Tag Archives: Paul Hoffman

A Band With No Drums: Greensky Bluegrass and If Sorrows Swim

Greensky Bluegrassedited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words and photos by Tim Newby

A band with no drums,” says Paul Hoffman, mandolinist, singer, and songwriter in Greensky Bluegrass. Hoffman had been trying to best explain his band’s sound, which is a mix of traditional style bluegrass and a more adventurous brand of roots-rock. “I used to say that we are not a bluegrass band and try to convince people that there is more involved,” says Hoffman, “but we absolutely are a bluegrass band and can play the shit out of some bluegrass. We just don’t do it all day. It is not all we do.” With a taste of the humor the gives the band much of its personality and makes them so much fun to see live, Hoffman continues with tongue firmly in cheek, “Besides the pun wouldn’t make any sense without the second word in our name.”

Hoffman is right though; bluegrass is not all they do. They are so much more than that. While their music is built firmly up the traditional bluegrass sound with their line-up of banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar, Dobro, and upright bass, the way in which they reinterpret that traditional sound is miles away from what Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs first played so many years ago. While they have those elements that one would expect to find in traditional bluegrass – acoustic instruments, fast virtuosic playing, tight vocal harmonies, and instrumental solo breakdowns – it is what they do with those simple elements that sets the band apart from the past and points towards the future.   DSCN1704

Greensky Bluegrass have always tread the line between the old and the new, moving easily from traditional tunes such as “Working on a Building,” or “Pig in a Pen,” to Bruce Hornsby’s “King of the Hill,” or Traffic’s “Light up or Leave me Alone,”  throughout the course of their high-energy live shows.  This chameleon-like ability is shown fully on their song “All Four” from their 2011 album Handguns. The song starts with what seemingly seems to be a simple finger picked banjo led-lament that quickly dissolves into a lengthy, adventurous jam the likes of which would be completely foreign to those only reared in traditional bluegrass. In concert “All Four” is even more of a beast, regularly stretching past the fifteen minute-mark. And let’s be honest your parent’s bluegrass does not regularly include fifteen-minute spacey jams that jockey for position on the interstellar overdrive highway.   It is this mix of the old and the new that has enabled Greensky Bluegrass to explode over the past couple of years and establish themselves as leaders of the new jam-grass movement.

Since forming in 2000 in Kalamazoo, Michigan around the trio of banjo-picker Michael Arlen Bont, guitarist Dave Bruzza, and mandolinist Paul Hoffman, the band has seen a steady, rapid growth.  They added bassist Mike Devol in 2004 which was soon followed by a win at the prestigious band contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2006. Shortly after, 2007, they rounded out their line-up when they added Dobroist Anders Beck.  The addition of Beck helped solidify the band’s progressive take on bluegrass. DSCN2452edited

In 2010 at the annual Delfest the band had a coming-out-party of sorts. They played three sets over the course of the weekend and with each set seemed to see their audience increase in size each time. The three sets also served to showcase all the far-ranging aspects of Greensky’s diverse musical personality. They started the weekend playing along with Del McCoury and host of guests when their main stage set was rained out and they moved inside to the Music Hall and played as part of the songwriter showcase.  Their set inside ended up being more a showcase for Greensky and their traditional chops as they played a set that was nothing but old covers and bluegrass songs. The following morning the band started the day again inside the Music Hall playing a set list that was entirely made up of rock covers that do not normally rear their heads in the bluegrass world, which allowed the band to exhibit their unmatched ability to meld completely diverse styles of music into something wholly unique. Greensky’s final set of the weekend was to a packed field at the side stage during which they played nothing but original material. It was the perfect capstone to the weekend as the band had shown all facets of their vast musical spectrum over their three sets and defined what truly makes up the music of Greensky Bluegrass, a mix that Hoffman describes as “our material, bluegrass, and those weird covers and other things we bring to bluegrass or we bring bluegrass too.”   2014-09-07_12-16-01

This diversity of the band’s musical persona is perfectly captured on the band’s latest album, the stunning If Sorrows Swim. The album, like the band, veers from style to style, yet does so while maintaining an identity that is wholly Greensky. The album was built around the skeleton of twelve songs written by the band’s primary songwriters Hoffman and guitarist Bruzza, yet arranged by the whole band. Hoffman says the band’s approach this time was different than on previous albums. “We had worked on the songs some before we got into the studio, but this time more than any other album it was undecided what the shape of it would be until we got into the studio. It was pretty drastic sometimes. We would say, ‘Let’s play this song bluegrassy, let’s try it halftime, folky, swingy,’ there was a lot of freedom and possibilities.” The songs slowly developed and took shape both on stage and in the studio. For Hoffman one of the toughest things was finally saying a song was finished, “Each song morphed and changed and that is one of the hard things of making a record, that commitment to the song and the final draft of it.”

