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]
When people are doing what they love, you can tell. Cooking, singing, repairing bicycles, doesn’t matter. Being in your element means tapping into something deep and true, and that’s what Andrew Carter’s debut album as Minor Poet sounds like to me. His love for recording is unmistakable; it stands out like a third dimension, with layers and harmonies only a devoted craftsman would seek out and execute.
Sitting down with Carter for an interview at Black Hand Coffee absolutely confirmed this first impression, and I’m excited to say that the results of that conversation are available now in the newly released RVA Magazine summer issue. Carter kindly called it the “definitive” version of the events surrounding the release of And How!, an album (out August 25 on EggHunt Records) that promises to reach many ears and make Minor Poet a very familiar name both in Richmond and beyond.
I want to thank Carter for such a candid interview, and Doug Nunnally for all his help with writing this piece. I also want to recognize the inimitable Joey Wharton — it’s an honor having my words next to his photos. Just stunning.
Click here to read the article online, or snag yourself a print copy around town. I have a couple other pieces of writing in the issue I’m psyched to tell y’all about, so stay tuned…
Minor Poet — “River Days” [Spotify/Bandcamp]
A couple of years back, my band opened for a Baltimore-based group called Community Center at the Tin Pan, and I have such happy memories of that evening. One thing that stands out to this day as I look back is how warm and kind the Community Center folks were, and I can confirm after interviewing guitarist and vocalist Brian Loeper for the latest issue of River City Magazine that their commitment to inclusion runs even deeper than I realized, down to the bedrock of how they approach writing and performing.
I had such a nice conversation with Loeper, and I can’t recommend highly enough heading to Cary Street Café on Thursday, August 3rd to see them live. Click here to check out the article online, or here to find a print copy.
Community Center — “Baby Grand” [Spotify/Bandcamp]
I first started writing this blog in 2011. The decision to do so was fairly spontaneous, and I had no idea that writing about music would change my life as much as it has. I might have expected that I’d learn about bands and albums, and that my world would expand in that way, but I couldn’t have guessed that I’d meet so many people who make the universe seem like a bigger, more beautiful place.
Two of those people play in Afro-Zen Allstars. One is Brian Cruse, the friendly, talented, and in-demand bassist I interviewed for River City Magazine in 2015. The other is the band’s founder, leader, and arranger, George M. Lowe, who is the subject of my latest article for the magazine. A short time back, Lowe and I met up at Addis downtown for Ethiopian food and an interview. As was the case with Cruse, we talked for nearly two hours, and I walked away amazed at Lowe’s warmth, his bravery, and his other-worldly devotion to music. That’s where the title of the article came from (the “Golden” part is a reference to the Ethiopian music that inspired Lowe to form the Allstars). I hope you’ll take a look online or find a print copy. I have a feeling you’ll end up as devoted to Afro-Zen Allstars as I am.
Many thanks, George, for all your help, and for making the world a bigger, more joyful, and better sounding place.
Afro-Zen Allstars — “Aj Aj” [Bandcamp/iTunes]