Category Archives: Track premiere

Video Premiere: Israeli Singer Maytal Michaeli “Heart”


Acclaimed contestant on the first season of “The Voice of Israel” in 2012 pays tribute to her late mother and preps for album later this year.

By Blurt Staff

Although Maytal Michaeli has already notched a notable profile for herself via “The Voice of Israel” and subsequent performances that have earned her comparisons to everyone from Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones to Leonard Cohen and Bon Iver, she’s earnestly bearing down on a new album for 2017. The project, which she calls, not so coincidentally, I Am Project, was, in her words, “born on a balcony in Tel Aviv. It started to build up as a concept, before the songs were even written. I was in that period of time before a romantic break up, when you know it’s the right thing to do, but it is still very difficult to actually make a move and leave. I have a tattoo on my neck- “I AM”. These are the initials of my parents’ names. I put it there ‘because they always watched my back and always saved my neck, and I really needed something to save my neck and get me out of that situation. Music has the ability to be my secret special key in and out of where I am. ”

There’s a sad twist, however: Michaeli’s mother passed away suddenly during the singer’s recording and album preparations; there was no opportunity for a formal goodbye. So she felt no choice but to work through the loss and craft a posthumous farewell with this video titled “Heart”:

Offers Michaeli, “’Heart’ is a song that was written about the passing of my mother. The last time I spent time with her was my 29th birthday, as a birthday present she gave me a hand-written notebook with all her recipes. On the first page she wrote a few personal words and signed: “With love, Mom.”- in Hebrew.

“I decided to get a tattoo of these words in her hand writing. The director of the video clip spent the whole day with me, documenting. This was a very emotional and very important experience for me. ‘Heart’ came straight from my heart, in a very difficult moment of grief. It is a sad song but it is also filled with love. You can feel that secure, loving, supportive place I had, and I still have it inside of me, even though she is not here anymore. Together, the video and the song, tell a story about the important aspects of life—loving, longing, missing, needing, having, cherishing and losing.”

There’s a rare beauty contained herein that we hope the BLURT readership will appreciate, and by all means share. Maytal, we hope to see you touring these shores on the near future!

On the web: Facebook


Video Exclusive: Vieux Farka Toure Live in Beijing 1/15/17


On January 15th at the Yugong Yishan Club, the African guitar legend – and son of the late Ali Farka Toure – rocked a packed house to wrap up his Asian tour. Our man on the ground in Beijing was there, camera in hand, and ready to document the occasion. Following the video and the text, also check out his photos from the show.

By Jonathan Levitt

Two nights ago, the Blurt Beijing team consisting of myself and Zhou Jialin made our way through Beijing’s smog choked streets to the Yugong Yishan rock club in central Beijing for a rare treat of a concert that I felt I had to share with the Blurt readership. Vieux deserves every accolade thrown at him. He is the true heir to his father’s musical legacy. Vacillating between traditional Bambara songs, blues, and more rock oriented workouts, Vieux cuts a commanding presence on stage. The concert which lasted for about an hour and forty-five minutes, spanned both his older material as well as a few new songs. The near-capacity crowd shook their asses to the beat and hung on every note that Vieux coaxed from his guitar.

This was the final show of the Asian leg of their tour and you could tell because everything seemed to have a relaxed flow about it. Hell, they even sold the calabash drum to the highest bidder at the end of the concert! The following day, Vieux flew back to Mali where he’ll remain until April when the US tour begins in earnest. This is one show you won’t want to miss.


A little of my own background for Blurt readers.  When I worked for Rykodisc records in their international promotions department in 1995, I was fortunate enough to be invited with my then boss to travel to NYC to watch the late great Ali Farka Toure give a free concert in Central Park. After the show, I went back stage to meet the legendary guitarist. It was truly an awe-inspiring moment, that I continue to cherish. Talking Timbuktu was the album they played and to this day it remains one of my favorite records of all time.

Filmed by Jonathan Levitt and Zhou Jialin exclusively for Blurt Magazine. If you’d like to use this video, feel free to contact Levitt through Blurt. Special thanks to Vieux Toure and Marshall Henry. For more inforon Vieux Farka Toure visit his website at…
or . This concert film was shot on the mighty Nokia Lumia 1020 and edited on Adobe Premiere. Below, check out photos from the same show.



(Vieux Farka Toure and Jonathan Levitt)


(Toure and Zhou Jialin)


(bassist Marshall Henry)


(Zhou Jialin’s tattoo)


(hand stamps from the concert)










Video Premiere: Crazy & The Brains’ “Quincy” Sets a Trump Head On Fire


Brief but highly effective clip demonstrates just how flammable that haystack on the President-elect’s pointy head really is!

