Monday, July 28, 2014

Post-Newport: The Oh Hellos Download

We have something to share with y'all.

These guys (and gals), if you haven't read our review, BLASTED us away. Just incredible energy.

We're going to skirt our responsibilities here and not do up a review. Instead, we're going to offer y'all the link to download their debut full-length album AT YOUR OWN PRICE. We paid $10 gladly for a physical, and we think $5-7 is fair for a digital copy. But, of course, free is a possibility (and if you like it, pay for a friend's download).

The sound is immense. And keep your ears peeled, as their sophomore full-length is due later this year-slash-early next year. In fact, just check out their whole Bandcamp.

Thanks much for the memories! Keep you posted on the final (and ridiculously awesome) day at the Folk Fest!


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Newport Folk Fest, Saturday - The Folk

Welcome back.
Sometimes we take weird angles at the Folk Fest. Honestly, it's not that we're trying to be weird, but sometimes that's just how the experience turns out. We grossly apologize for the quickly hewn-together Friday coverage (still, check out sommah those bands!) as we were running on fumes, exhaustion, and no tea. Something that would make the kindest Arthur Dent (another author reference - Douglas Adams) a bit shaky in his delivery. In any case, here's the story we were really writing when we were typing last night:

The shirt is coming along. It's about 80% filled and there's still a day ahead. Our first signature Friday was Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees, and today, we opted for something different: a couple festival contacts who somehow think we're worth bringing into the Festival. I know, strange, huh? Against Ms. McC's furious attestations that she was going to "ruin the shirt," we finally convinced one of the hardest-working women behind the festival to be part of our experience. Mr. DG, the other fellow we have contact with, just banged his signature right out.
No fuss, no problems.

The festival, to us, is about the experience, more than the CDs we picked up (we'll get to that), and we're of the type that we like to have some memento of that experience. That's why we like keeping a few CDs around, why we had to print our dinky little book out, and unfortunately, we haven't kept our press passes; it's that palpable memory that we want to keep of the festival. Something to look at and reminisce in old, curmudgeonly age. In short: buy stuff!

Now, open the gates:

The tides come in
We're convinced that behind every 3 festival-goers, there's one festival worker like this guy above working (mostly) in the background. Not an easy thing to coordinate.

They help put together the speakers and mics that Robert Hunter fussed a bit with. And they were up bright and early to let Willie Watson on the Alex and Ani Harbor Stage.

Why, juss me an my twangy lil' girl
Willie Watson... needs a bit of a tangent from us in order to explain. Our father had a few records on him, covers of horses and cowboys, names we never heard of before (and will never hear of again, they're not on CD), album titles like "Twangy Country Guitar." Never played one. But, to us that's country, not the modern Carrie Underwood-pop with a Southern Accent. Guy with a guitar singing innocent little songs about the farm, pre-Johnny Cash (we scooped up those gems, yes), Country because that's where you lived, in the country. Boondocks. Twice removed from the boonies, actually; yes that far.

Willie Watson is the perfect candidate for that sleepy little genre that has pretty much gone away. Crooning old soul's voice, style - well, check the pic - not too twangy, but definitely he comes from that generation two generations ago. Congrats, you human time-machine.

[Enter paragraph about The Oh Hellos here]
Don't worry, we'll get to them... but we've come unstuck in time on this post (Vonnegut).

Benjamin Booker is touring with the day's headliner Jack White. We took a few photos:

Kids nowadays...
And yes, he does look like he's about seventeen. Really, really young. The photo added about fifteen years, but - Jeesh! - yes, young.

Jack White's stamp of approval is all over the kid, so you know he's coming from a hard rock edge. We listened for a bit, and honestly, he's good, but we're not quite sure what we're missing here. Reignwolf was - nuts - and Booker didn't quite strike us that we need to go out and get his album. But we'll see. There's always the chance for surprise.

Shakey Graves, on the other hand, is our second place for today. Funky funky dude, these Austin, Texans strikes us a bit like Dan Auerbach's solo stuff, with Springsteenish vocal color, and just.. a crowd. The crowd was rough. rightly deserved. Here's the lead singer:

The gents would shake our graves, any day

Right now we're trying, trying so hard not to just jump into our favorite band of the day. Really. It's tough.

Best Covers Award goes to Houndmouth (Soundcloud, but no sounds! Go bug them). Starting off with a Funkadelic tune, they were spot on. Just fantastic. We were caught in a serious conundrum between Shakey Graves and Houndmouth - which stage to go for? where's my "evil" twin when you need him? - and despite all the great photos we have of them, and that we love Shakey and wanted more of Houndmouth, alas, Deer Tick awaited.

And one obligatory Deer Tick photo later:

Rental attendant suits: $600. Amtrack travel for eight: $1500. Thumbing your nose at a major airline...

In case you didn't hear, they were dressed up as airline attendants. Hrm. We wonder why.You know we like them, but there's a lot to travel by foot yet.

Actually, just a couple more bands for y'all.

First, we'll start with the best. Then end with the last. That seems fair.

Out of the virtual nowhere comes... wait for it...

