Category Archives: Music

Avetts’ New Video is a Modern-day Final Essay to Principal Vernon

Yesterday, The Avett Brothers released the first single and video off of their upcoming studio album, Closer Than Together.   The single, High Steppin’, features a Nudie Suit sportin’, haggard Scott Avett driving an old Ford pick-up truck along a country road to nowhere with his sidekick little brother, Skeletor Seth.  Throw in a random country-line dancing flash mob and a spoken-word sermon, and you’ve got yourself a hit ladies and gentlemen!

For those fans wanting your old boys back, you may want to hop back in your breathing time machine set to pre-I and Love and You.  My guess is that this will not be your cup o’ Joe.  But, if you have an open mind, you will likely dig the funky Stranger Things synth vibe that opens and meanders through the song and perk up when the fiddle finds its way into the mix.

After about the third time watching the video, the “what does this all mean” confusion should subside and you will find that common Avett thematic thread that makes their music so relatable–that we are all a bunch of Breakfast Club misfits.  Backgrounds and societal labels aside, each of us harbors an internal turmoil fed by insecurities and the idea that we all await the same fate.  We see ourselves in others, and others in ourselves, finding more in common that not.

In true Avett fashion, High Steppin‘ also reminds us that somewhere between the darkness and the light, we are all lifted and joined by love.

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MerleFest Spotlight – Todd Albright

Todd Albright is bringing his blues to MerleFest again this year, with three separate performances across three stages.  A gifted musician and historian, Albright meshes his pre-war blues with vivid storytelling–a talent that keeps fans engaged and excited between songs.

Be sure to catch Albright over the weekend at any or all of these performances:

Friday, April 26, 2019 @ 11:35 AM – 12:00 PM @ Cabin Stage
Saturday, April 27, 2019 @ 3:25 PM – 3:55 PM @ Austin Stage
Sunday, April 28, 2019 @ 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM @ Americana Stage

If you can’t make it to MerleFest this year, check out Albright’s sound on this 2017 Live on KEXP session!

 

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2019 MerleFest Lineup

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Now in its 32nd year, MerleFest is well-known as a family-friendly, 4-day music festival tucked into the rolling hills of western NC.  Boasting 13 stages, this tight-knit, yet “busking at the seams” festival  books the industry’s best from bluegrass, folk, Americana, country, rock, gospel and more.  Year after year, festival organizers leave little in terms of wants from their loyal fan base.  Whether it is the supersized lineup, intimate songwriter workshops, late night test revivals, kid’s activities, unique local vendors, or square dancing lessons, there is something for absolutely everyone.

Take a look at this year’s lineup and it is easy to see that the loyal Merelfest fan base is about to explode.  Stacked with both beloved alumni and a new class of fresh faces, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better music festival at a better price.  This year’s headliners include, The Avett Brothers, Brandie Carlile (coming off a heart-wrenching Grammy performance and huge win), Amos Lee, and Wynonna and the Big Noise, along with heavy-hitters Keb’ Mo’, The Milk Carton Kids, and Tyler Childers.  Festival traditionalists will find comfort in the return of Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush Band, Peter Rowan, Jim Lauderdale, The Del McCoury Band, Scythian, and The Kruger Brothers to name a few.   And don’t forget to stick around for some good ol’ fashioned storytelling, singing, and salvation at Jim Avett’s Gospel Hour on Sunday morning.

EOAF’s 2019 Fresh Face to watch is Molly Tuttle–the magic she creates when her fingers meet the strings will leave your mouth agape and your heart pounding.  Check her out yourself:

Muilti-day tickets packages and single-day tickets are now on sale for the April 25-28, 2019 festival.  Kids 12 and under are free (what a deal!).  The festival takes place on the beautiful, lush campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC.    For more information visit merlefest.org.

