Are you coming to Club Helsinki to see a show? Please call our box office at 518.828.4800 for reservations instead of booking online reservations. Web reservations are for the Restaurant at Club Helsinki only.
Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck's music comes from a place that is rooted in the densely forested mountains of central Vermont. The result is a combination of no-nonsense traditionalism and forward-looking individualism that reflects the mythical stories of the people and rugged landscape of that state. Forging influences as diverse as Fugazi, Yes, Stax/Motown, Lowell George (Little Feat), Buffalo Tom, Jerry Garcia and Ali Farke Toure, the band has realized the full potential of its soulful, modern mountain music with its new full-length, Bottom of the Sky.
Soon after Bow recorded Spend It All (featuring the legendary Levon Helm on drums), the Perfect Trainwreck happened. In 2008, the band entered Levon's studios to lay down their self-titled debut album with Justin Guip (engineer on Levon's Grammy-winning albums) helming the boards. As Wikipedia puts it, a trainwreck is usually the result of a lack of communication. In this band's case, the lack of practice caused by the band's distance from each other could have spelled doom. But as the band played gigs throughout the area, including Midnight Rambles at Levon's barn in Woodstock and a stint opening for Phish's Mike Gordon, the energy and spontaneity of their shows convinced the band that rehearsal is overrated.
With the band's home studio still under construction, it was back to good ol' Levon's for the follow-up, a record that showcases Bow's recent exploration of his Deering electric banjo and effects boxes to create tones unlike any other. Justin was back at the wheel recording the band live once again. Bow and Perfect Trainwreck look forward to sharing these songs on the road and establishing themselves alongside contemporaries they greatly admire, such as Blitzen Trapper, The Drive-By Truckers and Tom Petty.
"What do you get when you cross Amy Winehouse and Tina Turner with Mick Jagger...?" - Glamour
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds is an eight piece powerhouse that puts a modern spin on classic soul. The band is led by Arleigh Kincheloe (Sister Sparrow), whose astoundingly powerful voice and sly demeanor make for a spellbinding presence onstage. She is backed by the mighty force of The Dirty Birds, a flock of seven men who masterfully lay down thundering grooves and soaring melodies. While each of the Birds are capable of lighting up the stage with jaw dropping displays of musicianship, it's clear they're focused on delivering the band's infectious music as a single entity. Simply put, the band's live show is explosive.
In the late 19th century, Hudson became notorious as a place of bawdy activities, centered on what was originally known as Diamond Street: The former Diamond Street today is now where our beloved Helsinki resides. The Diamond Street Dames Burlesque Class pays tribute to the ladies, who for years, entertained sailors, soldiers and weary travelers that passed through our city.
Join us for a comical and musical evening taking you back to the original days of Diamond Street. Bawdy Drag Queens, Dapper Drag Kings and Flirty Fringed Dancing Girls from the Diamond Street Dames Burlesque Class, are ready to entertain you for a fantastic night of debauchery.
There may be no more soothing voice in music than Karin Bergquist's...and when a Lucinda Williams duet isn't even their newest albums high point, things have gone very right. - Entertainment Weekly.
Over the Rhine is duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, who make gorgeous records that sound like they are sprung from another time. There comes from the Cinciatti neighborhood they once lived in. Over the Rhine's latest release, The Long Surrender was was recorded in California with Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry with two Songs written by Henry.
On their newest release, they've found a soulmate with Joe Henry, who bathes their ethereal musical excursions in the sonic equivalent of a thick buffalo hide rug spread before a stone fireplace. Bergquist's voice has the old-soul quality of a seasoned blues singer, and she's complemented expertly in "Undamned" by that other great, white female blues singer of our time, Lucinda Williams.
Over the Rhine expertly explores contrasting moods in a work as exquisitely beautiful as Van Morrison's most graceful efforts. Driving them was the wealth of material they'd come up with — songs containing little mysteries of their own to be unlocked through the process of bringing them to life. As Karin recalls, "Joe referenced Astral Weeks early on and pointed out that the songs on that record were quite traditional in nature in terms of their form, but 'the seams had been blown out ...' That particular observation lodged in our imaginations like a call to arms. Yes. We were going to California to blow the seams out of our songs."
As Joe puts it, "We settled for...luminance over order, for terse beauty and a smeared-lipstick brand of soul; for spot-welding over handicraft; for leaving 'the edges wild,' as Linford's father had once so richly advised him, and for never comparing this particular journey to any other. I hear this batch of songs now the way the last one of them, "All of My Favorite People," seems to see the world: as naked in its finery, fiercely tender, and thorny with sweet promise; as heroically humbled, and broken to the point of availing true light to anyone who cares to look inside...I am not in the business of dispelling mysteries, only abiding with them when invited. Mystery is life's strange and glorious weather, so to speak. And this time, Over the Rhine brought it with them."
