First of Final Recordings From The Screaming Eagle of Soul

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In late 2016, Charles Bradley faced his greatest challenge in a lifetime filled with challenges. A stomach cancer diagnosis earlier that fall forced him off the road at the peak of his career. Weakened by months of chemotherapy, facing a potentially life threatening surgery and confronting his own mortality, Bradley stepped into a home recording studio in Queens, NY and spontaneously created “Lonely as You Are.”

Eyes closed and seated, Bradley listened to the looping track and began to speak and sing lyrics on the spot, expressing hope that “one day when God says well done” he’d be reunited in heaven with his mother, grandmother, and other loved ones. He concludes the cathartic recording with the statement: “I love you. And this is Charles Bradley. I hope this one day gets out to the world.”

Bradley’s hope is fulfilled with the release today of “Lonely as You Are” (with Bradley backed by Seth Avett and Mike Marsh from the Avett Brothers, along with co-producers James Levy and Paul Defiglia) to be followed in May by another track from that session, “Lucifer.” These are Bradley’s final recordings.

“Charles knew “Lonely as You Are” could comfort people and help them find a way to deal with their own loneliness. He was always looking for ways to make people feel better, even when he was confronting his own pain and suffering. He asked that “Lonely” be played at his funeral; he wanted to share it with the world,” says Executive Producer Morton Lorge, Bradley’s former co-manager (with his partner, current Def Jam EVP/GM Rich Isaacson).

These sessions marked an improbable collaboration between Bradley and NYC recording artist, songwriter and producer James Levy. Working out of his Queens home studio, Levy was recording demos for a follow-up to a previous album produced by Guy Berryman of Coldplay and an EP released by Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records. Levy shared the chorus and music of “Lonely as You Are” with Bradley, who wrote verses on the spot.

To finish the tracks, Levy and Lorge enlisted Nashville producer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Defiglia, who had spent the previous five years recording and touring with the Avett Brothers and Langhorne Slim. Defiglia, who plays bass, piano and organ on both tracks, brought in Avett Brothers colleagues Seth Avett (acoustic guitar) and Mike Marsh (drums) for “Lonely.”

12 time Grammy winner Jay Newland mixed “Lonely as You Are” and two time Grammy nominee Alan Silverman mastered it. Giles Clement, of Nashville, shot the cover photo during the 2017 Newport Folk Festival.

The Bradley-Levy-Defilgia collaboration lead to Somebody – a James Levy album produced by Paul Defiglia and recorded in Nashville. Songs of Love, the first release from that album, along with an official music video by Crackerfarm, will also be released by Innit Recordings, on May 10, 2019.

The remarkable against-all-odds rise of Charles Bradley since the release of his 2011 debut album No Time For Dreaming has been well documented. Transcending a life in the streets, Bradley went from extreme poverty and homelessness to performing sold out shows and making national TV and festival appearances around the world, including at Coachella, Governors Ball, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, SXSW and many more. Poull Brien’s 2012 documentary — Charles Bradley: Soul of America — gave a glimpse into how Bradley turned pain and heartbreak into joy and love. One of the great live performers of his time, Bradley’s 2016 appearance on CBS This Morning: Saturday was nominated for a 2017 Daytime Emmy award for “Outstanding On-Camera Musical Performance in a Daytime Program.” In celebration of his amazing life and to commemorate what would have been Bradley’s 70th birthday, Daptone Records imprint Dunham Records in November 2018 released Black Velvet — a collection of ten songs recorded during the sessions from each of his previous three albums, produced by Tom Brenneck and performed by the Menahan Street Band.

A Sound Recommendation: New Music From Canadian Indie Rocker Krief

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Indie singer-songwriter Krief (full name Patrick Krief) has eleased the first single, “Take The Night,” from his new album,  Dovetale.

A truly solo endeavor — Krief plays all the instruments on Dovetale — the album was recorded and mixed between Krief’s home studio and Mixart in his home base of Montreal. It echoes dream pop and shoegaze as well as the classic pop, rock, and folk that have always been Krief’s songwriting foundation as the former co-writer and guitarist with Montreal “orchestral pop noir” band the Dears, a position he filled for over a decade.

