A Sound Recommendation: Boston’s Alt Folkies Tall Heights

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Getting there is half the fun, as the old saying goes, but the journey is really the whole point for Boston progressive-alt band Tall Heights. And singer/guitarist Tim Harrington and singer/cellist Paul Wright have had one hell of a journey, starting from playing simple acoustics on the streets of Boston to reaching Sony Masterworks, for which they have released their biggest, brightest, and riskiest work thus far. Neptune is the band’s latest step in the ongoing evolution of their sound and style.

Neptune is backed with pristine vocal harmonies and splattered with surprises: there’s subtly chugging electric guitar and a spare descending bass line on “Iron in the Fire,” ethereal synthesizers and a spacious drum part on “Spirit Cold,” a brittle splash of percussion to open “Backwards and Forwards” and feedback created by two cellphones on “Cross My Mind.” The album is clearly the product of a long journey, but whether it’s Tall Height’s final destination remains unclear. “I can hear the evolution happening,” Harrington says. “I feel like we’re walking across a bridge from one place to another, and maybe I’ll always feel that way, but I’m really happy with how we’re moving.”

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Nashville Beats: Country’s Coolest Band -A Thousand Horses

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Dubbed “Country’s coolest band” by Rolling Stone Country, A Thousand Horses serve up a helping of Southern rock and contemporary Country mixed with rowdy jams. Their first single “Smoke” went to #1 on both the Mediabase and Billboard Country Airplay Charts after making Country Aircheck history as the highest debut for a new artist’s first single.

They also became the first band (with at least three members) to send a debut single to #1 on Billboard Country Airplay Charts this decade.

The band was nominated for a pair of ACC Awards including Group/Duo of the Year, an ACM Award for New Vocal Group of the Year and a CMT Music Award for Group Video of the Year for their hit single “Smoke.”

Their first album on BMLG Records, Southernality, blends the influence of The Black Crowes, Southern rock and Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street era. With Michael Hobby leading vocals, Bill Satcher and Zach Brown on guitar and Graham Deloach on bass, the quartet possesses a unique sound making its way across Country radio.

Their deluxe EP, Bridges is available now.

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West Coast Beats: LA’s Death Valley Girls

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Think of Death Valley Girls as an acid-tripping science experiment that’s been buried alive, and resurrected as a sexually liberated dystopian chain-gang. A cosmic scar, if you will, on the hills of Echo Park, where the experiment began in 2013 by proto-punk Bonnie Bloomgarden and guitarist Larry Schemel — who got lost in the desert, returned to their haunted garage in Echo Park, and pieced together their vision with shopworn images of sexploitation babes, a blood-soaked Iggy Pop, and Bloomgarden’s series of phantasms, the result of spending a year in a mental institution, where she planned her neon-glowing odyssey by listening to Black Sabbath and UFO, reading about alien conspiracy theories, and deriving her band’s moral compass from a line she saw in a movie:

“Everybody’s gotta be in a gang,” from campy sexploitation romp Switchblade Sisters (1975).

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Meet Austin’s Sultry Folk Rocker Jane Ellen Bryant

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Twenty-five year old songstress, Jane Ellen Bryant, is “right in the thick” of that “big decade of your life,” as she calls it in the title track of her three song EP, Twenties. It’s that decade full of the best of times, the worst of times, the first real jobs, and the first bona fide heartbreaks that lead us to the cardinal steps of self discovery. Her music is saturated with the raw, authentic emotions that we all experience during this roller coaster ride as a twenty something. Yet these lessons, trials, and rowdy good times speak to people of all ages and stages of life. Twenties, released in July of 2016, was just a taste of the depth that’s to come from this prolific, young artist.

People have always been drawn to Jane’s spirituous voice and haunting melodies, but her fresh, bold, commanding sound and innovative lyrics have given us all something to talk about. Local audiences are buzzing about this “new rock-n-roll girl in town,” but really, Jane is not new at all. Bryant was born and raised in the Live Music Capital of the World, and she’s soaked with the mystical, rare sound that comes from the heart of Austin. It’s this new, fearless sound that attracted the attention of producer Chris “Frenchie” Smith, who has worked with Jet, Santana, and The Toadies just to name a few. “I’ve experienced many inspirational moments in record production over the last 20 years,” says Frenchie, “but she raised the bar. I had never produced a singer this strong.” He goes on to say that Jane’s music is “capturing the madness of youth, the manic perils of opening up about heartbreak, all while bringing the listener in more and more by telling the truth. What I look for in an artist is believability, and whatever Jane is performing, I believe it.”

 

Have a listen to her new single, All in My Head:

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AngloFiles: London’s Psychedelic Rockers Desert Mountain Tribe

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Desert Mountain Tribe enjoyed a great start when standout track ‘Coming Down’ was featured on Reverb Conspiracy Volume 2, a release double-headed by highly respected and underground imprints Fuzz Club Records and Austin Psych Fest.

Winter 2014/15 saw the band enjoy a first headline tour of Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltics, and the band has since performed at leading and well-respected festivals within the psych community like Eindhoven Psych Lab ’15 and Lisbon Psych Fest ’15.

In 2015, Desert Mountain Tribe was invited to participate with the Converse Rubber Tracks recording project in London, where they produced a handful of cool and well-received demos that would ultimately assist in finding an album deal with Membran Entertainment Group in Europe/UK, and Metropolis Records in North America.

