Saturday, July 31, 2010

Newport Folk Opening Night

Newport Folk 51
Coverage that Counts

Steve Martin opened Newport Folk

All Photos by 5342 Studios

THE LEGEND CONTINUES IN NEWPORT - Friday night was opening night for Newport and the masses did gather in downtown Newport, RI to find the Tennis Hall of Fame packed with folks looking for clean folk and good bluegrass music. The headliner was actor and funny man Steve Martin - a man who has most notably been making his mark these days as one of world's premier banjo players. Seriously, this could have been one of the best bluegrass performances I had ever seen. The set was clearly benefited by Martin's witty storytelling and his jokes - oft used to advance the next track and to introduce us to the other players on stage.

An unbelievable talent: Martin really does it all - and remarkably well. Opening up for Steve Martin and his band (the Steep Canyon Rangers) was the gifted singer-songwriter TIM O'BRIEN. O'Brien actually played on Martin's The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo - a Grammy Award winning record that's a most-have for any bluegrass enthusiasts out there.

RSL Streaming Photo Album
Newport Folk Festival 51

Thanks to ridiculously heavy traffic descending out of Boston, we missed opener SARAH JAROSZ - but we anticipate catching her live today as Newport Folk moves to the open water and the hallowed grounds of Fort Adams Park. Good times people. Newport Folk is the best.

Alejandro Escovedo

On Further Review
by Emmery Brakke
the Middle East 7/19/10

a powerful performance from Alejandro Escovedo

When I found out I was going to be covering the Alejandro Escovedo show at The Middle East on Monday, July 19th I was beyond excited. I was finally going to have the chance to do what every teenager (I am almost 19 now) who has spent any amount of time in the Boston scene desperately awaits... attending the Middle East for the First Time. Ok, so I’m almost 19, so the fact that I hadn’t been yet is a little embarrassing. But I couldn’t wait for the chance to finally go to an 18-plus music club, to blend in and not feel like a child. Well, I picked the wrong show for that dream... when I walked proudly up to the table and the girl crossed my name off the list and tied a pink bracelet to my belt loops, I had absolutely no idea that I was walking into the high school reunion of the class of 1955.

During his set, Escovedo acknowledged as much, proclaiming his art was “old people’s music.” This put me in a difficult position. But it's hard for anyone with a heart for music not to fall in love with someone who is such a genuine talent and honest performer. Escovedo is all of these things and more. Maybe I’m an old soul, or maybe I’m just the exception to the rule, but he certainly won me over. But I wouldn’t sell him short by advertising it as “old people’s music”. When I found out I was going to the show I told my cousin, who immediately responded “Have fun, that guy rocks!”. I’d say that’s about as accurate as it gets, so let’s roll with it.

And Escovedo proved the point, putting on a live show with enough energy to rival any of the younger performers out there. Case in point; he completely blew his opening act, the alluring but generally underwhelming Megan McCormick, out of the water. McCormick, a talented musician with strong vocals, fell short for me because her overall performance lacked power. It felt very uninspired-which was the antithesis of Escovedo’s set. It was impossible not to get sucked into the contagious vigor of “Castanets”, a crowd sing-a-long favorite, or the incredible “Five Hearts Breaking” which may have been one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen by any musician, never mind one who probably gets a senior discount on his movie tickets.

Escovedo has made quite a name for himself and created quite a fan base around his modernized punk style, and while the energetic rock performances which dominated the show were impressive and fun, the high points came in the form of a Phillip Seymour Hoffman look-alike and a Crazy Heart worthy ballad. David Pulkingham, who bears a striking and very entertaining resemblance to the aforementioned actor, completely blew my mind with his mesmerizing back and forth guitar solos with Escovedo. Although solo wouldn’t really be the correct term to describe the interaction between the two performers-it felt more like witnessing a private and incredibly emotional musical conversation. The emotional honesty and the amount of passion and authenticity that exuded from these two men while they performed was rivaled only by the heart wrenching “Sister Lost Soul”. The only toned down performance of the night, Escovedo dedicated this stripped down tribute to songwriter Stephen Bruton, who passed away last May, and the country tinged song kept even this raucous crowd silent with respect for four minutes.

