Ace tune by the gutsy North Carolina band taken from smokin’ new album, due out in early March. (Pictured above, L-R: Luis Rodriguez, Kenny Roby, Dan Davis, Rob Keller)
By Blurt Staff
Americana fans with long memories know well the name 6 String Drag: the hard-twanging Raleigh (NC)-by-way-of-Clemson (SC) outfit that helped usher in the golden era of alt-country in the early/mid ‘90s, predating both Ryan Adams’ Whiskeytown and scene bible No Depression. And although the members went their separate ways in 1998, 6 String Drag wound up reuniting in 2014 and released an acclaimed comeback album in early 2015.
Indeed, Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll (Royal Potato Family) was reviewed here at BLURT, our editor hailing the mix of power pop, rockabilly-esque twang, and bluesy soul: “It lives up to its title in every sense of the word—it’s rootsy as hell, and it’ll rock your ass off.. Maturity means you get to do a few things you didn’t quite have the skills or savvy to do 20 years earlier, and it also means you and the folks around you get to savor things because the moments of now tend to hover, deliciously, even while the memories of then continue to linger.” (Go HERE to listen to a track we premiered here in 2015.)
Resuming operations clearly gave the band a sense of momentum, and now they’ve got a smokin’ followup to RRNR due on digital, CD, and vinyl on March 9 via the Schoolkids Records label (formerly Second Motion and, full disclosure, our sister business). Titled Top of the World, it’s 11 tracks of pure 6SD, produced by – as was RRNR – Jason Merritt. By way of preview we are very proud to unveil the track “Waste of Time.” Check it out below; we guarantee it won’t be a waste of your time.
Guitarist/vocalist Kenny Roby—who is joined by co-founding bassist Rob Keller, plus guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Luis Rodriguez and drummer Dan Davis, plus guests John Ginty on keys and Matt Douglas on horns—notes that Top of the World “isn’t quite the almost live and somewhat frantic approach, like 1997’s [Steve Earle-produced] High Hat. And Roots Rock ’N’ Roll was really intentionally recorded like a ’50s and ’60s record. This record isn’t super layered but it isn’t always just a raw 4 piece approach. It just depended on the song — we just took it song by song in what we felt the song needed or wanted.”
Roby and Keller both acknowledge that the group has always been influenced by artists like The Band, Van Morrison, the Kinks, Rolling Stones, and Beatles, and that if one listens closely to the new album, traces of Rockpile, Thin Lizzy and Mott the Hoople might even be detected as well. As Keller explains, “We listen to a lot of different kinds of music, and of course that rubs off on us. We get on this wavelength where we will get into things at the same time. Recently, it’s been on the pop rockier side from ‘60s Kinks to ‘70s glam rock to ‘80s punk, power pop. We probably would’ve made more records like this had we stuck together all these years because we’ve always been into this type of music.”
But wait, as the saying goes, there’s more: The aforementioned High Hat, which was originally released on producer Earle’s E-Squared label, is getting a 20th anniversary reissue next month, on Jan. 11 (also via Schoolkids)—including as a limited/numbered white vinyl edition. So those Americana fans with long memories mentioned in the first paragraph will have even more reason to celebrate, as High Hat remains an acknowledged touchstone of the genre.
Worth additional note: the above-referenced 6SD reunion came about after Roby invited Keller to play with him at a solo show promoting his 2013 solo album Memories & Birds (reviewed HERE), and they wound up doing some old 6SD faves. Around the same time BLURT published an in-depth interview with Roby, and you can read it HERE.
Brand new album from the beloved Northeast band arrives in early March.
By Fred Mills
Let’s cut to the chase: We have always loved Buffalo Tom. (So have I, personally – I interviewed guitarist Bill Janovitz before the band’s first, self-titled album had even come out in the United States in 1988.) YOU have always loved Buffalo Tom, from the mid ’80s through the alt-rock ’90s, and then again when the group resumed operations in 2007 following a lengthy hiatus.