What'll happen will when honky tonk heroes J.P. Harris and Joe Fletcher get in a van with one drummer, one bassist, and one guitarist? Well, J.P. and Joe can't even answer that one yet. The Highway Roulette, coming this June, is all about spinning the wheel and seeing where the night takes us.
What we do know is you'll get full band performance from each of these songwriters and plenty of collaborating as well. You'll do the dancing and drinking and, more than likely. Whereas Joe has been seen on the road solo a lot this past year, he will be in full glory with backing band, bringing his tales to full and vivid life. And as JP has made a name solely as a loud, electrified honky tonker, this tour features a visitation to his past, throwing in eerie fretless-banjo murder ballads, new and unrecorded material, and some covers you would have never otherwise expected when he is seen with his backing band The Tough Choices. Both men have something unique to bring to the table, so bet on red or black; anywhere the ball stops will be a win.
J.P.'s latest release I'll Keep Calling was voted Best Country Album of 2012 by The Nashville Scene, is nominated for the Independent Music Awards "Best Country Album" category, and has two of the twelve originals featured on April's Hollywood release "At Any Price," featuring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron. You may have seen him opening for David Allan Coe, The Devil Makes Three, or Brown Bird or simply tearing up your local honky tonk. He has plans for a sophomore recording at home in Nashville later this year.
Joe Fletcher's White Lighter record (featuring David Lamb and MorganEve Swain of Brown Bird, and John McCauley of Deer Tick, Middle Brother, and Diamond Rugs) soared up the Americana Music Association charts in 2012 earning him his first appearance at The Newport Folk Festival and opening slots for Lucero, Brown Bird, and The Head and The Heart. He's currently finishing up his third album, You've Got the Wrong Man.
The Lucky 5 is a hard-swinging old-school jazz quintet, featuring musicians from a handful of popular outfits between New York City and the Berkshires. The band brings verve, high energy, and an unpredictable impulse to the tradition of jazz from the 20's, 30's and 40's, grooving deeply, and keeping feet moving on the dance floor.
The core of the band consists of Kip Beacco on guitar and vocals, Jonathan Talbott on violin, and Matt Downing on bass. The boys are known to bring in guest musicians of the highest caliber on a regular basis, including Don Mikkelson and Elizabeth Frascoia on trombone, Evan Palazzo on piano, Brian Kantor on drums, Lyon Graulty on clarinet and tenor sax, among others.
Balboa with Paul Rix: 7:30-8:30
Beginner Lesson: 8:30-9
Live Music: 9-midnight
"A splendid, folksy singer whose voice soars" - TimeOut New York
When USA Today predicted that Aoife O'Donovan would soon become "the newest darling of the Americana set", it had already been true for quite some time. Aoife is renowned for her ability to breathe magic into anything she sings.
Aoife (pronounced EEF-ah) grew up in a musical family, immersed in folk music and later went on to study contemporary improvisation at the New England Conservatory of Music in her hometown of Boston. Since her first professional engagement singing lead for the folk group The Wayfaring Strangers, she has maintained a wide variety of side projects and collaborations. Most recently, she has performed and recorded with Ollabelle, Sometymes Why, Karan Casey and Seamus Egan, Jerry Douglas, Jim Lauderdale, Darol Anger, Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, Christina Courtin, Noam Pikelny and Chris Thile (The Punch Brothers).
For the past 10 years, Aoife has been fronting the alt-bluegrass/string band Crooked Still, which she formed when she was 18. Despite her young age, Aoife has toured in ten different countries, performed with the Boston Pops and the Utah Symphony Orchestra and has appeared on countless radio and television programs. Her natural talent for songwriting recently came to the attention of Alison Krauss, who recorded Aoife's song Lay My Burden Down, which is included on Alison's album Paper Airplane and can also be heard in the film Get Low (2010 Sony Pictures). Aoife's crystalline voice has also been heard on True Blood (HBO) and Private Practice (ABC).
In June 2010, Aoife released her first solo recording in the form of a limited edition 7" vinyl. Featuring two original tracks, it garnered rave reviews from audiophiles worldwide.
Aoife has just finished a project with Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan titled The Goat Rodeo Sessions released in October 2011 (Sony Masterworks). Aoife is currently performing shows with her band, Robin MacMillan on drums, Jacob Silver on bass and Ryan Scott on guitar, with plans to record a full length album in 2012. Originally from Newton, Massachusettes, Aoife makes her home in the musical hotbed of Brooklyn, NY.
