A Sound Recommendation: Willie Jones

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Hailing from Shreveport, Louisiana, Willie Jones has taken his country roots and merged them with R&B influences to create an unprecedented, show-stopping sound. He spent his childhood singing gospel music and performing in musical theater productions, eventually making his way to the X Factor stage in 2012 where he wowed international audiences with his rich, authentic country voice.

Since then, Jones has continued creating a name for himself and cultivating his own sound within country music, garnering over 20 million streams on Spotify and earning a spot on the historic Ryman Auditorium stage with Dwight Yoakam. With his iconic anthems and innovative sound, it is no wonder Rolling Stone identified him as the “future of country music.”

Willie Jones continues to prove himself a stand-out artist with the release of his latest single “Back Porch.” With relatable lyrics and a “seamless” mix of country and R&B (Rolling Stone), Jones delivers a familiar atmosphere with a laid-back, warm-weather feel, inviting listeners to take a journey directly to their back porch where life is always that much better.

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Jess Jocoy’s Debut — Such A Long Way Out Now

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Nashville-based Americana singer-songwriter Jess Jocoy has released her debut full-length album, Such a Long Way, earlier this month. The album was produced by Michael Rinne (Miranda Lambert) and Dylan Alldredge (Mary Gauthier, Joy Williams, Leon Bridges) and recorded at Skinny Elephant Recording in Nashville.

With a crystalline veracity in her uniquely authentic songs, Jocoy constructs eloquent narratives that drift between the poetic and the conversational, which some have called “Jason Isbell meets Emmylou Harris.”

The biggest truth in this record is my journey,” Jocoy says of her refined yet rootsy album.

While Such a Long Way’s songs don’t always tell her story, they certainly show her progress. From the big picture pep talk that is “Existential Crossroads” to the father-son stand-off of “Castles Made of Sand” through the tender reminder of “Hope,” Such a Long Way showcases a thoroughly literate young songwriter finding her voice and staking her claim with equal parts grit, grace, and gravitas. In an Americana music community brimming with talent, Such a Long Way is an impressive effort for someone who only just a couple years ago committed to pursuing music full-time, after a lifetime of dreaming that dream.

PURCHASE SUCH A LONG WAY

At the craggy core of Such a Long Way lives the search to find one’s place in the world, and it readily infuses the earthy stride of “Somebody Somewhere,” the vibey shuffle of “Long Way Home,” and the quiet testament of “Hope (Such A Long Way).” Of the latter, Jocoy says, “The entire piece is based on what I needed to hear — from God, from myself, whomever. This song is about me: If I don’t tell myself I’m a bird, I will never fly. I’ve worn sorrow like a coat, and it’s hard to shake it off.” Grief, gratitude, living, and learning collide in one of the reoccurring themes of Such a Long Way: mercy. “‘Mercy’ is such a powerful word — small but mighty,” Jocoy offers. “It can dictate a lot, like what kind of person you are. I’ve been shown so much mercy throughout the course of my life. That and grace have brought me to where I am today.”

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Israel Nash To LIVE STREAM New Music

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This week, Israel Nash announced the surprise release ‘Topaz,’ an EP consisting of 5 songs that were originally slated to be released as the A-side of an upcoming full length album.

A Bandcamp exclusive went live earlier this week, and the EP is now available on all digital platforms.

He’ll be streaming live performances tonight (4/17) at 8pm CT and Sat (4/18) at 1pm CT via his Instagram, YouTube and Facebook pages.

Israel Nash’s last album was described by NPR Music as “a magnificently far-reaching and optimistic slice of ornate, psych-tinged Technicolor rock” with “immense sonic ambition” that “plunges directly, and wonderfully, into the deep end.”

***A note from Israel Nash on ‘Topaz’***

“I know the days of late feel strange and uncertain. Things are a little upside down and uneven all over the world. So I’m gonna throw a little love out there to my fellow brothers and sisters in arms and iso and give ya some new tunes. Here’s TOPAZ!!”

“If these songs could either inspire, chill ya a bit, or even just help pass the day, I’m here for ya. I’ve been making more new music than ever over the last year and I wanna release more stuff than ever too. Been trying to figure out how to best do that but these weird times made it clear to me. I’m so happy to share this with you! The beginning of much more to come!”

“These tunes are about the unfortunate divisions we have between others – friends, lovers, strangers, ideas, politics…the distances between. So during this crazy time, may we see that we are always our best as one. It doesn’t take a guru to reveal how connected we really are in this world!! Recognize that we share much more in common than we do in what separates us.”

“We’re all in this life together with a shared hope for tomorrow, a need for the love of others, and a want for the warmth of a shining sun. Live and love out there and stay safe my friends! Enjoy and vibe. May your hearts and ears be blessed.”

New Timely Release From Eliza Gilkyson

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Two-time GRAMMY™-nominated folk singer, songwriter and activist Eliza Gilkyson celebrates the release of her new album 2020.

The album, a collection of politically charged anthems designed to motivate, reflect and inspire action during these partisan times, seems especially prescient with our current situation and was a response to what she believes will be “the most important USA election of our lifetime.”

Produced by Eliza’s son, Cisco Ryder, 2020 features songs that are designed to be audience sing-a-longs in the Pete Seeger tradition of motivational political anthems, from the call for unity of “Peace in Our Hearts,” to blistering condemnations of the current regime’s policies with “Sooner or Later” and “My Heart Aches.” Along with these new songs (including two co-writes with students from her summer songwriter workshops in Taos, NM), she has recorded two folk favorites: Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

PURCHASE 2020

One More Day” finds Gilkyson reflecting on the sobering realities of climate catastrophe while celebrating her commitment to life, love, community and Planet Earth with the songs “Beautiful World of Mine,” “We Are Not Alone” and “Promises to Keep.”

