For Winston-Salem-based Appalachian-rock band Big Daddy Love, making an album that represents a new line-up and fresh talent meant trekking up to the magical land of Woodstock, N.Y.—a place so rich with musical history that inspiration runs in the streams and lives in the mountains.
Big Daddy Love — currently comprised of Scott Moss (vocals, guitar), Joseph Recchio (guitar, vocals), Brian Swenk (banjo), Ashley Sutton (bass, vocals), and Scotty Lewis (drums) — laid the tracks for its latest album “This Time Around” at Woodstock’s Applehead Studios earlier this year. The result is a dozen carefully crafted songs that find cohesion in hometown themes, unique and often intricate arrangements, and a keen balance across track tempo.
With Moss and Recchio as lyrical masterminds, “This Time Around” finds its niche quickly and settles in without pause. There is no time to waste, as the majority of tracks keep a high-energy pace matched by the intertwining of guitar and banjo that lend a special ferocity and fire to the album as a whole.
The album opens with “Nashville Flood,” an instant rocker with brassy horns and gospel undertones. The track swells into an ominous prediction of what happens when false dreams come crashing down. “The Colour” follows with a blues guitar intro that blends seamlessly into bluegrass banjo rolls and feels like an outlaw road trip across county lines.
“Eunice and the Bear” is a stomp clapper jam that shows the band’s storytelling side. It chronicles the life of a rambling man, his wife Eunice, and a stuffed bear head on their cabin’s wall. Lyrics paint a vivid picture of just how big a bear story can grow after years of marriage. It is a sweet and fun track with a backwoods twist.
One of the album’s longer tracks, “Kerosene,” feels like a blend of John Mellencamp and The Black Crows, low and slow blues peppered with the electric energy of guitar and a soulful church choir. Big Daddy Love steps up the backyard bonfire country vibe on “Last Night’s Dress,” a small-town boy meets girl tune that reminds listeners of the beauty and freedom of young, carefree love.
“Smoke Under the Water” is as bluegrass jam band as it gets, melding down and dirty guitar riffs with rolling, bouncy banjo and smack-you-in-the-face bass lines. There is no way to sit still during this instrumental track. “Home No More” brings in an eerie reggae-rock vibe mixed with laid back blues lyrics about being down on luck, while “Star Spangled Blues” taps into southern rock patriotism with steam engine momentum and an electric guitar solo that whines with American, feverish pride.
“Susan” downshifts to a heartfelt ballad filled with regret and unfulfilled dreams of a long lost love and untapped potential. Just when you think the pity party is going to dig deeper, “Every Other Day” slowly picks up the pieces and pace, grows a backbone and flashes its teeth. There is a revengeful quality in the supporting guitar arrangement and cool and calm, yet strong vocals.
“Silver and Pearls” is the album’s best representation of bluegrass mountain music, highlighting the speed, precision, and punch that a banjo brings to a song. The title track, “This Time Around,” brings the album to a close with beautiful acoustic instrumentation and reflective lyrics. Stripping the song down to bare bones reveals the true talent of a band that can step away from busy and thematic arrangements to successfully deliver a simple message to the listener with humility and thoughtfulness.
The melding of rock and blues throughout the album gives it a throwback quality that speaks to the band’s elevated musicianship, while still feeling fresh and current. The banjo plays an important and consistent role across the tracks, but never seems to shine in quite the same glory as the electric guitar. Though the Appalachian roots are present, the grit of good ol’ southern rock and belly fire of the blues reign supreme on “This Time Around.”
To check out “This Time Around” and keep up with Big Daddy Love’s non-stop tour schedule, visit the band’s website at bigdaddylove.com.
Through a cloud of lingering personal drama and potentially damning press, eccentric-rocker Jack White emerges triumphantly with his second solo album, “Lazaretto.” White, who is well-known for blurring musical boundaries in unpredictable ways, presents an appealing juxtaposition between Detroit blues and rock and Nashville honky-tonk country on “Lazaretto.”
To follow up the success of his first solo album, “Blunderbuss,” White decided to take a new approach to songwriting, making the two albums quite distinct from one another. “Lazaretto” pulls inspiration from a collection of plays White wrote when he was 19 years old and recently rediscovered. Over the course of a year and a half, characters and storylines from White’s 19 year old imagination found homes in each of the album’s 11 tracks.