"A sound done so right that you have to hand the crown to this group." – Huffington Post
"Seamless...whenever and wherever they're on stage." – NPR
"One of the sickest live bands ever" – Philadelphia Weekly
Grupo Fantasma has been praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre and has continually defied expectations to create one of the most unique musical voices to come out of the United States in the last decade. In 2011 they garnered further acclaim by winning a Grammy (their second such nomination) for their self-produced release El Existential on Nat Geo Music which the Wall Street Journal called "Latin music both new and traditional...vibrant fusions that transcend easy classification."
The band's incendiary live show, declared by NPR as "seamless whenever and wherever they're on stage" has brought the band to major festivals and venues internationally including Bonnaroo, North Sea Jazz Festival and Lowlands in the Netherlands, Kennedy Center, London's O2 Arena, Montreal Jazz Festival, WOMEX, Tempo Latino (France) as well as two tours to Kuwait and Iraq to entertain US troops. Their diverse spectrum of rabid and devoted fans such as Rodney Anonymous from the Dead Milkmen and Stu Cook from Creedence Clearwater Revival speaks to the ensemble's universal appeal beyond just Latin or world music fans. In addition, they have worked or recorded with Maceo Parker, Sheila-E, Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, Ruben Ramos, GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan and cult-hero Daniel Johnston.
Grupo Fantasma has also seen a wide array of film and TV placements including AMC's Breaking Bad, the John Sayles' film Casa de los Babys, Showtime's hit series Weeds, ABC's Ugly Betty, NBC's Law & Order and many others. They have served as the backing band on several occasions for the legendary Prince (ALMA Awards on ABC, Golden Globes, CBS Super Bowl Bash), Fania All-Stars pianist Larry Harlow and indie rock standouts Spoon. In 2012 they continued to tour the globe with club and festival dates and 2013 will see their next studio release produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.
Grupo Fantasma is a ten piece musical collective formed in 2000 in Austin, Texas consisting of Jose Galeano (timbales, vocals), Kino Esparza (vocals, hand percussion), Adrian Quesada (guitar), Beto Martinez (guitar), Greg Gonzalez (bass), John Speice (drums), Matthew "Sweet Lou" Holmes (congas), Gilbert Elorreaga (trumpet), Josh Levy (baritone saxophone) and Mark "Speedy" Gonzales (trombone).
"Kottke has an uncanny ability to make music sound like capital-A art..." - LA Times.
For nearly four decades, Leo Kottke has relentlessly pursued a unique musical vision that has placed him among the foremost acoustic guitar stylists of our time - or any other time, for that matter. A six and 12-string guitar virtuoso, Kottke has dazzled audiences with his amazing fingerstyle approach - amassing a worldwide following and winning 7 Grammy Awards in the process.
The self-taught guitarist first surfaced with his now-legendary 1969 recording, Six and Twelve-String Guitar. He has since blazed a singular stylistic path - creating music which draws on blues, jazz, and folk influences. Classical precision, popular appeal, jazz fluency, 20th-century harmony, syncopated rhythms, and lyrics that feature quasi-literary characterizations all vie for supremacy in his music and challenge our preconceived notions of how acoustic guitar music should sound.
"My music is maybe hard to categorize," Kottke allows. "It doesn't fit conveniently into the bins at record stores. That works for me, though ... I don't rise and fall with trends. Most listeners seem to have room for this stuff. It's been great that way." Classic Kottke albums like Chewing Pine (1975), Balance (1979), Time Step (1983), My Father's Face (1989), Great Big Boy (1991), Peculiaroso (1993) and One Guitar, No Vocals (1999) have consistently won over new fans while continuing to surprise and delight longtime aficionados. Over the years, Kottke has worked in the studio and shared concert stages with everyone from Lyle Lovett, John Fahey, T-Bone Burnett and Rickie Lee Jones, to Paco de Lucia, Pepe Romero, John Williams, John McLaughlin and Joe Pass.
Longtime Kottke devotees have learned to expect the unexpected. Kottke's ability to embrace folk idioms and pop melodies as readily as he assimilates jazz and classical influences makes him unique among guitar virtuosi.
But for all its technical brilliance, wicked syncopation and harmonic sophistication, Kottke's music is eminently accessible. At heart he's a populist. Audacious, intelligent and funny, Leo Kottke's musical performance defies traditional categories and is, simply put, a delight to hear.
