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pittsburgh, pa
Bruno Major

There's nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. Last year, Bruno Major set himself a task: to record and release one song a month for 12 months. Four weeks to take a song from an idea in his head to a finished product and have it out there for people to listen to and enjoy, every month, for a year. People had made albums in less time, he reasoned, how hard could it be?

"When I first said that I was going to do it most people said, ‘Nice one…that's never going to happen.'" Major recalls with a laugh. "A lot of people thought it was overly aspirational: it probably was."

What's impressive is not so much that he managed to pull it off, more that the challenge produced such a remarkable collection of songs. That within the time frame of a month, Major could produce such fully-realised, beautiful and inventive songs and then repeat the trick the following month, twelve times over.

"With a traditional album, there exists the concept of an album track...I haven't had that luxury because once a month I have to release a song and every song has to be a single. There's no room for a piano interlude. Each one had to be something that I could stand behind and say: ‘Hey, this is my next single, it's coming out, I've worked on it all month, I hope you like it.' It forced me to make sure the standard was at a certain level."

Not only did every song hit its mark, but listening to the fruits of Major's labour in the order he created them, you're given an experience that doesn't really have a precedent in music. Tracing a line from the blissful future soul and skittering beats of Wouldn't Mean A Thing through Home's delicate folk to Cold Blood's pulsating electronica, you're treated to a dozen snapshots of an artist at a specific moment in time. You can hear him grow, develop and move through the different emotional states of a year in a way that a traditional album simply wouldn't be able to offer. You can hear how he moved from the minimalism and sub bass warmth of There's Little Left to the jazz-flecked finger picking and layered harmonies of Second Time in just a few weeks and how the latter's dreamlike infatuation slowly faded into the bittersweet kiss-off of Fair-Weather Friend like the changing of the seasons.

"Albums are generally recorded within a smaller time frame and that helps lend them an identity as a whole and gives the tracks a feeling that they're siblings sonically," Major notes. "The big challenge for me has been to make sure there's a link through all of these songs because I've changed as a musician over the year. Listening to 'Wouldn't Mean A Thing' now, I think the sound I have developed with my co producer Phairo has become more developed. If I were to redo the whole thing now, there are elements of every song I would change, but that's part of the charm of them. I like that there's a little journey."

Having initially worked as a session guitarist, Major moved down from Northampton to London and, inspired by the energy of the city, became obsessed with songwriting. Honing his craft writing for other artists while all the time formulating his own musical style; an impossible to pigeonhole blend of sounds that can draw upon anything from James Blake and D'Angelo to Chet Baker and Nick Drake to create its own, uniquely intoxicating aura. It wasn't until a chance psychoactive revelation last year, however, that he struck upon the idea that would give him the perfect means to realise it.

"Whilst I was in Los Angeles I smoked DMT and had this mad epiphany where I saw how the universe works in perfect geometric patterns and synchronised cycles. I wanted to release a song every month, because that's the length of cycle of the moon," he recalls.

By his own admission, Major may have underestimated the task. A song like the Just The Same's touchingly devoted piano pop may have fallen into place one evening in all of 20 minutes, recorded the following day and then sent off to be mastered, but elsewhere there were weeks of fraught panic, scrapped ideas, stumbling blocks, pressure and looming deadlines where having a life outside of the challenge he'd set himself was a distant memory.

"It's definitely been tough, but it's also been wonderful," he reflects. "My life has been Groundhog Day for a year. I'd finish each month with a show and have a couple of nights of partying and then I'd start the next tune, work towards that, release it, over and over. It's been kind of comforting. In a way, I'm not looking forward to that ending."

He's probably earned a few days off to be fair. While he does, the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the music the last year of Bruno Major's life has produced.

There's nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. Last year, Bruno Major set himself a task: to record and release one song a month for 12 months. Four weeks to take a song from an idea in his head to a finished product and have it out there for people to listen to and enjoy, every month, for a year. People had made albums in less time, he reasoned, how hard could it be?

