Thursday 29 March 2012

Rachel Harrington and The Knock Outs!

After months of preparation and promotion, the big night at The Cleveland Bay was finally upon us.

Rachel Harrington and The Knock Outs

A full review of last night's amazing performance will follow soon. Suffice (for now) to say it was an extraordinary evening and one we will never forget.

An evening to remember!

Saturday 24 March 2012

Rachel Lyn Harrington Discography: Part 3

The third and final part of our basic discography brings the story fully up to date with Rachel's brand new release.

Rachel Harrington & The Knock Outs


There's a change of direction for Rachel on her new CD. Although Americana is still very much in evidence, there's a big step into the worlds of honky-tonk, rockabilly and rock 'n' roll.

Such diversity naturally requires a bigger sound than an acoustic guitar or two, so it's welcome to the all-girl Knock Outs, namely: Rebecca Young (bass, handclaps, rainstick), Alisa Milner (fiddle, backing vocals), Aimee Tubbs (drums, tambourine, backing vocals, cowbell) and Moe Provencher (guitar, backing vocals, handclaps).

A full review of the CD will follow in due course.

Track List

Makin' Our House A Honkytonk
He's My Man
Love Him Or Leave Him To Me
Wedding Ring Vacation
Get You Some
I'll Show You Mine
Nothin' To Do But You
Hippie In MY House
Moonshine Boy
I'd Like To Take This Chance

The Knock Outs!

Have you got your tickets for the Cleveland Bay gig? Head for our event page for more information. It's a rare North Eastern opportunity to see a great band in a very intimate setting. Come along, enjoy the show and pick up a signed CD or two.

Images © Rachel Lyn Harrington

Friday 23 March 2012

Rachel Lyn Harrington Discography: Part 2

Following on from part 1, here's the second part of our basic Rachel Lyn Harrington discography.

In The Woods: Live in The Netherlands

Recorded during the three-month 2008 European Tour, this is a live CD featuring Rachel and Zak Borden. Some of the tracks should be familiar from part 1 of the discography.

Track List

Shoeless Joe
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Girl I Left In Sunny Tennessee
Up The River
I Don't Want To Get Adjusted To This World
Louis Collins
Walkin' After Midnight
Under The Big Top
Ode To Billie Joe
Some Old Day

Stand out tracks: Shoeless Joe, Up the River.

Celilo Falls

Track List

House of Cards
Here in My Bed
Little Pink
Goodbye Amsterdam
You'll Do
He Started Building My Mansion in Heaven Today
You Don't Know
Pretty Saro
Bury Me Close
Where Are You
Let Me Sleep In Your Arms Tonight
The Last Jubilee

Stand out tracks:  House of Cards, Little Pink

Rachel's fourth CD in as many years!  I refer the interested reader to my earlier piece regarding Celilo Falls.

My interview with Rachel also adds more detail about the making of the CD and the inspiration for some of the songs.

Don't forget - Rachel Lyn Harrington and the Knock Outs, with support from Sara Dennis, will be appearing at The Cleveland Bay (Eaglescliffe) on Wednesday 28 March! Head to our event page for further details.

(Images © Rachel Lyn Harrington)

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Rachel Lyn Harrington Discography: Part 1

There's less than a week to go before Rachel Lyn Harrington & The Knock Outs are due to appear at The Cleveland Bay (with support from Sara Dennis).

As further preparation for what will definitely be one of the highlights of the year, I present the first part (of three) of a basic discography of Rachel's work.

Unless you can track down a copy of the very rare 2004 EP Halloween Leaves (track list: My Morphine; Hickory Wind; Halloween Leaves; That's How Strong My Love Is) then the place to start is the full-length debut CD...

The Bootlegger's Daughter

Track List

Sunshine Girl
Shoeless Joe
Blow The Ballad of Bill Miner
Up The River
Halloween Leaves
Walk To You
Louis Collins
Summer's Gone
Farther Along

Halloween Leaves is the only song on the EP which was written by Rachel, so it's good that it is included here.

Stand out tracks: Sunshine Girl, Shoeless Joe, Up The River and Summer's Gone.

City of Refuge

Track list

Karen Kane
A Housewife's Lament
Old Time Religion/Working on a Building
The Clearcut
Angel Boy
Ode to Billie Joe
I Don't Want to Get Adjusted to This World
Under the Big Top

Stand out tracks:  Karen Kane, Carver and I Don't Want To Get Adjusted To This World.