So it’s exciting news to learn that the group has a new album, Quiet and Peace, arriving March 2 via the Schoolkids Records label – which just happens to be our sister business. It’s the followup to 2011’s Skins, and it has Janovitz, bassist Chris Colbourn, and drummer Tom Maginnis working with producer Dave Minehan.
Janovitz recently described the album thusly to Stereogum:
“This is a really dark, New England record to Chris. He thinks it’s one of our darkest yet. He kept using the words ‘weird New England.’ We’re [all] not natives, but we’ve all been here for 30-plus years — [drummer] Tom [Maginnis] is a native. There is that changing of seasons thing, how the weather affects people, and how people’s interactions affect each other. There’s something particularly New England that can be very strange, and I think that’s seeping into the lyrics as well”
Remarkable L.A. band closes out 2017 following a busy year. Pictured above: Jonathan D. Haskell, Keith Joyner, Zöe Ruth-Erwin (photo by Mark Velasquez)
By Blurt Staff
We’ve turned you on to, and hopefully you’ve tuned into, les biches, the current project of erstwhile Seven Simons/Twinstar (and Georgia native/L.A. resident) mainman Keith Joyner, earlier this year via Joyner’s “Opening Ceremony” essay (about a rather unique “dark tale from the mid-‘90s, guest-starring Love and Rockets, Genesis P-Orridge, Rick Rubin’s haunted mansion, and a Dante-worthy conflagration”).
BLURT contributor Robert Dean Lurie wrote about the band for their official bio, noting, in part, “Named after a Jacques Brel song and 1968 French film, les biches is very much an anything-goes affair, harnessing the Wild West-possibilities of this new paradigm. And yet, there are a number of Joyner trademarks that remain ever-present: that keen sense of melody, the musical dexterity (always tightly corralled to the needs of the song), and a seeming inability to waste a single note. This is classic songcraft coupled with an openness to the unknown. As such, les biches is both a next chapter and a beginning, an invitation and a welcome home.
“Already an impressive cast of collaborators has come on board: Sarah Negahdari (The Happy Hollows, Silversun Pickups, Pisces), Jonathan D. Haskell (Seven Saturdays, Glasz), Brian Reyes (The Little Ones), Travis McNabb (Better Than Ezra, Frankie Ballard), David Newton (The Mighty Lemon Drops), and Manuel Calderon (mixing engineer: Beach House, Animal Collective, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Some are here for a one-off, some could be considered auxiliary members, and one or two may reappear like comets. Joyner’s own role shifts and adapts accordingly.”
If you were prodded to check out les biches debut single “I Had A Thought” we featured in Joyner’s essay or that, plus four more over the course of the year, at the band’s SoundCloud page, you will definitely dig the group’s sixth and final single for 2017. It’s 8 minutes long, but every second of this dynamics-rich track is a rewarding one. Check out “North From the Airwaves” which is officially released on December 8. And note that the group is currently in heavy rehearsals, prepping to take a full band out on the road for 2018.
Joyner details the new song:
“Before releasing music in 2017 as les biches, I was in a band called Twinstar. We were together longer than The Beatles. Our tenure was marked by fits and starts, extended periods of hibernation, frequent personnel changes and infrequent live shows. Even so, we operated under the Field of Dreams “if you build it they will come” blueprint. That is, we put so much into the recording of our 2013 album The Sound of Leaving, that surely it would rise above the din and enable us to carry on making more records. It would be disingenuous to say we weren’t disappointed when that failed to happen.
“As we were finishing the album, I would often feud with my long-suffering bandmate Chris Candelaria about things like the bass frequency in the final masters, or the track order. In retrospect, it seems trivial given the few people that would hear it. And yet, those arguments signify that we cared deeply about the end result. It is, after all, the bane of every creative artist that anything worthwhile requires dedication and heart. But the risk that art can exist solely in a vacuum always looms large. The band came to an end, and I naturally drifted away from music in a melancholy mood, though there were certainly no hard feelings.
