It had been a few years since Nashville’s Escondido was in town. That was fabulous gig at the Lost Lake Lounge on a magical evening. They came back with a few openers that I hadn’t heard of.
I only caught the last few songs by Sammy Brue , a very young (maybe 17) but amiable chap with an acoustic guitar, long hair and a heart full of longing that needs to get out. It was he on stage with an acoustic guitar and a lovely lady that had a violin and I like what I’d heard, even though it was only a song and a half. Wanna catch this guy next time (and make sure to check out his 2017 release on the New West label, I Am Nice).
I hadn’t heard of Kolars (above) but I know this much. They’re a duo, man/woman who call Los Angeles home and used to be in a band called He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister, but decided on a better name. The dude (Rob Kolars) is on guitar and vocals and the gal (Lauren Brown) is well, I think it’s a bass drum that she stands on and does sort of a tap dance on it while smacking the other drums with sticks. It’s quite a sight to see. They had a cool rock n’ roll vibe, with as dash of rockabilly and I’m guessing some Cramps influence in there, too (some dream pop in there as well). Not even sure if they have any records out but they’re well worth your precious time (they didn’t even do their Neutral Milk Hotel cover and were still righteous).
The folks of Escondido, Jessica Maros on acoustic guitar and vocals and Tyler James on guitar and occasional trumpet (plus a solid, entertaining rhythm section) hit the stage a little after 10 pm and proceeded to play a superb set. I know it was a Wednesday night, but there really should’ve been a lot more people here. This is Escondido, people! Off the first record, 2012’s The Ghost of Escondido, we heard “Cold October,’ “Black Roses, “Rodeo Queen” and while on their sophomore effort, 2016’s Walking with a Stranger, they pulled out “Heart is Black,” “Try” and few others and rthey also played out a few new cuts that sounded terrific (especially “You’re Not Like Anybody Else”).
I can’t wait for the new record and you guys need to give this band a serious listen if you’ve never heard ‘em before. The songs are lovely (a little Mazzy Star with lots of twang) with plenty of heart and Ms. Maros has a voice from the gods.
In addition to great songs the band are truly appreciative of their audience (always a plus) amd just loved to play. The next time they hit Denver I’ll be there again (and again and again and again).
N.C. Americana legends hosted an album release (and re-release!) party at the capitol city’s Pour House venue—and packed that House.
BY TODD GUNSHER
String Drag held a party in Raleigh on Friday night, March 9, celebrating the release of their outstanding new record Top Of The World as well as the re-release of 1997’s Steve Earle-produced High Hat. Helping out Kenny, Rob, Luis, and Dan were Scott McCall on guitar and Matt Douglass on saxophone, who sat in on a few songs each. Celebrating over 20 years of making music, they put on a life affirming rock and roll show for the faithful fans who packed the Pour House spending the night dancing and singing along.
Go HERE to read the recent BLURT interview with 6 String Drag and HERE to listen to our premiere of Top Of The World track “Waste Of Time.” (Full disclosure: The new album and reissue are both on BLURT’s sister business Schoolkids Records, and our editor also helped craft the group’s official bio for Schoolkids.)
Live at Chicago’s HideOut venue, the show was officially billed as “The Concert for The Emperor of the Bathroom: A Benefit for Scott McCaughey. Singing the praises of the beloved Minus 5/Filthy Friends/Young Fresh Fellows/R.E.M./Baseball Project musician were The Thirsty Birds: Jon Langford, Nora O’Connor, Kelly Hogan, Dag Juhlin, Max Crawford, Susan Voelz, Jason Narducy, Rick Rizzo and others.According to the organizers, “the Chicago music community sends its love and support to their friend, Scott (who suffered a stroke last November). Assembled are friends who have played with Scott over the years and have survived their fair share of after-show drinks with the man. This show will be a celebration of Scott’s songbook, and proceeds will go towards the medical fund set up by his wife, Mary Winzig, to help cover his medical expenses as he recovers.”
PHOTO GALLERY BY MARTY PEREZ
Portland show’d the love for Scott McCaughey back in January, so Feb. 12, 2018 was Chicago’s turn to embrace the man who some call “Sled”.
