Atlanta native Nate Currin brought his Southern roots to his new home in San Francisco to create an acclaimed concept record based on the 1678 book The Pilgrim’s Progress by English writer and preacher John Bunyan.
The Pilgrim, his sophomore effort on Archaic Cannon, is a beautiful interpretation of the story Currin hoped to deliver about the book and its magic historical significance.
Songs such as “Footsteps At My Back” and “A Beautiful House” are just a few standouts in this collection of 18 gloriously written songs, full of wit, poetic charm, wisdom, sadness, darkness and triumph. Truly, Currin weaves his present day life as a songwriter and storyteller into the story told by Bunyan, interpreting the concepts, characters and places that reside within.
The music is striking; the guitar, percussion and background vocals are stirring, the lyrics emotionally grabbing. The production and mastering bring to the album crystal clear sound and truly accentuate the piano, acoustic guitars and harmonies well.
“The Traveler’s Road” is a favorite, a folksy hymn that is soft and soothing, depicting the adventures of traveling pilgrims, mixed in with Currin’s own life on the road.
The Pilgrim is a feel-good album most of the way through, relaxing and romantic to the soul and ears. A joy to discover, perhaps one of its main overall themes is to “hold on fast and don’t give in” on life, and “when you’re tired, carry on.” That’s certainly a great bit of advice to give to songwriters following in Currin’s footsteps.
I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Moondoggies aren’t one of the largest independent bands in the country. What they do is simple; they write great songs for a guitar-based combo with a beat you can dance to.
They don’t seem to have many influences past 1969, but you could really say that about most guitar bands who don’t have the words ‘doom’ or ‘angular’ appear in their press. The vast majority of their songs sound like some one-hit wonder that you used to hear on the radio. You swear they’re ripping off someone more famous only they’re not.
Adios I’m a Ghost is their third LP, landing somewhere between their insanely catchy debut Don’t Be A Stranger and the more adventurous Tidelands. For this release, they lean more than ever on their fantastic harmony singing. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they overdubbed themselves singing harmonies à la the Beatles and CSN [editor’s note – and sometimes Y]. The album opens and closes with two quiet and eerie harmony exercises. The other difference is that they expand their song structures, which means more guitar solos, especially in the two over-six-minute songs “A Lot To Give” and “Don’t Ask Why,” which means awesome.
We’re presenting an AMAZING show at Great American Music Hall this Saturday, featuring a local San Francisco band we totally love, Rin Tin Tiger.
Wanna win a pair of tix? Easy, just leave a comment below and we’ll pick a winner before noon Eastern on Saturday.
While you’re hear, listen to the band’s new LP below, and check out what band member Sean E. Sullivan has to say about the gig and the band’s live stage show.
How does preparation for a hometown gig differ from playing live on the road?
The biggest difference is the kind of rooms we play and the kind of set list. In the Bay Area we play pretty good sized rooms that fit hundreds of people. When we’re on the road sometimes we play comparable places but oftentimes we end up at smaller bars or even restaurants. There’s all kinds of funky places to play on the road and we’ve done a lot of them. The other big difference is the style and length of the set list. For hometown shows, especially headlining ones, we like to toss in a bunch of older classic cuts for those that have been with through the years.
What do you like best about Great American Music Hall?
The ambiance. It’s such a gorgeous building rich in history and being surrounded by that kind of atmosphere is really inspiring when on stage. The lights are also top notch and the staff are all very friendly.
What’s your favorite part of performing live?
Feeding off of the energy of the audience. Crazy dance moves and singing along really make the performance aspect of being a musician very rewarding. Recording is great but having people react to something live is the best.
What can an audience expect in a RTT show?
Lots of sweat, headbanging, dancing, jumping off of things, lengthy in between song comedy/banter, and hopefully some awesome sing-a-longs.
What can fans and newcomers expect from the new LP?
Some classic RTT elements – acoustic guitar, groovy bass, lots of lyrics, and punk rock drumming – all taken to the next level. This record captures our live sound more accurately than we’ve been able to in the past and feels very much like a “band” album. All of the parts are very important and we all worked well together to create something we’re very proud of.
How does the new album compare to your previous records?