The album opener, “Three Women” is a funky blues tune in which White fills emotional voids with a woman in every port. The title track follows, providing an electric mash-up of rock and rap reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine as White shows off his guitar prowess and jagged verses. “Lazaretto” also gives listeners the first hint of Nashville influence as the song closes with a wailing fiddle, before leading into “Temporary Ground.”
“Temporary Ground,” along with “Entitlement,” capitalize on traditional country instrumentation and harmonies, but do not commit completely to the genre. On both tracks, White stays true to his distinct vocals, but surrounds them with twang harmonies, pedal steel and fiddle, submitting his own take on country music. A river of sarcasm runs through “Entitlement,” and while it may have been influenced by White’s observations in the mid-90s, lyrics like, “Though the world may be spoiled and getting worse every day, don’t they feel like they cheated somehow,” seem to ring even truer today.
“Would You Fight For My Love?” features intense percussion and eerie howls, but what stands out most is White’s passionate yet panicked vocal performance, implying that perhaps his more recent turbulent relationships weaseled their way into the song. The album’s only instrumental, “High Ball Stepper,” takes listeners on a dark ominous walk through the woods, as a banshee-esque violin hollers underneath White’s lightning rod electric guitar solos.
“Just One Drink” is a fun juke-joint cocktail of blues and country that channels a little Buddy Holly, while “Alone in my Home” ramps up the pop factor with flirty keys and day-dreamy female harmonies, despite the song’s dejected theme of solitude.
“That Black Bat Licorice,” which competes with “Lazaretto” as the album’s top rock and roll track, brings in yet another genre with reggae-like backbeats. With ironic lyrics like, “I want to cut out my tongue and let you hold on to it for me, ‘cause without my skills to amplify my sounds it might get boring,” perhaps White is foreshadowing the need to keep his strong opinions about others to himself, or perhaps not.
“I Think I Found The Culprit” has a dramatic outlaw feel with rock-country flair that peaks and dips throughout the track. The final track, “Want and Able” is like having an angel and devil perched on each shoulder and trying to make a decision. Here, as on many “Blunderbuss” and “Lazaretto” tracks, the keys play a central role in the collective sound of the song. Whether through the buzz of an organ or the tickling of ivories, White’s appreciation for the piano continues to be evident with “Lazaretto.”
Overall, “Lazaretto” translates like a collection of short-stories written by different authors, reaffirming that White’s experimental nature is alive and well in Music City. The album offers listeners a genre clash that could initially feel distracting, but instead keeps ears perked for nuance and surprises around each bend of the chords. The instrumentation, while crazy and impulsive at times, stands tall against the lyrics, proving once again that White is not in it for the songwriting glory, but rather the overall auditory texture of the song.
As White’s personal life and professional opinions continue to stand blazing hot in the media’s spotlight, it is obvious that strong ties will be made to the themes in “Lazaretto.” However, the truth is that while many of the tracks could be interpreted as intimately tied to his current woes, listeners and critics will never quite know whose story White is telling, and in that intention lies the genius that is Jack White.
Sometimes first impressions are meant to be thrown out the window. This is because, in fact, impressions aren’t formed in a vacuum. Rather, they are often influenced by external and internal factors–weather, mood, people around you, time of year, personal conflicts, perceived reality–the list is endless.
The first time I saw Mipso (then Mipso Trio) perform was at their sold-out show at Cat’s Cradle last year–a Carrboro music staple on the outskirts of the pristine campus of UNC-Chapel Hill where band members, Jacob Sharp, Wood Robinson, and Joseph Terrell studied. Life was good, they were making music together, and they had sold-out one of the area’s most recognized venues. To top it off, Mipso was being supported by some of the state’s best songwriters that night, openers Jim Avett and The Overmountain Men. What more could these young, talented men ask for?
Onstage they appeared starstruck and in awe that so many people came out to see them–as they were still in their infancy as a band–but they proved to have some veteran tendencies. Their harmonies were tight, crisp, and clear. They smiled out into the bright lights beaming back at them, and had a natural stage presence. When David Childers joined them on stage, they appeared humbled and honored. Whatever kinks were worked out on stage were hardly, if at all, noticeable to the audience, because of well, the audience. Here is where first impressions get influenced if we aren’t careful. Drunk college co-eds who would rather be seen and heard than to listen to well-crafted music were wall to wall that night. They were successful in putting a blemish on my first impression of Mipso. It was sort of that ‘guilt by association’ rule. If this audience was made up mainly by friends of the band, well how serious were they about making a mark on the North Carolina music scene and beyond? I left disappointed, but thankfully not completely despaired.
