The sun starts to set as The Wood Brothers take the stage at Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. Surrounded by trees and a lawn filled with folk and bluegrass fans, the band begins their set. Multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, flanked by the brothers Chris and Oliver Wood under the red glow of stage lights, warms his hands on a chilly April evening.
Oliver Wood kicks off the show by picking out a slow folk ballad on his acoustic guitar. His brother outlines the guitar chords on an upright bass, and Rix plays a beat on his self-proclaimed shuitar – a crummy guitar he transformed into a percussion instrument with tuna cans and other noisemakers.
The band sings their stories in soulful three-part harmonies while many audience members sing along.
After opening the set with a few slower, more traditional folk tunes, Oliver trades his acoustic for a hallow-body electric guitar, and Rix takes his place behind his drum set.
Chris uses a bow to play a virtuosic classical-style solo on bass as the festival sits in awe. When his solo comes to a close, his brother comes in with an upbeat, blues-soaked funky guitar riff and Rix launches into a groovy beat on the drums. The crowd can’t help but move to the beat.
Jordan August and Phil Chorney stand off-stage surveying the scene with walkie-talkies in hand and a solemn look on their faces. The co-owners and co-creators of the festival listen to The Wood Brothers’ harmonies and impressive musicianship, but there are more pressing concerns. Will the bus that is taking The Wood Brothers to their hotel make it through the rioting downtown? Is the event running on time? Is everyone enjoying themselves? Are people going to stick around for the last few bands after it gets dark? Will they get back their security deposit on the park? Is the festival living up to its reputation? With so many things that can go wrong, Chorney and August hardly have the time to stop and enjoy their own event.
“Baltimore is a working-class, blue-collar town, with great people, great food, great beer and great music,” Chorney says. “So let’s celebrate that.”
While protests and social unrest were bubbling into riots near Camden Yards on April 25, Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park was an oasis of peace and music as thousands attended the 3rd Annual Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival.
The festival featured performances from national and local folk and bluegrass acts including The Travelin’ McCourys, The Wood Brothers, The Seldom Scene, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, Cris Jacobs, The Bumper Jacksons, Grand Ole’ Ditch, Letitia VanSant, Chester River Runoff, Charm City Junction, The Herd of Main Street and The Manly Deeds. The event also had local craft vendors, selling everything from hula-hoops to cider, beer, banjos, bowties and falafels.
The Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival is the latest chapter in a long history of bluegrass music in Baltimore – a history that has been all but forgotten, according to August and Chorney. They share a passion for the craft of bluegrass and folk music and a love for Baltimore. This inspired them to create the festival with the intention of sharing this music, bringing money into the city and raising awareness of bluegrass music in Baltimore, a city that was once a hotbed of folk and bluegrass.
“That’s the purpose of the festival,” August explained, “to bring back that awareness of bluegrass music that used to exist here.”
Bluegrass and folk music have been a part of Baltimore’s history for a long time. Last year the Baltimore Museum of Industry had an exhibit about the banjo – an instrument with roots in West Africa that has been a part of Maryland tradition since the 1740’s. It wasn’t until the 20th century, however, that this music flooded the streets of Baltimore.
The Great Depression in the 1930’s resulted in the mass northern migration of poor families from the South and Appalachian region. As an industrial center, Baltimore became one of many cities on the receiving end of this migration.
“The proximity of the Appalachia region and the opportunities that existed [in Baltimore] at the time were a huge motivating factor for people looking for a change,” said Tim Newby, author of the forthcoming book Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin’ Sound and its Legacy.
These migrants brought with them their families, their traditions and their cultural tastes, which included folk and bluegrass music. These new-comers were not always welcome, Newby explained. Bluegrass legend Hazel Dickens recalls seeing signs that read “No Dogs or Hillbillies” as she went about town. Often the migrants would cluster together in small neighborhoods around the city, Newby said. The areas of Hampden, Woodbury and Druid Hill Park came to be known as “hillbilly ghettos,” Chorney said. In time, Bluegrass eventually became a staple of the Baltimore music scene.
“You had these migrants who had grown up with this music and you had many younger locals who were into this same kind of music,” Newby said. “They really bonded together and created a special atmosphere that was inclusive of both migrants and those already from the city or surrounding area.”
On the evenings before work these migrants would meet up in bars and basements, bring their instruments and have informal “pickin’ parties,” keeping their traditions alive in a city that proved to be nothing like home. Baltimore was the home to many bluegrass legends, such as Hazel Dickens, Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys, Walt Hensley, and Russ Hooper, and Mike Seeger. Del McCoury (father of this year’s festival headliners, The Travelin’ McCourys), was a regular part of that early scene as well, as commuted down to play in the rough and tumble bars of Baltimore from his home in York County, Pennsylvania.
By the 1950’s, Baltimore was the 6th largest city in the United States, Newby said. Folk and bluegrass were the most popular forms of music in the city. There were many bars and clubs that featured local bluegrass musicians, such as the 79 Club, the Cozy Inn and the Blue Jay, giving musicians an opportunity to share their songs and hone their craft.
Soon Baltimore became a center for bluegrass music, with influence in the national music scene. In 1966, “The Streets of Baltimore” by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard, was one of the biggest hits on country radio.
The city is a different place than it was when it was known for bluegrass, but August and Chorney are proving with their festival that bluegrass is still here.
“The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival is doing a great job of keeping the spirit and tradition alive of this musical legacy of the city” Newby said. “They are helping to bring awareness to Baltimore’s storied history to a generation of music fans who might be unaware of it.”
A Celebration of Music
The Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival unites people of all ages and walks of life in the beautiful Druid Hill Park in a celebration of music. Despite overcast skies, the festival is buzzing with excitement. Two stages are situated at the bottom of the gently sloping hill, an ideal spot for the stage because it is a natural amphitheater. August says that they added the second stage this year to cut down on the time between sets, allowing for the crew to set up for the next act before the previous act finishes.
People stand densely packed in front of the stage, and the hill is covered in lawn chairs and blankets where many festival-goers have settled in. To the right of the stage is the tent of one of the festival’s partners, Union Craft Brewing. As in previous years, the brewery has made a bluegrass themed beer specially for the event, a Bavarian Hefeweizen dubbed The High Lonesome Hefe. Next to the beer tent there is some fierce corn-hole competition.
Up the hill, near the conservatory, is what August calls “vendor village,” where people can choose from a range of food options and also buy items such as banjos, hula hoops, jewelry, bowties and band merchandise. Off to the left side of the stage there are a few chairs set up so that attendees can bring their own instruments and have their own pickin’ parties.