The final draft of If Sorrows Swim is a schizophrenic mix, bouncing from the heartfelt lament of album opener “Windshield,” toGSBG the classic banjo roll on “Letter to Seymour,” to the rocking one-two punch of “Kerosene,” and “Demons,” but a schizophrenic mix that has a unifying, cohesive feel to it. “Working song arrangement and order was a challenge with this record,” explains Hoffman, “This is not a concept album where clearly this song goes before this one and leads into this one like Dark Side of the Moon that is all in the key of A and B and all relative pitch wise and it just goes the way it goes because that’s how it goes.” To help with the sequencing of the album, Hoffman says the band thought of it like one of their lives shows and paced it like they would a set list. “When we write a set list we pay attention to how it’s going to flow and where to put the fast ones in and where to put the spacey ones in. So I think the album flows like that.” This approach to pacing and song-order was born from the band’s desire to always keep things interesting on stage. “Early on we didn’t want to just play bluegrass all night long because that would be boring to just go chucka-chucka all night,” says Hoffman, “Sometimes we want to go boom-boom!” This live set list approach to the sequencing of the album rewards a long attention span, as it moves and peaks like a concert and takes the listener on a sonic, emotional journey.   DSCN2458edited

The album opens with the slow-burning build-up of “Windshield.” “Windshield” is a powerful opener Hoffman describes as a “real four-on-the-floor, downbeat, back chop which is sorta the opposite of what we are supposed to do.” It is precisely the kind of huge song U2 would have written in the eighties if they had decided to ditch their pretentious rock-leanings and grab acoustic instruments and pick some bluegrass. The song is a compelling statement from Greensky about what they are capable of and where they are going musically. While it hints at the band’s bluegrass roots, it highlights their ability to take those roots and push them all over the musical map. The rest of the album follows this exploratory template laid down in the first song. Over the course of If Sorrows Swim Greensky uses inventive song structures, tasteful melodic phrasing, and unique sonic textures to create an album that pushes the limits and boundaries of bluegrass-inspired music into the stratosphere, going to realms never visited by the banjo and mandolin before.

The dynamics of having two primary songwriters, with Hoffman’s more rock-styled tunes and Bruzza’s elegantly traditional sounding songs, help create a contrast of themes and styles that work to flesh out the personality of the album. Hoffman DSCN1483editedmentions some of the new ideas and chances he has been taking in his songwriting and how they have been influenced by some unlikely musicians:

I like to listen to something that I can get an idea about song structure and melodic tendencies from because folk and bluegrass stays pretty formulaic. What’s great about our band is I can write great songs that stand alone with me singing and playing guitar, but we are also a rock band that does all this exploratory stuff and can open it up and explore every night and there is a real balance between the two.

I listen to an album by a band like Alt-J and it is all about textures and I love the feel and mood of the music. Then I will listen to Jason Isabell’s new record and be like, man, this guy can write some friggin’ lyrics and I am inspired by both things in a different way.

DSCN1736editedGreensky Bluegrass has been on a steady trajectory upward since their first days as a band. They have seen half-full venues become packed the next time they visit, they have seen early-afternoon side-stage timeslots grow into main stage headlining slots at festivals, and they have seen their fan base organically grow as Hoffman proudly declares, “a handful of fans at a time.” With the release of If Sorrows Swim and the way it will appeal to a broad spectrum of fans, those fans will most likely grow at a rate much greater rate than a handful at a time. If Sorrows Swim seems to herald broad, new horizons for the band; Hoffman says that while they are excited they look took to keep things in perspective. “I hope this record gets as much attention as it can get, but we don’t want anything we don’t deserve. I would love to see some more of that crossover to fans of something like Jason Isabell who didn’t think they liked bluegrass, but they really like one of our songs or a fan of Alt-J who can listen and think ‘Wow, these guys can make some nice textures.’ Just like I cross over in my tastes, I want people to not be afraid that we are a bluegrass band, so that they will actually sink in and realize they like it. And that seems to happen more and more every year and the more that happens the prouder I am,” Hoffman pauses before finishing his thought, “It is all about good music. It is either good or it is not.”

