Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The new Eric Bachmann

Posted By on Wed, Jul 6, 2016 at 9:05 AM

MASTER OF THE DEAL: “I do feel inspired by things that make me angry,” says Eric Bachmann. - JEREMY LANGE
  • Jeremy Lange
  • MASTER OF THE DEAL: “I do feel inspired by things that make me angry,” says Eric Bachmann.

Eric Bachmann’s voice makes a deep gravelly sound. He used it with guttural force in the ’90s as the frontman of sharp-tongued indie rockers Archers of Loaf. In the 2000s, his delivery mellowed but his voice stayed low and coarse to croon Crooked Fingers tunes. After two-plus decades making music, his rough-around-the-edges style has become a familiar signature.

Bachmann’s voice is also tinged with a Southern accent, a trait that’s not quite detectable in his singing but possible to pick up on in conversation. It surprised me a little when I heard it in our recent phone conversation, although I suppose it shouldn’t have. Bachmann is from North Carolina and has spent the last few years living in Athens, Georgia. Still, hearing it offered a new perspective on something so seemingly familiar. The same could be said for Bachmann’s new self-titled solo album. From his seat at the piano, the singer/songwriter gets deeply personal on Eric Bachmann as he wrestles with anxiety, intolerance, and the politics of family and place.

“I think the South is toxic. I've never, and I'll get in trouble with this, but I've never been enamored with any of it,” Bachmann says, voicing frustration about the death penalty, anti-LGBT laws, and confederate flag supporters.

Such blunt talk is characteristic of his new album.

“Masters of the Deal” opens with glittering guitars “at the scene of the slow crime of the century” and delivers an indictment of capital punishment: “What should be an old relic by now should never have been/The South is a ghost/A ghost is a lie/Harassing the roads and haunting the pines.”

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Jerry Garcia Symphonic conductor explains his genius

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 11:24 AM

Jerry Garcia - HERB GREEN
  • Herb Green
  • Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia has been dead for over 20 years yet his music lives and the Grateful Dead legacy continues. This summer Dead and Company, which features three original Grateful Dead members and John Mayer playing the role of Garcia (they played Atlanta in November), is doing a tour which includes multiple shows in stadiums. They were also one of the headliners of the Bonnaroo Music Festival in early June. Founding GD member Phil Lesh regularly performs at his club Terrapin Crossroads in California and GD cover bands such as Darkstar Orchestra continue to endlessly tour. The Grateful Dead also have their own SiriusXM channel which plays GD music 24 hours a day, and in 2015 the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well billed as the final shows featuring the “core four” living members were one of the top grossing tours of the year even though they only played five shows.

Add to the list the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration which visits Chastain Park Amphitheater tonight (Fri., June 24) and features Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter songs along with Grateful Dead classics performed by more than 40 Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performers playing instruments ranging from oboes and bassoons to french horns and violins. The two-and-a-half hour or so performance will feature Garcia/Hunter classics such as "Terrapin Station," "Birdsong," "Mission and the Rain" and other songs performed by the Grateful Dead and sung by Garcia like "Morning Dew."

The symphony will be led by conductor Rich Daniels who will be joined by guitarist Warren Haynes (the Allman Brothers, Government Mule, the Dead), drummer Jeff Sipe and former Jerry Garcia Band vocalist Jacklyn Labranch.

I spoke with the man leading it all, Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration conductor Rich Daniels as he waited for the air conditioner repair person at his mother’s home in Chicago.

Joeff Davis: In Atlanta, you will be performing with the Atlanta Symphony, how does that process work?
Rich Daniels: The music is sent to Atlanta in advance, but they won’t pass it out and look at it until we show up to the rehearsal Friday afternoon. The rehearsal is [Friday] from 3:30 to 5 p.m. That’s the first time the orchestra sees the music and they’ll sight-read it. It will go down beautifully because they’re great players. That is just standard industry practice, so it’s literally something we put together in one day based on the high level of musicianship we find in venues like Atlanta and with major orchestras like the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

What is the most common reaction from orchestra members who aren’t familiar with the Grateful Dead’s music? Are they like, This is so simple?
The simplicity is never a factor, some of the music is actually complex, the only concern is that sometimes the orchestra members, especially those who play very orchestral instruments, for instance the string players, they’re going to be bothered by the guitar amp, the bass amp, the drum set out in front of the orchestra, but it depends on the attitude of the musicians. Some musicians absolutely adore these programs, some of them look at it as a paycheck. It's hard to say, you know. It’s not Bach, Brahms, or Beethoven, but it is valid music. Jerry Garcia was a wonderful and talented composer, and this is the interpretation of his music with a symphony orchestra, and the outstanding Warren Haynes and his companions out front, so it’s really exciting music. But far and wide, overall, all the orchestras have been nothing but positive and good vibes. It has been a wonderful experience.