The diversity of the crowd and the vendors is matched by the diversity of the bands playing. Although they all fall under the umbrella of folk and bluegrass, some of the groups could not be more different. On one hand there is the traditional old-school bluegrass group the Seldom Scene, and the exciting and fast paced music of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen and The Travelin’ McCourys, and on the other hand you have the more folk and blues style of the Wood Brothers, and also the unique blend of jazz, bluegrass and early western swing from the Bumper Jacksons. They show the wide range of forms that folk and bluegrass music have taken over the years. The one thing the bands have in common is that they all get the crowd moving.
“A lot of traditional music, in different kinds of cultures, is dance music,” says Jess Eliot Myhre, singer, clarinetist and washboard player for the DC/Baltimore-based group the Bumper Jacksons. “I think that fundamentally people really connect with music that makes them want to dance.”
The music at the festival certainly has that effect on people. There is something simple and lovely about this old-fashioned music played on acoustic instruments, Myhre says. There is nothing standing between the listener and the musician, she explains, which is what makes folk and bluegrass so unique and genuine.
Despite all the positive vibes and good times at the festival, the mood of the event was somewhat odd. Protests and incipient riots are happening only a few miles away as a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, who was arrested only ten blocks away from the park.
“I think it was a great festival, but it was very strange playing that festival to that audience while the protests were happening so close,” Myhre says.
While Myhre feels the festival seems out of place in the city in turmoil, music can be a source of empathy and understanding.
“Folk and bluegrass tend to be music that tells stories of hardship and struggle,” Chorney explains. “Baltimore has its history of hardship and struggle, and people can relate to it.”
Pickin’ Parties, Paperwork and Permits
The Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival all started on Chorney’s porch in Hampden, a neighborhood in Baltimore. August, who is currently a musician in the Jordan August Band as well as Trace Friends Mucho and a freelance photographer, met Chorney, a marketer for Citeligher, through the Baltimore music scene. They would see each other at the 8×10, a bar at which August bar tended, and they became friends when August did a photo-shoot for Yellow Dubmarine, a reggae Beatles cover band that Chorney managed.
Soon after becoming friends the pair began to have regular “pickin’ parties” at Chorney’s. They would sit out on the porch with a case of beer and a bottle of whiskey and play into the night. Before long, these get-togethers sparked the idea for some sort of bluegrass party.
“Let’s throw a bluegrass party,” Chorney said, “let’s get all our friends together who play music… Let’s just do something cool.”
This idea eventually blossomed into the first Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival. They raised money and hosted the event in Woodbury at the Union Craft Brewery. The festival was a success, selling out 1,600 tickets nearly a month in advance. While August and Chorney were grateful for the opportunity Union Craft gave them, they realized they had no room to grow and began working with the city to find a new location.
The next year the pair teamed up with District 7 Councilmen Nick Mosby, who selected Druid Hill Park as the new home for the festival. In order to use the park, the festival had to undergo a long process of filing paperwork and permits, making frequent trips to City Hall, and appeasing various governmental organizations such as Parks and Recreation and the Housing Department.
As a for-profit company, the festival had to do a lot to use city property, such as making substantial donations to the city and non-profits, including the Believe in Music Program – a K-12 inner city music education program. The festival was made possible through a collaborative effort between festival and the city, embracing something that brings something artistically and culturally different to the table, Chorney explained.
“I think that’s really unique and special, and I hope to continue that partnership as long as I can,” Chorney said.
In the end, August and Chorney explained, it always comes down to money.
“We don’t make money. We’ve never made money off these events, me and Phil pay out of pocket every year to make sure this happens,” August says.
The city gets money from the permits, donations, payment to use the park and a security deposit. Being able to pay the bands is another huge expense. Then you have to factor in costs for everything from marketing, festival workers, the stage, speakers, lights and tents, all the way to porta-pots.
“Everyone always gets paid no matter what,” August said, “even when you know the bank account about to hit zero, you still make sure they get paid.”
Chorney and August are not the only ones that work to make this event a reality. It requires a lot of effort from many of their friends, who help with everything from social media to band hospitality, working with the vendors, to general volunteering on the day of the event.
With a Little Help From My Friends
On the day of the festival, Chorney, August and their team are a well-oiled machine. While festival-goers are relaxing, enjoying the music and beer, the volunteers work through the day into the night making sure things go smoothly. Between helping with parking, manning the entrance, taking pictures, setting up the equipment on stage and countless other tasks, there is no shortage of jobs that need to be done.
Chorney and August are the busiest of all. When they aren’t zipping around in a Gator truck moving equipment they are organizing the volunteers, greeting festival attendees and acting as the puppet masters, pulling the strings behind the scenes making the festival a reality. Moments where they get to sit, relax, and listen to the music are few and far-between.
August, whose life’s passion is live music photography, explains that one day he hopes he and Chorney won’t have to work the festival so August will be able to photograph his own event. Until that day, Chorney and August are working on keeping the festival growing with the help and support of their friends.
“My favorite part [of the festival] is seeingmy friends smile even though they’ve spend a 14 hour day setting up, breaking down, helping people out,” Chorney says. “And they expect very little in return except a thanks and a chance to be a part of something.”
After a New Year’s run that began 2015 with to a packed house in Worcester, MA, Dopapod is exploding out of the gate for the year announcing a lengthy spring tour along with the news of their debut at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. Multiple night stands highlight the spring run with weekend-long stints at The Sinclair in Boston April 17 – 19 and April 24, 25 at the Brooklyn Bowl.
All of this follows the release of the band’s fourth album, Never Odd or Even – released November 2014. The band’s most fully realized work to date, the new songs embody the energy and cohesion that Dopapod has developed from playing live as well as an increasing comfort and familiarity while in the studio.