"When I first said that I was going to do it most people said, ‘Nice one…that's never going to happen.'" Major recalls with a laugh. "A lot of people thought it was overly aspirational: it probably was."

What's impressive is not so much that he managed to pull it off, more that the challenge produced such a remarkable collection of songs. That within the time frame of a month, Major could produce such fully-realised, beautiful and inventive songs and then repeat the trick the following month, twelve times over.

"With a traditional album, there exists the concept of an album track...I haven't had that luxury because once a month I have to release a song and every song has to be a single. There's no room for a piano interlude. Each one had to be something that I could stand behind and say: ‘Hey, this is my next single, it's coming out, I've worked on it all month, I hope you like it.' It forced me to make sure the standard was at a certain level."

Not only did every song hit its mark, but listening to the fruits of Major's labour in the order he created them, you're given an experience that doesn't really have a precedent in music. Tracing a line from the blissful future soul and skittering beats of Wouldn't Mean A Thing through Home's delicate folk to Cold Blood's pulsating electronica, you're treated to a dozen snapshots of an artist at a specific moment in time. You can hear him grow, develop and move through the different emotional states of a year in a way that a traditional album simply wouldn't be able to offer. You can hear how he moved from the minimalism and sub bass warmth of There's Little Left to the jazz-flecked finger picking and layered harmonies of Second Time in just a few weeks and how the latter's dreamlike infatuation slowly faded into the bittersweet kiss-off of Fair-Weather Friend like the changing of the seasons.

"Albums are generally recorded within a smaller time frame and that helps lend them an identity as a whole and gives the tracks a feeling that they're siblings sonically," Major notes. "The big challenge for me has been to make sure there's a link through all of these songs because I've changed as a musician over the year. Listening to 'Wouldn't Mean A Thing' now, I think the sound I have developed with my co producer Phairo has become more developed. If I were to redo the whole thing now, there are elements of every song I would change, but that's part of the charm of them. I like that there's a little journey."

Having initially worked as a session guitarist, Major moved down from Northampton to London and, inspired by the energy of the city, became obsessed with songwriting. Honing his craft writing for other artists while all the time formulating his own musical style; an impossible to pigeonhole blend of sounds that can draw upon anything from James Blake and D'Angelo to Chet Baker and Nick Drake to create its own, uniquely intoxicating aura. It wasn't until a chance psychoactive revelation last year, however, that he struck upon the idea that would give him the perfect means to realise it.

"Whilst I was in Los Angeles I smoked DMT and had this mad epiphany where I saw how the universe works in perfect geometric patterns and synchronised cycles. I wanted to release a song every month, because that's the length of cycle of the moon," he recalls.

By his own admission, Major may have underestimated the task. A song like the Just The Same's touchingly devoted piano pop may have fallen into place one evening in all of 20 minutes, recorded the following day and then sent off to be mastered, but elsewhere there were weeks of fraught panic, scrapped ideas, stumbling blocks, pressure and looming deadlines where having a life outside of the challenge he'd set himself was a distant memory.

"It's definitely been tough, but it's also been wonderful," he reflects. "My life has been Groundhog Day for a year. I'd finish each month with a show and have a couple of nights of partying and then I'd start the next tune, work towards that, release it, over and over. It's been kind of comforting. In a way, I'm not looking forward to that ending."

He's probably earned a few days off to be fair. While he does, the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the music the last year of Bruno Major's life has produced.

Bombadil

Two years ago, Bombadil lost a longtime bandmate and breaking up seemed inevitable. But after a period of exploration that forced them to step out of their comfort zone, Bombadil has returned as a band reborn. Their new album ‘Fences,’ released 3/3/17 via Ramseur Records and produced by John Vanderslice (Spoon, The Mountain Goats), is their most remarkable work to date: meticulously crafted, yet accessible and unadorned. Pure, simple, beautiful.

“It’s more than just an album,” says Bombadil drummer and vocalist James Phillips. “It is a new path, a reset after several challenging years.”

