The Wild Reeds can be defined by one word: Harmony. However, the music is nearly indefinable. The sound from this LA based band fronted by Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe and Sharon Silva dips in and out of multiple genres - some ethereal folk, a hint of country twang and some rock and roll rhythm (from Nick Jones and Nick Phakpiseth), but it all comes back to the root of this band's power: the fact that Lee, Howe and Silva harmonize like triplets separated at birth.
Growing up in Jackson, Tennessee, Erin Rae got an early introduction to folk music at home. Her mom and dad were both part-time musicians, playing their own brand of American roots music at churches, county fairs and coffee shops in west Tennessee. Starting as early as five years old, she would join them for a song or two.
Two decades later, she's still spending her time onstage — this time as the main act. Erin and company released her full-length debut, Soon Enough, independently in the US in September 2015, receiving glowing support from long-time tastemakers at NPR music (All Songs Considered and year-end “Songs We Love” list), Rolling Stone, The Fader, and more. The success of her independent release in the US lead Clubhouse Records UK to pick up and release Soon Enough across the pond in June 2016. With continued support from NPR, BBC, countless music bloggers, and support from fellows in the Nashville community like Margo Price, what might have been a blip on the indie radar has proved to be a career shaping record with life left in it, even a year later.
“I’ve always said that, if George Jones sang on a disco song, I think it’d still be country,” Kelsey Waldon muses. “If it’s a part of who you are, it’s a part of who you are.” And country music is very much a part of who she is, a part of who she’s always been. The Kentucky singer/songwriter hails from Monkey’s Eyebrow, in rural Ballard County where her family put down roots several generations ago, metaphorically and otherwise. “Farming and planting tobacco were some of the first jobs I had growing up,” she recounts.
Even so, Waldon’s musical tastes reach well beyond those borders, as evidenced on her new release, I’ve Got a Way. From classic crooners like Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn, to bluegrass greats like Ralph Stanley and Ricky Skaggs, to iconic songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, she wears her influences on her sleeve… and proudly so. “I’ve spent a huge majority of my life studying my favorite records, my favorite songs, and my most-favorite singers,” she says, adding, “and you never stop learning or gaining from it. I’m still doing it all the time.”
Most people don't plead in the form of a dare. That blend of vulnerability and brash confidence is part of what makes Cauthen and his music––which often hinges on the same paradox––so compelling. Whether it was by heavenly intervention or sheer force of will, Cauthen emerged with My Gospel (Lightning Rod Records), his mesmerizing full-length solo debut. Produced by Beau Bedford, the record is both an artistic and personal triumph. My Gospel captures a young artist in full possession of a raw virtuosity that must sometimes feel like a burden: If your singing takes listeners on white-knuckle rides and you write like a hard-luck Transcendentalist poet who abandoned the East Coast for the desert, you’d better do both. Anything else just wouldn’t feel like living. “I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do in life,” Cauthen says. “So I just kept on working. Even when I didn’t hardly have money to eat, my songs allowed me to get into the studios. I wrote my way into this thing.”
Cauthen delivers the songs on My Gospel with the tortured showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis and seductive ease of Elvis. The idea of a life-affirming power found in the connectedness of people courses throughout the record. The album kicks off with “Still Drivin’,” which calls up the swampy finger-picking of Jerry Reed as it proclaims survival. “It’s my don’t-give-up anthem,” Cauthen says. “Keep on truckin’.” As he thunders, “Still drivin’ / when’s this break gonna come?” the word “break” points to both a career breakthrough and the universal need for rest. “I love to leave the plots of songs open-ended,” he says, enjoying the different possibilities for interpretation the track allows.
“It started with golf clubs and country clubs, but now it’s all rock clubs,” Liz says, giggling. She spent the majority of her life developing her golf skills, only to drop her college scholarship to move to Nashville and pursue music. “Writing songs and playing the guitar came as naturally to me as golf did. But music tickled my brain in a way nothing else ever could.”
But, Liz didn’t know a soul in Nashville when she moved. So, she went and got a job at a familiar place: a country club. “Liz may not have known anyone when she moved here,” says the Stampede low-end provider Grant. “But now, I feel like she knows pretty much every person she walks past. She just doesn’t stop smiling, and people don’t stop smiling back.” Coincidentally—or not so coincidentally cuz, well, Nashville—some fellow co-workers at the country club also had a band. They called themselves Future Thieves, and they offered to record Liz’s first EP, Monsters. After that, Liz began writing songs as frequently as she smiles. She formed a band with Ky Baker on drums and Grant Prettyman on the weird long guitar, and they recorded the Live at the Silent Planet EP. And now, there’s enough new songs to record a full-length album.“The record we’re working on now is a combination of Liz’s darkly-lit, reclusive songwriting habits, and Grant and I’s Rolling Rock induced rock and roll” chimes Ky. “It’s about bringing our different styles together to create something that makes us all question what kind of music we even like anyways.”
