A Good Read A Good Listen and a Good Drink: AF the Naysayer

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It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss. In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire. AF the Naysayer (Amahl Abdul-Khaliq), founder of Dolo Jazz Suite, and co-founder of Self-Educated Vinyl, makes some groovy beats, and this is his debut music video: He’s currently out on tour with Prism House and Slomile Swift, and they are working their way around the country. New York, your show is on Sept. 11 at … Continue reading

A Conversation with Pete David of the Payroll Union

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  In the three years that Now This Sound Is Brave has been going, I have come to think of some of the bands we cover as “my bands” – bands who have struck a singular chord with me and whom I have continued cover, excited to share news of their movements. If I had to rank “my bands” based on which ones hold the biggest place in my heart and spend the most time on my personal listening turntable, the Payroll Union would likely top that list. We’ve been covering the band since spring of 2011, and this year has been the most exciting in our shared history with the band yet.     This year has seen them touring the UK, beginning an exciting collaboration with historian Andrew Heath, and, best of all, releasing their first full-length album, The Mule & The Elephant . TM&TE is a more somber outing than previous Payroll Union releases – though more in sound than lyrical content as they continue to focus on the hard and bloody stories of early American history – but it is the most rewarding one so far. As Dr. Heath expounds upon in the album’s liner notes, … Continue reading

Wasara: Hehku

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Wasara is a death metal/folk hybrid from Finland, and they just recently released a new record called Hehku (“The Glow”). It is a dark, brooding gem of a record, and as soon as I heard it I wanted to know more about both the songs and the people singing them. Here, lead singer/lyricst Antti Åström (lower right corner, above) and I chat about the record and the band: Where in Finland are you all from? All of us are from southern part of Finland. I’m from this small town called Lohja, about 50km from Helsinki. At this time of year there’s nothing “southern” in here… 50cm of snow and -20 Celsius – just cold and dark. How did you get together as a band? We started this in ’96 with our bass player Ipi and ex-drummer Mikko, we have known each other since childhood. First our music was improvised punk, played as loud as possible in our basement, but it soon developed to more metal-like Finnish rock/punk with influences from every possible genre. There was a time we had a few songs with synths and techno-beat and on the other hand we had songs that were pure black-metal. We were … Continue reading

Meet Me Where The Crow Don’t Fly, Water Tower

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The last time I wrote about Water Tower Bucket Boys was in September. Since that time they have changed their name to just Water Tower and become a trio. They’ve also put out a new record, called Meet Me Where the Crow Don’t Fly, and if, like me, you are into high-quality punk-infused bluegrass, you will want to get ahold of those tunes right away. Meanwhile, after listening to (and LOVING) their earlier record, Sole Kitchen, I had some questions. Below, Kenny Feinstein (guitar, mandolin, harmonica and vocals) has some answers. Is it difficult, being a (mostly) bluegrass band, and hailing from an area of the country (i.e. the Pacific NW in general) that’s best known as the epicenter of grunge? It is not difficult really. We are just as connected to grunge as we are to country music generally speaking. In fact, our most intense/hardcore fans seem to come from Seattle. I understand Gil Landry of Old Crow Medicine Show has given you a copy of a very special map. It sounds like the Marauder’s Map, but for buskers. I bet he doesn’t give that out to everyone. What are some of the stories of the map? And also … Continue reading

The Far West, Bitter Drunk and Cold

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NTSIBbers, if you haven’t already had the pleasure, please meet The Far West: Lee Briante (lead vocals / guitar), Robert Black (bass), Erik Kristiansen (pedal steel), Alan F. Rogers (drums) and Brian Bachman (guitar). Collectively veterans of music scenes in places like Texas (all of it), New York (upstate and the lower East Side), Massachusetts (Boston and western Mass), Louisiana, the Gulf Coast (all of it), Alabama, and Sweden, they came together as a band in Los Angeles, CA early in 2010. Their first record, Bitter Drunk and Cold, was recorded in less than a week at the American Legion Post 416 in Encinitas, California with the help of engineer/ producer Colin McLean, and released in 2011. I was hooked from the first song – which happens to be the title track – and spent a week or two carrying it around with me in order to appreciate it properly. It’s good walking and thinking music; by which I mean, I would put it on as I was headed home after work and the next thing I knew 20 blocks had slipped by without my noticing. These are some of the questions I had once I’d finished marinating in the … Continue reading