You see, occasionally I forget that there was a time when I was not a polite concert-goer–when I, too, was a drunk co-ed. So, with that in the forefront of my mind, I set out to form a new first impression of Mipso, one based on the important elements of a band–the music and the people. I caught up with Sharp, Robinson, and Terrell last month at Peasant’s Pub in Greenville, NC for a little chat about the past year, growing as a band, songwriting, recording their upcoming second LP, and surprisingly, the bluegrass movement in Japan.
As we nestled into our seats on the patio, I quickly learned that these young men possess a depth and maturity that is rarely found in recent college graduates. Sharp, on vocals and mandolin, picked up the instrument in the eighth grade off a bet with his Dad. “I picked it up and hit it with various things, but don’t think I really started playing it until I was sixteen or seventeen,” Sharp recalled. Robinson, on stand-up bass, has been playing music in some capacity since he was three or four years old. With a strong foundation in jazz theory, he picked up the electric bass in 8th grade and transitioned to the stand-up by the time he was mid-way through high school (June 22nd to be exact–he joked). Terrell, on guitar and vocals, learned to pick from his grandmother while in middle school, and started playing in bands and taking his craft seriously by age sixteen.
Collectively, they each bring a different type of songwriting prowess to the table. On their first full album, Long, Long Gone, Terrell was the primary songwriter, but the responsibility has shifted on their upcoming untitled album as Sharp and Robinson throw a few songs into the mix.
“I think [the melody and lyrics] inform each other. I don’t often have lyrics sitting around. Often times I have a lyrical idea with a melody. They tend to come together. Some songs come quickly and then I’ve got a notebook that’s got some stuff that’s half-finished and they will be half-finished for six months. It’s a labor of love that you always have to pay attention to because you never know which idea will fit,” shared Terrell.
If songwriting for Mipso were to be compared to the Deadliest Catch, Robinson would be the eager greenhorn of the band. He casually admitted, “I’m learning how to song write. Being involved with [Sharp and Terrell], who are very much more accomplished and better songwriters than I am, they have taught me that the role of the songwriter is to communicate an emotion that would make the listener think that [he/she] already thought of that, or think, ‘that’s me’. I’m learning that the purpose of the song is to communicate to the listener, not to express necessarily something that is intensely personal. You want another person to relate it it…A song that I am in the process of writing right now is a direct response to a song by Dawes called A Little Bit of Everything. It’s an incredible song, and it really had quite a profound effect on me. It’s been surfacing for a while now.”
Terrell added, “It’s funny, I’m not interested in strictly personal writing. I think of it more as a challenge to tell a cool story, and I like to do that. There’s a big difference between the way Jacob and I write. Jacob writes more personally, I think it’s fair to say. It’s cool to have that mixture and that variety. Wood is more of a mixture of the two.”
It is obvious that this next album will be more of a collaborative effort among the band. This approach not only challenges them personally, but also pushes them to learn how to work together to produce a sound that is ultimately unique–a sound that is Mipso.
“I think with collaborative writing, someone brings an idea and you flush it out together. Or sometimes Joe or myself will bring a finished song that doesn’t need too much beyond working out the parts. But we are still learning how to write together,” said Sharp.
Terrell added, “One thing we’ve learned is that the song that’s on the page–the lyrics and the music–is not the whole picture. What we do together is the biggest picture of what makes the song sound like a Mipso song–the harmony that Jake picks out and the baseline in particular, because Wood is not a bluegrass bassist. He really has a cool jazz background.”
While Mipso wouldn’t categorize themselves as a strictly bluegrass band, they certainly pull inspiration from the traditional genre, and do so with the utmost respect.
“So, bluegrass players are really good, like virtuosos. There is a distinct level of virtuosity in that genre of music that would not be fair to claim as our own,” pointed out Robinson.
“I think we are influenced and inspired by bluegrass. So I think we are bluegrassy in the same way we are folksy,” added Sharp.