Band’s Eye View 2013

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As 2013 comes to a close and year-end Best of Lists start popping up highlighting all the great music that was made this year, we at Honest Tune, wanted to find out what all those musicians who appear on all these best of lists were listening to this year.  So we asked some of our favorite bands what albums moved them this year and what were their memorable moments from a year full of great live shows.  Their answers provide a wide sampling of some of the great music that was made this year.  Some of it familiar, some of it not, but all of it well worth checking out.  Read on and hopefully discover some great, new music from 2013.

 

 

 

 

The four questions we asked each musician were:

1.) What were your 3 favorite albums of 2013?

2.) What was your favorite live moment of the year?

3.) What album or band were you most excited to discover in 2013?

4.) What are you looking forward to most in 2014?

 

 

DSCN8505editedKeller Williams

1.)  1. Bob Marley & The Wailers, Legend Remixed. Fresh spins on a universal music.

2. Pretty Lights, A Color Map of the Sun. It’s interesting how a DJ/producer will have humans play his ideas on instruments, record them on tape, press them to vinyl, then load it all in to the computer. That’s going above and beyond the call of duty.

3. White Denim’s, Corsicana Lemonade.  Super cool rock that rocks hard.

2.) Summer Camp in Chillicothe, Illinois.  Victor Wooten sat in with me the entire set.  It was tasty and the band was thrilled to be in the presence of the such musical greatness as Victor Wooten.  I  also enjoyed  the Bassnectar show at The Fillmore in Maryland.  I was dead center on the dance floor and my sternum was rattled. The energy went through the roof, it was powerful sh**t.

3.)  Breastfist, Tickly Shimmers. So funky. So complex. So funny. So weird. So good. Key track?  “Talk to the Fist”.

4.)  Looking forward to two huge bus tours with my new side project, More Than A Little.

(To hear more about Keller’s thoughts on Breastfist and his busy 2013, check out Honest Tune’s recent interview with him. Keller Williams with more than a little, its funky )

 

 

DSCN1473editedPaul Hoffman – Greensky Bluegrass

1.)  This is always tough.  I ask myself, “Did they have to be released in 2013 or did I just need to dig them in 2013?”

1.  Jason Isbell Southeastern.  Anders [Beck] said, “Listen to it and try not to love it.”  He was right.  This guy is freakin’ brilliant.

2.  Dawes Stories Don’t End.  I also think Taylor Goldsmith is a great writer.  If I dig the lyrics, I can latch on to a record in an unhealthy-listen-everyday kinda way.  I played this one a lot while we were flying this summer.

3.  Fruition Just One of Them Nights.  We just did 30+ shows with this band this fall.  I came home and listened to the album right away.  That’s got to say something.  Three amazing writers in this band.  Five incredible musicians.  Boy can they sing pretty too.

I did it.  All released in 2013.  I checked.

2.) In Chicago or Detroit I don’t know, we do so many shows in a row.” Checks calendar for a visual memory of the year, this is tough too.  I’m going with a recent memory.  It’s accessible and different.  I saw a lot of amazing music this year and (think) I played a great deal as well.  A piece that I will hold on to though is the emotion after our 9 week tour.  It’s sort of a sum-of-musical-moments. We worked so hard to keep it fresh every night and musically challenge ourselves and the listeners. The last show was hard but somehow we pulled it off.  I expected to be relieved (and certainly was) but I was struck with this nostalgia like never before.  I’ve already confronted this truth that there will never be another tour like that one.  I cried a little and it shocked me.  I was really surprised.  That’s a memory.

3.)  Jason Isbell.  The others above I was already familiar with.  Glad to be following him through future projects as well as looking back at his previous catalog. 

