Weekend Music Interlude — Lukas Nelson singing “Forget About Georgia”

Lukas Nelson is the son of country singer-songwriter Willie Nelson and his current wife Annie D’Angelo. Lukas was born in Austin, Texas but grew up in Maui, Hawaii. He learned guitar and had a talent for singing, which he pursued in order to spend more time with his famous father. He moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to attend Loyola Marymount University, but soon dropped out of college to pursue a music career full time. In October 2008 he formed his band The Promise of the Real.

During their early years the band performed in various SoCal venues and their music, according to AllMusic, the band self-described as “cowboy hippie surf rock.” Since that time he and his band have accompanied Willie Nelson on tour, and have performed as Neil Young’s backup band. Despite the pedigree and promotion, Lukas and his band has not drawn considerable attention nor reached stardom, but that seems to be changing as he approaches his tenth year of performing.

Lukas Nelson’s music has matured over the years, and in 2016 he began to show his talent as a powerful singer-songwriter, drawing from a wide range of musical influences from the Country Outlaw musicians to Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton to Neil Young to the Allman Brothers Band, among others. WXPN radio just designated Lukas Nelson and The Promise of the Real band as artist to watch for November 2017. Their new self-titled album was released this past summer on Fantasy Records.

In the performance below the acoustic venue demonstrates the power of his songwriting and the powerful emotions that he elicits in connecting with the subject matter of his songs. His voice is very reminiscent of his father’s, but with a fullness and deepness of its own.

 

Sunday Music Interlude — Lydia Loveless performing “Somewhere Else”

Lydia Loveless, though merely 25 years old, has been on the music scene in a big way for about six years wowing critics and music lovers with her alt-country songs, which fuses elements of trad country, rock, singer/songwriter, and punk, about life and living.  She hails from the town of Coschocton, Ohio where she grew up on a farm and where her father ran a local honky-tonk for a while.  A member of a musical family, she performed in the band “Carson Drew”, which drew its inspiration from the father in the Nancy Drew books series, along with her father, Parker Chandler, and older sisters, Eleanor Sinacola and Jessica.

She released her first album in 2010 entitled The Only Man.  It was greeted by favorable reviews, especially on the alt-country scene.  A little more than a year later she released the album Indestructible Machine on Bloodshot Records.  This album of her original music dealt with issues regarding growing up in an insular rural town, dangerous relationships, and country staples such as isolation, drinking, and depression.  The hard edge of her lyrics which SPIN characterized as “utter lack of bullshit” by the “Ohio hellion” appealed to a wider audience and her music was greeted with rave reviews across the critical music spectrum.

She followed up Indestructible Machine with the EP Boy Crazy, which further solidified her musical cred and which served as a segue to the full album entitled Somewhere Else.  Anyone who doubted that Loveless was a major talent was converted with this album.  This past August she followed that one up with another gem entitled Real.  This album, as her previous efforts, has garnered almost universal praise.

As she has matured her voice, which is led by a Midwest twang, reveals great depth and control.  At the core of her talent, which is multi-faceted, is her ability to exploit an expansive vocal range–one greater than found in most rock and country singers.  Depending on the topic at hand she travels–sometimes in the same song–from a singer who possesses considerable pipes who can belt out a controlled and sustained melody, to verbal intimacy that expresses raw, scratchy emotion like a youthful Patti Smith.  Her lyrics are both mature beyond her years and reveal an openness and emotional vulnerability that only the most talented singers can maintain.  It is a high wire act by someone barely aware of what she is doing–and we can only hope that she continues to eschew any artifice of self-awareness that, even among the most talented, can devolve into self-parody and archness.

Here she is performing “Somewhere Else” on Audiotree Live.

Saturday Night Music Interlude — The Marcus King Band performing “Rita is Gone”

The lead singer and guitarist that provides the Marcus King Band’s moniker hails from Greenville, South Carolina, and plays what he calls “soul-influenced psychedelic southern rock,” which is an apt description.  Only 20 years old, Marcus King’s father, Marvin King, was a regionally popular blues and gospel singer, and his grandfather was a regional musician as well.  Growing up as a boy, young Marcus told eastof8th blog “I was listening to George Jones, Chet Atkins, and Merle Haggard with my granddad.  Later on, I was heavily influenced by jazz cats like Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Jimmy Smith.”

