Thursday, January 31, 2013

Elle Macho - ! (EP Review)

Usually the musical progression goes “start in band, end up solo act.” It is rarely super effective in reverse. However, much like fellow Nashvillian/former solo artist Thad Cockrell has done fronting LEAGUES, David Mead and Butterfly Boucher have successfully made the jump from “my music” to “our band.” Along with drummer Lindsay Jamieson (Ben Folds), the eclectic trio performs as Elle Macho and their debut album Import is coming out February 5.

Fans of any of Elle Macho’s individual parts will not be surprised by the melodic inventiveness, layered vocals and impressive musicianship showcased in their songwriting. It’s equal parts swagger and sway, with the feminine/masculine dichotomy continually being played with, blurred, fragmented and blended back together. Each Elle Macho song is the sonic equivalent of an iron fist in a velvet glove and their signature brand of powerful noise pop will demand (and reward you handsomely for) your auditory attention.

 Elle Macho is currently offering an amazing 5-song sampler of tracks in advance of Import. It's simply titled ! and I guarantee it’s more than enough to entice you to pick up the full album when it’s released next week. Along with the 4 tasty originals, they’ve also got a phenomenal cover of “Click Click” from The Beat’s 1980 Two Tone classic I Just Can’t Stop It. Maintaining all the danceable bounce and punk aggression of the original, Butterfly deftly handles both the spitfire vocals and the frantic bass line like a champ. (To be fair, David’s razor guitar and Lindsay’s driving drums aren’t exactly child’s play either.) Elle Macho has captured something really fresh and unique with their combined talents and I really hope to be able to catch this energetic trio live in the very near future.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Grace and Tony - "November" video
Punkgrass duo Grace and Tony have just delivered a gorgeous new video for "November" in anticipation of their brand new album, also titled November, releasing in late March. "November" tells the story of how the two met and fell in love. (The actual day they met was November 21, hence the commemorative "21" on Grace's wrist.) On the song's haunting vibe, Tony stated that "we've done a lot of dark stories with happy melodies. This time we tried a darker mood, but a happier story." These two certainly have an incredible musical chemistry, so it's cool to get a peek behind the curtain into their off-stage connection as well. The classy black and white video was shot around Florence, AL and was directed by Lloyd Aur Norman and Kyle Kelly of Villian Place here in Nashville.

You can find out more about Grace and Tony at their website where you can check out some awesome pictures and watch their music videos. You can also follow them on Twitter HERE and on Facebook HERE.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Interview with Holly Williams

When the child of a famous musician decides to follow in their parental footsteps, auditory amazement is never a guarantee. Genetics can certainly provide a good starting point, but truly inspired creativity is an individualized trait. That’s why it’s always nice when you find a musical apple that didn’t fall far from the family tree. With her third album on the way, talented singer-songwriter Holly Williams continues to prove that she is just such a case.

Coming from a family tradition that includes a rambunctious, outlaw country father (Hank Williams, Jr.), a feisty, genre-blurring brother (Hank III) and a legendary grandfather (Hank Williams) that has reached near mythological status, it would be easy for Holly Williams to try to get by on a just a name. However, she’s far more interested in carving her own path than with riding anyone’s coattails. With a distinct voice that perfectly harnesses the honest emotion of her lyrics and a gentle musicianship that underscores the depth of her songwriting, Holly has continually shown a finesse that surpasses any family name.


Holly’s newest release, The Highway, is set for a February 5 release and she’s put together an exclusive sampler for NoiseTrade that includes a new track from The Highway (“Without You"), three acoustic versions of songs from The Highway (“Gone Away From Me,” “Drinkin’” and “Waiting on June”), an acoustic version of “Alone” from her sophomore release Here with Me and a stunning cover Tom Waits’ “Hold On.” If you’ve not had the pleasure of hearing Holly’s music before now, this sampler is a fantastic introduction to her melodic, introspective catalog and this interview is an interesting peak inside her creative process, her musical heritage and her favorite extracurricular activities when she’s not wooing the masses with her music.

NoiseTrade: Your new album The Highway will be the third release of your career. What differences can listeners expect to hear by way of your album-to-album growth and what similarities can they look forward to as well? 
Holly Williams: I think the subject matter of the songs and the general style that I write in always remains. I love fingerpicking, I love playing piano, I also love a stompbox and an acoustic guitar.  It's all about the songwriting for me. I still love songs that I wrote when I was 17. I was always attracted to the heavier stuff and the real stories that painted a very clear picture for you in your head. Tom Waits songs read like little movies in my head, and I hope listeners always walk away feeling like I've taken them somewhere. That desire has remained the same through and through. My voice has grown so much I barely recognize myself on my first album. I've been touring for years now, and there is a confidence level in your singing and playing that you can only achieve by playing night after night. So I've definitely matured so much as a singer and player, and obviously the older I get the more life experience there is to sink into.

