club cafe

pittsburgh, pa
(Early Show) Jenna Nicholls with Special Guest Angela Autumn

Oozing with heart-filled, innocent indie rock, Jenna Nicholls’ second album The Blooming Hour entrances listeners with its charming vocals backed by lovely piano and guitar. This solo artist, originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, brings hints of jazz, bluegrass, and folk into her sound, making it memorable. The unhurried tracks prove appealing due to their gentle, serene sound and soulful lyrics. Though all are filled with childlike innocence, each precious track brings something new to the table.

The album starts off on the right foot with its best track, “The Getaway.” Soft and melodic, her innocent voice blends beautifully with the sun-shiny sound of the ukulele. The song gives an earthy feel, similar to springtime in a field of flowers. A few tracks later, “Be Kind to My Mistakes” proves Jenna Nicholls’ ability to cover a song and have it live up to the original. Unhurried, the mellow Kate Bush cover features hushed, careful vocals that beg and plea. Featured in ABC’s television series BostonMed, “All the While” brings guitar and twinkling piano together with Jenna Nicholls’ swoony voice to provide a slow, reflective track with quick changes of notes. “Just How Much,” another charming track on the album uses a waltz rhythm and loving lyrics to portray “just how much” she loves someone. The piano tinks along merrily in the background, pairing wonderfully with her innocent vocals. Full of sass and an old-timey feel, “Sassy Miss Lassie” shows a fun and playful side of the artist. The track is unlike any other track on the album, but somehow still ties into the overall sound.

Calling New York City her home, Jenna Nicholls takes her indie rock genre by storm, incorporating other genres such as jazz, bluegrass, and folk in her music. The Blooming Hour, her second album, released in May of this year. Despite the vast number of indie artists trying to break into the scene, this artist has began making a name for herself. Having been featured on an ABC television series, Jenna Nicholls shows that she is an artist to watch.

By: Valerie Cox 99.1 FM WIUX

Oozing with heart-filled, innocent indie rock, Jenna Nicholls’ second album The Blooming Hour entrances listeners with its charming vocals backed by lovely piano and guitar. This solo artist, originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, brings hints of jazz, bluegrass, and folk into her sound, making it memorable. The unhurried tracks prove appealing due to their gentle, serene sound and soulful lyrics. Though all are filled with childlike innocence, each precious track brings something new to the table.

The album starts off on the right foot with its best track, “The Getaway.” Soft and melodic, her innocent voice blends beautifully with the sun-shiny sound of the ukulele. The song gives an earthy feel, similar to springtime in a field of flowers. A few tracks later, “Be Kind to My Mistakes” proves Jenna Nicholls’ ability to cover a song and have it live up to the original. Unhurried, the mellow Kate Bush cover features hushed, careful vocals that beg and plea. Featured in ABC’s television series BostonMed, “All the While” brings guitar and twinkling piano together with Jenna Nicholls’ swoony voice to provide a slow, reflective track with quick changes of notes. “Just How Much,” another charming track on the album uses a waltz rhythm and loving lyrics to portray “just how much” she loves someone. The piano tinks along merrily in the background, pairing wonderfully with her innocent vocals. Full of sass and an old-timey feel, “Sassy Miss Lassie” shows a fun and playful side of the artist. The track is unlike any other track on the album, but somehow still ties into the overall sound.

Calling New York City her home, Jenna Nicholls takes her indie rock genre by storm, incorporating other genres such as jazz, bluegrass, and folk in her music. The Blooming Hour, her second album, released in May of this year. Despite the vast number of indie artists trying to break into the scene, this artist has began making a name for herself. Having been featured on an ABC television series, Jenna Nicholls shows that she is an artist to watch.

By: Valerie Cox 99.1 FM WIUX

Wishbone Ash - Presented by Opus One & Iron City Rocks

In the ramp-up to Wishbone Ash's 50th anniversary, the band is celebrating its 49th year in characteristic fashion: with an extended tour. Dubbed XLIX (49 in Roman numerals), the tour began in October 2018 in the UK, followed by dates in Europe and, in Spring 2019, comes to North America. Longtime fans and new converts alike will revel in the group’s signature twin-guitar mastery and powerhouse rhythm section as they present classics spanning their career.
The US leg of the XLIX Tour will revisit some of the band's favorite venues as well as new ones from the Eastern seaboard to the Rocky Mountains.
“We always look forward to meeting old friends and fans alike on our annual Midwest and East Coast tours,” says founding member Andy Powell. “American audiences are so supportive and enthusiastic!”
Formed in 1969 in London, England, Wishbone Ash is one of the most influential guitar bands in the history of rock. True road warriors, each year they log around 30,000 miles, roughly equivalent to circumnavigating the earth.
Mark Abrahams, the group's newest member, has been trading licks with Powell for two years. Right out of the gate, Abrahams earned rave reviews from critics and fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Longtime rhythm section Bob Skeat on bass and Joe Crabtree on drums continue to provide the solid groove that is their hallmark.
By 1969, The Beatles, the blues boom and psychedelia had made their impact on classic rock, and the creative possibilities were infinite. Pioneering the use of twin lead guitars, Wishbone Ash jumped on board the burgeoning progressive rock scene. Taking full advantage of the fertile musical environment, they produced a distinctive brand of melodic rock.
Inspired equally by British folk traditions, American jazz and R&B, the group played to public and critical acclaim. Power and melody have made the Ash a hard act to follow, while they are currently being discovered by new generations of loyal rock fans.
Through the years the band has delved into various musical genres, from folk, blues and jazz to pedal-to-the-metal rock and electronica. Whatever the style, Wishbone Ash’s signature is the distinctive twin-melodic lead guitar interplay that has influenced such bands as Thin Lizzy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iron Maiden and, more recently, Opeth.
The quintessential road band, Wishbone Ash has gained worldwide recognition based firmly on a regime of relentless touring.
“The band basically lives together year-round on the road, so we have a very strong level of communication that translates in our performances and recordings,” says Powell. “We’ve come to an era where the industry has to pigeonhole a band as Classic Rock, Prog Rock, Heritage Rock and so on. The truth is that we have always kept our options open and always relied on the musicianship of the players to lead the way. It’s fun to be stylistically diverse and this has, in its way, contributed to our longevity.”
Wishbone Ash has to its credit 24 original studio recordings, 11 live albums and five live DVDs along with a DVD rockumentary (“This is Wishbone Ash”). Released April 2018, “The Vintage Years” 30-disc box set, three-and-a-half years in the making, is a special collection dedicated to the band's output from 1970 to 1991, including all 16 studio albums, three live albums, eight previously unreleased live shows from 1973 to 1980, a 156-page coffee-table hardcover book and an assortment of memorabilia.
Also now available is the fifth Roadworks CD, “Live in Sacramento,” recorded on the 2018 North American tour; and the first official re-releases in decades of “Twin Barrels Burning” from 1982 and “Raw to the Bone” from 1985, plus definitive editions with all-new 2017 re-masters.
In 2015, Powell released his musical memoir, “Eyes Wide Open: True Tales of a Wishbone Ash Warrior,” co-written with renowned Irish music journalist Colin Harper and available in Kindle and Apple iBook formats.
“It’s quite an undertaking to put 46 years of being a touring musician in this one band into book form,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of changes in the music business and the world in general, as you can imagine.”
There is no other rock band in history that has done more with the twin guitar concept than Wishbone Ash. Be sure to catch them on the XLIX US Tour in April-May 2019, and stay tuned for the 50th anniversary tour in 2020!

