Hillsburn

(From left to right: Paul Aarntzen, Clare Macdonald, Rosanna Burrill, Clayton Burrill, and Jackson Fairfax-Perry)

“If you’re looking for a band that bleeds every last drop of themselves into their work, you’ve found them in Hillsburn.” – Kerry Martin [CBC]

Hillsburn had a big year in 2016, releasing their debut full-length album, In The Battle Years, and winning a Canadian Folk Music Award for “New/Emerging Artist of the Year” and an East Coast Music Award for “Fans’ Choice Video of the Year.” The Halifax-based quintet plans to unveil a follow-up album in 2017 and will be touring across the country this spring and summer with performances at venues and festivals from coast to coast.

Kevin Garrett

 

Kevin Garrett is a singer and songwriter from Brooklyn, New York. His poignant lyricism and musicianship have been showcased in numerous projects over the past several years. The Pittsburgh native has spent much of the last decade performing his original work, sharing the stage with James Vincent McMorrow, Emily King, Norah Jones, and Maps & Atlases among others. Kevin recently released his debut single “Coloring,” a small part of a larger body of work that signifies a new direction and highlights his versatility as a songwriter. The song has earned considerable attention since its premiere on Pigeons and Planes, being featured on Spotify’s New Music Tuesday list as well as charting on the Spotify’s Viral 50 list. Kevin is preparing for a busy start to 2015 with more dates alongside James Vincent McMorrow as well as a forthcoming EP.

Kevin currently lives in Brooklyn. He has a fish named LeVar Burton as well as several failed attempts at indoor gardens. One day he’ll figure it out.

http://www.kevingarrettmusic.com/

 

10517591_791946710850424_3642305877845351453_n

The Devil Makes Three

“There’s a road that goes out of every town. All you’ve got to do is get on it,” Pete Bernhard says.

The guitarist/singer and his cohorts in the raw and raucous trio The Devil Makes Three have found their way onto that road numerous times since they first left their picaresque rural hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont. Back then, they had no idea it would lead them to such auspicious destinations as the Newport Folk and Austin City Limits Festivals, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, and on tours with Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell and Trampled By Turtles. Along the way, they drew numerous accolades from a growing fan base and press alike.

TDM3’s travels and travails serve as inspiration for their fourth album and their New West Records debut, I’m a Stranger Here, produced by Buddy Miller and recorded at Dan Auerbach’s (Black Keys) Easy Eye Sound in Nashville.

With upright bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean, Bernhard crafted a dozen tunes, part road songs, part heartbreak songs and part barnburners. While most bands are propelled from behind by a drummer, TDM3 builds exuberant rhythms from the inside out, wrapping finger-picked strings and upsurging harmonies around chugging acoustic guitar and bass, plying an ever-growing audience onto its feet to jump, shake and waltz.

TDM3’s sound is garage-y ragtime, punkified blues, old n’ new timey without settling upon a particular era, inspired as much by mountain music as by Preservation Hall jazz. “We bend genres pretty hard,” Bernhard says.

The combination could only have happened via the circuitous route each of them took to forming the band. As kids in Vermont, “all raised by sort of hippie parents” who exposed them to folk, blues and jugbands, Bernhard says, they blazed a path to nearby Boston, Massachusetts in search of punk rock shows. They found venerable venues like The Rat and The Middle East, drawn to east coast bands like the Dropkick Murphys and Aus-Rotten.

“It would be like 6 bucks for 13 bands, everyone playing for 20 minutes,” Bernhard says. “I had so much fun going to shows like that. The energy coming off the stage makes a circle with the crowd and comes back. We were really attracted to that energy.”

Bernhard and McBean, a multi-instrumentalist who plays banjo, musical saw and bass, forged a particular bond. Unlike most of their mutual friends, they both liked to play acoustic music, with McBean showing Bernhard the wonders of Hank Williams and Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys. They kept in touch after high school, when nearly everyone in their clique relocated to the west coast like the characters in Delbert McClinton’s song “Two More Bottles of Wine.”

“It was a mass exodus of kids who went out to start bands and be creative, searching for the unknown, dreaming of something different,” Bernhard says. “We wanted to get away from where we were from, as many kids do, and California was the farthest we could get.” Eventually they landed in sunny Santa Cruz, California, where TDM3 took shape in 2001. Their early gigs were house concerts, then small bars, punk shows, bigger rock clubs and theaters and festivals, all the while defying genre and delighting whomever turned up to listen.

