On one of this year’s first truly beautiful spring days, I drove out to the grounds of the Montrose recording facility to interview Steve Bassett, who has a pre- and post-production trailer parked near the studio’s main building.
This was actually my second time speaking to Bassett. Longtime followers of this here blog might remember that I wrote a magazine piece on Virginia’s state popular song, “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” which Bassett cowrote with another Richmond legend, the late Robbin Thompson. And while I had separate phone conversations with the two writers for that article, I got to meet them both in person shortly thereafter, at an early evening show up in Ashland. They graciously signed my copy of their Together album. I also snagged a copy of Bassett’s autobiography, Sing Loud, which was being sold at the merch table.
I’d recommend picking up a copy. Inside, you’ll find insight from someone who has truly drilled to the core of what it means to live a life in music. Someone who has learned the secret to accessing the joy in just about any type of musical environment. I certainly felt that joy when I spoke to him early this spring, with seed pods falling from the trees and stories flowing — about his new album, Tres Leches, and the incredible journey that’s taken him from Muscle Shoals, Alabama and Carnegie Hall to the steps of Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion.
The resulting River City Magazine article is available online over at Richmond Navigator, and I hope you’ll give it a read there or pick up a print copy. The layout is wonderful, with photos by Jennifer Challis taken at Bassett’s recent show at the Broadberry, which was excellent. Thank you, Jen, for sharing those, and thank you to Steve for the conversation. I won’t soon forget it.
Back in January, on the very same day that Bandcamp Weekly posted a new episode with Kenneka Cook as the featured guest, I had the honor of chatting with Cook over lunch at Pop’s Market. I’m excited to say the resulting RVA Magazine article is on newsstands now, and I hope it reflects how fun and wide-ranging that conversation was. We talked about everything from her approach to different songs on the album and the brilliance of American Paradox community to the music she grew up with and our shared love for Richmond’s record stores.
More than anything else, I hope you all get a sense for Cook’s vision and voice. Separately, those words point to different ideas. Different senses. A way you receive information about the world and a way you share information with the world. But vision and voice can both represent loftier ideas, as well, like imagination and influence — things that can come together in the creative process to render something truly new and special. That’s what I hear on Cook’s wonderful debut album, Moonchild. Check out the title track below and be sure to grab a copy of RVA Magazine if you see a stack around town.
There are people through whom art flows especially freely — and in more than one direction at once. Brock Scott of Little Tybee is one of those people.
I got to interview him over the phone for this Richmond Navigator piece (the print version will appear in River City Magazine), and I was taken aback by the way the group manages to marry their music, their videos, their promotional efforts — all the ways they tap into a seemingly bottomless well of creativity. And when you listen to their music, you hear that same boundlessness. It’s amazing. And inspiring.
They’re playing tonight at the Camel (along with The Reign Of Kindo and Night Idea), and there’s one section of the interview that’s especially relevant if you’re thinking about attending:
What do you have planned for the upcoming tour?
I did a sailing trip in Greece a few months ago, and I filmed a music video. There’s this guy who was on the boat with me, and then two other people, and I filmed the whole experience. It was three weeks. In the video, there’s this captain, and he has two crew members, and he goes to sleep one day, and they disappear from the boat. When he wakes up, he realizes the boat is sailing by itself… Basically, that captain is coming with us on tour. We have a merch table that’s a [cutout] set of a boat, and the captain’s inside of it, and I’ve created a video for every single show on the tour. The captain is sailing to all these different islands, and each island is a different city on the tour, and we’re his crew… I have a street team in every single city on the tour, and I’m mailing them figurines [of the missing crew members], and then they hide them, and there’s going to be a photo scavenger hunt. If people find the figurines and bring them to the show and give them to the captain, he rewards them with a VIP package.
Watch the video below, and keep an eye out around town for those figurines (you can see examples on the band’s Instagram feed). Click here for more info on tonight’s show, and click here to read the article in full.