“Several years later, I found myself hiking in the volcanic hills of Myvatn, Iceland. (And before you think it, yes! Every asshole has been or is going to Iceland!) I am a firm believer that there’s nothing like physical exertion or a change in scenery to get the creative juices flowing. A melody crept into my brain. As I walked, it continued to mutate in subtle ways and became the silent soundtrack for the rest of the trip. And just like that, I was back in. This was my “new direction,” I thought. I wasn’t interested in writing pop songs at the time. Rather, I wished to convey what it felt like to walk past ancient cinder cones and boiling molten lava away from the world at large.
“Back in Los Angeles, I had already met Jonathan D. Haskell, the mercurial man behind the band Seven Saturdays. I was inspired by his unique and atmospheric approach to the Fender Rhodes. It was exactly what this piece of music required. So began our collaboration on what was meant to be the first les biches release. But the floodgates had opened, and a flurry of new songs materialized along the way.
“As such, North from the Airwaves becomes the last (and sixth) track to be released by les biches in 2017. To say that an eight-minute-plus song with no verses or choruses is my favorite of them all is no stretch. It was the elusive spark that changed the way I think about music, though I am keenly aware it’s a huge ask in the age of short attention spans. In other words, having built it, it’s more about the quality of the company these days. To that point, I am also joined by Travis McNabb (Seven Simons, Better Than Ezra) on drums and the fantastic Zoe Ruth-Erwin, who writes and performs under her own name, and collectively with Jonathan in the electro-dream pop duo P O L L A. This old world is full of noise and chaos. If you do stop to listen, we thank you more than you can know!”
Phoenix area band with deep local music roots releases the album this Friday, Nov. 3.
By Blurt Staff
Pistoleros are no strangers to the hard rock music scene. While this may be a major understatement, it by all means rings true for the five piece who have pioneered the “Tempe Sound.” With not-so-mild beginnings, the band that is now Pistoleros started out as a few different projects. The center of the band’s foundation was Live Nudes, a band started by brothers Mark and Lawrence Zubia in 1988. After one EP, the band grew to include Gin Blossoms guitarist and founder, the late Doug Hopkins in 1992. They then added the rhythm section from Chuck Hall & The Brick Wall and became Chimeras.
Under this name, the band thrived in their local scene, and even caught the attention of Hollywood Records rep Rob Seidenberg. Shortly after signing to Hollywood, they were forced to change their name following a legal battle with an Irish band who shared the moniker. Thus, Pistoleros was born in full to the name that sees them through the release of their new album Silver. This LP shows off the band’s years of experience, creating an arena-filling sound with huge guitars, bombastic drums, and blisteringly intense vocals. The band continues to meld their signature “Tempe Sound” upon their 25th anniversary release.
Silver will be out on November 3 via Phoenix indie label Fervor Records. (Preorders available here.) Check out an advance stream of the entire album, below.
As we get older, more and more of us experience sleep related issues of some sort. For many people — including a close friend of mine whose condition inspired this piece — this takes the form of insomnia. I myself find it harder to sleep through the night than I used to (oh, to be 20 again when you could blow a building up around me while I was asleep and I wouldn’t bat an eye!). And many people I talk to, of varying ages and backgrounds, admit to having insomnia or some other form of sleep disturbance. Seems you can’t go a week without somebody mentioning Ambien…
Here, then, are a dozen songs for those nights when you find yourself wide awake but not by choice. They are culled from six decades of popular music and the artists range from Cheap Trick to Norah Jones and from Sinatra to Metallica. These tunes may not put you to sleep — but at least they’ll reassure you that you’re not alone while you’re wrestling with your demons.
We’ve created a Spotify playlist for the tunes, and you can also check out video/audio for each track below.
1. “Enter Sandman” — Metallica (1991)
Let’s kick things off with a song that’s guaranteed to induce screams and chills! “Enter Sandman” was the lead single from Metallica’s fifth album, a self-titled disc they unveiled in 1991. More than 25 years later, it still stands as the perfect soundtrack for your night terrors. Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett shreds for his life while James Hetfield sings a very dark lullaby. “Hush little baby, don’t say a word/And never mind that noise you heard/It’s just the beasts under your bed/In your closet, in your head…”
Off to Never Never Land we go, with these California thrash-metal kings leading the way….