4.)   We’ve been working all year on a new album and it’s going to be released early in the year.  I’m anxious for people to hear it and there are some songs I’m excited to play.  Greensky is also going to play some amazing festivals in 2014.  I can’t say which but I can admit being stoked!

 

 

Mike DevolMike Devol – Greensky Bluegrass

1.)  1.  Jason Isbell, Southeastern. For someone who is generally so chipper, I’m a sucker for heartbreak. Not to say that it’s all sad- each song is just really poignant, and what Isbell says, he says really beautifully. I’m not yet incredibly familiar with his work with the Drive by Truckers, but this solo album is stripped down so charmingly, each arrangement in awesome service to its message. I listen to it almost every day.

2.  Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse. This Scottish band has released several albums, but their newest, Pedestrian Verse, is the one that has hooked me. It’s a study in texture, each band member contributing to a truly creative composite sound, that results in an album full of anthems. I find myself drumming on random objects and singing along at the top of my lungs.

3.  Lorde The Love Club EP. This is the prequel release to this fall’s super blockbuster pop sensation, Pure Heroine, which I also love. I know this is a jam publication- don’t judge me, but this 16-year old girl from New Zealand has created something pretty awesome in a world where Miley Cyrus and Toby Keith are the types to usually sell a ton of albums. She has a beautiful and unique voice, and the electronic accompaniment is just so damn sonically pleasing. Can’t stop listening.

2.)  Is it arrogant to choose a Greensky moment? Truth is, I play a hell of a lot more shows than I see, and I can’t think of any concert experience of this year that can hold a candle to the feeling I get when onstage with my boys. We finished a 47(?) show tour in mid-November with two sold-out nights at the Gothic Theater in Denver. That second night was some of the best fun I’ve had. We took the stage with a sense of victory that took us through that whole show, all relishing in the joy of playing, the pride of what we’d just accomplished, and the energy of perhaps our greatest fans of all.

3.)  Fruition. Didn’t discover them in 2013, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t discover just how awesome they are over the course of touring with them this year. If you haven’t heard of this 5-piece from Portland, OR, go buy all of their albums. When I first met Fruition, they had this charming string band sound, but with the addition of drums and the resulting growth in their songwriting styles, they’ve really come into an amazing, unique rock sound that is only theirs. I’m just getting started- They have three solid songwriters who can also sing stellar lead. Perhaps the most prolific of these is Jacob Anderson, who is also one of the best guitarists I know. Just plain shreds. Their three and sometimes four-part harmonies and vocal arrangements are some of the best in the business. And they’re just a bunch of solid, badass folks. Thankful that this year saw so many Greensky shows with Fruition as support. Next year, they’ll be too big to come out with us!

4.)  Sky’s the limit for 2014. First of all, I am just stoked for the release of our new album, If Sorrows Swim. We’ve been working on it all year, and I can’t wait to share it with our people, and hopefully some people who aren’t already “ours” in February or March. More great songs from Hoffman and Bruzza, self-produced and recorded with Glenn Brown in Michigan, like our last studio effort Handguns.

In true Greensky form, we’ll also be touring a lot. Festival season is already shaping up, and although I’m not allowed to talk about a lot of it yet, there is plenty to be excited about. What am I most excited about in 2014? The unknown. With all the exciting stuff that is happening for us, I’m gonna take the the optimist’s path and say that what I’m most excited about is all the cool stuff that isn’t planned yet. Who knows what the year will bring in terms of life and music-making experience, and I think that’s what keeps Greensky ticking in this often restless world of the touring musician- the people we meet, the scenes out the window of the bus, the crowds we play for, the spontaneous ontage pop-song teases. We have a lot of fun, and that’s what’s keeping us sane, and that’s what keeps us going from year to year. Come out and share in the revelry.

 

 

Patrick Rainey1Patrick Rainey – The Bridge, Freedom Enterprise

1.)  1.  Anders Osborne Peace – From the guy who brought us Three Free Amigos comes a full-length album that is brewed thick with soul and grit. Peace adds to a collection of songs that sticks with the listener like a heroin addiction. Anders’ guitar playing drips with good intention, but is over-driven to the point of dissonant overtones, yet somehow reaches the light at the end of the tunnel. This simple three piece band brings New Orleans Swamp to distortion levels, adding saxophone and the Hammond B3 along the way.