The legendary Warren Haynes has promoted Marcus and his band as a true believer, performing with them at concerts and inviting Marcus King to perform with him in the band Gov’t Mule.  The band has two albums to its credit: Soul Insight, a gritty blues, southern rock and prog rock-inflected debut, and the self-titled double disc Marcus King Band on the Fantasy label.

Touring in anticipation of their new album, they impressed at SXSW, jamming out with George Clinton, performed at Mountain Jam that included electric sets and extended jams with Warren Haynes, and–a last minute substitute booking–took the XPoNential Music Festival in Philadelphia by storm, becoming WXPN’s August Artist to Watch.

You can hear the musical influences that informed Marcus’ sound blend together in the mix of horns, drums, keyboards, and guitar, the band’s eclectic mix of blues, soul, prog rock, and southern rock producing a gumbo reminiscent of Tower of Power at their peak mixed in with a bit of Allman Brothers, a slice of John McLaughlin, a dash of Gov’t Mule, and a pinch of Hendrix psychedelia.  While still a bit raw and unfocused at times, this is one talent to watch as he matures and develops his sound.

Here is the band at WFUV performing “Rita is Gone.”

 

Sunday Music Interlude — RIP Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen passed away on November 7th in Los Angeles.  His impact on poetry and music over the past 50 years is immeasurable.  So broad are his accomplishments in these artistic spheres that it is very difficult to summarize them in a simple blog post.  As such, for many readers of his poetry and listeners of his songs, the way that he explored both human emotions and the human psyche are deeply personal.  His insightful songs have been covered by pop, rock, jazz, and other music artists across genres, and they have embedded into our culture through movie and television soundtracks, through music played where we shop and eat, and in our memories and the inner voice that speaks to us.  These songs speak to us because they are decent, human, and honest in their simplicity.  As with all great artists, Cohen records all aspects of the human experience in poignant, largely introspective, and thoughtful ways.  He will be missed and one can find an overview of poetic and music legacy at his website.

 

 

 

 

Saturday Music Interlude — Margo Price: A Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

Margo Price is a country music sensation, there is just no getting around it, but she has come to it the hard way.

Hailing from Aledo, Illinois, her Allmusic bio states that she dropped out of college at the age of 20 in 2003 and moved to Nashville to pursue her musical dreams.  She formed the band Buffalo Clover with bassist husband Jeremy Ivey in 2010, which released three albums until the breakup of the band in 2013.  Personal tragedy then intervened with the death of her firstborn son to a heart ailment.  After that unfathomable heartbreak her website bio confesses that she fell into a deep depression that involved alcohol abuse and a brush with her darker side that pitted her against the law.  Coming through that period with the help of family and friends led her to the conclusion that she was “going to write music that I want to hear.  It was a big turning point.”

Pain, heartbreak, tragedy, hardscrabble experience all lay the foundation for great art.  It is a great artist who can channel the energy from that passion and pain into their art without spinning out of control or falling into self-pity.  Margo Price is a great artist with an amazing instrument of a voice and it is great art that is achieved with her solo album entitled Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.

The first song from the album is entitled “Hands of Time” and here she is performing it at SXSW thanks to NPR Music Front Row:

My first impression of the video is that she looks and sounds for all the world much like the reincarnation of a young Lesley Gore.  One could make references to the obvious influence of Loretta Lynn, informed by the modernist attitude of a Kasey Musgraves.  But I say this with a great deal of self-doubt, because the music for this album is so special and so singular, that is sounds both familiar and new.  Margo Price has created her own tradition and it will be interesting to see where she goes from here.  For the fact of the matter is that her songs could be sung by either a man or a woman, and that’s what makes them special.  Rather than speaking from a overtly female perspective, as much of female country music has done in the past, Ms. Price speaks from the heart of some great consciousness that speaks to feelings and experiences that we all understand, with which we can empathize, and which we feel in our own psyches.

For something a bit more energetic, here she is performing “Tennessee Song”, also from SWSW 2016 and NPR.

 

Finally, here she is on CBS This Morning from March 26, 2016 performing “Since You Put Me Down” where she channels the spirit of Hank Williams Sr. and other country music pioneers.

 

 

 

Sunday Music Interlude — Adia Victoria, SHEL, and onDeadWaves

I haven’t written about music in a while, so it’s time to catch up on some of the more interesting new acts and new projects that I’ve come across.

Originally out of South Carolina, Adia Victoria now calls Nashville home.  Her interesting bio can be found at Allmusic.com here.  Her original music is a combination of country and electric blues, punk, garage rock, and a modern type of dark Americana roots music borne of the narrative tradition and neo-folk.  Her voice consists of a girlish rasp wrapped in an alto silkiness.  You can learn more about her at her website at www.adiavictoria.com.