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Tank and the Bangas – Tiny Desk Concert

You know the feeling of being stopped in your tracks, frozen by an image hitting your retina or vibrations banging against your tympanic membrane?  The input–visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, whatever–is so striking, and so overwhelming that your nervous system can function only to process it and nothing else, hence your inability to move.  THAT is how it feels when you get your first taste of Tank and the Bangas–a mix of old school hip hop, spoken word, jazz, funk and spunk served up on a bomb ass platter for EVERYONE to enjoy.  You are going to want seconds.

Help yourself…  http://www.tankandthebangas.com

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Evolution of a Song – “Rejects in the Attic” – Part 1

It has been almost four years since Seth and Scott Avett debuted Rejects in the Attic at an intimate Merlefest songwriter’s workshop.  That morning, fans nestled into the 200-seat auditorium with grand hopes that they would witness something truly special.  I doubt that any of us were prepared for this song and the palpable heartache that echoed through Seth’s microphone.   Once an orphaned sheet of scribbled lyrics buried in a disheveled pile, Seth dusted off Rejects, dismantled it and pieced it back together, replacing Scott’s pain and vulnerability with his own.

As fans, we speculate on what may drive the emotion behind such a heavy song–despair, regret, shame, hopelessness.  Though we will never fully understand the twisted path a song takes from start to finish–even when written by two brothers, years apart–it was clear that on that day, as Seth sat with his journal and heart left open for the world to see, the pain behind those lyrics being uttered in public for the first time was fresh and present and very personal.

Seth’s face told a story of sleepless nights and mental anguish. With eyes shut, the weighty lyrics left his lips to find sympathetic ears and sturdy shoulders.  Suddenly, we realized that we were there to share the burden.  We held our breath and took it in, collectively acknowledging the therapeutic exchange that was unfolding before us.  We were not just a passive sounding board that day, but rather a living, breathing levee taking on a flood of emotion.  And just when we thought the chairs may buckle beneath us, Seth opened his eyes, looked to the sky and asked us for more.   We obliged, hopeful that whatever role we played that day for him allowed those holes of pain to be filled in with new found joy.

As Seth closed the song, an almost embarrassed smile spread across his face like that of a grade school kid who just finished reading aloud his first poem in English class.  That bashful authenticity reminded us all that even though we often find ourselves separated from them by a steel barrier or tour bus window, we are all just a bunch of rejects riding through this crazy, beautiful, painful experience together.

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Album Review – Mipso’s “Old Time Reverie”

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“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller was a man of the people–an 80’s pop culture icon created in the era of John Hughes’ brilliance.  Ferris’ words continue to find footing thirty years after audiences caught their first glimpse of the vested hero on the big screen.  He was right–life does move pretty fast.  In our current culture of instagramification it can require some serious effort to slow down, stop multitasking and take a break from all of the Facebook updates and Tweets.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution that often yields positive results–music.  Music is that powerful catalyst that forces you to look up from the glow of your iPhone.  When the sound of joyful voices melting together into a rich harmony hits your eardrum, you can no  longer ignore the goosebumps on the back of your arms and the calming breath in your chest.  Music pulls you away from all of the noise.  It frees you.

On their third studio album, Old Time Reverie, Mipso serves up just that–freedom.  Sitting down with this album transports the listener back to a simpler time, though not one without its own set of obstacles, as evidenced by the album opener “Marianne.”  With a happy fiddle playing peek-a-boo throughout the song, one may mistaken “Marianne” for a jovial tune.  Lyrics tell a different story, one of the forbidden love of an interracial couple in 1960s North Carolina.  Mipso sets the storytelling bar high with “Marianne,” a familiar approach for the band’s album openers–hook the listener from the get go and hold ’em ’til the end.

Down in the Water” follows with Rodenbough’s timeless, crisp vocals at the forefront.  The simplicity and tone of the song feel hymnal, even baptismal at times.  However, the beauty of the song emerges in its content and transcends church walls as Rodenbough pleads for a quiet and content mind–a very relatable request.  “Eliza,” a lover’s plea laced with three-part harmonies, brings a little folky waltz to the album and is sure to be a live fan favorite.