What would you say the difference is between Jerry Garcia’s music and, say, Brahms or Beethoven or Mozart?
They all use the same twelve pitches that exist in western music. The music of our culture, which is Western Europe and America, is based on twelve different pitches. That’s all there are, only twelve different notes. Then it’s all about the length of the notes, the duration of the notes, how you attack the notes, play the notes, arrange the notes, stack the notes. There’s only twelve of them, so anybody from Beethoven to Jerry is taking those twelve and finding interesting ways to write compelling music. The thing about Jerry’s music is that, when you break it down and look at it closely, you come to realize that he was a brilliant musician. He probably wasn’t a schooled musician. He probably wasn’t somebody with a great deal of theory classes behind him. I’m guessing he has none of that, but he’s intuitive, much like Paul McCartney. He can’t read music but he’s extraordinarily intuitive. You know with most of the people we were talking about — Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart — some of them were very well-schooled, but again, they were intuitive as well. It’s all ear, it’s all based on your ear development. Jerry had an outstanding ear. He could hear things that others couldn’t, and he could compile his notes in ways that were musical, compelling, and absolutely outstanding. To me, it was a revelation, because I wasn’t familiar with his music until a couple of years ago. When I started delving into it I realized, 'My God, this is amazing!' Obviously that’s why millions of people devoted their attention on the band.

Can you give us an example of that brilliance that you’re talking about?
There are a lot of odd meters in his music, which means 3/4 bars, 7/4 bars, 5/4 bars, measures that have more than four beats in them, which is common, three beats, which is common. And again, the way he composed it, this is what he heard, this is what came out of him, so those meters can be considered complex or they can be a challenge for some musicians. For him, it was natural, just the way the music flowed for him. And a lot of the guys were like that. Bob Weir was like, they were recording and it just came out of them that way. They were just gifted artists, and the things I think that I love about them, you know, I think it was Duke Ellington that wrote: There’s good music; there’s bad music. And it’s beyond category in so many ways. We who listen to the music tend to put categories on it, that it’s rock, that it’s punk rock, classical, baroque. But when people are creating the music, they’re not coming up with categorizations for what it is. It’s just music. It’s either good or it’s either bad, and Jerry’s music was outstanding. His musicianship was clearly at a very high level, and it’s amazing how intuitive he and those guys were. What they were doing was really progressive and really complex on many levels.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tinsley Ellis talks Red Clay Soul and Atlanta in the ’70s

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 9:13 AM

  • Courtesy Tinsley Ellis
Tinsley Ellis has travelled the world over, but is firmly rooted as a Georgia artist. His nineteenth album Red Clay Soul is a musical and metaphorical testament to those roots. After being “passed around like a joint from label to label, from booking agent to booking agent, from manager to manager, and from producer to producer,” Tinsley says, he created his own label Heartfixer Records in 2012. As the title suggests, the new album finds Ellis seamlessly melding classic soul and R&B with the blues that comes so naturally to him. Ellis caught up with Creative Loafing before his upcoming show at City Winery on June 25 to discuss the label, new album, and Atlanta in the ’70s.

Did you grow up in Atlanta?
No, I was born here. My parents were Emory students. I grew up in South Florida but came back to go to college here and I never left. In fact, I never left the neighborhood. A lot of my friends have moved to Nashville, and I go there to record and perform, but I like Atlanta. Atlanta’s got the soul.

You’ve formed your own label, Heartfixer Records. How did that come about?
You know, I had been on some many different labels. I started out in 1981 on a little jazz label called Southland Records out of Decatur. Back then there were actual blues artists that were still alive that they were recording like Piano Red, Willie Guy Rainey, Big Joe Turner. I think they recorded him. Then the Heartfixers got with Landslide Records, which is still in business. I’m still real tight with them. In fact, they distribute my label. Then I got a chance to get with Alligator in ’88. You know, at one point I looked around and thought, 'Where did all the Heartfixers go?' I was like the last one, so I started playing under my own name and got with Alligator and that was really the turning point in my career. I was just going up and down the East Coast and a couple of trips to Europe, and then I got with Alligator and got to go everywhere. So then I started jumping around. I went with Capricorn, I went with Telarc, went back to Alligator. Then I had a crazy idea in 2012 of doing an instrumental album and everybody thought I was out of my mind. Alligator didn’t want it, and I said, “Well, I’m going to put it out myself.” I found I really like being the label, and so now that’s what I do and this is my fourth release.

