club cafe

pittsburgh, pa
(Late Show) Bill MacKay with Special Guest Pairdown

Bill MacKay is a highly-regarded guitarist-composer-improviser based in Chicago. His radiant songwriting, and creative and unpredictable approach to the guitar have inspired listeners and musicians across & beyond experimental folk, rock, and avant-garde scenes. He is also a writer, emerging polyglot, activist and visual artist, and has been recording & releasing records, and contributing to those of other musicians, since 2004.
His most recent records Esker (Drag City, 2017), SpiderBeetleBee (Drag City, 2017) his second duo set with Ryley Walker, Altamira (Ears & Eyes, 2015) by his band Darts & Arrows , Bill MacKay plays the songs of John Hulbert (Tompkins Square, 2015) and Rob Frye’s Flux Bikes-Sueñolas (Lake Paradise, 2016) reveal a startling range – from the folk of Appalachia, avant-rock, and blues to gospel, jazz, raga-esque excursions, and western-country modes. Yet out of this diversity, it’s the dynamic way which he ties his interests together that is key to his art.

MacKay currently appears as a solo artist, and in current and ongoing collaborations with partners including Katinka Kleijn (Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Sam Wagster (Cairo Gang), LeRoy Bach (Wilco, Five Style), Frank Rosaly (Health & Beauty), Renée Baker, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Michael Zerang (The Blue Lights), Marvin Tate, Ryley Walker, Doug McCombs (Tortiose, Brokeback), Charles Rumback, Haley Fohr (Circuit des Yeux) and Tim Kinsella (Joan of Arc).
His records have received praise in reviews by the Chicago Reader, Mojo, The Ear, Uncut, Downbeat, Paste, Pitchfork and New City among other publications. In 2014, he was composer-in-residence at Ragdale Foundation, and awarded an Individual Artist grant by the Illinois Arts Council (IAC).
He has performed with Renee Baker’s Chicago Modern Orchestra (Creative Music Summit – Sunyata: Towards Absolute Emptiness) at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) , produced work on the soundtrack of the film Crying Earth Rise Up (Prairie Dust Films), and took part in Toby Summerfield’s Never Enough Hope recording & record release concert.
In 2016 MacKay played a solo set supporting set support Bonnie Prince Billie / Bitchin’ Bajas on their summer tour, performed at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival with Marvin Tate’s Weight of Rage, performed in a duo with Katinka Kleijn (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) at the Outer Ear festival at Experimental Sound Studios (ESS), appeared at Desert Daze festival in Joshua Tree, California with Ryley Walker, and supported Bill Callahan.
MacKay grew up in Pittsburgh and lived in several cities east and west before settling in Chicago in 1998.

Bill MacKay is a highly-regarded guitarist-composer-improviser based in Chicago. His radiant songwriting, and creative and unpredictable approach to the guitar have inspired listeners and musicians across & beyond experimental folk, rock, and avant-garde scenes. He is also a writer, emerging polyglot, activist and visual artist, and has been recording & releasing records, and contributing to those of other musicians, since 2004.
His most recent records Esker (Drag City, 2017), SpiderBeetleBee (Drag City, 2017) his second duo set with Ryley Walker, Altamira (Ears & Eyes, 2015) by his band Darts & Arrows , Bill MacKay plays the songs of John Hulbert (Tompkins Square, 2015) and Rob Frye’s Flux Bikes-Sueñolas (Lake Paradise, 2016) reveal a startling range – from the folk of Appalachia, avant-rock, and blues to gospel, jazz, raga-esque excursions, and western-country modes. Yet out of this diversity, it’s the dynamic way which he ties his interests together that is key to his art.

MacKay currently appears as a solo artist, and in current and ongoing collaborations with partners including Katinka Kleijn (Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Sam Wagster (Cairo Gang), LeRoy Bach (Wilco, Five Style), Frank Rosaly (Health & Beauty), Renée Baker, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Michael Zerang (The Blue Lights), Marvin Tate, Ryley Walker, Doug McCombs (Tortiose, Brokeback), Charles Rumback, Haley Fohr (Circuit des Yeux) and Tim Kinsella (Joan of Arc).
His records have received praise in reviews by the Chicago Reader, Mojo, The Ear, Uncut, Downbeat, Paste, Pitchfork and New City among other publications. In 2014, he was composer-in-residence at Ragdale Foundation, and awarded an Individual Artist grant by the Illinois Arts Council (IAC).
He has performed with Renee Baker’s Chicago Modern Orchestra (Creative Music Summit – Sunyata: Towards Absolute Emptiness) at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) , produced work on the soundtrack of the film Crying Earth Rise Up (Prairie Dust Films), and took part in Toby Summerfield’s Never Enough Hope recording & record release concert.
In 2016 MacKay played a solo set supporting set support Bonnie Prince Billie / Bitchin’ Bajas on their summer tour, performed at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival with Marvin Tate’s Weight of Rage, performed in a duo with Katinka Kleijn (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) at the Outer Ear festival at Experimental Sound Studios (ESS), appeared at Desert Daze festival in Joshua Tree, California with Ryley Walker, and supported Bill Callahan.
MacKay grew up in Pittsburgh and lived in several cities east and west before settling in Chicago in 1998.

Electric Six with Special Guests Jeremy & The Harlequins

The Devil has always been there. He is the great outsider, the original iconoclast. He is a conniving little shit and never seems to tire of giving humanity a wedgie or a wet willie just for a laugh. The Devil is capable of taking many forms. He can exist as one being or spread out amongst many. He can present himself as an ordinary man or as a horrific cloven-hoofed beast depending on his mood. Above all else, The Devil lives to corrupt, to adulterate, to defile.





Electric Six has often used The Devil as subject matter for its songs because of that last bit, the part about corruption and adulteration. That’s what Electric Six has been trying to do with its music now for quite some time!!!! We want to corrupt young women….just like The Devil!!! There’s nothing more rewarding than the seduction of a young innocent maiden, forcing her to wear demonic dresses, levitating her towards the great fiery skull and watching her eyes turn black as she gives into evil and becomes the bride of The Devil!!!! That….is why we started this band….to help women realize their potential as sexy evil maidens with eyes reflecting the utter darkness of a corrupted soul.





With its fourteenth studio album Bride of the Devil, Electric Six examines the concepts of evil and corruption, humanity’s various falls from grace, the nine circles of purgatory and of course, the internet itself. Bride of the Devil opens with the thunderous opener “The Opener”, a bombastic celebration of the arena rock Electric Six never got to play. The next two numbers are textbook ear worm guitar pop numbers that deal with debilitating income inequality and nepotism (“Daddy’s Boy”) and the horrors of being forced into a pool of toxic waste by an a rabid Doberman trained to kill (“(It Gets) (A Little) Jumpy”).





And then we get to the title track, a radio anthem, where it all becomes clear that The Devil is a metaphor for Russia and the United States is the young girl who is seduced, corrupted and wedded into a Satanic covenant with the beast.

It’s all there in black and white. The Carrie Underwood-esque lyrics alongside a backdrop of vodka and caviar and backchannels and Seychllian bank accounts. That’s how they did it. They went after our country performers and got the rubes to feel good about being Russian assets. And still, it is the feel- good anthem of the summer.





