Marc Cohn and Blind Boys of Alabama (from the album Work to Do available on BMG)
The plan was for a three-song E.P. when Marc Cohn joined Blind Boys of Alabama at the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, capturing an intimate performance for the PBS series, The Kate. The magical merging talents of the songwriter and the gospel titans led Marc Cohn and Blind Boys of Alabama to gather cuts from the performance and studio tracks as Work to Do, their recent release. A reverential tone is defined by the piano as Marc Cohn is transported back into time, his memory sparking a tribute to The Band vocalist with “Listening to Levon” as Work to Do shows a strong backbone in the rhythm and harmonies of the title track while “Silver Thunderbird” make a wish to keep on cruising and marks studio time with red lights twinkling as the engineer sets the dial for the road to glory in “Talk Back Mic”.
Handclaps beat out a path for both the feet and the spirit as Blind Boys of Alabama open Work to Do with a shot of salvation for “Walking in Jerusalem” as the album puts the power of voices front and center in “Amazing Grace”, backing the harmony with sharp-angled guitar notes. Marc Cohn and Blind Boys of Alabama let the choir of voices be the rumble under “Ghost Train” and re-visit Cohn’s hit “Walking in Memphis” as spirt on steroids.
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Jordi Baizan (from the album Free and Fine on Berkalin Records)
The glimpse that Jordi Baizan snaps of Valerie and Brian as they head west and off the highway in “Desert Line” may be the last for the couple, the story admitting that ‘they may be hard to find ‘cause nothing’s bigger than Texas”. A caravan of Airstreams form a conga line to join the pair seeking freedom as they leave Houston, Texas behind, a homebase shared with Jordi Baizan. The tale can be found on Free and Fine, a collection of songs gathered by Jordi Baizan, the theme circling in the aftermath and devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Daylight finds a local community has become a lake, the neighbors binding together to keep heads above water in “Heroes All Around Us” while “Pictures on the Wall” watches a displaced family question the permanence of a new home as a wistful piano patter scatters like the morning sunlight coming into “Time to Leave the Neighborhood”.
While not all the tracks on Free and Fine reflect the struggles of the Texas floods, the overall tone addresses huge changes, unasked for, unexpected, and unwanted. The music quiets as Jordi Baizan sings/speaks the sad stories tapped out in “Footsteps on the Ceiling” as Free and Fine sketches carefree times in “Between the Sun and the Moon” while train wheels widen a what-if in “Could Have Been Us”. Jordi Baizan shares that ‘these songs were written over a prolific 18-month period that was both challenging and emotional. My family’s home took in 24 inches of water on August 27th 2018. We left in the middle of the night before the water came in and never lived in that house again, leaving behind the place where we raised our kids. As I made this record, I wanted the stories to resonate with the listener so that they could sense the deep emotions that underlie the songs. Not all the songs are personal, but this record is about the human struggle to respond well to the inevitable change and adversity that life throws us all. The title of the record is aspirational, Free and Fine. I would like to be and feel Free and Fine when Life throws Loss, Adversity, Change, Evil, and Fear at me. Fine as in grateful’. The album kicks its feet in a sunny surf ukulele strum as Free and Fine orders up in “Let’s Have Seconds” while Jordi Baizan follows a troubadour plying her trade with “Tears and Mascara”.
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Roselit Bone (from the E.P. Crisis Actor available on Get Loud Recordings)
Roselit Bone stage southwest Shakespearian-condoned drama as musical vignettes, the tales on Crisis Actor, their recent E.P. release, gazing as a novella unfolds on the banks of the Salton Sea, blowing through Tehachapi with MexiCali horns into “Anza Borrego”. Crisis Actor answers the call of Mariachi horns and surf guitars for “Surgeon’s Saw” as Roselit Bone pop some trucker speed spreading honky tonk stardust over “Laughlin, NV” and plant some Country and Tex-Mex tones on “Proving Grounds”.
A rambling melody sways dizzingly as the Countrified music, and wisdom, of “I Pissed the Bed” admit soaking the mattress through as the guilty party assures his lover ‘this doesn’t reflect on you’. The arrangements of Crisis Actor are cinematic in their scope, theatrical with sweeping tales, the title track spitting its story over instrumentation that froths and heaves underneath. Roselit Bone saddle up a rolling rhythm for the majestic glory of “A Word for Blue” and switch attention to a smoke-tainted late night stage, a bare light bulb shining on the last gasp of the band sinking into the cabaret noir dreams of “We’ll Make a Living (for the Bourgeois)”.