In the ramp-up to Wishbone Ash's 50th anniversary, the band is celebrating its 49th year in characteristic fashion: with an extended tour. Dubbed XLIX (49 in Roman numerals), the tour began in October 2018 in the UK, followed by dates in Europe and, in Spring 2019, comes to North America. Longtime fans and new converts alike will revel in the group’s signature twin-guitar mastery and powerhouse rhythm section as they present classics spanning their career.
The US leg of the XLIX Tour will revisit some of the band's favorite venues as well as new ones from the Eastern seaboard to the Rocky Mountains.
“We always look forward to meeting old friends and fans alike on our annual Midwest and East Coast tours,” says founding member Andy Powell. “American audiences are so supportive and enthusiastic!”
Formed in 1969 in London, England, Wishbone Ash is one of the most influential guitar bands in the history of rock. True road warriors, each year they log around 30,000 miles, roughly equivalent to circumnavigating the earth.
Mark Abrahams, the group's newest member, has been trading licks with Powell for two years. Right out of the gate, Abrahams earned rave reviews from critics and fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Longtime rhythm section Bob Skeat on bass and Joe Crabtree on drums continue to provide the solid groove that is their hallmark.
By 1969, The Beatles, the blues boom and psychedelia had made their impact on classic rock, and the creative possibilities were infinite. Pioneering the use of twin lead guitars, Wishbone Ash jumped on board the burgeoning progressive rock scene. Taking full advantage of the fertile musical environment, they produced a distinctive brand of melodic rock.
Inspired equally by British folk traditions, American jazz and R&B, the group played to public and critical acclaim. Power and melody have made the Ash a hard act to follow, while they are currently being discovered by new generations of loyal rock fans.
Through the years the band has delved into various musical genres, from folk, blues and jazz to pedal-to-the-metal rock and electronica. Whatever the style, Wishbone Ash’s signature is the distinctive twin-melodic lead guitar interplay that has influenced such bands as Thin Lizzy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iron Maiden and, more recently, Opeth.
The quintessential road band, Wishbone Ash has gained worldwide recognition based firmly on a regime of relentless touring.
“The band basically lives together year-round on the road, so we have a very strong level of communication that translates in our performances and recordings,” says Powell. “We’ve come to an era where the industry has to pigeonhole a band as Classic Rock, Prog Rock, Heritage Rock and so on. The truth is that we have always kept our options open and always relied on the musicianship of the players to lead the way. It’s fun to be stylistically diverse and this has, in its way, contributed to our longevity.”
Wishbone Ash has to its credit 24 original studio recordings, 11 live albums and five live DVDs along with a DVD rockumentary (“This is Wishbone Ash”). Released April 2018, “The Vintage Years” 30-disc box set, three-and-a-half years in the making, is a special collection dedicated to the band's output from 1970 to 1991, including all 16 studio albums, three live albums, eight previously unreleased live shows from 1973 to 1980, a 156-page coffee-table hardcover book and an assortment of memorabilia.
Also now available is the fifth Roadworks CD, “Live in Sacramento,” recorded on the 2018 North American tour; and the first official re-releases in decades of “Twin Barrels Burning” from 1982 and “Raw to the Bone” from 1985, plus definitive editions with all-new 2017 re-masters.
In 2015, Powell released his musical memoir, “Eyes Wide Open: True Tales of a Wishbone Ash Warrior,” co-written with renowned Irish music journalist Colin Harper and available in Kindle and Apple iBook formats.
“It’s quite an undertaking to put 46 years of being a touring musician in this one band into book form,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of changes in the music business and the world in general, as you can imagine.”
There is no other rock band in history that has done more with the twin guitar concept than Wishbone Ash. Be sure to catch them on the XLIX US Tour in April-May 2019, and stay tuned for the 50th anniversary tour in 2020!

Bobby Long

Songwriting has always been a soul-baring exercise for British singer-songwriter Bobby Long. From the dark themes of his earliest work through to the thought-provoking subject matter he has traversed since then, his body of work is at its core captivating and emotionally raw. Whether mining the depths of despair and alienation or exploring spirituality, apathy and even more mundane topics like love and passion, his songs are word pictures that transfix and transport.

For his fourth album, Sultans, Long has chosen a somewhat different approach, from conceptualization through the recording process itself. Rather than working within the confines of a producer’s tight schedule, he chose to work with multi-instrumentalist and close friend Jack Dawson, with whom he had toured and collaborated on the 2012 EP The Backing Singer, and they took their time. “Usually with other producers I have worked with, we would meet just before recording. The relationship blossoms just as we record and work together, and by the end, we are really close. With this album, working with Jack especially, the friendship was already so deep, and there isn't another musician I have played with as much as Jack, so everything was intertwined.”

As a result, Sultans as a whole is unlike Long’s three previous releases, A WINTER TALE (2011), WISHBONE (2013) and ODE TO THINKING (2015), beginning with the songwriting and preparation. “I started writing the songs a year before and did a lot more pre-production than usual,” he explains. “When I write, I usually just record my vocals and guitar, but this time I ended up using drum loops, played bass lines and spent a long time working on guitar parts and harmonies. I usually don't go into too much detail because I would want whoever played bass or drums to come up with something naturally, but this time, I really wanted to work on the greater detail. When it came time to record, Jack (the producer) and Dave Lindsay (sound engineer) were incredibly respectful of the demos I had concocted. They honoured the originals and advanced them. Dave, who played drums on the album, actually liked some of the drum loops so much that he copied some of the fills. His drumming is a really important part of the album. It sets the tone and drives us forward.”

The trio recorded at Lindsay’s Country Club Studio in Brooklyn over a one year period. “We became a little band during the recording,” says Long. “I played guitar and sang, Dave played drums and Jack played bass. We basically recorded those parts as a band live. We would jam songs out and work things out. We then built the song up by adding parts and using other musicians/magicians to play different instruments. Having the record based around the natural feel of a live performance really added a human element to the album and set the earthy feel, which I really felt was important. As much as I wanted to experiment and feel the freedom to add anything and everything, we all felt it was incredibly important to stay true to our own playing and build from there. Just like the Beatles would have done.”

The Beatles actually loomed large in this project according to Long. “Me and Jack are massive Beatles fans and other bands like ELO and other psychedelic music really was a huge factor in our approach,” he explains. .”We would set up each day to do a new song, play it through a bunch, smoke, drink and then attack it. The results were always so varied and dynamic. It was a very liberating feeling. We made playlists and spoke about different techniques used on albums we loved from the 60s to present day. Nothing was off the table. No music was too weird or too un-cool.

“When you write a song, you always have the greater picture in your head. Your imagination runs over the tracks, and the songs take on all sorts of forms. The sounds of this record are the closest to my imaginings that I’ve ever come before, and this record is without doubt the closest I’ve come to matching what is in my head. Ironically, it came through working with a great friend of mine and feeling free to experiment because of our closeness before we went in the studio.”

Sultans takes its name from the first and last tracks on the album—essentially “Sultans Part 1” and “Sultans Part 2.” “It was a song that was originally just drums, ukulele and a sample that Jack gravitated towards,” Bobby explains. “I feel it sets the tone for the entire album and ends it quite nicely as well. We were obviously inspired by Sgt. Pepper when coming up with the idea of the same start and end point. It gives the album a concept, and although the songs are quite similar, there are differences in dynamics and playfulness.

“Also, vocally this album was different for me. I was really inspired by John Lennon’s vocals and the rawness he would get, especially on early Beatles records or his solo stuff. Letting emotion get in the way and kind of showing my true colours. I wanted to be brave, especially on the deeply personal songs so I just left it all out there.”

The songs that embody the album are varied in subject matter, some mining universal themes Long has touched on since the beginning like love and death, while other topics can be found on the 6PM news on a daily basis. “Some of the songs are from the standpoint of watching from the outside and putting myself in that situation,” he explains. “Being displaced and trying to understand others in certain situations creates patience and brotherhood not only in a song, but in real life. I think I wrote these songs with greater imagination. I was feeling a lot of frustration towards religion and religious establishments for one thing. I didn't understand the depth of my frustration until I noticed the same issues arising again and again. My wife was expecting our first child during most of the making of the album, and my son was born pretty much right as we finished. Maybe that had something to do with certain frustrations—I don't know. I do know that the lyrical content of the songs came from my experiences throughout my life, rather than just from the year before recording it like usual. I suppose my outlook has changed, but my writing is always in some sort of evolutionary stage. At the moment, I’m just harboring ideas. In the past, I’d write a song a day. I’m always changing it up.”

If you’re looking for some truth,
you’ve lost it,
get saved,
take the furthest thing that you can’t prove,
believe it,
you’re spared,
or try to make some sense of it all
from “Mazerati”
Bobby Long was born in Wigan, near Manchester in Northern England and moved with his family when he was two years old to the town of Calne in the countryside of southwest England known where he grew up. Dyslexic as a kid, his learning disability kept him from fully expressing the thoughts in his head until an observant teacher introduced him to the poetry of Dylan Thomas and suddenly the world of literature was his playground. His musical parents provided a constant flow of music in the house, from the Beatles to Bob Dylan to the blues, but he resisted the music bug until he was 16 when he was given a guitar and began writing songs.