‘Fences’ features eleven new, original songs composed by the Durham, NC-based trio – Phillips (drums, vox), Daniel Michalak (bass, vox) and Stacey Harden (guitar, vox). Recorded at Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Recording in San Francisco, CA, the album is influenced by early Paul Simon and steeped in shades of Cat Stevens and The Incredible String Band.

“Sometimes you 'produce' the hell out of a record because the material needs to be lifted and transformed,” says Vanderslice. “These songs and performances were so strong I mostly just put up a Neumann U67 and stood out of the way."

Bombadil has made fans at NPR, Rolling Stone and the New York Times, who called them "astonishing." Time Out New York said their music is “bursting with irresistible melodies, unexpected lyrical gems, and moments of profound honesty, all anchored by expert songwriting skills." They've toured extensively in the past with Dr. Dog, Kishi Bashi and Carolina Chocolate Drops and will hit the road again in 2018 in support of the new album.

Two years ago, Bombadil lost a longtime bandmate and breaking up seemed inevitable. But after a period of exploration that forced them to step out of their comfort zone, Bombadil has returned as a band reborn. Their new album ‘Fences,’ released 3/3/17 via Ramseur Records and produced by John Vanderslice (Spoon, The Mountain Goats), is their most remarkable work to date: meticulously crafted, yet accessible and unadorned. Pure, simple, beautiful.

“It’s more than just an album,” says Bombadil drummer and vocalist James Phillips. “It is a new path, a reset after several challenging years.”

‘Fences’ features eleven new, original songs composed by the Durham, NC-based trio – Phillips (drums, vox), Daniel Michalak (bass, vox) and Stacey Harden (guitar, vox). Recorded at Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Recording in San Francisco, CA, the album is influenced by early Paul Simon and steeped in shades of Cat Stevens and The Incredible String Band.

“Sometimes you 'produce' the hell out of a record because the material needs to be lifted and transformed,” says Vanderslice. “These songs and performances were so strong I mostly just put up a Neumann U67 and stood out of the way."

Bombadil has made fans at NPR, Rolling Stone and the New York Times, who called them "astonishing." Time Out New York said their music is “bursting with irresistible melodies, unexpected lyrical gems, and moments of profound honesty, all anchored by expert songwriting skills." They've toured extensively in the past with Dr. Dog, Kishi Bashi and Carolina Chocolate Drops and will hit the road again in 2018 in support of the new album.

Richard Buckner with Special Guest Adam Fitz

Surrounded
Richard Buckner
US Release Date: September 3, 2013
MP3 / FLAC / CD / LP
MRG499
© (c) & (p) Merge Records 2013
In the time since Our Blood was released and after a few long tours, Richard Buckner attempted to work on writing short stories but found himself drawn back into the music room. The evidence of his time in the writer’s chair is clear in the dense, lovely prose of Surrounded. The album’s liner notes include text-embedded lyrics, a technique Buckner employed on his earlier albums Since and Impasse, but this marks the first time he used the songs’ extended story to construct the album’s overall view and track sequence.

Throwing out the “tricks and trades” of his previous efforts, Buckner hunkered down at home and chose a few unfamiliar pieces of gear—a Suzuki QChord electronic autoharp and an Electro-Harmonix POG2 pedal—to create basic tracks and open up more sonic possibilities. “The best outcomes happen sometimes when I’m unfamiliar with the tool that I’m using (imagine MacGyver wearing a dog cone).”

The now-infamous process of recording and re-recording Our Blood left him a bit gun-shy, so this time, Buckner decided to get each song out of his house as soon as it was finished to avoid the contamination of over-thinking. After hearing an interview with famed producer Tucker Martine, Buckner found a destination for his songs: “Tucker understood the urgency in me to tie the whole thing up before I fell into the same trap that I’d had finishing Our Blood and was generous enough to move other commitments around to fit Surrounded in. When I had finally finished Our Blood, I felt like I’d just survived a stroll through a mine field. With Surrounded, it was more of a sensation that I’d successfully organized a messy desk.”