Beware: flying banjos
The Oh Hellos were three steps, two banjos, and fifty feet of crowd ahead of any other stage we'd caught on Saturday. We're fairly going to say they were THE ACT of the festival. So far? Yes. Of the whole festival? Well, perhaps another yes.
To describe their sound, we need only one word. Joyous. There is pure joy and air in their compositions, just naked like a new child, harmonies, some bluegrass feel to it, and just unabashedly earnest. This is the CD we picked up, and we're going to give you some links later tonight so y'all can listen to their debut full-length. Really. We made all our photographer-friends jealous by letting them know how terrible human beings they were to miss 20% of the band running around in the crowd.

And... Jack White.
We don't know what we're going to say about Jack White.

You probably already know him from The White Stripes and a slew of other projects, only 1/3 of which we're aware of, but here's where we'd like to end Saturday's coverage.

A beefy state trooper starts walking toward us (toward me, specifically), with an unpleasant look on the face. Really unpleasant. Serious. He walks up, takes note of something, and goes back. When he comes back again, there are two festival medics with him; and, unbeknownst to us, one partier has crashed just a wee bit, only a few feet away.
You see, we were busy trying to write something up on Jack White. Notes are illegible.
The poor fellow was down, and the two medics (plus the state trooper) help out the likely over-alcoholed, over-sunned music-goer, extract him from the crowd, and that's the end of our little view into that world.

Jack White, guitar fuzz, all that other stuff still going.

So for this post, we'll dedicate to the folk of the Folk Fest (including Katie our medic friend!) who keep things running. Who keep crowds in order. Who keep photographers from shooting Jack White, even. And keep partiers around, to party another day. Ms. McC wondered why I was so insistent on the autograph, but I hope this clarifies a couple things about that.

Zack Wiggs' better half

Now onward, to the final day!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Newport Folk Fest, Friday

Welcome back to our seventh year of Newport Folk Festival coverage - our first year taking torrential downpour for the Newport Mercury - we welcome and thank you back! If this is your first year taking in the blog, we'll sum up the fest for you so far: it's good. There. We said it. Our coverage, less so. We're exhausted and need to get some output done. So we apologize that this post doesn't full express our inspiration we felt today. Anyway, let's start.

The tall tall Tall Tall Trees. Okay, not super tall, but taller than us.
We start the day with New-Yorker Mike Savino, the Tall Tall Tree, self-described "banjotron," and rather self-effacing for a face full of beard. The nigh-Ent (is Tolkein too obscure, too-off base for a music blog?) introduces himself - "I'm guaranteed to be the best act so far," which, if you're into "space banjo," you could fairly place him mid-day and still make that statement. Now: space banjo, you question? Not really Bela Fleck, but more like pedals, serious pedal-effects, looping, electronica (a mallet on it, for chrissakes!), everything one can do to a banjo that's only legal south of the Mason-Dixon. This, here, is not a good photo. But don't worry, we've got a really good one coming up.

And before you knock our photos, let's introduce our lovely lovely pho- ah, it's just us. On an iPhone. A really frustrating thing to get photos off of, apparently. But we digress... let's move on.


The fantastic Ms. Phox
For some reason Phox reminded us a bit of Typhoon (not quite eleven Phox'ers, but close), though with a lovely female aesthetic and vocals. They're sweet, a lotta piano and some horn, and out of Baraboo, WI (none to far from our Alma Mater). Singer Ms. Monica Martin is, to quote another member, "hard to miss," which made it easy for us to get a signature for... well, can't spoil that yet.

There's a secret amongst those covering this kind of festival. Basically, there's a love/hate relationship here. It's fun, it's fantastic, it's freakin' awesome; but, quite frankly, it's exhausting. We HAVE TO run to each stage, catch photos, catch a song or two, run to the next stage (rinse, repeat, write... pass out). Yes, it is fun, but then you miss out on bands like Reignwolf. Never again.
Reignwolf is like pulling Steppenwolf out of the grave - okay, they're not really dead - infusing them into the body of a long-haired ragamuffin, letting him eat Peter Fonda's brains a la Easy Rider, and then... HOLY CRIPES THAT'S GOOD! They're our number two act, despite having barely caught them - all this based on 1. That the lead singer actually goes by Reignwolf; 2. That Reignwolf grinds  that poor blasted guitar on speakers loud enough to impede reproduction for at least six months; and 3. That we apparently can't figure out where the trio hails from. So, most likely, the deep deep forest. Amongst the Tall Tall...

Speaking of pulling style out of the grave, check out the hippie sister below. She's got a stream on a little thingy called NPR. Probably until Tuesday. Do we have to introduce her? We don't know. Let's see if you can guess by the getup.

Like... groovy... what year ho?
Okay, we'll help out those unfamiliar. Jenny Lewis has a new album out in T minus three days, one that we hope you'll like because, let's face it: Anne Hathaway + mustache in the video for the single. Now then. We felt we had to put this pleasant lass in because she's so nice (and certainly overwhelmed, but still nice) and her bandmates were as fantastic as electric punch. That's the stuff with extra electrolytes, right?
Sound: girl + guitar grooves. And chameleon-colored robe. We still really love "Acid Tongue" of hers. Been too long, lady.