At 18, he enrolled at London Metropolitan University where he studied sound and media for film (another passion) and became a regular on the local open mic circuit. Often playing five shows a week, he worked at developing his own unique guitar style and learned how to sing while showcasing his original songs. There he also fell in with a tightly-knit community of fellow musicians and actors who would become his close circle of friends. Among them was musician Marcus Foster, with whom he wrote a song called “Let Me Sign,” and soon-to-be movie star Robert Pattinson, who would sing their song in the 2008 blockbuster film Twilight.

The notoriety surrounding the film gave him the opportunity to come play his music in America, and he essentially never left, settling in New York City as home base for his life and career. Long headlines his own shows and has supported major artists, among them Steve Winwood, Iron & Wine, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Brett Dennen, as well as playing high profile festivals like Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, the Dave Matthews Caravan, Bamboozle and England’s venerable Glastonbury Festival.

In between albums, he channels his writing skills into poetry and has now published two volumes of his work, Losing My Brotherhood (2012) and Losing My Misery (2016). For Losing My Misery he also created the original illustrations. “I feel like a better songwriter after I write poetry,” he says. As for another book, he says, “I have a few things I’m stuck with or half way through. Sometimes you’ve got to wait for a bit of inspiration or timing.”

Sultans represents Bobby Long’s continuation of his commitment to creating music that both challenges and entertains. “It’s about the whole body of work for me. It’s all part of the greater. I don’t think you can define anyone by one album. I certainly cannot. The good, bad, successful, underappreciated--it doesn’t matter. It’s about expressing yourself and feeling better for it. I want to do many more albums…no matter what.”

Songwriting has always been a soul-baring exercise for British singer-songwriter Bobby Long. From the dark themes of his earliest work through to the thought-provoking subject matter he has traversed since then, his body of work is at its core captivating and emotionally raw. Whether mining the depths of despair and alienation or exploring spirituality, apathy and even more mundane topics like love and passion, his songs are word pictures that transfix and transport.

For his fourth album, Sultans, Long has chosen a somewhat different approach, from conceptualization through the recording process itself. Rather than working within the confines of a producer’s tight schedule, he chose to work with multi-instrumentalist and close friend Jack Dawson, with whom he had toured and collaborated on the 2012 EP The Backing Singer, and they took their time. “Usually with other producers I have worked with, we would meet just before recording. The relationship blossoms just as we record and work together, and by the end, we are really close. With this album, working with Jack especially, the friendship was already so deep, and there isn't another musician I have played with as much as Jack, so everything was intertwined.”

As a result, Sultans as a whole is unlike Long’s three previous releases, A WINTER TALE (2011), WISHBONE (2013) and ODE TO THINKING (2015), beginning with the songwriting and preparation. “I started writing the songs a year before and did a lot more pre-production than usual,” he explains. “When I write, I usually just record my vocals and guitar, but this time I ended up using drum loops, played bass lines and spent a long time working on guitar parts and harmonies. I usually don't go into too much detail because I would want whoever played bass or drums to come up with something naturally, but this time, I really wanted to work on the greater detail. When it came time to record, Jack (the producer) and Dave Lindsay (sound engineer) were incredibly respectful of the demos I had concocted. They honoured the originals and advanced them. Dave, who played drums on the album, actually liked some of the drum loops so much that he copied some of the fills. His drumming is a really important part of the album. It sets the tone and drives us forward.”

The trio recorded at Lindsay’s Country Club Studio in Brooklyn over a one year period. “We became a little band during the recording,” says Long. “I played guitar and sang, Dave played drums and Jack played bass. We basically recorded those parts as a band live. We would jam songs out and work things out. We then built the song up by adding parts and using other musicians/magicians to play different instruments. Having the record based around the natural feel of a live performance really added a human element to the album and set the earthy feel, which I really felt was important. As much as I wanted to experiment and feel the freedom to add anything and everything, we all felt it was incredibly important to stay true to our own playing and build from there. Just like the Beatles would have done.”

The Beatles actually loomed large in this project according to Long. “Me and Jack are massive Beatles fans and other bands like ELO and other psychedelic music really was a huge factor in our approach,” he explains. .”We would set up each day to do a new song, play it through a bunch, smoke, drink and then attack it. The results were always so varied and dynamic. It was a very liberating feeling. We made playlists and spoke about different techniques used on albums we loved from the 60s to present day. Nothing was off the table. No music was too weird or too un-cool.

“When you write a song, you always have the greater picture in your head. Your imagination runs over the tracks, and the songs take on all sorts of forms. The sounds of this record are the closest to my imaginings that I’ve ever come before, and this record is without doubt the closest I’ve come to matching what is in my head. Ironically, it came through working with a great friend of mine and feeling free to experiment because of our closeness before we went in the studio.”

Sultans takes its name from the first and last tracks on the album—essentially “Sultans Part 1” and “Sultans Part 2.” “It was a song that was originally just drums, ukulele and a sample that Jack gravitated towards,” Bobby explains. “I feel it sets the tone for the entire album and ends it quite nicely as well. We were obviously inspired by Sgt. Pepper when coming up with the idea of the same start and end point. It gives the album a concept, and although the songs are quite similar, there are differences in dynamics and playfulness.

“Also, vocally this album was different for me. I was really inspired by John Lennon’s vocals and the rawness he would get, especially on early Beatles records or his solo stuff. Letting emotion get in the way and kind of showing my true colours. I wanted to be brave, especially on the deeply personal songs so I just left it all out there.”

The songs that embody the album are varied in subject matter, some mining universal themes Long has touched on since the beginning like love and death, while other topics can be found on the 6PM news on a daily basis. “Some of the songs are from the standpoint of watching from the outside and putting myself in that situation,” he explains. “Being displaced and trying to understand others in certain situations creates patience and brotherhood not only in a song, but in real life. I think I wrote these songs with greater imagination. I was feeling a lot of frustration towards religion and religious establishments for one thing. I didn't understand the depth of my frustration until I noticed the same issues arising again and again. My wife was expecting our first child during most of the making of the album, and my son was born pretty much right as we finished. Maybe that had something to do with certain frustrations—I don't know. I do know that the lyrical content of the songs came from my experiences throughout my life, rather than just from the year before recording it like usual. I suppose my outlook has changed, but my writing is always in some sort of evolutionary stage. At the moment, I’m just harboring ideas. In the past, I’d write a song a day. I’m always changing it up.”

If you’re looking for some truth,
you’ve lost it,
get saved,
take the furthest thing that you can’t prove,
believe it,
you’re spared,
or try to make some sense of it all
from “Mazerati”
Bobby Long was born in Wigan, near Manchester in Northern England and moved with his family when he was two years old to the town of Calne in the countryside of southwest England known where he grew up. Dyslexic as a kid, his learning disability kept him from fully expressing the thoughts in his head until an observant teacher introduced him to the poetry of Dylan Thomas and suddenly the world of literature was his playground. His musical parents provided a constant flow of music in the house, from the Beatles to Bob Dylan to the blues, but he resisted the music bug until he was 16 when he was given a guitar and began writing songs.

At 18, he enrolled at London Metropolitan University where he studied sound and media for film (another passion) and became a regular on the local open mic circuit. Often playing five shows a week, he worked at developing his own unique guitar style and learned how to sing while showcasing his original songs. There he also fell in with a tightly-knit community of fellow musicians and actors who would become his close circle of friends. Among them was musician Marcus Foster, with whom he wrote a song called “Let Me Sign,” and soon-to-be movie star Robert Pattinson, who would sing their song in the 2008 blockbuster film Twilight.

The notoriety surrounding the film gave him the opportunity to come play his music in America, and he essentially never left, settling in New York City as home base for his life and career. Long headlines his own shows and has supported major artists, among them Steve Winwood, Iron & Wine, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Brett Dennen, as well as playing high profile festivals like Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, the Dave Matthews Caravan, Bamboozle and England’s venerable Glastonbury Festival.

In between albums, he channels his writing skills into poetry and has now published two volumes of his work, Losing My Brotherhood (2012) and Losing My Misery (2016). For Losing My Misery he also created the original illustrations. “I feel like a better songwriter after I write poetry,” he says. As for another book, he says, “I have a few things I’m stuck with or half way through. Sometimes you’ve got to wait for a bit of inspiration or timing.”

Sultans represents Bobby Long’s continuation of his commitment to creating music that both challenges and entertains. “It’s about the whole body of work for me. It’s all part of the greater. I don’t think you can define anyone by one album. I certainly cannot. The good, bad, successful, underappreciated--it doesn’t matter. It’s about expressing yourself and feeling better for it. I want to do many more albums…no matter what.”

