “One night I was out there and I finished playing a riff on my song and started rapping the lyrics to ‘Paid in Full’ by Eric B. & Rakim over a groove, and I was like, ‘Holy shit—that’s it.’” Heading to Boston the same summer he first started developing that hip-hop/blues hybrid, G. Love quickly connected with Clemens, who then tapped Prescott (a local musician he’d met through a jazz jam session). Within a week the three got together for a rehearsal—featuring G. Love on Dobro guitar, Clemens on a vintage drum kit with brushes instead of sticks, and Prescott on upright bass—and soon began working on songs for their debut album.
Propelled by hit singles like “Cold Beverage” and “Baby’s Got Sauce,” G. Love and Special Sauce ultimately reached gold status and helped the band build a following that endures today. One of the songs originally written for that album (and inspired by G. Love’s early days in Boston and “those nights when I would just walk around and try to get somebody to buy me a pint of Jim Beam”), “Run for Me” makes its first-ever recorded appearance on Sugar and remains timeless in its portrait of the struggle of pursuing a musical passion. “At first I thought this record was gonna be a heartbreak record about my old relationship, but then the sentiment shifted,” says G. Love. “A lot of the songs became about coming up from where we started to where are now and still keeping it going, still staying afloat,” he continues. “To me that’s a much more interesting story to tell.” Visit Philadelphonic.com
USA Today has called Allen Stone a “pitch-perfect powerhouse” and The New York Times has likened his socially conscious music to that of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers. But the 25-year-old singer-songwriter from the tiny backwoods town of Chewelah, Washington just sees himself as “a hippie with soul.”
One look at his long, curly blond hair and thick-rimmed glasses brings home the first part of that equation – and perhaps leaves one unprepared for the raw, soulful power unleashed when Stone opens his mouth to sing.
Like many soul singers, Stone got his start in church. He was a preacher’s kid, so whipping crowds into a call-and-response frenzy as he performs “Say So” is second nature. Steeped in gospel music and shielded from secular songs, Allen didn’t discover soul music until he was a teenager and started collecting classic albums from the 60’s and 70’s.
“Soul music from that time wasn’t just about bumpin’ and grindin’ at the club – it was a huge part of a cultural movement. That’s where my inspiration comes from,” says Stone, who was also schooled by folk records of the period.
On his new album, Stone shines a light into some of the darker corners of his own era. “Contact High” is a striking commentary on the toll technology has taken on relationships and the sensuous sounding “Unaware” is a sly examination of the current economic crisis. This is the kind of stuff that keeps Stone up at night and keeps him on the road, as he sings in the single “Sleep”: “Spend my night shootin’ at the stars/Trying to change the world with this guitar/I know it’s a long shot/But it’s working out so far…”
While he is in awe of music’s power to ignite change, Stone is equally enraptured by its ability to simply make people feel good – as evidenced by songs like “Celebrate Tonight” and “Say So” and the dance-offs that are de rigueur at his shows.
Stone has spent the past four years honing his unique style the old-fashioned way: crisscrossing the country in a van with his ace band and playing any small club that would have him. Since the digital release of his self-titled album via his own stickystones label in October 2011, Stone’s shows have been selling out from coast to coast. The album jumped into the Top 10 of Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and entered the Top 5 of iTunes’ R&B/Soul charts. His first national television appearance – on “Conan” – came after the music booker saw a YouTube video of Allen performing “Unaware” in his mother’s living room. Performances on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Last Call with Carson Daly” and “Live from Daryl’s House” followed and Esquire, CNN and Billboard named Stone as an artist to watch – all before he had the support of a record label. Stone has since signed to ATO Records, which is bringing the album into wide release. Visit Allenstone.com
More energized and focused than ever before in their near 25-year career, roots-music troubadours Donna the Buffalo will debuted their first studio album in five years, Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday, on June 18 via Sugar Hill Records. The follow up to 2008’s acclaimed Silverlined, which reached the Top 10 on the Americana charts, Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday—the group’s 10th studio album—proves the band as a consistent steward of Americana music, their signature sound—traditional mountain music infused with elements of Cajun, rock, folk, reggae and country—an eclectic and extraordinary melting pot of such.
In creating the new album, founding members and songwriter-vocalists Jeb Puryear (vocals, guitar) and Tara Nevins (vocals, guitar, fiddle, accordion, scrubboard)—joined by band members David McCracken (Hammond organ, clavinet), Kyle Spark (bass) and Mark Raudabaugh (drums)—convened in a rustic church in Enfield, New York, along with co-producer and fellow upstate New Yorker, Robert Hunter (Branford Marsalis). The building overflowed with vibe, and the music poured out as the group recorded take after live take to old-school analog tape, with as few overdubs as possible. What resulted are the 14 organic and authentic tracks that make up Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday.
“We tried to do the record and keep in tact the things people love about us,” says Puryear. “We’re really excited to start sharing Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday,” adds Nevins, “because making this record was a very personal process that was also a lot of fun.” Visit Donnathebuffalo.com
Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers made a needle’s-eye leap onto the national music circuit in 2012, bringing with them a refreshing sound, spirited stage show and wellspring of good vibes, along with a turntable and milk crates stocked with their favorite vintage vinyl for backstage sustenance.
Now, the San Francisco-based band and its striking front woman with a girl-next-door demeanor step out with Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, a luminous, heartfelt patchwork of California folk-rock, brisk Americana and show-stopping soul, punctuated with fresh four-part harmonies, crisp rock guitar and Nicki’s soaring, nuanced vocals that some critics say remind them of Linda Ronstadt. The first record under the banner of the full band, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers is very much a family album, featuring 11 new songs penned by the band members, arranged and produced by Nicki’s husband and the band’s musical director, Tim Bluhm, and recorded at the Bluhm’s Mission Bells studio in San Francisco.