The HideOut hosted this gala, which featured the creme de la creme of Chicago’s music society, playing under the one night only moniker: The Thirsty Birds. An exemplary evening of talent was shown and given.
Two real standouts were Jason Narducy’s take on R.E.M.’s “Finest Work Song”, which really had one asking, whatever happen to the passion from the song’s creators? The second, wha tha fuc moment was had during the evening’s closer of “Dear Employer”, sung by two angels—Nora O’Conner & Kelly Hogan—with the passion and reasoning of angels who just might know what it is like to up and quit on the big boss and flip him the bird while on the way out of them pearly gates. It left this reviewer blubbering and quivering in goosebumps, until the room emptied and it was safe to wipe away the tears and take a hit off the inhaler.
Cash was raised and thee good vibes shared was palpable and true. All glad tidings are going towards helping Scott’s safe, speedy, and thorough recovery.
Now, namaste that mutherfucker….
TIM TUTEN OF THE HIDEOUT
LANGFORD & JUHLIN
SHOW ORGANIZER CHRIS CASTANEDA
O’CONNOR & HOGAN
LANGFORD & RIZZO
NARDUCY & BAND
AUCTIONING LANGFORD PAINTING USED FOR THE CONCERT POSTER
Live at the Alex Theatre in Los Angeles (technically: Glendale) on February 17, it was a Springfield early spring festival. And yes, before you ask, notable in their absence were Stills and Young.
A benefit for the nonprofit Autism Think Tank (autismthinktanknj.com) which “brings together a team of top autism specialists, via an internet medical conference, to tackle the painful medical/psychological issues faced by kids like Wild Honey’s co-founder Paul Rock’s thirteen-year-old son, Jake, a non-verbal autistic boy with extreme digestive distress and self-injury issues.” To date The Wild Honey Foundation (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit) has raised over $100,000 for the Autism Think Tank. Among the performers: Furay (of course), Micky Dolenz, Susan Cowsill, Terry Reid, Martha Davis, Elliot Easton, Claudia Lennear, Dream Syndicate, Rob Laufer, Brent Rademaker, Three O’Clock, Gary Myrick, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Sowders, Carla Olson, Darian Sahanaja, Ciny Lee Berryhill, Iain Matthews, Don Randi, Luther Russell, Syd Straw, Joss Cope, Chris Price, Bebopalula, Steve Stanley, Nick Guzman, Corinna & Isabelle Scott, All Day Sucker.
The scene of the crime was the Hard Rock Café, and on a rainy night, following an opening set from hometown act God Hates Unicorns, the instrumental headliners slayed.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY TIFFINI TAYLOR
Hard Rock Café Pittsburgh welcomed John5 and the Creatures on a rainy February night. Anyone that enjoys great guitar playing would have completely enjoyed this show. John5 is a guitar virtuoso for the ages. He can switch from an electric guitar to an electric mandolin to a banjo and keep rocking. This is a tour not to be missed.
Since I was young, I can remember listening to the sounds of guitars. To me they were magnificent. (I can play some, but not superb, far from it.) I enjoy guitar solos, the longer the better. When I first heard John5 play, I was awestruck. This is what I wanted to listen to. This is someone who I enjoyed watching play. He and genuinely enjoys playing, one can see it in his emotions and face. It is a wonderful sight.
Rain was coming down as I arrived at Hard Rock Café in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Once inside, I knew that it would be a good show. The opening band, God Hates Unicorns, took to the stage. An interesting name for a band, the name reminded me of Deadpool for some reason. Anyway, God Hates Unicorns hail from Pittsburgh. They were playing to hometown crowd, that is always nice for a band. The audience kept growing and growing. This was a sold-out show. A very fun opening band. Now for the main event.
John5 took to the stage from the Hard Rock Café kitchen. That is correct, John5 came running up the ramp to the stage from the kitchen. This is very cool. The band itself, known as the Creatures, is Rodger Carter on drums and Ian Ross on bass. John5 joins the band already on stage who are surrounded by blow up creatures. There is Frankenstein and a couple of Grim Reaper style blowups. A simple stage, that is all. This is nice to see because the music is why I came—an all instrumental show was performed, and performed well.