There is a confession we have. We don't really get into the Grateful Dead. Like. At all. But, we do have to respect their contribution here, and we're not going to knock former Dead'er (there must be a term for it, right? Even that we don't know...) Robert Hunter. And we have a good picture of him, to boot.

Grateful fella

Despite some mic difficulties, and maybe a case of the mumbles, those who knew who he was were quite receptive to the gent. We can't really say anything bad about him. That'd be mean.

But we can tell you our number one. With a bullet.

Alas... no more Lizard Lounge
Lake. Street. Dr- we mean Dive. Everyone seems to mess that up (dive bars, get it?). But you won't now. Not when you give them a listen. They didn't have a chance to get around to Rich Girl (which rhymes not for the young'uns), but they knocked this one right out. Soulful Rachael Price is an entertainer at heart, with the voice and the moves of a Siren. Add to the mix... one Miss Staples, shake, and:

Too... much... soul at stake!
We knew Ms. Price was a singer, but it all came right out when Mavis Staples hit the stage for "Bad Self Portraits." It was an absolute delight watching the two women engage each other, give it their all, just blast those pipes away. Absolutely the number one of the day.

And we need to add Jimmy Cliff, too. Absolutely.

Hey, Mr. Reggae Man
The crowd was too pumped after Lake Street not to give this guy everything and all. Not to say he didn't deserve it during "Wild World" and "You Can Get It If You Really Want." And, let's say, the man's got moves. Crazy moves, but good ones. Certainly put us to shame.
"In case you forget, I'm Jimmy Cliff." We don't think that's going to happen, good sir.


And finale, that picture of Mr. Savino we promised (what a perfect name for a teacher!):

What a nice guy! And awesome signature. The shirt is utterly cluttered, and it's not even Sunday yet...

(More to come. Eventually.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sleeper Agent Attacks From Groovy Angle // Attacks Providence August 1

Sleeper Agent - About Last Night
-out now
4 / 5

Sleeper Agent (with The 'Mericans)
Aug 1, 7pm
Waterplace Park, Providence, RI
(Free - all ages)

There are few things we appreciate more than a burning beat that soothes our hungry dance-heart. And Sleeper Agent's (hailing from Bowler Green, KY) pop-centricity pulls us right in, gets us singing through their sophomore. It's not bass-heavy electronica (think *ahem* Chain Gang of 1974) or pure saccharine pop (a la Sondre Lerche), or lightning-storm-cloud electro-buzz (St. Vincent, we look at you) but it strikes a pleasant, palatable medium: easy to get into, easy to get through, and somehow, pure blissful joy. We tend to love those angular, weird little tracks, but this one - ladies and gents - strikes us as a type of sheer joy innocent of all those weird little idiosyncrasies we tend to extoll. And, quite frankly, Sleeper Agent don't need it.

We dug through this album and came up with a handful of tracks - "Waves" (the music-videoed single), "Good Job," "Shut," "Haunting Me," that we adore. It's sit-in-the-sun, tan yourself kinda fun, perfect for haunting about ice cream stands and beaches this time of year: addictive, simple, and quite good. It's actually tough not to find a good song on About Last Night, those tracks are few and interspersed, and for such a straightforward album, we're impressed at how much the tracks grow on us, how much we find ourselves again and again singing along, dancing along, swaying to these beats. We're not going to say they're anything as complex and deep as Typhoon, but Sleeper Agent make their own merits.

Add to that their free concert in Providence, and we're pretty convinced you'll be hooked. Seriously. It pains us to say we'll be out of commission that Friday, but we suspect downtown will be painfully packed, but that it'll still be worth it. Great all around, and highly recommended.

Soundcloud it, post-haste!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Don't Let Felice's "Strangers" Be One

Simone Felice - Strangers
Dualtone Music Group
-out now
3.5 / 5

Make no mistake: we are very biased toward Simone Felice. If you caught us in 2009 with The Duke and the King's Nothing Gold Can Stay, then you'd understand. Personally, we consider that album a classic. Already. So if we come off over-appreciative of Felice's post-Duke output, well, there's a good reason for it.

But let us say that his latest solo album, Strangers, gets there, but not much else. Alas.

There are fantastic songs. Notably, the anthemic "Our Lady of the Gun" and "Running Through My Head." Felice is a master at two things: great, soul-wrenching choruses that make you sing them, and stringing together lyrics to unfold a story. Felice envelops his listener into a blissful depressive state, not quite catharsis, but sitting by the river Oblivion and being tempted to drink. When he's good, he's good. But compared to Nothing Gold, again, a classic in our eyes, Strangers is pretty good, just not as brilliant, as insightful and sharp-cutting lyrically. His temptation to Dylanesque meter (see opener, "Molly O!") is where we feel he's weakest, and sometimes he slips into slightly overwrought emotionalism ("Heartland"). We feel Felice is strongest in understatement, given his subject matter.

A good, but not excellent, solo album from the man who brought us "Makes Me Want to Lose Myself." Pick it up if you're a fan (like us!)

Listen to "Running Through My Head" on Soundcloud.