Dopapod tour dates:
Feb 25 Levels [State College, PA]
Feb 26 Tralf Music Hall [Buffalo, NY]
Feb 27 Madison Theater [Covington, KY]
Feb 28 Mercy Lounge [Nashville, TN]
Mar 1 The Concourse [Knoxville, TN]
Mar 3 The Blind Tiger [Greensboro, NC]
Mar 4 Gottrocks [Greenville, SC]
Mar 5, 6 AURA Music Festival [Live Oak, FL]
Mar 26 Howlin’ Wolf [New Orleans, LA]
Mar 27 Last Concert Cafe [Houston, TX]
Mar 28 Head For the Hills Festival [Kerrville, TX]
Mar 31 George’s Majestic [Fayeteville, AR]
Apr 1 The Bottleneck [Lawrence, KS]
Apr 2 Rose Music Hall [Columbia, MO]
Apr 3 Waiting Room [Omaha, NE]
Apr 4 7th Street Entry [Minneapolis, MN]
Apr 5 Mirimar Theatre [Milwaukee, MI]
Apr 8 The Stache [Grand Rapids, MI]
Apr 9 The Bluebird [Bloomington, IN]
Apr 10 Park Street Saloon [Columbus, OH]
Apr 11 Beachland Ballroom [Cleveland, OH]
Apr 12 Lee’s Palace [Toronto, ON]
Apr 15 Wescott Theater [Syracuse, NY]
Apr 16 Pearl Street Ballroom [Northampton, MA]
Apr 17-19 The Sinclair [Boston, MA]
Apr 21 Chameleon Club [Lancaster, PA]
Apr 22 The Southern Cafe [Charlottesville, VA]
Apr 23 Hamilton Theatre [Washington, DC]
Apr 24-25 Brooklyn Bowl [Brooklyn, NY]
Jun 11-14 Bonnaroo [Manchester, TN]
It’s an elusive character, explains Railroad Earth mandolinst John Skehan. He has been talking about the band’s new album and that live moment when the beauty of music is revealed; that moment when everything clicks in a song, the good, the bad, the bum notes, and all. It is that place that allows things in a song to free up, when everyone in the band is on the same wavelength and true musical bliss is found. It is at that moment when a little spark ignites. Skehan says it happens in that little place in between knowing the song just enough, but not quite enough. On their latest album, Last of the Outlaws, Railroad Earth found that elusive character over and over, crafting one of the strongest studio albums of their career. It is an album that finds the band showcasing their strengths, the always glorious songwriting of singer/ guitarist Todd Shaeffer and the live powers and improvisational chops of bassist Andrew Altman, fiddler Tim Carbone, multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling, drummer Carey Harmon, and Skehan. Railroad Earth are quite simply the closest current thing we have to The Band today with the way they tap into the soul of Americana music and their ability to subtly infuse all that they do with a bluegrass inspired, mountain born, folksy-twang, and rocking heart all at once. And Last of the Outlaws is the perfect representation of that musically inclusive, Americana soul.
The band entered the studio in October of 2012 during some down time from the road. They found a studio near their western New Jersey home that suited their needs. That combined with the knowledge that they were going to be releasing the album on their own label helped ease some of the pressure of working under a deadline and allowed the band the freedom to find a space where we could all play at the same time and record everything closer to the live environment. They imposed a rough end date of January (which is when they would be getting back out on the road) and spent the fall months of 2012 holed up in the studio working on Last of the Outlaws.
Whereas on their previous self-titled album in which they begin with an extensive pre-production process, this time around Skeehan says they started out just bouncing ideas around, just going in and playing, trying things out and recording them. This approach allowed songs to grow organically and has given the album an extremely live feel. Skehan said that throughout the process songs morphed and changed many times as the band worked out the original riffs and melodies of each tune as they combined new ideas with old and created brand new tunes every time they were he mentions the brooding, piano driven, title track, “Last of the Outlaws, “as a song that evolved drastically over their time in the studio. He said it became something “very, very different from the original fills and riffs they were playing around on.” After jamming on some of the ideas and musical themes they had originally worked up for the song, they set it aside for few days until singer and guitarist Shaeffer came into the studio with a brand new song he had worked up with the ideas they had been fooling around with. This new song while rooted in the basic ideas they had been toying with, was something completely different and now had the familiar slow, jazzy feel that would become “Last of the Outlaws.”
Skehan says that it was the ability to just play, and get into each song that truly shaped the album and gave it its personality. “We would spend a couple of hours each day experimenting, just playing,” he says. “We had a couple of free-wheeling weeks like that where we did not know where exactly what was going to be on the record and it was pretty liberating. We were just playing and not thinking is this the take? Is this the song? What will this become next week? Instead it was just this jam that we were working through.”
This free-wheeling nature led to the band relaxing and stretching their exploratory legs out and allowing each song to try on many musical guises before finally taking shape. The throbbing, joyous beat of “Monkey” was original recorded with the entire band crowded around a single microphone in an old-time jug-band style. The rambling stripped down approach never fully took hold. They redid it with the regular full-band line-up and an entirely different character of the song emerged.
“Grandfather Mountain” was what Skehan called “very different” for them as a slow ballad. Originally the band did not intend for the track to have the lengthy, improvised section on the end of the song, but Skehan remembers that Shaeffer came into the studio with the arrangement of the song fully finished and the band just let [themselves] run with the end, and then sat back and said well, it’s kind of long, but realized [they] were digging into it the same way [they] would live and thought â€˜this has some moments happening here, let’s just keep them . For Skehan it was just a reflection of what the band was up to that particular day, and they were just enjoying them moment and seeing where it would go. The lengthy, improvised section also gave the band the courage to pursue another idea they had been toying around with.
The highlight of the album is the twenty-one minute multi-part suite, “All that;’s Dead May Live Again/ Face with a Hole.” The seven parts of this majestic, long-form, musical suite is the most ambitious, inspiring piece of music Railroad Earth has ever put down in the studio. “There was a notion of saying let’s see if we can work on a long, openly composed piece, but that still contains some elements of improvisation that connect all these different ideas and w they can all hang together and work,” says Skehan.
There was some skepticism among the band that something that complex may not work in the realm of the rest of the album, but after the success of the lengthy section in “Grandfather Mountain,” the band realized, “the longer piece was more likely going to work and fit in with everything. It did have some of those more experimental elements and orchestral elements, but there is also some rock ‘n’ roll happening as you get to the end of ‘Face with a Hole.'” The piece does more than simply work; it helps define the entire character of the album. In its twenty-one minutes it provides a deep introduction into who Railroad Earth is a band. From the simple penny-whistle intro through the piano-led conclusion of “All thatss Dead May Live” that gives way to the raging intensity of “Face with a Hole,” before settling back down with the lush, sparse outro “In Paradisum,” all facets of the band are revealed, the lyrical dexterity of Shaeffer, the multi-instrumental prowess of Goessling, the tight rhythm section of drummer Harmon and bassist Altman, the dashing flourishes of Carbone’s fiddle, and the adventurous hand of John Skehan on the mandolin and piano.
The multi-part opus is also one of the only times in recording history that the benefit of CD will be ever touted over vinyl. With the space limitations on vinyl, one can only imagine the twenty-minute suite being segregated to one side of the album, or even worse being neutered and split into two halves. But by being able to keep it as one whole piece, and better yet, by being able to perfectly place it in the middle of the album, the piece serves to hold the whole album together. It gives the album an almost live show feel which is perfect. [Author’s note: This will be the last time I praise the benefits of CDs over vinyl. Ever.]
The process of recording live as a group was one that appealed to Skehan, and one that he felt brought out the best in the band. “I have always enjoyed what the ensemble does together when recording,” he says. “To me that is always the most interesting when you can go home and listen to the rough mixes of things, to hear us working out new stuff and capturing it in the moment that is sometimes when we get our best results.”
There was no better example of this then while recording the title track. After figuring out the arrangement the band went in and blasted through a couple of takes. On their way back into the control room engineer Dean Rickard commented to the band, “That’s an impressive piece of music.” Skehan and the rest of the band quickly recognized Rickard was right. “We all realized that we shouldn’t try again as we will try too hard and didn’t think we needed to add any overdubs. We decided to just leave it along, and with the exception of some bass clarinet added by Goessling that is the take that appears on the album.”