The CDs can be bought from many places, including Rachel's own website. Those fortunate enough to have a ticket for next week's show should be able to purchase the CDs and get them signed in person.

(Images © Rachel Lyn Harrington)

Thursday 15 March 2012

The Wiyos Interview: Part 2

Two days ago we presented part one of our interview with Teddy Weber and Sauerkraut Seth Travins of The Wiyos. Here is the concluding part...

Michael and Teddy at The Cluny

You had a couple of former members of The Wiyos – Parrish Ellis and 'Joebass' – were there any particular reasons they left at all? Any tensions?

You put four guys in a van together for months and years on end, there’s inevitably going to be some tensions here and there. But really it was just about life change. We’re all buddies now! Joe even did some initial recording for Twist, actually in my cabin with Seth. Seth played Joe’s bass…

(Seth) I did, yes…for the last song on the album.

And then the EP that we did last year, Joe recorded most of the EP. He recorded everything but Ain’t a Thing, which Kenny recorded. So Joe’s sort of peripherally involved. He moved down to Virginia now and he’s more interested in playing strictly acoustic music. 

For Parrish, he stayed with us a bit longer and ultimately it was just about life change. In fact it was the first tour Seth was with us over here – 2010 – that Parrish, in the middle of that tour, announced that he wanted to leave, but he would stay with us for five months or so, but he wanted to go back to school. It’s certainly not an easy life, you know? Financially it’s feast or famine and the instability I think just ultimately got to both those guys. It gets to all of us at times. But they’re both doing great and we keep in touch and Parrish is back in Ashville, Carolina – he’s going to school now. 

At first he was talking about selling his guitars and he wanted out of music altogether. He was really just kind of burned out of music – period. I remember I had an email exchange with him about a year ago and he was asking me to put his guitar for sale in our emailings. I responded and said, I’m fine doing that Parish, but you’re crazy, you’re crazy! You’re going to regret it! And then I didn’t hear from him for two weeks and then he got back and said, you know, you’re right – I’m not going to sell it! I don’t know what happened to the other guitar. But Parrish and Joebass  - they’re both all right.

Last time you were on tour in the UK you had Andy Bean with you. That worked really well. Was there any discussion based around making him a permanent Wiyo?

Seth with Andy Bean
No, because we knew all along that the Two Man Gentleman Band is his thing. It was just something we thought would be fun, to have a little collaboration with him. We wanted to do a UK tour and there were some offers on the table. Parrish was out of the picture at that point and we thought well, rather than…because we’ve actually toured as a trio a bunch in the States: Seth, Michael and I, but we just wanted to come back as a quartet and play some of that material and Andy’s a friend of ours so it was just kind of a spontaneous thing. What do you think about this? I’m into it! And so we recorded a couple of songs, did that EP, came over here and that was a whole lot of fun.

The EP

I love the EP, I think it’s a terrific collection of songs.

Oh, thanks – thanks!

They are all so different but they have the Wiyos class running through them. What about your future plans? I understand you might be doing some children’s songs.

Yeah, we actually have some work on a program through Carnegie Hall in New York and we’re working in…well, there’s a actually a couple of different programs we’re involved in but one of them is that they’re using a couple of our songs as part of an educational series with Balkan musicians and –

(Seth) A woman for Haiti – 

 - And I believe there’s a jazz band and so that’s been really cool for us and different. Michael has a lot of skills and experience there. So we’re doing a little bit of that and we’re talking about doing some children’s music. We’ve actually done a bunch of children’s shows, when we used to go Kansas we used to do kids' workshops and things like that. We’ve done them all over. We did one in North Carolina years ago. So we’re doing a little bit of that and we’ve already started talking about what the next full length album will be, most likely with this line up, with Kenny and Brian with us.

Are you tempted to do another concept album or would it be back to free-standing songs?

I think so. You know, at this point, going back to just a collection of random songs seems somewhat anticlimactic from where we are right now. It helped focus everybody so I think we’ve got a lot of conversations about what the next theme might be. Nothing’s stuck to the wall yet, but that’s definitely where we’re headed.