Winsome, wicked and witty, Chic Gamine embody the '60s girl-group vibe all grown up and living in a new century. Wall-of-sound harmonies, hip-shaking beats – these women could be straight out of Motown, before you throw in the curveball of French pop and four rotating lead-singers.
By all the laws of the music business, this group is like the unicorn – it probably shouldn't exist, let alone be performing at the Olympics and winning Juno Awards. And yet, here they are, soon to release their official U.S. debut, a group singing soulful, captivating four-part songs that artfully span the musical map.
In 2007, three Winnipeg-based friends and former band-mates Ariane Jean, Andrina Turenne and Annick Bremault recruited Montreal drummer and percussionist Sacha Daoud, and a fourth singer, Winnipegger Alexa Dirks, for a fresh new project. Utterly seductive, Chic Gamine's Canadian debut album teased with traces of Daoud's Brazilian roots winding their way underneath the irresistible vocal hook of rhythm and blues, nouveau-pop and vintage soul. Chic Gamine alchemized these mixed elements into compelling musical magic.
Chic Gamine's musical relationship has been fruitful from the start; a demo flowed effortlessly from their first recording outing in 2007. Then came a score of performances across North America where audiences went wild. Highlights include opening for Motown great, Smokey Robinson, and playing in a lineup featuring the legendary Mavis Staples - who ended up revealing to the awestruck band-mates that they reminded her of her family, the Staple Singers. In 2008 came their self-titled Canadian debut, which went on to win a Juno Award for Best Roots Album of 2009. Chic Gamine has since been a regular feature on critics' best-of lists, won a coveted spot on Radio-Canada/Espace Musique's Musical Revelations of 2009/2010, and enticed the world to fall in love with their performances at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. Also in 2010, they tucked their sophomore Canadian release under their belts, and were rewarded with a second Juno nomination, also for Roots Album of the Year. 2011 was spent touring intensely, playing U.S. and Canadian music festivals as well as a 6 month, coast to coast tour with Marc Broussard. Up next, their long-awaited first official release in the United States, due out in early 2013.
Chic Gamine (which translates roughly as stylish mischievous young thing - let's face it, the French say these things so much better) will tease and tempt you with a nostalgia- inspired, fresh new sound – the mix is indescribable, but unbearably tasty. Do you believe in Chic Gamine? You'd be a fool not to.
"Widely regarded as one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation" - Biography Magazine.
Suzanne Vega emerged as a leading figure of the folk-music revival of the early 1980s when, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, she sang what has been labeled contemporary folk or neo-folk songs of her own creation in Greenwich Village clubs. Since the release of her self-titled, critically acclaimed 1985 debut album, she has given sold-out concerts in many of the world's best-known halls. In performances devoid of outward drama that nevertheless convey deep emotion, Vega sings in a distinctive, clear vibrato-less voice that has been described as "a cool, dry sandpaper- brushed near-whisper" and as "plaintive but disarmingly powerful."
Bearing the stamp of a masterful storyteller who "observed the world with a clinically poetic eye," Suzanne's songs have always tended to focus on city life, ordinary people and real world subjects. Notably succinct and understated, often cerebral but also streetwise, her lyrics invite multiple interpretations. In short, Suzanne Vega's work is immediately recognizable, as utterly distinct and thoughtful, and as creative and musical now, as it was when her voice was first heard on the radio over 20 years ago.
Her self-titled debut album was released in 1985, co-produced by Steve Addabbo and Lenny Kaye, the former guitarist for Patti Smith. The skeptical executives at A & M were expecting to sell 30,000 LP's. 1,000,000 records later, it was clear that Suzanne's voice was resonating around the world. Marlene on the Wall was a surprise hit in the U.K and Rolling Stone eventually included the record in their "100 Greatest Recordings of the 1980's."
1987's follow up, Solitude Standing, again co-produced by Addabbo and Kaye, elevated her to star status. The album hit #2 in the UK and #11 in the States, was nominated for three Grammys including Record of the Year and went platinum. "Luka" is a song that has entered the cultural vernacular; certainly the only hit song ever written from the perspective of an abused boy.
The opening song on Solitude Standing was a strange little a cappella piece, "Tom's Diner" about a non-descript restaurant near Columbia University uptown. Without Suzanne's permission, it was remixed by U.K. electronic dance duo "DNA" and bootlegged as "Oh Susanne." Suddenly her voice on this obscure tune was showing up in the most unlikely setting of all: the club. Suzanne permitted an official release of the remix of "Tom's Diner" under its original title, which reached #5 on the Billboard pop chart and went gold. In 1991 a compilation, Tom's Album, brought together the remix and other unsolicited versions of the song. Meanwhile, Karlheinz Brandenburg, the German computer programmer was busy developing the technology that would come to be known as the MP3. He found that Vega's voice was the perfect template with which to test the purity of the audio compression that he was aiming to perfect. Thus Suzanne earned the nickname "The Mother of the MP3."