2. Lorde Pure Heroine – Intimate and fantastic, Pure Heroine is perfect for road trips and fornication. Consistent thumping bass lines and up-close vocals lend to a soothing and hypnotic experience. Nothing too complicated here, just good songs, perfectly executed with easy production. Albums like this usually make their way to my playlist because it’s clean and relaxing.

3.  Arcade Fire Reflektor – In contradiction to the previous two albums, Reflektor, has an uncanny abundance of density. The album itself has a live feel only because there is people clapping and cheering like there is a live audience, but the album ideally could not be more over-produced. This is one of the most expensive, collaborative, intense, and imaginative journeys one could expect out of listening to a bunch of invisible wave “sounds.”

2.)  David Byrne and St. Vincent (Baltimore, MD 6/13/13). – My buddy Cris Jacobs had won two tickets from WTMD the night of the show, and he asked me to go. I couldn’t be more excited because I really wanted to see David Bryne. I had never seen a show at the Myerhoff and it took my breath away from the moment I took my required seat. The band started, laying on the floor playing to the suspended honeycomb sound diffusing apparatus, that reflected the sound out to the mass of rather boisterous people. When David Byrne came out the crowd erupted, and I think I cried a little but I was soon brought back by his candor and personality. He said he had spent the day biking around Druid Hill Park, but it sounded more like “Droodle Pork” as he was demonstrating his best Bawlmer accent. He’s one of us, I thought. I soon realized that his counter part in the show, St. Vincent, was from another planet. She glided and pulsed so fluidly with the music, her presence was unmistakable, all while absolutely killing her vocal melodies and shredding a mean black shiny guitar. The accompanying marching horn section used every square foot of the stage and everyone played at least three instruments. Each song ended with a hard stop and the sound reverberated through the hall and through the bones of every person there. Acoustically perfect for that space, the band ended the show playing a few Talking Heads tunes, then laid back down on the hard symphony floor and played to that crazy ceiling.

3.)  Daft Punk – I was most excited for Random Access Memories because I remember jumping up and down on my futon listening to Discovery in my dorm room. This duo of robots produces the finest French disco in all the land. Throw a pile of synthesizers and vocoders at Pharrell and add a little Nile Rodgers and you got yourself a hit. Though after one listen, I did realize that I’m not in college anymore.

4.)  Next year I’m looking forward to playing lots of festivals with my new band Freedom Enterprise and this winter with The Bridge in Jamaica. 2013 has been a good year for music as the industry’s misfortunes have started to trimming out the grizzle. On behalf of all the musicians out there, I would like to thank the fans for their continued support. We’re the lucky ones.

 

 

Karl DensonKarl Denson – Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Greyboy All-Stars

1.)  1.  Justin Timberlake “20/20 Experience: I feel like this record kind of came out of nowhere. There is no real hip-hop being played on the radio anymore,  and the pop songs are monotone and terrible. I like the fact that a real R&B crooner record was able to make such a statement. I also like that all the songs are long.

2.  Fat Freddy’s Drop: I happened upon this record listening to public radio and I couldn’t take it off my playlist for a few months. Just a great sound, Nice mix of influences and A strangely familiar voice.

3.  Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi “Rome”: just a beautiful album. The harmonies are way more interesting than I expected.

2.) Last Christmas I finally got to see Jack White live. ‘Nuff said.

 3.)   I can’t say a specific band. I discovered a lot of music this year. There’s a lot going on and a lot of things are changing.

4.)  This year I’m looking forward to making lots of music. The Tiny Universe has been going well and has a new album, New Ammo, dropping in February. I’m also taking my son to Costa Rica.

 

 

John Ginty 8x10John Ginty

1.)  1.  Amelita by Court Yard Hounds. Yes, I played on it, but it really is an amazing record. This is the second record from Emily and Martie of the Dixie Chicks, with Martin Strayer co-writing the songs and playing guitar. Great listen top to bottom, great traveling record.

2.  Made Up Mind by Tedeschi Trucks Band. They make GREAT records, that sound amazing thanks to Jim Scott, and have you seen them live?  Make that happen if you haven’t, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Old school.

3.  Shout! by Govt. Mule. Always a fan of the band and their records, this was a cool idea to do the second disc with special guests on vocals. My favorite treatment is “Funny Little Tragedy” with Elvis Costello.

