Watch Neil Young’s new video for “Twisted Road” from his upcoming album The Psychedelic Pill (out October 30th). ”Twisted Road”heavily salutes Neil’s colleagues the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison both lyrically and in the video, with clips from The Grateful Dead Movie and Dylan documentary No Direction Home.
My review of Marco Benevento’s new album TigerFace, originally posted here on jambands.com.
Opening with a flurry of weird keyboard noises, the first 30 seconds of Marco Benevento’s new album TigerFace seem like an appropriate enough intro. Then lead vocals, courtesy of Rubblebucket’s Kalmia Traver, leap into the fray, marking the first appearance of vocals on a Benevento album. The leadoff track, “Limbs of a Pine,” features Traver’s vocals and Benevento’s thick, lush wall of synthesizers surfing over a dance beat, creating an MGMT-like gem of a psychedelic, new wave rocker. Sure the song might be a bit of a departure from what we’ve come to expect from Marco, but the experiment unquestionably works – “Limbs of a Pine” is the kind of irresistible pop that radio stations all across the country would be playing if they weren’t afraid of non-big name artists.
Traver also appears on the second song, “This Is How It Goes,” which is a bit mellower than the catchy dance rock of “Limbs of a Pine.” Compared to the fast groove of “Limb of a Pine,” “This Is How It Goes” is ethereal and hypnotic, and Traver’s soothing voice fits perfectly. Though vocals are a brand new addition to Marco’s music, this feels like a natural evolution for a musician whose compositions have always leaned slightly closer to rock than jazz.
“Fireworks” follows and finds the Marco Benevento Trio sans vocals, but is quite possibly the most melodic song on the album. With a cascading waterfall of a piano line gently flowing into a gorgeous bridge that will leave the listener with goosebumps, “Fireworks” is a standout. Beginning with 2009’s Me Not Me, which included covers of a number of Benevento’s favorite rock songs, he has been moving towards tighter compositions with an emphasis on melody, and TigerFace feels like the crowning culmination of that journey. While half of the songs on his last album Between Needles & Nightfall top six minutes, none do on TigerFace.
Make no mistake, TigerFace is still plenty weird. “Escape Horse,” propelled by Mike Gordon’s menacing bassline, is dark and explosive, while “Eagle Rock” is drenched in walls of keyboards. “Soma,” which features a quivering keyboard progression that gradually creeps into a peak of hectic synthesizer notes, could be a subtle nod to towards the psychedelic world of Aldous Huxley. After all, “Soma” was the name of the utopian drug of choice in Huxley’s Brave New World, and his description of the fictional drug’s effects – “The inner light of universal benevolence broke out on every face in happy, friendly smiles“ – could also be used to describe the after effects of Benevento’s song.
Somehow Marco has learned how to successfully incorporate more experimental sounds into his music even as it inches closer and closer towards catchy, melody-driven rock. Layers and layers of keyboards are everywhere, manipulated by his circuit bent toys and distortion pedals. These are intensely complicated sound collages with new details beneath the surface to uncover with each listen. But from under the haze of chaotic weirdness that dresses these songs, the melodies shine through brightest.
Perhaps the biggest compliment one can pay TigerFace is that it sounds like a Marco Benevento album. Words like jazz-rock, jamband, experimental rock and more have been thrown at Benevento over the years, but TigerFace defies genres. With shimmering melodies, brilliant keyboard playing and kaleidoscope soundscapes bursting with noisy color, TigerFace is the sound of Benevento’s truly unique style taking off.
Here’s a review of Scrapomatic’s new album If I Am A Stranger, And I Love The Night, originally posted here on jambands.com and also below:
Scrapomatic, a budding project of Tedeschi Trucks Band songwriter and backup vocalist Mike Mattison, finds Mattison fronting a comfortably bluesy band of his own. He partners with songwriter Paul Olsen in Scrapomatic, and the pair is supported by a full band who bring a rock and roll edge to their new album I’m A Stranger, And I Love The Night.
Despite being one of the principal lyricists for the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Mattison is relatively under-utilized in the band, limited to supporting vocals behind Susan Tedeschi. Before the formation of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, he manned lead vocals in the Derek Trucks Band, and Scrapomatic finds him out in the front again. Scrapomatic is Mattison’s project, and his vocals are at the heart of the album.
The hot blues shuffle of “Alligator Love Cry” kicks off the album with plenty of energy as his voice slithers between sharp guitar licks. The catchy, sunny title track follows and finds his vocals taking on a more tender and relaxed texture. The band then takes things in a heavier direction with “Rat Trap” and “Night Trains And Distant Whistles.” Powered by a funky bassline, the slinking blues of “Night Trains And Distant Whistles” allows guitarist Dave Yoke to shine with searing solos.
