LAKE STREET DIVE BASSIST BRIDGET KEARNEY RELEASES HER FIRST SOLO ALBUM, 'WON'T LET YOU DOWN'
In the 12 years she has toured the world as a member of the soul-pop sensation Lake Street Dive, Bridget Kearney has fine-tuned many things -- voracious collaborating, acclaimed bass playing, and harmonizing to name a few. But the skill she has honed most obsessively is songwriting. While still a student at The New England Conservatory of Music, Kearney won the grand prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, a harbinger of things to come. Now, Kearney steps into the spotlight with her first solo effort, a wry, big-hearted pop album entitled Won’t Let You Down. The record, like its title, promises not to disappoint. Shades of The Beatles, Wilco, Fleetwood Mac and even Nick Cave can be detected, as the album swerves from ‘60s pop to modern indie-rock.
THE SUITCASE JUNKET RELEASES HIS FIRST FULL-LENGTH FOR SIGNATURE SOUNDS, 'PILE DRIVER'
From the salvaged sounds of American juke joints, back porches, honky tonks and rock clubs, The Suitcase Junket conjures an entirely new sound in this essential rock collection, Pile Driver. The Suitcase Junket is Matt Lorenz: artist, tinkerer, swamp yankee, one-man band. His is the road-worn voice rising over the grind of a tube-amped dumpster guitar, and the wild double pitches of throat singing. From The Suitcase Junket's penchant for thrift and ingenuity comes this full-length album -- his debut at Signature Sounds -- of original rock anthems, mountain ballads, blues manifestos and dance-hall festivity, played on instruments built of broken bottles, twisted forks, dried bones, gas cans, shoes, saw blades, a toy keyboard, and an overhead compartment’s worth of luggage.
Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem’s WINTERSONG skips over the holiday canon — there are no jingle bells here, no mistletoe, and only one fleeting reference to Santa. Instead, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem dig up the power, the beauty and the celebration at the roots of Christmas. With fierce poetry and wild joy, WINTERSONG is an ode to light and dark, and to the balance of both at the turning of the year.
New Englanders have two primary seasonal coping mechanisms for wintertime: introspection and celebration. Hole up and think about your life, then go out and party. WINTERSONG does both, swinging from reflective songs and settings of classic verses by Longfellow and Tennyson to fiddle- and percussion-driven New Year’s shouts from the Georgia Sea Islands and Louisiana. Jesse Winchester’s opening lyric sums it up: “Once upon a Christmas morning / there was a pretty little baby boy / seems like I remember sadness / mingling with the joy.”
Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem has been praised as a one-band music festival, and WINTERSONG delivers just that. Bluesy, full-band tracks pulse with electric guitar, four-part harmony and fiddle: Jesse Winchester’s “Let’s Make a Baby King,” Tommy Thompson’s “Hot Buttered Rum,” Michael Doucet’s “Bonne Annee,” “Yonder Come Day” from Bessie Jones and the traditional “Children Go Where I Send Thee”. Modern songwriter takes on the holiday — Ron Sexsmith’s “Maybe this Christmas,” Sydney Carter’s “Bells of Norwich” and Chrissy Hynde’s “2,000 Miles” — get a more acoustic treatment with banjos, ukuleles and kalimba.
Interspersed like a deep breath between these, pared-down tracks invite the listener to the quick, lean verses of G.K Chesterton’s “A Christmas Carol” to banjo, fiddle, and harmonium. Guitarist Anand Nayak contributes a poignant and intimate reimagining of Longfellow’s anti-war poem, “Christmas Bells.” Arbo’s hushed vocal on the German carol “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” sounds like a lullaby with quiet banjo and guitar; and the album closer, “Singing in the Land,” floats the band’s four-part harmony over solo acoustic guitar in an Appalachian hymn from the Ruth Crawford Seeger collection.
May 6, 2015: Day One in the abandoned axe factory hadn't gone as planned, so today is the first time the five members of Parsonsfield will actually get to make music here. They'd been looking forward to converting this cavernous industrial space on the banks of the Farmington River in Collinsville, CT, ever since singer/banjo player Chris Freeman, who grew up nearby, brought it to their attention. The idea of recording in such a reverberant, reactive space held great appeal after the past six months spent in Canada exclusively performing their critically acclaimed original songs for 'The Heart Of Robin Hood,' a musical that required them to wear in-ear monitors for eight shows a week in theaters designed to be sonically dead.
