“Hello, my name is Robert Cline Jr. Thank you for taking a moment to listen to American Mojo and to hear the story of my pursuit of the American dream and my journey as a troubadour. When I started this project, I could never have imagined where I would be today. With this album, I hope to share my insight and passion so that you too find your Mojo.
When you move to a new area, you wanna know where to get the best coffee, the freshest meats, and a good watering hole. Robert Cline, Jr has found his waters of inspiration – deep in the sounds of American Mojo. After traveling thousands of miles, Cline has found his new hometown. The community here at The Shoal that I have woven myself into has been one of the greatest rewards that keep on giving.
Like everyone else, I had sung along with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic name-dropping song, “Sweet Home Alabama,” but I didn’t know who they were or their legacy. Now I know. So out came the song, “The Boys From Muscle Shoals,” that was co-written with Gary Nichols of The Steel Drivers. Not only does this song capture the sound of The Swampers; I tried to tell how they shaped rock-n-roll history!
Within a few months of meeting the boys from Muscle Shoals, I found myself in the coveted town starting to lay down some blueprints of what would be American Mojo with Nutt and his cohorts of players. Little did I know that moment would be a pivotal shift in my life.
It was like a dream, yet, I felt at home. I found myself surrounded by people who still believe in those dreams. For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience, and it felt like I was getting an education from the masters themselves. More importantly, I would find my voice and have an opportunity to produce an album that was crafted by some of the most influential musicians in American history. – Robert Cline, Jr.”
“I was having nightmares every night, thinking, ‘Wow, they’re going to hate this,” says JD McPherson. When he talks about his new album, Undivided Heart & Soul, there’s no glimmer of self-adulation, or even the confidence one might expect of a veteran artist. Instead, there’s a snapshot of McPherson’s creative process bringing the record to life, a journey filled with fear and change, then boldness, and, eventually, catharsis.
The best rock music has a story to tell. This record chronicles a series of upheavals, frustrations, roadblocks, and kismet—a cross-country move, failed creative relationships, a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity, and learning to love making music again by letting go.
McPherson calls moving his family from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, to East Nashville a decision based “on opportunity” and one he was reluctant to make but notes the profound influence the city has had on his new crop of songs.
“Up to this point, I thought I knew what I was doing with songwriting, that I don’t do this or that,” McPherson says. “Writing with people who co-write for a living…maybe I saw myself as John Henry, and them as the steel-driving machine.”
Along with collaborations with fellow Oklahoman Parker Millsap, Butch Walker, and Aaron Lee Tasjan, McPherson’s selections for Undivided Heart & Soul includes many deeply personal themes: “Let’s Get Out of Here While We’re Young” shares writing credits with longtime bandmate Ray Jacildo and McPherson’s wife Mandy. He also delved into character profiles, both fictional and based on real-life experiences, stories McPherson has held onto but never
thought of as fodder for songwriting, such as the Las Vegas bus station interlude detailed in “Style (Is a Losing Game).”
“That seems like a pretty normal thing for a singer-songwriter to do, to write about personal experience, but I really have never done that,” McPherson says. “It felt great but it also was tough at the same time. The thing is, John Henry is trying to beat the machine because he’s in awe of it. It was a lot of me saying, ‘You’re really good at this, and I have a hard time doing it.’”
With a group of soul-baring tracks taking shape, McPherson, and crew scheduled studio time to help force the issue. It quickly became apparent that these sessions were not going to work,
bringing McPherson’s momentum to a halt.
To clear his head, he flew to Los Angeles at the invitation of friend and longtime supporter Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, who was also recording at the time. McPherson, Homme, and his Queens bandmate Dean Fertita played around with some songs, with Homme pushing McPherson outside of his comfort zone in a no-stakes environment.
“His thing was, ‘I’m going to throw all kinds of crap onto your songs that you’re not going to want to hear, and you’re going to play ridiculous stuff you wouldn’t normally do,’ and Dean was
kind of the calming presence,” McPherson says.
McPherson calls the getaway “the most fun I’ve had since I was 15 years old” and returned to Nashville with a clear head, internal filters successfully stifled, ready to move forward.
That fresh perspective in tow, McPherson learned that the long-shot “backup” studio, the legendary RCA Studio B in Nashville was willing to host his band for the making of the record.