Surrounded
Richard Buckner
US Release Date: September 3, 2013
MP3 / FLAC / CD / LP
MRG499
© (c) & (p) Merge Records 2013
In the time since Our Blood was released and after a few long tours, Richard Buckner attempted to work on writing short stories but found himself drawn back into the music room. The evidence of his time in the writer’s chair is clear in the dense, lovely prose of Surrounded. The album’s liner notes include text-embedded lyrics, a technique Buckner employed on his earlier albums Since and Impasse, but this marks the first time he used the songs’ extended story to construct the album’s overall view and track sequence.

Throwing out the “tricks and trades” of his previous efforts, Buckner hunkered down at home and chose a few unfamiliar pieces of gear—a Suzuki QChord electronic autoharp and an Electro-Harmonix POG2 pedal—to create basic tracks and open up more sonic possibilities. “The best outcomes happen sometimes when I’m unfamiliar with the tool that I’m using (imagine MacGyver wearing a dog cone).”

The now-infamous process of recording and re-recording Our Blood left him a bit gun-shy, so this time, Buckner decided to get each song out of his house as soon as it was finished to avoid the contamination of over-thinking. After hearing an interview with famed producer Tucker Martine, Buckner found a destination for his songs: “Tucker understood the urgency in me to tie the whole thing up before I fell into the same trap that I’d had finishing Our Blood and was generous enough to move other commitments around to fit Surrounded in. When I had finally finished Our Blood, I felt like I’d just survived a stroll through a mine field. With Surrounded, it was more of a sensation that I’d successfully organized a messy desk.”

(Early Show) Eliot Lewis of Live From Daryl's House

Eliot Lewis, an independent, multi-instrumentalist
has built a unique career most musicians
could only dream of. As a solo artist he consistently performs and releases
his own brand of guitar featured rock and soul.
He is also the only musician to appear on every episode of the hugely popular
"Live From Daryl's House" show.
Eliot also performs with the most successful duo of all time, Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame inductees Daryl Hall & John Oates on tour.
Eliot has worked with some of the biggest artists in the music business including
Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Joe Walsh, Todd Rundgren, Train, Grace Potter, Ben Folds,
Booker T, Jewel, Rob Thomas, Keb Mo, Jason Mraz, Darius Rucker,
Gavin DeGraw, just to name a few. He has also performed on some of the most
prestigious stages all over the world including the legendary Hollywood Bowl and Japan's
Budokan Arena, as well as on The Voice, Conan O'Brien, Today Show, The View,
Jimmy Kimmel and many others.
"Eliot is a musician who can do it all, great singer, songwriter and guitarist.
He rocks and he's got soul. No one does it quite like him"
- Daryl Hall

"His talent and dedication go way beyond the average performer.
In short, Lewis is a guy who respects his fans and craft.
If Lewis comes to town, go see him"
- Thom Jennings (Backstage Axxess)

"Exuberant, skilled and passionate, Eliot Lewis has a special
gift for tapping his musical influences to produce inventive and original songs that soar"
- Chris Epting (Music Journalist/Author)


"He blistered through song after song with amazing tone and creative soloing.
Lewis unleashed a few covers that many other bands have attempted at one time
or another. The big difference? Lewis has actually played all those songs with those artists"
- Mike Raymond (Examiner AXS Entertainment)

Eliot Lewis, an independent, multi-instrumentalist
has built a unique career most musicians
could only dream of. As a solo artist he consistently performs and releases
his own brand of guitar featured rock and soul.
He is also the only musician to appear on every episode of the hugely popular
"Live From Daryl's House" show.
Eliot also performs with the most successful duo of all time, Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame inductees Daryl Hall & John Oates on tour.
Eliot has worked with some of the biggest artists in the music business including
Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Joe Walsh, Todd Rundgren, Train, Grace Potter, Ben Folds,
Booker T, Jewel, Rob Thomas, Keb Mo, Jason Mraz, Darius Rucker,
Gavin DeGraw, just to name a few. He has also performed on some of the most
prestigious stages all over the world including the legendary Hollywood Bowl and Japan's
Budokan Arena, as well as on The Voice, Conan O'Brien, Today Show, The View,
Jimmy Kimmel and many others.
"Eliot is a musician who can do it all, great singer, songwriter and guitarist.
He rocks and he's got soul. No one does it quite like him"
- Daryl Hall