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The 40 Acre Mule (from the album Good Night and Good Luck available on State Fair Records)
On Good Night & Good Luck, The 40 Acre Mule, out of Dallas, Texas, find common ground between their blender-brand of classic Rhythm & Blues and Rockabilly, Indie Rock and Soul, Punk and Alt Country. Decades ago, each genre occupied its own space but add a little electricity, toss about some feedback and a little attitude to raise the rowdy and you have got a description The 40 Acre Mule sounds on Goodnight and Good Luck. “You Better Run” is a gritty opener for the album, a murder ballad where the tale is a first person narrative by the person holding the gun warning ‘heaven help you, if I find your ass alive’.
“16 Days” is a revved-up blues number that kicks off with a cow-punk shuffle, a story where a dude ‘can’t do right since my baby done me wrong’ while “Make Up Your Mind” borrows from the Morphine camp, where the saxophone drives the melody, loads the song with fills, and handles the mid-song solo. “Be with Me” slows down the tempo while delivering a ballad loaded with rock. J Isiah Evans has an aching croon, and each time his vocals take a break the band lays it on thick. “Bathroom Walls” is an upbeat dose of the boogie-woogie blues and “Josephine” is a tune reminiscent of the punky blues of Los Angeles’s Slash Records. The 40 Acre Mule get it done. They are a ‘roll-up-the-sleeves, turn-things-up-to-eleven level band that can do the rock thing while musically acknowledging the different roads their sound has traveled on Goodnight and Good Luck.
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Joe Pug (from the album The Flood in Color available on Nation of Heat Records)
The pain is surface level on “Moonlight of Your Room”, the true telling of a life blunt in “Empty Hands and Broad Shoulders”, heavy bets on heavenly grace stirring the pot of “Exit”, and the burden of chains falling away as trouble drop in “Long Midnight”. The emotions are raw as sharp angles and pointed decisions structure the stories on The Flood in Color, the recent release from Joe Pug, the quick hits of the songs at odds with the recording process for the album produced by Kenneth Pattengale (Mile Carton Kids), engineered my Matt Ross-Spang. The Flood in Color arrives four years on from the previous Joe Pug release, the songman recalling that ‘the past couple of albums haven’t always been the most enjoyable to record. The process can really bring on all sorts of pressures about what you should be doing and how you should be doing it, both internally and externally, so Kenneth and I sort of had the idea to strip all that away. I was just going to write songs. And I was going to do it in a way that came naturally to me, and that I enjoyed. Get rid of all the external bullshit. Look, music isn’t my entire life. Sometimes I want to write songs. But other times I want to read books. I want to play with my kid. I want to cook. A couple years ago I started a podcast. So that’s sort of how I approached this one. I’ll write songs the way I write songs. And when Kenneth and I had a few that we felt good about, we got together and dialed them in a bit further and worked on arrangements. Almost as friends as much as anything. And when we got them to a place that we were happy with, we went to Nashville and recorded them. But through the whole affair there was really no timetable I imposed on it’.
The passionate delivery of a Folk singer fuels Joe Pug as he braces himself in “The Letdown”, fortifies resolve with words of inspiration for “After Curfew”, and admits to shortcomings with “Stranger I’ve Been”. There is a freedom in the musical backing of The Flood in Color, the words welcoming a worldwide array of sounds to lay the stories down, Joe Pug singing “Blues Came Down” with a heartbeat bass thump and wistful sea-faring accordions as he follows a harmonica through the self-awareness of the title track.
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Folk Family Revival (from the album Electric Darlin’ available on Splice Records)
The word “folk” may be a bit deceitful when it comes to Texas band Folk Family Revival. They are a blood family, made up of brothers Mason, Barrett and Lincoln Lankford along with Caleb Pace, but toss your ideas of acoustic folk out the window. There is very little fluff and lots of reverb, the Folk world Folk Family Revivaloccupies finds them rubbing elbows with Nick Cave and Beauty Shop over Bob Dylan or John Prine.