Last of the Outlaws is a high-water mark for Railroad Earth, an album that exemplifies what it is that makes the band up musically, and a strong statement where they are going from here. It was an album that was created where the band is most comfortable, which is together, instruments in hand, just playing live with each other.
It is this dynamic that truly gives them their power and it is what made this such a special album for Skehan to be a part of. “To me my favorite part of the process is while we are in it, while we are doing it. Hearing the songs coming out of Todd and hearing not quite finished lyrics and thinking, ‘Wow, where is he going with this.’ And then when I hear it finished the next day it is always ‘Wow, I hear where he is it.’ It is the most exciting when you are doing it. It is what is then. I don’t worry about thinking about what I could change.”
As 2013 comes to a close and year-end Best of Lists start popping up highlighting all the great music that was made this year, we at Honest Tune, wanted to find out what all those musicians who appear on all these best of lists were listening to this year.Â So we asked some of our favorite bands what albums moved them this year and what were their memorable moments from a year full of great live shows.Â Their answers provide a wide sampling of some of the great music that was made thisÂ year.Â Some of it familiar, some of it not, but all of it well worth checking out.Â Read on and hopefully discover some great, new music fromÂ 2013.
The four questions we asked each musicianÂ were:
1.) What were your 3 favorite albums of 2013?
2.) What was your favorite live moment of the year?
3.) What album or band were you most excited to discover in 2013?
4.) What are you looking forward to most in 2014?
1.)Â Â 1. Bob Marley & The Wailers, Legend Remixed. Fresh spins on a universal music.
2. Pretty Lights, A Color Map of the Sun. It’s interesting how a DJ/producer will have humans play his ideas on instruments, record them on tape, press them to vinyl, then load it all in to the computer. That’s going above and beyond the call of duty.
3. White Denim’s, Corsicana Lemonade.Â Super cool rock that rocks hard.
2.)Â Summer Camp in Chillicothe, Illinois.Â Victor Wooten sat in with me the entire set.Â It was tasty and the band was thrilled to be in the presence of the such musical greatness as Victor Wooten.Â Â IÂ also enjoyedÂ the Bassnectar show at The Fillmore in Maryland.Â I was dead center on the dance floor and my sternum was rattled. The energy went through the roof, it was powerful sh**t.
3.)Â Breastfist, Tickly Shimmers. So funky. So complex. So funny. So weird. So good. Key track?Â “Talk to the Fist”.
4.)Â Looking forward to two huge bus tours with my new side project, More Than A Little.
(To hear more about Keller’s thoughts on Breastfist and his busy 2013, check out Honest Tune’s recent interview with him.Â Keller Williams with more than a little, its funkyÂ )
1.)Â This is always tough.Â I ask myself, “Did they have to be released in 2013 or did I just need to dig them in 2013?”
1.Â Jason Isbell Southeastern.Â Anders [Beck] said, “Listen to it and try not to love it.”Â He was right.Â This guy is freakin’ brilliant.
2.Â Dawes Stories Don’t End.Â I also think Taylor Goldsmith is a great writer.Â If I dig the lyrics, I can latch on to a record in an unhealthy-listen-everyday kinda way.Â I played this one a lot while we were flying this summer.
3.Â Fruition Just One of Them Nights.Â We just did 30+ shows with this band this fall.Â I came home and listened to the album right away.Â That’s got to say something.Â Three amazing writers in this band.Â Five incredible musicians.Â Boy can they sing pretty too.
I did it.Â All released in 2013.Â I checked.
2.)Â In Chicago or Detroit I don’t know, we do so many shows in a row.” Checks calendar for a visual memory of the year, this is tough too.Â I’m going with a recent memory.Â It’s accessible and different.Â I saw a lot of amazing music this year and (think) I played a great deal as well.Â A piece that I will hold on to though is the emotion after our 9 week tour.Â It’s sort of a sum-of-musical-moments. We worked so hard to keep it fresh every night and musically challenge ourselves and the listeners. The last show was hard but somehow we pulled it off.Â I expected to be relieved (and certainly was) but I was struck with this nostalgia like never before.Â I’ve already confronted this truth that there will never be another tour like that one.Â I cried a little and it shocked me.Â I was really surprised.Â That’s a memory.
3.)Â Jason Isbell.Â The others aboveÂ I was already familiar with.Â Glad to be following him through future projects as well as looking back at his previous catalog.Â
4.)Â Â We’ve been working all year on a new album and it’s going to be released early in the year.Â I’m anxious for people to hear it and there are some songs I’m excited to play.Â Greensky is also going to play some amazing festivals in 2014.Â I can’t say which butÂ I can admit being stoked!
1.)Â 1.Â Jason Isbell, Southeastern. For someone who is generally so chipper, I’m a sucker for heartbreak. Not to say that it’s all sad- each song is just really poignant, and what Isbell says, he says really beautifully. I’m not yet incredibly familiar with his work with the Drive by Truckers, but this solo album is stripped down so charmingly, each arrangement in awesome service to its message. I listen to it almost every day.
2.Â Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse. This Scottish band has released several albums, but their newest, Pedestrian Verse, is the one that has hooked me. It’s a study in texture, each band member contributing to a truly creative composite sound, that results in an album full of anthems. I find myself drumming on random objects and singing along at the top of my lungs.
3.Â Lorde The Love Club EP. This is the prequel release to this fall’s super blockbuster pop sensation, Pure Heroine, which I also love. I know this is a jam publication- don’t judge me, but this 16-year old girl from New Zealand has created something pretty awesome in a world where Miley Cyrus and Toby Keith are the types to usually sell a ton of albums. She has a beautiful and unique voice, and the electronic accompaniment is just so damn sonically pleasing. Can’t stop listening.
2.)Â Is it arrogant to choose a Greensky moment? Truth is, I play a hell of a lot more shows than I see, and I can’t think of any concert experience of this year that can hold a candle to the feeling I get when onstage with my boys. We finished a 47(?) show tour in mid-November with two sold-out nights at the Gothic Theater in Denver. That second night was some of the best fun I’ve had. We took the stage with a sense of victory that took us through that whole show, all relishing in the joy of playing, the pride of what we’d just accomplished, and the energy of perhaps our greatest fans of all.
3.)Â Fruition. Didn’t discover them in 2013, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t discover just how awesome they are over the course of touring with them this year. If you haven’t heard of this 5-piece from Portland, OR, go buy all of their albums. When I first met Fruition, they had this charming string band sound, but with the addition of drums and the resulting growth in their songwriting styles, they’ve really come into an amazing, unique rock sound that is only theirs. I’m just getting started- They have three solid songwriters who can also sing stellar lead. Perhaps the most prolific of these is Jacob Anderson, who is also one of the best guitarists I know. Just plain shreds. Their three and sometimes four-part harmonies and vocal arrangements are some of the best in the business. And they’re just a bunch of solid, badass folks. Thankful that this year saw so many Greensky shows with Fruition as support. Next year, they’ll be too big to come out with us!