When you sit down to listen to Mipso’s previous work, it is clear that their influences run the spectrum, from Paul Simon to Doc Watson. As they continue to define their own signature sound, much of that fine tuning has been taking place in the recording studio. On their upcoming album, they are working with producer Andrew Marlin at the Rubber Room Studio in Chapel Hill. Marlin, who is best known as half of folk-bluegrass duo Mandolin Orange, has signed on to guide the recording process. With Marlin behind the boards, Mipso has gained a mighty mentor who is proficient in all areas of production.
“Working with [Marlin] has been really enlightening,” said Sharp. “It’s almost like we have an apprenticeship, because he’s a great friend but also one of our favorite, most respected musicians, and really talented songwriter, and mandolin and guitar player. So everyday we went in and learned something new individually, but we also saw a different side or perspective in the recording and writing process.”
“It’s very cool to have an external source, to have a very deliberate and apparent hand in the process of writing these songs. We bring these songs with an idea of where we are going with them, and having another person outside of the band say, ‘Hey, this should be slowed down a bit. Maybe it could use a little snare in it.’ Is amazing how those little things can bring out the character of the song in such a beautiful way,” said Robinson.
Also joining the guys in the studio will be their fourth band member, fiddler and singer Libby Rodenbough. When Mipso first started two and a half years ago, they were known as Mipso Trio–catchy right? About a year ago, they decided to drop the ‘Trio’ which happened to fall in line with the addition of Libby. Libby had already contributed to all recordings, so it seemed like a logical move.
“We’ve always felt like she added a lot,” Terrell shared. “We formed the band when she was taking a year off school, and she actually collaborated remotely from Chicago on the six song EP that we put out. We wanted to shorten the [band] name anyway, and that coincided with Libby joining so it made a lot of sense. She’s still going to be in school next year, so she’s going to be playing with us, but there will be lots of shows where she won’t be playing with us. So, we are a three-piece with a close musical collaborator.”
Sharp added, “Libby has taught us a lot about how we can benefit from having a fourth piece. As we grew more comfortable in playing with her and also recognizing it was a consistent thing, it was fun to start writing for a fourth piece, but it’s nice to know that we can still be a pretty tight three-piece.”
So what can fans expect from their upcoming second LP, slated to be released in late October/early November? Based on the album’s first single, Carolina Calling, themes of state pride and family roots rise to the surface. However, the band shared that thematically the album will expand from the epicenter that is the only home they’ve ever known–North Carolina.
“I started thinking about graduating in November [’12]. I’m used to this place–North Carolina and Chapel Hill–but it would be cool to capture what this place is to me and all of us at this moment in time. I took the project on of writing the song that I felt was the senior spring song. It’s Chapel Hill-centric, but also about North Carolina. There’s something special about being in North Carolina that you don’t get in other places. That’s the idea I had [for the song],” explained Terrell.
In terms of the feel of the entire album, they believe that it will have an elevated sound–even more ‘Mipso’ than before.
“I think we’ve grown into our shoes a little more since the first album. I think it’s easier than on the first album for people to say, ‘Oh that’s kind of a bluegrass song.’ Now they sound more like Mipso songs,” Terrell proudly stated.
Sharp added, “It’s better blended.”
“You can see very direct themes in the last album–home, leaving home, coming back home, loves and lost loves, and certain other things–but it is kind of cool to be pushing our comfort zone for thematic writing [on our new album],” added Robinson.
While quality songwriting and recording are necessities for any band to be successful, so too is becoming integrated into a local music scene. Luckily, the North Carolina music scene is welcoming, even as it busts at the seams with talent. While Mipso carves away a place in the music scene, the band also pulls inspiration from those who have paved the way.
“It’s so important to be a part of a music scene, and North Carolina music scene is awesome. Two of my favorite bands are Chatham County Line and Mandolin Orange. They are awesome and right around the corner from us,” said Terrell.
Sharp chimed in, “Also, Andrew [Marlin] embodies the Carrboro music scene and is definitely at the top of it. He’s just always out playing. Whenever he’s not on tour, he’s anywhere where there’s music–always has his guitar and jamming with someone in a variety of styles, and he can play for like five hours straight if he wants. He’s never happier than when he’s performing. If it’s like one person in a bar or a packed Cat’s Cradle, he doesn’t care. That’s his craft and where he finds his joy. So that for me–it’s not just about practicing in a room or playing a big show–it’s about playing all of the time.”