Electric Darlin’, the recent album release from Folk Family Revival,is electric roots music, a dose of gloomy goth and twang heavy on surf-guitar. “Fresh Water” opens up the record with exotica, a flair that partners subtle chicken-pickin’ guitar shadowing the vocals. ‘Temptation is a dangerous occupation’ is the striking line from punky, charged-up “Pro and the Con” and “Thumb in the Wind” is a heavy on reflection and big regret, expressed with lines like ‘be more like my father, and less like my friends. I wouldn’t do it the same way if I could do it again’. “Why the Chicken Crossed the Road” follows its meandering spaghetti-western guitar, watching the singer ‘walking with the devil’s daughter under a Tijuana Moon’, who very soon after learns about sinning. Book ended with the aptly titled “Intro” and “Outro” that are an ambient entrance and exit (respectively) for Electric Darlin’, sandwiched in between a definition of Folk music where Rock and Roll lives quite comfortably.
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Jesse Dayton (from the album Mix Tape, Volume 1 available from Blue Elan Records)
Jesse Dayton was the kid with the cool record collection, the dude that found singles and albums that seemed out of reach, the stack of vinyl where southern rock B-sides rubbed elbows with early Punk while Classic Rockers and AM Gold Folkies kept company with unknown Pub Rock bands. Jesse was likely the one unapologetic hipster unafraid to say it was okay to like both Doc Watson and The Sex Pistols, while digging deep on Neil Young tunes you didn’t hear on FM radio. He would also be the go-to guy for making the mixtape that became a Friday night soundtrack.
Jeese Dayton rewinds the tape, giving us a peak into that record collection with Mixtape Volume 1, nine cover songs he claims as his own, sounds that will surely get thumbs up from their creators. Jesse Dayton doesn’t stray far with Jackson Browne’s “Redneck Friend,” Neil Young’s “Harvest”, or Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” but he does give The Clash’s “Bankrobber” a rockabilly charge. Jesse tackles the lesser known “She’s a Heartbreaker” by ZZ Top and “Country Comfort” by Elton John, and likely will make new fans for British Pub gods Dr. Feelgood by giving “She Does it Right” a Chuck Berry treatment. AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” is a big, rocking blues number and The Cars “Just What I Needed” is a delightful dance-hall two-stepper while Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” is aggressive and soulful. With great guitar leads and plenty of punch, Jesse Dayton’s cover choices on Mixtape Volume 1 gives listeners a worthy musical education.
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The Crags (from the album Desert Haze available as a self-release)
Four records in and Durango, Colorado rock band The Crags have firmly crafted their sound. Desert Hazefinds the quartet laying a solid foundation of indie-psych accentuated with surf-rock undertones, while also bringing dreamy rock and garage punk to the table. A band more than capable of ripping through punk and new wave, there are also moments on Desert Hazewhere the band bids bon-voyage and heads into the realm of a free-wheeling jam-band. Despite an obvious audible ease to pull that off the switch, The Crags opt to keep things clean and concise while sticking to the song.
Opening cuts “Mother” and “Doing Good” are loaded with grungy guitar fuzz; “Mother” a laid-back tune in defense of the planet where front-woman Tracy Ford sings ‘watching you turn from winter to spring, how you yearn for life to begin, all the gifts you selflessly bring are on display for all to behold; and you ask for nothing’, while “Doing Good” bumps up the tempo. Drummer John Ford picks up vocal duties for “Blown Away,” a tune that finds guitar player Tim Lillyquist utilizing every identifiable and great surf-guitar riff, from the reverb driven fuzz to the punchy notes that splash throughout the solo, while bass player Dan Leek blasts that aforementioned fuzz out of his stand up-bass. The title track is a tripped out walk in the desert in a song, followed by “Awakening” makes for a perfect pairing of dreamy, slow tempo psych-rock, with “Where’s Your Face” closing things out on an edgy-pop note.
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Janel Holmes volunteered. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native jumped right in for our offer to attend Bonnaroo and representing The Alternate Root magazine. Janel offered an insider’s view, from the ground up, of a weekend of music from June 13 through June 16, 2019.
Bonnaroo is not for weak relationships. This was my first time traveling in a car with my boyfriend, Josh, for thirteen hours. Adding to the road trip was arriving in Manchester, Tennessee, with a deadline of one hour to pick up our tickets or wait until morning to pick up the tickets, not knowing whether the traffic would be crazy. The cars waiting to exit any every ramp extended for miles and law enforcement has blocked off roads with no informational signs anywhere to help direct day or night. Frustrated, we turned around and found a gas station that pointed us in a direction to where we needed to go. With bare minutes to spare, we hit the deadline. Josh and I were the last ones admitted into the building to get tickets.