Finally, the haunting album closer “Worm In the Wood” is Electric Six at its most serious, most tender and emotional. Haunting. Effervescent. Corrupt. Jaundiced. Tired.





So there you have it. Electric Six is back with its fourteenth record and it’s poppy and feel-good, as well as heavy, both sonically and lyrically. Our sound will corrupt you and enslave you as the beautiful demonic bride you know you truly are. Fraulein, take this severed hand with it’s creepy long nails from the beginning of time. To do so is truly thine destiny.





Come see Electric Six on the “Russia, If You’re Listening” tour this fall and into 2019. Bride of the Devil will be released on Metropolis Records
on October 5, 2018 world-wide.

The Devil has always been there. He is the great outsider, the original iconoclast. He is a conniving little shit and never seems to tire of giving humanity a wedgie or a wet willie just for a laugh. The Devil is capable of taking many forms. He can exist as one being or spread out amongst many. He can present himself as an ordinary man or as a horrific cloven-hoofed beast depending on his mood. Above all else, The Devil lives to corrupt, to adulterate, to defile.





Electric Six has often used The Devil as subject matter for its songs because of that last bit, the part about corruption and adulteration. That’s what Electric Six has been trying to do with its music now for quite some time!!!! We want to corrupt young women….just like The Devil!!! There’s nothing more rewarding than the seduction of a young innocent maiden, forcing her to wear demonic dresses, levitating her towards the great fiery skull and watching her eyes turn black as she gives into evil and becomes the bride of The Devil!!!! That….is why we started this band….to help women realize their potential as sexy evil maidens with eyes reflecting the utter darkness of a corrupted soul.





With its fourteenth studio album Bride of the Devil, Electric Six examines the concepts of evil and corruption, humanity’s various falls from grace, the nine circles of purgatory and of course, the internet itself. Bride of the Devil opens with the thunderous opener “The Opener”, a bombastic celebration of the arena rock Electric Six never got to play. The next two numbers are textbook ear worm guitar pop numbers that deal with debilitating income inequality and nepotism (“Daddy’s Boy”) and the horrors of being forced into a pool of toxic waste by an a rabid Doberman trained to kill (“(It Gets) (A Little) Jumpy”).





And then we get to the title track, a radio anthem, where it all becomes clear that The Devil is a metaphor for Russia and the United States is the young girl who is seduced, corrupted and wedded into a Satanic covenant with the beast.

It’s all there in black and white. The Carrie Underwood-esque lyrics alongside a backdrop of vodka and caviar and backchannels and Seychllian bank accounts. That’s how they did it. They went after our country performers and got the rubes to feel good about being Russian assets. And still, it is the feel- good anthem of the summer.





Finally, the haunting album closer “Worm In the Wood” is Electric Six at its most serious, most tender and emotional. Haunting. Effervescent. Corrupt. Jaundiced. Tired.





So there you have it. Electric Six is back with its fourteenth record and it’s poppy and feel-good, as well as heavy, both sonically and lyrically. Our sound will corrupt you and enslave you as the beautiful demonic bride you know you truly are. Fraulein, take this severed hand with it’s creepy long nails from the beginning of time. To do so is truly thine destiny.





Come see Electric Six on the “Russia, If You’re Listening” tour this fall and into 2019. Bride of the Devil will be released on Metropolis Records
on October 5, 2018 world-wide.

The Empty Pockets

Sincerity, pathos and powerhouse vocals. The Empty Pockets’ often cerebral and sometimes playful indie rock sound is built upon a strong foundation of the timeless Americana, Blues, and Soul that came before them. An old-school sensibility showcased by multiple lead singers, rich harmonies, and skilled instrumentalists sets “bandmates Josh Solomon, Erika Brett, Nate Bellon and Danny Rosenthal, members of polished yet rootsy Chicago outfit Empty Pockets” apart (Rolling Stone).

Their journey began with the late, great Buddy Holly. Childhood friends, Solomon (guitar) and Rosenthal (drums), started a band by joining forces with Bellon (bass). Soon after recording an original demo as “Josh & The Empty Pockets,” the new group was featured in a Chicago theatrical production of The Buddy Holly Story, performing as Buddy Holly & The Crickets. There they met singer Brett (keys), who enlisted as the final band member. With more than one distinct voice now delighting their audiences, the band officially became, simply, “The Empty Pockets.” And while writing, traveling and singing together, Solomon and Brett fell in love and married.

Ever since, The Empty Pockets have truly embraced collaboration. Just as The Band famously came into their own behind various frontmen, The Empty Pockets have found comparable footing teaming up with a wide range of legendary artists; Kenny Loggins, Simon Kirke (Bad Company/Free), Al Stewart (“Year of the Cat”), Gary Wright (“Dreamweaver”), and Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield/Poco), both as opening act and backing band. The Pockets’ sound has evolved, influenced not only by these remarkable musicians, but also by independent artists and, most importantly, one another. The result is a dynamic musical style uniquely The Empty Pockets’; a surprising yet familiar blend of Folksy Rock ‘n Roll and Midwestern Soul.

"When The Empty Pockets play, they don’t just go through the motions of belting out tunes and revving their guitars to impress you – their performances are offset with a vibrancy and a sort of energetic showmanship so that space and distance don’t matter in the end – rather it’s more of which of their carefully crafted songs will strike a chord within you first" (My Nguyen, AMDEntertainment).

Sincerity, pathos and powerhouse vocals. The Empty Pockets’ often cerebral and sometimes playful indie rock sound is built upon a strong foundation of the timeless Americana, Blues, and Soul that came before them. An old-school sensibility showcased by multiple lead singers, rich harmonies, and skilled instrumentalists sets “bandmates Josh Solomon, Erika Brett, Nate Bellon and Danny Rosenthal, members of polished yet rootsy Chicago outfit Empty Pockets” apart (Rolling Stone).

Their journey began with the late, great Buddy Holly. Childhood friends, Solomon (guitar) and Rosenthal (drums), started a band by joining forces with Bellon (bass). Soon after recording an original demo as “Josh & The Empty Pockets,” the new group was featured in a Chicago theatrical production of The Buddy Holly Story, performing as Buddy Holly & The Crickets. There they met singer Brett (keys), who enlisted as the final band member. With more than one distinct voice now delighting their audiences, the band officially became, simply, “The Empty Pockets.” And while writing, traveling and singing together, Solomon and Brett fell in love and married.

Ever since, The Empty Pockets have truly embraced collaboration. Just as The Band famously came into their own behind various frontmen, The Empty Pockets have found comparable footing teaming up with a wide range of legendary artists; Kenny Loggins, Simon Kirke (Bad Company/Free), Al Stewart (“Year of the Cat”), Gary Wright (“Dreamweaver”), and Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield/Poco), both as opening act and backing band. The Pockets’ sound has evolved, influenced not only by these remarkable musicians, but also by independent artists and, most importantly, one another. The result is a dynamic musical style uniquely The Empty Pockets’; a surprising yet familiar blend of Folksy Rock ‘n Roll and Midwestern Soul.