Tyler Ramsey

As the naturalist John Muir wrote, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” It is for this reason that musician Tyler Ramsey goes into the woods when he is writing, and why he and his wife have settled on a plot of land many miles outside of the nearest city of Asheville, North Carolina, to raise their young daughter. For Ramsey, living deliberately and with a little space, removed from distractions and the allure of needless consumption, is how he feels most creative and at ease. And while writing For the Morning, his first album since 2011’s The Valley Wind, Ramsey tapped into that insulated world where imagination flourishes and sounds for mining are plentiful to create his most realized and regal work yet.

The Ramsey home is surrounded by mountains, fields, and trees, and a small river winds through it all. Wild animals live in the family’s forest, paying daily visits to sing their own songs. Ramsey’s hand-built music studio affords him a shelter from the cacophony or a chance to join the chorus, depending on whether or not he has the windows open. The things he does at home are the things he sings about in his songs—neither costumed nor fabricated—and in keeping with his deliberate existence, he clarifies that his lifestyle is not a badge to be worn but simply his preference.

“Spending my time here in North Carolina, swimming in the stream and walking around in the woods, it’s part of my character as a musician,” Ramsey says. “We live out in the country, I built my own studio. Out here, you have the ability to take your time and work on things slowly and comfortably. These are reasons why the music I make sounds like it does.”

For the Morning is filled with instrumentation connecting the listener to this setting: radiant acoustic piano and stark, dexterous guitar fingerpicking; lilting, poignant pedal steel and gentle, babbling beats that mosey rather than rush. We are transplanted to Ramsey’s woods even before any words can take us there. But, as he reveals, the process that brought the album to life wasn’t just one sunny stroll in the pines—a newborn baby and a professional musician’s touring schedule create their own challenges. So, it was up to Ramsey to find a balance, and he learned to take advantage of any fleeting moments of stillness whenever possible, while also using his time on the road as its own form of inspiration.

He wrote what would become the first song for the record just after the birth of his daughter. As a way of keeping her calm during the long nights he would wear her on his chest in a baby carrier while playing piano, and the gentle, rhythmic chords would lull her to sleep. Of course, the family rooster, Pip, did not help matters, but such is life in the wild. Despite his exhaustion, a melody and words came to Ramsey quickly, written abstractly about coming to terms with his own sleeplessness, and he called the song “For the Morning.”

“I’d never been a morning person, but I became one because I had to,” he says. “Our daughter was up all the time, and our rooster starts crying at 4:30 in the morning. It’s just our world now, everything starts before the sun comes up. But that shift in my life created a song I was happy with, and the other songs came pretty quickly after that.”

While at home on the musician’s equivalent of paternity leave, Ramsey took to the woods whenever possible, finding inspiration in his familiars as well as in his footsteps. Carrying a notebook and humming guitar lines into a recorder, he worked the songs out viscerally in nature before returning to his studio to record home demos. And oftentimes, once there, his playing would transcendentally transport him back to where he’d been. “I do find the rhythm of walking helpful for working out song ideas, and the only thing anywhere close to the meditative aspect of hiking for me is playing acoustic guitar,” he says. “I can sit and play guitar for a couple hours, or go for a hike, and take myself to another world. Some of the images from these songs are visual cues that turn into parts of stories I’m trying to tell. When I’m singing them on tour, I have that visual in my head; it gets attached to the piece and never really separates.”

But for as much as he prefers to spend his time at home, his past decade was spent largely away from it. As guitarist for and co-writer with the rock group Band of Horses, Ramsey found himself on the road constantly, forced to make temporary shelters inside of hotel rooms and bus bunks. After ten years with the band it was time for a change, and Ramsey seized the opportunity to pour all of his creative energy into his solo work. It became natural, then, for some of his new material to explore that dynamic of being away and creating a respite wherever possible.

“Parts of this record were written on the road, back and forth and on airplanes and in hotels while traveling,” he says. “Some of it comes from the endless touring and that feeling you get after a while of not knowing where you are, and longing for your home and child.” The song “A Dream of Home” is a product of that perspective. On a day off during a Horses tour, Ramsey holed himself up in a hotel room outside of Nashville and began writing about that familiar tug of greener grass on the other side, wondering if following every musician’s dream of touring the world to play for huge audiences was actually all it was cracked up to be. “A lot of people see the touring life as glamorous, but there are plenty of times where it’s hard to keep up. It becomes difficult to miss your family that much, and you want to be around your newborn child rather than sitting in a room ten hours away while knowing you won’t be home for three more weeks.”

And so, following his exit from the band and free to follow his own music full-time, Ramsey took an album’s worth of demo songs to La La Land studios in Louisville, Kentucky, where he, studio engineer Kevin Ratterman, and Ramsey’s longtime friend Seth Kauffman, the crack session and touring musician (Jim James, Lana Del Rey, Ray LaMontagne) who fronts the North Carolina band Floating Action, set out to record. The trio fulfilled the majority of all sonic duties during this tracking phase, with Ramsey’s demos serving as blueprints as they pieced songs together during the first weeklong session. Ramsey, Ratterman, and Kauffman would return to the studio again for another shorter period to flesh out those recordings, and one final day in friend and former Band of Horses bandmate Bill Reynolds’s Nashville studio finished the job. The process was complemented by spots from several guest musicians, including Joan Shelley, Thad Cockrell, and Molly Parden singing harmony on various songs, the pedal steel player Russ Paul contributing several solos, and Gareth Liddiard from The Drones on guitar. “I’ve learned through the years that calling the right person for the right part is so important,” Ramsey says. “While I love picking up an instrument I don’t know how to play, bringing in someone who really knows how to play it can make something far cooler happen. The guests filled these songs out perfectly.”

For the Morning comes together seamlessly as a cohesive work from a master songwriter and musician. “Breaking A Heart” joins the aforementioned “Dream of Home” as a standout, with sublime piano chords and beautiful guitar playing urged along by upbeat drum tracks, Ramsey’s pristine vocals left hanging in the air like mist. The lament of the former tune is one not uncommon in Ramsey’s work, and he notes that many of his favorite songs—his own or by others—are dotted with sadness. “I do gravitate toward sad music, and heartbreak is a part of the songs I write,” he says. “Writing a song is this huge emotional release and it can be very intense. There’s a lot of melancholy in what I do.”

“Firewood” is one such number, a somber song written in suites with a heaviness that gradually lifts as it moves through its parts. Written on guitar, it came out of what was an instrumental piece before Ramsey found its vocal pieces and story while in Ratterman’s studio. “It’s a heavy, dark song with a positive twist at the end,” Ramsey says. “It comes from that feeling of winter and things falling apart and trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” The song took on a different energy when the trio played it in the studio, and in turn branched out to become the instrumental song “Darkest Clouds,” which precedes “Firewood” on the album. “I always like to have a long instrumental piece and then a song to come in as its companion,” he says. “It can create a cool arc and is an interesting way to tie an album together.”

And yet, bright moments and Ramsey’s optimistic outlook abound. “White Coat” is a shining example of the way Ramsey uses visual imagery from his walks in the woods to write. The specific place he mentions in the song (“You went out across the river to lay down in the sunlight where it filters through the pines”) is an exact spot on his land where he sat while writing it. The song highlights Ramsey’s skill as a fingerpicker and creates space for his haunting voice to climb higher and higher. Elsewhere, “Evening Country” is an updated, country music version of the song “Evening Kitchen” he wrote for the Band of Horses album Infinite Arms and swings with gorgeous harmonies and pedal steel. “For the Morning” ends the album like a sweet, soothing lullaby, transporting the listener—and, as we know, the singer—to a peaceful place of beauty and sanctuary.

For Ramsey, the receiver of far more than that for which he has sought, that space is not some rented respite, nor some transient fabrication. It is home, and it is perfect.

As the naturalist John Muir wrote, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” It is for this reason that musician Tyler Ramsey goes into the woods when he is writing, and why he and his wife have settled on a plot of land many miles outside of the nearest city of Asheville, North Carolina, to raise their young daughter. For Ramsey, living deliberately and with a little space, removed from distractions and the allure of needless consumption, is how he feels most creative and at ease. And while writing For the Morning, his first album since 2011’s The Valley Wind, Ramsey tapped into that insulated world where imagination flourishes and sounds for mining are plentiful to create his most realized and regal work yet.

