When asked what he’s been doing lately, Blake Mills says he’s been “listening, writing, playing, and watching my social life wither away like the ice caps.”
Since quietly making his debut album, Break Mirrors, which critics hailed as one of the best albums of 2010, Mills has been consistently busy. He’s producing the highly anticipated sophomore album for The Alabama Shakes, and has worked as a producer with a wide variety of others as well, including ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Sara Watkins, Conor Oberst, Sky Ferreira, and Fiona Apple, with whom he toured extensively in 2013 and 2014. As a session player and sideman he has worked with Beck, Cass McCombs, Jackson Brown, Lucinda Williams, Moses Sumney and Neil Diamond, among others. Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett frequently call upon his services as a guitarist, and equally enamored is Eric Clapton who recently told Rolling Stone magazine “Blake Mills is the last guitarist I heard that I thought was phenomenal.” Though perhaps his most significant endeavor has been creating the highly anticipated second solo album, HEIGH HO, due September 2014.
“The goals for Heigh Ho were songs, sonics, and capturing performance,” Mills said. “I love my first album and how it sounds, but since making Break Mirrors I feel like I’ve heard a lot of records that strike me as overtly ‘lo-fi’ or reverb-saturated; so I was interested in finding a combination of sounds that I hadn’t heard used together before. So I was very fortunate to be able to call on this group of people to help me map some new terrain.”
To that end, Mills asked several of his musical heroes − including Jim Keltner, Don Was, Jon Brion, Benmont Tench, Rob Moose, Mike Elizondo, and Fiona Apple (who duets on the slow-burning “Seven” and timeless sounding “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me”) − to collaborate on what would become HEIGH HO.
“Different songs feature slightly different bands,” said Mills. “These guys are world class musicians, and also some world class record producers. That combination produced something rare; a wide open way of playing that consitantly delivers the spirit of a song. It reflects the spontaneity, maturity, and tastefulness of my all-time favorite records.”
“Blake arranged the music the way that Cézanne would’ve filled a canvas,” Don Was notes of his experience playing in Blake’s band. “He’s a mind-blowingly great artist with the type of deep vision that is the hallmark of true genius. It’s so inspiring for musicians to play with a cat like that! If he asked us to play in orange, we wanted to give him a shade that burned so brightly as to blind the unsuspecting.”
Recorded at the legendary Ocean Way studios in a room built for Frank Sinatra and used by everyone from Bob Dylan to Ray Charles, Mills created an album that references a range of genres without really belonging to any. “Sometimes it’s just necessary to make music that is without genre,” he says. “Fiona Apple once said that music can be categorized either as honest or dishonest. That honesty is what draws me in. It’s what I always hope is guiding me through my own work.”
Lyrically inspired by “situational awareness, an under casted weakness for clarity, and the impossible dream of being understood,” HEIGH HO opens with “If I’m Unworthy,” a stark, heartfelt track that takes on the weight of love with humbling grace and concludes with “Curable Disease”.
“When I first started writing what was to become this record, I was trying to be a little less personal – more topical, or character-based. But I can’t do that very well. Nothing I wrote felt real to me. That inability has really forced me to try and find a way to write about my own experiences without feeling self absorbed.”
HEIGH HO by BLAKE MILLS will be available on Record Collection/Verve Records September 16, 2014.
Carlos Hernandez and the Record Ranch Gallery (located inside Cactus Music)
will present Day of the Dead Rock Stars: The Great Gig In The Sky show in Houston from October 11 through January 2014. This unique exhibit will memorialize deceased recording artists from rock, country, jazz and blues in honor of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. An artist’s reception, which is open to the public, will take place from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, October 11 at Record Ranch Gallery (2110 Portsmouth). Saint Arnold Brewing Company will provide plenty of Santo, while the evening will also include live music.
The 2014 Day of the Dead Rock Stars show will feature participating artists from across Texas, including Katy Seals, The Amazing Hancock Brothers, Dennis McNett, and Christopher Wallace, among others, in addition to Hernandez.