4.)Â Sky’s the limit for 2014. First of all, I am just stoked for the release of our new album, If Sorrows Swim. We’ve been working on it all year, and I can’t wait to share it with our people, and hopefully some people who aren’t already “ours” in February or March. More great songs from Hoffman and Bruzza, self-produced and recorded with Glenn Brown in Michigan, like our last studio effort Handguns.
In true Greensky form, we’ll also be touring a lot. Festival season is already shaping up, and although I’m not allowed to talk about a lot of it yet, there is plenty to be excited about. What am IÂ most excited about in 2014? The unknown. With all the exciting stuff that is happening for us, I’m gonna take the the optimist’s path and say that what I’m most excited about is all the cool stuff thatÂ isn’t planned yet. Who knows what the year will bring in terms of life and music-making experience, and I think that’s what keeps Greensky ticking in this often restless world of the touring musician- the people we meet, the scenes out the window of the bus, the crowds we play for, the spontaneous ontage pop-song teases. We have a lot of fun, and that’s what’s keeping us sane, and that’s what keeps us going from year to year. Come out and share in the revelry.
1.)Â 1.Â Anders OsborneÂ PeaceÂ – From the guy who brought us Three Free Amigos comes a full-length album that is brewed thick with soul and grit. Peace adds to a collection of songs that sticks with the listener like a heroin addiction. Anders’ guitar playing drips with good intention, but is over-driven to the point of dissonant overtones, yet somehow reaches the light at the end of the tunnel. This simple three piece band brings New Orleans Swamp to distortion levels, adding saxophone and the Hammond B3 along the way.
2. Lorde Pure Heroine – Intimate and fantastic, Pure Heroine is perfect for road trips and fornication. Consistent thumping bass lines and up-close vocals lend to a soothing and hypnotic experience. Nothing too complicated here, just good songs, perfectly executed with easy production. Albums like this usually make their way to my playlist because it’s clean and relaxing.
3.Â Arcade Fire ReflektorÂ – In contradiction to the previous two albums, Reflektor, has an uncanny abundance of density. The album itself has a live feel only because there is people clapping and cheering like there is a live audience, but the album ideally could not be more over-produced. This is one of the most expensive, collaborative, intense, and imaginative journeys one could expect out of listening to a bunch of invisible wave “sounds.”
2.)Â David Byrne and St. Vincent (Baltimore, MD 6/13/13). – My buddy Cris Jacobs had won two tickets from WTMD the night of the show, and he asked me to go. I couldn’t be more excited because I really wanted to see David Bryne. I had never seen a show at the Myerhoff and it took my breath away from the moment I took my required seat. The band started, laying on the floor playing to the suspended honeycomb sound diffusing apparatus, that reflected the sound out to the mass of rather boisterous people. When David Byrne came out the crowd erupted, and I think I cried a little but I was soon brought back by his candor and personality. He said he had spent the day biking around Druid Hill Park, but it sounded more like “Droodle Pork” as he was demonstrating his best Bawlmer accent. He’s one of us, I thought. I soon realized that his counter part in the show, St. Vincent, was from another planet. She glided and pulsed so fluidly with the music, her presence was unmistakable, all while absolutely killing her vocal melodies and shredding a mean black shiny guitar. The accompanying marching horn section used every square foot of the stage and everyone played at leastÂ three instruments. Each song ended with a hard stop and the sound reverberated through the hall and through the bones of every person there. Acoustically perfect for that space, the band ended the show playing a few Talking Heads tunes, then laid back down on the hard symphony floor and played to that crazy ceiling.
3.)Â Daft Punk – I was most excited for Random Access Memories because I remember jumping up and down on my futon listening to Discovery in my dorm room. This duo of robots produces the finest French disco in all the land. Throw a pile of synthesizers and vocoders at Pharrell and add a little Nile Rodgers and you got yourself a hit. Though after one listen, I did realize that I’m not in college anymore.
4.)Â Next year I’m looking forward to playing lots of festivals with my new band Freedom Enterprise and this winter with The Bridge in Jamaica. 2013 has been a good year for music as the industry’s misfortunes have started to trimming out the grizzle. On behalf of all the musicians out there, I would like to thank the fans for their continued support. We’re the lucky ones.
1.)Â 1.Â Justin Timberlake â€œ20/20 Experience: I feel like this record kind of came out of nowhere. There is no real hip-hop being played on the radio anymore,Â and the pop songs are monotone and terrible. I like the fact that a real R&B crooner record was able to make such a statement. I also like that all the songs are long.
2.Â Fat Freddy’s Drop: I happened upon this record listening to public radio and I couldn’t take it off my playlist for a few months. Just a great sound, Nice mix of influences and A strangely familiar voice.
3.Â Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi â€œRomeâ€: just a beautiful album. The harmonies are way more interesting than I expected.
2.)Â Last Christmas I finally got to see Jack White live. ‘Nuff said.
Â 3.)Â Â I can’t say a specific band. I discovered a lot of music this year. There’s a lot going on and a lot of things are changing.
4.)Â This year I’m looking forward to making lots of music. The Tiny Universe has been going well and has a new album, New Ammo, dropping in February. I’m also taking my son to Costa Rica.
1.)Â 1.Â Amelita by Court Yard Hounds. Yes, I played on it, but it really is an amazing record. This is the second record from Emily and Martie of the Dixie Chicks, with Martin Strayer co-writing the songs and playing guitar. Great listen top to bottom, great traveling record.
2.Â Made Up Mind by Tedeschi Trucks Band. They make GREAT records, that sound amazing thanks to Jim Scott, and have you seen them live?Â Make that happen if you haven’t, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Old school.
3.Â Shout! by Govt. Mule. Always a fan of the band and their records, this was a cool idea to do the second disc with special guests on vocals. My favorite treatment is “Funny Little Tragedy” with Elvis Costello.
2.)Â Playing the first notes of “Not Ready to Make Nice” with the Dixie Chicks on the “Long Time Gone Tour” in Canada. The power of song is incredible. You could light up a city with that energy.
3.)Â Samantha Fish. She rocks. She released her new record Black Wind Howlin’ on the same day my new record came out, and I started seeing her name all over the place. Really dig her playing, energy, and songwriting.
4.)Â I’m looking forward to summer, honestly. Touring in this crappy cold weather is for the birds.
