New Music From Americana Artist Greg Hawks

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It’s been more than three decades since Greg Hawks picked up his first instrument, kicking off a career that has found the critically-acclaimed songwriter, front man, and multi-instrumentalist leaving his mark on everything from alt-country to bluegrass music.

He casts a wide net with 2018’s I Think It’s Time, an album inspired by the twang of classic country, the hooks of 1970s pop/rock, the rhythmic soul of old-school Stax records, and Hawks’ own roots in the American South. With influences that veer from Big Star to Buck Owens, I Think It’s Time shines new light on an enduring, eclectic musician who was making Americana music long before the genre had a name.  “The album is a culmination of all my influences, thrown into a big pot as separate ingredients and turned into something cohesive and new,” says Hawks, who recorded I Think It’s Time at his home studio in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

He produced the album himself, playing most of the instruments — from finger-style acoustic guitar to keyboards — along the way. He then turned to Chris Stamey (the dB’s, Whiskeytown, Alex Chilton), who had previously mixed Hawks’ debut album for YepRoc Records, Fool’s Paradise, back in 2001. Stamey reprised that role for I Think It’s Time, resulting in a DIY album whose songs mix Hawks’ sharp, melody-driven songwriting with plenty of social commentary.

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Nashville Beats: Alt Country Artist Elise Davis

 

 

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Elise Davis moves between lush alt-country and stripped-down folk on her second album, Cactus. Arriving two years after The Token — the songwriter’s 2016 debut, whose electrified roots-rock sound earned praised from outlets like Rolling Stone Country and The Wall Street Journal — Cactus spins autobiographical stories about a self-sufficient woman in the modern world. Like the desert plant that lends the album its title, Davis takes pride in her own independence, confident that she doesn’t need help from others to grow tall.

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Davis’ independent streak began in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she kicked off her career at 12 years old. Now based in Nashville, she has earned acclaim not only for her live show, but also her sharp, articulate songwriting. She collaborates with co-writers like Grammy-winner Maren Morris on Cactus, whose bold, country-leaning sound was produced by Jordan Lehning. The result is Elise Davis’ most honest record to date — an album about what it takes to stand alone, rooted in the hard-won wisdom of a songwriter who’s unafraid to shine a light on her missteps and victories.

 

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A Sound Recommendation: Fiddler Gaelynn Lee

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Photo by EvrGlo Media

 

When Gaelynn Lea won NPR Music’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest, her two decades as a hardworking and talented musician finally crystallized in a beautiful moment of national recognition. It was also just the beginning of a grand adventure. With the wind of her award at their backs, Gaelynn and her husband Paul sold their house in Northern Minnesota, quit their jobs, bought a van, and hit the road.

Since then, Gaelynn has played over 250 shows in 42 states and seven countries, adding nearly 100,000 miles to their Ford Econoline’s odometer. The singer-songwriter and violinist has performed everywhere from coffee shops, bars, schools and festivals; she’s graced the stage of renowned venues like Nashville’s Music City Roots , The Kennedy Center , House of Blues and even BBC World News . This June she was featured at arts festivals in Iceland and Switzerland, and she played the Winnipeg Folk Fest in July and Travelers’ Rest Fest (curated by The Decemberists).

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Her new album, Learning How To Stay , is an 11-song collection that runs the gamut sonically from pensive and luscious to aggressive and intentioned, from folk to decidedly pop, and even includes a couple of traditional fiddle tunes. Undoubtedly the connecting thread of this album is Gaelynn Lea herself. With her singular voice and deeply-affecting violin, she guides the listener through a journey that explores the contrasting nature of existence: dark and light, birth and death, anger and forgiveness, sorrow and joy. Learning How to Stay encourages the listener to stay present for it all.

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In addition to performing and recording, Gaelynn Lea loves to do speaking engagements about disability awareness, inclusion in the arts, and leading an enriching life. Gaelynn has a disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bones Disease) and she is a strong voice in the disability community. Gaelynn Lea believes society must prioritize accessibility so people with disabilities can participate in their communities and use their gifts without barriers or discrimination.

 

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A Sound Recommendation: Contemporary Folkie Eliot Bronson

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In 2014, Eliot Bronson signed with independent music label, Saturn 5 Records.  

His ten-song self-titled album was recorded totally analog in Nashville by producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell).

Going for feel and vibe over modern perfection, he used a rare Helios mixing console and a tape machine on loan from the Norman Petty Estate, which was also used to record Buddy Holly in the 1950’s.  The album was recorded in one week at Cobb’s home studio and The Sound Emporium.  

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His latest,  James is now available.  Mercy, was used in an episode of the police procedural crime drama Criminal Minds.  