2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. Although it would become his biggest selling album with seven top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars says “any of those songs could be played with acoustic guitar alone and still be great.” Taking this idea as its premise, Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Born in the U.S.A. (out 9/16, Lighting Rod Records) strips the album’s twelve indelible originals to the core, with contributions from Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, Low, Nicole Atkins, Justin Townes Earle, Blitzen Trapper, Joe Pug, Trampled by Turtles, and more. Rolling Stone.com premiered Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires’ Dave Cobb-produced cover of “Born In The U.S.A,” saying these artists are “reimagining Born in the U.S.A…. with a reduced approach more influenced by that of the acoustic ‘Nebraska.'”
Isbell says of his cover, “”Born In The U.S.A.” is one of my favorites because so many people have seemingly misunderstood the lyrical content and the song’s overall tone. When you listen to the demo, the dark, minor key arrangement makes it clear that this is not strictly a song of celebration. We wanted to stay true to that version.” Amanda Shires adds, “I love that the song paints a picture of struggle in the face of the American dream, and the irony in the chorus is delivered with such force that it nearly transcends irony altogether.”
Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Born in the U.S.A. was co-Executive Produced by Logan Rogers and Evan Schlansky. Dave Cobb – whose credits include Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Jason Isbell’s Southeastern – produced the contributions by Apache Relay (“Cover Me”) and Holly Williams (“No Surrender”). Highlights range from Low’s spectral take on “I’m On Fire,” and Nicole Atkins’ ethereal “Dancing in the Dark,” to Justin Townes Earle’s soulful, rootsy “Glory Days” and the swampy, sax-laden rock of Joe Pug’s “Downbound Train,” among others.
Winner of the Best Electronic Act Music Award 2013 in Houston.The trio formed in early 2012 and have since shared the stage with Active Child,Washed Out,Twin Shadow,Com Truise, and have even been compared to the likes of the Pixies,M83 and Moby. Together they perform dreamy tunes steeped in nostalgia and seduction for a dynamic,modern experience.
“Each song is a crescendo that never ends, an undulating wave that drowns like a movie score’s big moment stuck in a tail-eating loop” – Impose Magazine
“Each song has a clear place on the album, the record flows well and effortlessly.” -FPH
“a dark, electronic, hazy/shiny, seductive-yet-dangerous album of music to get you through those late, late nights” -SCR
“Este disco cumple su cometido, ser ese soundtrack para un recorrido nocturno por la ciudad.” – Indie Rocks Mex.
“synthy swirls and chilled-out tempo ooze 80s downtown, post-punk-club cool. There are moments in the tune where singer Elizabeth Salazar’s voice is a dead-ringer for Madonna.” – Austinist
AUTUMN GROVE out now on Normaltown Records
2012 was an eventful year for White Violet. The Athens, Georgia-based act, led by Nate Nelson, signed a record deal with hometown New West imprint, Normaltown Records; released said record, Hiding Mingling, to substantial critical acclaim; toured with psych-country upstarts, Futurebirds; and played successful shows in Los Angeles, Nashville, SXSW in Austin, TX and CMJ in New York City. All while navigating three line- up changes and dealing with the difficulties of being a rock and roll band in a swimming pool filled with day glo and synthesizers.
Now it’s 2013. Nelson, Vaughan Lamb (bassist), Lemuel Hayes (drummer), and Brad Morgan (guitarist) are back with a new single, “Autumn Grove.” If Hiding, Mingling was the winter-in-Athens album, this is its summer foil. Recorded last December with Andy LeMaster (Now It’s Overhead, Bright Eyes) at Chase Park Transduction, the song is the perfect track for a breezy late-night bike ride to a pool party with more bodies than available space. Nelson is out of the dark corners that shrouded his early songs, seeming more comfortable as the godson of Simon and Buckingham. The b-side here sees the boys developing a rather laid-back arrangement of “Lays Around Lazy.” It’s one they stumbled upon while screwing around in a friend’s basement recording space during a stop on their summer tour. Enjoy it, but pay closer attention to “Autumn Grove.” That number points to many, many great things on the horizon for White Violet.
Houston, Texas – Abbey Hirvela, a prolific 16-year old singer/songwriter from Montogomery, near the Houston area, is pleased to announce the August 26, 2014 digital release date of “The Start.” The album features seven original tracks, most of which feature Abbey as the primary writer, as well as the production and writing talents of Shane Stevens (who has written for Lady Antebellum, Jesse McCartney, Sara Evans and more). My New Release, an artist administrative service company, has signed on to spearhead distribution and pre-sale promotions which includes an instant download of the song “Gypsy Girl.”