"His talent and dedication go way beyond the average performer.
In short, Lewis is a guy who respects his fans and craft.
If Lewis comes to town, go see him"
- Thom Jennings (Backstage Axxess)

"Exuberant, skilled and passionate, Eliot Lewis has a special
gift for tapping his musical influences to produce inventive and original songs that soar"
- Chris Epting (Music Journalist/Author)


"He blistered through song after song with amazing tone and creative soloing.
Lewis unleashed a few covers that many other bands have attempted at one time
or another. The big difference? Lewis has actually played all those songs with those artists"
- Mike Raymond (Examiner AXS Entertainment)

(Late Show) Opus One Comedy Presents Zach Miller and the Pump Slam Mafia Featuring Karl Prohaska, Terry Jones, Matt Light, and Guests

Bangin in the game since '03, Zach has found himself in 2018, host/booker of over 2500 stand up shows in 7 years, Host/Producer of the cult smash webseries Burn Booth, Host/Producer of the Stand up series Sex, Drugs & Jokes AND still finds time to handle biz with wifey from time to time.


Back home for rare Pittsburgh shows, Zach will host an event of non stop laughs Start to Finish!

Bring extra Undies.

Bangin in the game since '03, Zach has found himself in 2018, host/booker of over 2500 stand up shows in 7 years, Host/Producer of the cult smash webseries Burn Booth, Host/Producer of the Stand up series Sex, Drugs & Jokes AND still finds time to handle biz with wifey from time to time.


Back home for rare Pittsburgh shows, Zach will host an event of non stop laughs Start to Finish!

Bring extra Undies.

(Early Show) Opus One Comedy Presents Zach Miller and the Pump Slam Mafia Featuring Karl Prohaska, Terry Jones, Matt Light, and Guests

Bangin in the game since '03, Zach has found himself in 2018, host/booker of over 2500 stand up shows in 7 years, Host/Producer of the cult smash webseries Burn Booth, Host/Producer of the Stand up series Sex, Drugs & Jokes AND still finds time to handle biz with wifey from time to time.

Bangin in the game since '03, Zach has found himself in 2018, host/booker of over 2500 stand up shows in 7 years, Host/Producer of the cult smash webseries Burn Booth, Host/Producer of the Stand up series Sex, Drugs & Jokes AND still finds time to handle biz with wifey from time to time.

#metoocabaret: Honoring Women's Stories Through Song. Sara Stock Mayo accompanied by Doug Levine

#metoocabaret: Honoring Women’s Stories in Song

Weaving together numerous musical genres, Sara Stock Mayo will bring women’s viewpoints to the forefront, shifting the narrative in telling stories that reflect past and present struggles women face everywhere. The evening promises to be joyful, challenging and enlightening, as the audience follows a journey of fear, anger, regret and triumph while celebrating the power of women’s voices and the courage required to speak one’s truth.


Sara Stock Mayo is a local singer, drama therapist and spiritual leader. She has performed in productions in Pittsburgh, Syracuse and New York City, along with her work as a Cantorial Soloist at congregations Temple Sinai, Temple David, Beth El and Makom, NY. She is also the Managing Director of Pittsburgh Playback Theatre, an improvisational company that works to honor and respect individuals’ stories in a variety of social service and educational settings. Her first love is Musical Theatre and she has performed a variety of one woman cabaret acts. She is delighted to share the stage with her favorite accompanist, Doug Levine, and to bring you this show about women’s stories at a time when it is becoming safer for women to step forward and speak their truth. Through her work with middle schoolers, she hopes to inspire teen girls with her messages of positive body image and self esteem so that the next generation’s stories do not have to start with #metoo.