2. “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” — Frank Sinatra (1955)
In total contrast to Metallica, our second entry on this insomnia mix tape is a ‘50s standard by Frank Sinatra. He didn’t write “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” and he’s not the only artist to record it, but there’s no denying that this ballad — the title track of his 1955 album — is synonymous with Sinatra. “In the wee small hours of the morning,” he sings, “While the whole wide world is fast asleep, you lie awake and think about the girl and never, ever think of counting sheep.” Who among us can’t relate to that sentiment?
3. “Chasing Pirates” — Norah Jones (2009)
Jumping ahead five decades and change, we find ourselves still wide awake but with Norah Jones picking up where Sinatra left off. The opening track from her excellent 2009 album The Fall, “Chasing Pirates” is a lovely song about being too wound up to sleep. Only Norah could make insomnia sound appealing!
4. “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” — Warren Zevon (1976)
In this writer’s humble opinion, the late Warren Zevon was one of the finest singer-songwriters of the 1970s. The rocking “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” appears on his 1976 self-titled outing. It features wailing harmonica, improvised bits of Spanish from Jorge Calderon and some of Zevon’s most twisted lyrics. To wit: “I got a .38 special up in the shelf/If I start actin’ stupid, I’ll shoot myself…”
It’s worth noting that Zevon released a song called “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” 16 years before pop-metal poser Jon Bon Jovi did….;)
5. “Up All Night” — The Boomtown Rats (1981)
Before he became known for Live Aid and other projects, Bob Geldof led The Boomtown Rats, an eclectic band that stormed out of Ireland in the mid ’70s armed with a bunch of great tunes. This song, like the one that follows, is called “Up All NIght” — but that’s about all they have in common. The Rats’ “Up All Night” — which appeared on their 1981 album Mondo Bongo and got some AOR airplay back in the day — features an appealingly off-kilter arrangement and Geldof’s Bowiesque vocals.
6. “Up All Night” — The Records (1979)
The Records were an English foursome best known for the great hit “Starry Eyes,” from their self-titled 1979 debut. “Up All Night” is an ethereal, Beatlesque ballad which demonstrates the underrated songwriting genius of Will Birch and John Wicks. The best line is probably when Wicks sings, “Six o’clock and the town is waking now/Workers are on their way, don’t ask me how/They have to take their daily ride/I hear the paper boy outside…”
If insomnia has a moment of pure pop magic, this could be it.
7. “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep At All” — The 5th Dimension (1972)
Our next entry is a soft-pop classic from the early ‘70s. “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep At All” scored The 5th Dimension a top 10 hit in 1972. Written by Englishman Tony Macaulay and featuring the velvet-voiced Marilyn McCoo on vocals, it ruled the AM airwaves. Who couldn’t appreciate the line, “Maybe I should call you up and just forget my foolish pride/I heard your number ring and I went cold inside?”
8. “I’m So Tired” — The Beatles (1968)
“I’m So Tired,” from The Beatles’ self-titled set (AKA ‘The White Album’) wasn’t a hit but it remains one of their great album tracks and is a fearsome slice of insomnia in two minutes and change. John Lennon expresses a similar sentiment to Marilyn McCoo but in strikingly different terms! “I wonder should I call you but I know what you would do!” he screams. Ironically, Lennon had written the beautiful “I’m Only Sleeping” a scant two years earlier. My, how things changed for the man in a short time!
9. “Overkill” — Men At Work (1983)
“Overkill” was the biggest single from Men At Work’s sophomore album, Cargo. It was released at the height of the band’s popularity and the video became deservedly popular on MTV (this is back when MTV played videos, for you young ‘uns). Despite its infectious melody, “Overkill” features dark lyrics such as “I can’t get to sleep/I think about the implications,” “Alone between the sheets/Only brings exasperation” and the great refrain, “Ghosts appear and fade away.” Men At Work would fade away themselves a couple of years later but when this song was released, they were arguably the biggest band on the planet. Frontman Colin Hay has said that this is his favorite song from his days with the Men — and it’s easy to see why.