Once we had our tickets, we headed over to Walmart to wait for our Slither Squad to arrive, a big group of three RV’s carrying more than fifteen people. Reading Reddit helped with our wait once In line. We waited five hours in line which was honestly rough, and on Reddit we discovered some people waited ten hours. Little did we know at the time by storms had hit the festival grounds before we rolled into town which caused a three-hour delay in opening the gates for everyone. It was Mother Nature’s fault.
We finally got in and set up around 9AM.Our Slither group dressed up in “Fear and Loathing” outfits and took pictures under the Roo Arch. Beach button up shirt, bucket hat, yellow aviators…it was a really fun group activity. We had several hours before the first set we wanted to watch so we went exploring. The Other Stage had very high screens all around with the best visual set up and very close to the Ferris Wheel. Each stage was unique but The Other was my favorite. Giant forest trees light up everywhere with color changing lights bringing them to life, so colorful and exciting.
Friday we started the day by trying to figure out how to use our Media/photo passes. The information desk couldn’t help so we went exploring and asking questions. Eventually we were guided to the media area between the two main stages. They had a giant tent set up with tables, electric hook up, internet, air conditioning and free water….an oasis. Solange was the first set for the day. No photographers were allowed however we were escorted to VIP to watch her show. It was her first performance in the United States. Absolutely beautiful. Solange’s performance was stunningly artistic, soulful and appeared in every way her own vision.
There is so much to see and do, you couldn’t explore all of Bonnaroo in one weekend. Many varieties of food are available to purchase everywhere! Shop vendors every few feet, water filling stations, and bathrooms that were kept clean. There is a very playful colorful giant mushroom fountain right in the center of Roo. Kids and adults playing in the water to cool off. Impressively, Bonnaroo has a very organized recycling system set up with workers at each trash station to help people recycle correctly. That is the first time I’ve seen that a festival go to that extent. There was a Flintstones movie theatre that played short films explaining the history of Bonnaroo that played throughout the day. A favorite art piece I saw was a rainbow painted piano just outside the theatre. Two guys hopped on and started making music. It was special to watch.
There is so much shopping, I can’t believe it. Oxfamamerica.org was a fantastic organization working to end poverty. It was one of many organizations at Bonnaroo trying to spread awareness. It was the first time I had seen so many organizations at a festival. The Bonnaroo Merchandise did not disappoint. Everything is high quality material and I absolutely love the shirt and water bottle I got.
Saturday started with Bishop Briggs. I had wanted to see her for years and I was getting to photograph her. I’m crying inside I’m so excited. Bishop is a British Indie Artist. She walked out on stage, freshly shaved head, demanding feminine energy blasting out as she begins to sing “you”. I’m so close I could touch her if she reached for me. She got emotional after the second song, expressing her gratitude for everyone that showed up. She sounds even better live. Juice WRLD was next and I had permission to photograph. Is this real life? I’m loving this so much. Juice was fantastic. The crowd was pumping, he was dancing and interacting a lot with the crowd. He brought his girlfriend out on stage and sang a song to her, it was so damn cute. He is a solid performer. Odesza was beyond packed. We got sardined In a sea of people. A combination of colorful lights, space lasers and graphics shooting out at you with an epic drumming performance. Just stellar. The smoothies and lemonades are so good here. Luckily, the weather was pretty amazing but always stay hydrated! In one day, I walked 16 miles.
Post Malone was a must see. He was the only person on the stage and somehow made you feel like you were in his music videos. We left his set early so we could watch the Lonely Island. I had permission to photograph them. This group had the most photographers out of all the artists and hands down the largest crowd I had witnessed out of the fifteen sets I saw during my time there. Laughing so much while singing along was so enjoyable to experience and made for some blurry photos, ha ha ha. They turned it up. Now we left this show early so we can see the full set of ZHU. Just WOW, I have waited so damn long to see a performance like this. ZHU is an anonymous singer who has a guitarist and saxophone player. I have never seen a DJ sing and play with a band. It rocked. The visuals where simple, artistic and magnetizing. He sang smoothly and melodically connected with the audience. Don’t ever miss seeing these guys.