Douglas Levine is a Pittsburgh based pianist, composer, music director and teacher. He has written or arranged music for companies including Microscopic Opera Company, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, City Theatre, The Junior Mendelssohn Choir, Dreams of Hope, Gateway to the Arts, Renaissance City Women’s Choir, Playhouse Conservatory Company, Pittsburgh Musical Theater, The Warhol, Playhouse REP, Attack Theatre, Pennsylvania Dance Theatre, Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater Festival, Pittsburgh Irish And Classical Theatre, Playhouse Junior and WQED FM. This past Spring he musical directed the CLO Cabaret’s world premiere production of Up And Away, and will musical direct Grey Gardens later this summer for Front Porch Theatricals.

#metoocabaret: Honoring Women’s Stories in Song

Weaving together numerous musical genres, Sara Stock Mayo will bring women’s viewpoints to the forefront, shifting the narrative in telling stories that reflect past and present struggles women face everywhere. The evening promises to be joyful, challenging and enlightening, as the audience follows a journey of fear, anger, regret and triumph while celebrating the power of women’s voices and the courage required to speak one’s truth.


Sara Stock Mayo is a local singer, drama therapist and spiritual leader. She has performed in productions in Pittsburgh, Syracuse and New York City, along with her work as a Cantorial Soloist at congregations Temple Sinai, Temple David, Beth El and Makom, NY. She is also the Managing Director of Pittsburgh Playback Theatre, an improvisational company that works to honor and respect individuals’ stories in a variety of social service and educational settings. Her first love is Musical Theatre and she has performed a variety of one woman cabaret acts. She is delighted to share the stage with her favorite accompanist, Doug Levine, and to bring you this show about women’s stories at a time when it is becoming safer for women to step forward and speak their truth. Through her work with middle schoolers, she hopes to inspire teen girls with her messages of positive body image and self esteem so that the next generation’s stories do not have to start with #metoo.

Douglas Levine is a Pittsburgh based pianist, composer, music director and teacher. He has written or arranged music for companies including Microscopic Opera Company, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, City Theatre, The Junior Mendelssohn Choir, Dreams of Hope, Gateway to the Arts, Renaissance City Women’s Choir, Playhouse Conservatory Company, Pittsburgh Musical Theater, The Warhol, Playhouse REP, Attack Theatre, Pennsylvania Dance Theatre, Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater Festival, Pittsburgh Irish And Classical Theatre, Playhouse Junior and WQED FM. This past Spring he musical directed the CLO Cabaret’s world premiere production of Up And Away, and will musical direct Grey Gardens later this summer for Front Porch Theatricals.

Horse Feathers - Presented by Opus One & 91.3 WYEP

Horse Feathers feels like a secret you don’t really want to share. Over twelve years and five albums, a passionate fan base has experienced this band as a precious commodity that they want to keep close to their hearts. One reason for this can be found in lead singer Justin Ringle’s distinctive voice, at once vulnerable and piercing, and in the quality of the music: gorgeous, lush string arrangements surrounding stark, visceral lyrics whose bite makes a piquant juxtaposition to the surrounding beauty.

Now, however, Horse Feathers has created an album that differs enough from its predecessors to suggest that the cat might get out of the bag. On Appreciation, their sixth full-length and the fifth on venerable independent label Kill Rock Stars, the signifiers of the band are there: Ringle’s warm tenor and lyrics that speak of work, love, and other struggles. But on this album less of the song dynamics are achieved with strings and more with an exciting new rhythm section steeped in Northern Soul. Longtime violinist Nathan Crockett and keyboardist Dustin Dybvig provide continuity, but much of Appreciation feels like the best of Ringle’s previous musical ideas just took a giant step into a larger arena.