RCA Studio B was fundamental to the creation of the “Nashville Sound,” and the ghosts of some of the greatest songs in history live within its walls: Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” and Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” among them.
Artists who choose to record at Studio B are met with a rigorous list of requirements, including using a recording method appropriate during the studio’s heyday. Since the studio is a working museum by day, the entirety of McPherson’s workspace had to be reset at night:
Load in all equipment in the late afternoon, work until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., and leave no trace nightly. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
“Those rules would probably turn a lot of bands off, but they turned us on, 100 percent,” McPherson says. “I really love walking into a classic studio as much as I love getting my hands on a really old guitar. I like knowing that something was used for a long time and has good things in it.”
But this isn’t an old Nashville record, by any measurement, nor is it the record McPherson set out to make, with credit due to co-producer Dan Molad (also the drummer for Lucius).
“There’s a pretty broad gap in our tastes, what we do and what we’re into,” McPherson says. Where he’s as likely to lean on The Cramps as he is Irma Thomas for inspiration, Molad’s left-field production suggestions included a Casio synthesizer and running a Fender Rhodes through a tape delay. (McPherson nixed the former; the latter became the signature sound of one of the record’s tracks.) “We ended up learning a lot from each other, and he did a lot of
stuff I’d have never thought to do.”
During the song “Let’s Get Out of Here While We’re Young,” JD sputters the line “We’ve worn out all the songs we’ve sung.” This is not a statement McPherson takes lightly.
“This record was difficult for me to make, difficult to write, difficult to record. It took a lot for me to say that I can’t force these songs to be the way people are expecting,” McPherson says.
Undivided Heart & Soul is a statement record, one that asserts McPherson as he is now, battle-weary but stronger than ever.
Making good on lessons learned from years playing drums with the likes of Bob Mould, Verbow, The Damnwells and his early stints as a founding member of Mineral, The Gloria Record, and The Rebecca West, indie rock veteran Matt Hammon is finally set to release his own music into the world.
“All those years I was working as a journeyman musician I was amassing volumes of my own material, much of it directly influenced by whom I was working with at the time”, recalls Hammon, who, at 43 years of age, has settled on his 10 favorite from his catalog of songs and recorded them anew for his debut effort entitled “Silver Suitcase”. “Some of them are ancient to me, as if I was covering them. Others are so new they have never been performed live. It’s a sort of anthology, I guess, in a very legitimate sense of the word.”
Fusing a wide range of influences from late 80’s / early 90’s post-punk, European arena rock, and music from the American heartland, Silver Suitcase is truly a solo album; written, arranged, performed and mixed entirely by Matt Hammon himself, in a converted one-car garage behind his Houston home. Drums and lead vocals were recorded in a few friend’s home studios in Houston.
From the lyrical perspective, the 10-song autobiographical set tells the story of a wanderer and dreamer, whose restless and adventurous nature caused the unraveling of his own sense of identity, home, family and personal well-being. His only constant seemed to be a banged-up silver suitcase purchased for a few bucks in a street bazaar in northern Thailand somewhere along the way. Imagery of his numerous adopted American home-towns provides the backdrop to the intimate, reflective lyrics throughout the album.
“The crazy thing to me is how I tried to make this record three times before I finally just accepted who I was as an artist and what the music of my heart truly sounded like.” The results are in – Silver Suitcase is an album of dense, ferocious, intensely melodic rock and roll songs, with layers of thick electric guitars, angelic guitar and synth counterpoints, busy bass work, and Matt’s signature pounding the drums into submission. “By the third round of recording I was so deep into the process and had become so attached to my own “scratch” tracks that I finally just committed to it all, which negated the need to bring anyone else into the process.” The live presentation is equally impactful in the full rock band setting or as a powerfully engaging solo acoustic act.
It is legend that a blistering Jackie Venson guitar solo knocked Pluto straight out of planetary existence.
Venson’s “…astonishing mix of raw soul, superb musicianship and laid back grace…” (Austin American Statesman, June 2014) has been compared to the likes of Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse and fellow Austin native Gary Clark, Jr. Originally a classical pianist, Jackie picked up the guitar, shortly after graduating from Berklee College of Music, and made the giant leap from the tradition of classical music to the raw and gritty blues.