By Blurt Staff

Xylophone garage punks, Crazy & The Brains are currently in the studio with Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls finishing up their second full length LP. The new record finds the band exploring darker territories with an expanded sound having added new members to the group.  Meanwhile, they’ve got an awesome new video to share with us that, definitely not so coincidentally, arrives the day before the inauguration of Donald J. Trump. Check it out:

According to the band, “‘You Can Call Me Quincy’ is a 40 second song stylistically inspired by the NYC anti-folk scene where we got our start as 2 weirdos playing punk music on guitar and xylophone. The song is about letting go of pride and ego. The song is also a mock towards the idea of living life through a filter. It seems as if everyone wants to be perceived as perfect. This has become more important than honesty. That bothers me so I decided to poke fun at it.

“The video was filmed at our practice space/DIY music venue Funhouse located in Jersey City NJ. Long time friend  Jak Kerly of Shibby Pictures came up from Boston to direct the shoot. We met Jak at a squat house in Georgia while on tour. He has worked on music videos for fellow punk rockers Leftover Crack, Jeff Rosenstock, Daze n Daze and Mischief Brew. We hung out, drank some habanero sauce and set a Donald Trump head on fire. A fairly typical Friday evening for us.”

Crazy & The Brains play Knitting Factory Brooklyn  2/25 with Big D & The Kids Table.

Photo credit: Greg Pallante

Track Exclusive: James Johnston (Gallon Drunk) “Heart and Soul”

Live version of a key track from the artist’s remarkable new solo album, The Starless Room.


By Fred Mills

Sharp-eyed readers know the name James Johnston: He’s the frontman for Britain’s eternally brilliant Gallon Drunk [official website is HERE] as well as an in-demand sideman for the likes of—you may have heard of some of these—Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey (whose Hope Six Demolition Project, which features Johnston, was recently nominated for a Grammy), and Marianne Faithfull.

He’s now got a solo album, The Starless Room, and he recently sat down with BLURT’s resident Gallon Drunk expert, Jonathan Levitt, to discuss the new record. “I needed to do something different, I wanted to try something fresh, something I wasn’t familiar with,” explained Johnston. “Something that reflected more what I like to listen to myself. It just developed from there, encouraged and helped along by Johann Scheerer, the producer.”

Stay tuned for the entire interview next week, and meanwhile, Johnston graciously provided us with an exclusive track to get the readers’ appetites whetted. It’s from a live studio event recorded earlier this year by Linda Gerdes at the Clouds Hill festival. Check out “Heart and Soul” – you can stream it or download for your personal playlist.

Incidentally, Johnston has also created a series of videos in which he discusses the writing of each track on the album. Go HERE to view the clip for “Heart and Soul” and HERE for the “Track by Track” section of his YouTube channel. Meanwhile, you can read Levitt’s previous interview with Johnston, in which he discusses Gallon Drunk’s classic album From the Heart of Town, as part of our “The Story Behind The Album” series.

Photo Credit: Steve Gullick

Track Premiere: Laura Saggers “When the Sun Met the Moon”



Tune comes from the songstress’ new album, due in early 2017.

By Blurt Staff

Singer-songwriter Laura Saggers may have originally envisioned a career path as a writer, but while studying for an English degree felt the tug of the performer’s muse. She already had the musical background, having been classically trained on piano in the UK, and following a series of internships within the British music industry as well as a timely endorsement deal with Roland for their keytar, decided to relocate to the U.S. and chase the proverbial dream. The result is, indeed, Chasing Dreams due out early next year, and we are honored to be able to give the readers an exclusive advance peek. Check out “When the Sun Met the Moon”:

Sagger discussed the song, calling it “a story about how the sun falls in love with the moon and they get separated, and for the rest of his life the sun continues to love the moon even though he can no longer see her. I work with a ton of kids on a daily basis and was inspired to write this song as a message to anyone who has had to lose someone special. The ‘darkness’ can be either death, or divorce, separation, or a situation that is out of our control but hard to explain to children without a story behind it.

“The message is simple: people come and go, that is life, but the love between two people, regardless of circumstances will never be forgotten. My mum passed away when I was 13, and to this day I believe her love for me still exists because she lives in my memories and that gives me peace and strength every day.”

The album, of course, didn’t happen overnight, as Saggers had to pay her dues in Los Angeles, working as a sideman (notably with singer Jimmy Hopper)  and constantly practicing her piano and keytar skills and honing her songwriting chops. As the saying goes, persistence and passion paid off, culminating in Chasing Dreams.

On the web:



Track Premiere: The Angelus “An Interceding”


Denton band preps its second LP—a deluxe colored vinyl one, at that—for a mid-January release on Tofu Carnage.