I’m A Stranger, And I Love The Night finds Scrapomatic mixing Tedeschi Trucks Band-like bluesy rockers like “Night Trains And Distant Whistles” with a surprising amount of musical variety. The slow lounge jazz of “How Unfortunate For Me” is the most musically ambitious moment on the album, but Mattison manages to pull it off. Few singers can match the versatility of his voice, as he combines impressive range with the ability to jump between a bluesy howl, tender whisper, and falsetto wail.
Mattison snarls and growls his way through old school rocker “Mother Of My Wolf” before delivering a startling falsetto on the stiff blues funk of “Crimefighter,” sounding equally great on both. Another highlight, “Malibu,” follows and starts in an almost Ryan Adams & The Cardinals-like country rock vein before taking a sudden veer towards strutting soul. Scrapomatic may stick mostly to familiar bluesy rock but mix in enough tinges of soul, funk, country and gospel to keep things interesting and showcase Mattison as an outstanding and versatile singer.
Check out “This Is How It Goes” from Marco Benevento’s upcoming album, Tigerface (release date September 11th). The irresistibly catchy tune features vocals, a first for a Benevento studio album, delivered by Rubblebucket’s Kalmia Traver.
My review of Beachwood Sparks’ long-awaited new album, originally posted here and also below:
It’s hard to know what to expect when a band reunites for their first album in eleven years. When that band is Beachwood Sparks, who existed for only a few short years and created just two full-length albums together, it feels inappropriate to use a word like reunion that suggests they are grizzled seventy-year old rock and roll veterans. Beachwood Sparks were hardly around long enough to make a name for themselves, and though they never quite achieved popular success, their jangly sound spearheaded a full on California country rock revival that flourishes today with bands like the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Dawes, Vetiver and Jonathan Wilson.
Leaning heavily on fellow Californians from an older generation, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers in particular, Beachwood Sparks are clearly inspired by the early seventies glory days of Los Angeles and the Laurel Canyon sound. Though dozens of bands have followed their footsteps in recent years, around the turn of the century Beachwood Sparks were just about the only band who dared to mix dusty Americana with liquid psychedelic touches.
From the first seconds of album opener “Forget The Song,” it’s clear that the band hasn’t strayed far from that sound eleven years later. With acoustic strumming, shimmering electric and pedal steel guitar licks and those airy California harmonies, “Forget The Song” perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Sparks Fly For You” follows and formally announces the return of Beachwood Sparks with a chorus of “May the sparks fly again for you.” A piece of rambling country rock drenched with Jerry Garcia-inspired swirling bursts of guitar, the song shows that the band is back flying high. Beachwood Sparks wear their influences on their sleeve, and build on the lazy, psychedelic folk of American Beauty and David Crosby’s woefully overlooked gem If I Could Remember My Name.
The original core of Beachwood Sparks – guitarist Chris Gunst, bassist Brent Rademaker and multi-instrumentalist “Farmer” John Scher – remain intact for The Tarnished Gold, but the band is augmented in the studio by former member, guitarist Neal Casal and pedal steel guitarist Dan Horne. Between a consistently underrated solo career, a long stint in Ryan Adams & The Cardinals and current gigs with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Phil Lesh, Casal is an experienced treasure of the California music scene, and the subtle but cosmic interplay between his guitar and Horne’s gentle pedal steel adds plenty of lush color and character to Gusnt’s songs. Casal’s soaring solo on “Sparks Fly Again” is a definite highlight, but the pair shine throughout the album.
With the exception of the Spanish oddity “No Queremos Oro,” there is about as much diversity on this album as there is in Los Angeles’ weather. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just like it’s hard to get tired of sunny, breezy 80-degree days, it’s hard to get tired of Beachwood Sparks’ soothing vocal harmonies and pleasant country rock. These aren’t explosive or particularly creative rock songs that will immediately grab your attention, but it will be a challenge to stop listening once you let them soak in. Hippie anthem “Water From The Well” sounds straight off of the Easy Rider soundtrack, and the banjo charm of “Talk About Lonesome” is irresistible. Beachwood Sparks may have a throwback sound, but it’s a throwback to the golden days of rock and roll, and The Tarnished Gold finds the band sounding like they didn’t missed a beat during their decade apart.
Is there a better way to kick off a beautiful Sunday morning than this? What a simply majestic performance…
The kind folks over at NPR are not only streaming a good chunk of Newport Folk Festival live, but have also already archived Wilco’s Friday performance. Go take a listen to the brilliant quality broadcast here.
To cap the celebration of Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday, Wilco dipped heavily into their Mermaid Avenue albums, which paired their music with long lost Guthrie lyrics. Woody’s granddaughter, Sarah Lee Guthrie and her husband/musical partner Johnny Irion join in during the encore for poignant takes on Woody Guthrie/Wilco collaborations “California Stars” and “Airline to Heaven.”
NPR has plenty of other great sets up for streaming there as well, including Newport sets from Dawes, Alabama Shakes, Spirit Family Reunion and First Aid Kit.