"When The Empty Pockets play, they don’t just go through the motions of belting out tunes and revving their guitars to impress you – their performances are offset with a vibrancy and a sort of energetic showmanship so that space and distance don’t matter in the end – rather it’s more of which of their carefully crafted songs will strike a chord within you first" (My Nguyen, AMDEntertainment).

The Coronas - North American Tour

With five critically-acclaimed albums to their credit and almost a decade spent touring all over the world, The Coronas have earned their place as one of Ireland’s best loved and hardest working bands. The Coronas’ fifth and latest album, TRUST THE WIRE, debuted at #1 on the Irish music chart in its first week of release in the summer of 2017, becoming the band’s first album to reach the top spot. The Coronas--Danny O’Reilly (vocals, guitar), Graham Knox(bass), Conor Egan (drums) and Dave McPhillips (guitar)—previously released four studio albums: HEROES OR GHOSTS (2007), TONY WAS AN EX-CON (2009), CLOSER TO YOU (2011) and THE LONG WAY (2014), the first three via the independent Irish label 3ú Records and the fourth one on Island Records. Returning to the independent route, they released TRUST THE WIRE on their own label imprint, So Far So Good Records.The band, who met while in school and largely grew up together, began their career playing student clubs around Ireland, which they quickly outgrew. Most recently, they sold out Dublin’s Royal Hospital Kilmainham--capacity 15,000--where they played to their largest headline audience. This year they will headline Ireland’s largest indoor concert venue in addition to playing an array of Irish summer festivals, after which they will return to North America. Following two successful recent tours, this time they’ll play larger venues and several high-profile festivals including Chicago’s Lollapalooza.

With five critically-acclaimed albums to their credit and almost a decade spent touring all over the world, The Coronas have earned their place as one of Ireland’s best loved and hardest working bands. The Coronas’ fifth and latest album, TRUST THE WIRE, debuted at #1 on the Irish music chart in its first week of release in the summer of 2017, becoming the band’s first album to reach the top spot. The Coronas--Danny O’Reilly (vocals, guitar), Graham Knox(bass), Conor Egan (drums) and Dave McPhillips (guitar)—previously released four studio albums: HEROES OR GHOSTS (2007), TONY WAS AN EX-CON (2009), CLOSER TO YOU (2011) and THE LONG WAY (2014), the first three via the independent Irish label 3ú Records and the fourth one on Island Records. Returning to the independent route, they released TRUST THE WIRE on their own label imprint, So Far So Good Records.The band, who met while in school and largely grew up together, began their career playing student clubs around Ireland, which they quickly outgrew. Most recently, they sold out Dublin’s Royal Hospital Kilmainham--capacity 15,000--where they played to their largest headline audience. This year they will headline Ireland’s largest indoor concert venue in addition to playing an array of Irish summer festivals, after which they will return to North America. Following two successful recent tours, this time they’ll play larger venues and several high-profile festivals including Chicago’s Lollapalooza.

