Tag Archives: Americana

Shawna Virago Delivers Strong Messages With Punk Twists In Heaven Sent Delinquent

13 Apr

Shawna Virago dazzles the music scene with her newest album Heaven Sent Delinquent. Combining visual storytelling with singing about emotions, Virago does an amazing job of painting pictures within the tracks on this album. Drawing inspiration from typical folk sound, Virago spins it into a world of her own. Also, deep within her music lies the themes of punk rebels, stories of the queer and transgender community, and pioneers of society. Overall the album takes the listener through a ride of journey as they listen to stories of love, adventure, and reflections. In conclusion, Virago crafts a sound that’s a perfect blend of new age Americana, folk, and punk into one album.

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Silver Lake 66 Pulls At Listeners Heartstrings In Let Go Or Be Dragged

29 Mar

Silver Lake 66 makes listeners very aware of their full bodied sound that exemplifies the epitome of Americana sound. In their debut album, Let Go or Be Dragged, stories about Little Rock, life, and travels are prominent themes throughout. The effortless combination of Maria Francis and Jeff Overbo meshes together to form a signature and connecting sound within their music. The arrangement of the songs proves strong with Overbo’s guitar work and light percussion in the background of the prominent tracks on the album. The overall style of their songwriting definitely alludes to traditional country and Americana standards, but with a soulful and modern twist in the present.

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Jay Brown celebrates life and family in latest record, Beginner Mind

23 Feb

As much as I love looking for the newest, craziest fad in music, I have an appreciation for tradition. The tradition to which I am referring is Americana, as it was basically invented in the Appalachian Mountains. (I learned that from a Belgian movie, I’m a terrible American.) There is something irresistible in the familiar chords, rhythms, and above all, simplicity. Jay Brown is a self-proclaimed one man band, though he’s not a street performer; instead he belongs in coffeeshops and intimate theaters, creating his ageless folk melodies.

Jay Brown is a humble musician. His latest album, Beginner Mind, is a look into his personal life and beliefs. Clearly a family man, the first sound you hear upon putting the record on is a baby’s laugh, an ode to his new daughter no doubt. The song that follows, “New Lovin’ Mother,” is actually my favorite, with its Simon-and-Garfunkel-like feel to it, sung directly to his newborn. Brown’s single, “Get Your Fill of Feelin’ Hungry,” was written about his time as a youth living alone with his (singular) cup and bowl. Though this track is clearly retrospective, he is giving advice, to himself sure, but also to his daughter. Creating new life makes one reflect on his or her own experiences, and I’m sure we all can think of things we would have done differently. The thing is, I’m not sure Brown necessarily agrees; “Get Your Fill of Feelin’ Hungry” serves more as a note of carpe diem- take things as they come, live simply, and appreciate life.

Jay Brown plays in many other bands, but his self-duplication has its advantages. Many artists these days are adept at personally creating all the sounds that went into their record, like Beck did for his recent Grammy triumph, Morning Phase. This is essentially what Brown means when he says he is a one man band, but when he performs live he really does have a harmonica around his neck and a tambourine under his toes. Impressive sounds can come from the most unlikely setups.

If you dig folk or roots music, there is very little chance that you won’t enjoy Beginner Mind. Unless of course you’re a sensitive conservative. I appreciate songs that have hidden political digs, or in Jay Brown’s case, not hidden at all. (Thom Yorke simply dedicated “Atoms for Peace” to Sarah Palin, he didn’t name the song after her.) As you can probably tell from the title, “Fox News (Help Me Jesus),” does not sing praises of the infamous program, Fox and Friends. How serendipitous that I should find this track now, after the nonsense Fox spouted off about Muslims in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. At least we can laugh along with this song.

Traditional folk music is a fundamental piece of America’s cultural tapestry. It has a history that is rich yet incomplete. Thanks to folks like Jay Brown, there is no danger of this genre ever disappearing. “I’m carrying on this ancient tradition of putting life into music and music into life,” Brown says. Unapologetically so.

Beginner Mind is out now. Find more information on Jay Brown and his one man band on his website.

Whetherman’s Weathered Mind

4 Dec

band-whetherman

 

Take one seasoned, bucolic folk artist whose music inspires laid back scenes of pastoral pastures and fresh water streams. Mix this artist with a full band of five additional skilled musicians who infuse even more rhythm and melody to the music. Your end-product: a dozen colorful pieces enriched with apple pie Americana and rustic soul. 