The Lowest Pair had been planning to release a new record in the Spring of 2016. So in early 2015 Palmer convinced Kendl to spend a winter in Minnesota, with the temptation of working with local greats Dave Simonett and Erik Koskinen on the new material. The duo then set off on what would be a successful season of touring their second, critically acclaimed album, The Sacred Heart Sessions (Spin: “solemn and humble;” The Bluegrass Situation: “deeply felt”), and a new-old-time record, I Reckon I’m Fixin’ On Kickin’ Round To Pick A Little. In the fall, returning to the Midwest to finish up the recordings they had begun a few months prior, Kendl and Palmer found themselves with a whole new batch of songs ready to lay down. After much deliberation, they ambitiously decided the two collections should be released together in 2016.
The new records, Fern Girl and Ice Man, as well as Uncertain As It Is Uneven, could be viewed as two windows into the growing and changing world of The Lowest Pair. Uncertain stays the course of their previous releases, being focused on stripped down, intimate arrangements to support their timeless songwriting and haunting vocals. Fern Girl i s a more moody and adventurous exploration of new sounds, new studio production directions, and what it might sound like for The Lowest Pair to be supported by a full band, while keeping one foot planted in the rootsy aesthetics which drew them together from the beginning.
One of the highest and rarest aspirations in popular music is to reach for the transcendental, to access the spirit. On the third album “The Wave” by Nashville based Los Colognes, they succeed just this- in breaking through the conﬁnes of everyday pop song lyricism to tell a sort of holistic story. It’s not a concept piece, but it’s a brooding and still joyful song cycle ﬁlled with philosophical rumination, effortless hooks, inspiring musicianship, and expansive arrangements. It’s an album perfectly suited of the current zeitgeist of unease and hope.
“The Wave” is an album about archetypes and about the everyday. There are illusions to the Great Flood, to Plato’s Cave, to Poe, to the hero’s quest so iconically deﬁned by Joseph Campbell. There are recurring metaphors about the water, about the vastness of the ocean and the delicate balance between riding the wave and being pulled under. There is struggle, there is dread, there is hope, there is ultimately the knowledge only gained by a journey. It’s an album about attempting to gain acceptance with the ﬂow of adulthood, life in the music business, the changing awareness that only time and maturity can hand to someone.
Jon Wheelock isn’t the type of person to shy away from telling you what he believes; for the doubters, it’s tattooed in big, bold letters across his forearms: NATIVE PRIDE.
A proud son of the Oneida Nation, Jon’s Native American heritage shapes every facet of who he is as an artist and person. Be it his tender pleas for mercy on a soul ballad, or his primal howl that carries a ripping garage rock joint, Jon’s voice is imbued with an unflinching honesty that immediately cuts all the pretense right out of the room.
While music has been a constant throughout Jon’s life, the vehicle that finally pulled the Kaukauna, WI native from the backline—playing bass for Grammy nominee Cory Chisel and others—to the beating heart of the center stage is J-Council, the soul band he formed in 2015. The project was born out of his relationship with Chisel, who recognized something special in Jon and invited him to join his Refuge Foundation for the Arts, as their very first artist in residence.
Jon arrived at The Refuge in October of 2015. Taking full advantage of his year-long residency, Jon went from writing his very first song, to recording and releasing an EP and embarking on a US tour. His residency culminated in October of 2016, with an appearance at the historic Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles for Petty Fest. Performing alongside the likes of Norah Jones and Jakob Dylan, Jon’s powerful performance earned rave reviews from national media outlets, including Billboard and Rolling Stone.
What’s next for J-Council? “We have a full-length albums worth of songs written,” says Wheelock. “We’ll head into the studio soon to get these ideas put to tape, and then hit the road in search of great stages and eager ears. The Refuge Foundation provided us with an incredible opportunity, which we intend to go out and take full advantage of.”
The Dove & the Wolf are led by Paloma Gil and Louise Hayat-Camard, who craft reflective indie rock that seems to fall in the unlikely territory between dream pop and '70s soft rock. The French songwriting team had been playing music together for several years as teens and young adults in Paris before forming the Dove & the Wolf in early 2012. They released a four-track self-titled EP that September. By 2014, the women were touring with acts including Rachael Yamagata and Butch Walker, and they started working on their first album while in the U.S.