A Conversation With: Blackwater Jukebox

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Blackwater Jukebox, aka Geordie McElroy, originally from Queens, NY but now based in Los Angeles, is the fourth member of a (so far) very exclusive club: bands whose music April and I both like. (Other members: The Felice Brothers, AA Bondy, and We See Lights.) I won the virtual game of Rock-Paper-Scissors this time, and thus got to sit down with Mr. McElroy for a virtual chat about his tunes and his very diverse resume: he has been a bus driver, a taxidermist’s apprentice, a deejay in Vermont and a field music archivist for the Library of Congress and private collectors. In the spirit of fair warning: I use way too many exclamation points and there is some discussion of dead bobcats. So I’ve read your bio, and my first response is HI I AM AN ARCHIVIST TOO!!! (I am, for real, that is my day job!!) Amazing that you are an archivist! I don’t know what gave you the bug, but for me the turning point was the discovery of Alan Lomax (and all his associated acts/performers – especially Leadbelly). I fell head over heels and knew that’s what I was supposed to be doing with my life – … Continue reading

A Conversation with Rick Steff

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  Our friend Michelle Evans has another report from Nashville for us, this time with the diversely-talented and widely- and highly-regarded Rick Steff.     Photo by Brandy Munsell   Rick Steff, to me, is one of the best things about Lucero, so I jumped at the chance to speak with him at Mercy Lounge in Nashville. We discussed life in Lucero, his incredible career as a journeyman, and, last but certainly not least, his daddy. (Turns out, his father and my grandfather may have played together with the Ringling Bros. Circus.) Long ago dubbed by yours truly as “The Nicest Man Alive,” Rick is as talented as he is nice. I think you’ll agree. What have you been working on recently? Well, I do a lot of records. I’ve been on more than a couple hundred records. Most recently, the records I’ve done outside of Lucero, that I think are of certain note, are the Amy LaVere record, Stranger Me, that’s on Thirty Tigers. John Stubblefield also performed on it, and it’s just a really unique record by a really unique artist that we’ve had out on the road with us before. Her back-up band, at that time, was … Continue reading

An Update with Austin Lucas

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  NTSIB’s good friend Michelle Evans checks in with road report on Austin Lucas. Midwestern Ohio NOTE: Austin is playing Zanesfield TONIGHT. More details below.       I was able to catch up with Bloomington, Indiana musician Austin Lucas this past weekend before his set at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville, where he and his back-up band for the past couple of weeks, Glossary, opened for alt-country Tennessee rockers Lucero. It was a line-up made in heaven, for which people from all over the country drove and flew in. We talked about what it was like for him touring with Glossary, his European fan base, and what’s ahead. You can catch him with his family band in Zanesfield, Ohio this Friday, November 25th at 7 p.m. at the Mad River Theater Works Studio, and/or next Friday, December 2nd at The Bishop with Murder by Death in Bloomington, IN. I don’t recommend missing these shows; he won’t be touring the U.S. again till next year. How’s it been touring with Glossary? Amazing. It’s like being on tour with five stand-up comedians. We just laugh a lot, and I mean a lot. Usually, I laugh a lot on tour, but it’s … Continue reading

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound: If Life Was Easy As a Song

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  JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound release their Bloodshot Records debut, Want More, today and it is a fine, fine soul album that feels and breathes and dances with a deep shimmy, not playing out as a lifeless set-piece as can easily happen when a modern band takes up a sound closely associated with an earlier era. Lyrically, it’s a relatable album that speaks in real terms instead of heart-shaped metaphors. Musically, it’s a straight-up rump-shaker of rich grooves that just seems to grow richer with each listen. And, personally, I was singing along within two or three spins of the album. JC was kind enough to answer a few questions for us…     When and why did you start singing? How did the Uptown Sound come together? Because my mom was always singing, I started singing around the house as a toddler. I did Chorus in elementary and middle school, and formed my first band in high school. JCBUS came together because Ben, our bassist, and I answered an ad put out by Billy, our guitarist, who was looking to make aggressive dance music.   >   A press release describes your music as “post-punk soul”. What … Continue reading

Take That Hovercraft Straight To Paris: Holy Ghost Station, by Dustbowl Revival

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Good morning, NTSIBbers. Today I would like you to meet Dustbowl Revival, a roots/jazz collective from Venice, California. They recently put out a record called Holy Ghost Station, and if you like your bluegrass to have some jazzy swing, this record is for you. Also, if we have any swing dancers in the audience – or people that love swing dancers and want to provide them with snazzy new music – I am reliably informed that Dustbowl’s tunes are, in general, ideally suited to the St. Louis Shag, the Collegiate Shag, Balboa, and the Jitterbug. Furthermore, Lowdown Blues, one of my favorites, is perfect for the Lindy Hop. Zach Lupetin, founder / ringmaster of the Revival / Collective, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the group: What inspired you to delve so deeply into this particular era / genre of American music? I’d say first, I started writing songs when I was in high school and my father (a great blues harp player in Chicago who often plays with Dustbowl when he’s in town) was blasting a lot of big band, blues and early rock n’ roll – British invasion stuff. My mom was heavy into the … Continue reading