Sunday we decided to skip out on a any photography opportunities and spent the rest of the day with our Slither Squad. Starting the day with Brandi Carlile. It was Father’s Day and Brandi gave a big shout out to all the fathers and shared a personal story of her family, about her wife and two daughters and their right to exist. It was beautiful and pulled my heart strings deeply. I really only knew one song by heart, “The Joke”. Not only was it flawless, she had me balling. And I couldn’t stop. It was so beautiful, Brandi Carlile moved my being like no other artist ever has. Ever. Her voice heals. To change it up we decided to go see Lil Dicky the rapper. DAMN! He is no joke even though he is a hilarious rapper. My jaw kept dropping I was so impressed. He raps fast. He pulled a girl from the audience and basically stripped on her rapped about it. Dicky was completely committed. He was the best male rapper I saw at Bonnaroo.
I can’t miss Cardi B. It is packed and we arrived late on accident. The trick to getting through a packed crowd is by dancing through people rather than push or break through. We got stuck in an area that got to hot and I needed air so I took the lead and started dancing. It was working. We landed around a group of girls getting super down, it was the most fun crowd I had been in yet. Cardi can rap so freaking good, but needs to let go of her DJ. He was awful. God awful. Her outfit malfunctioned and the backup outfit they gave her was a white winter robe. Not a silk robe, a winter robe. What the fuck! She was definitely over-heating but she killed it nonetheless.
The festival starts to close up so we decide to go get phishy. We caught the last two hours of Phish. I had never heard one song before, wanting a fully raw experience knowing nothing. Why have I been in the dark? These guys are ridiculous in their jam sessions. The buildup just keeps going and going and soon I’m screaming with excitement and I cannot control my urge to dance. Hands down brilliant music, brilliant light show, and amazingly good vibes from Phish fans. I’m hooked!
We meet up with our Slither Squad and journey to the Where In The Woods exhibit. On our way, a friend needed food so we stopped by the YES barn. Soon after a surprise DJ named cherub started playing and we all freaked out. A 1AM on Monday morning surprise. We dance for a bit and keep journeying to Where In The Woods. We walked into a forest filled with people dancing everywhere. The DJ Justin Nyce was playing and he had the crowd booming. I couldn’t stop smiling and dancing. My bf and friends had never seen me dance before and I lost control. It was amazing. There was a giant blow up unicorn being tossed around in the crowd, staggered with creative totems and light up accents on people. What an ending!
Bonnaroo has a spirit. It Started with “Happy Roo” at the Manchester Walmart. The friendliness I experienced from all the workers and most of the goers was amazing. The organization and cleanliness for a festival of 100,000 was impressive. With stage names as questions like Who, What, Where, Which Stage; led to some hilariously confusing conversations. It’s the Roo spirit. You can only feel it if you go. This has been my most favorite festival yet. I can’t wait to attend next year. See ya in 2020, Janel!
Gethen Jenkins (from the album Western Gold available on 5 Music)
Western Gold, the recent full length debut from Gethen Jenkins, hits a honky tonk groove that sticks like a BBQ stain, the sweet sound of Gethen’s voice driving road-tested beats that read no speed limit or exit signs…..and that is just the first track (“Bottle in My Hand”). The lights on the honky tonk dance floor catch couples spinning slowly (“Waiting”) as they feel the funk of a boogie coming on (“Restless Ways”), kicking up sawdust on classic traditions (“Heartache Time”). Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee with producer Vance Powell (Jack White, Sturgill Simpson, Willie Nelson), Western Gold recalls times when the AM radio was the only companion on long haul highways as Gethen Jenkins brings history into today, the power in his voice cradled in sad Country melodies wrapping around the goodbyes in “While I’m Away” and hitching a ride to the fast-moving Rock’n’Roll beat the propels “Basket Case” down the blacktop.
Born in West Virginia and raised in a rural Indian village in Alaska, Gethen Jenkins spent eight years in the military before establishing himself on the west coast, carving out a fertile spot for Country music in SoCal. Western Gold shines on love with “Strength of a Woman”, lays down a rock’n’roll country rhythm for “Maintenance Man”, and heads home to California in the freedom of the title track as Gethen Jenkins heads for the bottom of the glass as a cure in “Whiskey Bound” and exits the album on a triple threat with “Me, The Bottle, and Nothing But Time”.
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