Official end-of-interview photo
Keep up with The Wiyos by visiting their official website.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

The Wiyos Interview: Part 1

Just before I saw The Wiyos in action last month, I found myself in the very privileged position of being able to interview Teddy Weber and Sauerkraut Seth Travins. This is what we talked about...

Your new album - Twist (reviewed here) - marks a new path for you. How did the idea originate?

Well, we've spent a lot of time in Kansas over the years – just randomly. And an old friend of Michael’s from Wichita State– a guy called Nick Johnson – got hold of our Broken Land Bell album and he and his wife wrote and choreographed a whole piece based on the music of that album but following the story line of The Wizard of Oz. He had us come out and we were the pit, if you will, we were the band for the modern dance production and it was live on stage. There were images projected on a screen and we sat on the side of the stage and we played that album, note for note, the entire way through, along with some other embellishments that we did and one other piece we wrote just for that event. We actually did two runs of it; we did four shows and then we came back a month later and did a couple more. And that was really the start. 

We’d been talking about doing a theme album and after that whole experience we just thought this is really cool, we’ve always liked The Wizard of Oz, it was totally random that Nick picked that movie and book for the storyline. So that was really where the idea came from, that was a big part of it. Anyway we thought well, why don’t we actually do this and write an album loosely based on the Wizard of Oz? Well actually it just started as, let’s just create a show. We were trying to come up with ideas to focus our live shows. And once we’d started, Michael and I were sitting in his little apartment and we started writing these songs and we’d started playing with Seth at the time and it just snowballed. 

Then after a while we thought we should really do something with this and that’s when we met Kenny, who’s with us tonight on keys and he co-produced the whole album with us. We went to his studio in Catskill, New York, and we recorded – I believe three songs, and magic happened, right then and there. Until that point we were just thinking, let’s just record some of these songs, let’s get some of this down for documentation and then once we did we thought, all right, we’ve got to move forward with this. 

Kenny just said, well, where’s the rest? We said, well, we’re still writing it! We came back a few months later and a lot of it was prepared but some of it wasn't…we were writing in the studio, Michael and I would be sitting down, tweaking words together and chord progressions and then we would go right into the recording room and then try some takes out with the full band.

Interviewing Teddy in The Wiyos' Cluny dressing room
Was it daunting, knowing that you had to fill a full album with songs around the same concept?

No, no, it just wasn’t. We had numerous conversations where we were reading the book and watching the movie of The Wizard of Oz and thinking, do we want to represent this scene in the movie? Or we’d compare things in the book that stood out for us and that were unique and could have alternate meanings, and life lessons and things like that and so no, it all just happened. If anything, we ended up with - some might say - too long of an album. We wanted to put it on vinyl; after a lengthy communication with a vinyl duplicator in Nashville they said, you’ve got to go to two records and then you don’t have enough music for two records so anyway, now we know. If you want to put it on vinyl, you need to keep it to 18 minutes per side if you want it in high quality. So if you’re going to do a double album – I think the record's 53 minutes long  - well, we fell right in the middle there. We couldn’t fit it all on one but we didn’t have quite enough for a double LP release.

(At this point, Sauerkraut Seth Travins entered the room to join in with the interview.)

How about permissions to use the story of the Wizard of Oz? Was that a problem at all?

Well no, because we’re not following the exact story, we didn’t use any of the music and in only in one song did Michael use a couple of the words from the movie so no, there was no issue there. We – actually, we recorded a twisted version of – can I say the word ‘twisted’ with no irony? – of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and If I Only Had a Brain as instrumentals. Those aren’t on the record but we’re hopefully going to release those as digital extras. Then there’s another song called Inspirational Voices where they get out of the woods after they meet the lion and they’re running through the poppy fields, you know…and we’re thinking of doing a version of that when we’re back in the States. We’ve been playing around with that. And just for a fun side note, probably just releasing those for free, because of the copyright issues.

So if they are free there are no issues?

No, no…

When you are putting a song together and it’s credited to more than one writer, how does it work in practice

It was both. The whole album was both. There were times where Michael had words and I had progressions and we would come to a spot in the song where we knew that we wanted it to shift and change and he would have some words but no music and I would go back and say, what about this? This might work. And then in the case of Seth’s song, he had his pretty fleshed out. We always work together as a band with suggestions. You know, why don’t we try this…? Change the key, change the feel or whatever. So it was a mixed bag. Sometimes I might have a whole song: the music, progression, the words, or sometimes just pieces. Michael probably wrote more words and I probably came up with more little musical ditties, just because those are our strengths. He had a lot of words and I had a lot of little riffs. But overall we all collaborated.