2.)  Playing the first notes of “Not Ready to Make Nice” with the Dixie Chicks on the “Long Time Gone Tour” in Canada. The power of song is incredible. You could light up a city with that energy.

3.)  Samantha Fish. She rocks. She released her new record Black Wind Howlin’ on the same day my new record came out, and I started seeing her name all over the place. Really dig her playing, energy, and songwriting.

4.)  I’m looking forward to summer, honestly. Touring in this crappy cold weather is for the birds.

(Check out Honest Tune’s interview with John Ginty about his new album Bad News Travels.  John Ginty: They can’t take the organ away from me)

 

 

Chris Pandolfi1Chris Pandolfi – Infamous Stringdusters

1.) 1.  The BandLive at the Academy of Music 1971.  Everybody loves the Band, myself included. I was so excited when this came out, even though I’ve heard most of this stuff a million times before. But that’s the beauty of the Band–their music is the realest real deal, and it only gets better with time. Even though they are known for their songs/recordings, the live performance is magical. The horn arrangements at this show are so regal and perfect, the Dylan stuff is amazing, and the setlist is something to behold. Imagine having that many incredible songs? Thank God for the Band.

2.  Washed Out – Paracosm.  I discovered Washed Out’s Life of Leisure EP a few years back and it had a huge impact on me right away. His sound is beautiful–dreamy and heavily textured but totally accessible. He’s got great simple songs and a truly unique sound, something I really admire as an artist. His follow up to Life of Leisure (Within and Without) was good but Paracosm is absolutely great. I feel like the sound is much more his own, versus the production on Within and Without. It’s as if he got back to his roots, and I love it. He also has a legit live band (I saw them in Boulder in September) that combines elements of electronic synth-pop with real instruments and lots of vocals. It was a big step forward from earlier iterations of the performance. I hope the Washed Out albums keep on coming.

3.  Phoenix – Bankrupt.  I’m a big Phoenix fan. I loved their last album, and in many ways this record is an extension of that sound. It’s all very consistent–pop hooks framed by really creative production. When Bankrupt dropped I couldn’t turn it off, and that’s the sign of a great album. There’s some conceptual stuff in there, and just a bunch of catchy songs. They also included a cool mashup of ‘sketches,’ entitled the Bankrupt Diaries, which looks at different early impressions of the music. You hear snippets of working versions which gives a cool glimpse into the evolution of the music for this album.

2.)  I went out of my way to see some great bands that I follow this past year, which always reminds me of how great true fandom feels. We lose touch with that feeling as professional musicians, but it’s so important and I’m more into it than ever. But far and away my most memorable musical moment this year was playing with John Scofield at The Festy Experience (our annual festival in central VA). Sco is my absolute improvising hero. His playing is just pure feeling, something I aspire to every time I get on stage–it’s the only thing the untrained ear really relates to and thus your greatest responsibility as a performer. It helps to be good, but it’s essential to be real, and Scofield is the best at both. He sat in with the Stringdusters for two songs, one of his, “Kelpers,” and one of ours, “Fire.”  We took a solo together, trading ideas and flowing with the music. Though the fan side of me was just freaking out, he was so cool through the whole experience that the music really came to life. I can never remember being more inspired on stage. Thank you John Scofield, you are a musical God.

3.)  I recently got into a great new album called Kittyhawk by Ki:Theory (aka Joel Burleson). He’s managed by a friend, and I’ve been aware of him for a while, but this album is just sick, a huge step forward in both writing and production. Ki:Theory doesn’t tour much, so the recording is kind of the thing. His early stuff was more vibey songwriter stuff, but the album is so thick with creative production, but not just for production’s sake. The sounds bring the music to life in just the right way, and they range all over the sonic map. It’s really impressive and great sounding–a big inspiration for me in my solo endeavors. I could see his music being much much more popular.

4.)  I’m looking forward to working on my solo stuff this coming year (TradPlus). The Stringdusters is such a dream come true musical outlet, but it’s also all about the art of compromise. I’ve been into lots of different sounds/styles for a long time and I’m finally gearing up to release some music and perform solo. The concept has evolved a lot over the past few years as I have learned the world of programming, worked on playing new instruments and discovered new influences. This is my vision, and I don’t have to compromise anything–it’s daunting but also totally liberating. I work a lot in my home studio, which is tailored pretty specifically for producing my own stuff–lots of software, VSTs, but also lots of instruments. It’s about new and different sonic textures, but it’s mostly about songs.