The Black Lillies

As The Black Lillies reacquainted fans with the band’s new look and sound through a series of videos over the course of 2017, a few questions began to percolate in their minds:
Is a new album in the works? Was this an indication of the band’s new sound? Does Sam Quinn — the band’s bass player, harmony vocalist (with an occasional lead) and a partner in the songwriting duties of frontman Cruz Contreras — own a shirt?
The short answers: Yes; kind of but not really; and … yeah, but he prefers the weather fine enough to go without.
“The Sprinter Sessions” were a series of live videos recorded at stops around the country, from the frozen cityscape of Philadelphia in late winter to the side of a Midwestern backroad with fallow fields stretching to the horizon. In various combinations, the Lillies — Contreras, Quinn, guitarist/songwriter Dustin Schaefer and drummer/songwriter Bowman Townsend — committed themselves to recording a brand new song every week. They weren’t lavishly orchestrated or fully fleshed out; sometimes lyrics had been written mere minutes prior to the broadcast. The songs were performed on acoustic instruments still grimy from shows the night before, and the guys didn’t bother to pick out their finest threads. Quinn, more often than not, played shirtless. Hence the aforementioned question.
“You’re putting songs out there that weren’t finished, weren’t perfectly arranged, and we might barely have been able to perform them,” Contreras says. “We might be tired or hungover, playing them at a truck stop or wherever. It wasn’t glamorous — but it held us accountable to that a rate of productivity that was really important, and it kept our fans up to speed with the evolution of the group — even if a lot of them did offer to send us clothes or food!”
More than anything else, “The Sprinter Sessions” set the stage for “Stranger to Me,” the new album by the Lillies that drops Sept. 28 on Attack Monkey/Thirty Tigers. It’s been a slow roll-out, but the new record is the sound of a band that’s been renewed and reinvigorated, anchored to the traditions that made it so beloved by so many but chiseled down to the bare essentials:
Four men. Four friends. Four artists, each of whom could rightly put out a solo record tomorrow, tied together by a bond to something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
“Going from a six-piece to a four-piece, it’s given these guys space to shine and grow and evolve, and the chemistry has gotten better,” says Contreras, who in another life was the mandolin-shredding bandleader of Robinella and the CCstringband, once signed to both the Columbia and Dualtone labels. “These guys have become not just sidemen or guns for hire; they’re invested. Their opinions count, and their creativity is as much a part of this record as mine. There are songs that I wrote; that Sam (a veteran of the Americana group The Everybodyfields) wrote; that we wrote in any combination and all of us together.
“It’s pretty simple, when you get down to that romantic notion of having a band. We rehearse together, we travel together, we hang out together because we’re dedicated, and I think the music is really showing that now. For me, it’s been years of learning to set your ego aside, but experience teaches you that you have to.”
Making room for other voices in the band was vital in rekindling Quinn’s creative fires. The winner of the 2006 Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and a respected solo artist after The Everybodyfields folded, the well had dried up for him back home in Knoxville until a spot opened in The Black Lillies. Working with Contreras, Townsend and then Schaefer, Quinn says, was akin to tossing gasoline on the smoldering embers of his songwriting chops.
“It’s like, when the itch hits, that’s the time to scratch it,” he said. “Office Depot is now my favorite place. I’m always buying paper and pens and destroying them, because I write all the time. Right now, I’m looking at four legal pads, a notebook, a journal and a bunch of stolen hotel paper. It’s a bit of a neurosis, I’m afraid, but I want to be a better writer, and this band is an outlet to become that.”
The Black Lillies were conceived during a particularly emotional period in Contreras’ life. A divorce, a disassembling of his old band and a 9-to-5 job driving a truck left him with days of turbulent thoughts and nights alternating between pen-and-paper and a guitar to put them into some semblance of order. “Whiskey Angel,” released in 2009, was a springboard to a whirlwind career revival, and within two years, the band had notched several national tours, landed on the hot list of countless publications and appeared everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry stage to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Other records — “100 Miles of Wreckage,” “Runaway Freeway Blues,” “Hard to Please” — helped define a sound that was rooted in distinct male-female harmonies, intricate instrumentalism and emotionally charged lyrics that look toward the hope of a new day dawning, regardless of the darkness of broken hearts and bereft spirits.
Around the making of “Hard to Please,” however, the band faced its biggest challenge to date — losing key members, integrating new ones and facing a future that meant changing musical directions. Contreras, however, rose to the challenge, drawing inspiration from some of the titans of the genre in which the Lillies often find themselves categorized: The Eagles and Wilco, just to name a few.
“We think about those favorite records of ours, those masterpiece records, and they’re no filler, all killer,” he says. “We grew up listening to records like that, so we thought, ‘Let’s go for it. Let’s stack it.’ It should be nothing but keepers, and there really shouldn’t be five seconds of, ‘Oh, they didn’t know what to do here.’ Everything should be purposeful.”
When the dust settled, he found himself with the right set of players: Quinn, who won songwriting awards and was once a labelmate of the Avett Brothers during his time in The Everybodyfields; Schaefer, a guitar wizard and a veteran of the Texas alt-country band Mickey and The Motorcars; and Townsend, the youngest member of the band who was brought in on drums in 2005 and has quickly become the group’s veteran anchor.
“Bowman brought that positive attitude, that work ethic, and for me, he’s been the guy,” Contreras says. “When Sam joined the band, we were getting a rock star. This guy’s been around the block, done it all and succeeded. He’s written great songs, played big stages and had the band that will go down in music history as one of the seminal ones in the genre. With Dustin, he had moved to Nashville to pursue a solo career, but when he joined up, we all got along and played well together.
“With all of these guys, we kind of hit the ground running. I think there’s mutual respect there on a creative level — we’re very different personalities, we make very different types of music and have very different writing styles, but we recognize that when we work together, we come up with something new and different that none of us could do on our own.”
Although “Stranger to Me” is a distinct milestone in a career arc that continues to climb, lead-off track “Ten Years” is the bridge to the band’s previous efforts. A gentle country rocker gives Contreras room to croon, and his vocals — reminiscent of a young Randy Travis or Dan Tyminski — demonstrate just how much he’s evolved as a singer since he stepped up to the mic for the first time on “Whiskey Angel.” By track two — “Midnight Stranger” — the guys lasso a classic rock groove in the vein of Bad Company, and listeners will realize that any governor on the throttle of this remodeled machine has been yanked and discarded. By track three — “Weighting,” one of Quinn’s three leads — the Lillies are waist-deep in a maelstrom of new tricks that both dazzle and satisfy.
“This is Sam out of the gate — he wrote all of the lyrics, all of the chords, the entire arrangement,” Contreras says. “It’s a rocker from the beginning, and thanks to Jamie (Candiloro, a veteran producer of Ryan Adams and R.E.M. who shepherded the making of “Stranger to Me” at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, N.C.), it became something more. He’s an engineer, so he can come in and engineer this thing in a way so that it captures the natural intensity of a live Black Lillies performance with the quality of a studio production.
“Jamie forced us to all sing all the vocals at the same time — ‘When you sing together with people, you sing differently than you do alone,’ he would tell us — and before, it would be me singing solo and then the guys adding their voices. For this one, I was singing with Sam and Dustin at the same time, and it became more cohesive, more robust. Bigger.”
For Quinn, moving from the contemplative folk of The Everybodyfields into the bigger, bolder arena of the Lillies has allowed him to tap into a more vigorous style for which his skills are equally adept.
“When I was in my late teens and 20s and early 30s, I was sponge-like absorbed into sad or depressing music, but this is the other side of the spectrum,” he said. “This was making a rock album — having to get yer ya-yas out, using lots of piss, lots of vinegar … just real groovy stuff. And then when Dustin joined up, he was originally hired as a shred guitarist, but what we didn’t know that the secret weapon was, are his wicked high harmony vocals. That was just pivotal, and it kind of changed the name of the game.”
The band wears its influences on its sleeve for every song of the new record. Laurel Canyon breezes blow up dust from the SoCal desert on the Eagles-tinged “Out of the Blue,” Townsend pounds out a methodical rhythm that sets the stage for glorious harmonies on “Don’t Be Afraid,” and “No Other Way” sounds like a distant cousin of Wilco’s “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” with its freight-train hooks, courtesy of Schaefer’s six-string alchemy that manages to lift every song from great to sublime. “Snakes and Telephones,” another lead by Quinn, swirls with psychedelic overtones and torch ballad longing.
“We put 13 songs on it, but we had trouble pairing it down to 13 — and that’s a good problem to have, because we’re already talking about doing a follow-up, acoustic EP of the ones that got cut,” Contreras says. “Will we do it? Who knows. Will Sam be wearing a shirt when we do it? Who knows!
“We just don’t want to be a throwback band. We want what we do to sound new and fresh and modern, and I think even the album cover of ‘Stranger to Me’ represents that. It’s sharp, and it’s smart, and the mountains are a nod to both recording in Asheville and the house we did a lot of the pre-production in, which was this 1960s, modern-nouveaux place that looks like it belongs in the Hollywood Hills. And that ties back into the fact that while there’s a mountain quality to this record, it’s a departure as well.
“We’re venturing out from a pure East Tennessee sound, and hopefully that comes through,” he adds. “Our voices, especially mine and Sam’s, are unique to that region, but production wise, we wanted this to really reflect the direction in which we’re going.”