The Ramsey home is surrounded by mountains, fields, and trees, and a small river winds through it all. Wild animals live in the family’s forest, paying daily visits to sing their own songs. Ramsey’s hand-built music studio affords him a shelter from the cacophony or a chance to join the chorus, depending on whether or not he has the windows open. The things he does at home are the things he sings about in his songs—neither costumed nor fabricated—and in keeping with his deliberate existence, he clarifies that his lifestyle is not a badge to be worn but simply his preference.

“Spending my time here in North Carolina, swimming in the stream and walking around in the woods, it’s part of my character as a musician,” Ramsey says. “We live out in the country, I built my own studio. Out here, you have the ability to take your time and work on things slowly and comfortably. These are reasons why the music I make sounds like it does.”

For the Morning is filled with instrumentation connecting the listener to this setting: radiant acoustic piano and stark, dexterous guitar fingerpicking; lilting, poignant pedal steel and gentle, babbling beats that mosey rather than rush. We are transplanted to Ramsey’s woods even before any words can take us there. But, as he reveals, the process that brought the album to life wasn’t just one sunny stroll in the pines—a newborn baby and a professional musician’s touring schedule create their own challenges. So, it was up to Ramsey to find a balance, and he learned to take advantage of any fleeting moments of stillness whenever possible, while also using his time on the road as its own form of inspiration.

He wrote what would become the first song for the record just after the birth of his daughter. As a way of keeping her calm during the long nights he would wear her on his chest in a baby carrier while playing piano, and the gentle, rhythmic chords would lull her to sleep. Of course, the family rooster, Pip, did not help matters, but such is life in the wild. Despite his exhaustion, a melody and words came to Ramsey quickly, written abstractly about coming to terms with his own sleeplessness, and he called the song “For the Morning.”

“I’d never been a morning person, but I became one because I had to,” he says. “Our daughter was up all the time, and our rooster starts crying at 4:30 in the morning. It’s just our world now, everything starts before the sun comes up. But that shift in my life created a song I was happy with, and the other songs came pretty quickly after that.”

While at home on the musician’s equivalent of paternity leave, Ramsey took to the woods whenever possible, finding inspiration in his familiars as well as in his footsteps. Carrying a notebook and humming guitar lines into a recorder, he worked the songs out viscerally in nature before returning to his studio to record home demos. And oftentimes, once there, his playing would transcendentally transport him back to where he’d been. “I do find the rhythm of walking helpful for working out song ideas, and the only thing anywhere close to the meditative aspect of hiking for me is playing acoustic guitar,” he says. “I can sit and play guitar for a couple hours, or go for a hike, and take myself to another world. Some of the images from these songs are visual cues that turn into parts of stories I’m trying to tell. When I’m singing them on tour, I have that visual in my head; it gets attached to the piece and never really separates.”

But for as much as he prefers to spend his time at home, his past decade was spent largely away from it. As guitarist for and co-writer with the rock group Band of Horses, Ramsey found himself on the road constantly, forced to make temporary shelters inside of hotel rooms and bus bunks. After ten years with the band it was time for a change, and Ramsey seized the opportunity to pour all of his creative energy into his solo work. It became natural, then, for some of his new material to explore that dynamic of being away and creating a respite wherever possible.

“Parts of this record were written on the road, back and forth and on airplanes and in hotels while traveling,” he says. “Some of it comes from the endless touring and that feeling you get after a while of not knowing where you are, and longing for your home and child.” The song “A Dream of Home” is a product of that perspective. On a day off during a Horses tour, Ramsey holed himself up in a hotel room outside of Nashville and began writing about that familiar tug of greener grass on the other side, wondering if following every musician’s dream of touring the world to play for huge audiences was actually all it was cracked up to be. “A lot of people see the touring life as glamorous, but there are plenty of times where it’s hard to keep up. It becomes difficult to miss your family that much, and you want to be around your newborn child rather than sitting in a room ten hours away while knowing you won’t be home for three more weeks.”

And so, following his exit from the band and free to follow his own music full-time, Ramsey took an album’s worth of demo songs to La La Land studios in Louisville, Kentucky, where he, studio engineer Kevin Ratterman, and Ramsey’s longtime friend Seth Kauffman, the crack session and touring musician (Jim James, Lana Del Rey, Ray LaMontagne) who fronts the North Carolina band Floating Action, set out to record. The trio fulfilled the majority of all sonic duties during this tracking phase, with Ramsey’s demos serving as blueprints as they pieced songs together during the first weeklong session. Ramsey, Ratterman, and Kauffman would return to the studio again for another shorter period to flesh out those recordings, and one final day in friend and former Band of Horses bandmate Bill Reynolds’s Nashville studio finished the job. The process was complemented by spots from several guest musicians, including Joan Shelley, Thad Cockrell, and Molly Parden singing harmony on various songs, the pedal steel player Russ Paul contributing several solos, and Gareth Liddiard from The Drones on guitar. “I’ve learned through the years that calling the right person for the right part is so important,” Ramsey says. “While I love picking up an instrument I don’t know how to play, bringing in someone who really knows how to play it can make something far cooler happen. The guests filled these songs out perfectly.”

For the Morning comes together seamlessly as a cohesive work from a master songwriter and musician. “Breaking A Heart” joins the aforementioned “Dream of Home” as a standout, with sublime piano chords and beautiful guitar playing urged along by upbeat drum tracks, Ramsey’s pristine vocals left hanging in the air like mist. The lament of the former tune is one not uncommon in Ramsey’s work, and he notes that many of his favorite songs—his own or by others—are dotted with sadness. “I do gravitate toward sad music, and heartbreak is a part of the songs I write,” he says. “Writing a song is this huge emotional release and it can be very intense. There’s a lot of melancholy in what I do.”

“Firewood” is one such number, a somber song written in suites with a heaviness that gradually lifts as it moves through its parts. Written on guitar, it came out of what was an instrumental piece before Ramsey found its vocal pieces and story while in Ratterman’s studio. “It’s a heavy, dark song with a positive twist at the end,” Ramsey says. “It comes from that feeling of winter and things falling apart and trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” The song took on a different energy when the trio played it in the studio, and in turn branched out to become the instrumental song “Darkest Clouds,” which precedes “Firewood” on the album. “I always like to have a long instrumental piece and then a song to come in as its companion,” he says. “It can create a cool arc and is an interesting way to tie an album together.”

And yet, bright moments and Ramsey’s optimistic outlook abound. “White Coat” is a shining example of the way Ramsey uses visual imagery from his walks in the woods to write. The specific place he mentions in the song (“You went out across the river to lay down in the sunlight where it filters through the pines”) is an exact spot on his land where he sat while writing it. The song highlights Ramsey’s skill as a fingerpicker and creates space for his haunting voice to climb higher and higher. Elsewhere, “Evening Country” is an updated, country music version of the song “Evening Kitchen” he wrote for the Band of Horses album Infinite Arms and swings with gorgeous harmonies and pedal steel. “For the Morning” ends the album like a sweet, soothing lullaby, transporting the listener—and, as we know, the singer—to a peaceful place of beauty and sanctuary.

For Ramsey, the receiver of far more than that for which he has sought, that space is not some rented respite, nor some transient fabrication. It is home, and it is perfect.

(Late Show) Opus One Comedy Presents Let Me Break You Up: An Anti-Dating Game Show Hosted By Carly Ann Filbin

Let's be honest, love doesn't exist, couples suck, and Valentine's Day is bullshit. Join your bitter host Carly Ann Filbin as she tests real life couples to see if they are meant to be together (they aren't). The couple with the least amount of points at the end of the night will have to break-up because we all die alone anyway and what's the point of anything really? It'll be FUN!

Let's be honest, love doesn't exist, couples suck, and Valentine's Day is bullshit. Join your bitter host Carly Ann Filbin as she tests real life couples to see if they are meant to be together (they aren't). The couple with the least amount of points at the end of the night will have to break-up because we all die alone anyway and what's the point of anything really? It'll be FUN!