Suzanne co-produced the follow-up album with Anton Sanko, 1990's Days Of Open Hand, which won a Grammy for Best Album Package. The album also featured a string arrangement by minimalist composer Philip Glass. Years earlier she had penned lyrics for his song cycle "Songs From Liquid Days." Continuing to battle preconceptions, she teamed with producer Mitchell Froom for 1992's 99.9F. The album's sound instigated descriptions such as "industrial folk" and "technofolk." Certified gold, 99.9F won a New York Music Award as Best Rock Album.
In 1996, Vega returned with the similarly audacious Nine Objects Of Desire, also produced by Mitchell Froom, who by then was her husband. "Woman On The Tier (I'll See You Through)" was released on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack.
Suzanne's neo-folk style has ushered in a new female, acoustic, folk-pop singer-songwriter movement that would include the likes of Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, and Indigo Girls. In 1997, Suzanne joined Sarah McLachlan on her Lilith Fair tour which celebrated the female voice in rock and pop. She was one of the few artists invited back every year. Suzanne was also the host of the public radio series "American Mavericks," thirteen hour-long programs featuring the histories and the music of the iconoclastic, contemporary classical composers who revolutionized the possibilities of new music. The show won the Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting.
In 2007, Suzanne released Beauty & Crime on Blue Note Records, a deeply personal reflection of her native New York City in the wake of the loss of her brother Tim and the tragedy of 9/11. But the record is not a sad one, per se, as her love for the city shines through as both its subject and its setting. In it, Suzanne mixes the past and present, the public with the private, and familiar sounds with the utterly new, just like the city itself. "Anniversary," which concludes Beauty & Crime, is an understated evocation of that time in the fall of 2002, when New Yorkers first commemorated the Twin Towers tragedy and when Suzanne recalls her brother's passing. It's more inspiration than elegy, though: "Make time for all your possibilities," Vega sings at the end in that beautiful, hushed voice. "They live on every street." Produced by the Scotsman, Jimmy Hogarth and featuring songs such as "New York is a Woman" and "Ludlow Street," Beauty & Crime is that rare album by an artist in her third decade; an album that is as original and startling as her first. Beauty & Crime won a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
Suzanne Vega is an artist that continues to surprise. In 2006, she became the first major recording artist to perform live in avatar form within the virtual world Second Life. She has dedicated much of her time and energy to charitable causes, notably Amnesty International, Casa Alianza, and the Save Darfur Coalition.
In 2009 Suzanne was invited by Vaclav Havel to perform in Prague to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Joining her on stage were Renee Flemming, Lou Reed and Joan Baez. In early 2010 she embarked on a 38 city tour of North America in support of her new record, Suzanne Vega, Close Up, Vol 1, Love Songs, released on her own label, Amenuensis Productions. This is the first of four CD's that looks back through her extraordinary songbook and re-imagines the work in an intimate, striped down production, grouped as "Love Songs," People, Places and Things," "States of Being," and "Songs of Family." The tour was highlighted by a performance at Lincoln Center's Allen Room as part of their American Songbook Series. Suzanne also conducted a series of residencies and workshops at Universities and Music Schools on this tour, including stops at Harvard, University of California Santa Barbara and Banff in Canada.
This is music that moves forward by turning the clock back — haunting, primal and strangely heroic — THE LONDON TIMES
The Handsome Family is a songwriting collaboration between Brett and Rennie Sparks. Their lyrics and music are very intense, highly descriptive and full of meticulously researched narrative and exhilarating musical re-imaginings of everything from Appalacian holler, psychedelic rock, Tin Pan Alley and medieval ballad.
The Handsome Family is a songwriting collaboration between Brett and Rennie Sparks. Their lyrics and music are very intense, highly descriptive and full of meticulously researched narrative and exhilarating musical re-imaginings of everything from Appalacian holler, psychedelic rock, Tin Pan Alley and medieval ballad.
The Handsome Family's music has always attracted intellectual and devoted fans. Their songs are frequently covered by many notable artists including Jeff Tweedy, Andrew Bird, Kelly Hogan and Christy Moore. Their work has garnered praise from Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and an unnamed singer on American Idol.