Some may not be into instrumental shows, but this is the type that would change their minds quickly. The uniqueness of this band along with adding country to rock to metal to pop to blues to bluegrass is incredible to see. The guitars themselves can be very entertaining; an illuminated Fender at the end of the show is beautiful and sounds fantastic. Then there is the electric mandolin—a surprise, and one which John5 plays fantastically. And also a banjo— who plays banjo in a metal band?!?
Seriously, the guitars, mandolin and banjo brought out the diverse talents John5 really has. To bring in the banjo was unexpected by most in attendance but it was well received by the crowd. The mandolin is not often thought of as an instrument in metal but he uses it incredibly. All the instruments were played well by talented musicians, showing what hard work and dedication and a little love can achieve. Music can be a beautiful thing.
It was nice that the crowd sang along too. Yes, this is instrumental but a couple of songs that were played were covers and it was fantastic. I will never forget this line and I quote John5: “Guitars, tits, and monsters” (the title of a song on the recently released Live album). “Beat It” was played and the medley is something that one does not want to leave early and miss. The show was extremely entertaining, from the light on the guitars to the quick change to masks, as well as the glow mouth that John5 does so well. Altogether, a beautiful and well thought out show. You’ll be thrilled you saw it.
This maestro’s not your typical electric bluesman, either. Live at Toronto’s Cadillac Lounge on Jan. 29, the Ellis trio blew out the sky. Following the review, check out a selection of smokin’ audio and video.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY ERIC THOM
I don’t know about you, but my measure of a professional musician is measured by the degree of what the artist invests into a show, regardless of audience size. Tinsley Ellis plays for his fans – and, given their elevated expectations, he simply doesn’t mess around by ever calling it in. Such was the scenario on a very snowy night in Toronto as Ellis, drummer Erik Kaszynski and bassist Kevan McCann ripped a tidy hole in the ozone above this smallish club that, nonetheless, teemed with potential. Sixteen songs later, that potential was realized, convincingly so.
Local hero Al Lerman (Fathead) began the night with a set of mostly self-penned acoustic blues supplemented by his smile-inducing asides, adding the zest of his superior harp-playing to songs like “A Few More Miles To Go”, Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have to Go” and a head-turning closer in “You Sure Look Fine To Me” – a tribute to mentor Sonny Terry.
Tinsley Ellis arrives with much critical acclaim, yet true fans justifiably think of him as being light years beyond the narrow category of blues-rocker that seems to dog his hefty catalogue. Guitarist, singer, songwriter and force of nature behind 20+ releases, Ellis channels everyone from B.B. and Freddie King to Muddy Waters, Carlos Santana, Robin Trower, Robert Cray, Rory Gallagher and Peter Green across an equally diverse choice of guitars, each with their different voices. Everything that goes into the Ellis blender comes out distinctively Ellis-like and, given his rich, southern heritage, it’s little surprise you’ll find clips of him onstage with the Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and Albert Castiglias of this world. Part of the thrill of seeing him live is the fact that you’re never really sure ‘which Tinsley’ you’ll get in a live setting as he has so many points to draw from. On this occasion, Tinsley and band came on strong, sporting the powerful lead track off his latest album (Winning Hand). “Sound of a Broken Man” might well be the quintessential Ellis track, its mid-tempo groove setting up his trademarked, razor-sharp leads, well-matched to his equally emotive, rough-hewn vocal rasp. Divided into two sections by searing solos, Ellis leans into his trusty wah-wah pedal, turning something old into something new again. In no time, this meaty trio had driven up the room temperature.
Jumping directly into “The Other Side” from ‘09’s Speak No Evil, Ellis’ tough guitar lines, again offset by his throaty baritone, provided the trio something equally solid to bite into. “Saving Grace” from the new album, provided an opportunity to slow things down considerably – when Ellis’ creative fretwork shines its brightest and works best with his surprisingly soulful vocals – the song assuming a definitive Trower-esque vibe. Clearly in warm-up mode and suffering from some laryngitis, Ellis’ vocals were uncharacteristically rough in the top end, yet he soon regained control for the balance of the show, evidenced in his powerful take on Mel London’s Chicago classic, “Cut You Loose” (Storm Warning) – encouraging the audience to clap along with his jaunty, amped-up version.