Dinosoul / Mister Moon / Balloon Ride Fantasy / Flower Crown

Ray Bonneville

Acclaimed raconteur Ray Bonneville strips his bluesy Americana to its essentials and steeps it in the humid grooves of the South, creating a compelling poetry of hard living and deep feeling. His ninth release, At King Electric, delivers more than his trademark grit and groove. Rich guitar and harmonica lines resonate over spare but spunky rhythms, while Bonneville’s deep, evocative voice confesses life’s harsh realities. Whether performing solo or fronting a band, playing electric or acoustic guitar, Bonneville allows space between notes that adds potency to every chord, lick, and lyric. Often called a “song and groove man,” he began writing his own music after two decades working as a studio musician, playing rowdy rooms with blues bands, and living hard. He’s since released nine albums, won Canada’s Juno award and other prestigious honors, earned wide critical acclaim, and garnered an enthusiastic following in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Acclaimed raconteur Ray Bonneville strips his bluesy Americana to its essentials and steeps it in the humid grooves of the South, creating a compelling poetry of hard living and deep feeling. His ninth release, At King Electric, delivers more than his trademark grit and groove. Rich guitar and harmonica lines resonate over spare but spunky rhythms, while Bonneville’s deep, evocative voice confesses life’s harsh realities. Whether performing solo or fronting a band, playing electric or acoustic guitar, Bonneville allows space between notes that adds potency to every chord, lick, and lyric. Often called a “song and groove man,” he began writing his own music after two decades working as a studio musician, playing rowdy rooms with blues bands, and living hard. He’s since released nine albums, won Canada’s Juno award and other prestigious honors, earned wide critical acclaim, and garnered an enthusiastic following in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

William Matheny

It’s fitting that William Matheny has chosen to honor the 15th anniversary of Centro-matic’s tour de force album Love You Just the Same on his new 7-inch: The 2003 full-length from Will Johnson’s four-piece was one of the most acclaimed releases from Misra Records’ first five years, and Matheny has emerged as one of the label’s standard-bearers as it enters closes in on the end of its second decade.

The tribute takes the form of a cover of “Flashes and Cables,” the now-classic from Love You, on the A-side of Matheny’s single. Matheny’s spin is, like so many memorable covers, faithful to the original up to a point—he chose to keep the dramatic shifts in dynamics and picked up the pace only a pinch—but diverges just enough to make it distinct. Gone is Johnson’s martial drumbeat in favor of Matheny’s Spector-informed, lazy swung backbeat. In lieu of Centro-matic’s slow disintegration and off-kilter keys, we get a triumphant guitar solo worthy of J. Mascis as the song winds down. Quality songwriting isn’t threatened by interpretation, and in this new interpretation you’re bound to glimpse aspects of Johnson’s song you overlooked before.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the interpreter is a top-notch songwriter as well: Matheny, on the heels of 2017’s Strange Constellations LP and last spring’s EP “Moon Over Kenova,” is a breakout voice in country-rock, and keeps on proving it. The B-side of the new single, “Christian Name,” manages to turn variations on a theme into three or four distinct hooks, any one of which would have been enough for most songsmiths to hang their hat on. Tom Petty is in there somewhere beneath the world-weary country-rock exterior, but so is the dark-tinged bluesy folk of Lucinda Williams.

For some, Matheny’s tribute to Centro-matic will represent a nostalgic trip; for others it may be an entrée into the music of both Misra mainstays. The thing is, either way, it’s a pair of tracks worthy of play on repeat: Two gems with equal parts twang and tremolo, clever riffs and thoughtful words, delivered with deceptive ease.

- Andy Mulkerin

It’s fitting that William Matheny has chosen to honor the 15th anniversary of Centro-matic’s tour de force album Love You Just the Same on his new 7-inch: The 2003 full-length from Will Johnson’s four-piece was one of the most acclaimed releases from Misra Records’ first five years, and Matheny has emerged as one of the label’s standard-bearers as it enters closes in on the end of its second decade.

The tribute takes the form of a cover of “Flashes and Cables,” the now-classic from Love You, on the A-side of Matheny’s single. Matheny’s spin is, like so many memorable covers, faithful to the original up to a point—he chose to keep the dramatic shifts in dynamics and picked up the pace only a pinch—but diverges just enough to make it distinct. Gone is Johnson’s martial drumbeat in favor of Matheny’s Spector-informed, lazy swung backbeat. In lieu of Centro-matic’s slow disintegration and off-kilter keys, we get a triumphant guitar solo worthy of J. Mascis as the song winds down. Quality songwriting isn’t threatened by interpretation, and in this new interpretation you’re bound to glimpse aspects of Johnson’s song you overlooked before.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the interpreter is a top-notch songwriter as well: Matheny, on the heels of 2017’s Strange Constellations LP and last spring’s EP “Moon Over Kenova,” is a breakout voice in country-rock, and keeps on proving it. The B-side of the new single, “Christian Name,” manages to turn variations on a theme into three or four distinct hooks, any one of which would have been enough for most songsmiths to hang their hat on. Tom Petty is in there somewhere beneath the world-weary country-rock exterior, but so is the dark-tinged bluesy folk of Lucinda Williams.

For some, Matheny’s tribute to Centro-matic will represent a nostalgic trip; for others it may be an entrée into the music of both Misra mainstays. The thing is, either way, it’s a pair of tracks worthy of play on repeat: Two gems with equal parts twang and tremolo, clever riffs and thoughtful words, delivered with deceptive ease.

- Andy Mulkerin

SASAMI

If you’ve ever drafted an overly long text to someone and decided against sending it, then you’ll probably hear something of yourself in SASAMI, out March 2019 on Domino. “It’s a mix of a diary and a collection of letters, written but never sent, to people I’ve been intimately involved with in one way or another,” explains Los Angeles songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sasami Ashworth, aka SASAMI, who wrote the album’s ten tautly melodic rock tracks over the course of a year on tour, playing keys and guitar with Cherry Glazerr. “Ok, maybe they’re more like over-dramatic drafts of texts that you compose in the Notes section of your iPhone, but either way, they come from a place of getting something off my chest.” In an Instagram post announcing the release of “Callous,” a haunting ballad chronicling the disintegration of a relationship over wrenching guitar wails, she sums up the inspiration behind her engrossingly confessional debut more bluntly: “Everyone I fucked and who fucked me last year.”

Originating as a string of demos she recorded straight to her iPad on tour, the songs poured out of Ashworth in stream-of-consciousness fashion, tracking the thrills, disappointments, and non-starters of a year spent newly single and on the road. In many ways, though, they were the culmination of decades of hard work. After a studying piano as a child, she picked up the French horn in middle school, and has been playing music pretty much every day since—first as a long-time conservatory kid with her sights on a career as a classical French horn player, and later as an elementary school music teacher, running around a classroom, making up songs and dances, and directing rag-tag orchestras full of glockenspiels and bongos.

Where studying classical music and jazz had been an exercise in creating note-perfect renditions of other people’s music, teaching, quite literally, required her to improvise. “You have to juggle so many skills when you teach,” she says. “You have to be a musician and a babysitter and a clown—and secretly be teaching. “If you can keep like 30 kids with tambourines entertained, [doing it for] a room full of drunk adults at a rock show is nothing.”

It didn’t take long for Ashworth to start dipping her toe into pop music. A growing obsession with the noisy catharsis of post-punk and shoegaze and nights out with her brother Joo-Joo, a veteran of the Los Angeles indie rock scene who plays in the band Froth, led her to playing synth and guitar in the group Dirt Dress. In the past half-decade, she’s worn basically every hat that a working musician can wear, scoring films and commercials, producing for and playing on other people’s albums, and doing string, horn, and vocal arrangements for artists like Curtis Harding, Wild Nothing, and Vagabon.

But it wasn’t until March of 2017, about midway-through a two-and-a-half year stint recording and touring with Cherry Glazerr, that she felt the urge to sit down and write songs of her own. “I had just ended a year and a half relationship— a pretty serious relationship, that came right after another serious relationship,” she says. “It was just like a beginning of a new life cycle in a lot of ways—the beginning of my new single life, and also constantly being on tour, and being in this band all the time. And so I felt like I needed to write. I was just super emotional.”

At first, she viewed writing songs mostly as an opportunity to sharpen her guitar skills. Eventually, since she was on tour most of the time, she decided to forgo rent on an apartment and use the money to pay for studio time whenever she was back in Los Angeles, figuring that she might as well learn her way around an analog studio. Though the material she was working on was deeply personal, the record that would emerge from those sessions—co-produced by Joo Joo and Studio 22’s Thomas Dolas, who also engineered and mixed SASAMI—is largely the sound of Ashworth having fun in the studio with her friends. Devendra Banhart and Beach Fossils’ Dustin Payseur make appearances as “male back-up vocalists,” and Joo Joo—her professed “guitar hero”—and Froth bandmate Cameron Allen fill in guitar and drums, respectively. “Adult Contemporary,” a spacey reverie reflecting the existential uncertainty of our current moment, features an all-star crew of badass Los Angeles women, including French singer-songwriter and actress Soko on vocals, Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy on guitar, Alvvays drummer Sheridan Riley on drums, and Anna Butters on electric and standup bass.