The bands new May release, Wilderness, the CD will have a companion release in a book also entitled Wilderness which contains essays and art by Rennie Sparks. The book expands and intertwines the ideas of the CD, making you consider anew everything from ant spirals and woodpecker tongues to the immortal jellyfish and the secret language of crows. The black and white version of the book will be published by The Handsome Family while Carrot Top Records will be releasing a deluxe box set of Wilderness which includes a full-color, fine-art version of the book, the LP and also a poster and postcards featuring Rennie Sparks' colorful animal imagery.
YOUNG PARIS (Milandou Badila) is a Hip Hop/Electronic artist from Hudson, NY and born in Paris, France into an artistic family of African dance and drum performers. His father, Elombe Badila, was one of the founders of the first National Ballet of the Congo (Africa), which united different villages to come together in Dance. This unification developed to later effect the influence of Congo's Independence as a Country!
23 year old YOUNG PARIS began to express himself as a lyricist at the age of 16. His genre bending approach to music started when Steve Durand, a Montreal raised producer who has toured with Melissa Auf der Maur, asked him to rap over an Indie Rock song. Overly inspired, he continued composing with Steve's music and his lyrics.
They completed 5 songs in a 6 month stretch of working and building with each other, both of them trying to understand how the world of hip hop can collide with the world of Rock. "The goal became more than making sense of the collaboration, but have an effect on people lives".
Since working with Steve, YOUNG PARIS raised $10,000 on Kickstarter and released his first full LP, "Pet The Lights", on his birthday, Sept 13th, with a sold out CD Release joined by the one and only "Tommy Stinson" from the Replacements/current Bassist for Guns N' Roses.
Now focusing on a fusion record "High Boots 'n Leather", he's created a compilation of outer world like music videos proven to amplify the expectation of his performance.
YOUNG PARIS has since been to 8 countries, worked with artists in France, Canada and Africa.
Listening is Ben Taylor's first album in four years, the last being the critically acclaimed The Legend of Kung Folk Part 1, which had CNN commenting that the album, "reflects the broad palette of pop" and Blurt Magazine declaring, "For some time now Ben's been busy carving out a unique niche for himself in the music world." Ben himself once described his work as "organically handcrafted songs," and given the painstaking thought and care he puts in to his art, who are we to argue? As a successful and eclectic independent artist for the past ten years, it isn't just anyone who takes four years to put out his or her next album (Listening being his fourth album).
Listening, flawlessly fuses the sounds and styles of folk, pop, soul, urban, reggae and country, and is, as Ben says, "an evolution. A self-described 'late bloomer' musically, Ben didn't start singing until his early 20s. The hesitation is understandable, given the daunting example of success set by his parents, James Taylor and Carly Simon. While Ben thought of other vocations he could pursue, including a wilderness guide or martial arts instructor, he was drawn to the family business. Ben had a true affinity for music, and not surprisingly, a love for words. "My scholastic career was not successful. My attention wanders, and I like to follow it. It's a creatively lucrative process for me. My internal jukebox was always so much louder than my teachers."
Listening was co-produced by Ben and his long time musicians; drummer Larry Ciancia, bass player Ben Thomas and guitarist David Saw (Saw also co-writes most of the music with Ben). The songs on Listening certainly support Ben's clear progression as a songwriter. The track, "Worlds are Made of Paper," which references The Beatles "Yesterday" as Ben's favorite Beatle's song, is a philosophical ode on the transience of life ("Yesterday" – get it?). With a strong bass beat that dissolves in to a campfire chorus, Ben and the band happily sing with an indifference to this temporary thing we call life. The album's first single, "Oh Brother" embodies the best of songwriting in personal form with a life lesson hidden in an melodic yarn for Ben's younger twin brothers, who like most 11 year olds, are already struggling with outside judgments and fitting in.
While he enjoys being in the studio, Ben is looking forward to getting out on the road too. "If you take being in the studio over playing live, you lose out. They are both important parts of the same process. You need to write a song, perform it in front of people and have an audience react to it. It helps me with the writing and presentation of the recorded song if I play it live before I record it. To me, you don't really hear your song for the first time until you share it."
Ben's also excited to be on a label for the first time in his career. "For most of my career, I put out my own stuff on my own time. I start really well but then slow down. Now that I have a proper label, I love sharing the reins of my creative process. If you're too close, you often don't have good insight and don't know when to stop. I love what I do and one of the best things about being a musician is getting to hang out with musicians all day! They're mostly a joy to be around," Ben says with a laugh.