As The Black Lillies reacquainted fans with the band’s new look and sound through a series of videos over the course of 2017, a few questions began to percolate in their minds:
Is a new album in the works? Was this an indication of the band’s new sound? Does Sam Quinn — the band’s bass player, harmony vocalist (with an occasional lead) and a partner in the songwriting duties of frontman Cruz Contreras — own a shirt?
The short answers: Yes; kind of but not really; and … yeah, but he prefers the weather fine enough to go without.
“The Sprinter Sessions” were a series of live videos recorded at stops around the country, from the frozen cityscape of Philadelphia in late winter to the side of a Midwestern backroad with fallow fields stretching to the horizon. In various combinations, the Lillies — Contreras, Quinn, guitarist/songwriter Dustin Schaefer and drummer/songwriter Bowman Townsend — committed themselves to recording a brand new song every week. They weren’t lavishly orchestrated or fully fleshed out; sometimes lyrics had been written mere minutes prior to the broadcast. The songs were performed on acoustic instruments still grimy from shows the night before, and the guys didn’t bother to pick out their finest threads. Quinn, more often than not, played shirtless. Hence the aforementioned question.
“You’re putting songs out there that weren’t finished, weren’t perfectly arranged, and we might barely have been able to perform them,” Contreras says. “We might be tired or hungover, playing them at a truck stop or wherever. It wasn’t glamorous — but it held us accountable to that a rate of productivity that was really important, and it kept our fans up to speed with the evolution of the group — even if a lot of them did offer to send us clothes or food!”
More than anything else, “The Sprinter Sessions” set the stage for “Stranger to Me,” the new album by the Lillies that drops Sept. 28 on Attack Monkey/Thirty Tigers. It’s been a slow roll-out, but the new record is the sound of a band that’s been renewed and reinvigorated, anchored to the traditions that made it so beloved by so many but chiseled down to the bare essentials:
Four men. Four friends. Four artists, each of whom could rightly put out a solo record tomorrow, tied together by a bond to something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
“Going from a six-piece to a four-piece, it’s given these guys space to shine and grow and evolve, and the chemistry has gotten better,” says Contreras, who in another life was the mandolin-shredding bandleader of Robinella and the CCstringband, once signed to both the Columbia and Dualtone labels. “These guys have become not just sidemen or guns for hire; they’re invested. Their opinions count, and their creativity is as much a part of this record as mine. There are songs that I wrote; that Sam (a veteran of the Americana group The Everybodyfields) wrote; that we wrote in any combination and all of us together.
“It’s pretty simple, when you get down to that romantic notion of having a band. We rehearse together, we travel together, we hang out together because we’re dedicated, and I think the music is really showing that now. For me, it’s been years of learning to set your ego aside, but experience teaches you that you have to.”
Making room for other voices in the band was vital in rekindling Quinn’s creative fires. The winner of the 2006 Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and a respected solo artist after The Everybodyfields folded, the well had dried up for him back home in Knoxville until a spot opened in The Black Lillies. Working with Contreras, Townsend and then Schaefer, Quinn says, was akin to tossing gasoline on the smoldering embers of his songwriting chops.
“It’s like, when the itch hits, that’s the time to scratch it,” he said. “Office Depot is now my favorite place. I’m always buying paper and pens and destroying them, because I write all the time. Right now, I’m looking at four legal pads, a notebook, a journal and a bunch of stolen hotel paper. It’s a bit of a neurosis, I’m afraid, but I want to be a better writer, and this band is an outlet to become that.”
The Black Lillies were conceived during a particularly emotional period in Contreras’ life. A divorce, a disassembling of his old band and a 9-to-5 job driving a truck left him with days of turbulent thoughts and nights alternating between pen-and-paper and a guitar to put them into some semblance of order. “Whiskey Angel,” released in 2009, was a springboard to a whirlwind career revival, and within two years, the band had notched several national tours, landed on the hot list of countless publications and appeared everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry stage to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Other records — “100 Miles of Wreckage,” “Runaway Freeway Blues,” “Hard to Please” — helped define a sound that was rooted in distinct male-female harmonies, intricate instrumentalism and emotionally charged lyrics that look toward the hope of a new day dawning, regardless of the darkness of broken hearts and bereft spirits.
Around the making of “Hard to Please,” however, the band faced its biggest challenge to date — losing key members, integrating new ones and facing a future that meant changing musical directions. Contreras, however, rose to the challenge, drawing inspiration from some of the titans of the genre in which the Lillies often find themselves categorized: The Eagles and Wilco, just to name a few.
“We think about those favorite records of ours, those masterpiece records, and they’re no filler, all killer,” he says. “We grew up listening to records like that, so we thought, ‘Let’s go for it. Let’s stack it.’ It should be nothing but keepers, and there really shouldn’t be five seconds of, ‘Oh, they didn’t know what to do here.’ Everything should be purposeful.”
When the dust settled, he found himself with the right set of players: Quinn, who won songwriting awards and was once a labelmate of the Avett Brothers during his time in The Everybodyfields; Schaefer, a guitar wizard and a veteran of the Texas alt-country band Mickey and The Motorcars; and Townsend, the youngest member of the band who was brought in on drums in 2005 and has quickly become the group’s veteran anchor.
“Bowman brought that positive attitude, that work ethic, and for me, he’s been the guy,” Contreras says. “When Sam joined the band, we were getting a rock star. This guy’s been around the block, done it all and succeeded. He’s written great songs, played big stages and had the band that will go down in music history as one of the seminal ones in the genre. With Dustin, he had moved to Nashville to pursue a solo career, but when he joined up, we all got along and played well together.
“With all of these guys, we kind of hit the ground running. I think there’s mutual respect there on a creative level — we’re very different personalities, we make very different types of music and have very different writing styles, but we recognize that when we work together, we come up with something new and different that none of us could do on our own.”
Although “Stranger to Me” is a distinct milestone in a career arc that continues to climb, lead-off track “Ten Years” is the bridge to the band’s previous efforts. A gentle country rocker gives Contreras room to croon, and his vocals — reminiscent of a young Randy Travis or Dan Tyminski — demonstrate just how much he’s evolved as a singer since he stepped up to the mic for the first time on “Whiskey Angel.” By track two — “Midnight Stranger” — the guys lasso a classic rock groove in the vein of Bad Company, and listeners will realize that any governor on the throttle of this remodeled machine has been yanked and discarded. By track three — “Weighting,” one of Quinn’s three leads — the Lillies are waist-deep in a maelstrom of new tricks that both dazzle and satisfy.
“This is Sam out of the gate — he wrote all of the lyrics, all of the chords, the entire arrangement,” Contreras says. “It’s a rocker from the beginning, and thanks to Jamie (Candiloro, a veteran producer of Ryan Adams and R.E.M. who shepherded the making of “Stranger to Me” at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, N.C.), it became something more. He’s an engineer, so he can come in and engineer this thing in a way so that it captures the natural intensity of a live Black Lillies performance with the quality of a studio production.
“Jamie forced us to all sing all the vocals at the same time — ‘When you sing together with people, you sing differently than you do alone,’ he would tell us — and before, it would be me singing solo and then the guys adding their voices. For this one, I was singing with Sam and Dustin at the same time, and it became more cohesive, more robust. Bigger.”
For Quinn, moving from the contemplative folk of The Everybodyfields into the bigger, bolder arena of the Lillies has allowed him to tap into a more vigorous style for which his skills are equally adept.
“When I was in my late teens and 20s and early 30s, I was sponge-like absorbed into sad or depressing music, but this is the other side of the spectrum,” he said. “This was making a rock album — having to get yer ya-yas out, using lots of piss, lots of vinegar … just real groovy stuff. And then when Dustin joined up, he was originally hired as a shred guitarist, but what we didn’t know that the secret weapon was, are his wicked high harmony vocals. That was just pivotal, and it kind of changed the name of the game.”
The band wears its influences on its sleeve for every song of the new record. Laurel Canyon breezes blow up dust from the SoCal desert on the Eagles-tinged “Out of the Blue,” Townsend pounds out a methodical rhythm that sets the stage for glorious harmonies on “Don’t Be Afraid,” and “No Other Way” sounds like a distant cousin of Wilco’s “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” with its freight-train hooks, courtesy of Schaefer’s six-string alchemy that manages to lift every song from great to sublime. “Snakes and Telephones,” another lead by Quinn, swirls with psychedelic overtones and torch ballad longing.
“We put 13 songs on it, but we had trouble pairing it down to 13 — and that’s a good problem to have, because we’re already talking about doing a follow-up, acoustic EP of the ones that got cut,” Contreras says. “Will we do it? Who knows. Will Sam be wearing a shirt when we do it? Who knows!
“We just don’t want to be a throwback band. We want what we do to sound new and fresh and modern, and I think even the album cover of ‘Stranger to Me’ represents that. It’s sharp, and it’s smart, and the mountains are a nod to both recording in Asheville and the house we did a lot of the pre-production in, which was this 1960s, modern-nouveaux place that looks like it belongs in the Hollywood Hills. And that ties back into the fact that while there’s a mountain quality to this record, it’s a departure as well.
“We’re venturing out from a pure East Tennessee sound, and hopefully that comes through,” he adds. “Our voices, especially mine and Sam’s, are unique to that region, but production wise, we wanted this to really reflect the direction in which we’re going.”