Penning her experiences as a young woman who lives for God, music and natural outdoor experiences like skiing and hiking, Abbey began putting words to music at the age of 12.
To date, her credits include solo originals and works devised from instruction by regional Texas favorites Kyle Hutton, Shellee Coley, Walt Wilkins, Jason Eady, Courtney Patton and Drew Womack during extensive songwriting camps. To round out her arsenal of mentors, Abbey counts the likes of Nashville regulars such as Stevens, Susan Gibson, Clay Mills, Bonnie Baker, Melissa Bollea, Liz Rose and Texas-based Chris Chimene, and Jude Dyllan as co-writers and supporters.
Charismatic and expressive as a live performer, Abbey has connected with audiences at several noted Houston venues including Dosey Doe and Main Street Crossing, as well as Bernhardt Winery for the “Real Life Real Music Festival.” Abbey was pleased to receive high praise from the legendary Ray Wylie Hubbard during a recent appearance at the RLRM Festival as well as others in the regional scene who have lauded her efforts:
“Before I went on stage at Kyle Hutton’s Real Life Real Music Festival, I heard one of his songwriting students, Abbey Hirvela, sing; she was in the poet’s saddle and riding that horse like she owned it. She was good! I probably ruined her by showing her how to make an E chord without the 3rd though.” — Ray Wylie Hubbard
“Most people don’t figure out who they are until their later years, if ever. Abbey Hirvela has figured it out early, she is a songwriter and “The Start” makes that loud and clear. In the sea of up-and-coming singer/songwriters, Abbey emerges as an artist and doesn’t just go thru the motions; she gives us a glimpse into who, and what’s, inside.”
Kyle Hutton, Songwriter & Host/Creator of “Real Life Real Music” Radio Program
“In the crowded sea of young singer songwriters, the opportunity to be noticed is beyond difficult but, you can’t help but notice Abbey Hirvela! She captures your attention with great vocals and writing that is fresh, fun and pleasing. Add to that personality that says ‘come on in and sit awhile,’ and that’s what you do… you just can’t help it.”
Steve Said, Dosey Doe
“Abbey is blessed with the gift of high level songwriting. I met her when she was 14 and she was already writing songs better than most adults. Rarely do I meet songwriters with her ability of creating such rich songs with structure, engaging storytelling, and relatable concepts. She also has this positive, fun glow about her that makes everyone want to work with her and root for her to win.” — Jake McKim, Birch Street Music
More acclaim is bound to follow as this young artist debuts with “The Start,” as it is proving to be just the beginning for Abbey Hirvela.
This singer / songwriter / guitarist / drummer / renaissance Texan has plied his musical wares around the world the past few decades. A charismatic live performer, Krc wins over any audience with his captivating original songs and engaging stage presence. He also enjoys capturing the spirit of his favorite cover songs. Krc (rhymes with search) landed in Austin at the moment that a musical revolution was getting started at a styles-don’t-matter joint called the Armadillo. The kid and the town were a perfect match.
His first love was rock and roll, which had first found its way into his native Southeast Texas by way of the Beatles. By the time he hit Austin, he was also passionate about the Tex-Mex mix of the Sir Douglas Quintet (his first concert), the psychedelic sounds of rock innovators like the 13th Floor Elevators, and the soulful folk of singer/songwriters like B. W. Stevenson and Jerry Jeff Walker. Freddie Steady would eventually work as a band member with each of these artists, all while fueling his own musical ideas.
Krc appeared on dozens of national and international television shows and films. He had a role as a session drummer in the movie Outlaw Blues, starring Peter Fonda and Susan Saint James. He also did a voice-over in the UK animated film, When the Wind Blows. Krc has appeared on Austin City Limits three times, the first of which was in its first season as B.W. Stevenson’s drummer, and he would soon begin a long run as the rhythmic foundation with Jerry Jeff Walker, with whom he would write songs, work on a dozen albums and log thousands of miles.
Session drumming includes studio work with everyone from the Sir Douglas Quintet’s Augie Meyers to Carole King, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters to The Faces’ Ronnie Lane. Freddie’s greatest stage memories include performing for Presidents Clinton and Ford, “one-off” drumming gigs with Big Brother and the Holding Company at the ROT Motorcycle Rally in Austin and with legendary San Francisco’s Charlatans at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’ll never forget performing with Jerry Jeff at Willie Nelson’s 1985 Picnic when Neil Young joined in for a set. His dozens of credits as a record producer include Peter Lewis of Moby Grape, Sal Valentino of The Beau Brummels, and Al Staehely of Spirit. His published original songs number around a hundred and have been recorded by artists around the globe. He also had a song featured in the film, Purpose, and another that served as the theme for television music series, All You Can Eat Texas Music Café.