SASAMI is the sound of Ashworth reveling in the warmth and magic of analog recording— experimenting with different guitar tones and amplifier placements, embracing the imperfections that arise when you record on a 16-track and reconstruing them as strengths. Her years studying music theory and classical performance shine through in the tiny details that pepper SASAMI at every turn—from the sly bending of a guitar note on opener “I Was a Window,” to the expressive pause before the instrumental breakdown on “Pacify My Heart.” Unlike your typical four-chord rock songs, her colorful arrangements draw from a classical technique called voice leading, where the different elements of a song (from voice, to keys, to bass) form distinct, interweaving melodic lines.

Just like her notoriously irreverent stage banter, Ashworth says her relationship to music, and to playing instruments, “comes from a place of love and playfulness and joy”—and it’s something you can hear at every moment of SASAMI, even as the emotional journey it traces veers into more introspective territory. “Jealousy,” a smoky, minor-key number with a sinister choir of chirpy back-up vocals, celebrates the freedom of living life on your own terms as a single person, even as it makes those around you uncomfortable. “Free,” a softly strummed duet with Devendra Banhart, captures the pain of finally feeling ready to open up to someone new, only to discover that they aren’t on the same page. “Not the Time,” an open-road rocker with crunchy shoegaze guitars and sweeping synths, explores the bittersweet feeling of realizing that your love for someone is reciprocated, even if the timing and geography don’t add up. “It's not the time or place for us,” she sings in her wispy alto. “But you said that you would save some space for us.”

If SASAMI tells a story, it’s one about the surprising ways that one’s relationships—with lovers, with friends, with oneself—can shift in a single year. And it’s one that doesn’t really have a solid conclusion or takeaway—other than the realization “that your status of being in a relationship or not doesn’t actually define whether you feel whole,” as Sasami describes it. “It's about whether you feel grounded or not. Whether you feel at peace or not.”

It’s inspiring to hear a woman who spent years playing other people’s music finally tell her own story. And it’s a feeling she says she wants to pay forward, just as her students and so many women in her life—like recent tourmates Mitski, Snail Mail, and Japanese Breakfast—have empowered her. Which is another way of saying that even in its saddest moments, SASAMI will put a little bounce in your step. Extra points if you decide to put on a clown costume and dance around in the street, as Ashworth does is the video for "Not the Time."

If you’ve ever drafted an overly long text to someone and decided against sending it, then you’ll probably hear something of yourself in SASAMI, out March 2019 on Domino. “It’s a mix of a diary and a collection of letters, written but never sent, to people I’ve been intimately involved with in one way or another,” explains Los Angeles songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sasami Ashworth, aka SASAMI, who wrote the album’s ten tautly melodic rock tracks over the course of a year on tour, playing keys and guitar with Cherry Glazerr. “Ok, maybe they’re more like over-dramatic drafts of texts that you compose in the Notes section of your iPhone, but either way, they come from a place of getting something off my chest.” In an Instagram post announcing the release of “Callous,” a haunting ballad chronicling the disintegration of a relationship over wrenching guitar wails, she sums up the inspiration behind her engrossingly confessional debut more bluntly: “Everyone I fucked and who fucked me last year.”

Originating as a string of demos she recorded straight to her iPad on tour, the songs poured out of Ashworth in stream-of-consciousness fashion, tracking the thrills, disappointments, and non-starters of a year spent newly single and on the road. In many ways, though, they were the culmination of decades of hard work. After a studying piano as a child, she picked up the French horn in middle school, and has been playing music pretty much every day since—first as a long-time conservatory kid with her sights on a career as a classical French horn player, and later as an elementary school music teacher, running around a classroom, making up songs and dances, and directing rag-tag orchestras full of glockenspiels and bongos.

Where studying classical music and jazz had been an exercise in creating note-perfect renditions of other people’s music, teaching, quite literally, required her to improvise. “You have to juggle so many skills when you teach,” she says. “You have to be a musician and a babysitter and a clown—and secretly be teaching. “If you can keep like 30 kids with tambourines entertained, [doing it for] a room full of drunk adults at a rock show is nothing.”

It didn’t take long for Ashworth to start dipping her toe into pop music. A growing obsession with the noisy catharsis of post-punk and shoegaze and nights out with her brother Joo-Joo, a veteran of the Los Angeles indie rock scene who plays in the band Froth, led her to playing synth and guitar in the group Dirt Dress. In the past half-decade, she’s worn basically every hat that a working musician can wear, scoring films and commercials, producing for and playing on other people’s albums, and doing string, horn, and vocal arrangements for artists like Curtis Harding, Wild Nothing, and Vagabon.

But it wasn’t until March of 2017, about midway-through a two-and-a-half year stint recording and touring with Cherry Glazerr, that she felt the urge to sit down and write songs of her own. “I had just ended a year and a half relationship— a pretty serious relationship, that came right after another serious relationship,” she says. “It was just like a beginning of a new life cycle in a lot of ways—the beginning of my new single life, and also constantly being on tour, and being in this band all the time. And so I felt like I needed to write. I was just super emotional.”

At first, she viewed writing songs mostly as an opportunity to sharpen her guitar skills. Eventually, since she was on tour most of the time, she decided to forgo rent on an apartment and use the money to pay for studio time whenever she was back in Los Angeles, figuring that she might as well learn her way around an analog studio. Though the material she was working on was deeply personal, the record that would emerge from those sessions—co-produced by Joo Joo and Studio 22’s Thomas Dolas, who also engineered and mixed SASAMI—is largely the sound of Ashworth having fun in the studio with her friends. Devendra Banhart and Beach Fossils’ Dustin Payseur make appearances as “male back-up vocalists,” and Joo Joo—her professed “guitar hero”—and Froth bandmate Cameron Allen fill in guitar and drums, respectively. “Adult Contemporary,” a spacey reverie reflecting the existential uncertainty of our current moment, features an all-star crew of badass Los Angeles women, including French singer-songwriter and actress Soko on vocals, Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy on guitar, Alvvays drummer Sheridan Riley on drums, and Anna Butters on electric and standup bass.

SASAMI is the sound of Ashworth reveling in the warmth and magic of analog recording— experimenting with different guitar tones and amplifier placements, embracing the imperfections that arise when you record on a 16-track and reconstruing them as strengths. Her years studying music theory and classical performance shine through in the tiny details that pepper SASAMI at every turn—from the sly bending of a guitar note on opener “I Was a Window,” to the expressive pause before the instrumental breakdown on “Pacify My Heart.” Unlike your typical four-chord rock songs, her colorful arrangements draw from a classical technique called voice leading, where the different elements of a song (from voice, to keys, to bass) form distinct, interweaving melodic lines.

Just like her notoriously irreverent stage banter, Ashworth says her relationship to music, and to playing instruments, “comes from a place of love and playfulness and joy”—and it’s something you can hear at every moment of SASAMI, even as the emotional journey it traces veers into more introspective territory. “Jealousy,” a smoky, minor-key number with a sinister choir of chirpy back-up vocals, celebrates the freedom of living life on your own terms as a single person, even as it makes those around you uncomfortable. “Free,” a softly strummed duet with Devendra Banhart, captures the pain of finally feeling ready to open up to someone new, only to discover that they aren’t on the same page. “Not the Time,” an open-road rocker with crunchy shoegaze guitars and sweeping synths, explores the bittersweet feeling of realizing that your love for someone is reciprocated, even if the timing and geography don’t add up. “It's not the time or place for us,” she sings in her wispy alto. “But you said that you would save some space for us.”

If SASAMI tells a story, it’s one about the surprising ways that one’s relationships—with lovers, with friends, with oneself—can shift in a single year. And it’s one that doesn’t really have a solid conclusion or takeaway—other than the realization “that your status of being in a relationship or not doesn’t actually define whether you feel whole,” as Sasami describes it. “It's about whether you feel grounded or not. Whether you feel at peace or not.”

It’s inspiring to hear a woman who spent years playing other people’s music finally tell her own story. And it’s a feeling she says she wants to pay forward, just as her students and so many women in her life—like recent tourmates Mitski, Snail Mail, and Japanese Breakfast—have empowered her. Which is another way of saying that even in its saddest moments, SASAMI will put a little bounce in your step. Extra points if you decide to put on a clown costume and dance around in the street, as Ashworth does is the video for "Not the Time."