They've got their amps and PA plugged in now, and there's a faint layer of sawdust on top of all the gear. It's nothing compared to yesterday, when they opened the doors for the first time and discovered sawdust an inch thick coating every imaginable surface. It was so bad they had to purchase respirators and devote the entire day to sweeping and vacuuming, trying to outwit the neighbor's overzealous guard dog every time they came and went from the building. The whole process left so much dust still floating in the air that every time they take a break, another layer settles back down to earth, but at least they can comfortably breathe now.
Above them, a cyclist crosses the rickety bridge over the river, making a distinctive clatter as the wheels hit a particularly loose plank. It's time to begin 'Blooming Through The Black.'
Though they call western Massachusetts home, Parsonsfield draws their name from the rural Maine town that's home to the Great North Sound Society, the farmhouse-turned- recording-studio of Josh Ritter keyboardist/producer Sam Kassirer. It was there that they cut their outstanding debut, 'Poor Old Shine,' which established them as a roots force to be reckoned with. Folk Alley dubbed their songs "the most jubilant and danceable indie roots music this side of the Carolinas." Their rowdy live performances only upped the ante, with The Bluegrass Situation falling for their "fun and frenzy" and No Depression raving that they'll "give you rich five-part harmonies one minute, sound like bluegrass on steroids the next, and then rock you over the head with unbearably
cool and raucous Celtic rhythms."
It was only natural, then, that they called on Kassirer once again for their follow-up, 'Blooming Through The Black,' enlisting his engineering and production ingenuity to help convert the axe factory into a temporary recording studio. In addition to placing microphones on each instrument, Kassirer set up additional mics throughout the factory just to capture the feel of the enormous space, which itself became another instrument in the band's already-impressive repertoire.
Parsonsfield spent nearly six months writing and rehearsing in the factory, discovering that song ideas that had begun life in Canada radically transformed in their new home. The space demanded understatement and subtlety to balance out the band's exuberance and energy, and by the time they were ready to hit record, they were sitting on a collection chock full of the most infectious, emotionally mature songs of their career.
'Blooming Through The Black' opens with 'Stronger,' a slow-burner that begins as an acoustic folk number and builds to an electrified tumult. It's a showcase for their instrumental prowess, lyrical chops, and unbridled passion, and it's just the start. The title track—inspired by the sight of the first flowers growing back in the forest fire- charred landscape of Hell Canyon, South Dakota—finds Freeman blending punk energy with earnest sincerity in his delivery, while "Across Your Mind" rides a feel-good groove driven by bassist Harrison Goodale and drummer Erik Hischman, and "Water Through A Mill" ebbs and flows like a solemn hymn on top of Max Shakun's meditative pump organ.
As the band explored the quirks and eccentricities of the factory, unexpected sounds and moments sometimes became permanent fixtures of the songs, but a particularly happy accident occurred outside the studio entirely, when Shakun called mandolin player Antonio Alcorn for help setting up his new record player. Upon dropping the needle somewhere in the middle of a copy of 'Poor Old Shine,' they discovered it was spinning backwards, but the melody coming out of the speakers was perhaps even more of an infectious earworm than it was when played forward. They brought the new riff to the rest of the band, where it morphed into "The Ties That Bind Us," a stand-out foot-stomper and a highlight of their live show.
Catch Parsonsfield onstage any night and the band's joy is palpable. They trade instruments, share microphones, and shoot each other big grins. They sing in tight multi-part harmonies, their voices blending like they've been doing this together all their lives. That's because Parsonsfield is a family band, not by birth but by choice. And with an album this thrilling, it's only a matter of time before you share their same enthusiasm.
Listen closely at the top of "Don't Get Excited" and you'll hear the clatter of a cyclist crossing the rickety bridge over the river. That's the sound of Parsonsfield inviting you into the axe factory. It's time to begin 'Blooming Through The Black.' Good luck not getting excited.
Growing up, often the safest haven to plot your dreams and get a handle on your identity is within the confines of trusted friendships. For the musicians in the critically acclaimed band And The Kids, these bonds have been a life raft.
But as friendships evolve from adolescence to young adulthood, sometimes the lines between friends, lovers and all that comes in between can grow murky. On the Northampton, MA-based band’s latest, Friends Share Lovers (out June 3rd on Signature Sounds), And the Kids examines blurred boundaries in close-knit relationships.
“The friends we grew up with were troublemakers, lost souls, dropouts, and mother figures,” says And The Kidsguitarist and vocalist Hannah Mohan. “The title references the incestuousness of friend groups and how things get messy.”
And The Kids channel existential crises into pop euphoria. With this sleight of hand, the quartet manages to conjure chunky indie rock, blissful new wave, chamber folk, jarring avant-garde, and brawny classic rock. Mohan navigates this expansive creativity with aplomb. Effortlessly she swoops heavenly for high tones, digs deep for swaggering rock n’ roll low tones, and manages to mash up sweet sass with new wave bliss for a vocal feel that masks sage wisdom beneath sweet innocence. In addition to Mohan, And The Kids is Rebecca Lasaponaro on drums, Megan Miller on synthesizers and percussion, and bassist Taliana Katz.