An admitted harsh critic on his own work, Ben is quite happy with the end result of Listening. "I hope people like it. I am immensely self-critical, and almost always want to start from scratch when I finish an album. The hardest thing about being a member of my family is the expectations I put on myself. The best thing about it has been my ability to overcome that in order to be the best performer and musician I can be. My wish would be that any one who spends time with Listening just digs the songs."
"Singer Rachael Price is a damn sultry vocalist - full-bodied and lush, with a warm soulfulness to her ever-so-slight Nashville twang. It's a voice destined for big things." — Style Weekly
Lake Street Dive are at once jazz-schooled, and classically pop obsessed. Beginning with catchy songs that are by turns openhearted and wryly inquisitive, this northeastern quartet proceeds to inject them with an irresistible blend of abandon and precision. Composed of drummer Mike Calabrese, bassist Bridget Kearney, vocalist Rachael Price, and trumpet-wielding guitarist Mike "McDuck" Olson, Lake Street Dive encompasses a myriad of possibilities within its members' collective experiences, and the resultant music is a vivid, largely acoustic, groove-driven strain of indie-pop. "It seems the only limitation we have," Kearney explains, " is that we try to make music that we would like listening to."
Lake Street Dive first gathered in a room together when they were students at Boston's New England Conservatory. "Mr. McDuck assembled the four of us, said we were now Lake Street Dive, and we were a 'free country' band," Bridget Kearney remembers. "He wrote this on a chalkboard in the ensemble room that we had our first rehearsal in. We intended to play country music in an improvised, avant-garde style – like Loretta Lynn meets Ornette Coleman. It sounded terrible! But the combination of people and personalities actually made a lot of sense and we had a great time being around each other and making music together."
Lake Street Dive makes the most of pop music virtues: solid, evocative song craft; propulsive grooves; and Price's disarming, forthright vocals. However, it's a personal strain of pop that is refracted through the band members' rich backgrounds: a sinewy Motown bass line is reborn with woody heft on Kearney's upright, Calabrese's drumming mixes timekeeping with more adventurous jazz-inflected outbursts, McDuck's nimble trumpet is an unexpectedly warm counterpoint to Price's singing. It all makes for a sound with familiar roots, but with a slant that is entirely their own.
"Smither is an American original, a product of the musical melting pot, and one of the absolute best singer-songwriters in the world." - Associated Press
"Bathed in the flickering glow of passing headlights and neon bar signs, Smither's roots are as blue as they come. There is plenty of misty Louisiana and Lightnin' Hopkins." - Rolling Stone
Having distilled his own signature sound of blues and folk for over 40 years, Chris Smither is truly an American original.
A profound songwriter, Chris continues to draw deeply from the blues, American folk music, modern poets and philosophers with this 14th record of his lengthy career. From his early days as the New Orleans transplant in the Boston folk scene, through his wilderness years, to his reemergence in the 1990s as one of America's most distinctive acoustic performers, Chris Smither continues to hone his distinctive sound.
He has always traveled his own road, eschewing sophisticated studio tricks and staying true to his musical vision. He has developed and maintained loyal friendships over the years with kindred-spirited musicians like Bonnie Raitt and the late Stephen Bruton while at the same time throughout his career been inspired by and inspiring to today's next-generation of musicians.
Reviewers continue to praise his dazzling guitar work, gravelly voice and songwriting. The New York Times: "With a weary, well-traveled voice and a serenely intricate finger-picking style, Mr. Smither turns the blues into songs that accept hard-won lessons and try to make peace with fate."
His 12th studio record, is a masterwork. It sports the unmistakable sound he has made his trademark: fingerpicked acoustic guitar and evocative sonic textures meshed with spare, brilliant songs, delivered in a bone-wise, hard-won voice. It is also his first recording to feature all Smither-penned, original songs. Along with longtime producer, David Goody Goodrich, other featured musicians on Hundred Dollar Valentine are drummer Billy Conway (Morphine, Treat Her Right), Jimmy Fitting on harmonica, and Goodrichs ex-Groovasaurus bandmates, Anita Suhanin (vocals) and violinist Ian Kennedy (Page/Plant, Lemonheads, Juliana Hatfield, Peter Wolf, Susan Tedeschi).
"This poor boy's answer to tough times is to keep rocking, which Prophet has done with distinction since the '80s..." - Philadelphia Inquirer
Nobody harnesses the distinctive sound of a Fender Telecaster quite like Chuck Prophet.