The lead single “Little Too Late” kicks off the proceedings with a fun and funky punch of soulful rock and an anthemic quality to the lyrics that quickly made the song a fan favorite at live shows in the months prior to the album’s release. Also released in advance of the album, “Ravenous” marks a departure for the band as Nicki flirts with her dark side, urged on by haunting echoes of classic Fleetwood Mac. Tim and Nicki’s great love of country music and Americana storytelling takes center stage in the sparkling “Till I’m Blue”, an enchanting ode to lasting love, as well as in “Deep Water”, Nicki’s endearing telling of life lessons learned. Bluhm family friend Steve Poltz, best known for his collaborations with the singer Jewel, contributed the coaxing soul waltz “Check Your Head”.
There is an evergreen quality to the band’s music that resonates with music lovers across ages and time zones, fans who are touched by the band’s natural, bright-eyed charm and timeless expression of life and love. “We make music that generations of friends and families can share,” Nicki offers with a quiet confidence. “For me, there is a tenderness, a humanness. It’s about getting down to the basic level of bringing joy. We’re a fun, honest group of people who love traveling and seeing the country. I’m with my husband and my best friends, we’re so lucky to be doing this, and we’re so grateful for those coming out to visit with us.” Visit Nickibluhm.com
The high energy rock ‘n’ roll band West Water Outlaws from Boulder, Colorado was formed in early 2010 playing parties in the basement of singer Blake Rooker’s house. During the mass explosion of DJ software and macbook pros, not many parties in Boulder featured live rock bands. The rock parties were a hit and the band began playing in bars and local clubs for a small fee of beer and food. All four members have a strong foundation in blues/rock music which many listeners recognize as a classic sound but each and every one of those listeners can tell you something unique and innovative about The Outlaws. In the mind of the band, rock and roll is not a passed genre that they are attempting to revive, yet a continuous staple of music that challenges them to evolve their writing style and develop their own creativity. “We’re just four guys playing instruments in the way that makes sense to us- the fact that it comes out rock and roll is completely separate.” – Will Buck.
Since then, the Colorado favorite has sold out the Fox Theatre multiple times, headlined the Boulder Theater and shared the stage with national acts such as The Meter Men, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Jerry Joseph, Wild Feathers, Rival Sons, ALO, Assembly of Dust, The Stone Foxes, Rose Hill Drive, Dirty Sweet, and Dick Dale. The West Water Outlaws rocked over 150 shows nationally before the end of 2013 with their EP entitled Real Killer (2012) while simultaneously writing their first full length album. The band has always had a very open and diplomatic writing dynamic with each member as important and expressive as the other. There is no set formula to their writing process as Blake Rooker explains, “Some songs are brought to the table nearly completed, some spontaneously combust in a jam, some take months of scrutiny and some just come to us in the studio.”
February 4th, 2014 brings the release of their first full-length album. The 13-song album will feature all new material and showcase several different sides of the band, while giving you all of the reliable hard hitting rock that you’re hoping for. With artistic interludes and some unusual instrumentation peppered throughout the album, you will get an idea of the band’s quirky personality in an addition to their music. That is why the band has chosen a “self – titled” release as a way to introduce themselves to the world. Audiences and fans of Led Zeppelin, The Black Keys and Queens of the Stone Age will find the sound particularly captivating and refreshing. The West Water Outlaws look forward to touring nationally in support of the new album, bringing their new and distinct voice to the fans of a vintage rock ‘n’ roll sound. Visit Westwateroutlaws.com
Just outside the jazz mecca of Kansas City springs liberal oasis Lawrence, Kansas separated only by the waves of wheat from the epicenter of the electronic music revolution in Colorado. From Lawrence, it would logically follow that an act could rise to prominence fueled by the swing of Basie, the birth of Charlie Parker’s bebop, and the wild frontier of electronica. Born in funk and bred in the digital age, live electronic duo The Floozies have burst onto the scene at a time when the industry needed them the most. Brothers Matt and Mark Hill share the stage just as easily as they share a musical brain. Without a setlist, and without a word between them, Matt’s guitar is in lockstep with the thud of Mark’s kick. Endless looping and production builds the raw scenery upon which palm muted chugs, searing solos, and wobbling bass paint their dazzling array of colors. Well versed in everything from Chris Cornell to Kavinsky, the sonic vision shared by the brothers eschews contemporary electronic influences in favor of broader, deeper tastes including Zapp & Roger, Lettuce, and Amon Tobin. That wide-angle view of a century of popular music allows the Hills to remix Toto and The Dead—in the music you can hear reverence for the giants of the past, all the while producing wildly futuristic tunes for the masses to dig now.
When the pendulum swung as far as it could away from live instrumentation to laptops, The Floozies rose up to the challenge, swinging as hard as they could in the other direction with neck-snapping, knee-breaking funk so dirty that the gatekeepers stood up, wiped themselves off, and took notice. A bold live show full of sonic exploration and unbreakably deep pocket grooves has landed the brothers on stage with luminaries of the jam world Umphrey’s McGee as readily as electronic elites GRiZ and Big Gigantic. A nationwide tour with Archnemesis and Wick-it The Instigator cemented the duo’s ascent while major festival appearances at Wakarusa, Summer Camp, Kanrocksas, and Sonic Bloom dot the horizon.
The Floozies are bringing the funk back, and they’re right on time.