Join Club Cafe for an evening of local music featuring The Lovely Cur, Cape Cod and Gary Smith. Tickets only $7.
Join Club Cafe for an evening of local music featuring The Lovely Cur, Cape Cod and Gary Smith. Tickets only $7.
From the onset, Liam McCormick, the mastermind behind The Family Crest, knew that Beneath the Brine was an audacious project. But so is The Family Crest itself.
The brainchild of McCormick, The Family Crest was started as a recording project in 2009 with co-founder John Seeterlin (bass). "We were in another band and had become disillusioned about what that band had become about," explains McCormick. "Everyone wanted to be rock stars at the expense of the music. John and I were actually planning on leaving music at that point because we wanted something that in ten years we could be proud of."
Instead of leaving music, they set out to reinvent how it could be created, starting The Family Crest. "We always liked making music with people -- getting a bunch of people together and singing. So we put ads everywhere," says McCormick. "We posted on Craigslist and emailed old friends from school." The outcome was greater than the original duo imagined, with 80 people credited on the first recording the band produced. From that a band emerged, at the urging of the guest musicians, who wanted to hear the songs performed live. "We've worked with a lot of conservatory students as well as people who just sing in the shower," McCormick adds. "It became a lot about giving these people a chance to express themselves without being locked into a commitment."
Now a seven-piece core band, boasting over 400 "Extended Family" members, The Family Crest will release Beneath the Brine in February 2014 on Tender Loving Empire. Just with its previous recordings, the San Francisco band set out to capture a plethora of instruments -- including bassoon, vibraphone and French horn -- in unique places, such as living rooms, churches and cafes across the West Coast.
Following on the heels of last summer's The Headwinds EP (which earned fans in WXPN and Paste), Beneath the Brine shows that McCormick's ambition was well placed. The expansive breadth of arrangements - from dark, classical romanticism ("Beneath the Brine") to horn-laden sounds akin to the Roaring 20s ("Howl") -- are complemented by the incredible range of McCormick's voice. Beneath the Brine also showcases The Family Crest's ability to infuse pop into complex arrangements, with songs like "Love Don't Go" and "The World." The album is a sweeping soundscape befitting the oceanic theme of the title and what SPIN notes as "ambition wide enough to swallow you whole."
It has also proven The Family Crest's belief that anyone can be musical when given the opportunity. "We live in a very disconnected age," notes Laura Bergmann (flute/keys), "so it's a really special experience to have a recording session in a cafe that's open to the public and to sing next to people you've never met before, doing something together that's tangible and very meaningful."
"When I listen to the record," adds McCormick, "it's like listening to the last two years of my life. All of my best friends that I've met are in one place, together."
Andy Shauf is a storyteller, a singer of heartbreak and regrets, isolation and loneliness, reflecting his prairie surroundings in Regina, Canada. Meticulously written over four years, Shaufs The Bearer of Bad News is a warm and welcoming album, bathed in weathered piano, dampened drums, softly-strummed guitars and clarinet, which lends its unique timbre to frequently brighten or hauntingly underscore the songs darker undercurrents. Fans of Elliott Smith, Nick Drake and Harry Nilsson, take note.
"A friend told me it was Saturn returns and that may be true. I was about to turn thirty and I knew that if I didnt change direction I was going to end up exactly where I was headed."
At the end of Leif Vollebekks twenties, his own songs didnt sound right. He had spent an entire year on the road, playing almost 100 shows, but every night his favourite moment came only right at the end, covering a song by Ray Charles or Townes Van Zandt. Every time he got home from tour he took a hot shower and lay still under a window, listening to Nick Drakes Pink Moon, feeling saved, wondering why his own music didnt give him that. Why the songs he had written himself always felt like so much work.
He booked himself a secret show. One night only at a Montreal dive bar not to play his own songs but other peoples. Leif found a rhythm section and they rehearsed once. Then midnight unspooled. Leif called it the most fun he had ever had playing music: Ray Charles and Tom Waits over a locked groove; Bob Dylan and Kendrick Lamar over a slow pulse. The light was dark blue and purple.
It was time, Leif understood, to make a dark blue and purple record. An album of locked groove and slow pulse, heavy as a fever. And the lesson he learned from singing all those other peoples songs was that none of those other artists seemed worried about anything except laying down their own souls, flat out. I used to think, This will be kinda like a Neil Young song, This will be kinda like a Bob Dylan song, he recalled. I kinda ran out of people to imitate. And then there was just me.