Recorded primarily in Kentucky (at La-La Land Studios in Louisville and Shangri-La Studios in Lexington), the new album features instrumentalists J. Tom Hnatow, Robby Cosenza and R&B vocalist Joslyn Hampton, who helped make Appreciation a mixture of strutting ‘70s-style country-pop (“Without Applause,” “Don’t Mean To Pry”) and supple soul (“Best To Leave,” “Evictions”). But Horse Feathers hasn’t gained accessibility at the expense of quality, nor at the expense of their signature instrumentation (“The Hex” might be the only R&B/soul song where the rhythmic lead is played on banjo). For those who crave what NPR called “the densely pretty seethe of Horse Feathers’ earlier ballads”, the album delivers “Born in Love” and “On the Rise”, accentuating the string surge with Hammond organ, piano, tambourine, and finger snaps.

“It just felt like a fresh take on how my songs can come across,” Ringle says. “With this incarnation, it’s okay if what I’m doing right now is in fact kind of a pop song. I can have a chorus and repeat something. I’m more aware of that and enjoy it.”

This artistic adjustment comes in the wake of a lot of changes in Ringle’s life. Not too long ago, he left his former hometown of Portland for the coastal city Astoria, Oregon. He’s also been dipping his toes into the world of record production, helping North Carolina band River Whyless with the recording of their last album We All The Light. After a while of bouncing between three states, as well as stops in Camas, Washington to finish Appreciation with longtime compatriot Skyler Norwood at Miracle Lake Studios, Ringle is finally settling down just in time to get ready to hit the road with Horse Feathers in support of this new album. “I wanna get out there and do my job,” he says.

Diehard fans are going to find plenty to cherish on Appreciation. But they’re going to have to make room in the club house for a lot more people – with this album, the Horse Feathers secret is officially out.

Horse Feathers feels like a secret you don’t really want to share. Over twelve years and five albums, a passionate fan base has experienced this band as a precious commodity that they want to keep close to their hearts. One reason for this can be found in lead singer Justin Ringle’s distinctive voice, at once vulnerable and piercing, and in the quality of the music: gorgeous, lush string arrangements surrounding stark, visceral lyrics whose bite makes a piquant juxtaposition to the surrounding beauty.

Now, however, Horse Feathers has created an album that differs enough from its predecessors to suggest that the cat might get out of the bag. On Appreciation, their sixth full-length and the fifth on venerable independent label Kill Rock Stars, the signifiers of the band are there: Ringle’s warm tenor and lyrics that speak of work, love, and other struggles. But on this album less of the song dynamics are achieved with strings and more with an exciting new rhythm section steeped in Northern Soul. Longtime violinist Nathan Crockett and keyboardist Dustin Dybvig provide continuity, but much of Appreciation feels like the best of Ringle’s previous musical ideas just took a giant step into a larger arena.

Recorded primarily in Kentucky (at La-La Land Studios in Louisville and Shangri-La Studios in Lexington), the new album features instrumentalists J. Tom Hnatow, Robby Cosenza and R&B vocalist Joslyn Hampton, who helped make Appreciation a mixture of strutting ‘70s-style country-pop (“Without Applause,” “Don’t Mean To Pry”) and supple soul (“Best To Leave,” “Evictions”). But Horse Feathers hasn’t gained accessibility at the expense of quality, nor at the expense of their signature instrumentation (“The Hex” might be the only R&B/soul song where the rhythmic lead is played on banjo). For those who crave what NPR called “the densely pretty seethe of Horse Feathers’ earlier ballads”, the album delivers “Born in Love” and “On the Rise”, accentuating the string surge with Hammond organ, piano, tambourine, and finger snaps.

“It just felt like a fresh take on how my songs can come across,” Ringle says. “With this incarnation, it’s okay if what I’m doing right now is in fact kind of a pop song. I can have a chorus and repeat something. I’m more aware of that and enjoy it.”

This artistic adjustment comes in the wake of a lot of changes in Ringle’s life. Not too long ago, he left his former hometown of Portland for the coastal city Astoria, Oregon. He’s also been dipping his toes into the world of record production, helping North Carolina band River Whyless with the recording of their last album We All The Light. After a while of bouncing between three states, as well as stops in Camas, Washington to finish Appreciation with longtime compatriot Skyler Norwood at Miracle Lake Studios, Ringle is finally settling down just in time to get ready to hit the road with Horse Feathers in support of this new album. “I wanna get out there and do my job,” he says.