10. “I’m Not Sleeping” — Counting Crows (1996)
It’s no secret that Adam Duritz of Counting Crows is a notorious insomniac; several of the band’s songs deal with night terrors or the inability to get to sleep. The one I’ve included is “I’m Not Sleeping,” from the Crows’ sophomore set, Recovering the Satellites. It’s a ballad but it’s tortured as opposed to tender. And that torture builds to a crescendo that includes a Psycho string section and Duritz screaming lyrics about a woman who won’t let him get the shuteye he so desperately needs.
11. “Dream Police” — Cheap Trick (1979)
Cheap Trick had a nice run of hits between the late 70s and the late 80s but this one — the title track from their 1979 album — may be the most dramatic. Lead singer Robin Zander was known as “the man of a thousand voices” early in the band’s career. On this rock and roll ode to nightmares, he shows us why.
On a related note — Rockford, Illinois’ finest is currently in the midst of their most prolific period in decades and is gearing up to release a Christmas collection (their third album in two years!).
12. “Insomniac’s Lullaby” — Paul Simon (2016)
Our final song is also the most recent track of the 12. “Insomniac’s Lullaby” finds the great Paul Simon in quietly existential mode. “Oh Lord, don’t keep me up all night with questions I can’t understand,” he pleads. But by the end of the song, he concludes, “We eventually all fall asleep.” “Insomniac’s Lullaby” closes Simon’s 2016 album Stranger to Stranger — and it’s also a great way to end this mixtape.
Tune taken from upcoming studio album, due next week.
By Blurt Staff
Mark “Porkchop” Holder has been a favorite around the Blurt Magazine break room since his time in the blues punk band Black Diamond Heavies. So when we had the opportunity to introduce you guys to his latest, “Coffin Lid” via a Blurt premiere, we clocked back in powered up the computer.
“‘Coffin Lid’ comes from a long bar-room conversation with a merchant marine whose stories got wilder the longer we drank. It falls somewhere between street corner boasting and the literary device of the unreliable narrator.” Holder reveals to Blurt.
All that backed with a sludgy Blues riffs that sticks with you for hours.The track is off the Chattanooga-based musician’s sophomore studio album,Death and the Blues, out November 3rd via Alive Natural Sound Records It follows his acclaimed solo debut, Let It Ride, from earlier this year.
It’ll be available on limited vinyl, as well as CD, digital and streaming formats. Go HERE to order the starburst vinyl.
MARK “PORKCHOP” HOLDER TOUR DATES:
October 27 at Big Apple Cafe – Murray, KY
October 28 at Barking Legs Theater – Chattanooga, TN
November 2 at BT’s – Radford, VA
November 3 at Acoustic Coffee House – Johnson City, TN
November 4 at O’mainnin’s Pub (w/Moose Roberts and Monkey Paw) – Bristol, TN
November 10 at JJ’s Bohemia (ALBUM RELEASE SHOW!!) – Chattanooga, TN
November 17 at Rooster’s Blues House – Oxford, MS
November 18 at Sidetracks (w/ Southern Culture on the Skids) – Huntsville, AL
November 20 at JJ’s Bohemia (w/ 20 Watt Tombstone) – Chattanooga, TN
November 25 at Levon’s – Clarksdale, MS
November 26 at The Door – Dallas, TX
November 28 at Art Obscura – Las Cruces, NM
November 29 at The Loud House – Tucson, AZ
December 1 at The City Pub – San Diego, CA
December 8 at The Wildwood Hotel – Willamina, OR
December 11 at The Treehouse Cafe – Bainbridge Island, WA
December 19 at Leftwoods – Amarillo, TX
December 20 at Firehouse Bar & Grill – Abilene, TX
April 14, 2018 at Off Broadway (War Goat Festival) – St. Louis, MS
Well, that didn’t take too long, Portishead auteur Geoff Barrow has done a remix of Arcade Fire track “Creature Comfort,” off the somewhat-critically-muted-album Everything Now album. The remix gets the curious name “Comfort My Sleng Teng” in some bizarre attempt to channel dancehall patois. Well, it is in fact a dancehall-styled remix, so we’ll give it an 85 and you can dance to it, Dick.