His first new song came to him on his bicycle. He wasnt thinking, wasnt trying, but the rhythm, the chords, the melody it all just fluttered up. He tried at first to let it go: the song was wasnt meticulous enough, it wasnt studied or conceived. The next morning it still came back to him, incontestable. I told myself, Youre never saying no to a song ever again, Leif said. I realized I had been saying no to a lot of songs, over the years. Twin Solitude is what happened when Leif stopped saying no. The songs started coming so fast: fully formed, impossible. Vancouver Time took 15 minutes; Telluride took less. It was as if the songs were waiting for him. Instead of obsessing about the details of recording, I just showed up to the studio and went, Lets see what happens.
What happened was, they got it: Big Sky Country and its patient, coasting tranquility, Into the Ether, which rides to reverie with the Brooklyn string duo Chargaux. Theres East of Eden, an interpolation of Gillian Welch, which doesnt seem like it ever ought to end. For a beautiful album, Twin Solitude is deceptively brave, filled with unexpected refrains. When the cards get stuck together / so hard to pull them apart, Leif sings, I think your face is showing. Then: Aint the first time that its snowing.
Yet in its heart, above all, Twin Solitude is a gesture back to Leifs long nights under a pink moon, when a record was the only thing that could keep him company. Besides a wink to Hugh MacLennans novel Two Solitudes, this is the unlonely loneliness of the albums title. It isnt a record I made for other people its the one I made for myself, Leif said. Its the album I wish I could have put on.
Listen to it in a rental car in cold weather, with the windows all rolled up. Listen to it laying by an open window. Listen to it all the way through, alone. By the time the last notes die away, all thats left should be you, Leif told me. And Ill be somewhere else. And thats Twin Solitude.
If "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"/"Butterfield 8"-era Elizabeth Taylor and David Lynch had a baby, and Wanda Jackson was her babysitter, the result would be Angaleena Presley. Strong as jalapeno juice, capable of standing down a twister and a drunk redneck on a tilt, she maintains a reverence for songs, unvarnished truth, be who you are dignity and a brazen sense of "oh, yeah."
With Wrangled, the ebony haired songwriter from Beauty, Kentucky ups the bar on her critically acclaimed American Middle Class by sharpening her focus, widening her range and finding metaphors and doppelgangers for feminism, the music business and the unseen underclass who's just trying to get by. But as thrilling as that is, Wrangled also opens a portal into a new kind of country: textural, trippy, frozen in time, urgent, tranquil, but then raw punk and rural.
"You have three minutes to change someone's mood or life," begins the woman who co-produced this record with multi-instrumentalist Oran Thornton, pragmatically. "You really only have so many words, and you have to make them count. My heart is open all the time, and I have a sensory disorder: I see things, hear things, feel things most people miss - and it all goes in there.
"When I make my work tapes, I'm trying to capture those moods. I'll come up with percussion parts banging on a skillet, just to give it a vibe, I shook a pill bottle on a track, built a loop that's a cigarette lighter. You start there, and then hire geniuses and tell em there are no rules? It's like unicorns pooping rainbows everywhere - and guzzling beer!"
Certainly plugging in Keith Gattis ("those guitar parts are like the devil coming out of the bowels of Hell; he plays wrong notes on purpose"), Mark Knopfler vet Glenn Whorf on bass, steel player Russ Pahl (deemed "a sonic innovator" by Premiere Guitar), Eric Church drummer Craig Wright, with help from bluegrass stalwart Shawn Camp, featured vocalist Morgane Stapleton, John Prine bassist David Jacques and former Wallflower drummer Fred Eltringham is a good place to start.
For while Presley's lyrics are carefully turned narratives of tiny movies, she knows her words are only as potent as the musicians supporting her songs.
Laughing, she admits, "I'm 40. I've got nothing to lose. I've been in every nook and cranny of this business, and I want to be in this business the way that I am. There's a vision and a sound that I have in my head, and that's what I'm going to get When we started mixing, I said, I want this mixed like a Tom Petty record.' When the mixes came in, there was a guitar way over here (on the left) and there was steel over there (the other side of the sonicscape)."
It makes perfect sense. With a sultry, sulky sensuousness, Presley conjures an unsentimental vision of how one becomes warped by the expectations fed to youngsters in the record business with "Dreams Don't Come True," written and sung with her fellow Pistol Annies Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe; the loping yearn to fit in "Outlaw," or the cocktail elegance satiny stroll of preacher seduction "Only Blood" that turns into a classic Scotts-Irish death ballad. For Presley, it's not just about shining a light on inconvenient truths, it's also about music that's as sophisticated as the nuances in the stories she tells.