In addition to their local music scene, Mipso is making a concerted effort to establish roots first throughout North Carolina, and then beyond. Since graduation in May, the band has been able to look forward with a new sense of direction and intent.
“For us it’s exciting because this whole year will be very focused and intentional. It was always something we just did on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s cool that it feels much more embodied and fully a part of our lives,” explained Terrell.
“As far as getting further afloat from North Carolina, it’s really a big goal of ours to first be really rooted here, to cover the state pretty thoroughly, because we keep learning about all of these cool communities. So, it’s fun for us to explore. Lots of them are places we’ve been as kids or something but never knew there’s this great music scene. That’s really exciting for us, and it also makes more sense to move out in smaller circles and just keep widening the radius,” added Sharp.
Robinson rounded it off, “It’s really cool to ground yourself as a North Carolina band by making sure that everyone in North Carolina–well not everyone–hopefully has a chance to hear you. We are really proud to be from this state, so we might as well make other people proud, too.”
Establishing their musical roots in North Carolina means playing local venues–anywhere from general stores to house show living rooms.
On the subject of house shows, which seem to be a very popular option among smaller indie acts, Sharp explained the appeal, “We’re seeing a much wider variety of venues and shows now, and it’s fun because you learn how with each one you have to tackle it a bit differently. House shows are especially cool because you’re taking this place and changing the space that it’s creating. It’s especially cool to watch people see how their living room turns into a venue. It’s a different type of community that comes to a house concert.”
Terrell added, “You’re pretty much guaranteed to talk to people a little bit more personally, play a little bit more intimately. Might happen at other shows too, but at a house show it’s kind of like what you expect, which is pretty sweet.”
Mipso plays a Charlotte house show, sponsored by Common Chord Concerts, this Friday (7/12), and has plans to continue touring throughout North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Connecticut. When I asked them if they had plans to tour out West, I was quite surprised by their response.
“Well we’ve got an idea about going East,” said Terrell with a laugh. I was perplexed. Out East?
“We are going to Japan and China in August. We are doing fourteen days in Japan. Last Summer I was in Japan. I wrote my honor’s thesis on the geography of music and it was about how bluegrass spread into Japan, specifically. So, I spent all Summer in Japan doing research, and just really listening to people who have for a long time been listening, and just gathered their world histories,” explained Sharp. “I was there for eight weeks and played a couple of concerts. More importantly I was seeing concerts and many festivals so we have strong ties to this small community of bluegrass musicians and bands who have an incredibly rich tradition of playing since WWII. So, we kind of just plugged into that network. We are playing the Takarazuka Bluegrass Festival. It is in its forty-third year. It’s a four-day festival, with about one hundred people. It looks like we will be playing five concerts outside of that, four of which are paired with Japanese bands.”
Mipso certainly has an exciting tail-end of the year ahead, including an overseas tour and putting the finishing touches on their second LP. Despite their steady growth as a band, Sharp, Robinson, and Terrell know that they still have mountains to climb, and they are very comfortable with that. Mipso doesn’t seem to carry the sense of urgency that would be expected from a group of recent graduates. They all possess a realistic level of patience that seems to be lacking in our world of instant gratification–which in itself is quite gratifying. As they move forward together, they pay special attention to the lessons put forth by their mentors, including one of North Carolina’s favorites, David Holt.
As the interview came to a close, Terrell shared a bit of the wisdom that has been imparted on him by Holt. “The other night I thought a little bit about this, but hearing it from [David] meant a lot. He said, ‘You guys have some really cool songs. I want to hear about why you wrote them–what the story is about.’ It reinforced to me that people want to hear the songs, but they also want to get to know you on stage, and the space between the songs is really important, too.”
That evening those at Peasant’s Pub were treated to an excellent two-set show. They were engaging and filled space between the songs with witty banter that held the audience’s attention. This time around I was able to appreciate Mipso’s set from a better vantage point. On stage, their awestruck quality was replaced by an ease, as they appeared much more comfortable and at home in their songs. The songwriting had matured, which was evident in the new songs they played. They even threw in a crowd-pleasing cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, which showed not only their sense of humor, but also their ability to cross genres and make a throwback song their own.