Since you’ve started the label, you’ve putting out albums once a year instead of once every few years. Is that the rate you would rather release them at?
Well you know, in my world, the guitar world, and the blues world, people that put out an album a year can do better than those who put out an album every four or five years. In fact, Joe Bonnamassa puts out an album every 15 minutes it seems like, and he’s on top of the world so it’s served him well (laughs). So yeah, one a year. And I toy with the idea of signing other artists, but then they would be calling and bitching at me. So I thought maybe I should only sign artists that are deceased, and that way they won’t call me (laughs). I spent my entire career furious at one record company or another, and now, I’m mad at myself I guess, I don’t know.

Were you playing out when you were at Emory?
Yeah, I did some off the wall type things. At the time I was at Emory in the late ’70s, we all listened to WRAS, and Elvis Costello had just come out, and local bands like the Brains and the B-52’s, they were all on local labels. So it was an exciting time. I was writing original music, but it just takes a big leap of faith to switch from playing music for money to playing music for no money and doing original music. There was no blues scene at all. I’d go see people that would come through town doing blues like The Nighthawks and Albert King.

At one point I took a job at Six Flags Over Georgia. We did nine sets a day, six days a week and it got hot out there, I mean smokin’ hot. With polyester matching suits on and name tags. We did the music of the times, the ’70s. I could sneak in an Allman Brothers song, but we did Styx, Foreigner, Boston, Queen, Kiss, and I’m terrible at playing that kind of music. But I learned a lot playing out there. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of that many people since then, I mean thousands and thousands of people a day. We did the long version of "Freebird" three times a day.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Blacktop Rockets hit the stratosphere with 'Go!'

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 12:11 PM

The Blacktop Rockets: Go! - JEFF SHIPMAN
  • Jeff Shipman
  • The Blacktop Rockets: Go!

At least one or two nights a week, walking into the Star Bar in Little Five Points can seem like a trip back in time. Fellows of all ages in pegged jeans, with slick DA (Duck’s Ass) coifs stand next to the vintage dress wearing dolls with perfect Betty Page bangs. And on the stage will be one of Atlanta’s many roots rock or rockabilly bands, cranking out tunes that swing and bop with the same energy that some of the iconic pioneers of rockabilly created over 60 years ago. It is a typical scene that has thrived and maintained a respectable level of popularity and credibility for decades, in spite of rockabilly’s short two-three-year run in the charts in the mid-to-late ‘50s.

On many of these nights, the stage is championed by the Blacktop Rockets, a four-piece band fronted by singer Dave Weil, whose local music roots were planted in 1986, when he formed the Paralyzers. In a recent conversation, Weil describes that band as “… a power trio influenced by '50s greats like Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, and Elvis, performing their material and writing originals in that style. In 1992 the group morphed into a lo-fi, stripped down duo known as Sweatin' Bullets consisting of myself on guitar and vocals and Dave Watkins on drums.”

Weil’s vision was always true to his love of traditional rockabilly iconography, and he found many like-minded music lovers in town. He recalls a giant step forward that ultimately became a tragedy. “Around 1994, with the addition of upright bass, I decided to change the name to its current form, the Blacktop Rockets. In 1995, we added one of the pillars of the roots rock scene, Gregory Dean Smalley on lead guitar, and recorded What’ll Ya Have?. Sadly, Greg fell ill and died shortly after the album's release.” In spite of the loss of Smalley, who was one of the originators of the annual “Bubbapalooza” festival, Blacktop Rockets picked up and soldiered on.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pallas finds literary inspiration

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 4:37 PM

WELL READ: Pallas is Valentina Tapia (from left), Zane Durfee, Danielle Brutto, and Decker d’Alesio. - PHOTO BY MARK SHARK
  • Photo by Mark Shark
  • WELL READ: Pallas is Valentina Tapia (from left), Zane Durfee, Danielle Brutto, and Decker d’Alesio.

In a world slowly being taken over by Kindle and Netflix binging, we’re lucky to still have a few excellent resources for putting our hands on books in Atlanta. The Emory library, mainstays Charis Books and A Cappella Books, and newly opened Cover Books are treasures for the eyes and mind. Newly formed Pallas are a band influenced by books, both in their name and their personal lives. Pallas are literally (wink) a band you have to see live. So far, there are no recordings online or videos to be easily found. Live, their set unfurls like a good book. Danielle Brutto as lead singer is a captivating figure, prowling the stage and singing with a beautiful force. As their set moves forward, you realize there is more to the story than Danielle’s voice — the rest of the band comfortably fills in behind her. Valentina Tapia sets the mood with melodically powerful bass lines, and the drums of Decker d’Alesio, and guitar of Zane Durfee feel like two good pals goofin,’ as their parts move in surprising ways while never taking away from the song.