NT: From an artist’s perspective, what is the experience of having an innovative co-producer like Charlie Peacock behind the board?
Holly: It challenges you to your core when you work with another talent who is not only an amazing player but also a songwriter, producer, A&R guy, etc. But it is a great challenge that makes you work harder than you ever knew you could. He is absolutely brilliant, but we're both artists so there were definitely moments of disagreement and confusion, along with moments of complete clarity and magic and great things happening. It was the hardest record I've ever made, and in turn the best record in my opinion, and the one that I am the most deeply proud of. He can pick up any instrument, which is great when we're just sitting around deciding what to put where, and he appreciates the simplicity of a great lyric and not wanting to muffle it up with too many things! I was honored to work with him.

NT: The list of guest appearances on The Highway is quite impressive! What did folks like Jakob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Gwyneth Paltrow and Dierks Bentley bring to the project? 
Holly: Some damn good vocals! I'm a HUGE fan of Jackson's and he is a songwriting hero of mine. Charlie emailed his management. I was really nervous, and they said he loved the songwriting and was happy to sing with me. I've played with Jakob a few times and obviously we have a lot in common. I've always loved his strong, raspy vocal and it was Charlie's idea for him to sing on "Without You" and I think he sounds brilliant! Gwyneth is a friend of mine and always loves singing harmony, so we decided to do that one totally raw. It was 2 guitars, 3 microphones (Gwyneth, myself and my husband) and one afternoon in LA. She has an incredible almost bluegrass sensibility to her singing. Super strong and always on pitch! Dierks has such a strong low tone that I wanted for "Til It Runs Dry" and I just emailed him the song on a whim and he came in to sing it. I'm obsessed with 3 part harmonies and happy to know so many talented people!

NT: Coming from such a strong musical pedigree, what do you feel has been some of the main contributing factors to your ability to create through such an unique, individual voice?
Holly: I am a huge fan of my grandfather, and my dad (he's known for his rowdy stuff but he can sleigh you singing a simple song with his guitar or piano) and my brother's style (Hank III) is super unique and impassioned. My dad busted his ass since he was 8 years old on the stage, and went through hell to get people to focus on his songs and not his dad's. My brother's been developing his fan base for years and years, and I've spent countless of nights in my 1994 Suburban traveling the country and on every train through Europe with a backpack full of cds and a guitar (as written about in my song "Without You"). We all have a fiercely independent spirit in my family. We will keep making music, whether radio plays it, whether we sell a million records, or not. We do it because it's our greatest passion, and all we want at the end of the night is to connect with more and more people. Besides that part, it's just in the blood. I've been writing since I was a little girl. Melodies always came naturally. Instruments came naturally. You can practice and practice to play something, but writing is genetic in my opinion. It just happens when your 8 years old and you're like "How did I just write a song?" It's a wild feeling.

NT: Although you’ve been successful at carving your own musical path, what does it mean to you when you cover some of your grandfather’s songs like “Blue Is My Heart” and “How Can You Refuse Him Now?”
Holly: It's amazing! Of course I love to sing those incredible lyrics and tell those stories. Who wouldn't? People always say "What's it like, Hank Sr. is your grandfather??!! But I didn't know him, nor did my dad. He was 3 when he passed. I am blown away at what he accomplished by 29 and he truly was the hillbilly Shakespeare as they call him. I sing only one of his songs in my set each night, but it's a great honor to be in his bloodline and I only wish he could see what we are all doing now. Whenever I'm on the stage at the Ryman Auditorium  (the original Opry) it just sends chills up my spine to sing anything of his where he used to stand so long ago.