Friends Share Lovers bursts forth with the pent-up emotionality of the opening track, aptly titled “Kick Rocks.” Here drum climaxes interlock with hypnotic harmony vocals, building a tension that crashes like a wave cresting, leaving in its wake glassy flowing melodies. The thematic thread of relationships imbues the new wave elegance of “Friends Share Lovers” and “I Can’t Tell What The Time Is Telling Me.” The title track evokes a Smiths-like juxtaposition of balmy musicality set against poetic turmoil as Mohan wrestles with the complexities of a friendship sliding into a romance. The stunning “I Can't Tell What The Time Is Telling Me” envelops the listener with chiming guitars, oceanic synth textures, and sidesteps into classical melodic motifs. “That track is about getting through tough times with a new partner. It’s about being true to yourself after you’ve fallen in love,” Mohan explains.
Friends Share Lovers is that pivotal release, the follow up to a well-received album from a promising young band. The new album showcases And The Kids’ considerable powers manifesting into a triumphant record that justifies the earlier praise. However, for the members of And The Kids, the impact that matters the most to them is the bonds they make with their audience. To that end, Mohan says: “What’s been most meaningful is realizing what a big influence a small band can have. We see women at the shows who say they want to play music and that we inspired them to do what they love.”
Over a decade ago, singer-songwriter Philip Price scrawled the name “Winterpills” on the wall of The Bay State Hotel, a now-dead but fabled Northampton, MA watering hole and music venue. Initially, it was going to be the name for a dreamt-of electronica project, but, somewhere along the line, it blossomed into a critically acclaimed indie band with a deep catalog of elegant, dark chamber pop.
Now, the quintet gives us its seventh album, a provocative entry in its catalog, Love Songs, out March 18th on Signature Sounds. Recorded and co-produced by Justin Pizzoferrato (Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies, Lou Barlow, Speedy Ortiz), the album showcases an invigorated and raw Winterpills. This new release marks ten years as a band. To commemorate this career milestone, Winterpills will also reissue its self-titled debut on vinyl. Together, these releases bookend a freewheeling folk-rock continuum. The Northampton, Massachusetts quintet are consummate masters of the slow burn; they’ve nurtured a singular aesthetic with lush and sometimes gritty instrumentation, emotive and literate lyrics, sublime vocal harmonies, and cinematically structured songs that stealthily pull you in and then destroy you.
Love Songs is tightly thematic. "At first the thought of calling it Love Songs was intended as a whimsical nod to the other million albums of the same title," Price says, "but then casting that light on the existing songs made them jump into stark relief: they were all love songs after all, though arriving at that place through strange portals and unused back roads." The tracks are definitely not your standard missives of affection: within the 11-song album, Winterpills explores love of the idea of love, love of unrealized love, love of the dead, love of family secrets, love of the concept of eternal return, love of ideas, and love of celebrity.
The album’s emotional resonance and fresh energy comes from the environment it was created in. Philip produced and engineered three albums in a row for Winterpills in their home project studio; but Love Songs was recorded in a professional studio buzzing with music gear curiosities, setting the stage for intrepid sonic exploration, including a slightly out-of-tune vintage Vose & Sons upright piano used liberally on many of the albums tracks.
It’s been an unexpected journey for Philip, chasing the ghost within that moniker he scribbled on a bar wall twelve years ago. But what stands out to him as the most meaningful part of the journey is the deep ties within the band. “We feel lucky we’re still good friends after all this time. And I’m in awe of what everyone in the band brings to this weird table we built,” he says. His most profound connection, though, is with Flora Reed, his wife, and creative ally. “We totally have all our eggs in one basket, and it’s been great. I highly recommend it. We do save a little money on hotel rooms.”
Artist, tinkerer, tunesmith, swamp Yankee, Matt Lorenz is a one-man salvage specialist singing into the hollow of a Dumpster guitar, slipping a broken bottleneck onto the slide finger, railing on a box of twisted forks and bones, rocking till every sound is ragged at its edges, till the house is singing back. Then, unplugging all the amps and letting one mountain ballad soar over the raw strings on that guitar.
Every night is a hard-driving, blues-grinding, throat-singing search-and-rescue junket. Sooner or later everything rusts, busts, and gets tossed into the junk heap: iron, bones, leather, hot rods, muskrats, the night, the heart. The goal is to recover it. To waste nothing. To create new ways from old. This is The Suitcase Junket.