Gilkyson, daughter of folk artist Terry Gilkyson and sister of LA-based artist Tony Gilkyson, is held in high regard by critics and her fellow songwriters alike; she recently supported Richard Thompson on his fall 2019 U.S. and had her song “The Great Correction” covered in 2018 by Joan Baez.

Gilkyson says: “2020 was born out of a visceral impulse to promote unity, commitment and action during this epic and critical showdown of power versus people in the USA and our world today.  “May human decency prevail.

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Nashville Beats: New Album From Sean McConnell to Benefit Tennessee Tornado Relief

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In the relatively short five years since Basement East opened its doors on Woodland Street, the East Nashville venue has been a home for musicians and music fans alike; a neighborhood haunt capable of introducing a few hundred new friends at a time.

New artists look forward to making the jump to Basement East from its smaller capacity sister-venue across the river, the Basement, and seasoned vets fill the room like it’s the biggest house party their community has ever seen—on a nightly basis. So when Basement East took a massive blow from March 3rd’s early morning EF3 tornado, it became the centerpiece of news coverage and a symbol of devastation for the people of Nashville.

One of those people is longtime Nashville resident and music scene mainstay, Sean McConnell. “ It was heartbreaking to see that Basement East was so terribly damaged during the horrible recent Tornados,” says McConnell, who released his new album, Live from Basement East, today . “It’s one of those evenings I will replay over in my head for a long time,” McConnell recalls of the night from which the album was culled. “It was the last show on the Secondhand Smoke tour, so not only were we primed and ready but it had the added emotion of ‘this is it, guys!’” To McConnell, it seemed fitting to use this release to do some good for the community that surrounds Basement East. “With them in mind and the continued need for aid, the proceeds from this record will go towards helping Nashville rebuild.” 

PURCHASE LIVE FROM BASEMENT EAST

Featuring a number of songs from his most recent album, Secondhand Smoke, as well as a sprinkling of tunes from his bountiful career, Live from Basement East gives fans a taste of what it’s like to be at a lively Sean McConnell show, especially in this day of live streams and anticipation of getting back to the life we knew just a month ago—all while perpetuating efforts to rebuild and relieve in the wake of this tragic storm. All proceeds from Live from Basement East will be donated to the Middle Tennessee Relief Fund.

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Austin Duo Pike & Sutton Release Debut Album

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Austin-based duo Pike & Sutton released their debut full-length album Heart Is A Compass. 

Led by “hometown favorites” Patrice Pike and Wayne Sutton, the band has evolved out of the longtime alternative rock band Sister 7.

Pike & Sutton is a partnership, a creative evolution, and a promise fulfilled. Equally anchored by the powerhouse vocals of Pike and the deep textured guitars of Sutton, Heart Is A Compass is both a transformative celebration of the pair’s R&B, soul, and roots influences and an exhilarating call-to-arms for the faithful. Co-produced with Grammy-winner Jim Watts (Emmylous Harris, Jenny Lewis, Kelly Clarkson), the album crackles with passion, vision, and undeniable hip-shaking rhythms.

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Heart Is A Compass is available for stream or purchase HERE.

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A Very Sound Recommendation: Saint Eden

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Saint Eden is Sam Bradley (lead vocal, guitar) and Bobby Harris (lead guitar, vocals).

Introduced by mutual friends a few years back they hit it off immediately and bonded over their shared musical influences and love of vintage guitars.

Bobby has an accomplished background in session work as a sought-after guitarist, on stage and in the studio. Sam had his first break a few years back with a song on the Twilight movie soundtrack and as a successful singer / songwriter in his own right touring across Europe the US and Canada.

When they met, Sam and Bobby discovered that they share a love for country music, its depth of lyric and its many faceted styles and they wasted no time in getting together to write songs. It didn’t take long for them to find their own sound and soon after Saint Eden was born.

It was a logical move for Sam who spent his early childhood living in Nashville growing up being influenced by the likes of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Brooks & Dunn. His mum who is also a singer songwriter still lives there and runs songwriter retreats at her home.

The guys spent no time taking advantage of her hospitality and based themselves in Nashville for several months and immersed themselves in that world. Writing with and sourcing songs from the likes of Josh Osbourne (Midland / Lanco), Brett James (Jason Aldean / Chris Young), Jaron Johnston (Drake White / Keith Urban) & Steve Diamond (Faith Hill). And Bobby was able to reconnect with his old friend Sam Palladio, with whom he was collaborating before Palladio rudely disappeared to star in the Nashville TV series.

Now back in London with a growing catalogue of material Sam and Bobby continue to record, perform and collaborate with the cream of the burgeoning UK Country scene.

Their first single,  Lonely When I’m With You came out earlier this year and is available on all the usual platforms.

Their new single, Dangerously Good, out 10 April, is available now for preorder.

PRE-ORDER DANGEROUSLY GOOD

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You can all check out Saint Eden for yourselves on Wednesday the 8th of April via Instagram Live at 6pm BST.  (For us yanks, that’s 1pm EST)

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A Sound Recommendation: The Ballroom Thieves

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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.”\

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New Music From Tami Neilson

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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

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A Sound Recommendation: Ghost Caravan

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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!”

 

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