NT: Apart from music, you’re also passionate about clothing and food. Tell us how you got into running your own clothing boutique (H. Audrey, located in Nashville, TN) and your website, The Afternoon Off
Holly: I've always loved the business side of things (hence, releasing my album on my own label for the first time). I had been touring forever and knew Nashville needed more places to shop and find unique emerging designers that I was finding through all of my travels. I was in a near-fatal car wreck with my sister in 2006 and took a lot of time off after that. She had 29 surgeries and has been through hell and back (as described in her book "Sign Of Life") but I opened the store to have something to keep me busy here in case my arm didn't heal back properly and I couldn't play anymore. I was pretty messed up for awhile but I completely recovered and was ready for more music. I get to see the world through music, and my blog is just another creative outlet where I talk about my travel guides, fashion on the road, favorite local/organic sustainable restaurants on tour, and most importantly detailed recipes and pictures of my favorite things to cook in my favorite place, the kitchen. Cooking is therapy for me. I always include a playlist with each recipe so be sure to check it out!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

B-sides the '90s: Nirvana, Weezer and Oasis

It’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed the selfish pleasure of a B-sides the '90s post. If you’ll indulge me, I promise not to waste your time. If you’ve checked out my previous installments of B-sides the '90s, you’re familiar with the format – I highlight a few great tracks that never made it onto a proper full length album and instead were tucked away on the flip-side of a single release. To makes things even more special though, this installment has a bit of theme to it. For these b-sides, I chose ones that were sung by someone other than the bands “normal” lead singer. I’ll explain each one as we go, but prepare yourself for a heaping helping of auditory delight and musical minutia!
“Marigold” by Nirvana (1993) – While it’s no news to anyone that Dave Grohl has one of the most amazing voices in rock history, it’s cool to know that Foo Fighters wasn’t exactly his first time in front of the mic. While still the long-haired banshee drumming in Nirvana, Dave recorded an album’s worth of songs he titled Pocketwatch back in 1992. When Nirvana started the recording sessions for what would become In Utero in February of 1993, Dave used a Cobain-less day in the studio to re-record a song from the Pocketwatchalbum he had called “Color Pictures of a Marigold.” Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic played bass on it, but Dave handled everything else - including the vocals. The new recording never made it on to In Utero, but it did show up as the b-side to In Utero’s first single, “Heart-Shaped Box” in August of 1993. With the title shortened to just “Marigold,” this meandering little melody landed on the flip-side of both the 7” and 12” vinyl versions.     

"Marigold" - Nirvana ("Heart-Shaped Box" single)

File:Weezer the good life single.jpg“I Just Threw Out The Love of My Dreams” by Weezer (1996) – After Weezer’s (extreme bias alert) gorgeously perfect self-titled debut in 1994, frontman Rivers Cuomo wanted to follow it up with a concept album he was going to call Songs from the Black Hole. The self-proclaimed “space-themed rock opera” was written and recorded in demo form; but between the pressures of success, pushy label reps and Rivers new found interests while away at Harvard, the songwriting morphed into what would become 1996’s commercial-flop-turned-cult-favorite Pinkerton. The story of Jonas, Laurel, Maria, Wuan, Dondo and their droid M1 traveling through space was shelved for songs about more relevant 90’s fare – isolation, alienation, troubled relationships and unrequited love. While I personally consider Weezer’s first two albums to be genuine sonic gold, I’ve got to admit I would’ve loved to hear those four guys properly knock Songs from the Black Holeout of the park as only they could back then. But alas, a few full-band, quality recordings were released and “I Just Threw Out The Love of My Dreams” is certainly one of them. Found on the b-side to their “The Good Life” single, this track is really unique in that it features lead vocals from Rachel Haden (That Dog) as she was going to represent the character of Laurel in the concept album. However, Rivers unmistakable voice can still be heard joining in at the end.

"I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams" - Weezer ("The Good Life" single)

File:Somemightsay.jpgTalk Tonight” by Oasis (1995) – The constant feuding that took place between the Gallagher brothers during Oasis’ heyday provided endless stories and rumors, along with birthing some really great songs. “Talk Tonight” was written by lead guitarist (and older brother) Noel after a particularly tough fight with lead singer (and younger brother) Liam in the fall of 1994. Noel left the city and his bandmates with the intention of breaking up, but was eventually consoled and talked into keeping things together by a friend of his. The single for “Some Might Say” was released a few months in advance of their monster sophomore album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, and “Talk Tonight” was the official b-side of the 7”, 12” and cassette releases. While Noel occasionally sang some of the songs he had written for Oasis, the absence of Liam and the emotional intimateness of the performance make this one particularly special. 