Little Tybee — “Lost In The Field” [Spotify/Bandcamp]
John Moreland, who released one of last year’s most outstanding albums in Big Bad Luv, will be playing a sold-out show at the Camel here in town on Sunday. It promises to be an exceptional one — I’d call it a must-see for anyone who values the craft of songwriting. Moreland’s songs are as affecting as you’ll find, and they’re awash in the sacred alchemy that turns hurt into healing via language and melody and honesty. Many writers set out to perform that same magic, but his gift is a rarefied one, up there with the greats, in my opinion.
Speaking of gifts, I was given a tremendous one in having the opportunity to interview him for a River City Magazine article, which recently went up online. We talked about connecting with audiences, about the role religion has played in his life, about touring in a hardcore band in high school… he was generous and candid and I’m truly grateful for that conversation.
Here’s a link to the article, and here’s a link to more info about Sunday’s show at the Camel. Saw Black opens. Can’t wait.
John Moreland — “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)” [Spotify/iTunes]
Think about one of your favorite singers, and try to remember the very first time you heard him or her sing. Did it stop you in your tracks? Did you look around the room, like “What the hell is happening right now?”
That was my experience hearing Sid Kingsley for the first time. Listening through Good Way Home on its release day back in May was an uncanny experience, both because of the jolt I got from his voice and because the album includes covers of songs by artists who are near and dear to my heart. A new favorite vocalist. New versions of favorite songs. It was such a trip…
…which made having the opportunity to sit down with Kingsley and interview him for River City Magazine even more of a trip. We chatted on the patio outside Cary Street Café, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I did nerd out and bring my vinyl copy of Good Way Home for him to sign. He did so graciously, and the article that resulted from our conversation hit the interweb this week. Click here to check it out, and click here to see where you can snag a physical copy of the magazine.
Want to know what’s really crazy? The uncanny experiences with Good Way Home haven’t stopped. I’m seeing two concerts in the next two nights, and Kingsley’s album features versions of songs either written or made famous by both of them: “Moonshiner,” a traditional tune previously recorded by Bob Dylan, and “Sam Stone,” by John Prine. Both are embedded below.
If you haven’t heard Good Way Home yet, you’re in for a treat. Maybe you’ll even have your own “What the hell is happening right now?” moment.
Sid Kingsley — “Moonshiner” [Spotify/iTunes]
Sid Kingsley — “Sam Stone” [Spotify/iTunes]
Getting to interview a musician who made one of your favorite albums of the year is quite an honor, but getting to interview a musician whose music changed your life for the better? That’s something else entirely. Something rare and special.
Hearing “You Are Not Your Mind,” from Eric Slick’s 2017 Palisades album, was a truly revelatory experience. I ended up writing about it back in April:
I often fall into the trap of assuming there’s a way to think my way out of every situation. I also tend to prioritize my inner experience when I’m feeling less than good about what’s going on on the outside, whether that’s the clothes I’m wearing or my inability to force myself to exhibit extroversion when it counts. And while the mind can certainly act as a refuge, I love the idea that there’s some other self that’s even more basic — something that’s not so readily accessible or easily tinkered with.
With that in mind (no pun intended), it was such a gift to be able to speak with Slick over the phone and learn more about how that song was written, how he balances the brightness of his personality with the heft of this songs’ themes, and how he came to be part of this beautiful Richmond music community. The interview just went up on Richmond Navigator’s site — click here to check it out. (Print copies of River City Magazine should be on newsstands any day now.)
I want to thank Eric very sincerely for doing the interview, and I want to encourage you good people to take a listen to “You Are Not Your Mind” below. Maybe you’ll end up with a revelatory experience of your own.
Eric Slick — “You Are Not Your Mind” [Spotify/Bandcamp]
Boston-based country-folk group The Novel Ideas just released their debut full-length this past Friday. It’s a fantastic album — packed with harmonies and strong songwriting — and the timing couldn’t be better for Richmonders, because the band is stopping by Capital Ale House tomorrow night.
With that show on the horizon, I spoke over the phone with singer and guitarist Daniel Radin about the album, how their harmonies take shape, how they ended up at a studio on the other side of the country… all sorts of fun stuff. Check the interview out over at Richmond Navigator, and click here for more info about tomorrow’s performance. (Spoiler alert: No cover!)
The Novel Ideas — “The Old Ways” [Bandcamp/Spotify]