By Blurt Staff

Denton, Texas, has a long-standing legacy of birthing unique bands with mind-bending sounds, and The Angelus is no exception. With their sophomore platter There Will Be No Peace arriving January 13—that would be a lucky Friday the 13th, natch—via the estimable Tofu Carnage label, the world outside the Denton/Dallas/Fort Worth area should be on full alert for what the label calls “carefully interwoven compositions of dark, hymnal slowcore…. Embroidered by emotional intensity and hopeful fortitude, the North Texas trio takes the listener on a soaring journey that is visceral and melancholic in its uncompromising beauty.”

And BLURT is honored to unveil the track “An Interceding” for our readership:

The band’s Emil Rapstine explains that what was “initially a languid drum and bass groove set over an oscillating drone, the song morphed organically into a pleading incantation as we explored to create a lush passageway that would bridge the larger section of later songs on the album to the preceding overture. ‘An Interceding’ is the resting point after the opening triptych of songs come storming out at the offset of the record. It serves as an interlude, a moment of meditation that transitions into the rest of the album. It is the moment when you’ve survived the storm but now you have to reassess, take inventory and cut your losses before moving forward into the unknown.”

“Cutting losses” won’t be an issue for The Angelus, however, we suspect. There Will Be No Peace is a remarkable album, sonically fluid and lyrically awash in emotional certitude and resilience. As 6 Days from Tomorrow noted, “There is a deep-seated spirituality at work throughout and each song is presented to the listener as a sermon, and not one of the nice New Testament ones either.”

Stay tuned for a full BLURT review of the band—which, incidentally, has its Tofu Carnage album pressed on 200-gram, translucent beer and mustard yellow wax with heavyweight, die-cut jackets. Talk about vinyl collector catnip—as was the label’s recent They Say The Wind Made Them Crazy album, or the earlier Unconscious Collective release.


There are plenty of resources on the web to guide you through The Angelus thicket in the meantime:


Track Premiere: Soft White Sixties “Follow Me”


Plucked off the band’s new EP, due out Dec. 2.

By Blurt Staff

They’re called the Soft White Sixties and have an album (2014’s Get Right)
and a self-titled EP to their credit thus far. The L.A. (by way of the Bay Area) rockers, together since 2010, are gearing up for an extremely busy year of nonstop touring. To prime the pump, on Dec. 2 they will be dropping Ocean Way, a new 4-song EP, and we are proud to share an exclusive peek with our readership. Check out “Follow Me”:

Vocalist Octavio Genera describes “Follow Me” as  “a last effort plea off Ocean Way—when you want so bad to help someone, but realize you have no say in the matter.” Musically, the track is a sinewy blend of the band’s signatures – a big, booming beat, rippling psychedelic guitars, and charismatic vocals. The band assembled the new EP following a relocation from San Francisco to L.A., pitching tents in Hollywood’s Ocean Way Studios (hence the name of the EP) and recharging their creative batteries. They worked with Matt Linesch (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) to craft some of the hookiest tunes of their entire career.

With plenty of touring forecast for the near future – business as usual for them – they also plan to polish off a new album with producer Elijah Thomson (Father John Misty) for a 2017 release, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled. You can read a recent interview with the band at the L.A. Weekly.

On the web:

The EP is available now for pre-order via iTunes.

Track Premiere: Spitzer Space Telescope “Corn Holler”


From new album set to drop mid-December – but not the way you might be accustomed to…

By Blurt Staff

And now for something completely different: Dan MacDonald’s Spitzer Space Telescope is prepping his new album Colonies In the Wild Frontier for a December 16 release, and we’ve got a special premiere for all you BLURT music hounds. Check out “Corn Holler” – but definitely keep reading…

MacDonald says that the song “reflects on my childhood growing up in St. Johns, Michigan where there were vast open fields on all sides of the town. I used my sister’s name ‘Molly’ for the narrator’s wife.”

So what’s completely different? Well, the Chicagoan has upped the bar considerably because the record will not be released in any physical form, nor will it be available on Spotify or the music stores of Amazon or iTunes. There’s only one way to get this release and that is as an app. That might not be convenient for some, but the end result is more content than one could ever imagine. Every song on this record is an original composition by Dan MacDonald. In addition to those songs, he’s added countless variations of those songs, performed by friends of his. There will be videos, sheet music, lyrics, detailed notes, and more—quite the unique musical immersion.

For example, check out an alternate take for “Corn Holler.” It looks like classic archival footage from 1963, but was actually just recently filmed in Chicago. Pretty fascinating at that.

Intrigued? You’ll be able head over to the Apple App Store to download it yourself. Call Colonies the first IMA (Interactive Music Album): “Inspired by traditional folk music forms, the entire album mimics the folk process of adaptation. Each track is not just one song, but features an entire lifespan of a folksong. Colonies doesn’t just aim to usher the music world into the app age, it has also been meticulously designed to teach people about folk music traditions as they explore it. It is available for both Apple and Android products through the App Store and Google Play.”