It’s longer, it’s better, it’s more “band oriented”, as in there’s only 1 out of 12 songs that are just guitar and vocals, whereas our last album, Toxic Pocketbook, had 3 of 8 tracks with just Kevin. It’s also some of the most aggressive material we’ve released and also some of the most country leaning. Diverse yet cohesive (hopefully).
There are a lot of acts jumping on the “folk” bandwagon these days, in the wake of Mumford & Sons’ success. What makes Rin Tin Tiger stand out in this new revival?
I think we basically sound nothing like Mumford or the other popular folk acts right now. Nothing against any of those bands because they’re great at what they do, I just think that what we do is very different. The only real similarity is the acoustic guitar element. Our songs are much more rooted in rock and rhythm and blues with a lot of the folk influence coming from the emphasis and importance of the lyrics. A lot of our new songs are rock or country songs played with a Guild instead of a Telecaster and at a fast tempo. Everything else about us is different too. Our live shows are more like punk shows and we don’t dress like we’re from the 1920s. We’re three dudes making serious music with a fun attitude. A lot of contemporary folk music takes itself too seriously without having the content to back it up. We’re trying to fill a gap between country and punk and folk that hopefully comes off as not only fun but artistic as well.
The Hems Those Early Years
“Attractive, distinctive modern folk duet”
Hugely rich in Appalachian folk textures, The Hems deliver a savory ten-song record, soothing in approach and amiable in feel and mood. The Hems are a delightful duet from Austin, TX – folk songwriters with style and aplomb who can craft riveting songs with the best of their genre-mates.
“Those Early Years” and “Honey Twist” are compelling and upbeat. The guitars are intricately woven, and the harmonies are beautifully spun, rich and fervent. Each song flourishes with themes of folk-style Americana, such as the mesmerizing “Dreams Will Do” and the haunting “Dogwood Tree,” a powerful anthem sure to rock any amphitheater.
The clarity of the production is remarkable, the energy captivating throughout each listen. It’s fascinating to proudly hear striking acoustic solos between the choruses, and it’s wonderful to savor the music’s feel-good heart through the album’s striking melodies. Fiendishly difficult to perform, The Hems make each arrangement sound effortless. The overall beauty of the music is richly fervent as the tunes really bounce, light on their feet. A charming folk record.
Engineered and Mixed by Andre Moran Recorded at Ohm Studio, Austin Mastered by James Hoover
The Banjo-Totin’ Oddball on Being Shunned by Traditional Bluegrass Festivals, Going Solo & Taking Artistic Liberties
Kendl Winter can exist in many worlds at once. In the last decade, the Olympia-based banjoist has served as one of the main songwriters behind the celebrated bluegrass outfit The Blackberry Bushes String Band, the chaotic folk punk band The Pasties, and the alt-country band Southern Skies. Along the way, she’s wailed in party punk bands, MC’d in humorous hip-hop groups, and played second guitar in a surf band. While recording her latest solo album, she was training for an ultra-marathon.
When we talked, she was on her way to South by Southwest (SXSW) and serving as the nightly entertainment for a pants company’s traveling road show. “Britches, Booze, and Banjos,” is the slogan of Tour de Pants, a road show put together by Red Ants Pants, a Montana-based company that makes work pants for women. Touring around the U.S. in an Airstream trailer, Tour de Pants’ shows take place mostly in living rooms full of women with outdoor and manual labor jobs. The tour is, “like out of a Tom Robbins novel,” Winter says. Though she’s not new to life on the road, being on the road as a solo musician is new and a bit of a fresh start for Winter, after years of playing in bands.
This past fall, after eight years of playing and touring with The Blackberry Bushes, she left the group to put more energy into her solo music. While she’s never stopped recording solo music, she’s never focused on it until now. Her upcoming K Records release, It Can Be Done!, is the result of that focus. “It was really deliberate. It was the first time I’ve got to work on a solo album as my primary project,” Winter says. It Can Be Done! is her third outing on the legendary indie label, which is most well-known for spawning a very particular brand of lo-fi indie rock in the 1980s and ’90s. Winter’s new album, a more fleshed-out and higher-energy affair than her previous two K releases, works as an interesting crossover piece between two worlds that rarely interact – namely, indie rock and bluegrass. This is what makes her music so unique and also what makes her an oddball in both indie rock and bluegrass circles.