(Check out Honest Tune’sÂ interview with John GintyÂ about his new album Bad News Travels.Â John Ginty: They canâ€™t take the organ away from me)
1.)Â 1.Â The Band – Live at the Academy of Music 1971.Â Everybody loves the Band, myself included. I was so excited when this came out, even though I’ve heard most of this stuff a million times before. But that’s the beauty of the Band–their music is the realest real deal, and it only gets better with time. Even though they are known for their songs/recordings, the live performance is magical. The horn arrangements at this show are so regal and perfect, the Dylan stuff is amazing, and the setlist is something to behold. Imagine having that many incredible songs? Thank God for the Band.
2.Â Washed Out – Paracosm.Â I discovered Washed Out’s Life of Leisure EP a few years back and it had a huge impact on me right away. His sound is beautiful–dreamy and heavily textured but totally accessible. He’s got great simple songs and a truly unique sound, something I really admire as an artist. His follow up to Life of Leisure (Within and Without) was good but Paracosm is absolutely great. I feel like the sound is much more his own, versus the production on Within and Without. It’s as if he got back to his roots, and I love it. He also has a legit live band (I saw them in Boulder in September) that combines elements of electronic synth-pop with real instruments and lots of vocals. It was a big step forward from earlier iterations of the performance. I hope the Washed Out albums keep on coming.
3.Â Phoenix – Bankrupt.Â I’m a big Phoenix fan. I loved their last album, and in many ways this record is an extension of that sound. It’s all very consistent–pop hooks framed by really creative production. When Bankrupt dropped I couldn’t turn it off, and that’s the sign of a great album. There’s some conceptual stuff in there, and just a bunch of catchy songs. They also included a cool mashup of ‘sketches,’ entitled the Bankrupt Diaries, which looks at different early impressions of the music. You hear snippets of working versions which gives a cool glimpse into the evolution of the music for this album.
2.)Â I went out of my way to see some great bands that I follow this past year, which always reminds me of how great true fandom feels. We lose touch with that feeling as professional musicians, but it’s so important and I’m more into it than ever. But far and away my most memorable musical moment this year was playing with John Scofield at The Festy Experience (our annual festival in central VA). Sco is my absolute improvising hero. His playing is just pure feeling, something I aspire to every time I get on stage–it’s the only thing the untrained ear really relates to and thus your greatest responsibility as a performer. It helps to be good, but it’s essential to be real, and Scofield is the best at both. He sat in with the Stringdusters forÂ two songs, one of his, “Kelpers,” and one of ours, “Fire.”Â We took a solo together, trading ideas and flowing with the music. Though the fan side of me was just freaking out, he was so cool through the whole experience that the music really came to life. I can never remember being more inspired on stage. Thank you John Scofield, you are a musical God.
3.)Â I recently got into a great new album called Kittyhawk by Ki:Theory (aka Joel Burleson). He’s managed by a friend, and I’ve been aware of him for a while, but this album is just sick, a huge step forward in both writing and production. Ki:Theory doesn’t tour much, so the recording is kind of the thing. His early stuff was more vibey songwriter stuff, but the album is so thick with creative production, but not just for production’s sake. The sounds bring the music to life in just the right way, and they range all over the sonic map. It’s really impressive and great sounding–a big inspiration for me in my solo endeavors. I could see his music being much much more popular.
4.)Â I’m looking forward to working on my solo stuff this coming year (TradPlus). The Stringdusters is such a dream come true musical outlet, but it’s also all about the art of compromise. I’ve been into lots of different sounds/styles for a long time and I’m finally gearing up to release some music and perform solo. The concept has evolved a lot over the past few years as I have learned the world of programming, worked on playing new instruments and discovered new influences. This is my vision, and I don’t have to compromise anything–it’s daunting but also totally liberating. I work a lot in my home studio, which is tailored pretty specifically for producing my own stuff–lots of software, VSTs, but also lots of instruments. It’s about new and different sonic textures, but it’s mostly about songs.
1.)Â It’s a little embarrassing, but I don’t really know very much about albums from 2013.Â Mostly I’ve been listening to old records.Â Lots of Prince and The Time lately, also Cymande and Black Sabbath.Â I got a cassette player and have been enjoying shopping at the thrift store for tapes.
2.)Â Greyboy Allstars late night at High Sierra Music Festival was one of my favorite gigs this year.Â We also did three nights this summer in NYC with Houston Person, James Carter and Gary Bartz, one each night.Â It was fun to play with those guys and hear them up close. Very inspiring.
3.)Â I love The Mike Dillon Band.
4.)Â More touring, writing and recording.Â I enjoy making music.
1.)Â 1.Â Arcade Fire – Reflektor.Â These guys are batting 1000 when it comes to making records. With a sound that is unique and always evolving. I look forward to their releases with the same excitement that I have for Radiohead albums.
2.Â Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle.Â Don’t sleep on this. She is part Nick Drake, part Leonard Cohen, and all woman. Her songs are devastating, her voice like a ghost in a dream.
3.Â Atoms For Peace – Amok.Â Four words: Thom Yorke and Flea.
2.)Â I did a show in January with a bunch of my friends called “Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.” It was one of those nights that you never forget. We all clicked right from the first note.
3.)Â Laura Marling. She’s is an absolute delight.
4.)Â Touring the country a couple times over with American Babies. We’re coming for ya…
(Read our recent interview with Tom Hamilton on the making of his latest album, Knives & Teeth. Tom Hamilton & American Babies get their Knives and Teeth out)
1.)Â 1.Â Portal Vexovoid because it is super interesting and textured.
2. Cass McCombs Big Wheel and Others because it just is.
3.Â Rediscovered “Dreaming My Dreams”, by Waylon Jennings.
2.)Â We played Hopscotch festival in Raleigh and participated in Seth Olinsky’s Band Dialogue. It was awesome. A bunch of bands set up in a closed off street and played one long big droning piece of music.
3.)Â I don’t know.
4.)Â Going on tour in the US and Europe in support of our new album.Â Making more music videos with remote controlled apparatus.
1.)Â 1.Â Paul Kelly – Spring and Fall.Â Honest songwriting. Paul is in a class of his own.
2. Sarah Jarosz – Build Me Up From Bones.Â Sarah’s an outstanding musician and songwriter. Sonically this album is on a whole other level.
3. Mark Knopfler – Privateering. Has two of the best songs I’ve heard all year, “Seattle” and “Redbud Tree”.
2.)Â Paul Kelly at The Mercy Lounge during the Americana Conference, Nashville TN, Sept 2013.
3.)Â Austin band, Sons of Fathers.
4.)Â Heading back to Australia to play CMC Rocks The Hunter Festival in March 2014.Â It’s going to be great to take our new album home.
1.)Â 1. Samuel Jackson Five – Samuel Jackson Five
2. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
3. All Hail Bright Futures – And So I Watch You From Afar
Because I love new, unique, good, mostly instrumental rock and roll.