Whether it's putting a fake mean girl on notice in the sugary acoustic shuffle "Bless My Heart," with the greatest Dollyism - "I know you ain't that blonde, so don't you play dumb with me" - this side of Parton, confessing "I'd rather eat dirt than bake another prize-winning cherry pie" in "Wrangled" or reminding herself things are often less dire than they seem on the Guy Clark co-written and recitated "Cheer Up Little Darling:" with the admonition "It feels like a tight spot, but it's just a loose end," Presley exudes a grace that matches every situation. Even the blaring wawa inflected snarl of "Country," with a solid free rap by Yelawolf, rings with clarity and truth.
"What I do is open doors and make it okay to start conversations about hard things," offers the woman who loves Etta James, Nina Simone and Loretta Lynn. "My son is in jail, or on pills My daughter's a meth whore Because it happens, and it's a shame, but it's not a shame. It's life."
Raised in a town with one stop light, where coal put food on the table and clothes on the backs of the locals, the girl "groomed to be popular" by her teacher mother watched opportunity fade, work dry up and people recede. She understands how things can go wrong for good people - and she brings it
With the young knocked up girl realizing nobody wants "the mother to be" in the sleek take on "High School," or the feathery drift that captures weightlessness of chasing the dream at the margins of "Groundswell," Wrangled looks at tight places with kindness and brutal clarity. Even the high pressure "marry up" mother in the lurching, serrated guitar stomp "Mama I Tried" is given brutality and hilarity as Presley confesses, "I painted up my face like some rodeo clown/I choked on cheap perfume as I spread myself around/ I strutted my stuff at every juke joint in town."
"I try not to pigeonhole myself: I want this (record) to be music someone at Berklee would listen to, or my father sitting on the front porch, eating squirrel gravy. And no, I didn't set out to be this edgy, renegade person, but I don't know how to do it the other way. And I've spent hours rotting away in writers' appointments getting at nothing - that's not for me."
Taking her cues from firebrands Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton who co-wrote "Only Blood," Jason Isbell and even Brandy Clark, Presley would rather protect the music and write songs that genuinely matter. Maybe in part from her standing Wednesday writing appointment with Guy Clark - "He made me a better person, a person who didn't tolerate bullshit" - or maybe it's just that she's lived life without a safety net and understands.
"I've been divorced, broke and didn't know what to do. I've stared that down, thought, Well, I could just knock that iron over, burn it all down and catch the house on fire.' But songs save my life all the time, both hearing and writing them - and so I wrote, Housewife's Prayer,' and I just kept going."
Keeping going is a key for Presley, who co-wrote the resiliency kiss-off and anthem that swings like the Rat Pack in full rut "Good Girl Down" with Wanda Jackson. Somewhere between early Peggy Lee and sultry Keely Smith, it's equal parts distilling Jackson's experience, honoring her own struggles and admitting that the love of the music is bigger than boys or business or anything else.
"It's interesting to hear her perspective of when she came up, and what stands out is nothing's really changed that much about being fair. But here's a woman who changed everything, who dated Elvis Presley, and she's still going! When we wrote, she was all done up; she apologized for being late, saying I took a little tumble coming off the plane ' And up close, you could see she'd really had a fall. When I suggested maybe we postpone, she said, You can't keep a good girl down ' and I knew we had to write that."
Real life. In songs with players who want to explore the possibilities. For the woman who identifies as a feminist, it's a pretty simple equation. "I'm a feminist who fights with love, a kill em with kindness person - but also a kill em with honesty. The most powerful weapon we have is honesty and vulnerability: showing your weakness and your truth is the greatest weapon we have."
For Wrangled, a dark record buoyed by great levity, Presley has done just that. All of the women are smart and savvy, real about their emotions and willing to lay it out there. After being told by several Music Row business types they "love what you do," but her songs were "unpitchable" for today's country, the feisty Betty Page evoker doubled down.
"This isn't about girl power, but everyone having a fair chance," she decries. "I want a world where some little girl can wake up and still be Loretta Lynn. There are dudes in my hometown and (what's on country radio) those are their anthems. I wouldn't take that away from them for anything. But there are those girls in those town who need anthems, truth, songs they can live in - and where are they going to get them?"
Presley pauses for a moment, leans in, then conspiratorially winks. "You know, women're only getting better and stronger. And all of this? It's only making us grow."
Like her songs, with a smile, Angaleena Presley has laid it all down. Nothing more needs to be said. All we have to do is listen.
Avi Diamond is a singer-songwriter based in Pittsburgh, PA. Although her musical foundation was in jazz voice at Duquesne University, Avi is inspired by a wide variety of musical styles and draws inspiration from artists ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Radiohead and more recently Brandi Carlile and Gillian Welch.