At SXSW, she says she probably stands out not for her music, but as “the dirty girl over there.” At SXSW, “Everyone just looks really good,” Winter says, “and sounds really good and everyone is really polished in a way that I, um… well, I don’t pretend to be polished.” And perhaps it’s, in part, that lack of sheen that makes her music a natural part of the K Records family. While there aren’t many albums in their catalog that have bluegrass or country leanings, the majority of their releases value the heartfelt and powerful over the produced and polished.
In a catalog that has included a huge range of music – from Beat Happening and Mirah to Modest Mouse and Beck, punk and folk to funk and hip-hop – Kendl Winter’s love for creating music of all genres also makes her right at home at K. The label, famed for their unique DIY attitude, set almost no restrictions on the kind of album Winter could make and didn’t try to pigeonhole her or make her country into kitsch. “They’re really open to just really helping me seek out what I’m looking for,” Winter says.
In 2009, The Blackberry Bushes took second place at the world famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival and for years the band has been a staple of the bluegrass festival circuit. Now that Winter’s on her own, though, and stretching the bounds of the genre, she’s finding some of those doors closed to her. “I definitely have been told that I can’t really play at some of the festivals I used to play at [with The Blackberry Bushes]. It’s not bluegrass enough,” Winter says. She takes this in stride, though, quickly adding, “Which is okay, you know, people have their likings. And there are people who are just trying to hold true to a tradition and I think that’s also very valuable and important.”
For anyone else, this split between worlds might be seen as a hurdle, but for a perpetual optimist like Winter it is a way of building musical bridges. “I see it as a way of connecting with a lot of different generations…having something familiar to share and then just kinda branching from that.” And despite the fact that her current music might not be welcome at all the bluegrass festivals, she’s not planning on losing her connection with bluegrass and old time music communities. “I’d like to keep my chops up for that because I think it’s so great to show up in the middle of a bunch of strangers and be able to play the same song. That’s amazing,” Winter says. Immediately adding, “But it is really fun to be able to be like, ‘I feel weird, I’m just going to go into a rap.’ Or, ‘I’m just gonna play this melodic line I found that really makes me think of this’… It isn’t necessarily bluegrass.”
While playing solo isn’t completely comfortable for her yet, she’s getting more used to it. “It’s very vulnerable, and I feel very exposed, and my mistakes are a lot more obvious. But I also feel like I can kinda also control the energy in a way that I like and be flexible in a way I like,” Winter says. She has no shortage of opportunities to get more comfortable with it, with weekly solo shows around the Pacific Northwest in the coming months, a small tour of the Midwest, plus a handful of shows with her backing band, The Summer Gold. The summer months are going to find her traveling around to a number of festivals, ones that don’t mind her taking bluegrass to new places.
In August, she’ll be celebrating the release of It Can Be Done!, with release parties and tours to follow. Along the way, she’s planning on creating a potentially unlimited variety of creations as part of her Pantyhose Popscreen project. The name, taken from the common DIY home recording technique of using a pair of pantyhose as a pop screen on a microphone, basically serves as a catchall name for all things Kendl Winter. So far the name is mainly being used for her YouTube video series, but in the future will be used for 4-track home recordings, artwork, writings, ’zines, and anything else that becomes an outlet for her unstoppable creative energy. While she’s been touring for a decade and has participated in the recording of over 15 albums with a variety of groups, it’s clear that Kendl Winter is only just beginning.
Newport Folk Festival Fort Adams State Park Newport, RI July 26th – 28th
The Newport Folk Festival is back! The festivities kick off on Friday July 26th at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, RI and Performer will be there again this year to cover the well rounded line-up.
We’re particularly excited to see Hey Marseilles, The Felice Brothers and are eager for return of Spirit Family Reunion. Big name acts like Feist, Beck and The Avett Brothers will be respectively headlining each night and there will be a heavy dose of folk, bluegrass and Americana with some New Orleans brass and gospel thrown in for good measure.
I’m a San Francisco-based singer-songwriter, originally from Scotland. Classically trained, I buried my roots, opted for a jazz education, and came out writing like a conversation between James Taylor and John Mayer.