The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers’ album, Life in the Dark, out on Yep Roc, is classic American music. At once plainspoken and deeply literate, the band’s latest features nine new songs that capture the hopes and fears, the yearning and resignation, of a rootless, restless nation at a time of change.

Life in the Dark also coincides with The Felice Brothers’ 10th anniversary as a band. Hailed by the AV Club for a sound at once “timeless, yet tossed-off,” they’ve released plenty of music over the past decade, often on their own without a record label, but the new album is the fullest realization yet of the band’s DIY tendencies. Self-produced by the musicians and engineered by James Felice (who also contributed accordion, keyboards and vocals), the Felice Brothers made Life in the Dark themselves in a garage on a farm in upstate New York, observed only by audience of poultry.

“The recording is definitely rough around the edges and cheap,” James Felice says, laughing. “It was liberating and really cool to do. It allowed us to untether ourselves from anything and just make music.”

Because of makeshift studio set-up, the music they made was necessarily stripped down, emphasizing acoustic instruments and spacious arrangements on songs that showcase the sound of a band playing together live, with echoes in the music of Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and rural blues.

“We tried to make it as simple and folk-based as possible, because we were working with limited resources,” singer and guitarist Ian Felice says. “We wanted to take all the frills out and make it just meat and potatoes.”

Still, there are hints of seasoning: among the folk and blues touchstones, the band took a certain inspiration from Neil Young and the Meat Puppets, too. Ian Felice says he was trying to channel the spirit of Meat Puppets II on opener “Aerosol Ball” — “They played kind of weird, freaky folk music, so there’s a connection there,” he says — while James Felice says listening to Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night was like getting permission to make Life in the Dark.

“If you listen to that record, it’s fucking crazy,” he says. “We listened to that to know that what we were doing was legal and had precedent. If Neil Young could make a record that sounds like that, we can make a record that sounds like this.”

He’s referring to the wild, whirling accordion and big, loose rhythm on “Aerosol Ball,” mournful glimmers of electric guitar and fiddle on “Triumph ’73” and the ramshackle, blues-rock feel of “Plunder,” full of grainy lead guitars, blasts of organ and a shout-along chorus inspired by the rhythm of Shakespeare’s “Double, double toil and trouble” incantation in Macbeth. Though The Felice Brothers often share songwriting duties, the band gravitated toward Ian Felice’s songs for Life in the Dark.

Along with Shakespeare and the Meat Puppets, Ian Felice absorbed the essence of writers from Anne Sexton to Anne Frank, Raymond Carver to Dr. Seuss, on tunes with clear, if unintentional, political undertones. “It’s just what was going on when I was writing the songs,” Ian Felice says. “It’s a pretty politically charged climate right now.” To say the least.

The singer’s characters on “Aerosol Ball” exist in a dystopian culture bought, and ruled, by corporations; while “Jack at the Asylum” catalogs cultural ills including climate change, economic inequality and the numbing aspects of televised warfare, themes that recur again on “Plunder.” He wrote the title track after re-reading The Diary of a Young Girl, the journal that Frank kept while in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. “The idea of living in a dark attic unable to fully grasp what is going on in your life and feeling powerless to change it seemed like a relevant metaphor for me at the time,” Ian Felice says.

Elsewhere, he offers his own interpretation of classic American archetypes: “Triumph ’73” follows a young man on the cusp of adulthood desperate to ride his motorcycle away from the life changes overtaking him, while the ballad “Diamond Bell” tells the story of a folk heroine gunslinger in the vein of Pretty Boy Floyd or Jesse James, and the hapless, lovestruck kid she ensnares. “It’s part-love song, part-adventure story, part-tragedy, told in the Mexican folk tradition of singing about bandits,” Ian Felice says. “I think it’s one of the most straight-ahead narratives I’ve written.”

The band, spent about a month recording Life in the Dark in the late winter of 2015. James Felice learned engineering on the fly — “I literally had a book, like, ‘Where do you put the mic? How do you mic the kick drum?’” he says — and the band managed to nail most of the tunes within a few takes.

“There wasn’t too much agonizing, just the joy of playing music,” James Felice says. “We had an audience of chickens, and an audience of each other, and we were just really enjoying making it.”

The resulting album is more than just classic American music — it’s a parable for modern America.

The Felice Brothers’ album, Life in the Dark, out on Yep Roc, is classic American music. At once plainspoken and deeply literate, the band’s latest features nine new songs that capture the hopes and fears, the yearning and resignation, of a rootless, restless nation at a time of change.

Life in the Dark also coincides with The Felice Brothers’ 10th anniversary as a band. Hailed by the AV Club for a sound at once “timeless, yet tossed-off,” they’ve released plenty of music over the past decade, often on their own without a record label, but the new album is the fullest realization yet of the band’s DIY tendencies. Self-produced by the musicians and engineered by James Felice (who also contributed accordion, keyboards and vocals), the Felice Brothers made Life in the Dark themselves in a garage on a farm in upstate New York, observed only by audience of poultry.

“The recording is definitely rough around the edges and cheap,” James Felice says, laughing. “It was liberating and really cool to do. It allowed us to untether ourselves from anything and just make music.”

Because of makeshift studio set-up, the music they made was necessarily stripped down, emphasizing acoustic instruments and spacious arrangements on songs that showcase the sound of a band playing together live, with echoes in the music of Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and rural blues.

“We tried to make it as simple and folk-based as possible, because we were working with limited resources,” singer and guitarist Ian Felice says. “We wanted to take all the frills out and make it just meat and potatoes.”

Still, there are hints of seasoning: among the folk and blues touchstones, the band took a certain inspiration from Neil Young and the Meat Puppets, too. Ian Felice says he was trying to channel the spirit of Meat Puppets II on opener “Aerosol Ball” — “They played kind of weird, freaky folk music, so there’s a connection there,” he says — while James Felice says listening to Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night was like getting permission to make Life in the Dark.

“If you listen to that record, it’s fucking crazy,” he says. “We listened to that to know that what we were doing was legal and had precedent. If Neil Young could make a record that sounds like that, we can make a record that sounds like this.”

He’s referring to the wild, whirling accordion and big, loose rhythm on “Aerosol Ball,” mournful glimmers of electric guitar and fiddle on “Triumph ’73” and the ramshackle, blues-rock feel of “Plunder,” full of grainy lead guitars, blasts of organ and a shout-along chorus inspired by the rhythm of Shakespeare’s “Double, double toil and trouble” incantation in Macbeth. Though The Felice Brothers often share songwriting duties, the band gravitated toward Ian Felice’s songs for Life in the Dark.

Along with Shakespeare and the Meat Puppets, Ian Felice absorbed the essence of writers from Anne Sexton to Anne Frank, Raymond Carver to Dr. Seuss, on tunes with clear, if unintentional, political undertones. “It’s just what was going on when I was writing the songs,” Ian Felice says. “It’s a pretty politically charged climate right now.” To say the least.

The singer’s characters on “Aerosol Ball” exist in a dystopian culture bought, and ruled, by corporations; while “Jack at the Asylum” catalogs cultural ills including climate change, economic inequality and the numbing aspects of televised warfare, themes that recur again on “Plunder.” He wrote the title track after re-reading The Diary of a Young Girl, the journal that Frank kept while in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. “The idea of living in a dark attic unable to fully grasp what is going on in your life and feeling powerless to change it seemed like a relevant metaphor for me at the time,” Ian Felice says.

Elsewhere, he offers his own interpretation of classic American archetypes: “Triumph ’73” follows a young man on the cusp of adulthood desperate to ride his motorcycle away from the life changes overtaking him, while the ballad “Diamond Bell” tells the story of a folk heroine gunslinger in the vein of Pretty Boy Floyd or Jesse James, and the hapless, lovestruck kid she ensnares. “It’s part-love song, part-adventure story, part-tragedy, told in the Mexican folk tradition of singing about bandits,” Ian Felice says. “I think it’s one of the most straight-ahead narratives I’ve written.”

The band, spent about a month recording Life in the Dark in the late winter of 2015. James Felice learned engineering on the fly — “I literally had a book, like, ‘Where do you put the mic? How do you mic the kick drum?’” he says — and the band managed to nail most of the tunes within a few takes.

“There wasn’t too much agonizing, just the joy of playing music,” James Felice says. “We had an audience of chickens, and an audience of each other, and we were just really enjoying making it.”

The resulting album is more than just classic American music — it’s a parable for modern America.

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