Avi has performed at venues all over Pittsburgh and has been featured on WYEPs Local 91.3 segment. She released the Wolfmother EP on February 3. This project takes inspiration from acoustic folk, samba, rock, and jazz. The change in styles and themes in her music were influenced by an 8 month Music Therapy internship that Avi completed in the Catskill mountains of New York.
Singer/songwriter Matt Aquiline lived and performed in Washington, DC for nearly two decades, but he has always been of Pittsburgh first and recently returned to his hometown to raise his family and perform his music in the town where it was formed.
Aquiline began performing in Pittsburgh in the early '90s and recorded his cd, Dice Roll, at Dave Granatis Maplewood Studio in Ambridge, PA, backed by some of Pittsburgh's best musicians including Whitey Cooper and Sam Klingensmith of Norman Nardini and the Tigers, Joe Marini of Jim Donovan and the Sun King Warriors and at least 1 Granati brother.
He moved to DC to further other career pursuits, where he formed the band, Kid Goat, which performed in the DC area for ten years and recorded the 2009 cd, These People Arent You. Kid Goat disbanded in 2013 and Aquiline returned to Pittsburgh to continue writing and performing his music there.
To help bring his sound home, Aquiline enlisted veterans of the local scene Stefan Rodriguez on Bass, Neil Carr on Lead Guitar and Vocals and Bill Maruca on Keys, and the youthful talents of Evan Cvejkus on Drums and Heather Catley on Vocals and Guitar. Catley and other band members have also begun contributing their own stellar original material to Aquiline's, adding even more dimension to a sound that already married folk, rock, blues, country and a little blue-eyed soul into an Americana sound that is pure Pittsburgh, with skill, authenticity and the kind of depth you develop surviving a few cold Winters.
Marc first established an international reputation as a fiery, high energy harmonica player and performer in Pittsburgh's legendary Iron City Houserockers. Post-Houserockers, he's gone on to play and record with musicians of many different musical styles. Now comes STRONG WAY - his first album of original songs, most of them co-written with another Pittsburgh music legend, Kurt Resch, and it features Marc on lead vocals, as well as harmonica. The album is an eclectic sendup of the many different styles of music Marc's played over the years - rock, pop, reggae, blues and R&B. As always, Marc brings the emotional depth and intensity for which he's known to his songwriting and singing. Marc called on some of the PIttsburgh area's best musicians to playl ont he album and several will be playing the album release show including Kurt Resch, Rick Witkowski and the Steeltown Horns.
Now based in Minnesota but with roots in the Deep South, Chastity has the "ability to distill Southern blues and plaintive North Country prairie influences into expansive, alluring folk songs" (The Current). She is a powerful new voice with the ability to warm, comfort and challenge. She's been hailed by NPR, CMT, American Songwriter, The London Times, and Paste Magazine as a songwriter to watch and has appeared on UK television on Later... with Jools Holland.
Chastity, whose mother grew up in a large Irish family in Boston and whose father was an African-American jazz/blues musician, was born in the north-easterly state of New Hampshire, and moved down to Union City in Tennessee when she was seven years old. Growing up near Memphis, she became transfixed by roots music from an early age. When she first began writing music, she struggled with this influence as she was not exposed to many soul musicians writing "folk" music.
Growing up in a full Gospel church was where Chastity found her voice and passion, but after being kicked out of seminary college for having a same-sex relationship -- she was studying to be a worship leader -- she found her voice as a songwriter.
As a woman of color, she's as influenced by authors as musicians. she says, "I have always memorialized the civil rights movement, the heroines and heroes that arose to sing the songs, write the rousing speeches, sit at the counters, mobilize in the streets. That with their actions and simply just the way they lived they would declare that black lives are sacred, are beautiful, that they matter."
"It's because of these reasons that I write for and from the marginalized experience," Chastity says. "For the truly triumphant spirit that's been through some shit, and has fought her/his way through it to maintain a sense of dignity and peace of mind. I write from the cultural influence and the perspective of being a bi-racial woman; of being just as much one thing as I am the other. I write from the feeling of being within yet apart."
A New Project In The Works :
Brian Stanny - Drums - Vocals
Danielle Dawgiello - Keyboards, Oboe - Vocals
Alphonso Price - Guitar - Vocals
Joe Matucheski - Guitar - Vocals
Barb Winters - Percussion - Vocals
Larry Dawgiello - Bass - Vocals
56-58 South 12th Street, Pittsburgh PA 15203 (In Pittsburgh’s Historic South Side)