Chuck Prophet's catalogue is overflowing with insightful character studies, jangle-pop perfection and energetic barroom rockers. And that accounts for just some of the songs he has written, recorded and forgotten. In the 25-plus-year career, Prophet has established himself as a minor god in the roots pantheon - a sharp, prolific singer-songwriter who always seems to have a new batch of tunes ready to go. Chuck's latest cd, Temple Beautiful, is a nuanced, insightful and passionate ode to San Fransisco and has met with the highest praise from critics and fans alike.
He's written with a wide range of artists from Dan Penn to Alejandro Escovedo, laid down tracks on sessions for everyone from Warren Zevon to Kelly Willis and taken the stage with Jim Dickinson, Lucinda Williams and Aimee Mann. Perhaps you've seen him on TV? Prophet's been on Austin City Limits, Letterman and Carson Daly, most recently as the closing track on a recent episode of True Blood.
That's the comforting part about Prophet, he's solely his own musician, but his music offers a comfort that you intimately know from the first chord. Backed by the weight of his band, guitarist James DePrato (guitar), Paul Taylor (drums), Kevin White (bass) and Stephanie Finch (keys, guitar). You know Chuck Prophet.
"...his live shows are elegant and nearly devastating." - Ben Ratliff NYTIMES
Nick Lowe has made his mark as a producer (Elvis Costello - Graham Parker - Pretenders - The Damned), songwriter of at least three songs you know by heart, short-lived career as a pop star, and a lengthy term as a musicians' musician. But in his current "second act" as a silver-haired, tender-hearted but sharp-tongued singer-songwriter, he has no equal. Starting with 1995's "The Impossible Bird" through to 2011's '"The Old Magic," Nick has turned out a fantastic string of albums, each one devised in his West London home, and recorded with a core of musicians who possess the same veteran savvy. Lowe brings wit and understated excellence to every performance.
Somewhere in London a musician carries the keys to the musical kingdom. In his Technicolor sonic scope are all kinds of sounds, from rock to country to soul to pop. Nothing is off limits, as long as it has a groove and goodness based in reality. The musician has been performing for 40 years, but is as fresh today as the first time he stepped on stage. There are no tricks or short cuts here. His songs are as solid as the earth, yet carry no lingering hype or heaviness. The musician is Nick Lowe, the headmaster of British rock, and his new album, At My Age, is such a cause for certain celebration that fans and neophytes alike should mark its June 26 release as a date to remember.
Maybe most interesting of all, At My Age was really an album that almost didn't happen. "It's a record that I never really started," Lowe says. "What normally happens in recent years when I feel like I want to do a record is I get an idea or feeling, along with about three or four new songs, which is a major body of work for me, because I'm not very prolific. When those two things coincide I call everyone up and we go in and record. And if that goes well, those three or four songs will serve as sort of the engine that will drive the writing and recording of the rest of the record. But that process never happened with this one, due to the dramas that have been served up to me in the last five years."
For Nick Lowe, it's always been about quality over quantity. In 2001 he released The Convincer, seen by many as one of the highlights of a long and illustrious recording career. After that, though, all went quiet on the studio front. There were scattered dates, a live album and assorted sightings, but no new studio release. That changed this year. Once he got back with his steady team of band mates Bobby Irwin (drums), Geraint Watkins (keyboards) and Steve Donnelly (guitar), there was no stopping them.
Sometimes the biggest gift of all comes when least expected, because as a collection of songs, At My Age has the feel of an all-timer. There are brand new Nick Lowe classics like "A Better Man" and "I Trained Her To Love Me" next to the obscure covers that are a total trademark of the ever-elegant Englishman, like Charlie Feathers' "The Man In Love" and Faron Young's "Feel Again." And, as a special surprise, singer Chrissie Hynde guests on "People Change." All are done with such supreme style and absolute substance that by album's end, this is one collection that feels like a long-lost friend, music to bring on the good times and see listeners through the bad.
One constant quality of Nick Lowe is that he knows what he's doing, and how he wants to do it. "I still love playing with the same guys I've been playing with for, well, ages. They're really great players, and they get me. They can do all kinds of different stuff, and we know what we don't like. We will work on it a bit, but not labor over it. For me, it's never like, 'For the next album I'm going to Peru and find a nose flute.' Never."
With someone like Nick Lowe, who has been such an unending influence on music as a performer, songwriter, producer and all-around proud fan, there is always the question of how he knows when his songs are ready for their public debut. "When I can pick up an acoustic guitar and play the thing through," he says, "if I can do that and it feels like someone else has written it, or I'm playing a cover song so it doesn't sound like me anymore, then it's done. I don't try to make it anything, because when I try to make it something I can't stand it. It needs to be as natural as possible, and generally not sound too much like me. It's an inner gyroscope that lets you know when it's done."