MAKE & MODEL
LÂG Autumn – 300 JCE
WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
We met in ’07, and since then she’s seen me through a degree at Berklee College of Music, every song I’ve written in the last six years, two albums, and an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. We’ve logged over 20,000 miles together.
WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
She plays like a cross between a Martin auditorium body and a Taylor, and sonically covers every base; her harmonics are clear and round, every frequency rings out equally, and she plays like the embodiment of a later summer evening. As an acoustic instrument, she’s the most tempered I’ve ever played.
LÂG swapped the bridge pins with a more electric-style setup, so replacing strings is even easier. The truss rod is also incredible – I can still count the number of adjustments on one hand from six years of playing.
CAN BE HEARD ON
My latest record, Astronaut, was written and recorded with her, and she can be best heard on the track “City Man.”
An update from our friends in Brown Bird on David Lamb’s condition:
“Dave came home on Saturday from his second round of chemo. He is tired, but happy to be home and looking forward to tackling the next round of treatment.
Sometime in late Summer or early Fall, Dave will be receiving a stem cell transplant, which will replace his bone marrow with healthy cells. We are confident that the procedure will be a success and Dave will enjoy full and cancer-free recovery. He will be cared for in Boston, in the hands of the best in the field.
The doctors inform us that the recovery period post-transplant requires a full year of not working and frequent trips to the hospital for monitoring and bloodwork. While it will be difficult for us to stay off the stage and the road for 12 months, we are looking forward to having the time at home to write new material and experiment with some musical ideas we’ve been having.
In the meantime, we’ve been enjoying the words of encouragement you all have been sending, and we will be keeping a donation button at www.brownbird.net to help offset the financial weight of living while off the road. Thanks a million times over for all your incredible support.
We will keep you all updated as much as we can.
MorganEve and Dave”
Drawing influences from almost everywhere in the DIY scene, Atlanta (sort of) based band The Wild is an act to watch. With influences ranging from Phil Ochs, to Bright Eyes, to Crass, The Wild’s unique folk/punk sound has earned them opening spots on tour with the likes of Against Me!, The Queers, and Joyce Manor. In addition, they’re also alumni of the Florida “Fest” family.
Their most recent album, Dreams Are Maps, was recorded over a week with engineer Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!). Although in the past The Wild has worked with producers, for their latest offering they found themselves with such a clear vision of what they wanted to accomplish, that they chose to self-produce the entire record. According to singer Witt Wisebram, the dynamic between The Wild and Laura Jane Grace came together naturally, “I have always really respected Against Me! and Laura’s ideas, so I was incredibly honored that she was willing to work with us on this record. She was very precise with the engineering of the album, and I think she was able to help us create the best sounding recordings we have ever done. It is a really cool and rare thing when someone else can understand your vision and creative process and help you to achieve it the best that you can.”
By spending more time on this album than past efforts, the band, who prides themselves on fewer overdubs and catching performances in a more natural setting, was able to capture the “big” sound that their live shows are known for.
To add complication to The Wild, its members live all across the country (Atlanta, Lexington, Denver, Brooklyn, San Francisco, and Massachusetts). A few years ago, when vocalist Dianna Settles got a scholarship to a San Francisco college, The Wild became more of a “touring” band. She explains, “For the first couple years that we were a band, we were playing shows in Atlanta almost once a week. After a while, the most shows we played were while we were on tour. While it’s sort of a bummer sometimes to see some great shows happening out in Atlanta that we can’t play because of the distance, I think we’ve navigated being spread out pretty well.”
Dreams Are Maps is currently available from Asian Man Records. Check them out on tour in the U.S. this summer, or this fall at The Fest 12 in Gainesville, Florida.
HOMETOWN: Atlanta, GA
ARTISTIC APPROACH: Punk influenced folk recorded au naturel.
The Milk Carton Kids – comprised of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan – are ready to take 2013 by storm. The Ash & Clay, the duo’s third album, was released last month on ANTI- Records. It is riddled with high-lonesome whistles, as the boys flawlessly deliver handsome, hybrid folk songs. Tracks either flare up or lurch forward, and do so beautifully. Even though they have an ambitious tour of the States in their sights, currently the Kids are in Europe promoting the release. But for some reason, they aren’t really concerned with the grueling demands of touring; their shows last year with Old Crow Medicine Show taught them all they needed to know. Continue reading →