Enthralled with music since the age of 8, this young singer/songwriter/musician instantly captures your attention with a vibrant musical soul and passionate control of her instruments, that reach far beyond her tender age. As she mindfully blends Blues, Rock, R&B, Soul and more, with her introspective lyrics, the message is clear. When you’re listening to Jackie you hear the “Truth in Music”.
In recognition of her dedication to her craft, Bestfan.com said “Venson is no dilettante, wannabe performer, however a real staple of what a musician can achieve when they put in their 10,000 hours for both musical schooling, and late night pub sessions for practical honing.”
Her live performances revisits what makes music so powerful: emotion and passion. She thrives without the flash, instead favoring a clean sound, genuine soul, and meaningful connection with her audience. Music is not only what Venson does – but also defines who she is and reminds her where she wants to be: performing.
Having finished her second tour of Europe and the recent declaration of “Jackie Venson Day” (May 21st) in the “Live Music Capital of the World” Austin, TX, there’s no doubt she has every reason to lead the way with the trademark smile that accompanies her magnificent musicianship.
“Collectively, their name suits them — Salinas goes from nuanced to a frenzied, blood-in-the-water attack in a heartbeat; Bernick’s instrumental savvy drives the band’s sound, but there’s something wild and instinctual about his playing, too. Renee prowls the stage like a predator, waiting until the perfect moment to pounce with a big voice expressing timeless motifs. The trio’s dynamic live show has made them one of Houston’s premier bands …” – Jesse Sendejas Junior, Houston Press (http://www.houstonpress.com/music/new-only-beast-lp-ups-the-intensityagain-9791024)
Sometimes, authenticity can sneak up on you. The first sounds you hear on The Texas Gentlemen’s debut studio album, TX Jelly, is that of a band slowly coming together.
It’s deceptive, because it creates the impression these Gentlemen might be hesitant about their first record, but any hint of uncertainty vanishes as the core quintet — Beau Bedford, Nik Lee, Daniel Creamer, Matt McDonald and Ryan Ake — tears into the opening track, Habbie Doobie, a low-slung piece of vintage country-funk that slams out of the speakers and announces The Texas Gentlemen as a force to be reckoned with.
This Lone Star-bred collective takes its cues from some of the iconic acts of the past — the quicksilver brilliance of The Wrecking Crew, The Muscle Shoals Swampers (who backed everyone from Aretha to Wilson Pickett), Booker T. and The M.G.’s, and Bob Dylan’s one-time backers The Band are the most obvious examples. Bedford, who shares chief engineering and producing responsibilities at Dallas’ Modern Electric Sound Recorders, assembled The Texas Gentlemen as an all-purpose backing band for an eclectic array of singer-songwriters, including Leon Bridges, Nikki Lane, and more.
In 2016, the Gentlemen were lured out of the studio to the Newport Folk Festival, where they were joined by iconic troubadour Kris Kristofferson, making his first Newport appearance in more than 45 years. Rolling Stone called it one of the festival’s “most exciting sets.”
Kristofferson so enjoyed collaborating with The Texas Gentlemen that he enlisted them to reprise their roles in a series of critically acclaimed Texas concerts. Of Kristofferson and The Texas Gentlemen’s appearance at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, music critic Preston Jones wrote “The [instruments] would slowly coalesce around Kristofferson’s gnarled but still potent voice, creating an electric sensation of the past fusing with the present.”
That deft fusion of before and right now is possible thanks to the musicians’ unswerving dedication to simply playing to the best of their abilities, trusting their instincts, and letting the music guide them. Case in point: TX Jelly was created in less than a week — four days, start to finish — at Muscle Shoals’ singular FAME Studios.
Pared down from the 28 songs the Gentlemen recorded in that 96-hour span, TX Jelly effortlessly connects way back to what’s next, summoning the spirits of American songcraft even as it heralds the arrival of 21st century talent. Cut live, with little use for the blinding polish and careful presentation of so much modern music, TX Jelly oozes with skill backed up by that hard-won authenticity.
TX Jelly moves between contemplative and raucous, encompassing the full breadth of the American experience. The music touches on blues, soul, folk, country, rock and gospel — from first track to last, you can feel The Texas Gentlemen reaching deep inside themselves and finding what’s genuine — what illuminates the truth of the country’s rich, complicated and singular artistic history — and delivering it the only way they know how: real, raw and righteous.