She was named WXPN’s Artist to Watch for July 2016, and just performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.  The performance from this last appears below.

 

SHEL is a group of four sisters out of Fort Collins, Colorado.  I wrote about them back in September 2014 as they were just out of the egg, featuring their neo-folk music after an EP and first album.  They have since matured and have come out with a critically hailed album entitled Just Crazy Enough.  They just played live on Echoes.org with John Diliberto.   Here they are performing a couple of selections that reveal both their developing maturity and natural talent informed by that maturity.  The first is “Let Me Do.”  The song begins as a deceptively simplistic song that then changes both tempo and melody, carried by the ethereal combined voice of their harmony vocals in the call and response from narrative to chorus.

Speaking of ethereal, here is SHEL performing “I’m Just a Shadow.”  This is first class neo-noir folk and roots music.  The following Lyric Video highlights the emotional power of the lyrics.

It is probably time for a shout-out to John Diliberto at Echoes.org.  I actually came across John’s taste in music through the program Star’s End, which is still on-going.  There I was introduced to ambient and space music in the 1970s when I split time between visits to my home state of New Jersey and during trips from my job in Washington, D.C.  FM radio waves being as they were, especially in the early morning over weekends, I would occasionally be able to tune into the program, which memory serves was out of Philly, while driving down some deserted highway with the star-streaked night sky above, and wish that the feeling of my movement through time and space, the fresh air from the open windows, the firmament of the night sky, and the music–which seemed to transport me to some other dimension–would never end.  Then, after years traveling and at sea, I was reintroduced to John as music critic through his contributions to the long-missed CD Review magazine.  His thoughtful, eloquent, and informative reviews opened my world to new music and new musical genre’s that I would probably not otherwise have explored.  There are a few critics that fall into this category which, for me, includes Ralph Gleason, Leonard Feather, Ira Gitler, John McDonough, Robert Christgau, Gary Giddins, Orrin Keepnews, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Michael Cuscuna, and David Dye, among a few–all good company.

This serves as introduction to another project to which I was introduced through Echoes.org and Mr. Diliberto.  It is the group onDeadWaves.  The group consists of British singers Polly Scattergood and James Chapman.  Their maiden album is this month’s Echoes CD of the Month.  According to the review by John Diliberto, onDeadWaves’s sound is like “a meeting of Lanterna, driving across the desert in a 57 ‘Chevy, with Leonard Cohen and Lucinda Williams in the backseat.”  Their music, also called “shoegaze west”, seems more varied, especially when confronted by the 60’s Byrd’s-like guitar and unrestrained punk of the song “California.”  Overall, though, I can hear the influence of the moodier neo-noir song-styling of Lana Del Rey through most of the songs.  Perhaps Ms. Del Rey was onto something after all.

Here they are the song “Blue Inside”.  Other videos are also available at the Echoes site linked above.

 

Wednesday Music Interlude — Homage to Guy Clark

Guy Clark, famous luthier, songwriter, and singer died last week while I was on travel, and so this tribute is somewhat late.  I had heard Clark’s songs through other artists but came late to his music, being a sailor and preoccupied with other concerns.  But finding myself on dry land one day I picked up and listened to a copy of Dublin Blues.   The title song froze me in my tracks and I was hooked.

Here was a man with the ability to take the internal voice that animates and provides narrative to our everyday lives and put it to song with all of its emotional rawness and nuance intact.  That ability in itself marks a true artist.  To sing that way in front of others requires emotional honesty and courage that few possess.  Using that same courage he could also be topical, and his songs “El Coyote” and “Heroes”, both from 2013, are as topical as anything done by Guthrie, Seeger, or Dylan.

To me Clark was a folksinger–one of the most important this country has ever produced.  He led the Nashville progressive country music scene and was one of the leaders of the Outlaw country movement along with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard, among others.  His musical approach was deeply influenced by Townes Van Zandt, and you can hear his influence in the songs of both Steve Earl and Lyle Lovett.  A few years ago I had the pleasure of hearing him, along with Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, and John Hiatt in concert, unplugged as they say.  Just four old boys playing heartfelt music, like sitting around the campfire.  Waiting for Woody and Pete to show up; and maybe Doc and Hank Sr. too.

His voice will be missed.  Here he is singing the song that introduced me to his music.