Matt Lorenz was raised in Cavendish, Vermont, the son of teachers. He learned to sing by copying his sister Kate. (The siblings are two-thirds of the touring trio Rusty Belle.) Lorenz graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 2004, having taught himself to throat-sing thanks to a South Indian cooking class. On moving day, he pulled his guitar, filled with mold and worse for wear, from a dorm Dumpster. He fixed it up and started pulling songs out of it. That was the beginning.
The Suitcase Junket is filling rooms and drawing festival crowds all over his native New England and beyond, from Signal Kitchen near the Canadian border to Wisconsin's Mile of Music Festival, from Ireland's pubs to Mountain Jam in the Catskills, from opening nights for Lake Street Dive and Charlie Musselwhite to Mountain Stage in West Virginia. He caught the attention of National Public Radio who chose his video session for "Earth Apple" from his 2015 album Make Time as one of the year's favorite sessions.
March 4: THE SUITCASE JUNKET
Dying Star (EP)
The Suitcase Junket will release his Signature Sounds debut, Dying Star, on March 4th. The 7- song E.P. features five songs recorded during the making of Lorenz’s acclaimed 2015 album, Make Time, and two live tracks recorded at Northampton MA’s The Parlor Room. With Dying Star, The Suitcase Junket is poised to make the jump from one of New England's best-kept roots star secrets, to a household name.
March 18: WINTERPILLS
From slurry, fuzzy guitar to strings, Winterpills signature melodies see their most expansive sounds to date on their seventh album, Love Songs, out March 18 on Signature Sounds. Reminiscent of the best of the Elephant 6’s works, Love Songs came together in collaboration with co-producer Justin Pizzoferrato, who has manned the dials for Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies, Lou Barlow, Speedy Ortiz, Parquet Courts, Lou Barlow, and And the Kids. From strings to trumpets; large-scale harmonies to harmonica, Winterpills has never sounded this big before, masterfully building from a whisper to a torrent.
June 3: AND THE KIDS
Friends Share Lovers
Just finished recording in Montreal!
Blooming Through The Black
The Dustbowl Revival is currently touring China as part of the U.S. Embassy and Chinese Cultural Department Cultural Exchange program:
From the band:
"We neither confirm nor deny that we just attempted a music video live on the Great Wall of China. #woah"
Bridget Kearney and Benjamin Lazar Davis' debut EP, Bawa, (out Sept. 18 on Signature Sounds) is a collection of original songs written and recorded in Accra, Ghana, and based on the Bawa music native to the Ghana's Northwest region. Longtime collaborators in many different settings, the two first met in 2004 when both were students at The New England Conservatory and Davis was in the habit of knocking on practice room doors at random to meet potential musical partners. As Kearney sees it, this strange ritual was actually a great way for Davis to find like-minded musicians, "Ben is so creative and intuitive that the musicians that work best with him are the type that will see that about him, drop everything and go on whatever adventure he has in store."
Since then, Kearney and Davis have been on many adventures together, touring the US as bandmates in Cuddle Magic, playing their own duo shows around the East Coast and as showcasing artists at SXSW, running the Philadelphia Marathon together and most recently traveling to Ghana together to study West African drumming and the gyl (African xylophone) music of the Dagaaba. "We are both life-long lovers of music and students of music," says Kearney, "so nothing was more exciting for us than going to the source of a music we really loved and learning about it from the masters." Translating the traditional gyl and drum parts to their two acoustic guitars and singing their own, original, indie-folk infused melodies and words over them, the music sounds, like most music you'll hear from Bridget and Ben, like nothing you've heard before.
The Dustbowl Revival is a Venice, California-based collective that merges old school bluegrass, gospel, pre-war blues and the hot swing of New Orleans to form a spicy roots cocktail. Known for their roaring live sets, Dustbowl bravely brings together many styles of traditional American music. Some call it a string band-brass band mash up. Maybe it’s swing-grass or good old Americana, however you spin it, Dustbowl creates and curates infectious, joyous music - a youthful take on time-worn American traditions.
Honesty, confidence, and respect permeate Eilen Jewell’s music, dating back to her self-released Boundary County album in 2006. Since then, the Boise native has recorded five studio albums for Signature Sounds with her road-tested touring band, and two more as a member of the Boston-based gospel-charged Sacred Shakers, which includes that well-oiled band at its core. Her latest, Sundown Over Ghost Town, is a masterful culmination of Jewell’s work to date, and rolls out May 26.