On “Bad Penny,” Terrell hits the ground running, taking listeners on a wild lyrical goose chase with his ever evolving gift of storytelling.   The song’s fiddle line elicits images of a Smoky Mountain family feud, even though the story unfolds in modern-day NYC.  It is in playing with these lyrical and musical contradictions that Mipso continues to grow and evolve as a group.

With Sharp on lead vocals, “Momma” tugs at the heartstrings, combining a Simonesque melody with Mipso harmonies and honesty.   “Father’s House” highlights the gospel influence that often accompanies Mipso’s bluegrass roots.  Here the band uses religious imagery to tackle feelings of isolation and uncertainty in life and death.

“Captain’s Daughter” sets sail on the high seas, telling the story of a lonely seaman who yearns to reunite with his land-bound love, Annabelle.  Rodenbough’s fiddle brings in Celtic tones, transporting the listener across the pond to a more rustic land where passion is fierce in both love and trade.

“Stranger,” a more modern love ballad for the group, pumps the brakes while breaking hearts.  “Honeybee” picks up the pieces and brings in a bit of sweet springtime sunshine.  Terrell convinces listeners that he’s singing from a very personal space, though in his songwriting prowess perhaps he’s just that good.

Everyone Knows” slithers in with a desperado darkness, fit for a Tarantino flick.  Though a bit of a departure for Mipso, it stands tall as the album’s best track.  On “Everyone Knows,” Mipso stepped out boldly into the dusty town square, pulled their pistols and walked away unscathed.   The only thing missing now is an accompanying video.  Jon Kasbe get your camera ready.

The album closes with “4 Train,” a love song set to a steady locomotive cadence.  Touching on familiar emotions that accompany love, “4 Train” shines a spotlight on each band member’s talents, book-ending the album perfectly.

Old Time Reverie offers listeners a solid collection of stories, steeped in traditional acoustic instrumentation and tight-knit harmonies at a steady rocking chair pace.  With each listen, you may find it easier and easier to pull yourself away from the hustle and bustle and take a moment to really live inside the beauty of a carefully crafted song.

Ironically, the members of Mipso weren’t even born when Ferris first delighted downtown Chicago with his famous renditions of “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout.”  Yet, somehow they collectively possess his spirit, charm, and ability to captivate an audience.  On Old Time Reverie, Terrell, Sharp, Robinson and Rodenbough further reveal the old souls that live in their youthful vessels–wise beyond their years, much like Mr. Bueller.

Mipso is a four-piece folk/bluegrass band out of Chapel Hill, NC consisting of Joseph Terrell (guitar), Wood Robinson (double bass), Jacob Sharp (mandolin) and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle).

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Interview – Marco With Love

Photo credit - Curtis Wayne Millard

Photo credit – Curtis Wayne Millard

EOAF recently caught up with frontman Marco Argiro (guitar/lead vocals) of Brooklyn-based indie rock band Marco With Love to discuss the band’s upcoming EP, Townes Van Zandt, NYC inspiration, Slimer from Ghostbuster, and his kick ass band members Subodh Samudre (bass/ backing vocals), Blaine O’Brien (pedal steel/backing vocals) and Peter Landi (drums/backing vocals).   The band’s four track EP, Tidal Wave, is slated for release on July 17th.

EOAF: What’s the quick and dirty of how you guys came together (when, where, how, etc.)?

