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A Day In The Country Turns 10!

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You know summer is coming when The Hideout announces A Day In The Country. This is the 10th anniversary of the one-day festival, celebrating musicians from all forms of Country music. Curated by Lawrence Peters of The Lawrence Peters Outfit, music fans will enjoy everything from Americana and Honky Tonk to Western Swing. Plus, Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale will be performing songs from his 30+ years in music. Here he is with Buddy Miller at NPR’s Tiny Desk.

You’ll also have the chance to eat some delicious Honky Tonk BBQ and treat yo’ self to some Bang Bang Pie!

Check out Hideout’s website for full details and lineup info. The music starts outside at 2pm and moves indoors from 5-11pm. Tickets are only $12 for a full day of music.

Kiefer Sutherland at Thalia Hall 5/21/2017

It’s easy to write off Kiefer Sutherland’s music career as a vanity project, but after seeing him live I can assure you it is not. I actually figured that out when I saw that his debut album was produced by Jude Cole, a singer/songwriter who’s been making music for over 30 years. Together they turned Sutherland’s collection of songs he’s been writing for as long as he’s been acting into a record that shows us a different side of the man most know as tough guy Jack Bauer.

As a fan of his film and tv work since I was a kid watching Stand By Me, I would’ve paid to see the show even if I thought it was going to be bad. But I had a good feeling after hearing Down In A Hole a couple of times. Even though he’s been branded as a country singer (by the media and probably in his own words) there’s a lot more going on than some tear-in-my-beer campfire ballads. In the song “Going Home” you get influences that span from classic rock to Motown. If you heard it without knowing the band, you’d never guess it was a “country” thing.

The live show was a lot of fun. Like most smart musicians, Sutherland understands that if you want your music to sound good, you need to surround yourself with talented musicians. His guitarists, Michael Gurley and Austin Vallejo, are both fantastic. They can play everything from the sickest blues riffs to a quiet lullaby and make it look easy. The backline of Jess Calcaterra on drums and Joseph DeLeo on bass kept things moving on beat for the full 80 minutes they were on stage.

Kiefer gave the audience some insight into his personal life, telling stories from his childhood as well as his more recent life situation. My favorite was about living with his father for a few months after his parents split up when he and his sister were four years old. His dad, Donald, after appearing in Kelly’s Heroes, had a red 1956 Ferrari two-seater in which he drove them to nursery school. Kiefer said that even as a four year old even he knew that it was a “fucking cool” car.

He also talked about hanging out with Merle Haggard, losing the love of his life, and an early heartbreak that led to the first song he ever wrote.

Down In A Hole is only 11 songs long, so to fill up the show they played some interesting covers. The first was Haggard’s “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down,” which is very much a country song. Then they shifted gears quite a bit. Introducing another cover Kiefer said that Tom Petty’s “never written a bad lyric.” That could be debated, but the version of “Honeybee” that they played was a lot of fun.

Talking about growing up in Toronto, Sutherland mentioned two things you HAD to listen to or you weren’t cool. One was Rush, which drew some applause, but he demured. “If I tried to hit one of those notes I’d be dead here on the floor,” he said. The other was Gordon Lightfoot. So they covered “Sundown” from the 1974 album of the same name. And the last cover of the encore was “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan.

Going in I thought it would be pretty good, but walking out I was really impressed by how much of himself Sutherland has put into his new endeavor. I expected it to be a little more laid back and passive, but it was a pretty exciting show. I would recommend to anyone who was thinking about it but not quite sure, or really anyone who likes having a good time and listening to good music.

The current leg of the tour is winding down in a couple days, but I’m sure they’ll be back on the road again soon. Check out his website for more info.

 

Be Safe Goodbye, A New Record By The All-About

March 22, 2016 Leave a comment

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I’ve been following the music of The All-About for a few years now. I was instantly a fan the first time I heard the song “Feel Weird Hit Of The Winter” off 2012’s Winterpop. Something about Zac Coe’s music connects with me more intensely than most, so I’m happy to count him not only as a big part of my life’s soundtrack but also a friend (though we’ve never met face-to-face). It took a couple years, but April 1st will find the world with a new The All-About record to enjoy, and it is a definite left turn for the Synth Kid.

Be Safe Goodbye was recorded at Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen by mix master General Oliver Ignatius, just like Zac’s previous work. This time they changed things up, took away the synths and threw in some pedal steel and mandolin to give the must a country tinge that works better than you’d think. Last week Zac was nice enough to let me premiere the track “All Your CD’s” here on Music.Defined. and it really is a great introduction to the sound they were going for.

Be Safe continues to shine a light on Zac’s reliable co-singer Gabby Ambrosio. “If This City” gives her a bit more to do than usual, and she works it for everything she can get. It isn’t the kind of showy vocal runs and glass-shattering octaves that some singers engage in; rather it’s the emotional resonance and sincerity in her voice that sticks with you. I don’t know her, so I have no idea if she has an interest in putting out her own records or is happy just to help Zac out, but she could definitely have a career of her own if she wished.

The lyrics to that one, which premiered the week before “All Your CD’s” over on New York Magazine’s Bedford and Bowery page, work best when you’re hearing them from both Gabby and Zac together: “I want you to love me, the way you did when we met. Show me what I was missing, sharing only my bed. If this city doesn’t kill me, you’ll be the reason why. Took a twin bed in a ghost town, made it a playground. Took a picture of yourself waving goodbye.”

Be Safe Goodbye is easily Zac’s most mature work to date. That makes a lot of sense: Life has changed a lot for him in the last two years and that means there’s a lot of fodder for songwriting. A lot of the themes will be familiar to long time listeners. There’s always a sense of nostalgia to his music that seems odd for someone so young, but he does it well and it rings true song after song.

