A Sound Recommendation: The Ballroom Thieves


photo by Mulography – Anthony Mulcahy


The Ballroom Thieves – Calin “Callie” Peters (vocals, cello), Martin Earley (guitar, vocals), and Devin Mauch (percussion, vocals) – mine immense melodies and hypnotic hooks from personal stories on their 2018 EP, Paper Crown (Nettwerk Records). Under the cover of vintage jazz-style, the five songs reflect feelings of rootlessness from four nomadic years, bouts of depression, and the ever-looming specter of political unrest hanging over the country.

Nevertheless, a noticeable glimmer of light always peeks through.

Our lifestyle has shaped our perspective,” explains Martin. “We’ve toured so much that we haven’t been able to call anywhere home. A lot of the songwriting was done from this place of simply not having a home base. We were the perennial guests.

Some of the more somber moments come from a darkness I carry,” admits Callie. “I’m not an optimist, and I suffer from insomnia and depression. Traveling around on highways and utilizing the faux likes of large cooperate hotels and chains can bring a person down. Songwriting is a way to speak about sad things in a pretty and concise way while providing a distraction from some of the realities of tour life. It’s not all dreary though, and the enormous range of experiences give us the juxtaposition of happy, easygoing vintage music and dark lyrics.”

That subtle balance has transformed The Ballroom Thieves into a quiet phenomenon. Following two EPs, the group released their full-length debut A Wolf in the Doorway in 2015.

In late 2017, they commenced work on Paper Crown, collaborating with producer Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Brandi Carlile, Vance Joy) in Washington for the first time.

Working with Ryan at Bear Creek was a completely new and unique experience,” affirms Devin. “He naturally pushed us through our vulnerabilities, challenging the band to grow and apply some of his more pop sensibilities to our traditional ‘Thieves sound.’ The rustic wooded environment at Bear Creek also had a serious impact on the band’s experience creating these songs as we found ourselves there at two very different times of year – once in the beautiful but smoky heat of August and again in February’s more frigid rain season. The result was a pretty stark contrast in the sounds, tones, textures, colors, and feel between each song, which in itself is a reflection of this band and our journey.

The Ballroom Thieves culled the EP title Paper Crown from a lyric in “Do Something.” Representing the ephemeral nature of consumerism, corporate greed, and reality TV, it’s symbolic of the fake coronation atop the country’s hierarchy. At the same time, it proposes an alternative charge for unity in the face of this misdirection.

It’s a letter to this administration to do something kind,” Callie exclaims. “This president is not a suitable representative for any human being, but ironically, many of the Americans rallying behind him are the ones who stand to suffer the most if he continues to bolster ideals that only work for people who look and live like him. For ‘Do Something’, instead of focusing on my cynicism about it, I was trying to have higher hopes, and maybe scream a little about what most of us are thinking.”

Martin goes on, “It’s unifying rather than being divisive. It points towards the fact we’re all trying to navigate this situation together. We shouldn’t be doing that as two separate factions.”

“To me, this EP is a transition,” Martin states. “It leads us towards the next project and stands as an evolution of our sound. Just like any band, we keep evolving and writing new songs that require creativity in production. I hope we take our older fans with us while making some new ones along the way.”

In the end, The Ballroom Thieves strain light through all the darkness.

We hope people find it catchy and inviting,” Callie leaves off, “but are also able to find a likeness and connection to any of the ideas we express and the music we love to create.”\




New Music From Tami Neilson


Photo:  SusanRostron.com

With a soulful voice straight from the golden age of country and rockabilly music, Canadian-born songstress Tami Neilson grew up performing with her parents and her two brothers around North America as The Neilson Family Band. She then settled in New Zealand and lit out on her own as a country crooner adorned in vintage sound and style. She rapidly picked up numerous New Zealand Music Awards over several years for Best Female Artist, Best Country Album and Best Country Song, thanks to her pithy, bang-on verses and a voice that sounds like she swallowed Patsy Cline in one bite without chewing.

That would have been a comfortable musical space in which to nestle amongst her laurels, but with the blink of a false eyelash and a toss of her beehive, Neilson strutted on, augmenting her sweetheart-of-country sound with gospel, R&B, soul and rockabilly. This hip-swinging combo has become a raucous shout-out against double standards, Rolling Stone calling her “a fire-breathing belter on her own terms.”

Her trademark cheeky joy rides aloft on vigorous grooves, her trademark high-octane performances knocking out audiences around the world with what Downbeat  magazine calls “A great, big canyon of a voice.”

Any Fool With A Heart is the second single from Tami Neilson’s upcoming new album, “CHICKABOOM!” due for worldwide release 14 Feb 2020 on Outside Music/Neilson Records



A Sound Recommendation: Ghost Caravan


Ghost Caravan is a group of collaborators lead by Shaina Silver-Baird. Her “ghosts” are what inform the music that she writes. Whether they are the ghosts of specific people, the ghosts of past loves or the ghosts of experience, this caravan of ghosts is the origin of her songs. “My music is still about dark places, but I focus on finding the light, the moment when you realize your own strength and ability to move forward. I want to be proud to share my songs with young women. There are so many voices in the world telling women how to think and feel about themselves. I want to be the voice that celebrates women. I want to empower and uplift people.