I was pleased to leave that evening with a new, shiny and fair impression of the band and their music. Mipso is moving in the right direction, at a smart and steady pace that exudes a quiet confidence. Armed with patience, talent, and big dreams, these young men will continue to gain fans as they travel the globe and share their songs and stories.
This week we lost one of our most treasured Americans. After a full life of hard work and harder flatpicking, legendary musician Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson peacefully passed on at the age of 89. Born in Deep Gap, NC, Doc was known far and wide as a masterful guitarist and storyteller whose music spread across countless genres, including folk, bluegrass, country, gospel and blues.
Two years ago I was fortunate enough to catch Doc’s set at the Newport Folk Festival. I, like many who did not grow up in the south, knew ‘of’ Doc but was not being very familiar with his canon of work. When I saw that he was in the line-up, I knew I couldn’t miss out on the chance to see and hear him perform live. On that sunny Saturday in late July, festival goers of all ages funneled their way into the small space between the main Fort Stage and side Harbor Stage to be within an ear shot and maybe even get a glimpse of NC’s native son. Joined on stage by his longtime musical partner David Holt and grandson Richard Watson, Doc treated us all to an unforgettable musical experience that afternoon.
During his set I felt like I was sitting on Doc’s front porch listening to him pick, sing, and tell stories, rather than standing shoulder to shoulder in the hot sun with hundreds of fans. His songs told stories of love, the Lord, and life’s lesson. Between songs, he captivated the audience with tales of his childhood and his lovely wife Rosa Lee. Despite his age, Doc still possessed an impressive nimbleness in his fingers and a childlike spirit. There was a natural ease about him as he talked to his fans as if they were kin. Throughout the set, bouts of laughter and song rang out from the crowd, and it was easy to see how this humble, honest man from NC had made such a profound impact the world of music over his lifetime.
Doc Watson was one of the greatest musicians of all time, and he selflessly shared that gift with the world over the past eight decades. While Doc certainly leaves behind a tremendous musical legacy, he also leaves each of us a sweet reminder to make the best of the life we are given. Though he wanted to be seen as “just one of the people”, Doc will always be remembered as a gift from above. Rest in peace Doc.
When D.C., MD, VA, and NC residents heard that The Darkness, who hadn’t toured in the US in eight years, was slated to play a mid-week show at the 9:30 Club, tickets sold out almost immediately. Fans (aka “Darklings”) had been hopelessly wishing on shooting stars for their favorite pop-rock-metal-pseudo-80’s band to reunite ever since their official break-up in 2006. Their dream had come true, and their day had arrived.
On this rainy Wednesday night in our nation’s capital, The Darkness definitely came to melt our faces off. From Justin Hawkins’ high-pitched ear-thrilling shrill to his multiple wardrobe changes and impressive stage stunts (standing on his head on stage with legs in a spread eagle while singing, just to name one), this performance proved to be everything I expected and more — pure in-your-face rock-n-roll with a splash of British humor on top.
The D.C. crowd, on the other hand, left more to be desired. Let’s just say they didn’t exactly bring their “A” game to the club. Their lackluster response time and time again after each song brought on feelings of embarrassment and shame. “Hey Justin, I’m from NC…we know how to react after a kick-ass performance!” Was the D.C. crowd’s reputation of being “hard to crack”, true? Or, where they just totally lame to not share in my excitement? It had been EIGHT years people, and The Darkness is a ridiculously good, fun-loving band that rocks out and looks damn good in skin-tight leather jumpsuits doing it! What’s the issue here? When the lighting guy back at the sound board is jamming out harder than the majority of the audience…well..D.C. I think we have a problem. I digress…
Justin Hawkins, guitarist and lead singer of The Darkness — along with his brother and guitarist Dan Hawkins, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham — ransacked the stage with playful vocals, powerful guitar riffs, chest pounding percussive bass lines, and endless energy. They opened with Black Shuck and followed with favorites like One Way Ticket, Get your Hands off my Woman, Love is only a Feeling, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, and Love on the Rocks with no Ice (entire setlist). The momentum of the show was like that of a steam engine, ever building up speed and propelling the audience further and further into their “Darkness” world. Even when J. Hawkins slowed down to chat with the audience, I hung on to his every word, hoping desperately not to miss any of his funny English quips. Is it the accent or the delivery that makes Brits so damn funny? Perhaps it is both.
