Category Archives: #rva

2016 in Review: RVA Albums

Lots of great RVA releases this year. Here are a few I particularly enjoyed, with one notable absence that will make sense when I post tomorrow’s list:

Avers — Omega/Whatever

Avers

RVA Magazine let me blurb this one for their best local releases list — check it out here. I wrapped up by saying:

They can crack off a breezy summer jam like “Santa Anna,” power through a charged rocker like “Everything Hz,” or sink into moodier tunes like “Don’t Care” with ease. That’s one reason Omega/Whatever is such a gift — we get the clearest glimpse yet of the plurality of Avers’ abilities.

Avers — “Everything Hz” [Spotify/iTunes]

Clair Morgan — New Lions & the Not-Good Night

clair-morgan

I wrote a longish review of New Lions & the Not-Good Night around the time it was released. I’ve been doing fewer of those lately — writing time is in short supply these days — but I felt compelled to dive deeper into this one, and I think this bit from the review explains why:

There are a lot of good albums out there, but music that can make you feel pure joy is rare. There has to be something about it that worms way down, through the topsoil of everyday stuff — Is this recycling week? Do I need to go to the grocery store on the way home? — to the core of what makes us who we are. The permanent stuff. The stuff that was forged years ago via childhood experiences we may have only snapshot memories of. New Lions & the Not-Good Night… gets to that place.

Clair Morgan — “How To Set Your Bed On Fire” [Spotify/iTunes]

Angelica Garcia — Medicine for Birds

angelica-garcia

I got to see Angelica Garcia perform a happy hour show at The Camel earlier in December. She was drinking tea and commented at one point about the possibility of losing her voice, which makes what I heard — a voice as versatile and expressive as any you’ll find — all the more impressive. In the span of just a few words, she’d jump between talk-singing, pure tones, pop ornamentation, bluesy bent notes, and a rapid waver that feels connected to the vibrato you might find in folk, only more natural and urgent, somehow. Medicine for Birds compiles all these sounds nicely, and while it’s tempting to frame the album as indicative of a wildly promising future, the polish of the production and the quality of the writing and singing make this a destination in itself.

Angelica Garcia — “Orange Flower” [Spotify/iTunes]

Noah-O + DJ Mentos — The Rain

noah-o

I only recently started listening to The Rain, but the partnership it features — Noah-O’s storytelling and DJ Mentos’ classic, jazz-inflected production — is clearly a winning one. They recently put up a vinyl pre-order — I look forward to snagging a copy and getting to know this one in person.

Noah-O + DJ Mentos — “Byrd Park” [Spotify/Bandcamp]

White Laces — No Floor

white-laces

This may turn out to be my favorite White Laces album. I wrote about it a couple of times, once on here and again in RVA Magazine. The latter review struck a heavier tone, since I’d learned by that point that White Laces were disbanding:

Landis Wine’s gliding voice pairs beautifully with synthetic elements that call to mind the ’80s, merging the past and present to create something truly timeless. I know it should feel final, but I’d rather think of it as everlasting.

White Laces — “Cheese” [Spotify/iTunes]

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RVA Magazine

rva-magazine

It’s been a hot minute since I was in the print edition of RVA Magazine — the last time was in 2012 — but I’m happy to say I have an article in the new issue, which sports a truly gorgeous cover. Look at that thing. Greg Simkins, y’all.

I wrote about recording studios in Richmond, spending the first half my 2,000 words surveying options and the second half profiling the studio I’ve spent the most time in — Pedro Aida’s Audio Verite. Aida is a talented dude, and interviewing him gave me an opportunity to dig deeper into his relationship with music and how he got his start as an engineer/producer. It strikes me now that the reason that conversation was so rewarding and the reason Aida finds recording so rewarding are one in the same: It’s all about connecting with people. Finding the right studio… helping people make albums… writing… performing… at every stage, your success and your ability to connect with people are intertwined, and I feel like I now have a fuller understanding of that than I did before I started working on this article. Thank you, Pedro.

You can read the article here (I also have a few album reviews/blurbs in this issue) or find free hard copies around town. I found a stack at Belmont Pizzeria while out for a run and managed to tuck two into the front pocket of the hoodie I was wearing. They bounced around a bit on the way home, but it was worth it.

I’ll close by re-posting “Reinvent The Space,” which Positive No recorded with Aida at Audio Verite. (Click here for more info on the song and the great cause you can support by buying it.)

Positive No — “Reinvent The Space” [Bandcamp]

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Friday News and Notes: Holiday Music Edition

natalie-prass

In recent years, I’ve made the mistake of waiting until the two or three days leading up to Christmas to start spinning holiday tunes, so I’ve been hitting it hard in the last week or so. John Fahey. John Denver (Toddler YHT’s choice: “I want the mountain one”). The Kingston Trio. Charlie Byrd. Here are a few web-based recommendations:

Too much good stuff, too few Christmases per year, y’all. One more thing: Don’t miss tonight’s No BS! Brass Band show at The Broadberry — it’s three things in one: A canned food drive, a beer release and, well, a No BS! show. Luray opens. Click here for tickets.