Seth: Yeah, I think in some cases there may have been a song where Ted had a progression but Michael came up with a really nice counter-melody there, so it was a real collaboration between the two of them.

Sauerkraut Seth joins in

(To Seth) What did you feel when they told you they were going to do something about The Wizard of Oz?

(Seth) I was a huge fan of L. Frank Baum growing up. I had all the books that he wrote.

Ideal for you, then?

(Seth) Yeah, I actually have a first edition of the seventh book of the Oz series, so…yeah! I was certainly into his writing.

Without hesitation! We said, ‘This is what we want to do’ and Seth said, ‘OK!’ And later I was borrowing – and still am – his copy of The Wizard of Oz.

How does it feel to tour the album? Is it limiting the rest of your repertoire that you may want to play, knowing that you have fit virtually the whole album in, or is it just fresh and different?

We tailor it every night. Most nights we’re not necessarily playing the whole album. We played most of it in the States just before we left but here we haven’t even had a full night yet, a full two-set night. So when we do that, we’ll play probably every track but one. There’s just one that we haven’t been playing live; it was just a real studio piece for us. We probably could play an alternate version of it live; we just haven’t got around to working on that yet.

To be concluded...

Saturday 10 March 2012

Further Reading

My review of Wojo's Weapons Volume 2 is included in the latest issue of CHESS.

For further information, please click here.

Friday 9 March 2012

Gretchen Peters at The Arc

Gretchen Peters
The Arc, Stockton-on-Tees

It's been nearly two years since I saw Gretchen Peters at The Sage. I enjoyed the show back in 2010 and was keen to catch Gretchen again this time around. The opportunity came a little closer to home than normal; Stockton's Arc, to be precise, which hosted a sizeable and very appreciative audience.

The evening started well, with support from Lynne Hanson, who played a very nice acoustic set.

Lynne Hanson
There wasn't much of a wait before Barry Walsh and Christine Bougie took the stage to open Hello Cruel World, the title track of Gretchen's new CD.

Hello Cruel World
Gretchen then appeared to very warm applause, sang the opening line, 'Haven’t done as well I thought I would/I'm not dead but I'm damaged goods...' and 90 excellent minutes of darkly-tinged Americana came our way.

St. Francis

There was no gap between the first two songs as they plunged straight into St. Francis. Only after that was there time for a little chat, starting with the greeting, 'How are we all doing?' Gretchen then outlined the musical agenda for the evening. 'You may guessed – I have a new record out' she said, going on to say that the reception it had so far received had left her thrilled, so she '...won’t have to do the sequel: Goodbye Cruel World'. 

Gretchen Peters
The plan was to play the new album in its entirety before playing a few of the more established songs. A good decision; the new album represents a very high watermark for Gretchen's music and to hear all of the new songs contrasted very well with the reflective, popular choices of the 2010 tour.

Switching to piano

Set List

Hello Cruel World
St. Francis
Dark Angel
Paradise Found
Woman on the Wheel
Five Minutes
Camille Natural Disaster
Little World 
Koblenz (Barry's instrumental track; played Gretchen-less)
The Secret of Life   ('All right – we’re going to play some that you know...')
To Say Goodbye 
The Secret of Life

Before the encore

Last Train To Clarksville ('This one goes out to Davy')
On A Bus To St. Cloud 

Lost in the song
The end of the show
Come back soon!
Post-show chat

Keep up to date with all things Gretchen Peters by visiting her official website.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

All You Love Is All You Are

You may recall my previous enthusiastic coverage of Bride Jackson and The Arbour, particularly regarding their triumphant album launch at The Sage earlier this year.

Here's an opportunity to experience a performance of one of the songs played that night, the wonderful All You Love Is All You Are. I'd already picked this track as one of the best from the Bitter Lullabies CD when I reviewed it at the start of the year and I'm pleased to confirm that my judgement was sound.

There's a larger format version of the video here.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Gretchen Peters

Gretchen Peters delivered a powerful performance at The Arc last night. Very enjoyable!

Gretchen Peters
A full review will follow soon...