Says Krief about the new music, “Dovetale is a collection of love songs unencumbered by other-thinking, or over-production. I really allowed myself to be vulnerable with this album. While the album as a whole has more of a positive and lighthearted theme, songs like “Take The Night” and “Dovetale” call back some sentiments of betrayal, anger, and bring them into a new context, one in which darkness is confronted head-on.”

On Dovetale, Krief presents a triumphant union of contemporary pop and rock sounds that emerged from the literal honeymoon phase of his marriage. While domestic bliss doesn’t typically inspire the kind of open-heart poetry and high-octane pop sound that Krief is known for — and his previous release Automanic was an epic double album fueled by heartbreak and self-destruction — the conception of Dovetale found him at the peak of his game artistically as well as personally.

“It really is a way more positive record,” Krief says. “A lot of the songs still reflect on that darker period, but there’s a feeling of optimism and gratitude for how things have turned out.” The album explores the wonderment that comes with the first blush of new love (without being too maudlin about it) as well as some of the insecurities that come with blossoming relationships. Musically, Krief indulges in lush strings and layers of melodic guitars, yet he also scaled back the dense arrangements that he feels he’s been hiding behind, highlighting an impressive vocal range — from a masterful falsetto to a half-sung baritone reminiscent of Leonard Cohen.

The album was mixed to feature the vocals and make sure the songs stood out and didn’t get lost in big fat walls of sound,” Krief says. “I really wanted to focus on the melody, the basic songwriting, and on making the songs more vulnerable.

ARTIST LINKS

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West Coast Beats: Lola Bates

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Lola Bates is an LA-based singer-songwriter, classical pianist, and multi-instrumentalist.

Her debut album Red Hot is now available on Human Made Records.

A classically trained pianist since age five, the 17-year-old singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s eight-song debut album will be available via all digital platforms and vinyl LP. A free record release show is confirmed for tonight at The Federal Bar North Hollywood in Los Angeles at 7pm and open to all-ages.

I’m so excited to share with you a collection of songs inspired by my formative life experiences,”  They contain feelings of nostalgia, love, heartbreak, and love of nature that dance through the many genres I’ve incorporated in my debut album Red Hot, expressing my love for all types of music, and showing my personality at the time. As you listen, I hope you can find a little bit of yourself in this music.”

On Red Hot, Lola has an eclectic take on the traditional singer-songwriter motif as she switches between piano on the song “I’m Gonna Lose You”, bass on “Red Hot” and guitar on “Hey Hey Hey”. Recording and performing with orchestras inspired Lola to write string arrangements to broaden the emotional depth of her debut album. It’s this eclecticism that is fed by her lyrical and thematic adaptability. Although she wavers between rock, pop, and jazz, the sound is uniquely her own. Sometimes sad, sometimes angry, sometimes nostalgic, Red Hot is as expansive and genuine as Bates herself. Complimenting Lola on the album is drummer and producer, Scott Seiver, of Tenacious D and John Carpenter, and several soloists including saxophonist, David Ralicke, of Beck and Dengue Fever.

Leading up to the album debut and working entirely on her own, Bates wrote the music, lyrics and recorded demos for her debut album which evolved into the album Red Hot via a collaboration with her father, composer/producer Tyler Bates and Grammy-winning engineer/producer/mixer Robert Carranza. It was a familiar experience in this setting as the young Bates was tasked at age 12 to record piano work on the Marvel franchise film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.1 and again in 2017 recorded her piano work for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 at Abbey Road Studios in London with the London Symphony Orchestra. It was during these sessions that she expanded her knowledge and artistic expression to the point where she began applying her own musical ideas for her own music. This led to her vision to pursue life as an artist, musician and songwriter. The result is Red Hot.

Lola’s songs, “Still a Mess” and “Hey Hey Hey”, are featured in the pilot episode of USA network’s The Purge TV series, and are currently available on streaming platforms. What’s more, she’s played bass live on The Howard Stern Show with David Hasselhoff and performed live playing piano with the Malaga Orchestra and bass with Tyler Bates Band at MOSMA in Spain. Her work as a musician and artist led to an endorsement with Schecter Guitars, where she is a featured artist on their international website and catalogue. In the fall of 2019, Lola will be attending the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University in Nashville, TN on both academic and music scholarships.