Diehard fans are going to find plenty to cherish on Appreciation. But they’re going to have to make room in the club house for a lot more people – with this album, the Horse Feathers secret is officially out.

The Toasters with Special Guests Bridges and The Skratchtrax

In their 37th year the Toasters are hitting the gas, not the brakes. With an international all-star line-up their whirlwind global tour continues unabated across the continents with performances scheduled in Costa Rica, Hong Kong (HK International Ska Festival) and Estonia (Live Nation Showcase at Tallinn Music Week). The band also returns to Japan, China, Russia, Hawaii, South America and Mexico on top of regular touring in the USA and Europe playing over 60 shows in 24 countries from Sweden to Bulgaria.

Formed on the Lower East Side of NYC in 1981 the band is the longest running US SKA formation. They bridge the gap between England's 2-Tone movement and the American Ska explosion of the 90's which they are rightfully credited with starting. During the 3rd Wave Ska revival The Toasters formed the famous Moon Records label and kick-started the careers of dozens of bands.

The Toasters will return to the studio later this year to record songs for a new 7” vinyl 45 project.

In their 37th year the Toasters are hitting the gas, not the brakes. With an international all-star line-up their whirlwind global tour continues unabated across the continents with performances scheduled in Costa Rica, Hong Kong (HK International Ska Festival) and Estonia (Live Nation Showcase at Tallinn Music Week). The band also returns to Japan, China, Russia, Hawaii, South America and Mexico on top of regular touring in the USA and Europe playing over 60 shows in 24 countries from Sweden to Bulgaria.

Formed on the Lower East Side of NYC in 1981 the band is the longest running US SKA formation. They bridge the gap between England's 2-Tone movement and the American Ska explosion of the 90's which they are rightfully credited with starting. During the 3rd Wave Ska revival The Toasters formed the famous Moon Records label and kick-started the careers of dozens of bands.

The Toasters will return to the studio later this year to record songs for a new 7” vinyl 45 project.

Ben Caplan

Inspired in part by Eastern European and Jewish folk traditions, Ben Caplan mixes older musical sensibilities with his own soul, straight from his hairy heart. Lyrically, you’ve not heard the like before. Often edgy and dark, Caplan holds a mirror up to show us our nasty bits, singing about the ugliness and showing us that this darkness is the root of the sublime.

His latest album release, Birds with Broken Wings, explodes with sounds both ancient and modern, with more than 30 musicians and even more instruments, combining acoustic sounds from around the world. It was listed on CBC Radio’s 50 Best Canadian Albums of 2015, reached #1 on Earshot’s National Folk/Roots/Blues chart, and was accepted into the Baker & Taylor NPR Discover Songs library. It’s all smoothly blended by the hottest international production team around. It’s uncharted territory, and Caplan’s leading the way.

Inspired in part by Eastern European and Jewish folk traditions, Ben Caplan mixes older musical sensibilities with his own soul, straight from his hairy heart. Lyrically, you’ve not heard the like before. Often edgy and dark, Caplan holds a mirror up to show us our nasty bits, singing about the ugliness and showing us that this darkness is the root of the sublime.

His latest album release, Birds with Broken Wings, explodes with sounds both ancient and modern, with more than 30 musicians and even more instruments, combining acoustic sounds from around the world. It was listed on CBC Radio’s 50 Best Canadian Albums of 2015, reached #1 on Earshot’s National Folk/Roots/Blues chart, and was accepted into the Baker & Taylor NPR Discover Songs library. It’s all smoothly blended by the hottest international production team around. It’s uncharted territory, and Caplan’s leading the way.

@clubcafelive

56-58 South 12th Street, Pittsburgh PA 15203 (In Pittsburgh’s Historic South Side)