 

 

robert-walterRobert Walter – Robert Walter’s 20th Congress,  The Greyboy Allstars

1.)  It’s a little embarrassing, but I don’t really know very much about albums from 2013.  Mostly I’ve been listening to old records.  Lots of Prince and The Time lately, also Cymande and Black Sabbath.  I got a cassette player and have been enjoying shopping at the thrift store for tapes.

2.)  Greyboy Allstars late night at High Sierra Music Festival was one of my favorite gigs this year.  We also did three nights this summer in NYC with Houston Person, James Carter and Gary Bartz, one each night.  It was fun to play with those guys and hear them up close. Very inspiring.

3.)  I love The Mike Dillon Band.

4.)  More touring, writing and recording.  I enjoy making music.

 

 

Tom-Hamilton-3Tom Hamilton – American Babies

1.) 1.  Arcade Fire – Reflektor.  These guys are batting 1000 when it comes to making records. With a sound that is unique and always evolving. I look forward to their releases with the same excitement that I have for Radiohead albums.

2.  Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle.  Don’t sleep on this. She is part Nick Drake, part Leonard Cohen, and all woman. Her songs are devastating, her voice like a ghost in a dream.

3.  Atoms For Peace – Amok.  Four words: Thom Yorke and Flea.

2.)  I did a show in January with a bunch of my friends called “Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.” It was one of those nights that you never forget. We all clicked right from the first note.

3.)  Laura Marling. She’s is an absolute delight.

4.)  Touring the country a couple times over with American Babies. We’re coming for ya…

(Read our recent interview with Tom Hamilton on the making of his latest album, Knives & Teeth. Tom Hamilton & American Babies get their Knives and Teeth out)

 

 

JenningsJennings Carney – Pontiak

1.)  1.  Portal Vexovoid because it is super interesting and textured.

2. Cass McCombs Big Wheel and Others because it just is.
3. Rediscovered “Dreaming My Dreams”, by Waylon Jennings.

2.)  We played Hopscotch festival in Raleigh and participated in Seth Olinsky’s Band Dialogue. It was awesome. A bunch of bands set up in a closed off street and played one long big droning piece of music.

3.)  I don’t know.

4.)  Going on tour in the US and Europe in support of our new album.  Making more music videos with remote controlled apparatus.

 

 

GC-PR JPEG color _1Carol Young – The Greencards

1.)  1.  Paul Kelly – Spring and Fall.  Honest songwriting. Paul is in a class of his own.

2. Sarah Jarosz – Build Me Up From Bones.  Sarah’s an outstanding musician and songwriter. Sonically this album is on a whole other level.

3. Mark Knopfler – Privateering. Has two of the best songs I’ve heard all year, “Seattle” and “Redbud Tree”.

2.)  Paul Kelly at The Mercy Lounge during the Americana Conference, Nashville TN, Sept 2013.

3.)  Austin band, Sons of Fathers.

4.)  Heading back to Australia to play CMC Rocks The Hunter Festival in March 2014.  It’s going to be great to take our new album home.

 

 

Brian HaasBrian Haas – Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

1.) 1. Samuel Jackson Five – Samuel Jackson Five

2. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

3. All Hail Bright Futures – And So I Watch You From Afar

Because I love new, unique, good, mostly instrumental rock and roll.

 2.)  My favorite live music moment was playing my new album Frames with Johnny Vidacovich at Snug Harbor in NOLA.

3.)  I was most excited to rediscover the Fuck Buttons, awesome album.

4.)  I am looking forward to Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s 20th Anniversary Tour !

 

 

Garrett7Garrett Anderson

1.) 1. Ben Folds Five – Live.  So glad those three got back together for “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” in 2012.  This live release was icing on the cake, especially since I didn’t make it out to see them on tour.

2.  Jack Johnson – From Here to Now to You.  Music video footage made me a little jealous I wasn’t in Hawaii making albums.  I’m a huge Zach Gill (ALO) fan and am glad those two teamed up.  Jack’s music is simple, but when I let it, it amplifies how much I love my life and the wonderful people in it.

