Supporting Acts: Paper Bird, The Haunted Windchimes, Truckstop Honeymoon, The Drunken Hearts, Waiting on Trial, The Brothers Comatose, James Reams & the Barnstormers, The Fox Fire
Justin Townes Earle
On a rainy Nashville Thursday last October, Justin Townes Earle leapt onstage at the famed Ryman Auditorium to accept the 2011 Americana Music Award for Song of the Year. The triumphant evening capped a turbulent twelve months for the gifted young musician categorized by significant hardship as well as notable achievement including debut performances at New York's Carnegie Hall and on The Late Show with David Letterman. Just one week later, Earle retreated to the western mountains of North Carolina to record his next album, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now – an intriguing title given the importance of change in Earle's approach to art. "I think it's the job of the artist to be in transition and constantly learning more," he says. "The new record is completely different than my last one, Harlem River Blues. This time I've gone in a Memphis-soul direction." Those who've followed Earle's growth since releasing his debut EP Yuma in 2007 won't be surprised he's shooting off in another direction. For an artist whose list of influences runs the gamut from Randy Newman to Woody Guthrie, Chet Baker to the Replacements, and Phil Ochs to Bruce Springsteen, categories are useless. "Great songs are great songs," Earle says. "If you listen to a lot of soul music, especially the Stax Records stuff, the chord progressions are just like country music. And just like country music, soul music began in the church, so it has its roots in the same place." Perhaps then it's also not surprising Earle chose a converted church in Asheville, NC to record Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. Recorded completely live (no overdubs) over a four-day period with Harlem River Blues co-producer Skylar Wilson, the album sheds the rockabilly bravado of previous records in favor of a confident, raw, and vulnerable sound. Says Earle, "the whole idea was to record everything live, making everything as real as it could be, and putting something out there that will hopefully stand the test of time and space." The result: songs like "Down on the Lower East Side" and "Unfortunately, Anna" are equally timely and timeless. The former finds Earle channeling Closing Time era Tom Waits while the latter echoes the dirges of Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town. That said, gentle heartbreakers like the album's title track and "Am I That Lonely Tonight" are uniquely Earle, solidifying his role as one of his generation's greatest songwriters. Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now comes out March 27th via Bloodshot Records.
The Devil Makes Three
Like the Violent Femmes before them, Santa Cruz's the Devil Makes Three infuse their country-bluegrass swing with a raucous punk spirit. A popular group on the festival circuit, the trio spins its odes to Tennessee whiskey and brawling with acoustic guitar, banjo, and stand-up bass — an economical set-up that makes for some surprisingly danceable music. Lead singer Pete Bernhard's voice is a little rough around the edges, but the group's harmonies go down smooth. Too restless to play the typical bluegrass venues and too musically sophisticated for your average bar band, Devil Makes Three are a rare breed: wild traditionalists.
"It's not retro music, it's American music that never died." –Pokey LaFarge Of the many roots musicians traveling the world and spreading the early American music tradition, Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three are the next in line to make a significant impact on music enthusiasts everywhere. From St. Louis, Missouri, their creative mix of early jazz, string ragtime, country blues and western swing rings true and fine, making them among the most innovative of all the purists performing American roots music today. It's wonderfully infectious, and all laid down in front of a big, big swingin' beat. A lot of performers are content to play old material, reworking the tunes to give them new life or to stamp them with personal style. But this group, led by guitar-plucking troubadour Pokey LaFarge, achieves timelessness with original songs while honoring the legendary artists of yesterday through covered tunes. Accompanied by The South City Three, Pokey uses his booming voice as an instrument with an incredible range; one moment he shouts a line and the next he croons above his parlor guitar. Pokey's extraordinary blend of raw talent and refined, idiosyncratic charm turns reviewers into poets as they attempt to label his one-of-a-kind sound. Born in the heartland of America, Pokey has been hitching through the countryside and whisking off to faraway lands ever since he was a teenager. He is a perpetual traveler, constantly in motion while drawing musical inspiration from the heroes and misfits of yesterday, the long lost troubadours of country, the kings of swamp-drenched ragtime and all the legendary bluesmen of the Cotton Kingdom. Sharing that inspiration has been a mission of sorts for Pokey, making sure that people remember there's more to music than just the sounds that manufactured pop stars are making today. Pokey is out to help listeners and live audiences rediscover an earlier time in America by bringing forth his special mix of music, featuring such acoustic instruments as the parlor guitar, guitjo, double bass, kazoo and harmonica. His sounds are truly original and modern, yet Pokey's influences are apparent, as tinges of Blind Boy Fuller, Bob Wills and Jimmie Rodgers