On Ghost Caravan’s new single, Love Me If You Dare, Shaina Silver-Baird, Juliana Iannuzziello, Michelle Faehrmann and Sarah Riegler collaborated with Martha Johnson and Mark Gane of Martha and the Muffins. Silver-Baird says, “I love creating music with other people. The end result is so much better because of the many points of view, different opinions and experiences that are woven into the song.”

The music itself is orchestral soultronica. The Ghost Caravan live show mixes electronic elements with live instruments creating a sound that is cinematic and invigorating. Silver-Baird elaborates, “I want to continue to push in the direction of personal/poetic lyrics coupled with grand, dramatic tracks. I want to develop the soulful core along with the orchestral element. It’s such an exciting sound – very contemporary and yet derived from something deeper and older. I love how celebratory it is. It’s as if we get to see the world through glasses that make the colours a bit more vibrant and the moments a bit more joyous. And getting to play these songs live with an all-female band is an exciting, powerful experience. Plus, it’s just so damn fun!”




Nashville Beats: New Music From Josh Rennie-Hynes


With the influx of change in Nashville, TN, the story of an artist’s move to Music City with the hopes of chasing a dream is not unheard of. Josh Rennie-Hynes, however, is not your typical Nashville transplant. Music is, and always has been number one. When the opportunity presented itself for him to make the move and focus solely on creating his next album, the distance from Australia to Nashville seemed like nothing. With that, the transition and growth that came from the move became an embedded inspiration on his stunning new album, Patterns.
In three short days, Patterns was recorded live to tape at Sound Emporium studios in late August 2018. The album finds Rennie-Hynes’ exploring new territory as an artist, both stylistically and lyrically and the result is raw, powerful and immediate. He was accompanied by an all star band that consisted of Alex Munoz (Margo Price, Nikki Lane) on production and guitar, Allen Jones (Lilly Hiatt, Will Hoge) on drums, Christopher Griffiths (Will Hoge) on bass, and Micah Hulscher (Margo Price) on keys. The arrangements and production are intentionally lean to allow space for the band and songs to breathe, while Rennie-Hynes’ voice captivates from beginning to end – the common thread throughout.


Josh Rennie-Hynes received the prestigious 2018 Nashville Songwriters’ Residency from the Australian Arts Council, awarded to him on the back of two critically acclaimed solo albums, as well as his most recent project, The Ahern Brothers. Of their debut album, Rolling Stone said ‘The Duo’s vocal harmonies and careworn guitars shiver with timeless feeling. A mesmerizing contemporary recording; restrained, pithy and pure.” They wrapped up with a successful farewell tour, and two months later Josh Rennie-Hynes boarded his plane for the U.S. By taking that leap, he was found tuning in, moving forward, and trusting life in a state of sheer vulnerability – themes ever present throughout Patterns. This album presents Josh Rennie-Hynes with a new sound – one that is gritty, honest, and fully formed. It is a masterly crafted recording by an artist now coming into his own.






Philly Beats: New Music From Driftwood Soldier


photo: Liz Kross

Driftwood Solidar are an inimitably gritty, gutterfolk duo from Philadelphia. Owen Lyman-Schmidt’s guttural, gravely voice and raging mandolin growling atop Bobby Szafranski’s ominously tempered bass compose the band’s distinct sonic-scape, which they skillfully enage to drive tales of injustice with force.

The duo have shared the second single from their upcoming album Stay Ahead of the Wolf to be released October 18.

The track is titled “Marietta” features fervent mandolin playing, dancing with gentle fury at the blurry imperfections of humanity.

Songwriter Owen Lyman-Schmidt explains, “I don’t believe love has neat edges or definite beginnings and endings, but that’s what we’ve been told to expect. On the surface ‘Marietta’ could be a lament about emotionally distant lovers, but I wrote it as a warning about what you risk losing if you insist that love conform to your prefabricated expectations.”  



Nashville Beats: Rising Star Morgan Johnston


Born and raised on the beach peninsula of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Morgan Johnston has always been destined to make waves. Morgan taught herself to play guitar at 13 years old.

Armed with this new ability, she immediately began documenting her feelings, angst, and the misadventures of teenage love. More than that, Morgan used songwriting as a way to analyze and understand her own emotions. She would soon come to find out that her interpretations of life through song touched others, as well.

This connection to other people drove Morgan to continue writing and sharing her art. Morgan took the spotlight at local open mic nights, dazzling bargoers and fellow musicians alike with her impressive talent at such a young age.