Alejandro Escovedo
Web / My / Fb / Tw

Friday, July 30, 2010

Follow Us To Newport

RSL heads to Newport Folk 51

51 Years ago, a really small but great idea started out and it lives on today. We are heading out for George Wein's Newport Folk Festival today with the hopes of bringing you some exceptional photographs, stories and first-hand, personal coverage. If you can't be their either tonight (Friday evening is opening night) Saturday or Sunday (one-day and weekend passes are available) then experience it with us:

RSL,Ryan's Smashing Life,RSLBLOG.COM

I've asked all four members of our team to use Twitter to mark down their observations at Newport, to send pictures, collect their thoughts and share discoveries with all of you during the next three days. It's an experiment of sorts. If you are a twitter user - please follow these folks (at least over the weekend). I think you'll find some very good stuff:

Sean Hafferty

Steve Legare

Emma Dessau

Ryan Spaulding

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whose Side Are You On Anyway?

New Music this Week!
Someone You Should Know



Summer is here - and with it new music from Mason Proper's prolific Jonathan Visger. When things begin to quiet down momentarily for Mason Proper [whose Olly Oxen Free made our 20 Albums from 2008 you Need to Own list] Visger decided it wasn't time to take a break. He periodically shares new songs under the pen name Absofacto. This is one of those times. Listen for his characteristic style: melancholy songcraft, super-clean sound on top of small bits of ethereal, other-worldly extras. Listen and you'll know what I mean. What you are about to hear is debut music from the author, musician, producer, himself:

Jonathan Visger is

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Band is Ready

RSL Presents....

poster by Dan Blakeslee

video by Barry Marino

bios / mp3s / more

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Music: McAlister Drive

Big Night in Boston
All-Stars @ the Hard Rock

Saturday, August 7th

$12 = 5 Bands & A Free CD!Ticket,Poster,McAlister Drive

McAlister Drive - Missing Figures
Album to be released Sat 8/7/10
photos by Michael Basu

They're one of those bands known for their on-stage epiphanies... Having built a solid reputation as a smoldering live band, McAlister Drive are set to release a new album that promises to win their new audiences. Missing Figures could be the band's finest work to-date. Missing Figures was produced by Ed Valauskas @ the legendary Q Division. If you're in Boston, you can attend the EP Party at the Hard Rock Boston (five stage changes with six acts) for just $12. That ticket price will also get you one of these limited EP albums, free of charge. That's really sweetening the deal!

Christoph Krey

McAlister Drive
My / Fb / Tw


ROCK 'N ROLL AMERICANA - Now working on a new album of their own, Girls Guns and Glory have gained a loyal regional following and have won the hearts of many outside the region as well. (I really like this band.) Their addition to this lineup is a huge boon for you. Do not miss this chance to see them on the Hard Rock stage!

MODERN POP - Winner of the 2009 WBRU Rock Hunt, Fairhaven have proven to be on the fast track to success. It's only come with hard work and dedication to their music. It shows in Origins, Fairhaven's debut album - released earlier this year.

[Ed's note: It's not often that I often have the luxury of actually quoting an artist's website bio. Miss Tess's is well written, direct and - did I say well written?...]

Miss Tess is a New York City based songwriter and performing musician, who tours regularly with her band, as "Miss Tess & The Bon Ton Parade". In addition to Tess on her 1920s archtop guitar, the current lineup includes Alec Spiegelman on sax & clarinet, Paul Dilley on upright bass, and Matt Meyer on drums. After nationally touring for the last five years, Miss Tess has just released her anticipated fifth album, “Darling, oh Darling”. The album presents an ecclectic array of originals, all stemming from roots in jazz, swing, blues, and folk. Miss Tess draws comparisons to artists such as Jolie Holland, Madeleine Peyroux, Regina Spektor, or Ella Fitzgerald, but maintains a style all of her own.