Turino learned bass to join the band, but her unremitting sense of rhythm comes naturally from being raised by parents who were dance teachers, and from her own dance background. Attacking the strings of her upright, she understands how to infuse songs with the force it takes to get a crowd moving.

And the songs on I’m a Stranger Here tell the rest of the story, with the music often joyously juxtaposed against lyric darkness…the rootless nature of being in a touring band, traveling from town to town with little sense of community, represented by a devil-like character (“Stranger”)…thorny transitions into adulthood…struggling with relationships (“Worse or Better”), watching friends succumb to addiction (“Mr. Midnight”), coming to terms with mortality (“Dead Body Moving”), nostalgic notions of childhood (“Spinning Like a Top”). Bernhard even considers the destruction of changing weather patterns, inspired in part by Hurricane Katrina as well as a flood that wreaked havoc in Brattleboro (“Forty Days,” a gospel rave-up recorded with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band).

Bernhard wrote more than 20 songs for the album and turned them over to producer Buddy Miller, who gravitated toward the darker material but insured that the recording was lit up by the band’s innate ebullience. It was Miller’s idea to record at Easy Eye rather than his renowned home studio. “Easy Eye is like Sun Records,” Bernhard says. “There’s one live tracking room filled with amazing gear, and that defines the kind of record you’re going to make. That was exactly the record we wanted to make, and we knew Buddy was the one who could capture us playing together like we do.”

For a band that made its bones with dynamic performances, recording an album is almost like coaxing lightning into a bottle, but Miller and TDM3 succeed on I’m a Stranger Here. Now they’re continuing the journey that began when they found their way to the road that led them out of Vermont. “I can’t wait to get onstage, I love it,” Bernhard says. “Playing music for a living is a blessing and a curse, but for us there’s no other option.”

the smalls

“We’ve been tossing around the idea of doing some shows together for a few years now, and the time felt right. Feels good to be relevant enough 13 years later to be playing with some of the other bands on the bill. Jack White, the Pornographers, etc. We got together to rehearse a little last week and it felt really good to just hang out and play that stuff. It brings up a lot of good memories. Hopefully it will for the audience, too. Very satisfying to play fast and heavy again. I’m genuinely looking forward to this, it’s gonna be intense.” – Corb Lund, the smalls

Toronto, ON – May 27, 2014 – A twitter account ‘@thesmallsmusic’ pops up a couple of months back. Hmm…suspicious. Ardent fans raise their eyebrows. Astute media start to wonder. This is how rumors get started. And those rumors are true! Alberta’s reigning indie punk/metal band the smalls are reuniting for two festivals this summer – X-Fest (August 30th in Calgary) and Sonic Boom (August 31st in Edmonton). The shows will feature the original line up of Mike Caldwell on vocals, Corb Lund on bass, Dug Bevans on guitar and Terry Johnson on drums. For more information on X-Fest in Calgary please visit here. For more information on Sonic Boom in Edmonton please visit here. Watch the smalls are back video.

“Lookin’ forward to seeing old friends and fans and making a bunch of new ones….seeing what the next generation thinks of us and our music.” – Terry Johnson, the smalls

“Personally, it’s kind of a big deal – I mean we’ve spent over a quarter of our lives creating music together. So it’s going to be pretty great to reconnect with the guys and play these heavy songs live again” – Dug Bevans, the smalls

It was hard to walk down the streets of Edmonton, Calgary or any number of prairie towns in the early 90’s and not see someone wearing the iconic smalls t-shirt. Formed in 1989, the smalls were to Alberta what Nirvana was to Seattle. They sold over 40,000 albums independently and built a voracious fan base that has mourned their break up ever since they played their last show together in Edmonton on October 20, 2001. Evidenced by overflowing shows at legendary clubs across the west (including a riot in Kamloops that the RCMP were called in for and subsequently made the CBC evening news), the smalls were extremely prominent in the underground scene in Western Canada and have cropped up in countless other bands’ bios as an influence and driving force in the evolution of the prairie music scene.

Their self-produced debut eponymous album was released in 1990. To Each A Zone, their sophomore album, was released in 1992. Produced by Vancouver punk rock producer, Cecil English (NoMeansNo and DOA). Their third album, Waste And Tragedy, was produced by Joel van Dyke, and distributed through Cargo Records. Their fourth and final album, My Dear Little Angle, produced by Glenn Robinson, was released through Outside Music in 1998.