Meanwhile, you can catch up with MacDonald at his Spitzer Space Telescope site and… wait, that’s a link to the REAL telescope at NASA. Hmm…. Don’t even bother Googling. Try going to his Facebook page instead, folks. And prepare to be intrigued.


Track Premiere: The Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade


“Checkin’ On My Baby” taken from kickass new archival release – colored wax, Jack – on Smog Veil. Pictured above: Glenn Schwartz in authentic period garb. (Photo by Veronica Collins)

By Blurt Staff

Today’s track premiere is brought to you, the discerning BLURT readership, by the letter “B” – as in, “blast from the past.” Which would be ‘60s underground heroes the Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade, a powerhouse outfit hailing from Cleveland and featuring members of the James Gang (pre-Joe Walsh hitmaking period) and cult heroes the Mr. Stress Blues Band.


The mighty Smog Veil has unearthed recordings the group cut in the spring of ’67, titled Sunday Morning Revival, as part of its archival series Platters du Cuyahoga, and we are more than honored to be able to showcase one of those tracks right here for ya. Check out “Checkin’ On My Baby”:

At the time of the recording, the band included drummer Jim Fox, guitarist/vocalist Glenn Schwartz, guitarist Rich Kriss, bassist Tom Kriss, and pianist Mike Sands, and Bill Miller from the Mr. Stress Blues Band guested on vocals for this particular track. Fox himself was kind enough to give us the lowdown on the music, saying, “’Checkin’ Up on My Baby’ was better known to me at the point we recorded it.  Significantly, this song begins with a ‘straight 8’rhythm, which was the hallmark of rock and roll at that time, but then switches to the standard ‘shuffle’ beat for the solos, and back again for the remaining verses.  Kind of radical for its time…” (Below: Fox and Schwartz during their James Gang days. Photo by Veronica Collins.)


Nick Blakey, who researched and penned the album’s extensive liner notes adds some details as well:

“Checkin’ On My Baby” – aka “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” – has a rather interesting history. Much like several other Chicago blues standards, this song’s origins are placed to two completely different songs. One was recorded by Sonny Boy Williamson I (John Lee Curtis Williamson) whose “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” was released on Bluebird in 1945 while the other was by Otis Rush who laid down his “Checkin’ On My Baby” in 1958 for Cobra.

No doubt drawing influence from both of these, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alec Rice Miller) recorded his “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” in 1960 which was first released on the posthumous 1966 Chess compilation The Real Folk Blues (entitled In Memoriam in the UK and Europe). Junior Wells with Buddy Guy on guitar recorded a cover of Williamson II’s song for his 1966 Vanguard album It’s My Life Baby. The Mr. Stress Blues Band were covering this song with Glenn Schwartz on guitar by the Spring of 1967 (as seen in this footage shot at The Coffeehouse, University Circle, Cleveland in Spring 1967 – most likely May: and it from these sources that the Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade featuring Mr. Stress drew from for their own version.”

(Below: Mr Stress Blues Band. Photo by Mike Sands.)


You can read more about the band at the Smog Veil site’s page for the Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade, as well as order it on CD or SWEET yellow vinyl w/download. (Seriously, you have to choose? Act fast, as only 1500 copies are available.) You can also get details on the entire Cuyahoga series here at Smog Veil, as plans are for two more titles for Spring 2017 (Allen Ravenstine, of Pere Ubu fame, from 1975; and a to-be-announced electronic combo, from 1972-73).

Incidentally, by way of a postscript here: Schwartz turned up at this year’s Coachella as a surprise guest – along with Joe Walsh – during the set by the Arcs. Pretty cool at that.

On the web:



Track Premiere: Jack Lee “Come Back and Stay”


From the Nerves (“Hanging on the Telephone”) co-founder’s upcoming anthology.

By Blurt Staff

Power pop acolytes know well the name Jack Lee: along with Peter Case and Paul Collins, he was a co-founder of L.A.’s Nerves, which bum-rushed the underground in the late ‘70s prior to each member going on to myriad other acclaimed projects. Lee, of course, penned the classic “Hanging on the Telephone” that Blondie took to the bank, and his songs have also been covered by Suzi Quatro, Cat Power, Paul Young, and others. Now Lee has an anthology slated to drop Nov. 25 via Alive Naturalsound and we are honored to be able to premiere a choice track from the collection, “Come Back and Stay.” Check it out:

According to Lee, “This is the second song that I ever wrote. And it’s actually about my mother.”

Bigger Than Life is a double album boasting 23 songs and all reissued for the first time since the 1980s. (Some of the tunes popped up on Lee’s ’81 album Jack Lee’s Greatest Hits. Vol. 1.) Worth noting: it’ll be available on limited edition colored vinyl in addition to CD and digital.

Photo credit: Catherine Sebastian