The record will be out in a week or so. If you want to check out some of Zac’s earlier stuff, I would highly recommend doing so. You can find most of it on his Bandcamp page (the Synth Kid EP seems to have been taken down, sadly).

 

Song Premiere-“All Your CDs” by The All-About

March 15, 2016 Leave a comment


I’ve been a fan of Zac Coe’s music project The All-About for a few years now. It’s been almost three years since his last full-length, Suburban Heart, was released. On April 1st he is putting out the long-awaited follow-up Be Safe Goodbye. We’ve been talking about the record for a while now, and he was nice enough to let me premiere a song for you here.

I was excited about “All Your CDs” because it’s a lot different than his older songs. It still finds Zac and Gabby Ambrosio melting hearts with their harmonies, but there’s a country tinge to this album. The pedal steel on this track is phenomenally played by Jules Belmont, and Tom Shad throws in some mandolin to really hit that sound they were going for.

I’ll let Zac tell you a little more about it:

Although I think everybody has since moved on to the more specific and sinister evils of the digital age, there was a time a few years ago when all you heard about was the danger of cell phones and text messaging–how my generation was going to lack the skills to build meaningful interpersonal relationships because we were communicating around the clock in these tiny fragments of text. “All Your CDs” is a song about the opposite of that phenomenon, where a cell phone enables you to be in touch 24/7 in the very beginning stages of a romance, and your phone becomes a device whose sole purpose is to stay connected to that one person and nobody else.

I didn’t want to use any synths on this album, and we tried to let the music breathe a bit more in the studio. This song has some of my favorite playing from the musicians on the record–JR Atkins plays a beautiful guitar solo, Oliver’s bass playing is smooth as ever, and Devin Calderin’s piano and organ remind me a lot of the instrumentation on ‘Blonde On Blonde.’

Whitney-No Woman (Video)

January 19, 2016 Leave a comment

  This video has everything: cute dogs, guys throwing axes at trees, people lighting cigarettes with sparklers, skipping stones on a lake and throwing smoke bombs in the water. I’m not sure how good that last thing is for the water or the ecosystem it’s a part of, but it looks neat. I imagine this is the kind of video Todd Philips would make if he wants to do his take on a Malick movie. 

Whitney is Max Kakacek’s post-Smith Westerns project along with Julian Erhlich and Ziyad Azrar (Touching Voids), and they’re already garnering a lot of buzz around Chicago. They’ll be gaining more fans when they hit Europe for a tour next month.

Pony Boy-Blue Gold

September 17, 2015 1 comment

  
December 7, 2012. A day that will live in infamy. That was the first time I mentioned Pony Boy on the pages of this site. It was a fairly auspicious beginning, since the post was my Top 100 Songs Of 2012 and Marchelle Bradanini’s onstage persona had nabbed a spot with a song that you can download free on MTV Hive (??? Ok……). It was a fresh take on the folk-Americana genre that was beginning to saturate the airwaves around that time, and one I found very appealing.

In the time since then Bradanini’s has released some singles and an EP (The Devil In Me) while playing shows in the UK and Australia. Unfortunately her touring schedule hasn’t brought her to many cities in the States, but if you’re in Los Angeles, NYC, or Nashville you might be familiar with her. Music City is where she lives in record, enlisting fellow Nashvillian Justin Collins (Deer Tick) to produce her first full-length, Blue Gold.

Pony Boy’s influences are all over the map, with obvious roots in 50’s era country jumping all the way to glam rock and shoegaze. On the Bandcamp page where you can stream/purchase the album it’s tagged as Doom Wop, which seems to be gaining in popularity and fits Blue Gold just fine.

Right off the bat with “When Tomorrow Never Comes” you get the big fuzzy guitars joined by a dark sense of dread. Throw in the regretful longing of Bradanini’s vocals and you’ve got yourself a great introduction to Pony Boy.its junk yard gospel for the enlightened willing to give it a shot.

A great video was released a couple months ago for the single “Metal Dreams.” It pushes the Julee Cruise/Twin Peaks comparisons to the forefront, to the point where I can hardly think of anything else when I see it. Solid video on its own merits, but it works especially well for Lynch fans. It hits the feeling of quiet desperation out of the park, with a sense of constantly searching for something just out of sight.

The other single, “Marquee Man,” might be the best example of those old and new influences coming together. It could be a straight-ahead Chicago blues/Motown hybrid tune and work just fine. Instead, Bradanini works in some quirky sounds you’d likely find on a record produced by Jon Brion to add a layer of modernity. It keeps the track locked into the timeless aesthetic I think Pony Boy and Collins we’re going for. Is it a new throwback or old and way ahead of its time? 

Having been a fan for a few years now, Blue Gold pleases me to no end. It’s true to the sound I liked when I first heard her, and takes it just a little bit further. Hopefully she keeps evolving and people discover her stuff now that this is out. Speaking of, you can buy the album on Bandcamp for $7. It’s also streaming on Spotify if you’re one of those people who thinks an artist should be paid $0.00000001 every time you listen to them.

Stay golden

Fiona Apple and Blake Mills Cover Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe”

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I realized that I never posted this short video from September of last year featuring Fiona Apple and Blake Mills performing together at Mayne Stage in Chicago. I was fiddling around with the camera and only shot the last minute or so of the song, but it’s worth checking out. Fiona delivers a really strong vocal and Mills is great as always on the guitar. Not sure why I held on to this for so long, but here you go.

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