With his power pop trio, The Explosives, Freddie Steady set his drums right up front next to his band mates. In 2005, The Explosives helped bring Texas legend Roky Erickson out of retirement, serving as his band for several years, just as they had years earlier. Roky and the Explosives enjoyed great success with the release of the Freddie-produced Halloween, on Freddie’s own SteadyBoy Records label.
Krc took front and center on the guitar with his country band, Freddie Steady’s Wild Country, and his Western folk rock outfit, The Shakin’ Apostles, but his earliest and purest rock and roll tendencies all come together in his latest and greatest incarnation: The Freddie Steady 5. He also performs solo and duo acoustic (with Cam King).
Whether playing electric or acoustic, large hall or house concert, Freddie’s always rocking, always steady.
A bicycle crash left a young Sweeney with his jaw wired shut for six weeks, and in recovering, his sustenance was on an acoustic guitar. What was he chasing? Perhaps something in a progression that led to the acquisition of a Yamaha MT-50 4-track recorder, seclusion in empty piano rooms on the campus of UC Berkeley, and hosting cassette release parties in his co-op, all while logging enough California-psych gold on tape to get a stretch of Highway 1 named for him. Branching out from celebrated San Francisco bands VOWS & Montra for the release of his 2013 solo debut ‘Ether Ore’, Luke Sweeney swung out on a limb with a stripped-down approach that garnered blossoms of critical praise for its “distinctly handcrafted feel” and “melodies that feel like opiates for the soul” (SF Chronicle).
Yet the surface has only been scratched in revealing Sweeney’s full portrait. Due for release in 2014 is a whole new sound from the troubadour’s ever-spinning reels: ‘Adventure:Us’, a matchbox collection of electric psych-soul gems cut over two sessions in the autumns of 2011 and 2012 in Brooklyn with producer Robin MacMillan (Persephone’s Bees, Shalants). Now with a cast of accomplished players Brett Eastman (x-Girls), Zach Ryan (x-Stone Foxes) and Rohini Moradi, Sweeney’s band whips up the vast spectrum of his songs into a magnetic force, drawing ears who hear something familiar yet mysteriously new, as if plucked from an Earth-like planet just barely detectable on our Doppler. It’s a sound that’s hard to come by, thrilling to chase, and comforting to know.
– Tanner P Grey, Brontosonix
Deep Cuts is a band with a story to tell on their debut EP, and the story is one of their homeland: The Greater Houston-Galveston Coastal Corridor. Excepting a certain zillionaire R&B diva, this is not an area known for its musical offerings. With the zesty Latin sounds of Love Grows, Deep Cuts changes that. Their songs are bursts of pop energy fueled by Latin syncopations and earworm choruses, each with its own small slice of the greater story. Never had a minor panic attack dodging the hordes of daytrippers bustling along 61st and Seawall? Listen to the frenzied hits that open “Causeway” and you’ll know. Never sat in midday beach traffic heading south on I-45, the AC out and Tres Hombres stuck in the CD player? Listen to the woozy guitar that permeates “Serpents” and you’ll know. Never made the drunken trip from the island back into the city, your wallet empty and your love life lacking? Listen to Love Grows and you’ll know.
Featured on the summer 2013 cover of Texas Music magazine, Soul Track Mind has made a name for themselves by blending ’60s and ’70s era soul and R&B with flares of jazz, blues, funk and dance rhythms and a sound deeply rooted in retro convictions that still manages to feel fresh and modern. Over the last few years, whirlwind frontman Donovan Keith and the dapper disciples of Soul Track Mind have become synonymous with raucously entertaining shows. Since releasing their debut album, Ghost of Soul, Soul Track Mind has become a force to reckon with in the modern soul genre.
“They come out of a gritty melting pot that includes seasonings from Booker T and the MGs, Otis Redding, Billy Preston, the later works of Ray Charles, and more contemporary influences like the Black Keys and John Legend.” – Huffington Post