ARTIST LINKS

WEBSITE     FACEBOOK     INSTAGRAM     YOUTUBE

 

A Sound Recommendation: Folkie Devin Tuel of Native Harrow

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Devin Tuel may consider herself to be an artist meant for a different time, but she now finds herself inhabiting her own true place. The singer-songwriter is at home in Upstate NY reflecting on her third album, Happier Now, released under her nom de plume, Native Harrow, as well as the difficult sojourn the former ballerina and classically trained singer has had to traverse to become the writer and performer she was meant to be. “This record is about becoming your own advocate. Realizing that maybe you are different in several or a myriad of ways and that that is okay. And further, it is about me becoming a grown woman,” Tuel says.

After nearly two decades of rigorous training in ballet, theatre, and voice, Tuel needed to break out of the oppressive rules of academia and find her natural voice, write from her heart, and figure out what kind of performer she truly was rather than the one she was being molded into from the age of 3. “I spent my early twenties playing every venue in Greenwich Village, recording demos in my friends kitchen, and making lattes. I felt very alive then. I was on my own living in my own little studio, staying up all night writing; the dream I had of being a bohemian New York City artist was unfolding. I wanted to be Patti Smith. I was also heartbroken, poor, and had no idea what I was getting myself into. My twenties, as I think it goes for most, were all about getting up, getting knocked down, and learning to keep going. I never gave up and I think if I told 20 year old me how things looked 9 years later she’d be so excited”.

PURCHASE HAPPIER NOW

Happier Now, is a set of nine songs recorded and mixed by Alex Hall (JD McPherson, The Cactus Blossoms, Pokey LaFarge) at Chicago’s Reliable Recorders. The album was co-produced by Hall, Tuel, and her bandmate, multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms.

Native Harrow cuts out clear and vibrant narratives on fear, love, the open road, ill-fated relationships, and coping with the state of the world. “I wanted to share that I made it out of my own thunderstorm. I had experienced the high peaks and very low valleys of my twenties. I saw more of the world on my own, got through challenges, reveled in true moments of triumph… but all the while the world around me was growing louder, wilder, and scarier. Music for me is a place to be soft. This album was my place to feel it all.

ARTIST LINKS

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AngloFiles: London Based Singer Songwriter Charlie Cunningham

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Growing up in a small town in the periphery of London, guitar and piano were a big part of Charlie’s life.

The whole ability to write songs is probably in a lot more people than they think. A lot of people can probably do it; it’s just hard knowing how to start,’ he admits. “I think what slowed me down was just over-thinking every possible thing. So now I know that if something feels right to just trust that.”

After a few years gigging and finding his feet in Oxford he left for Seville and ended up staying for two years. It was here he explored the different attitudes towards the guitar, and developed a fresh technique that was a catalyst for his creativity. Taking the percussive qualities of flamenco, his playing became sharp enough to craft songs laden with delicate flourishes, intricate melodic turns, and moments of stark introspection. His work continues to be both expansive and intimate.

“I guess the reason that it took so long for me to put something out was that I couldn’t play the way I wanted to play” he explains. “I knew how I wanted it to be, but I just couldn’t do it. I gave myself quite a tough time”

But this perfectionist streak results in some truly wonderful moments of musicality. Charlie Cunningham’s enormously suggestive songwriting is sonically beautiful while also packing an emotional punch. “I love all sorts of music, as long as there is an honesty to it” he says. “But it’s hard, really, to let yourself be exposed like that.”

Cunningham’s artistic development, mapped by his three EPs Outside Things, Breather, and Heights, took another leap forward with his debut album, Lines. His deft touch and restraint has produced a work of compositions that sound fresh and yet eerily familiar. Although his celebrated flamenco nods and vocal hooks are present, his musicianship and songwriting ability now takes center stage. Fan favorites (Lights Off, Breather, While You Are Young) are still present but revisited as new versions and fine tuned productions, nestled within a diverse set of new songs. The lyrically confident Minimum and the vocally rhythmic Answers compliment new avenues scoped by the record’s production. His writing’s honesty and humility is matched with a confidence in its accomplishment.