The duo returned to Paris when their one-year visas expired in mid-2015, expecting the renewals to take just a few weeks. They ended up taking a few months, during which time the November 2015 Paris terrorism attacks took place. The tragedy factored heavily into the resulting five-track EP, I Don't Know What to Feel, which featured two additions to the lineup in bass player Andy Black and drummer Craig Hendrix. Recorded and produced back in Gil and Hayat-Camard's adopted base of Philadelphia by Dave Hartley (the War on Drugs, Nightlands) and Nick Krill (the Spinto Band, Teen Men), the EP was self-released in June 2016. Fat Possum took notice and signed the band. An expanded seven-track, I Don't Know What to Feel, followed in March 2017, marking the Dove & the Wolf's label debut.
Devon Gilfillian fires twin barrels of gospel-blues and southern soul on his debut EP. Fueled by groove, guitar, and the powerful punch of Gilfillian's voice, the songs shine a light on a young songwriter who grew up outside of Philadelphia, absorbing everything from the R&B swagger of Al Green and Ray Charles to the rock & roll heroics of Jimi Hendrix. Now based in Nashville, Gilfillian puts a personalized stamp on those childhood influences, rolling them into five original songs that showcase not only his songwriting and singing, but also his talent as an instrumentalist.
Raised by a musical family, Gilfillian grew up singing. He took up the electric guitar at 14 years old, kickstarting a fascination with classic rock and other sounds from an older generation. By the time college rolled around, Gilfillian was playing three-hour shows in a local cover band, performing songs by the Meters one minute and the Beatles the next. The gigs allowed him to explore the full range of his influences, but Gilfillian wanted to play his own music, too. With that in mind, he moved to Nashville, eager to chase down his own muse.
Released in May 2016, the self-titled Devon Gilfillian finds him stepping into the spotlight as a solo artist. He recorded the songs with a small group of friends and collaborators, tapping drummer Jonathan Smalt and slide guitarist Jesse Thompson as co-producers. Equal parts swampy, funky, and enthralling, the record finds Gilfillian planting one foot in the classic sound of his influences, with the other foot pointing somewhere new and uncharted. After all, he's no revivalist. No nostalgia act. No retro wannabe. Instead, Gilfillian is a classic artist for the modern age, discovering new life in soulful sounds that have been making people dance for decades.
“It’s a snapshot of transition, of worldview formation, of deciding which questions to try to answer, and which ones to leave alone.” That’s Grant Gustafson (guitar/vocals), theorizing about the genesis of Blank Range’s new EP, Vista Bent.
Blank Range was born in Nashville in 2012, by accident. Jonathon Childers (guitar/vocals) and Matt Novotny (drums/vocals) were touring the Southeast with their college band, and through an acquaintance, stayed at Grant’s on their way through Nashville. The last stop on the tour after Nashville was a Memphis house show that was canceled, leaving Childers and Novotny in Nashville for a few more days than originally planned. The seeds of the band-to-be were planted during those days and within six months, Childers and Novotny moved to Nashville. Blank Range was formed shortly thereafter as two separate creative conversations fused into a conversation between two front men and two songwriters.
JE Sunde’s sophomore LP is an exercise in careful subtraction. The first LP “Shapes that Kiss the Lips of God”, (which itself followed complex LPs with his former band The Daredevil Christopher Wright), was an exercise in layers of sound…built up and presented like a spinning fan seen through a kaleidoscope. This number two LP “Now I Feel Adored” strips away the slowed blades and peers through a clearer, but darker lens.
Coco Reilly was satisfied with the fate of former musician. In her teens, she fronted a label-supported band, but the unsavory parts of the music industry left her disenchanted with the business. So she left it behind for college and office jobs. Twelve years later, she’s back behind a microphone.
Reilly is currently working on her debut full-length, due out in early 2018. The album was borne out of a number of crossroads: romantic, professional, and musical. It grew out of making choices based on what you want to do and not what you think you should do. All at once dreamy and self-reflective, earthy and effervescent, Reilly’s cooing vocals provide a narrative to her shifting desires, sonic sticky notes to herself helping her to discover who she really is.
“It’s more an album about self-realizations, cracking things open and peeling parts of yourself back that are really uncomfortable to look at,” Reilly says.
Anna Vogelzang has been making songs since 2000, playing them in public since 2003, and driving them around the country since 2007. Her melody-driven, multi-instrumental folk-pop ballads have been met with warm reviews (9/10, PopMatters) & landed her at festivals, conferences, and on bills with some of her heroes, including Sara Bareilles, Gillian Welch, Mirah, Anais Mitchell, Laura Gibson, Wye Oak, Steve Poltz, Amanda Palmer, & many more. Anna is currently touring in support of the Driftless EP, a home-spun, steadfast collection of gritty new-folk songs, many of which were written in 2014 as part of the song-a-week project RealWomenRealSongs. In 2015, she will return to the studio to work with producer Todd Sickafoose on her fifth LP. Vogelzang plays the banjo, ukuleles, guitar, and kalimba on stage, but has always been a singer who loves words and feelings first and foremost.