Ten years later, Johnston still narrates her journey through song, but has built her home and community in Nashville, Tennessee – singer/songwriter mecca of the United States. Her debut single, “Good Guy”, released in August 2018, features raw and heartbreaking lyrics expressed beautifully through sweet and tender vocals.

As a pop-country artist, Morgan is influenced by modern singer/songwriters such as Lori McKenna, Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves. Johnston describes her sound as “a blend of Kacey Musgraves and Kelsea Ballerini”. This unique combination is  featured in her latest release “Taillights” released over the summer.

I’ve never been afraid of being vulnerable. I’m not sure if that’s a strength or a weakness, but it’s certainly helped me as a songwriter”



Steve Forbert To Release Limited Edition Remastered Vinyl For Jackrabbit Slim ’s 40th Anniversary


A little over 43 years ago, Meridian, MS, native Steve Forbert boarded a train bound for New York City. Twenty-one years old at the time, Forbert, with his guitar and harmonica, spent two years working his way up from street performer living at the YMCA to filling historic Greenwich Village clubs and signing a major label contract. By 1979, Forbert had really hit his stride, releasing Jackrabbit Slim, which produced his first top 40 hit, “Romeo’s Tune,” and afforded Forbert the opportunity to share his music with the world. On November 8th , 2019, Blue Rose Music will be releasing an extremely limited edition vinyl reissue of Jackrabbit Slim , remastered by the legendary Ted Jensen of Sterling Sound (The Eagles, The B-52s, Dave Matthews, Norah Jones). 500 copies will be pressed on red-colored wax , and when they’re gone, they’re gone.


In addition to “Romeo’s Tune,” Jackrabbit Slim introduced the world to Forbert’s Mississippi instincts and catchy-but-deep rock and roll tunes. From the rollicking “Say Goodbye To Little Jo” to the almost-reggae-tinged “Complications” to the straight-ahead folk of “January 23-30, 1978,” Jackrabbit Slim spans Forbert’s early creative potential, all while entertaining different types of listeners. “ Jackrabbit Slim was the release that put me on the map and gave me the audience that’s still with me today,” says Forbert. “Every singer/songwriter needs one of these!”

Artists like Keith Urban, Rosanne Cash, and Marty Stuart have covered songs from Jackrabbit Slim and Forbert’s extensive 20 album catalog. And in 2017, twenty-one artists paid tribute to Steve by recording An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert , further validating the quality of Forbert’s musicianship, writing, and profound contributions to Americana and Folk music.

To celebrate this 40th anniversary, Forbert will perform Jackrabbit Slim in its entirety at The Iridium in New York City on December 5th. “ I’m preparing my New Jersey-based band for the show and I’m having no problem still relating to the stories in these songs,” says Forbert. “‘Romeo’s Tune,’ which I’ve sung hundreds of times, is still fun! And I’m still totally down with ‘It’s often said that life is strange, but compared to what?’” A full list of Forbert’s tour dates can be found below.

Catch Steve Forbert On Tour:

9/20 – Plymouth, MA – Spire Center for the Performing Arts
9/21 – Cambridge, MA – Club Passim
9/27 – Turnersville, NJ – Volume Live Music Cafe
9/28 – Beacon, NY – Towne Crier Cafe
9/29 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Caffe Lena
10/17 – San Antonio, TX – Sam’s Burger Joint
10/18 – Austin, TX – Cactus Cafe
10/19 – Houston, TX – McGonigel’s Mucky Duck
10/20 – Baton Rouge, LA – Red Dragon Listening Room
11/23 – New Hope, PA – New Hope Winery
11/24 – Piermont, NY – Turning Point
12/5 – New York City, NY – The Iridium*
12/7 – St. Louis, MO – Off Broadway
12/8 – Memphis, TN – Lafayette’s Music Room
12/31 – Kennett Square, PA – Kennett Flash
*Vinyl Release Show

More on Steve Forbert:

From 1978 to 1982, Forbert released four acclaimed albums, including the Gold-certified Jackrabbit Slim with its #11 hit “Romeo’s Tune.” Recording success vaulted Steve onto a broader musical stage, touring the U.S. and Europe many times over. Steve’s early accomplishments would be a career for most artists, but he continues to write, record, and perform to this day. His artistic pursuit has resulted in twenty studio albums and numerous live releases, compilations, and accolades.

Like other great artists, Forbert embraces challenge as he did by recording, Any Old Time , a retrospective of the music of Meridian’s Jimmie Rodgers, which received a
2003 Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album. As Rodgers’ music has inspired Forbert so has Forbert’s music influenced a new generation of artists.

In 2018, Steve released his memoir Big City Cat: My Life in Folk-Rock. “ Like the earlier Bob Dylan and Patti Smith books, Forbert has a warm way of describing the pull of NYC and the ensuing challenges of getting traction, against the context of a small-town upbringing. He offers a sparkling observation about the pull of music as excellent as any I have seen,” says Entertainment Today.