The White Buffalo

Working under the apt nameplate The White Buffalo, singer/songwriter Jake Smith has resolutely charted his own single-minded course for more than a decade. An imposing figure with a voice to match, a resonant, roughhewn baritone, Smith writes about rebels, outsiders and troubled souls battling their way through the obstacles life throws in their paths, telling timeless tales generally set against recognizably contemporary backdrops. “I skirt the line between good and evil in a lot of my songs,” Smith points out. The hard-bitten themes and performances that have defined his career led the producers of Sons of Anarchy to grab six of Smith’s songs for use under scenes in the similarly edgy series, while The White Buffalo’s “American Dream,” written specifically for the 2013 feature film The Lone Ranger: Wanted, appears on the soundtrack album alongside contributions from fellow iconoclasts Lucinda Williams, Dave Alvin, Iggy Pop, Ben Kweller, The Aggrolites, Shane MacGowan of The Pogues and Iron & Wine.

Smith didn’t set out to write a concept album as he laid the groundwork for what would become Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways (Unison Music Group, Sept. 10). It’s just that the songs that were coming out of him—or through him, as the case may be—led him to that revelation. As the narrative arc began to coalesce, Smith went with it, shaping the universal story in modern dress of Joe and Jolene, a pair of youngsters thrust together by chance, forging a deep, emotionally hotwired relationship that would at once haunt and sustain them throughout their lives. The narrative in turn led Smith to tackle the big themes of human existence—sin and redemption, faith and doubt, mortality and the possibility of an afterlife—that have obsessed artists and philosophers alike from time immemorial. But here, these universal themes have led Smith to take on charged modern-day issues including post-war trauma, the economic plight of American families and the gun-control debate with evenhandedness and a refreshing absence of judgment. All of these thematic vectors exist in the service of a gripping story told uncompromisingly and compassionately, each of its linked songs coming across with the ring of truth.

“I look at the whole thing as a love story,” says Smith. “The beginning is their meeting, and because of his need and want to support her, he goes off to war, which starts his downward spiral. But he later realizes that his only chance for redemption and hope is the love of this woman, who has always stood by him regardless of the crazy shit he keeps pulling and the bad choices he keeps making.”

In the story, Smith poses a dual vision of salvation: romantic love on the one side, the pearly gates on the other. “And it goes unanswered,” he acknowledges. “I know a lot of the questions in life, but I don’t know the answers. At points on the album, it’s evident that, if Joey doesn’t denounce God, he doubts that he exists. In ‘Redemption #2,’ he says, ‘I don’t believe that there’s a heaven to go/But I must get this evil out of my bones and my soul.’ But then, at the end of his life, as many people probably do, he starts to think about these questions and the possibility of salvation, and if there is a heaven, does he have any right to be there?”

Throughout the process of writing the material for the album, Smith found himself straddling the archetypal and the particular. “It could be any man in any war at any time,” he says. “Because it’s a universal story of young men going off to war, for the right reasons or the wrong reasons, and things not going as planned and coming back. But then, I found myself putting in some details that allude to the fact that it’s a desert war, like the wars I grew up with. So I think of him as an American serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, because that’s what I’ve seen through my lifetime.” Although Smith says he’s not at all political, he’s acutely aware of what’s going on around him. “I feel like I’m a patriot, but at the same time I’m disillusioned by a lot of what’s going on in this country—you have to be completely blind not to see that it’s fucked up. But I still love it.”

One of the most striking aspects of Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways is Smith’s nuanced portrayal of Joe’s progressive transformation through the stages of his life. “Initially, he’s this excited boy,” Smith notes, “and then, when he goes into his dark path, my vocal delivery changes. As he gets older, it changes again, to a sort of croon, almost. And I don’t know whether I did it consciously or not, really. Sometimes it’s first-person, sometimes it’s third person and other times it’s a blend of the two. It gets super-heavy in the three-song sequence of ‘Joey White’, ‘30 Days Back’, and ‘The Whistler’, and hopefully the listener will get some of the chaos and insanity of what he goes through.”

Another defining element of the album is its juxtaposition of immense power and strength on the one hand—not surprising considering Smith’s looming presence—and surprising sensitivity on the other. “I definitely commit to whatever ideas and emotions are in any given song,” he acknowledges, “and try to make every word count—I want to take the listener somewhere. What makes this album significant for me is that it works as a whole, but the individual songs stand up as well. I’m very proud of it.”

Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways, like its predecessor, 2012’s Once Upon a Time in the West, was produced by Unison Music co-owners Bruce Witkin & Ryan Dorn. It features Smith’s longtime rhythm section of drummer Matt Lynott and bass player Tommy Andrews, with a supporting cast that includes Rick Shea (Dave Alvin) on pedal steel, Mike Thompson (Eagles, Rod Stewart) on keyboards and legendary drummer Jim Keltner on “Don’t You Want It.” Also playing key roles are Jessy Greene, whose violin and cello are meant to represent the character of Jolene, while Joe’s darker moods are deepened by the baritone guitar of Witkin (who plays a variety of instruments on the record).

Born in Oregon and raised in Huntington Beach, California, Smith spent his childhood years listening to the country music his parents loved. As a teenager, he naturally gravitated to the aggressive sounds emanating from that punk-rock mecca before getting turned on to Bob Dylan and John Prine and picking up a guitar for the first time at age 19, whereupon he immediately began to write his own songs. All of these elements helped shape, and continue to coexist, in his music—the storytelling impulse of classic country, the aggressiveness of punk, the visionary singularity of the definitive singer/songwriters. As The White Buffalo, he stands as a true original, presenting his singular vision with conviction and immediacy, and leaving an ever-bigger footprint on the American roots-music landscape.
THE NARRATIVE ARC OF SHADOWS, GREYS AND EVIL WAYS
The story begins with “Shall We Go On,” which introduces the male and female protagonists, Joe and Jolene, who meet by chance and fall desperately in love. In the first test of their connection, both sets of parents disapprove, in large part because of their differing religious beliefs, setting the stage for both an enduring love story and a lifetime of conflict and struggle. The young lovers escape their small-town existence and the judgments of their parents and community in “The Get Away.” “Behind us the damage is done, no one can erase,” they admit to each other. “Love has no ending, just a resting place.” But Joey carries a huge chip on his shoulder, and he swaggers defiantly through the course of the first-person “When I’m Gone,” impetuous and irresponsible, before reality intrudes—he has no means of providing for his new family. That need, along with the desire to prove his worth to his parents and himself, leads to a fateful decision, as he enlists and goes off to fight in a war halfway around the world.

The following “Joey White” fast-forwards through Joe’s military experience: enlistment, boot camp, the chaos of combat, taking a bullet and being sent home a radically changed man, with “demons in his head, for life.” “30 Days Back” finds Joe back home, confused and disillusioned, struggling to adjust to civilian life. “They built me strong, made me numb and mean,” he tells himself ruefully, “Shipped me on home, one killin’ machine.” Battling his demons through the harrowing course of “The Whistler,” he kills again in a moment of bloodlust. He’s devastated by his murderous act, vowing for the second time never to take the life of another man. In “Set My Body Free,” Joey begins his long search for redemption in all the wrong places—before it hits him in a fleeting moment of clarity that the answer may lie in grasping at something pure and unsullied.

Still searching for some glimpse of light in the lingering shadows of his life, Joey seeks forgiveness and a way to cope during the course of “Redemption #2.” Telling himself, “I must flush away what I done, what I seen,” he realizes his only hope for redemption is the love of his woman. “This Year” follows Joe through the seasons of a calendar year. As spring turns to summer, he experiences a growing sense of normalcy and light, but as the natural cycle continues and fall darkens into winter, his anxiety and doubt return, and he reverts once again to the increasingly faint hope that “Maybe I’ll get better, maybe I’ll be different/Next year.” “Fire Don’t Know” addresses the concept that people have an irrational tendency to blame inanimate objects for their own actions and problems. “Bullets and steel, they don’t think they don’t feel,” Joey reflects. “Well they ain’t got no plans to shoot down a man… Money don’t know I got mouths to feed/But I do.”

In “Joe & Jolene,” the protagonist loses his job and starts drinking and Jolene leaves him. But when he makes a final plea—“Joey rolls up his sleeve, I still got your name tattooed/The ink’s faded and grey, but it’s still serenading you”—she’s moved by the depth of his need for her and returns home to him. Years pass before we encounter Joe, older and reflective, in “Don’t You Want It,” asking himself, “Where the hell did I go wrong?” but realizing he has a chance at redemption by way of his enduring love of Jolene. Following the instrumental “#13,” we find Joe near the end of his life in the concluding “Pray to You Now,” looking back on his “shadows, greys and evil ways” and pondering the possibility of an afterlife. “I’d pray to you now, but I don’t know how,” he offers up into the Great Unknown. “It ain’t in my heart, is it too late to start?” Joe’s story, and his life, end with these questions tantalizingly unresolved.