Tracks from Storm Warning continued with the muscular “To The Devil For A Dime”, stretching it out to showcase Kazynski’s fat drum sound while adding more wah-wah back into the mix. More Storm Warning with “A Quitter Never Wins” proving, once again, that Ellis’ 6-stringed ferocity is at its best when things slow down, allowing him time to dig deep with equal parts shred and simmer – the song’s blistering solos offering a warming antidote to the wintery bluster outside. Cue Tough Love’s upbeat “Midnight Ride” – a boogie with a lighter touch – as stinging leads worked to offset Ellis’ lack of top-end vocal range. Problem solved with the jaw-dropping rendition of the delicious “Catalunya” – a Latin-tinged, Santana-esque show-stopper from Ellis’ all-instrumental Get It! – that proved one the evening’s highlights. As he is also a longtime Freddie King fan, “Double-eyed Whammy” from ‘89’s Georgia Blue proved the perfect vehicle for his lower-register growl as the rhythm section dug deep and Ellis offered one-handed solos, spellbinding, single note sustains and leads triggered by altered tunings. Another showcase tune was “Gamblin’ Man” from the new release – its slow pace setting up a solid, heartfelt vocal performance and more standout solo work which, at one point, conjured the effect of crying sounds from distant seagulls. Despite missing the substantial B3 contributions of keyboardist Kevin McKendree on the album version, there was zero compromise in what was presented live – reminding all that the caliber of sounds generated by this three-piece sounded like so much more.
Without so much as a break, Ellis underlined his role as the last of the southern gentlemen by asking if the audience would mind if he switched over to a satisfy an acoustic request or two on his National Steel. Incredible – would we mind? Buoyed by the crowd’s favorable response, Ellis told insightful stories of meeting Muddy Waters, B.B. King, James Cotton and almost meeting the darkly intimidating Howlin’ Wolf – again, to great audience response, rendered all the more special given that Ellis seemed honestly surprised by the positive reaction. A rousing version of Muddy’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied” chased Burnett’s “Little Red Rooster” and, because he seemed to be having so much fun on this acoustic sidebar, the newly-anointed King of Just One More added his own “Shadow of Doubt” from Moment of Truth, teased with plenty of slide.
Without skipping a beat, the band returned to an electric barrage with Live! Highwayman’s title track, a wah-wah-driven boogie that pushed Ellis’ vocal to the breaking point, quickly redeemed by the hearty, harder-edged “Pawnbroker” from ‘89’s Fanning The Flames. The ensuing encore coaxed a stirring version of “Rockslide” from ‘09’s Speak No Evil, bringing the evening of inventive, smoldering guitar, bass and drums to its inevitable climax. There was nothing more for these talented players to do but to absorb their well-earned drinks and meet ’n’ greet the party faithful before heading back out into the snow to make their way on to Chicago.
Make no mistake. This is not your typical night of electric blues – and far from anything as restrictive as that imposed by the ‘blues-rock’ category. Tinsley Ellis is nothing less than the many influences and styles he continuously and rigorously morphs into what has become his own very personal, inimitable identity. Forever the music fan, Ellis’ natural discovery of British invasion blues and his deep love for America’s original blues heroes joins his southern heritage and natural affection for southern rock, soul, r ’n’ b and country. Add this to his impressive arsenal of self-penned originals, a studied blend of multiple guitars each possessed of their own distinctive voices in addition to his own and, adding in a sea of imaginative effects, you’ve just had a night to remember.
Ed. note: Ellis has been dealing a winning hand for several decades now and he simply gets better and better – I say this as a longtime fan who used to see him at the tiny-but-venerable Double Door Inn in Charlotte, NC, way back in the ’80s. It’s eternally gratifying to know that he continues to tour and record and make fans across the globe. (-FM) For tour dates and more: http://www.tinsleyellis.com/
“Nothing like a song”: a night of kinship and love at LA’s historically-marked Lodge Room.