With the release of Lily Holbrook's most recent album, "Wicked Ways," an opening performance for Brian Wilson at Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC and a slot at New Jersey's "All Points West" festival headlined by Radiohead, Lily no longer belongs to Boston. (She's a woman of the world!) She is currently in San Francisco working on her fourth album. We are very lucky to have her with us at the Hard Rock on August 7th.

Saturday, August 7th
Hard Rock Boston

free album w/ purchase!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Drug Rug roll into the MFA

New England Music Showcases
Summer Concerts Series
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Wild Harmonies & Experimental Rock
Sarah Cronin + Thomas Allen of Drug Rug

Drug Rug - Never Tell
From 'Paint the Fence Invisible'
available now

FOR FANS OF EDWARD SHARPE - Welcome to the edge of insanity and the beginning of your emerging fan-hood. I love the harmonies and jangly, unframed beats of Drug Rug. I have been to many Drug Rug shows and I have never seen a bad one. Here's you chance to see the songs of their new album, "Paint the Fence Invisible." (Which I enjoy more on each consecutive listen.) Head on down to the MFA - No matter what your interests are, I assure you this is one field trip you'll want to take!

Drug Rug with tUnE-YarDs
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
MFA Calderwood Courtyard
7:30 — 9 pm

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Best Albums from 2010's First Half

RSL Album Buyer's Guide 2010 Volume One
Mind Strong by Blaine Fontana

Welcome! You have just found one of the most exhaustive and well-considered lists of quality, new music available in 2010. We don't promise to have everything that's out there but what is comes in one easy-to-digest package!

Read on below: there's an mp3 or video from each of THE BEST music projects RSL has come across in the first half of 2010. Ultimately, this A-Z shopping list (we have great confidence that any and all of these belong in your permanent collection) is a reflection of our own personal tastes. (Accordingly - there are some rather prominent omissions from this list - and we stand firmly by these selections. We didn't always agree - so there are some debated entries here!)

Note: Everything we love that was released from June onward will be captured in our Year End piece. (Something to look forward to.)

Enjoy the fruits of our labor & invest in the artist material. We all need to support the works of musicians and artists whose work we enjoy. With that in mind, here are the 2010 Volume I album recommendations from Ryan's Smashing Life....

Nowhere Nights

Kasey Anderson - I Was A Photograph

"One of my absolute favorite records of the year starts this alphabetical listing off right. Kasey Anderson has the soul of a much older fellow and the benefactors are his listeners. Be prepared to weather the storm with this wicked record," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb / Tw


Archie Bronson Outfit - Hoola

"My favorite underground act from the last decade has returned! Archie Bronson Outfit are still writing songs about sex, rock 'n roll and fast cars, but the World just might finally be ready to listen. Coconut is one of the most fun albums of the year - pop it in and go for a drive," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb

Teen Dream

Beach House - Used To Be
Paulo Dourado photo

"Beach House has upped their game with Teen Dream. Though the talents of vocalist Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally were apparent on their previous releases, Teen Dream is just... well... dreamier. Songs like 'Used to Be' and 'Walk in the Park' make this release reverberate in your skull and melt your heart, like the best illusory summer dozes should," - Emma Dessau

Web / My / Fb / Tw


The Black Keys - Unknown Brother

"So, what do you say about The Black Keys that hasn't been said? Its a Brilliant blues rock experience that follows a series of equally great albums. Buy it," - 5342 Studios

"At the Half, Brothers is my favorite from this year. The Black Keys have produced a grower of a record that just happened to hit me the right way, right off the bat," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb / Tw

Forgiveness Rock Record

Broken Social Scene- All to All

"Broken Social Scene seems to pull off being both more accessible AND more complex than before. Check out 'Your Forgot It In People' and their self titled album.) Although Forgiveness Rock Record may not necessarily be my favorite album of the three, it is certainly no step backward for a band that always seems to be at the peak of their popularity," - Steve Legare