Argiro: I met Peter a few years back when we were both doing live session work for a mutual friend of our’s band. He and I became fast friends and later he ended up playing drums for my British side project The Killing Floor. So when I was assembling the live band that would later turn into Marco With Love he was the obvious choice to be the drummer. Subodh and I met at Ping Pong Tournament some years ago hosted at the Corbis offices in NYC. We bonded over a mutual admiration for 90’s power pop bands like Superdrag and Nada Surf and talked about one day having a jam. Our schedules didn’t line up to make good on that jam ’til a couple years later when I was wrapping up production on the Love LP. We had a instantaneous spark. Together we worked on the music for what would later become Tidal Wave, the band’s first song. I met Blaine at the 11th street bar in the East Village only a few short years back. He was playing pedal steel and harmonica in his band Brothers NYC and I just so happened to be the support act on the bill. I was immediately intrigued by his playing and style having just spent the last couple years exploring the cosmic American music of Gram Parsons. Up until this point I hadn’t seen anyone playing steel guitar up close before, and I was blown away by the sound he was putting out. I remember approaching him after their set and asking if we was a fan of “Sneaky Pete” Kleinlow. Thankfully he said yes, and within a short few months he joined Subodh, Peter and myself at the next rehearsal. The core of MWL’s lineup was now in place, the rest is as they say. History.

What inspired the new EP? 

The new EP was inspired by living in the big city, our collective travels around the globe, family, and the need to create our own blend of Jangly Country Fried Rock n Roll music. Visionary artists like John Lennon, Tom Petty, and high energy garage acts like the Sonics and The Troggs really helped path the way for us and helped the guys and I to push the boundaries of conventional modern music. We have also decided to add a fourth cut to the EP. It’s a song called “Leave It Behind” and some folks may recognize it from the Love LP. The original version is in a different key and was recorded back in 2012 in my Bushwick basement studio. The band and I felt the new MWL version far better represented our band’s sonic evolution and captures the intensity of the band’s live show with some added psychedelia production.

Why did you choose to include a Townes Van Zandt cover (Waiting Around to Die) on your EP?  How does it fit with the other song?

We decided to include the Townes cover on the EP because we all loved the way it turned out in the studio. The song has a great vibe and truly captured a moment. We also felt that it helped showcase our band’s versatility and ability to explore related genres. Waiting Around to Die is the kind of song we aspire to write ourselves one day. As far as how it fits on this particular EP, we felt the fictional drifter in this particular song is not unlike the character in Poor Young and Gifted and also share similarities to one of the main characters in Leave It Behind. Both had an abusive father and had to endure hardships along life’s journey.

What is your songwriting process like…who is the primary songwriter?  How do others contribute?

Our songwriting process varies from tune to tune. Historically I have been the primary songwriter for the band, but with the Tidal Wave single the music has been more of a collaborative effort. For example, during one of our earlier writing sessions Subodh had a really cool riff that he had been messing around with. He shared the idea with me and we quickly started jamming on it for a while until we came up with some other chord changes together and thus the rough outline for the tune was born. I generally record these raw sessions into an iPhone singing a rough melody so they can be further explored at another time and mined for other potential ideas. Once we’ve had a chance to shape them a bit more we like to get the whole band together and start jamming as a unit. We usually then realize what is missing from the arrangement and each member adds the dynamics that are needed in order to fill out the song on the their respective instrument. Every single member of MWL is a multi-instrumentalist and capable of writing songs on their own so this helps tremendously when being objective during a jam or a writing session. In between rehearsals and gigs is typically when I work on lyrics for the songs. Living in Brooklyn, I often write in transit. Mostly on subway commutes or even in the back of cabs utilizing the iPhone again only this time working on lyrics by typing in notes. Though I prefer to write in my home studio in Clinton Hill, you never know when a line will come to you and a potential lyric will be born.

Did you all grow up in NYC or just live there as adults?  If not, where did you grow up and how was music incorporated into your lives?