are easily recognizable. Pokey has swiftly gained a large legion of fans ever since he self-released his debut album Marmalade back in 2007. Shortly after the album came out, he landed a main-stage slot at top annual roots music bash Pickathon in Portland, Oregon, where he was widely regarded as one of the standout acts of the event. In 2008, Pokey released his follow-up solo album, Beat, Move & Shake, with St. Louis-based label Big Muddy Records. In 2009, Pokey began working with The South City Three, a trio made up of fellow St. Louis musicians Joey Glynn, Adam Hoskins and Ryan Koenig. With Glynn swinging and walking the upright bass, Hoskins displaying great versatility on his archtop guitar and Koenig getting down on harmonica, washboard and snare drum, Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three found a sweet spot. In 2009, Pokey and his crew hit the road and began to tour at a mind-spinning pace, quickly winning over crowds throughout America and Europe, making waves at such high profile festivals such as the Big Chill Festival (U.K.), the Tonder Festival (Denmark) and, most notably, the 2010 Newport Folk Music Festival (USA), where SPIN magazine called Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three "Best Discovery" and Bob Boilen of NPR called their performance "simply charming." In 2010, Pokey joined the South City Three on his third release, Riverboat Soul, with Takoma Park, Maryland-based label Free Dirt Records. The recording quickly took the American roots music scene by storm, reaching the top 5 in the Freeform American Roots Chart (FAR) and the top 10 in the Americana U.K. chart, while receiving critical acclaim by a host of influential music journalists. Terry Nolan of No Depression magazine may have described Pokey and his album best, as he mused that the songster "could be the birth of the next Bill Monroe creating such a fine mix of ragtime, jugband, blues, folk and country, he has found his own genre. For now, he's solidly in the contemporary Americana genre, only because the music is hard to categorize. And I think Pokey LaFarge prefers it that way. Catch him on record and live before he leaves us all in his dust." Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three have no plans of stopping their mission of spreading the joy of early American music to the masses, exemplary in the accomplishments of their most successful year to date. 2011 has brought a new vinyl single release with Third Man Records (produced by Jack White), as well the critically acclaimed, full length album Middle of Everywhere, released in July. The group has continued to received praise from NPR Music, having the honor of recording for the popular NPR video series Tiny Desk Concert, all while playing nearly 200 live shows across the country, including a second appearance at the renowned Newport Folk Festival and a first time performance at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee. To cap off their successful year, Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three rang in 2012 while appearing alongside such musical forces as Cyndi Lauper, James Morrison and Aloe Blaac on the annual BBC Two New Year's Eve special Hootenanny, hosted by legendary U.K. musician and television personality Jools Holland. With another European tour in the works this Spring, and plans for a North American tour of music festivals this Summer and Fall, 2012 is sure to be another huge year for the group. Look for Pokey and his crew to continue their rise as premier tradition-bearers, musicians, songwriters and entertainers.
Joy Kills Sorrow
With its bold new brand of acoustic music, Joy Kills Sorrow pushes right through the envelope and out the other side. The Boston-based stringband brings a decidedly modern sensibility to an old-world sound, channeling the prodigious talents of its individual members into elegant arrangements and well-crafted songs. While the group pays due homage to its Bluegrass roots—its name is taken from WJKS, a radio station that broadcasted the Monroe brothers' show in the 1930s—the band truly excels in its rich and textured treatment of more contemporary material. Boasting a full arsenal of original songs, Joy Kills Sorrow plumbs the entire spectrum of its spare instrumentation, effortlessly merging influences as diverse as folk, rock, pop, and jazz. The music that emerges is dark and often funny, ruminating on modern life and love with eloquence and wit. The result is a radical new strain of folk music, one that bravely breaks with tradition even as it salutes the past. Since its inception, Joy Kills Sorrow has performed at theaters, listening rooms, and festivals across the continent and has been featured on nationally syndicated radio programs. In 2007, the group won first prize in the Podunk Bluegrass Festival Band Contest; that same year, they were deemed the "'poster children' for the burgeoning Americana format" by Sing Out! magazine. The band has evolved considerably in the years since then, and their sophomore effort promises to deliver. Slated for release February 23 on Signature Sounds, the new album, entitled Darkness Sure Becomes This City, was produced by Eric Merrill and features a wealth of original material from members of Joy Kills Sorrow as well as some fine new songs from other composers. Darkness Sure Becomes This City is an accomplished piece of work, laced throughout with polished arrangements and pop-inflected melodies. With it, Joy Kills Sorrow gracefully combines the old and the new, and the outcome, however surprising, is sublime.
Cost: 85.00 to 105.00
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