BY SUSAN MOLL
Azure Ray’s first live appearance in five years happened not in Omaha, not in Birmingham, but more than 2000 miles west of their onetime Southern base, and sold out one of the newest and best music venues in Los Angeles’ eastern quadrant. Dedicated in 1923 as the Highland Park Masonic Temple, the Renaissance Revival space, which occupies spot #282 on the roster of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments, reopened as the stunning Lodge Room after a lavish renovation. It was an occasion many traveled long distances for on this, an unseasonably chilly winter night made to burn and shiver.
Much has happened in the time since Azure Ray last performed: Maria Taylor, now a Californian, settled down into marriage and motherhood and made two more solo records, Something About Knowing and In the Next Life. Orenda Fink cut another solo album as well, Blue Dream, and, more recently, a second O+S outing titled You Were Once The Sun, Now You’re The Moon. Their sisterly kinship is as strong and as true as ever, and the devotion of their fans has never wavered. The two brought along a three-piece string section to a stage festooned with candles and white lilies. (Bonus: cocktails in cans!)
Also on the evening’s bill: Blake Sennett and a revived Elected, silent since their 2011 Vagrant release Bury Me In My Rings. Former Rilo Kiley bandmate Mike Bloom chipped in harmonica, lap steel and guitar… Whispertown, led by onetime Elected collaborator Morgan Nagler, recently concluded a tour with M. Ward and will soon be a fixture on this year’s summer festival circuit as well. Its fourth album, I’m a Man, is out now courtesy of the Graveface imprint…
While there’s no word on future Azure Ray recordings at this point, Taylor is set to embark on a solo tour of Europe next month. Fink has teamed up with her sister, Christine, and several Saddle Creek alumni in High Up, whose first full-length, You Are Here, its first LP, will arrive Feb. 23 via Team Love. In the meantime, feast your eyes:
Live at the Marathon Music Works, and a good time was had by all.
BY MARK JACKSON
There is a good chance that by now you have heard of Milky Chance, but you may not have had the chance to hear the next break out artist hailing from Scotland by the name of Lewis Capaldi. Lewis has already had over 7 million views of his song “Bruises” between the live acoustic version seen here and the audio version. If you have ever been in a painful relationship or had someone leave you this song will cut right through you. I don’t know who hurt Lewis, but it must have cut very deep. Luckily for us, he has channeled these feelings into pure beauty. He also has other great songs such as “Lost on You”, “Mercy” and “Fade”.
Lewis’s voice has a heavy Scottish accent, but his powerful voice comes thru and gets right into your emotions. I first heard of Lewis Capaldi from the Bonnaroo lineup for 2018 where he will have a featured set. He immediately became one of the must see acts for me at Bonnaroo. His music is raw and stripped down and is easy to just sit back and let it just pour over you. I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed he was out on tour with Milky Chance and coming to Nashville. The majority of the crowd was of course at the show to see Milky Chance, but as Lewis began to sing I could see that the crowd was really tuning in to his awe-inspiring voice. I predict that you will soon be hearing a lot more about Lewis Capaldi.
Up next it was time for Milky Chance to give the crowd the night that they will remember for some time. This night was the biggest dance party that I have seen in a smaller venue. With Clemens Rehbein’s voice, on point instruments, and a two drum kit setup delivering ample bass beats and an exciting and colorful light show that would rival many festival stages, this was a fun concert night! It’s a rarity to get a harmonica solo at a concert, unless you are at a Blues Travelers show, but I think Antonio Greger could give John Popper a run for his money.
Milky Chance, from Germany and labeled as a German folk band, has steadily been moving up the ranks in the U.S. alternate rock scene. Milky Chance is best know for their feel good hit song “Stolen Dance”.
The guys have a few more dates in the U.S. before heading out of the county so check their website to see if you are lucky enough to see them before they are gone for a while.
Photos and text By Mark Jackson: @MarkJacksonPhotography1
At Club Berlin, the Tucson-based sonic hypnotists conjured a full desert moon of classic psych, trance-inducing Krautrock, and much, much more… Exclusive photos and live video, below.