Roots Americana with an Irish twist. An Irish singer and recording artist, Pat Byrne hails from Borris, County Carlow. Byrne won the “The Voice of Ireland,” in 2012. Pat’s voice strikes an emotional chord with his audience; ranging from seductive whisper one moment, to full-bodied rock ‘n’ roll growl the next. If you want to see one of the great success stories from the sundry of talent show winners this is a can’t miss.
Rebecca Loebe’s new album Blink was inspired by mix tapes and the IRS.
Blink was born one summer night on the way home from a gig in South Texas when a song that Loebe had put on about a million high school mix tapes came on the radio. She says, “Suddenly I was transported back in time to the summer I was 17… Before I got home, I’d written Forever Young Forever and the rest of the songs that would make up Blink started spilling out.”
Blink is the fourth full-length studio album from the songwriter who has spent the past decade on the road performing in 44 states of the U.S., as well as Canada, Europe, The U.K. and Japan. Along the way she has honed her voice as one of the Americana music scene’s most exciting new songwriters and earned a place on Alternate Root Magazine’s annual listing of The Top 10 Female Singers in America.
This record was written mostly in the summer of 2016 in my apartment off of Trinity Lane. A few tunes came out on the road as well. After moving out of an ex’s house, I settled into a new neighborhood down the road. Shortly after, I picked up a tour with my good friend John Moreland where we went to the West Coast and back. I was trailing them in my little 2002 Honda Accord that has literally been all over the country with me. A woman in my early 30s, I found myself sick of my same old shit. I was inspired by the landscape of the west. My faith was tested on the curves of the Highway 101 through the Red Woods. I got terrifyingly stoned on weed gummy bears in Denver. I saw real cowboys in Wyoming and drove through a flood in Arkansas. I felt displaced, but connected. Upon returning to the south, my home of Tennessee, I slunk back into my nook off of Trinity. I went over all the things I’d seen. There had been a freedom in being so far away – a lack of responsibility, a distance from some of the issues, if you will, though I’d carried them right with me, back to my birthplace of Los Angeles, peering over the ocean, wondering how you can come so far yet end up in the same place. I contemplated fleeing and just staying in California, but the south is my home and I had to deal with what needed to be dealt with. I started to write. And go to the park. And listen to records. And play my guitar every night. Every time I wanted a man, I picked up my guitar. Every time I wanted a drink, I picked up a guitar. Love will take you to the darkest places but also to the most honest places if you let it. Learning how to love myself is something I’ve always been lousy with, and I spent some time on that. I thought about my sobriety, what that means to me, the struggles I’d had throughout the years, since I was a 27-year-old and hung up my toxic drinking habit. I thought about my mother, who took her own life when I was a baby, not far from my age at 30 years old, and I related to her more than ever. As you can see, there was plenty of time spent on my own. I didn’t talk to that many folks, albeit a few close friends, and leaned into my family. I stayed away from men, and danced alone in the evenings looking out my window observing my humble and lively neighborhood. I found power in being by myself. I found peace in the people I was surrounded with – we didn’t really know one another, but we smiled when passed on the street. One time I almost rear-ended an older woman in her car backing out of my driveway and I said, “Oh man, I’m just not used to any cars coming around this bend.” She replied, “This is our little hideout, baby.” And it really was. The woods were behind me, Dickerson Pike was in the front. So after a while, I had all these songs to play, and wanted to share them. I wanted to get out of town to get some distance from everything, so after an ongoing conversation with Michael Trent, I took my band to Johns Island, SC and we holed up for a few weeks. I poured my heart out, and trusted them with it, and these guys gave it right back. I think we all understood what it’s like to question home, intention, demons, love…. I think most people understand that. I hope you love this record, I made it for you.
The Patient Zeros, originally from the Mid-Michigan area, formed in the summer of 2012 in Denver, CO. Their first full length album, Polycardiac, was released in April of 2013, with a follow up EP, Epicardiac, arriving in August of the same year. New album Sirens Calling (released March 2016) captures the blend of stop-and-go rock n roll with a strong focus on concise songwriting.