Web / My / Fb / Tw

Blood and Fire

Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster - Love Turns to Hate

"The return of this truly strange band after some years unsigned is very welcome. Despite a change of lead guitarist (old guitarist Richard Fownes left to join NIN) and label, 'Blood and Fire' is just as eccentric a mix of metal, goth and early Nick Cave like drama as their previous two efforts. One of the most interesting things I’ve heard this year," - Nick Parker

Web / My / Fb / Blog

American Fever Dream

Aaron English - Sleight of Heart

"Aaron English may prove to the most relevant songwriter of the year. His work on the timeless American (Fever) Dream is pure contemplative genius," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb / Tw / itunes

I'm New Here

Gil Scott-Heron - Me And The Devil

"So much of what we listen to these days is about losing ourselves, Escape. Gil-Scott Heron has been talking about Reality for so long he has come to personify it. Heron's voice resonates in the soul," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Album

I Learned the Hard Way

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - How Long
Sharon Jones at SxSW by 5342 Studios

"One of the world's best live performers just keeps putting out great albums. The female James Brown does it again with a soulful collection of tunes that you would have to be soulless to hate," - 5342 Studios.

"I Learned the Hard Way is a brilliant record. A performer at the top of her game. Serious best of 2010 Album Consideration for Sharon Jones. A true must-have," - Ryan Spaulding.

Web / My / Fb / Tw

A Balloon Called Moaning

The Joy Formidable - Austere

"A year after its release in the UK, we can now all finally enjoy this welsh band’s addictive debut. “A Balloon Called Moaning” has been pitched as at the cutting edge of British music, and for once the buzz is very much appropriate. Support this fledgling band, and feel you have your finger on the pulse!" - Nick Parker

"Songs so good your fans make you an unofficial "masturbation" video. Yep, this powerpop trio has put together a collection of addictive tunes. Big bass, sweet guitar, driving drums and vocals reminiscent of The Breeders," - 5342 Studios

Web / My / Fb / Tw

Dust Windows

Kingsley Flood - Just a Midnight Ride

"Ascension, you are mine! Kingsley Flood are easily one of the most talented bands on this list. Moving effortlessly through the worlds of Americana and Folk, the word is getting out on this Boston secret. Highly Recommended, Best of the Year so far in New England," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb / Tw

This is Happening

LCD Soundsystem - You Wanted a Hit

"With their third, and perhaps final, album you get just what you have come to expect from LCD Soundsystem. Awesome electronic music with a new wave sensibility," - 5342 Studios

"James Murphy has a gift for translation and storytelling. This is Happening is an artistic, sometimes wild, sometimes tongue-in-cheek modern tale. One, that should be experienced more than once," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb / Tw


Liars - Scissor

"Sisterworld arrives as a reading of the LA music scene with all its dark genres. The album has the serpentine progress of Lynch's Lost Highway where strange character transfiguration points to something hidden and disturbing. Each song, whether grunge, metal or experimental work together as a cohesive whole to tell a somber story," - Mark Jenko

Web / My / Fb / Blog

Life is Sweet, Nice to Meet you

Lightspeed Champion - Marlene

"Lightspeed’s second album is as peculiar a combination of sounds as we’ve come to expect from Dev Hynes’s music. He seems to be in his own world, but it’s one you will love to explore with him," - Nick Parker

Web / My / Fb / Worst Movies

Gorilla Manner

Local Natives - Airplanes

"One of the Best New Bands in the Country right now. Local Natives are a zeitgeist act and this is an important album to the status quo. A Band's band, really, and made up of talented musicians with promising futures," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb / Tw / Blog