The name “Pallas” is lifted from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. Below, read Durfee's description on how they chose their name and find out what books are fueling their passions now.

On Fri., April 15, go see them live and hear how it all turns out. If you make a love connection at the show, remember, in the words of poet John Waters: “If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books, don't fuck 'em!”

According to Durfee: "Pallas became the moniker under which we now reside only after a long and grueling trial of innumerable half-hearted working titles. It is a Greek epithet whose exact origins have been pretty much lost. It's most commonly associated with Athena e.g. Pallas Athena. It came to my attention while reading Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven. In an essay Poe published shortly after The Raven, titled The Philosophy Of Composition, he claimed that every component of the poem was based on logic. He explains that he even chose for the raven to perch upon the bust of Pallas simply 'for the sonorousness of the word, Pallas, itself.' I suppose we did the same."

Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters And Seymour (an Introduction) by Mr. J.D. Salinger.
I've just finished Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters And Seymour (an Introduction) by Mr. J.D. Salinger. It's basically two short stories placed together to give you a more open window on the chronicle of the fictional Glass family. The narrator in both stories is Buddy Glass, which of all Salinger's characters, in my suspicion, probably comes closest to representing his own personal voice as a writer, especially in the latter story. In both, Buddy recounts bits about his family but primarily focuses on his brother Seymour, the unsung poet, runaway groom, and possible second coming/going of Christ. It's full of Salinger's unique wit which is always such a pleasure to me that I would go so far as to call it inspiring. I wish he was the guy who wrote those Surgeon General's warnings on cigarette packages.

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Navasha Daya brings music and activism to Moods Music

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 9:42 AM

  • Photo by Maria Golomidova

Baltimore-based singer Navasha Daya has been making beautiful music for nearly 20 years, first as a member of the famed group Fertile Ground and then as a solo artist with her 2012 EP Rebirthed Above Ground. Along with the songs she’s known for belting out in her distinctive jazz-tinged soul style, Daya is also a dedicated activist; she and her husband, educator/musician Fanon Hill, launched the Youth Resiliency Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to "inspiring realization of the authentic self in children, youth and young adults in Baltimore."

On her latest album both sides of her life’s work — music and activism — come together in a big way. The project, titled Lom Nava Love, is the soundtrack for a documentary of the same name, which follows the work of Mama Shirley Foulks, a community organizer in Baltimore's Cherry Hill neighborhood. The 15-track album, written by Hill (who also directed the film), features tunes in many genres, including reggae, folk, R&B, and more. And although the movie opens this June, the music of Lom Nava Love debuts Sun., April 17 in Atlanta as part of the Record Store Day activities at Moods Music. The album will be available via digital retailers on May 7. Before making her Atlanta appearance, where she’s set to perform and answer questions in a Q&A session, Daya opined on a number of topics, from embracing different musical styles to finding balance between music and activism.

On recording in genres other than jazz or soul:
I love singing in different genres, although I haven’t really recorded in a lot of different genres before now. So it was a way for me to explore and express all of myself as a musician and vocalist/artist, as well as speak about issues and the beauty of the black community. … In this industry, for black women, they put us in a box. … So this album was also a way for me to show the diversity of a black woman’s voice.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Darrell Scott goes back to 'Couchville'

Posted By on Sat, Apr 9, 2016 at 8:00 AM

  • Photo by Jim McGuire
  • Darrell Scott

In Nashville, there are two types of songwriters: Those who write from the heart, and those who write by committee. For the last decade or so, the committee members have been cranking out the hits, making the big bucks, and watering down country music to a sad shell of mediocrity. But every now and then, one of the genuine writers hits the jackpot, gets a cut that goes to the top of the charts, and becomes everybody’s darling for a while. Darrell Scott is one of those guys, and while he shies away from the “outsider” label, he understands the relevance of the concept.

“Being an outsider is a relative term, and there’s a sliding scale of what ‘outsider’ really means," Scott says. "It depends on who you ask. If I claimed to be an outsider, some of my friends would find it laughable.”

For someone who has had such a great string of hits, such as Travis Tritt’s “It’s A Great Day to Be Alive”, and the Dixie Chicks’ “Long Time Gone”, there may not be much need to consider his place in the grand scheme. “I have always been able to get away from things in the business, for example, I was a studio musician for years," he says. "It’s a good living, but there is a danger of losing what makes you unique.”