TributeFestPgh 9: Old School vs. New School Pop Featuring Tribute Sets of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Elvis Costello, The Killers, Radiohead, Tears for Fears, Steely Dan, Weezer and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

TributeFestPgh 9 is 4 nights of your favorite local musicians joining forces to dress up in character and perform as their favorite bands, all to raise money for Humane Animal Rescue! This year we have 33 bands over 4 nights!

Visit Humane Animal Rescue here:
https://www.humaneanimalrescue.org
---------------------------------------------------------------
Night 3: Old School vs. New School Pop

Crosby, Stills, and Nash - Nathan Zoob + Friends
Elvis Costello - Kevin Koch + Friends
The Killers - Skeye Berry + Friends
Radiohead - Rich Kulbacki + Friends
Tears for Fears - Sun Hound + Friends
Steely Dan - Jesse Prentiss + Friends
Weezer - Beck Gal + Friends
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Action Camp

All shows are 21+, $10, Doors at 7pm

TributeFestPgh 9 is 4 nights of your favorite local musicians joining forces to dress up in character and perform as their favorite bands, all to raise money for Humane Animal Rescue! This year we have 33 bands over 4 nights!

Visit Humane Animal Rescue here:
https://www.humaneanimalrescue.org
---------------------------------------------------------------
Night 3: Old School vs. New School Pop

Crosby, Stills, and Nash - Nathan Zoob + Friends
Elvis Costello - Kevin Koch + Friends
The Killers - Skeye Berry + Friends
Radiohead - Rich Kulbacki + Friends
Tears for Fears - Sun Hound + Friends
Steely Dan - Jesse Prentiss + Friends
Weezer - Beck Gal + Friends
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Action Camp

All shows are 21+, $10, Doors at 7pm

TributeFestPgh 9: Classic Rock Featuring Tribute Sets of Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, Heart, Jefferson Airplane, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and The Who.

TributeFestPgh 9 is 4 nights of your favorite local musicians joining forces to dress up in character and perform as their favorite bands, all to raise money for Humane Animal Rescue! This year we have 33 bands over 4 nights!

Visit Humane Animal Rescue here:
https://www.humaneanimalrescue.org
---------------------------------------------------------------
Night 4: Classic Rock

Blue Oyster Cult - Urns
Cheap Trick - Darren Hammel + Friends
David Bowie - The Gothees
Heart - Katie Simone + Friends
Jefferson Airplane - The Ohm Project
Jethro Tull - Eric George + Friends
Led Zeppelin - Ariana Bigler + Friends
Uriah Heep - Shy Kennedy + Friends
Who - The Bloody Seamen

All shows are 21+, $10, Doors at 7pm

TributeFestPgh 9 is 4 nights of your favorite local musicians joining forces to dress up in character and perform as their favorite bands, all to raise money for Humane Animal Rescue! This year we have 33 bands over 4 nights!

Visit Humane Animal Rescue here:
https://www.humaneanimalrescue.org
---------------------------------------------------------------
Night 4: Classic Rock

Blue Oyster Cult - Urns
Cheap Trick - Darren Hammel + Friends
David Bowie - The Gothees
Heart - Katie Simone + Friends
Jefferson Airplane - The Ohm Project
Jethro Tull - Eric George + Friends
Led Zeppelin - Ariana Bigler + Friends
Uriah Heep - Shy Kennedy + Friends
Who - The Bloody Seamen

All shows are 21+, $10, Doors at 7pm

Matthew Perryman Jones with Special Guest Molly Parden

A performing songwriter by trade, Matthew Perryman Jones is actually a seeker, at heart. With each entry in his discography, his musical and moral compass points toward an artistic horizon he has yet to explore. Sometimes, he turns his gaze to examine his own inner world. Other times, he looks to the inspirations found in the letters Vincent Van Gogh penned to his brother Theo, in the idea of duende as proffered by Federico García Lorca, and in the poetic verses of Sufi poets Hafiz and Rumi.

Of his most recent release, American Songwriter wrote that, “MPJ’s songwriting acumen could easily be used as a musical template to demonstrate how less can be so much more. [He] sounds cinematic and slowly worms its way inside your brain, feasts upon your emotions, and ultimately burrows down into your soul.” It could be said that Matthew makes soul music — not based on how it sounds, but on where it originates and where it resides.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Matthew grew up in Georgia and cut his artistic teeth in the Atlanta music scene before heading north to Nashville. His debut release, Nowhere Else But Here, dropped in 2000, followed by three subsequent albums — Throwing Punches in the Dark (2006), Swallow the Sea (2008), and Land of the Living (2012) — and three additional EPs as well as a handful of singles. Songs from across his catalog have been featured in dozens of film and TV placements, and tours have taken him across the U.S. and abroad to share stages with legends like Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin, as well as the Ten Out of Tenn songwriter collective of which he is a part.

Now, Matthew is gearing up to release his fifth album, alongside producer Josh Kaler, focused on genius loci — the spirit of place. Written across the country throughout 2017, and funded by generous fans contributing to a Pledge Music campaign, the record was finished in early 2018. As he chases the ever-retreating horizon, Jones will stop, listen, and capture when and what the spirit of each place calls out to him.

A performing songwriter by trade, Matthew Perryman Jones is actually a seeker, at heart. With each entry in his discography, his musical and moral compass points toward an artistic horizon he has yet to explore. Sometimes, he turns his gaze to examine his own inner world. Other times, he looks to the inspirations found in the letters Vincent Van Gogh penned to his brother Theo, in the idea of duende as proffered by Federico García Lorca, and in the poetic verses of Sufi poets Hafiz and Rumi.

Of his most recent release, American Songwriter wrote that, “MPJ’s songwriting acumen could easily be used as a musical template to demonstrate how less can be so much more. [He] sounds cinematic and slowly worms its way inside your brain, feasts upon your emotions, and ultimately burrows down into your soul.” It could be said that Matthew makes soul music — not based on how it sounds, but on where it originates and where it resides.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Matthew grew up in Georgia and cut his artistic teeth in the Atlanta music scene before heading north to Nashville. His debut release, Nowhere Else But Here, dropped in 2000, followed by three subsequent albums — Throwing Punches in the Dark (2006), Swallow the Sea (2008), and Land of the Living (2012) — and three additional EPs as well as a handful of singles. Songs from across his catalog have been featured in dozens of film and TV placements, and tours have taken him across the U.S. and abroad to share stages with legends like Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin, as well as the Ten Out of Tenn songwriter collective of which he is a part.

Now, Matthew is gearing up to release his fifth album, alongside producer Josh Kaler, focused on genius loci — the spirit of place. Written across the country throughout 2017, and funded by generous fans contributing to a Pledge Music campaign, the record was finished in early 2018. As he chases the ever-retreating horizon, Jones will stop, listen, and capture when and what the spirit of each place calls out to him.

Albert Cummings

Entertaining audiences from his phenomenal guitar work to his incredibly impassioned lyrics and overall songwriting prowess - one thing has certainly become clear about Albert Cummings’ music: He is FAR MORE than simply just the guitarist or the bluesman he’s often painted as by fans and the media alike. He offers the complete package.