BY JONATHAN LEVITT
When news arrived that Tucson’s The Myrrors would be stopping by NYC for a pre-European tour concert, I was thrilled. (Me too, having previously lived, as you did, Jonathan, in Tucson for an extended spell.—Geography Ed.) I came across the Myrrors from the fine folks at Britain’s Cardinal Fuzz Records, and I’m here to tell you people they do not disappoint either on record or in a live setting.
Having carved out a niche somewhere between Tucson psych luminaries Black Sun Ensemble, the Sun City Girls, and Savage Republic—and owing a heap of gratitude to Amon Duul II—the band creates layer after hypnotic layer that had my mind exiting my body multiple times during the hour-long set. The band pulled mostly from their 2016 Entranced Earth LP, with a smattering of other tracks. (The most recent release is Hasta la Victoria, on the esteemed Beyond Beyond Is Beyond label.) It was in fact Otto Terrorist, the drummer for Tucson’s Black Sun Ensemble, who pointed out that one of the tracks they played was by Amon Duul. God bless his Krautrock sensitive soul.
Multiple times during the set someone from the tiny yet enraptured audience would begin speaking in tongues and start spinning violently like some drug addled whirling dervish. Paramedics had to be called to revive several people in attendance as the music and its opium fog cast a spell over people, giving them the hit of their young adult lives. Indeed, there was no need to vape at this concert, and I fear a random drug screening will have me working at Burger King for the foreseeable future. But alas, I digress.
The Myrrors were firing on all cylinders as they rotated around the talented skin smashing of Grant Beyschau and Nik Rayne’s hypnotic guitar emanations. Violist Miguel Urbina, added some nuanced beauty into the mix, as did the bassist who doubled as chanter in chief. The concert burned the house down and gives me hope for the future of psychedelic music and the rather difficult Tucson music scene. (Ed. note: Check out this superb-sounding small-bar show from 2015 or this one from the same year in France f you need further encouragement.)
Live at Athens’ Foundry Venue on November 9, Stuart and his band schooled a packed house, and then some.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON
If Modern Country music annoys you as much as it does me, you’ll really want to go see Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives play live. Marty and his crack band of veteran Nashville Cats are here to remind you how good country used to be, and to save it if possible. But it’s more than just that – their show is an astounding history lesson in country, rock, pop, rockabilly, folk, bluegrass, and instrumental surf. Does it get any better? (One genre they left alone was metal, but Marty Stuart could go toe-to-toe with Jimmy Page with his mandolin any day, if he hasn’t already.)
During the show I kept hearing glimpses of bands and performers I’ve always loved – The Long Ryders, Nick and Dave, The Bobby Fuller Four, Buck Owens, The Ventures, a flash of Brit pop here and there, and latter-day Byrds. And there’s Marty playing Clarence White’s original B-Bender, a Telecaster indelibly modified by Byrds’ bandmate and drummer Gene Parsons to give it that pedal steel effect when the player pulls back on the guitar bending that B-string in and out of key. (Ed. Note: Read “A Marty Stuart Story” for some additional color re: the White axe.) Stuart is a walking encyclopedia of country music and has played with everyone who’s anyone starting with Flatt & Scruggs and Johnny Cash. Look him up if you don’t know.
Indeed, my nickname for this band would be American Rockpile. Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds fans will get that. Two guitars, a bass, drums, great vocals and harmonies and a tight tight groove. Great players and about every song had a show-stopping moment of guitar-pickin’ virtuosity (mostly from blue-fringe vested Kenny Vaughn). But as good as they are nobody was showing off, just getting it done and having a good time doing it. That’s Harry Stinson on drums and vocals, and Chris Scruggs on bass and steel rounding out this band of brothers.
The new Marty Stuart record is Way Out West on Sugar Hill Records (a Rounder subsidiary), available now. (It’s reviewed HERE.) These guys are always touring so do yourself a huge favor and go see ‘em and learn to love again. Tour dates are at Stuart’s Facebook page. here: Plus it’s a no-earplugs show. Imagine all those amps and guitars and tone at volume you can talk over.