So what makes a great song? According to Scott, “It’s partly innate and partly learned. By the time you are an adult, you have heard tens of thousands of songs. We know the mechanics of the structure and form — choruses, verses, intros, and we can recognize them. That’s the technical part. The unique part is how you dress up the skeleton, and that’s the instinctual part that can’t be taught.”

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Friday, March 4, 2016

Crate digging with Chelsea Shag

Posted By on Fri, Mar 4, 2016 at 1:19 PM

Chelsea Shag at Wax 'n' Facts in Little 5 Points. - PHOTO BY BILLY MITCHELL
  • Photo by Billy Mitchell
  • Chelsea Shag at Wax 'n' Facts in Little 5 Points.

I walked into Wax 'n' Facts during the great hailstorm of 2016, and was instantly reminded of how much I love this place. It has everything: All my favorite and soon to be favorite records and a great collection of gospel tapes. Chelsea Shag met me here to talk about the many influences that inspire her sound, and to dig through some crates. She brought a list of her favorites but didn't think she'd find much. Almost immediately, she found five records that influence her style.

Alabama Shakes, Sound and Color: "I love this band because they came from the middle of nowhere in Alabama and just rocked. People found them out because they make great music. The new record is really clean. And I love the way she presents herself. So much soul in her voice. She sings very simple but real and deep lyrics. So many people can relate to those lyrics, the struggle of being human. That's the type of lyrics I want to write and sing."

Nina Simone, Emergency Ward: "She's incredible. I love, love this album. I love that she doesn't give a fuck. She's always her — unapologetically so. I love how good she is at piano. Later on in her career she was pissed she wasn't a classical pianist, she always wanted to be one but felt denied because to be black and a classical player was unheard of. She's just got so much soul."

Dave Brubeck, Greatest Hits: "His music is so mature, and it takes you on this journey. All music can take you places, but his songs, I don't know, they just take you to a totally different place. I love piano, and his piano is brilliant. His music is so uplifting and makes your spirit lighter. "Take Five" is one my favorite songs ever."

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Kayla Steen's joyful noise

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 9:44 AM

Kayla Steen next to "Obstacle  (Blue/Pink)" by Victor Perez at MINT Gallery. - PHOTO BY BILLY MITCHELL
  • Photo by Billy Mitchell
  • Kayla Steen next to "Obstacle (Blue/Pink)" by Victor Perez at MINT Gallery.

Kayla Steen exudes happiness. It filled the room the first time I saw her at Moodring at the Mammal Gallery, and it fills the room as we begin her interview at MINT. She's self-described as "bubbly and nice," and our chatter is non-stop laughing and smiling. In the middle of a tangent about being bad at roller skating, we hear the gallery manager give out two quick sneezes. Kayla immediately says two "bless yous", compliments the cuteness of the sneezes, and gleefully admits that she has practiced transforming her own sneezes from gross ones to kind of cute ones. This is a happy person who will put in the work. Below are a few things that fill this new singer with joy.

Ladyfest Atlanta – Tonight (Thurs., March 3) Kayla plays a Ladyfest fundraiser at 529. "I love it 'cause it's been booked by people in Atlanta who want shit to happen for us."

One of the ideas behind Ladyfest "is to celebrate and encourage community."

She's excited by the possibility of connecting to a new audience through positivity. "I want people to dance and feel the funk. You shake your butt because I said positive things."

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Head’s rock ’n’ roll dream

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 4:38 PM

BROTHERS IN ARMS: Twins Jack and Mike Shaw, from left, and longtime bandmate Jacob Morrell treat touring and recording as full-time jobs. - VALHERIA ROCHA
  • Valheria Rocha
  • BROTHERS IN ARMS: Twins Jack and Mike Shaw, from left, and longtime bandmate Jacob Morrell treat touring and recording as full-time jobs.

If the Head’s dreams of becoming Atlanta’s next breakthrough act come true, it won't be an overnight success story. Instead, calculated moves dating back nearly a decade will be the catalyst for the band’s emergence in the national indie rock spotlight. The Atlanta trio’s nine-year history spanned high school and college for twins Mike (vocals, bass) and Jack (drums) Shaw and childhood friend Jacob Morrell (guitar). All three members quit their day jobs last year, diving headfirst into full-time touring. “As soon as we realized we’d saved up enough to hit the road, we said, ‘Let’s make a run for it now’,” Jack says.

Audible fruits of the group’s newfound focus include last November’s Millipedes EP. The release marked a shift in sonic direction from early aughts power pop to a more mature approach that’s been likened to early R.E.M. and other staples from college radio’s golden era. The band sees its current sound as an evolution brought on by shared life experiences. “It wasn’t a deliberate change,“ Jack says. “We just started writing music as we got older that resonated with people differently.”

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