The album also includes “Rough Ride“, a song about fellow Baltimorean Freddie Gray. 

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ALL ACCESS: Meet Scottish Bluesman Reece Hillis

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Reece Hillis is a young soulful blues guitarist and Singer & Songwriter from Stirling, Scotland.

Early exposure to veteran acts like Sam Cooke, Al Green, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Wilson Picket, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash inspired him to pick up the guitar he taught himself to play.

It wasn’t long before Reece  began performing throughout the United Kingdom, developing his unique and authentic sound.

Reece was a nominee for British Blues Award, Young Artist Of The Year in 2014.

His debut solo, all-original album “Eclectic Soul”. blending together Blues, Folk, Soul and even some Vocal Jazz, is now available.

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We caught a few of Reece’s sets at the Heart of Hawick Music Festival last week and were very excited to talk to him and to share this MEGA talent with our readers.  

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ASoulfulSound: In preparation for attending this year’s event I came across video of you from last year and thought “man, I wish he was here this year”. Lo and behold you were! Imagine my excitement to see you there! (well you can, seeing as I accosted you!) How did it happen that you made the lineup after all?

RH: Haha this weekend all fell into place through gigs that had fallen through the same weekend, and it reminds me of how sometimes you don’t see things coming, and when they come together it’s what makes doing this for a living worth it. I love not knowing what’s around the corner, always being on the edge of my comfort zone.

ASoulfulSound: We caught your set at The Mayfield and were blown away! When did you discover your passion for the blues?

RH: Blues was what really started my passion for live music, there was something about seeing someone with a guitar, that even when not always in tune or on time, could really put their soul into a performance and have a connection that made being perfect redundant. Through time I’ve been driven onto a diverse musical journey taking in all kinds of music and each time I release an album I always let the music determine which kind of album it will be, it’s never thought out beforehand.

ASoulfulSound: While watching you perform, it is very obvious that you are a vehicle for authentic delivery of not only classic blues/rock songs but also original music that already sounds classic. You seem to go into another world while performing. Can you describe your experience on stage? Does it differ when you are recording?

RH: Live performance has always been where it’s most comfortable for me, it’s really strange because the more people there are, the bigger the venue, the more I seem to be able to let go. It should be the other way around haha. The only way to describe it is a bubble that encapsulates you, and when you’re playing the music there’s nothing that can penetrate it, for every moment I’m performing the song I’m doing I forget where I am until I open my eyes again.

Recording is a different story haha, recording seems to be where all of the hard work goes into, it’s where I spend hours and hours lashing myself for every little mistake I make but being able to do it in my room now thanks to a lot of hard gigging, is perfect as it gives me the opportunity to perform and improve without the prying ears of an engineer or anyone else. I went to collage with the intention of dropping out a few years ago just to get the whole process of what goes on and how to use the software on that end of music production. So I stayed for about 6 months got to grips with everything, improved at home during my own time and then left to refocus on my gigging and writing music.    It’s been really handy to be able to do the engineers job to a certain degree it’s saved me a fortune haha !

ASoulfulSound: Who were some of your early influences?

RH: Some of my early inspirations and still are, would be The Doors, Al Green, Sam Cooke, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, AC/DC, Paul Rodgers …. there were tons of them but all classic, there’s not a lot of new music, with the exceptions of David Gray can’t get enough of his music. I’m even inspired by classical music, there is something about putting some Chopin on and clearing your mind. When I’m releasing any new music I always like to make sure it has that same thing, you’ve got to feel your performance when recording, doing it to a click track destroys that

ASoulfulSound: Can you describe the music scene in Scotland?

RH: Scotland has a great music scene, especially Glasgow.  Depending on what your tastes are you are sure to find somewhere that has that kind of live music.  The only place I’ve been in that really pulls off a bluesy atmosphere in Scotland would be the Howlin’ Wolf.  I’ve always loved that place and everyone who loves that kind of music heads to that pub on a Saturday night. 

ASoulfulSound: Where do you see yourself musically in five years?

RH: Within 5 years I want to be able to have made a fair bit of progress moving forward, I want to be at the stage of jumping to different country’s all the time and being able to put on much bigger shows, I always like to set the bar high and when I pass it, I’ll set it that little bit higher and keep climbing this way, but with this kind of job nothing is guaranteed.  I’m gonna have to go out there and give it everything I’ve got, if it doesn’t come to any major success I’ve already made some fantastic memories, many of which I can’t talk about haha, and I really cannot wait to see what happens next !

ASoulfulSound: Guilty musical pleasures?