As hard as it is to categorize Jewell’s music—terms like alt-country, roots-rock, country-noir, and Americana get used a lot—it’s even harder not to become thoroughly enraptured by the singer/songwriter’s powerful versatility, musical stories, and images. And that gorgeous voice makes you feel like she’s singing just for you, out on the breezy back porch or by a crackling campfire. She does so much, so well.
Rich with cinematic visions, elegant sweet and smoky vocals, and hauntingly autobiographical songs, Sundown Over Ghost Town is bursting with stellar performances and is likely her most personal, fully realized album yet. And that’s saying a lot! The record, with all its songs penned by Jewell, is a poignant, ever-so-flavorful reflection of her return to Boise after nearly a decade in the Northeast.
“Going in, we said ‘lets make a bad ass indie rock record with a sound as big and dynamic as we can, without compromising one single heartfelt lyric."
Singer-songwriter Heather Maloney did just that on her newest LP, Making Me Break. Working with Grammy-nominated producer Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses, Avett Brothers), the two crafted and delivered on an artistic vision to merge Maloney’s folk roots with indie rock.
“The sounds I love in indie rock are so lush, and textured, and intricate, like someone spent a lot of time on this, so they must really care,” Maloney explains, citing influences such as Ben Howard, The Shins, and Io Echo. “And as a singer-songwriter raised on folk, I am drawn to lyrics that that are meaningful, intelligent, tell a story, paint pictures... that care. So I just wanted to make an album that cared musically and lyrically. Some sort of a bleeding heart meeting a distant, unaffected, sparkly rock band. That was the goal.”
Maloney’s new music has a definite edge, but it also has a classically trained voice that delivers well-crafted lyrics over a technical arrangement—a combination we’ve recently seen getting mainstream appreciation once more. Suddenly, the term “singer- songwriter” carries serious weight again. Chalk it up to a revival of everything 90s and Maloney’s influence from “those bleeding hearts,” as she calls them, referring to artists’ like Fiona Apple, Tori Amos and Aimee Mann.
Violets are Blue is Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem’s fifth release, a collection of rollicking, wistful and wise “love songs from the hill.” Seven originals and five covers look at partnership through the kaleidoscope of midlife, finding forgiveness, perseverance and self-awareness in funny, mindful, longing, and satisfied songs with a wide range of moods. Where some pulse with drums, bass, accordion, electric guitar, fiddle and rich four-part harmony, others hang like spacious webs from the shimmering thread of Arbo’s alto. Confident, diverse, reflective, and loving, Violets are Blue is a bouquet from an Americana band in its prime.
As solo artists, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell have been making critically acclaimed albums since the early 1990s, and each have contributed harmonies to every one of those albums. But with the exception of 1998’s one-off Cry Cry Cry album with Dar Williams, the two songwriters have never made an album together - that is, until now. And it’s been worth the wait.
As The Pine Hill Project, Lucy and Richard have released Tomorrow You're Going, an Americana masterwork produced by multi-instrumentalist and two-time Grammy Award winner Larry Campbell (best known for his work with Levon Helm and as part of Bob Dylan's touring band, as well as sideman for Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson). The album also features bassist Byron Isaacs, pianist Bill Payne (Little Feat), and drummer Dennis McDermott.
Tomorrow You’re Going is an evocative, sometimes rollicking, deeply moving collection of 11 songs from writers as diverse as Greg Brown (“Lately”), Nick Lowe (“I Live on a Battlefield”), even U2 (“Sweetest Thing”), and Elizabeth Ziman ("Open Book"). There’s also the lovely, wistful country twang they bring to Little Feat's “Missing You”, and Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton's "Making Plans” from which the album’s title is culled.
Recently called one of “the Western Mass. indie scene’s brightest creative lights” by Pitchfork, Northampton, Massachusetts’ And The Kids recently released their debut full-length album, Turn to Each Other (Signature Sounds). Turn to Each Other is more than an album title: it’s a statement of fact for the band, whose bond — as musicians, friends and creative foils — is as tight as they come.
The album features 11 tracks full of ringing guitars from Hannah Mohan, knotty rhythms from drummer Rebecca Lasaponaro and bold accents from synthesizers and percussion by Megan Miller. Together, they create “apocaplyptic pop”, a dizzying stop-start ride with lush, intricate soundscapes that frame Mohan’s lively lead vocals. NPR Music recently raved, “Guitarist Hannah Mohan’s striking vocals rival the vibrato and boldness of Siouxsie Sioux… [And The Kids] make music that’s both fearless and entertaining.”
An ongoing struggle with border issues for Miller, a Canadian citizen, initiated the addition of bassist Taliana Katz to the touring ensemble. Katz made her debut as part of the band at their NPR Tiny Desk Concert and continues to carry the energy of the album to the stage.