Though undoubtedly a masterful guitar player who burst onto the blues rock scene in the early
2000’s and almost immediately began gaining praise in that realm, his latest release “Live at the ‘62 Center” further portrays not only his versatility as singer/songwriter and live performer but as an artist first and foremost.


This comes to fruition in the true spontaneity and creative spirit of the album, in which he put together a newly formed version of his usual trio that afternoon of the October, 2016 recording. With longtime friend and Grammy Winner Jim Gaines behind the soundboard, what comes through in both sight and sound is an incredible journey into the live performance world and true artistry of one of today’s most seasoned musicians.


“His muscular guitar work is simply outstanding. He’s a great blues singer as well with passion for the tunes inherent in his full throttle approach.” - Rock and Blues Muse on Live at the ‘62
Center


Like many greats before him who’ve been painted into a corner as merely great blues players, or guitar players, or singers - Cummings seeks to rise above these labels and be praised for the devotion to his overall craft as a true musician. In artist terms - he’s sought to be known for the overall pallet of his music, rather than one specific color. From greats like Eric Clapton to
the more recent stylings of John Mayer, his artistic integrity has allowed him to focus on the big picture, writing songs from the heart rather than catering to his specifics strengths as a singer, guitarist, or bandleader (all of which he does impeccably, however).


His musical journey began when young Albert first picked up a guitar - learning the requisite three chords from his father, but later switched over to banjo at the age of 12 after becoming a bluegrass fan. After hearing the early recordings of Stevie Ray Vaughan, he was impressed by the sheer virtuosity of the artist, and following his first chance to see him LIVE while in college in Boston he returned to the guitar with a new outlook and resolve.


At age 27, as he continued to grow in his newfound passion, he landed on the Northeast blues circuit with his first band Swamp Yankee. Then, in 1998, after walking into a Northeast Blues Society’s open jam, Cummings won the right to compete in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge the following year. By 2000, his debut single “The Long Way”
was released to rave reviews, and began opening new doors for the artist.


His first big opportunity came in the form of a chance to work with Double Trouble, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section. So taken with Albert’s fire and passion were bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton that they volunteered to play on and produce his solo debut recording, 2003’s self-released From the Heart. Recorded in Austin, Texas, it featured Cummings fronting Double Trouble (including Reese Winans) in their first recording project since Stevie Ray’s passing. Having began his musical journey in part due to Vaughan’s inspiration, it seemed Cummings’ passion had brought him full-circle.


Cummings’ soulful and explosive approach to blues and rock then caught the attention of Blind Pig Records (Muddy Waters, Jimmy Vivino, Elvin Bishop), which signed him to a multi-album deal. On his label debut, True to Yourself, released in 2004, Cummings was again joined by bassist Tommy Shannon. Recorded by producer extraordinaire Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray, Buddy Guy), the all-original release showcased Albert’s rapidly developing songwriting chops and deeply emotional vocals as well as stunning guitar pyrotechnics, fully showcasing his well-rounded talents.


Soon tours and shows with blues legends B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy and others brought Albert’s music to a much larger audience.


His second release, Working Man (2006), also produced by Jim Gaines, furthered a growing focus and maturity both in Albert’s stinging, incisive guitar work as well as in his fluently idiomatic songwriting - leading Billboard Magazine to exclaim “This recording is the calling card of a star who has arrived”.


2008 saw his first live album “Feel So Good”, recorded at the historic Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts which has hosted everyone from Will Rogers to Al Jolson. The audience was so enthralled and supportive they became part of the performance in a way
that’s rarely heard. As AllMusic put it, “It sounds like it was one hell of a party that night”. Music
Connection also called it “one of the best live albums recorded in a long time”.


As he continued to grow, playing with the likes of legends from B.B. King (who called dubbed him “a great guitarist”), Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, and many more - Cummings built on not only his all-around songwriting and musicianship but his guitar playing skill as well. Using his knowledge to give back to fellow guitarists wanting to advance in their craft, he released the instructional DVD “Working Man Blues Guitar” in 2011. His next album, 2012’s self-released “No Regrets” followed as a return to his true musical roots, poignantly capturing the core of his influences and displaying the impact that R&B, Rock, Soul, Country, and the Blues have had on both his playing and writing. It debuted at #1 on iTunes music charts in the USA, Canada and France.


2015’s “Someone Like You” was recorded in Southern California with Grammy-winning producer David Z. (Buddy Guy, Prince, Jonny Lang, Gov’t Mule) at the helm. Said Z, “Albert Cummings writes, plays and sings the blues like nobody else. What a blast to watch him jell in the studio with some of the best musicians in Los Angeles.” One of those musicians was Blind Pig label mate and leader of The Basic Cable Band on the Conan TV show, Jimmy Vivino, who performs on three cuts.

Now, as he continues writing and performing, relentlessly devoting effort to his craft, Cumming’s is ready to continue on his ever expansive musical journey.

Entertaining audiences from his phenomenal guitar work to his incredibly impassioned lyrics and overall songwriting prowess - one thing has certainly become clear about Albert Cummings’ music: He is FAR MORE than simply just the guitarist or the bluesman he’s often painted as by fans and the media alike. He offers the complete package.


Though undoubtedly a masterful guitar player who burst onto the blues rock scene in the early
2000’s and almost immediately began gaining praise in that realm, his latest release “Live at the ‘62 Center” further portrays not only his versatility as singer/songwriter and live performer but as an artist first and foremost.


This comes to fruition in the true spontaneity and creative spirit of the album, in which he put together a newly formed version of his usual trio that afternoon of the October, 2016 recording. With longtime friend and Grammy Winner Jim Gaines behind the soundboard, what comes through in both sight and sound is an incredible journey into the live performance world and true artistry of one of today’s most seasoned musicians.


“His muscular guitar work is simply outstanding. He’s a great blues singer as well with passion for the tunes inherent in his full throttle approach.” - Rock and Blues Muse on Live at the ‘62
Center


Like many greats before him who’ve been painted into a corner as merely great blues players, or guitar players, or singers - Cummings seeks to rise above these labels and be praised for the devotion to his overall craft as a true musician. In artist terms - he’s sought to be known for the overall pallet of his music, rather than one specific color. From greats like Eric Clapton to
the more recent stylings of John Mayer, his artistic integrity has allowed him to focus on the big picture, writing songs from the heart rather than catering to his specifics strengths as a singer, guitarist, or bandleader (all of which he does impeccably, however).


His musical journey began when young Albert first picked up a guitar - learning the requisite three chords from his father, but later switched over to banjo at the age of 12 after becoming a bluegrass fan. After hearing the early recordings of Stevie Ray Vaughan, he was impressed by the sheer virtuosity of the artist, and following his first chance to see him LIVE while in college in Boston he returned to the guitar with a new outlook and resolve.


At age 27, as he continued to grow in his newfound passion, he landed on the Northeast blues circuit with his first band Swamp Yankee. Then, in 1998, after walking into a Northeast Blues Society’s open jam, Cummings won the right to compete in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge the following year. By 2000, his debut single “The Long Way”
was released to rave reviews, and began opening new doors for the artist.