RH: Piano piano piano, I love the piano. I can play a few things but not anywhere near live performance level, I really hope I get to grips with that

ASoulfulSound: If you could collaborate with anyone (living or dead) who would that be and why?

RH: If I could collaborate with anyone it would have to be Elton John.  Funnily enough he loves up and coming talent so fingers crossed!!  I really, really want to be able to see him before he retires.  There is something about the way his playing and singing just hits the perfect spot for me.  He literally has a song for every kind of emotion you can feel.  If you look deeper into his musical category I’m sure everyone could connect with one of his songs — he has so many.

ASoulfulSound: Who is on your dream music festival lineup?

RH: Dream musical lineup would be, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, John Martin, Santana, Al Green … pretty much an alternate version of Woodstock haha

ASoulfulSound: Where can we hear more of your music? Anything available for purchase?

RH: You can get more of my music on my website – ReeceHillisMusic.comSoundcloud, Facebook (all under Reece Hillis Music, which is the best one to go to as it is constantly being updated with the latest gigs and upcoming info.

You can also order my CDs on my website, though I do have iTunes sales coming very soon along with all the other major digital marketplaces.

ASoulfulSound:  What’s Next?

RH:  I’ve performed up and down the UK and for next year I’m setting my sites further afield, plans for going abroad are definitely in the pipeline and I couldn’t be more exited!

ASoulfulSound:  We couldn’t be more excited either!  Keep in touch, please.

ARTIST LINKS

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Singer-Songwriter Brian Dunne On Tour In Support of New Album

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Brian Dunne

Genre:  Folk/Americana

Origin:  New York City

New York City-based Americana singer-songwriter Brian Dunne is hitting the road in celebration of his new album, Bug Fixes & Performance Improvements, which was just released in May.  The tour run includes shows with The Stray Birds, Pat McGee, and Lilly Hiatt.   

Dunne’s first single from the album, “Don’t Give Up On Me,” premiered in February on SiriusXM’s Coffee House, and the second single, “You Got Me Good,” was released in April.  

I made this record to play live,” says Dunne.  “I wrote these songs while traveling around the country and nothing is better than bringing the music back to its natural habitat.”

Produced by Dunne himself and engineered by Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Nick Hakim), Bug Fixes & Performance Improvements is flush with twang and heart, with more than a passing nod to folk and Springsteen-esque everyman rock in its Americana goodness.  

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“The record didn’t really take shape until I came up with ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’ one afternoon, sitting at my living room table,” says Dunne. “It seemed to sum up my mission statement for the whole record.  It’s about the devotion to maintaining your idealism as the world makes you more cynical.  It’s about putting your chips back on the table after you’ve suffered a big loss.  And if you have to lose again, lose in a big way.  I love that idea.”

Dunne grew up in upstate New York, and after graduating from the Berklee College of Music he made his way to New York City where he settled in Brooklyn.  In 2012, he released The Brooklyn Bridge EP.  That was followed in 2015 by his album Songs From The Hive, his musical nod to The Band and Bob Dylan, which garnered the attention of outlets like No Depression and Daytrotter.  

Tour Schedule:

Jul 24 – Nectars, Burlington, VT (w/The Stray Birds)

Jul 25 – Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY (w/The Stray Birds)

Jul 27 – 20 Front Street, Lake Orion, MI (w/Pat McGee)

Jul 28 – Seven Steps Up, Spring Lake, MI (w/Pat McGee)

Jul 29 – City Winery, Chicago, IL (w/Pat McGee)

Aug 01 – Thirty One West, Newark, OH

Aug 04 – Tally Ho Theatre, Leesburg, VA

Aug 05 – Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD

Aug 12 – Norton Chapel, Gloucester, MA

Aug 18 – Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Lyons, CO      

Aug 19 – Philadelphia Folk Festival, Philadelphia, PA          

Aug 28 – Club Café, Pittsburgh, PA (w/Lilly Hiatt)

Aug 29 – Boot & Saddle, Philadelphia, PA (w/Lilly Hiatt)                                      

Sep 05 – Jammin Java, Vienna, VA (w/Lilly Hiatt)

Sep 10 – Boulton Center, Bay Shore, NY (w/Stephen Kellogg)

Sep 16 – Little C Music Festival, Canton, OH

Sep 30 – Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY

Oct 13 – Me And Thee, Marblehead, MA

Oct 28 – Next Stage, Putney, VT (w/The Mammals)

His schooling is firmly grounded in Hank Williams, Neil Young, and Ryan Adams. And as you would expect from an artist whose sound takes in such references, his debut record Songs From The Hive is a record of folky Americana and heartbreaking country.” – Songwriting Magazine

“A pure, expressive voice and a fondness for lonesome steel guitar” – CMT Edge

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