Â 2.)Â My favorite live music moment was playing my new album Frames with Johnny Vidacovich at Snug Harbor in NOLA.
3.)Â I was most excited to rediscover the Fuck Buttons, awesome album.
4.)Â I am looking forward to Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s 20th Anniversary Tour !
1.) 1. Ben Folds Five – Live.Â So glad those three got back together for “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” in 2012.Â This live release was icing on the cake, especially since I didn’t make it out to see them on tour.
2. Â Jack Johnson – From Here to Now to You.Â Music video footage made me a little jealous I wasn’t in Hawaii making albums.Â I’m a huge Zach Gill (ALO) fan and am glad those two teamed up.Â Jack’s music is simple, but when I let it, it amplifies how much I love my life and the wonderful people in it.
3.Â Anders Osborne – Peace.Â I’ve only recently been turned onto Anders and I’m so glad I did.Â His music resonates with me in a deep dark beautiful place.Â He’s became a huge musical inspiration for me bridging the singer-songwriter and jamband worlds.Â I’m still getting into the nitty-gritty of Peace, but a few casual listens and it sounds to me like he’s on top of his game.
2.)Â Can I pick one of each?Â Being 2nd row Paige-side for Phish in Reading, PA for a great 2nd set (thanks Marc).Â We were so close that the camera guy would intermittently block our view of Trey to get footage of guitar solos.Â For me, I finally got to visit my wife’s family in Texas this year.Â At my next gig back home, I sang a lyric of mine “we’ve yet to cross off visiting Texas” and got a huge smile on my face because we finally did cross it off the list.Â What used to be a bittersweet lyric evolved into a reminder of a great family trip.
3.)Â Snarky Puppy – I noticed some social-media buzz for their show in Baltimore so I checked them out online and was hooked.Â They nurture music to get the maximum smoothness and groove out of each tune.Â I wish I had the focus and chops to compose like them.Â Just cool, quality, wonderfully executed stuff.
4.)Â Seeing Umphreys McGee in town for my 30th birthday – you gotta get old but you don’t haveta grow up.Â Also, my bassist buddy Paul has a nice home-studio and I’m excited to hunker down and work on new recordings with him.
1.)Â 1.Â Wood Brothers – The Muse.Â Creative, soulful, uncluttered music. it takes me back to the old Band recordings with a brand new/old thang slung from their hip.
2.Â Tedeschi/Trucks Band – Made Up Mind.Â Good songs and great tones performed by actual musicians.
3.Â Justin Timberlake – 20/20.Â “Pusher Love Girl” is a bad ass soul pop production.
2.)Â Performing with Allen Toussaint in NYC and playing at Magnolia Festival Ampitheater to an amazing listening/dancing music loving crowd.
3.)Â I discovered Rodriguez. The Sugar Man soundtrack. So damn hip and a great story!
4.)Â Releasing my new album produced by Oliver Wood.
1.)Â 1.Â Doc & Merle Watson – Down South
2.Â John Hartford, Tony Rice and Vassar Clements – Hartford Rice & Clements
3.Â Sanctified Grumblers – No Lie
2.)Â Playing the banjo concert on The Shady Grove Stage at The Winnipeg Folk Festival in July.
Brother Jared Green joined me for some shuffle drum set adventures.Â It was very silly and
fun.Â Can’t beat that!
3.)Â outta Chicago.Â They feel good to my soul.
4.)Â Being a troubadour.
1.)Â 1.Â The National – Trouble Will Find Me.Â I really like the National. They strike that dark nerve in me. They let me know everything might not be alright. Like a good Cormac McCarthy novel.
2.Â Charles Bradley – Victim of Love.Â Like with Ted Hawkins, its hard to separate the story from the songs. But both of them are the real deal. Putting their stories out there blood, piss and all.
3.Â Chance The Rapper.Â I guess he really hasn’t made an official record this year? Just mix tapes. But my son turned me onto him and he is one of the better MCs out their in my opinion. Really dig his style.
Honorable Mentions: Nick Cave, Ron Sexsmith, Paul McCartney (these are all good records but I haven’t truly sunk my teeth into them yet). These guys are so good though that it is like saying “which teams will do well this year…. besides the Yankees and Red Sox. ‘
And last I have to mention Snoop Lion. That movie and record are the most strange and in some ways “Rock ‘n’ Roll” releases in 2013. You almost can’t describe how weird the whole thing is. I love it.
2.)Â Someone yelling “Seth Rogan” at me in front of a 1500 people opening for Citizen Cope. Us overweight curly haired guys gotta stick together.
3.)Â Charles Bradley
4.)Â Recording new songs with my old pals from Six String Drag in January. I have no idea what we will call it. It doesn’t matter. For now I am just going to bring in some songs and we’ll bang them out and see what happens on the tape machine. Also I plan on playing more shows in 2014 than I did in 2013.
The second annual Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival has released their initial line-up for the 2014 edition of the Baltimore based fest. Organized by the Baltimore Management Agency, the second edition of theÂ festival is set to take place April 26, 2014 at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, Maryland.Â This year”s line-up is topped by 13-time Grammy Winner and dobro-playerÂ extraordinaire Jerry Douglas.Â Also on the bill this year are Sierra Hull, Audie Blaylock and Redline, Jordan August & Friends, and Ken and Brad Kolodner.Â Many more bands will be announced over the next couple of weeks.
This year following the conclusion of the Fesival, the party will move to the legendary 8×10 With live- blackjack on line games however, players feel 100% confident that the gaming outcomes are the result of lady luck alone. Club in downtown Baltimore for a late-night bluegrass after-party jam.Â Bands for the lat-night party will be announced soon.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purhchased here:Â http://www.missiontix/
Check out Honest Tune”s coverage of last year”s sold-out inaugural event, which featured Tim O”Brien, Tony Trishcka, Cris Jacobs & The Union Men, and Caleb Stine, among many others. Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival & the Killer Bâ€™s
For further information and to stay update to with everything going with the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival please visit:
My life has led me on a musical journey all over this great country and world. I have seen acts down the street from my house and as far away as Amsterdam. The one thing I have learned about traveling for music is that it is so needed in your life.
I ventured outside my box to a new venue in my world, The Baby Grand. The Baby Grand is the smaller room attached to the Grand Opera house in Wilmington, Delaware. The Victorian design and old retro-coloring created a unique atmosphere for the performance of bluegrass singer/songwriter Sarah Jarosz.
Jaroszâ€™s set was highlighted by songs from her first two albums, 2009â€™s Song Up in Her Head and 2011â€™s Follow Me Down. Her artistic and simple light set-up made for much more than just a bluegrass band playing on a stage. It created atmosphere, emotion, and so much color onstage and behind the band that it seemed to provide a visual interpretation for each song.Â The tall, slender backdrops that reflected the lights throughout the show seemed to sway and dance in-time to the music.