Debut album Either That Or The Moon was released in the spring of 2016 to a wealth of positive notices including respected platforms Drowned In Sound, Louder Than War and Classic Rock. Select cuts from the album soon found heavy rotation across college radio in North America, most notably KEXP where the band were invited to perform a live session. Currently, the band have been picking up support from within BBC 6 Music including Steve Lamacq, Lauren Laverne and Chris Hawkins.

The band have recently completed their second European tour in support of debut album Either That Or The Moon, and is looking forward to the continued release of new and UK dates in September and dates throughout Europe this fall.

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Discover: Singer-Songwriter Maggie Rogers

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photo by Katia Temkin

Growing up in rural Maryland, Rogers began playing harp at age seven, and loved the music of Gustav Holst and Vivaldi. Her mom would play neo-soul divas such Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill.

By the time she was in middle school, Rogers had added piano, guitar, and songwriting to her repertoire. In high school, she fell in love with the banjo and folk music, and attended a Berklee College of Music program during the summer after her junior year. Rogers won the program’s songwriting contest, which spurred her to focus on writing as high school came to a close.

During her senior year, she turned a broom closet into a makeshift studio and recorded what became her first album, The Echo (2012). Rogers included her demos as part of her application to New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. She released another folk album, Blood Ballet (2014), during her sophomore year at the school.

Rogers united the different strands of her music with huge success in 2016 with “Alaska“, a song she wrote in 15 minutes about a hiking trip for a masterclass with Pharrell Williams. 

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In addition to “Alaska”, she has released two other singles, “Dog Years” and “On + Off”, which are included on her debut major-label extended play (EP), Now That the Light Is Fading.

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New Music From Super Group Hard Working Americans

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In the course of popular music history, the breakthrough albums for several legendary artists were live recordings, most famously At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band, Frampton Comes Alive by Peter Frampton, and Alive by KISS. Now four decades later, history seems poised to repeat itself with the release of We’re All In This Together, the powerful, new live album by Hard Working Americans.

Hard Working Americans is the rock sextet some journalists dubbed a “jam band supergroup” because of it’s high-profile lineup: bassist Dave Schools and drummer Duane Trucks of Widespread Panic, guitarist Neal Casal of Chris Robinson Brotherhood, keyboardist Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi, and celebrated singer-songwriter Todd Snider on lead vocals. Shortly after the release of their first album, HWA added Tulsa guitarist Jesse Aycock to the fold.

“For the kind of band we are, I think this is a definitive statement for us,” Snider says of We’re All In This Together. “It captures a collective spirit, a collective muse being shared by a thousand-plus people.”

The album was recorded by monitor engineer Colin Cargile during the band’s 2016 tour in support of their second album, Rest In Chaos. Schools served as producer, as he has on all of the band’s recordings, while John Keane, the legendary producer who mixed the band’s first record, handled the mix. “He’s done a lot of live Widespread Panic mixing,” Schools says of the choice to work again with Keane. “I picked the versions of the songs, then I turned it over to him.”

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Most of the 13 tracks Schools selected are from a show at Iron City in Birmingham, Alabama, but the album also includes performances from concerts at El Rey Theater in Los Angeles (“Ascending Into Madness”), The Buckhead Theater in Atlanta (“Something Else”), and Lockn’ Music Festival in Arrington, Virginia (Chuck Berry’s “School Days”).

Trucks, who has an encyclopedic appreciation for great live albums, says he is “stoked” about We’re All In This Together. “I think we captured what the band is trying to do live,” the drummer says. “We have the power of the songs in a live setting and have a good picture of the exploratory nature of the band. That’s what you hope for.”

According to Staehly, HWA “caught fire” at the Birmingham show that yielded the bulk of the material on the album. “It was one of those nights when everything we had been working on as a band came together,” he says.

“Unhinged” is how Schools recalls their performance that evening before a capacity crowd of 1,300 people. “It’s a great little place,” he says. “The crowd’s right up in your face, and the sound is really good.”

Aycock remembers the “great vibe” in the room at that show. “From the get-go, you could just feel the energy radiating from the crowd,” he says. “And everyone was just so locked in. It was one of those gigs where everyone walked away from it and said, ‘That’s where it’s at.’ ”

Four of the songs on the record appeared on the band’s eponymous debut, while five are from Rest In Chaos. Two of the tracks are reworked versions of songs from Snider’s solo album, Peace Queer, which the band perform regularly, and there also is the aforementioned Chuck Berry cover. In addition, the album includes one brand new number, the title track, which grew out of one of Snider’s spoken word bits on which he transforms into some sort of rock & roll evangelist while the band vamps behind him.

“Todd puts a whole lot of thought into what we call the invocations, two of which are on the record,” Schools says. “One is the sort of introduction to ‘Stomp and Holler,’ and the other one, we call ‘We’re All In This Together.’ We decided to make it into a whole song because he really worked hard on that story.”

Snider’s story that became the album’s title track is a metaphorical tale of how he and the band found one another, as well as an expression of the band’s philosophy of inclusion. “The moral of the story is Todd being lost at sea, and this band coming together behind him and teaching him we’re all in this together and that we’re stronger together,” Schools continues. “I think that message resonates really loudly in this day and age, where people are so divided. The whole reason of Hard Working Americans, and everything we’ve discovered as a band, is that we’re stronger together.

“We’re trying to convey that message, and I think the album artwork — the cover of the festival crowd — and the chanting of ‘we’re all in this together,’ it’s vital. It’s a message that needs to be heard and remembered.”