"Talk Tonight" - Oasis ("Some Might Say" single)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Third Man Records reissue Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell and The Mississippi Sheiks

In their continuing endeavor to give life to some of the most important progenitors of rock music, Third Man Records just announced today that they are finally releasing the first three records in their Document Records reissue series. The Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order Volume 1 focuses on three of the great early bluesmen of the 1920s and 1930s - Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell and The Mississippi Sheiks. Many other influential artists will be presented in later volumes as well. The first batch of 300 will be on yellow (Patton), red (McTell) and orange (Sheiks) vinyl, with unlimited quantities available on black.

Here's a cool video from Jack White explaining the project:

Here's a track from each release showcasing what Third Man refers to as "the building blocks and DNA of American culture. Blues, R&B, Elvis, teenagerism, punk rock... it all goes back to these vital, breathtaking recordings."



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Vanguard/Sugar Hill Records Sampler (plus a few more recommendations)

Another day, another fantastic sampler made available by a record label that refuses to color within the lines. 

Eclectic mainstays Vanguard/Sugar Hill Records caught up with a bunch of talented artists who were in Nashville for the Americana Music Association’s yearly festival and they captured some intimate live performances from them at Minutia Studios. Dubbed The Americana Sessions, this 9-song sampler boasts some beautifully sparse tracks that mostly feature no more than just one voice and one instrument. My hands down favorite song on here is “Ring Them Bells” from Sarah Jarosz, with “Sunshine” by Shawn Mullins and “Banks of the Leopold Canal” by Deep Dark Woods being standouts as well. 

Here’s a video of Sarah Jarosz doing “Ring Them Bells” from her session:  

If you’re in the mood for some more killer label samplers available here on NoiseTrade, I highly recommend checking these out as well: 
ANTI- Winter EP – Shane McGowan (Pogues) and Johnny Depp singing an old sea shanty, Petra Haden’s multi-layered acapella cover of the main theme from Psycho and Bettye LaVette covering Bob Dylan. 

ATO Fall Sampler – the gritty wail of “My Love Won’t Wait” by Two Gallants, the slick groove of “I Ain’t The Same” by The Alabama Shakes and the bouncy twang of “Levi” from Old Crow Medicine Show make this one really special. 

Saddle Creek Summer 2012 Sampler – Worth it for The Mynabirds’ “Generals” alone, but it can’t be a legitimate Saddle Creek release without a swanky Bright Eyes cut as well. 

The Best of American Songwriter Sessions – Technically not a label sampler, but it still fits the multi-artist, multi-genre requirement. Spectacular live songs from Justin Townes Earle, Courtney Jaye, Damien Jurado and Harper Simon (you may have heard a song or two from his dad, Paul). 

Future Destination Records Sampler – With a song titled “K-Mart Makes Me Physically Ill,” how could you not give it a shot?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sandra McCracken - 'Desire Like Dynamite' 3-song Sampler

When she’s not channeling new standards for the modern hymn movement, collaborating with friends on a children’s album project, crafting inspired essays for the Art House America blog or co-writing a couple EPs worth of tunes as half of a marital musical duo; uber-talented songstress Sandra McCracken somehow finds the time to write a song or two for her own amazing albums. Brimming with vitality and vision, Desire Like Dynamite is her newest release and she’s celebrating her eighth solo studio album in pretty cool fashion. 

First, pre-orders of the physical release of Desire Like Dynamite (set for February 14) get an immediate digital download of the entire album. (You can check that out HERE.) Second, she’s put a fantastic 3-song sampler here on NoiseTrade featuring new songs “Go,” “Gridlock” and “Dynamite.” (You can check that out HERE.) Third, she’s giving YOU the opportunity to express your own connections to Desire Like Dynamite through fan-submitted entries. 

Here’s the scoop directly from Sandra: 
"Would you be interested in writing a short description about one particular song on my new album that has connected with you? We are putting together ‘song-by-song’ descriptions for ‘Desire Like Dynamite,’ and imagined no more effective way to communicate what’s behind these songs than your stories. 

I’m looking for a short paragraph per song, maybe a personal story explaining your connection, or generally why it resonates with you (and feel free to write something for multiple songs separately). Please include your name and city/state in an email to us here: 

We will post our favorite submission for each song on the blog and at on or before February 1.” 

Along with the stunning songwriting and musicianship, Desire Like Dynamite is overflowing with insight, emotion, action, rest, hurt, healing, relationships and the lived life. Simply put, finding a connection point is as easy as opening yourself up to one. Once you have, put pen to paper (or technically fingers to keyboard) and let Sandra (and the rest of us) hear all about it. 

Desire Like Dynamite is currently available as a digital download and it will be released in physical form on February 14. Either option can be purchased HERE