Jarosz plays with a simple, stripped down band that consists of Alex Hargreaves on violin and Nathaniel Smith on cello.Â Smith plays with a style and grace that serves as the backbone of the band, helping to glue the different pieces of music together in such perfection that you cannot take your eyes or mind off the show.
Three young and wildly talented musicians came to Delaware and blew the minds of everyone at The Baby Grand with their elegant take on bluegrass.Â In the cozy confines of the The Baby Grand, Jaroszâ€™s straightforward, intimate, and extremely personal manner with which she delivered each song was like watching a close friend play a show in your living room.
Marco Benevento will hit the road for a run shows.Â Â The tour will kick-off October 4th at the Pearl Street Ballroom in Nortohampton, MA, before concluding in Albany, NY.Â Included among the dates will be a stop at the Infamous Stringdusters annual festival The Festy.Â For more information visit http://royalpotatofamily.com/.
October 4 | Pearl Street Ballroom | Northampton, MA
October 5 | The Fall Down Festival | Durham, CT
October 10 | The Abbey Bar | Harrisburg, PA
October 11 | The Festy | Charlot…tesville, VA
October 12 | Harvest Festival | Monticello, NY
October 17 | The Met | Pawtucket, RI
October 18 | Higher Ground | Burlington, VT
October 19 | Church | Boston, MA
October 23 & 24 | Dazzle | Denver, CO
October 25 & 26 | Hangtown Festival | Sacramento, CA
November 7 | The Camel | Richmond, VA
November 8 | The Pour House | Raleigh, NC
November 9 | 8×10 | Baltimore, MD
November 15 | River Street Jazz Cafe | Wilkes Barre, PA
November 16 | The Cutting Room | New York, NY
November 23 | The Bearsville Theatre | Bearsville, NYC ***solo piano
December 5 | U Street Music Hall | Washington, DC
December 6 | The Blockley | Philadelphia, PA
December 7 | Red Square | Albany, NY
December 27 | The Capitol Theater | Port Chester, NY ***Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
February 15 | Aura Music & Arts Festival | Live Oak, FL
Cris Jacobs & the Band of Johns
February 2, 2013
Since The Bridge called it quits just over a year ago, singer-guitarist Cris Jacobs has shown no signs of slowing down as he is a man constantly on the move exploring as much musical ground as he can cover, whether with his new project The Cris Jacobs Band (who released their debut album last year), as part of his long-time bluegrass band Smooth Kentucky, in the various guest spots and sit-ins he appears in with everyone from Anders Osborne to Los Lobos, or in his recent recording session with New Orleans legend Ivan Neville. On a night when his hometown of Baltimore was teeming with excitement in anticipation of the Ravens appearance in the Super Bowl the following day, Jacobs debuted his latest endeavor, The Band of Johns, at his home away from home, The 8×10.
Comprised of keyboardist John Ginty (John Ginty Band, Santana, Robert Randolph & the Family Band),drummer John Thomakos (John Mooney, Vanessa Carlton), and bassist Jake Leckie (Cris Jacobs Band) the quartet played together for the first time ever on this evening. With the city already brimming with energy and enthusiasm for the Ravens upcoming Super Bowl appearance, Jacobs show at the 8×10 took on the air of an almost surreal pep-rally at times, with many in the crowd decked out in purple or Ravens jerseys, including both Jacobs in a Ray Lewis jersey and Thomakos in an Ed Reed jersey. Jacobs made numerous references throughout the night to the game, and the inclusion of a couple ofr New Orleans themed covers in â€œDown South of New Orleansâ€ and â€œGoing Down to New Orleansâ€ only served as another sly reference to the next dayâ€™s big game down in the Big Easy. But the most obvious Super Bowl reference came as the band was deep in the midst of a particularly adventurous journey through Jacobsâ€™ old band The Bridgeâ€™s long-time live staple â€œBad Locomotive.â€ As the song evolved into a dark swirling jam, the unmistakable driving bass and drum rhythm of the White Stripes â€œSeven Nation Armyâ€ began to show, slowly poking its face out from underneath the familiar chords of â€œBad Locomotive.â€ The song has become the unofficial song/ chant of the Baltimore Ravens and their faithful during this past season, with the acapella chanting of its relentlessly, driving melody becoming omnipresent at Ravens games and seemingly every Super Bowl broadcast from New Orleans. This simple jam evoked the same response from the fans packed into the 8×10 who responded with a stadium worthy rendition of the chant, before the band broke it off and led back into â€œBad Locomotive.â€
But this night was not all about the Ravens and the upcoming Super Bowl, though that was definitely a big part of it. The evenings setlist drew heavily from Jacobs large repertoire of material, using the new material that Jacobs has written recently for The Cris Jacobs Band (including â€œDragonfly,â€ â€œDevil or Jesse James,â€ and â€œStoned on youâ€), a smattering of old Bridge songs (â€œHeavy Water,â€, â€œHoneybee,â€ and â€œDevil on Meâ€ among others), and a few tasty covers (the aforementioned New Orleans tunes and â€œYou Can Stay but the Noise Must Goâ€) thrown in for good measure. This highly experienced band made this wide range music all their own. Jacobsâ€™ soulful wail echoes the southern-fried, gravely, timbre of Lowell George, and the addition of the masterful touch of Ginty and the hard-driving, precise drumming of Thomakos seemed to give his voice that much more power on the evening (or maybe it was just the excitement for the Ravens). For many in the crowd in the crowd there was an extreme familiarity with many of Jacobsâ€™ songs, but with addition of such seasoned skillful players as Ginty and Thomakos the music found new and interesting musical paths down which to wind.
Still the overriding theme for the show on this chilly night in Baltimore was the energy that came with the anticipation of The Ravens appearance in the Super Bowl the next day, and the night would appropriately end on that note. After wrapping up their set with a spirited take on The Bridgeâ€™s â€œColorado Motel,â€ the crowd began shouting their approval and even more boisterous version of the â€œSeven Nation Armyâ€ chant erupted from the crowd as they waited for the band to retake the stage. The band quickly retook the stage. Leckie and Thomakos began to play along with the crowd, churning out the hard-hitting, pulsating rhythm of â€œSeven Nation Army,â€ only this time instead a brief tease, Jacobs and Ginty picked up the rhythm and launched into a full-on version of the song that burned with a ferocity that would make the hometown teamâ€™s long revered defense proud, and as everyone in the crowd gave their full-throated best to make their chant heard, all eyes turned towards New Orleans and next dayâ€™s Super Bowl.
Authorâ€™s note â€“ The Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl the next day, the â€œSeven Nation Armyâ€ chant could be heard constantly throughout the game, Baltimore rejoiced, and for just one small moment there was peace in the world.
To see all of Jordan August ‘s photos from Jacobs’ surreal pep-rally please visit here.