The popularity of Charlie’s music is highlighted in over 4.7million Spotify plays across his three EPs and tens of thousands of views for his captivating online sessions reflect the enthusiasm for his live performances. This has been especially true on the continent, where he had played two sold out headline tours of Germany.

Charlie is set to release a new album, ‘Permanent Way‘ on 7th June.

PRE ORDER PERMANENT WAY

ARTIST LINKS

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Ani DeFranco To Release Memoir

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As singer/songwriter/feminist/activist gears up to release her memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream on May 7, she is also announcing her summer run of tour dates.

She kicks off her run on May 3 at JazzFest in New Orleans before a block of book events, then returns to performing May 31 in Houston.  

TICKETS HERE

In addition, at the shows DiFranco is offering a “No Walls” Mixtape, her current take on the songs related to the memoir. The “No Walls” Mixtape will also be available digitally on May 9.

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DiFranco addresses this to her fans. “So here is my mixtape for you, like the kind that I would make you on cassette if it was, like, 1993 and I was really into you. It’s a flight of Ani songs that I took the liberty of revisiting, solo stylie, twenty… (thirty?!) years later, songs that factor (either literally or figuratively) into my memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream.”

In her memoir, DiFranco recounts her early life from a place of hard-won wisdom, combining personal expression, the power of music, feminism, political activism, storytelling, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and much more into an inspiring whole. In these frank, honest, passionate, and often funny pages is the tale of one woman’s eventful and radical journey to the age of thirty. Ani’s coming of age story is defined by her ethos of fierce independence–from being an emancipated minor sleeping in a Buffalo bus station, to unwaveringly building a career through appearances at small clubs and festivals, to releasing her first album at the age of 18, to consciously rejecting the mainstream recording industry and creating her own label, Righteous Babe Records. In these pages, as in life, she never hesitates to challenge established rules and expectations, maintaining a level of artistic integrity that has impressed many and antagonized more than a few. Ani continues to be a major touring and recording artist as well as a celebrated activist and feminist, standing as living proof that you can overcome all personal and societal obstacles to be who you are and to follow your dreams. Tour dates and book events are listed below.

May 3 – New Orleans, LA – JazzFest
May 7 – New York, NY – Tishman Auditorium w/ Cecile Richards*
May 8 – Boston, MA – Coolidge Corner Theatre w/ Robin Young*
May 9 – Washington, DC – Sixth & I Synagogue w/ moderator TBA*
May 10 – Chicago, IL – Wilson Abbey w/ Jessica Hopper*
May 13 – Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre w/ moderator TBA*
May 14 – Berkeley, CA – First Congregational Church of Berkeley w/
moderator TBA*
May 15 – Portland, OR – Revolution Hall w/ Cari Luna*
May 16 – Pasadena, CA – Pasadena Presbyterian Church w/ Valarie Kaur*
May 17 – Austin, TX – Central Presbyterian Church w/ Rachel Rascoe*
May 19 – Greensboro, NC – Greensboro Bound Literary Festival w/
Rhiannon Giddens*
May 22 – New Orleans, LA – New Orleans JCC w/ Gwen Thompkins*
May 31 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall^
June 1 – Tulsa, OK – Williams Theater @ Tulsa Performing Arts Center^
June 2 – Wichita, KS – The Wave^
June 4 – Columbia, MO – Rose Park^
June 5 – Milwaukee, WI – The Pabst Theater^
June 6 – Davenport, IA – Codfish Hollow Barn^
June 9 – Fargo, ND – Fargo Theatre^
June 10 – Duluth, MN – NorShor Theatre^
June 12 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue^
June 13 – Cleveland Heights, OH – Cain Park w/ special guest Lucy
Wainwright Roche
June 15 – Croton-on-Hudson, NY – The Great Hudson River Revival
June 16 – Woodstock, NY – Levon Helm Studios