Whetherman is the independent project of musician Nicholas Williams, who, since 2007, has released studio albums under the moniker. Streams and Pastures is the newest release from Williams, who has added five additional band members to complete an efficacious six-person band. Williams (Guitar, Harmonica, Ukulele, Banjo, Mandolin) adds Rachel Murray (Vocals), JP Salvat (Percussion), Alex Hayward (Drums, Misc.), Adam Mantovani (Upright Bass), Eric Brigmond (Keys, Trumpet) and Drew Matulich (Fiddle/Mandolin) to the mix. Quite a stock of instrumentalists, huh? Such cases leave open the potential issue of overcrowding, but Whetherman skillfully balances the instrumentals and creates a relaxed blend of music that hits on folk, country, and Americana roots.

Each song on Streams and Pastures is distinctive. That’s difficult to do. While the music abides by an overarching home cooked feel, Whetherman successfully uses its stock of musicians to develop dulcet individualized music. Let’s hit on my two favorite songs from the album. 

Williams and Rachel Murray sing over initial percussion and acoustic instrumentation. The song is carried by laid back percussion and plucked, airy strings, which help establish an easy-going tenderness and calm atmosphere. It’s highly listenable. You don’t want it to end. In overwhelmingly simplistic terms, the music is just nice. 

“Weathered Mind” is more upbeat and infectious. The country swing is effervescent. The gradual layering of tracks works so well in this song, and the culmination of sound is melodious. The song sounds like it was created by the spawn of Jack Johnson and Ray Lamontagne, tranquil and weightless like Johnson’s acoustic stylings and instrumentally conscience like Lamontagne’s folk. 

Check out the band’s Website, Facebook, Twitter

The Dunwells are Doing Just Fine

3 Oct

The Dunwells

Every band goes through a point early in their career when they must make a decision on whether or not their music is worth being pursued. It’s a dreaded decision.

That point in the Dunwells’ young career came when the well ran dry and they were without consistent shows. A fortuitous UK tour, an invite to perform at the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis (which they took advantage of and flew in across the pond for despite their lack of funds), and the subsequent winning of the ‘break-out band’ title at the conference, turned around the favor of the British folk band, and since then, dare I say, they are doing quite well.

The Dunwells are one of the more intriguing bands I have profiled in a while. They display an authentic brand of organic Americana (despite their Leeds roots) and their powerful harmonies trump folk contemporaries like Mumford and Sons. The band also demonstrates a keen interest in creating variety in their music. Acoustic ballads much akin to Justin Nozuka or even Eric Hutchinson are followed by toe-tapping, riff-smashing Tom Petty-like songs. If I have one criticism with several folk bands today, it is with their lack of variety. The Dunwells crush that convention and then let their skillful harmonies do the rest of the talking.

The band was formed by Joseph and David Dunwell, two brothers and former solo performers, in October of 2009. They recruited friends and local musicians to complete their band, eventually ending up with a lineup that consisted of them, Jonny Lamb (drums), David Hanson (lead guitar), and Jonny Lamb’s cousin Rob Clayton (bass). They released their debut single (“Elizabeth” – below) in 2010 and it achieved moderate chart success. Eventually, they were recognized for all the skills mentioned above. It just so happened it came by way of former Cutting Crew keyboardist Tony Moore, who spotted the band and invited them to the folk festival in the United States which then led to them being signed by Austin, Texas-based label, Traffic Records.

The Dunwells released their sweet debut Blind Sighted Faith on February 14, 2012. They are now making their rounds touring, and recently were showcased on the Jay Leno Show (their television debut) in August of this year.

This is a great sample of why I am so high on this band. This is one of those acoustic ballads I mentioned before. At first listen, I was blown away by the Backstreet Boys harmonies. Seriously, they are that smooth. But do you know what’s scary? There are no effects added to this piece. This is purely acoustic. They are naturally this talented. The song itself is soothing and constructed well. The vocal interplay later in the song is fresh and skillful. It is actually difficult to not like this song.

And then BOOM. You are hit square in the face by a song that you could swear is by another band (until you hear the harmonies). The blues-saturated, powerful folk/rock song features instrumental breakdowns, vocal repetition, and a damn effect-driven electric guitar solo. It is an example of a band that knows hard work, exasperation, and, well, good music. No, great music. The inter-connectedness and fortitude supporting the band is refreshing, and I am excited to hear more from them in the future. This is most certainly a band to watch.

Find out more about the band by following their Facebook or Twitter. You can also check out their website

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