Like most people living on this island we all originally came from other places. My father and his family immigrated to New York from Italy back in the early 60’s, but he and my mom ended up moving to South Florida where they raised my sisters and I down in Fort Lauderdale. From a very early age music became the driving force in my life–started bands with my best friends, made records, and submersed myself in the local punk music scene. The only member of the band that actually grew up in the New York area is our drummer Pete Landi. He grew up out in Sag Harbor and like the rest of us music played an integral part of his youth. Subodh, our bassist and his family ended up settling in Virginia Beach, Virginia after living all over the world. He grew up playing in bands in the early post hardcore emo scene in Virginia Beach then continued to make waves playing and touring with various bands in Richmond, VA. Blaine, too, called Virginia home, only his town was Roanoke. I think it’s safe to say we all got the musical bug pretty early on in life which helped shape our trajectory.

What types of things/events/experiences inspire you to write?

Various subject matter tends to inspire our band’s material.  While some songs tend to lean more towards abstract thought and points of view, others are more direct chronicles of the lives of family and friends. Tidal Wave could very well be about turning over a new leaf as much as it could be about the ridding oneself of poisonous people in our life. We consider ourselves socially conscious, but not overtly political. To quote Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream. Wandering by lone sea breakers, and sitting by desolate streams. World losers and world forsakers, for whom the pale moon gleams. Yet we are movers and the shakers of the world forever it seems.”

How has living in NYC influenced your music?

Living in New York City has kept us street smart and continues to inspire all of us on a daily basis. Getting just about anything done in NYC is just a little bit harder than most other places we’ve lived. Though the city is almost too fast paced and often can prove to be logistically difficult, the people and the rich musical history help keep our heads in the clouds.

Why type of venue/music event do you enjoy the most? (listening room, bar, club, festival, songwriters session, etc)?

Every stage we get up on has its perks. There’s something about playing to an intimate room where people are listening to every lyric and really engaging, but of course for us rockers playing a big festival or club show with a packed room is pretty darn cool. Regardless of the size of the audience we always aim to make every last person in the room leave the venue with a smile on his/her face. Ideally they will remember their MWL show experience and bring a friend to the next one.

What do you enjoy the most about performing live?  Any specific experiences that stand out from your shows?

I love it when the show all comes together, it’s really rewarding for us to work hard on writing the material, rehearsing it with the band and then the big pay off comes when we play out for a live audience. It really is a symbiotic relationship between the audience and the guys and I. It’s always nice to return to a city or venue and looking out into the crowd only to notice people are singing along or even just smiling. There was one time that we played the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn with a couple bands from Detroit when the guys and I noticed that there was a guy dressed up in a Slimer costume from the Ghostbusters movie.

How has social media helped your music career?

Social Media is a blessing and a curse. On one hand it has helped us reach music fans in far off lands as well as down the road from us in Brooklyn. On the other hand, I feel it can take away the mystique that musicians once had. People end up knowing way more about artists these days. As a musician it can sometimes seem like a chore. I think overall I’d prefer to just make music rather than worrying about telling everyone what were doing at that particular moment. That being said, I bought into it early on and saw the potential and reach that it could provide independent artists.

Tell me a bit about your upcoming touring schedule…how are you going to promote this EP on the road?

Well, we plan on having an EP release party here in NYC, in addition to a few dates in Nashville, San Francisco & Los Angeles. We will be getting our new record into all the mom and pop and independent Brick n Mortar record stores that we possibly can around the states and across the pond in the UK/ Europe.

What do you do when you aren’t writing or performing?  Any other interests or charity work?

When I’m not writing or performing you’ll likely find me behind the bar slinging drinks, however I like to spend time with family, read, and watch documentaries with my dog Layla. I’m also a volunteer member of Musicians On Call here in NYC. We do our best to brighten the day for sick kids and their families. Subodh is a Creative Director and Art Director for Advertising, a rock ’n roll photographer, music composer and is always busy producing art projects with his design company ‘Make Things Awesome.’ Peter works in a record store and also fronts his own grunge rock band, The Glazzies. Blaine designs websites, is a honky-tonk DJ, does kickboxing in addition to session work for other groups.

Take a listen to the first single off of MWL’s EP, Tidal Wave, and check in on news and tour dates via Facebook.

 

 

 

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