August 1 – Anchorage, AK – Barnes & Noble w/ moderator TBA*
August 2 – Ninilchik, AK – Salmonfest
August 4 – Kaslo, BC – Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival
August 10 – Edmonton, AB – The Edmonton Folk Music Festival
August 16 – Lyons, CO – Rocky Mountain Folks Festival
*book tour event
^with special guest Diane Patterson

West Coast Beats: Singer-Songwriter Ryan Thompson

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Ryan Thompson has been a visual artist, poet, husband, father, businessman, alt-rocker, and singer-songwriter. It took a lot of living to find his voice, and now Thompson is finally set to release his debut album of songs about that life (and maybe about your life, too.)

Waiting on a Ghost by Ryan Thompson & The Delicate Hounds arrives on May 24th. The album is comprised of Country-influenced songs about feelings and events that we’ve all experienced. Songs that resonate lyrically, but also melodically.

PURCHASE WAITING ON A GHOST

Even the sad songs need hooks!,” Thompson jokes with the bit of truth that all good humor has. These essentials get taken home on the album by the pro-style of session players on drums, pedal steel, and keyboards. Full-of-heart female backing vocals merge beautifully with the swells, bends and layers of a Hammond B-3. Thompson named this band to represent these sounds that they made together: “We are strong, but delicate. We are wolves with a conscience. We are Delicate Hounds.”

I did not spend my twenties on the music scene, trying to make a name for myself,” Thompson explains of his origins. “From the age of 21, I focused solely on my family and building my business career to support us. I always loved everything about making music, but it just wasn’t in the cards during these years.”

The Sacramento-based musician finally found sound in his 30’s, though he had yet to discover himself.

I started what was basically a 90’s, alternative band with some lifelong friends,” Thompson remembers. “It’s kind of weird, but I wrote most of our songs on the bass guitar, and even though the songs were not great, and we were definitely not good, after a couple years practicing and writing, we put together some pretty catchy tunes.”

As so many bands assembled “just for fun” will do, Thompson’s went away. It was at this time that the burgeoning Americana genre began to take hold, drawing Thompson to artists such as The Avett Brothers, Drive-By Truckers, and Justin Townes Earle. Coincidentally, Thompson had just moved from playing bass to playing guitar at this time, though he had yet to start focusing on writing again.

The change happened when another friend, in need of an acoustic guitarist for his new country band, approached Thompson about joining them.

It was fun because the crowds were always into it and could sing along and dance,” Thompson says.I enjoy that type of energy and I also love the formula for country songs. So, I started writing songs on the side. The most popular was called ‘Poppin’ Pills and Sweatin’, which I wrote based on a discussion about how Johnny Cash must have felt when he was flying while all hopped up on pills. The crowd always loved this song, and after I started to write more and more, I decided to leave the band and focus on my own sound.”

Thompson began writing country-influenced songs with a little more depth to them than “Poppin’ Pills and Sweatin,” and soon another fortuitous friendship saw him forming a new band, Million Dollar Giveaway, which released two EPs, toured throughout California, and provided the proving ground for the songs that later became Waiting on a Ghost.

“The making of this album started in Mexico,” Thompson says of the trip he took there with his former Million Dollar Giveaway bandmate. The two were accompanied by a laptop, microphone, keyboard, a ukulele, an old guitar, and an upright bass previously owned by Thompson’s wife’s grandfather.

I remember sending the demo of the song ‘Waiting on a Ghost’ to my wife after we recorded it and realizing that I was on to something,” Thompson says. “A whole new sound and feel was starting to emerge.”

Inspired by the Mexico demos, Thompson knew he needed to flesh out the songs and complete an album.

I reached out to Max Hart to see about recording the songs. He had just worked with The War on Drugs and was finishing up the We Are Scientists album. He is also the full time keyboard and guitar player in Melissa Etheridge’s band, so the fact that he was interested in taking on my project was flattering. I went to Los Angeles to record my tracks, and we continued to work on things remotely between LA and Sacramento. It truly was a collaboration. Both of our visions are represented, and I believe fulfilled, on this album.”

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