Romance is Boring

Los Campesinos - There Are Listed Buildings

"Still full of wit, but also more adult than ever before, Los Campesinos have proven with this third release that they are among the best alternative bands in Britain at the moment. Their gig with Cymbals Eat Guitars (also excellent) this spring was the best live show I’ve seen in 2010," - Nick Parker

Web / My / Fb / Tw

Various Artists / Compilation

Sam Amidon - How Come That Blood

"This 20-song compilation album is brilliant from start to finish with but a few exceptions. To land that kind of value from one album is undeniable value. And, I love realizing that one of my favorite albums of the year is from contemporary Iceland. Most unexpected and highly recommend!" - Ryan Spaulding

Fossils and Other Phantoms

Peggy Sue - Matilda

Peggy Sue put on one of the most charming stage shows I witnessed at the Paradise this year. The UK three-piece play both tender songs and rapturous bouts of Stage Rock intermittently. Pretty awesome," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb / Tw

Here's to Taking It Easy

Phospherescent - Tell Me Baby

"It's been a little over two years since we last had new material from Matthew Houck and the wait was clear worth it. Here's to Taking It Easy is emotive genius. A heartfelt album you would do well to own," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb

The Dark Leaves

Matt Pond PA - Starting

"Matt Pond PA is one of those bands that I have a hard time describing. They have a mid-tempo pop sensibility while delivering elegant lyrics. Although very light at times, there is a barely restrained intensity to much of the music that just sucks me in," - 5342 Studios

Web / My / Fb / Tw


New Pornographers - A Bite Out of My Bed

"Honestly, I didn't think much of their last album Challengers. I figured this was going to be one of those times where a band gets more dough for production and its used it to suck out the soul of the artist. Color me wrong, because Together is at least on par with Twin Cinema and I'd be hard pressed to disagree with folks if they thought it was a little better or a little weaker," - 5342 Studios

Web / My / Fb / Tw


Rogue Wave - Solitary Gun
photo by 5342 Studios

"My inner contrarian indie-rock critic self is locked away in a room screaming while I write this. Rogue Wave is pretty well known indie-pop act these days and I really didn't want to like this album after the first listen. Its highly produced, poppy and more electronic than previous efforts. I think it bounces in spots. However, it is gleefully addictive when you give it a chance," - 5342 Studios

Web / My / Fb / Tw

"A fascinating combination of hip beats, keys, metal and an occasional sweetness that can catch you unaware. There is some funky bad-assery going on here," - 5342 Studios

Web / My / Fb / Tw

The Monitor

Titus Andronicus - Theme From "Cheers"

"Though Titus’s 'The Monitor' is a complex concept album based loosely on the civil war, it manages at the same time to sound perfectly relevant to today. It’s full of fascinating stories of working-class lives writ large, and remains furiously energetic throughout, demanding your attention," - Nick Parker

"One of the more significant albums released to date in 2010. An unexpected treat and a real winner," - Ryan Spaulding

Web / My / Fb / Yt

Robber On The Run
Travels,Best of 2010

Travels - Friends In Bands

"Travels is one of New England's finest explorations of sound - and still unknown to the general public. Mona Elliott (Victory at Sea) and Anar Badalov (Metal Hearts) have released their best work to-date in Robber on Run. Amazing stuff - one of my favorites from this list," - Ryan Spaulding

My / Fb

Saturday, July 24, 2010

4 Videos for your Best Friend

Moving You through Music Video

Ace and Ion go Space Mining by Tara McPherson

Welcome back to the Drome - our irregular music video series sharing the best new sights and sounds from around the globe - all in one neat little package. The attempt here is to be diverse and to share stuff you might otherwise not find elsewhere. Occasionally we talk about folks you might already know but that's because we like them as much as you do. That's what passion for music is all about. Let us begin:

YOLANDA BE COOL - If Sylvester Martinez and Johnson Peterson, aka Yolanda Be Cool, were in the Carpenters, they would be singing "We've only just begun." For though 2009 was a massive year for these two, what with exclusively signing their releases to Ajax's Sweat It Out label, their bookings to his agency not to mention their original productions and remixes receiving huge support from some of the scene's biggest players, they are far from slowing down, instead going into overdrive in the studio to ensure that the year 2010 is one that is filled with their brand of party tech. The results of good works such as these (below) have landed the pair with a full EU tour.