Towards the end of the set, J. Hawkins jumped into the audience atop the broad shoulders of security guards and ripped into one of his epic guitar solos, all while being groped and high-fived by surrounding fans. The energy on the ground floor of the 9:30 Club finally hit its stride as the crowd got an opportunity to get close to this modern-day rock god. This was just one of many examples throughout the show of how humble and down-to-Earth Hawkins is. He became even more likeable with his willingness to leave the safety of the stage and venture out into a sea of his fans. Despite the mediocre audience response (in my opinion), the band finished strong and never let on that they weren’t getting back what they were putting out there–a sign of true professionals in the music industry.
The Darkness Tour continues on into the Summer throughout the US, Australia, and Europe. For more information on the band, please visit their website.
Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds returned to their old stomping grounds in August to play to a sold-out, exuberant crowd at nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Charlottesville, VA. Proceeds from ticket sales were donated by the fans to various charities through JustGive.org, a website that supports nearly 1.8 million nonprofit organizations.
Thousands of fans, both inside and outside the Pavilion’s confines, enjoyed over 3 hours of acoustic entertainment and storytelling by Matthews and Reynolds, along with a special guest appearance by Asheville’s own legendary guitarist Warren Haynes. The charitable evening of musical mastery was complimented by the peaceful and jovial mood of the fans, who relished in favorites such as Jimi Thing, #41, MyBaby Blue, and Two Step.
A few days prior to the event, I caught up with Reynolds to discuss the show, his music, and adjusting to life in the Outer Banks of NC.
Reynolds, who has paired up with Matthews for multiple benefit shows over the years, was glad to be a part of the Charlottesville event, and appreciated that fans had an active role in the donation process.
“I think it’s pretty cool because people can donate to the charity of their choice, so that funds get spread out more to the smaller charities,” Reynolds said.
Over the years, Reynolds’ performances have benefited global organizations like China Care and Middle East Child Alliance. However, he also makes great efforts to donate his talents and money to smaller, local charities throughout the Outer Banks.
In 2007, Reynolds left his home in New Mexico and moved to the Outer Banks with his family. While topographically much different from NM, the eastern shore of NC has provided Reynolds with fresh inspiration and a new environment for songwriting.
“It took me a little while to adjust, but once I finally realized that the beach was only a 15 minute walk from my house, I felt more at ease. There is always something here to inspire me and make me feel alive,” he said.
When it comes to songwriting, Reynolds often uses the natural environment to fuel his creativity.
“As far as songwriting, some songs take a long time, while others just come to me quickly. The other day, I was walking on the beach and thought of an idea and just recorded it right into my iPhone. I thought that was pretty amazing,” he said.
Shortly after moving to NC, Reynolds met local bassist Mick Vaughn and drummer Dan Martier. After playing together a few times, Reynolds decided it was time to resurrect his old band TR3 with Vaughn and Martier as new members. Collectively, their gritty electric sounds have developed into a melding of rock, funk, and jazz that is sure to bring down the house. Between touring small venues across the US, TR3 recorded and released a studio album entitled Radiance, and just recently a live two-disc album entitled From SPACE and Beyond. Reynolds shared his delight in creating and playing music with Vaughn and Martier.
“I usually bring a song idea to the guys and we start practicing it. As we practice it gets tweaked and changes, so it’s a fun process. Every year we play more gigs and get more in tune as a band. There has been a more consistent effort this time around. We have the same steady personnel so it is like a real band thing and it evolves in its own way,” he said.
In 2010, Reynolds also released The Limbic System, a solo acoustic album that took him over two years to complete. The title, which references the center for memory and emotion in the brain, is fitting for the two-disc collection of instrumental and vocal arrangements all written and performed by Reynolds.
“It was a labor of total love and joy to do. There were a lot of feelings in those recordings. It was very intimate and even though there are some mistakes in there, when it was done it felt like a big Ahhhh for me. It was a musical statement from the heart and soul,” he said.
Whether Reynolds is solo or on stage with TR3 or the Dave Matthews Band, he continues to surprise his fans by mastering new interpretations of sound, making each experience unique and special for the audience.