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American Tunes: “This Land Is Your Land”

spacebomb-roundtable

[Editor’s Note: American Tunes is a series of posts dedicated to songs that address America’s social and political challenges. For more information on the series, click here.]

On Tuesday, The Spacebomb Sound hosted a really candid and informative roundtable on race that aired on Red Bull Music Academy Radio. Tiffany Jana, Reggie Pace, Kelli Strawbridge, Devonne Harris, Cameron Ralston, and Matthew E. White participated, and while I’m not sure if audio is available to be replayed, RBMA just posted a fairly extensive transcript of the discussion. I hope you’ll read it and share — read to absorb the ideas and experiences that were relayed on Tuesday, and share to keep the momentum going so honest, substantive discussions like this one keep happening all over the country.

One song they played during the show was Sharon Jones’ version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” I hadn’t heard her version until recently, but I’ve grown very attached to it in that short time. It’s amazing how much gravity her voice adds. Growing up, I didn’t realize how political the song was — depending on which verses people choose to include, it can still seem apolitical and/or downright hypocritical — but I had a conversion experience last year when Dave Rawlings Machine closed their November show at The National with it. The verse about the signs and private property and how signs say nothing on the back… I don’t know whether I hadn’t heard that verse before or if I just wasn’t listening intently, but when Dave Rawlings sang it, it felt powerfully subversive. Got goosebumps and everything.

Here’s how Jones sings it:

As I was walking, they tried to stop me
They put up a sign that said “private property”
On the back side, it said nothing
That side was made for you and me

Sharon Jones — “This Land Is Your Land” (Woody Guthrie cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

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West End’s Best

west-ends-best

Non-bloggy writing update Part Deux: I wrote an article for West End’s Best (just turn River City Magazine upside down and you’ve got yourself a West End’s Best!) about music venues in the West End of Richmond.

This was really fun — I got to talk to friendly people from Innsbrook After Hours, The Tin Pan, Enzo’s, J.J.’s Grille, and Rare Ole Times, all worth checking out if you haven’t had a chance to yet. Many thanks to everyone who I interviewed. It was heartwarming to connect with all these people who care about putting on good shows and showcasing bands from near and far. Some articles I finish and want to start all over again, so I can continue the conversation. I hope I get a chance to do this one again with other venues around Richmond.

Click here for spots where you can grab a copy of the magazine. Magazines, really. Two magazines, one grab. In the meantime, here’s a video of Don McLean singing “American Pie” at The Tin Pan earlier this year.

Don McLean — “American Pie” (live) [YouTube]

 

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Carbon Leaf

carbon-leaf

Quick non-bloggy writing heads up: I recently got to interview Barry Privett, the lead singer of Carbon Leaf, and while the article doesn’t appear to be online yet, you can grab a print copy of River City Magazine/West End’s Best at these locations.

Carbon Leaf is a name you hear and see quite a bit living in Richmond, but I didn’t know the group’s full backstory — how they all lived together in one house on Floyd Avenue at one point, how they were originally a cover band and had to make the tough transition to playing original music, which venues in town they played in their early years… At the same time that Carbon Leaf has evolved over the years, they’ve been a constant amid a great deal of change during the last two decades. Really interesting, I think. I hope y’all will grab a copy and then grab a ticket to their show this Saturday at The National — should be a really good time.

Carbon Leaf — “Indecision” (live) [Spotify/iTunes]

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Skinny-E

skinny-e

Back in October, I had the opportunity to see Evan McKeel perform at In Your Ear studios for one of their Shockoe Sessions. I even got to chat with him before his set. We talked about basketball — Duke, the NBA, how the Warriors would fare with Kevin Durant joining the team — and we talked about Richmond’s music scene and his excitement at immersing himself in it.

His set at In Your Ear was short, but he needed only sing a few lines for me to hear what millions of fans of The Voice had already heard — a truly incredible singing voice, able to ascend with ease and smokier than his years, with a natural distortion that provides texture and complements his precision. When I thought about the literal and figurative stage that he’d occupied on TV, sitting in that studio listening to him seemed like such a gift. It quickly sank in that he could sing pretty much any song he wanted to, which begs the question: What do you do when you can do anything?

The immediate answer for McKeel is a forthcoming album of earnest and original compositions that will be released under the name Skinny-E. The lead single from the album, “Love Again,” was just made available last Friday, and it’s an impressive, poised opening salvo. It’s sparse — vocals and guitar dominate the mix — and while that sense of space puts his voice front-and-center, it also gives you a chance to appreciate McKeel’s amazing facility with chords and structure. In that sense, I hear a great deal of Stevie Wonder’s influence (Wonder is a stated point of reference, and “Overjoyed” figured prominently in McKeel’s Voice run).

It’s crazy to think of “Love Again” as a starting point, but here we are, and it’ll be interesting to see where Skinny-E goes next.

Skinny-E — “Love Again” [Spotify/iTunes]

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