Yolanda Be Cool

GOGOL BORDELLO - Directed by acclaimed Russian video director Aliaksei Tserakhau, the video for their single “Pala Tute” is a mixed media collage blending stop-motion animation and live action with lead singer Eugene Hütz and Gogol Bordello band mate Elizabeth Sun featured as claymation, star-crossed lovers in passing caravans venturing through time and space in re-imagined classic stories ranging from the Garden of Eden to Dracula’s Transylvania.

Gogol Bordello
on the RSL / Web / Myspace

PVT - Oh you bands with your name-changing ways. Formerly known as Pivot, Australia's PVT are really starting to make the rounds in 2010 - and we would certainly call them "One to Watch." They have a new album Church With No Magic out August 10th through Warp Records and from what we've heard (free download) it's pretty great. Check out the video:

EELS - I am very much looking forward to Tomorrow Mornings - the new album out on August 24th. Seriously think it will prove to be one of the better albums of the year. Find out for yourself, the band is offering an exclusive mp3 download from their website. We think you'll also get a kick out of the music video for "Spectacular Girl". Take aim below:

Web / Myspace

Friday, July 23, 2010

RSL August 2

the Live Tradition continues
A hot show for you hipsters

layout & design by Dan Blakeslee

Monday Aug 2nd 18+ 9pm $8
no advanced ticketing.



The Hush Now - The Other Ones
Brand New Single This Week - Unreleased!

On the verge of releasing their new EP album 'Shiver Me Starships' in September, The Hush Now could be Boston's best kept music secret. (Ed's note: Not for Long!) It took a lot of my persistence and, ultimately, a deal with the devil himself to get this show done (it interrupted final recording and mastering of the new album.) But I think you'll be glad I did.

The band: Noel Kelly, Barry Marino, Pat Macdonald, Adam Quane and John Millar are extremely focused and are perhaps their best-ever, right now. Attend on August 2nd, and you'll hear a number of new songs for the first time. This is going to be good!

The Hush Now
My / Fb / Tw / Web


Anna Rose - Picture
Brand New Song!

RSL is very pleased to present White Pony recording artist Anna Rose, a NY phenom on a rapid rise. During her twenty-five years on Earth as what she calls a "rock kid," there have been great passions in Anna Rose's life, and then there has been music. "More than anything, I have always straight-up just totally and truthfully loved it," she says.

Always, she has known she would perform and record as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist-pianist who would release an album such as Nomad, her upcoming debut, which she co-produced with William (Billy) Sullivan, five songs from which comprise her sensational current Anna Rose EP. And always she has been a little nuts about guitars. She started playing at age 5, after an older cousin brought one along to a holiday family gift exchange. Our present to you is Anna Rose and her band's first ever Boston appearance on August 2nd. Be there!

Anna Rose
Web / My / Fb / Tw

DAN BLAKESLEE and The Calabash Club

Ryan Howell photo

I can't believe it's Summer 2010 and I am only just now finding a way to work with Dan Blakeslee - one of New England's finest singer-songwriters, band leaders and storytellers. While some may be unfamiliar with his music, Blakeslee is also an accomplish visual artist. It's unlikely that the concert-going set has missed his artwork. Blakeslee created our custom poster (above) along with countless others - which have hung in venue windows, telephone poles and tackboards across the region for many years now. What makes me so excited to bring you Blakeslee is that he is a kindred spirit. Performance and Community are important themes... His new album is, Tatnic Tales. Here's a short video that gives you a taste of Blakeslee's unique character - and his best music to-date:

Dan Blakeslee
Web / My / Fb / Peapod Recordings

Monday, August 2nd
9pm - $8 - 18+