Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Three Questions with K Phillips

For the last half decade, Texas songwriter K Phillips has been one of the best underground sounds in America, a celebrated live sound,  and a gifted showman. The poet born-out-of-time now finds himself living in Nashville. And these days? Having the biggest professional year of his life with a ten-week long American Tour with Counting Crows and Rob Thomas this summer. Thousands of music lovers are about to see this man play on some of the best stages in the country. 

What's better? Phillips comes armed with a new album's worth of material - masterful new songs on a full-length record still in the can. The album hosts some of contemporary music's great studio and stage folks. Hadrian's Wall, a live favorite, finally sees the light of day - with Adam Duritz singing with K. There will be greatness on tour!

- one - 

RSL - What has the last month been like, counting down the days until you hit the road with Counting Crows and Rob Thomas?

KP - We have been rehearsing every day. We have vocal rehearsals after we make smoothies. We have band rehearsal and then we eat lunch. Then we run the set and we might take naps. We wake up and we go see shows. Later we come back and jam into to the night. Oh, did I mention I live with my band?

Phillips call his band, "the best sounding, best looking, nicest musicians out of Texas currently living in a house w/ me in Nashville." They include David Ponder (guitar), Michael Talley (bass and vox), Wade Cofer (drums and vox) Hannah Cook and Taylor Lumby (vox) and Beau Bedford (Auxiliary instrumentation).

- two - 

RSL -  What about the new material we have been hearing about? What was your inspiration?

KP - The title 'Dirty Wonder' was carefully chosen. I'll let the listener decide why. You can get the vinyl on tour and on our website now. It won't be officially out until September.

- three - 

RSL - There are so many references to poets and literary characters in your songs and stage performance, where does that come from? Are you a man lost in time?

KP -  I am enamored by the ineffable. I'm just trying to connect with people and to do that I look back to see how Billy Collins, Robert Graves or Larry McMurtry try to make sense of the human experience. Every book, every poem, every honest song is a roadmap through time. So when I do get lost, I look back.

K Phillips 
Music / Web / Fb / Tw

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Blondfire - Domino (iPhone 6S video)

Gifted songstress Erica Driscoll can add another line to her entertainment resume with the release of "Domino" a new song from Blondfire (Los Angeles). She shot and editing the entire project on her iPhone 6S in a collage style. Talented lady and a remarkable new summer sound!

The song is beautiful in it's summer etherea but for me it's the haunting, challenging lyrics penned by Driscoll that stand out. I really dig this song and it will end up in my radio broadcast rotation!

Get to know the band: Having long celebrated the band's most diverse sounds, this is a really fantastic addition to my list of favorites.. 

Dance-worthy:"Dear in Your Headlights;" 
Driscoll's magical vocals: "Waves
The band's incredible rock anthem: "Where The Kids Are."

Web / Fb / Tw

Friday, July 22, 2016

Luke Cage is the Hero America Needs

I was a comic book kid when I was a boy. I read a ton and spent a lot of time in my thoughts.. Imagine that: a white kid in rural Vermont with a black super hero as one of my favorites.. Many years later, every possible geek dream I ever had just came to life with this new Marvel Comics trailer for the upcoming Luke Cage series on Netflix.

Booom! Looks like I finally need to bite down on that membership. And the use of that Wu-tang? Brilliant. I just watched this thing several times. And I'm a kid again!

Luke Cage by Mike Mitchell

After a sabotaged experiment leaves him with super strength and unbreakable skin, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) becomes a fugitive who attempts to rebuild his life in modern day Harlem, New York City. But soon he is pulled out of the shadows and must fight a battle for the heart of his city – forcing him to confront a past he had tried to bury. Here's the cat's backstory. Be there. September 30.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

One To Watch - Ryan McDowell

by Julie Stoller

It is often said that to be a true artist, you should be able to take your pain and turn it into art. Massachusetts-bred musician Ryan McDowell has taken that concept one step further — out of a profound rejection in his young life, he has created a four-part, 23-track concept album. Berklee Reject is exactly as its title suggests. As he wrote, recorded and performed music through his high school years, it was the dream of this talented teenager to attend Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music. The college’s unfortunate decision caused him to reassess his life and explore his identity. In doing so, he has created a masterpiece.

That early rejection spun him out of control, and while sinking into the depths of despair and wondering what he was going to do with his life, McDowell started writing a soundtrack to his pain. What emerged from his uncertainty is a stunning portrait of a young man grappling with emotional upheaval and the pressing need to plan his future. It is a story of existential crisis and self-discovery. What emerges from the inner turmoil is a lyrically rich and musically sophisticated collection of songs about life and an American suburban upbringing. The songs’ subject matter delves into his yearnings and dreams, parental expectations and McDowell's search for identity.

Ryan McDowell at work

The journey begins with McDowell’s “What the F**k” introduction, laying the groundwork of his Berklee rejection and subsequent breakdown. The hypnotic chanted and layered acapella vocals with the insistent drum beat conveys inevitability and resolve (“Every river finds its ocean; every sailor finds their sea.”). Amid raps and wartime revelry, “Welcome to the Endtimes” oozes histrionics and self-pity, but that’s instantly forgiven, thanks to its breathtaking execution. “White Suburbia” and “You Were Born as a King” paints a clear picture of his privileged yet claustrophobic existence in suburban America, struggling with not fitting in with society’s and parents’ expectations. His observational distance and poignant insights keeps things from getting too whiny. 

The title track, “Berklee Reject,” tells the story that frames the entire album. This fantastic art-folk song highlights an accomplished voice with many personalities that he conjures at will, switching tones frequently throughout. It is also the young narrator at his most jaded.

Vocally, Berklee Reject explores pretty much everything a human voice can do — indie rock, theatrical and folk style singing; spoken word; old-world acapella; choral music and modern rap. The lyrics often read like streams of consciousness, while instruments and vocals are looped and layered to form everything from hypnotic acapella and percussion pieces to lush symphonic compositions that wouldn’t be out of place in a Broadway musical. McDowell wrote and recorded nearly the entire album completely by himself, save for some guitar parts.

War is a frequent theme in McDowell’s music. An earlier song is “Gary Owen,” a piano and vocal-driven civil war ditty, the title a reference to a nickname for the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry Regiment during the civil war. And then there’s “Blood on the Risers,” an acapella rendition of a song commonly sung by U.S. Paratroopers during World War II (though with alternate and even gorier lyrics). This can be thought of as a metaphor for the war within, trapped behind enemy lines and living a life not in line with one’s own sensibilities, yearning for freedom.

The composer’s savvy shown on this latest release obviously comes from his experience splicing and dicing others’ music. Some of the songs seem like a mish-mash of concepts and melodies, but it all works brilliantly.

Though he briefly took piano lessons as a child, McDowell’s musical expression began in high school. Being too self-conscious to write and sing his own songs, he instead created mash-ups. At the end of his sophomore year, he began to focus on original compositions. His debut was released in fall of 2014, and by the time he graduated high school, he had released five albums of which Berklee Reject is the latest.

Verdict: An incredible show of force, especially for someone with just a few years of music making under his belt. McDowell will be featured on the WEMF radio program 'Under The Covers' on Saturday, July 23rd from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. If you miss it, you can catch it as a podcast.

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