3.  Anders Osborne – Peace.  I’ve only recently been turned onto Anders and I’m so glad I did.  His music resonates with me in a deep dark beautiful place.  He’s became a huge musical inspiration for me bridging the singer-songwriter and jamband worlds.  I’m still getting into the nitty-gritty of Peace, but a few casual listens and it sounds to me like he’s on top of his game.

2.)  Can I pick one of each? Being 2nd row Paige-side for Phish in Reading, PA for a great 2nd set (thanks Marc).  We were so close that the camera guy would intermittently block our view of Trey to get footage of guitar solos.  For me, I finally got to visit my wife’s family in Texas this year.  At my next gig back home, I sang a lyric of mine “we’ve yet to cross off visiting Texas” and got a huge smile on my face because we finally did cross it off the list.  What used to be a bittersweet lyric evolved into a reminder of a great family trip.

3.)  Snarky Puppy – I noticed some social-media buzz for their show in Baltimore so I checked them out online and was hooked.  They nurture music to get the maximum smoothness and groove out of each tune.  I wish I had the focus and chops to compose like them.  Just cool, quality, wonderfully executed stuff.

4.)  Seeing Umphreys McGee in town for my 30th birthday – you gotta get old but you don’t haveta grow up.  Also, my bassist buddy Paul has a nice home-studio and I’m excited to hunker down and work on new recordings with him.

 

 

seth walkerSeth Walker

1.)  1.  Wood Brothers – The Muse.  Creative, soulful, uncluttered music. it takes me back to the old Band recordings with a brand new/old thang slung from their hip.

2.  Tedeschi/Trucks Band – Made Up Mind.  Good songs and great tones performed by actual musicians.

3.  Justin Timberlake – 20/20.  “Pusher Love Girl” is a bad ass soul pop production.

2.)  Performing with Allen Toussaint in NYC and playing at Magnolia Festival Ampitheater to an amazing listening/dancing music loving crowd.

3.)  I discovered Rodriguez. The Sugar Man soundtrack. So damn hip and a great story!

4.)  Releasing my new album produced by Oliver Wood.

 

 

HowlingBros-ParkingLot-ByJoshuaBlackWilkinsIan Craft – Howlin’ Brothers

1.)  1.  Doc & Merle Watson – Down South

2.  John Hartford, Tony Rice and Vassar Clements – Hartford Rice & Clements

3.  Sanctified Grumblers – No Lie

2.)  Playing the banjo concert on The Shady Grove Stage at The Winnipeg Folk Festival in July.
Brother Jared Green joined me for some shuffle drum set adventures.  It was very silly and
fun.  Can’t beat that!

3.)  outta Chicago.  They feel good to my soul.

4.)  Being a troubadour.

 

 

KennyRobyKenny Roby

1.)  1.  The National – Trouble Will Find Me.  I really like the National. They strike that dark nerve in me. They let me know everything might not be alright. Like a good Cormac McCarthy novel.

2.  Charles Bradley – Victim of Love.  Like with Ted Hawkins, its hard to separate the story from the songs. But both of them are the real deal. Putting their stories out there blood, piss and all.

3.  Chance The Rapper.  I guess he really hasn’t made an official record this year? Just mix tapes. But my son turned me onto him and he is one of the better MCs out their in my opinion. Really dig his style.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Cave, Ron Sexsmith, Paul McCartney (these are all good records but I haven’t truly sunk my teeth into them yet). These guys are so good though that it is like saying “which teams will do well this year…. besides the Yankees and Red Sox. ‘

And last I have to mention Snoop Lion. That movie and record are the most strange and in some ways “Rock ‘n’ Roll” releases in 2013. You almost can’t describe how weird the whole thing is. I love it.

2.)  Someone yelling “Seth Rogan” at me in front of a 1500 people opening for Citizen Cope. Us overweight curly haired guys gotta stick together.

3.)  Charles Bradley

4.)  Recording new songs with my old pals from Six String Drag in January. I have no idea what we will call it. It doesn’t matter. For now I am just going to bring in some songs and we’ll bang them out and see what happens on the tape machine. Also I plan on playing more shows in 2014 than I did in 2013.