The tune’s a promo single and you can bet it will soon be grabbing bucks on eBay…
Eagerly anticipated album arrives October 13 on the Love Records label.
By Barbi Martinez
It’s called The Knowledge. Those who know of it are Squeeze fans, and they are celebrating the first taste via first single and lead-off track “Innocence In Paradise,” The surf-rock, plangent-vibed number isas good as you’ll hear all year. The band appears to be on a winning streak based on that tune and the previous reception to the critically acclaimed comeback (after nearly two decades) album Cradle to the Grave.
Listen to the new tune below. Black coffee in bed while you do is optional.
Tune culled from eagerly awaited new album, out this week. Photo: Melinda Doster
By Blurt Staff
Singer/songwriter Stephen Doster is among the select few who can call the late comedian Bill Hicks a friend, and with “William Melvin Hicks” he commemorates that friendship. The song’s on Doster’s new album New Black Suit, which drops August 25 on Atticus Records, and we’re proud to be able to unveil it for the BLURT readership today:
“It’s my way of paying respectful tribute to Bill for his integrity and artistic vision, which, not surprisingly, still inspires people today,” explains Doster, of the song. (The album also pays tribute to other friends of his who are no longer with us, among them veteran Austin bassist George Reiff, who played on the album.) Continues Doster, “[Bill] was very passionate about people having integrity in their work and just couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t always give everything they had. I remember he said to me, ‘We are fighting an art war!'” (Below: the immortal Hicks)
New Black Suit is the followup to the Austin musician’s 2014’s Arizona, which itself was a bit of a milestone as it was the first album that Doster—a card carrying member of the Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame—had released in 18 years. Since then he’s continued to notch acclaim, and New Black Suit is nothing if not eagerly awaited. In addition to Reiff (Joe Walsh, Dixie Chicks) on bass, New Black Suit again features Dony Wynn (Dr. John, Robert Palmer) on drums and percussion, and Kevin Lovejoy (Spoon, John Mayer) on piano, organ, and keyboards accompanying the vocals and guitar work throughout from Doster.
Go HERE to check out the first single from the new album, “Shooting for the Stars.”
Ace tune from the songsmith’s The Hammer & the Heart album
By Blurt Staff
It’s a double album, and every single track is a winner—that would be The Hammer & the Heart by singer-songwriter Susan Cattaneo, who’s been compared, variously, to Bonnie Raitt, Patty Griffin, Carole King, and Emmylou Harris. Please allow Susan into your house and hearts via the song “The River Always Wins”—which, we would be remiss in not telling you, was co-written and –recorded with master musician Mark Erelli:
Susan offers the following about the track: “I wrote this song with Mark, a wonderful musician and artist who is also Lori McKenna’s producer and sideman. We both love storytelling in our songs, and The River Always Wins uses small town America images to explore the concept that no matter what man tries to do, Mother Nature always wins out. The song was recorded with a kickass band that included Mark on background vocals and guitar and Marco Giovino on drums, Jesse Williams on bass and Jim Henry on electric guitar.”
Aside from that single-song winning combo, the album itself features a whole slew of Americana stalwarts including The Bottle Rockets, Bill Kirchen, and Duke Levine. Susan’s a longtime New England favorite (she’s also a member of the beloved Massachusetts group Boxcar Lillies) who blends folk, rock, and blues with a strong dose of twang, and she’s earned love from American Songwriter, No Depression, and more. Tracing Cattaneo’s journey from her early days in New Jersey to her trial-by-fire in Nashville’s Music Row to her current home in Massachusetts (where she also teaches songwriting at the Berklee College of Music), the songs range from straight-up rockers to tender ballads in a rich melding of genres and eras.