Say what you will about Nashville and the state of the music industry these days, but the fact is that there are some real fine bands coming out of Music City. One of those bands is the young trio Harpooner, who bring to mind The Strokes meets 1970’s power pop with a hint of psychedelia on their debut full-length album Rose Park, coming out this Friday, June 24th and of which you can listen to a sneak preview of here on Glide Magazine. Interestingly enough, the album is actually about the band’s decision to move to Nashville from Indiana, and the major life changes that lead up to that.
Harpooner frontman Scott Schmadeke points out that it’s “based on the experiences that were very new to me, like a collapsed lung, or being hit by a car at SXSW, to a series of unsuccessful relationships, Rose Park describes my last few days and loves as a Hoosier. I had been contemplating moving to Nashville ever since finishing college since I was touring with Tennessee acts The Kernal and Andrew Combs. Taking the red eye Megabus down from Indianapolis to Nashville every other week with my piano was probably the most excruciating situation I could have put myself through. Needless to say, Josh, Max, and I decided we’d like to give a new city a try and Nashville was close and full of music.” - Glide Magazine
Based in the halfway point between two Tennessee music meccas, The Kernal is apart yet plugged into the fertile East Nashville music scene. A Southern gentleman with an old soul who is tied deeply to the legacy and showmanship of the wandering musician and the historic Grand Ole Opry, the Kernal will release his upcoming album, LIGHT COUNTRY, on March 3, 2017 on Alabama label Single Lock Records (John Paul White). Along with his band, the New Strangers, the Kernal tours the country with his home-grown brand of Southern mystique, including recent tours with friend and fan John Paul White.
You may have seen or heard The Kernal in his other incarnation as a bass player with such artists as Andrew Combs and Jonny Fritz. But LIGHT COUNTRY introduces us to a funny, whip-smart songwriter and musical stylist on these original tracks. The album opens with the sweeping gospel number, “Where We’re Standing,” which builds to a swirling electric guitar outro. He describes “Knock Kneed Ballerina” as a “shoulder-dance country song and a sort of personal, band-mission statement;” it’s also a knowing nod to the classic sound of ‘70s Nashville Countrypolitan hits and a poignant ode to musical also-rans everywhere. “At the Old Taco Bell” was inspired by a photo of a boarded up, derelict Taco Bell. “It’s about me moving into an abandoned, and therefore affordable, Taco Bell at some point in the future,” he deadpans. Elsewhere he tackles modern domesticity (the Harry Nilsson-esque “Cold Shoulder”), and ends on an apology of sorts for his choice of lifestyle, “I earned my degree but I would rather rake some leaves … Barely eatin’ and meetin’ my rent.”
LIGHT COUNTRY is a family affair, but the family at this point is the family of memory; it was 2010 when the Kernal went into the attic of his childhood home in Pinewood, TN and found his
late father’s red Opry suit (it’s the suit he’s wearing on the album cover). An English major who’s as likely to reference Bela Bartok and Terry Allen as a country music legend, the Kernal was inspired to write his own songs after donning his late father’s red Opry suit. He discovered that it fit and began to feel its mojo. “It was a magic suit,” he confides. “It’s all about old fabrics on new skin, and seeing how they get along.”
“My dad,” the Kernal explains, “met Sleepy LaBeef at Linebaugh’s Restaurant in Nashville. Lonzo & Oscar were looking for a drummer and he asked my dad if he could play a shuffle beat on the table. He did and he left for a 10-day run the next day. It worked out because soon he was playing with Sleepy.” From there, his father found his way to The Kendalls, and eventually to the legendary Del Reeves, with whom he would play until Reeves’ death in 2007. His father died in September of the same year. These memories — this legacy of the old country music way, of rock and roll on the fly — was not lost on the Kernal, and he took it as starting point from which to build his own contribution to Southern music while celebrating its past.
LIGHT COUNTRY also features a snippet of the Kernal’s long-passed relatives singing gospel. He found old reel-to-reel tapes of his family’s gospel singing and was able to transfer the recordings and include snippets of their singing on the album. “They all came from the Rome, Georgia area and go back generations, back to the shape-note singing gospel books of the early Southern churches.”
This sense of place and history makes this an homage to family and the South, filtered through the Kernal’s literate, offbeat humor and sense of what makes a “good” country song. The Kernal inherited more than just a snappy red suit from his late Dad, he inherited his love of music and generations of musical history, as well as a dose of realism about “living the dream.”
This all gives LIGHT COUNTRY a color and depth you don’t often hear with a “young” artist. These songs have their own powerful energy, the chemistry of tension with the old guard and the young gun but with, according to the Kernal, “the respect and love that comes from the South itself.”