His first big opportunity came in the form of a chance to work with Double Trouble, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section. So taken with Albert’s fire and passion were bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton that they volunteered to play on and produce his solo debut recording, 2003’s self-released From the Heart. Recorded in Austin, Texas, it featured Cummings fronting Double Trouble (including Reese Winans) in their first recording project since Stevie Ray’s passing. Having began his musical journey in part due to Vaughan’s inspiration, it seemed Cummings’ passion had brought him full-circle.


Cummings’ soulful and explosive approach to blues and rock then caught the attention of Blind Pig Records (Muddy Waters, Jimmy Vivino, Elvin Bishop), which signed him to a multi-album deal. On his label debut, True to Yourself, released in 2004, Cummings was again joined by bassist Tommy Shannon. Recorded by producer extraordinaire Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray, Buddy Guy), the all-original release showcased Albert’s rapidly developing songwriting chops and deeply emotional vocals as well as stunning guitar pyrotechnics, fully showcasing his well-rounded talents.


Soon tours and shows with blues legends B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy and others brought Albert’s music to a much larger audience.


His second release, Working Man (2006), also produced by Jim Gaines, furthered a growing focus and maturity both in Albert’s stinging, incisive guitar work as well as in his fluently idiomatic songwriting - leading Billboard Magazine to exclaim “This recording is the calling card of a star who has arrived”.


2008 saw his first live album “Feel So Good”, recorded at the historic Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts which has hosted everyone from Will Rogers to Al Jolson. The audience was so enthralled and supportive they became part of the performance in a way
that’s rarely heard. As AllMusic put it, “It sounds like it was one hell of a party that night”. Music
Connection also called it “one of the best live albums recorded in a long time”.


As he continued to grow, playing with the likes of legends from B.B. King (who called dubbed him “a great guitarist”), Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, and many more - Cummings built on not only his all-around songwriting and musicianship but his guitar playing skill as well. Using his knowledge to give back to fellow guitarists wanting to advance in their craft, he released the instructional DVD “Working Man Blues Guitar” in 2011. His next album, 2012’s self-released “No Regrets” followed as a return to his true musical roots, poignantly capturing the core of his influences and displaying the impact that R&B, Rock, Soul, Country, and the Blues have had on both his playing and writing. It debuted at #1 on iTunes music charts in the USA, Canada and France.


2015’s “Someone Like You” was recorded in Southern California with Grammy-winning producer David Z. (Buddy Guy, Prince, Jonny Lang, Gov’t Mule) at the helm. Said Z, “Albert Cummings writes, plays and sings the blues like nobody else. What a blast to watch him jell in the studio with some of the best musicians in Los Angeles.” One of those musicians was Blind Pig label mate and leader of The Basic Cable Band on the Conan TV show, Jimmy Vivino, who performs on three cuts.

Now, as he continues writing and performing, relentlessly devoting effort to his craft, Cumming’s is ready to continue on his ever expansive musical journey.

Bill Toms and Hard Rain - 20th Anniversary (featuring The Soulville Horns) with Special Guest Soulful Femme (featuring Stevee Wellons and Cheryl Rinovato)

hile it’s hard to put a finger on any one sound that defines “American music,” the compositions of Bill Toms are as close a template as any. The Pittsburgh native, along with his band Hard Rain, delivers a sound that takes the greatest of America’s most beloved genres and melds them into a poetic representation of the best the country has to offer.

With his ninth full-length studio release, Good For My Soul (street date October 27), Toms channels a foot-stomping, wall-shaking blend of soul, blues, gospel, and rock vibes, all brought together with his lyrical specialty -- stories of everyday men and women doing their best to stay ahead while still managing to keep a dream or two in their heads.

Soaring horns, gritty licks, toe-tapping rhythms, and Toms’ own rough-hewn vocals will draw listeners in, as well as well-deserved comparisons to the greats such as Dr. John, Little Feat, Springsteen, Joe Tex, The Blasters, Otis Redding, and Rufus Thomas.

“The idea of a horn section behind my songs has been something I’ve thought about for a while,” explains Toms. “Albert King, and all the Stax artists come to mind when I think of what true rhythm and blues can do. I wanted a piece of that; creating dynamics, and drama within the song; and fostering the deep emotion that a great horn section can give. The words also needed this place-- in order to be fully interpreted as the representation of ‘my America,’ and the people who make up my small part of this world.”

Good For My Soul was recorded in February 2017 by Oscar-winning composer Rick Witkowski, who also co-produced the set with Will Kimbrough (Rodney Crowell, Todd Snider). Both artists have collaborated with Toms frequently on parts of his earlier catalog.

Toms launched his musical career in 1987 as lead guitarist of Pittsburgh’s legendary band Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers, During that period, he opened for and played with such legendary names as The Band, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. While playing guitar, co-writing, and adding backup vocals for the Houserockers, Toms and the band recorded six studio albums and one live concert album. In 1995, The Houserockers released American Babylon, which was recorded and produced by Springsteen himself.

As a solo artist, Toms has opened for the likes of Buddy Guy, Levon Helm, Marshall Crenshaw, The Kennedys, Steve Forbert, and Ellis Paul. He’s plotting a string of regional east coast dates to support Good For My Soul, as well as a full European tour in 2018.

hile it’s hard to put a finger on any one sound that defines “American music,” the compositions of Bill Toms are as close a template as any. The Pittsburgh native, along with his band Hard Rain, delivers a sound that takes the greatest of America’s most beloved genres and melds them into a poetic representation of the best the country has to offer.

With his ninth full-length studio release, Good For My Soul (street date October 27), Toms channels a foot-stomping, wall-shaking blend of soul, blues, gospel, and rock vibes, all brought together with his lyrical specialty -- stories of everyday men and women doing their best to stay ahead while still managing to keep a dream or two in their heads.

Soaring horns, gritty licks, toe-tapping rhythms, and Toms’ own rough-hewn vocals will draw listeners in, as well as well-deserved comparisons to the greats such as Dr. John, Little Feat, Springsteen, Joe Tex, The Blasters, Otis Redding, and Rufus Thomas.

“The idea of a horn section behind my songs has been something I’ve thought about for a while,” explains Toms. “Albert King, and all the Stax artists come to mind when I think of what true rhythm and blues can do. I wanted a piece of that; creating dynamics, and drama within the song; and fostering the deep emotion that a great horn section can give. The words also needed this place-- in order to be fully interpreted as the representation of ‘my America,’ and the people who make up my small part of this world.”

Good For My Soul was recorded in February 2017 by Oscar-winning composer Rick Witkowski, who also co-produced the set with Will Kimbrough (Rodney Crowell, Todd Snider). Both artists have collaborated with Toms frequently on parts of his earlier catalog.

Toms launched his musical career in 1987 as lead guitarist of Pittsburgh’s legendary band Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers, During that period, he opened for and played with such legendary names as The Band, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. While playing guitar, co-writing, and adding backup vocals for the Houserockers, Toms and the band recorded six studio albums and one live concert album. In 1995, The Houserockers released American Babylon, which was recorded and produced by Springsteen himself.

As a solo artist, Toms has opened for the likes of Buddy Guy, Levon Helm, Marshall Crenshaw, The Kennedys, Steve Forbert, and Ellis Paul. He’s plotting a string of regional east coast dates to support Good For My Soul, as well as a full European tour in 2018.

@clubcafelive

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