The Richmond Folk Festival is rapidly approaching, and I’m beyond excited to share that I had an opportunity to chat with one of the three-day event’s most accomplished and anticipated performers, uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson.
Henderson hails from Northern Ireland, and he occupies a crucial creative space: the sacred middle ground between giving voice to tradition and forging a new path forward. Around the time we talked, I was immersing myself daily in the wonderful “new” John Coltrane album, Both Directions at Once, which is a dispatch from that same creative space. I ended up mentioning Coltrane to Henderson, and we talked a little about that idea of moving forward and backward at the same time.
Here’s what he said:
As a musician, I think you move from either being very sure of yourself to very unsure of yourself constantly, and it’s very hard to be sure of yourself. But within the traditional music world, in general, just like in any niche market, like bluegrass, there are the hardcore fans who really want things to be the way they were. But after a certain amount of time, it becomes more of a historical representation of a time gone by rather than an accurate representation of now. At the end of the day, it’s just a form of folk music, and it has to be for the people. It’s an interesting place to be.
Click here to read the rest of the interview, which appears in the current print edition of River City Magazine, and click here for more information on the Folk Festival.
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.
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]
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]
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]
On Friday night, I was spinning Aqualung on my turntable. On Saturday morning, I was speaking over the phone with Martin Barre, Jethro Tull’s legendary guitarist. (He’s performing at The Tin Pan on Saturday night.) It was a great, truly candid conversation, and I compiled the best bits for a Richmond Navigator interview that went online yesterday. I hope you’ll take a took and grab a ticket for Saturday, if you haven’t already.
If you’re curious about his solo work, here’s a track that provides a nice bridge between his past and present — a rearrangement of the Jethro Tull song “Slow Marching Band” that Barre included on his 2016 Back to Steel album.
Martin Barre — “Slow Marching Band” [Spotify/iTunes]
So happy to see my interview with Perpetual Groove hit the interweb. This was a pleasure to work on, in part because it’s such an exciting moment for the band. They’re picking up steam after taking some time off — new EP, on tour now, and they’ll be stopping in Richmond at the National this Saturday night. Should be a special show — keyboardist Matt McDonald said some really nice things about the National in our interview. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more about their journey and their history of environmental activism in this River City Magazine article.
Perpetual Groove — “Best Of Anything” [Spotify/iTunes]
Call it creative vision. Call it a sense of purpose. Clarity. Self-awareness. However you want to describe it, talking to drummer/percussionist Jake Sellers convinced me: The Hot Seats have it.
I walked away from our recent interview with a stomach full of delicious Pho Tay Do food and a huge amount of respect for the group, which has won fans on both sides of the Atlantic. They strike me as protectors of something vital — something funny and fearless and closer to the actual “root” of the roots music that’s experienced a recent resurgence.
This quote from the article might say it better than any other:
“I think we very much as a band like [what’s] scratchy, looser … I don’t want to say dangerous, but less safe. Take a chance. We’re certainly willing to fall on our faces trying a song we’ve never played before in front of an audience because that’s where the excitement is.”
I love that, and I want to thank Jake for taking the time to meet and explore what he and the band are doing. Click here to read the whole River City Magazine article, or pick up a hard copy at one of these locations.
The Hot Seats — “I Ain’t No Better Now” [Spotify/iTunes]
So excited to have finally gotten my hands on a copy of the September/October issue of River City Magazine. Hopefully y’all already snagged a copy and saw the article I did with bassist Brian Cruse. If not, you can check it out here (UPDATED LINK). I really hope you will, because I can honestly say that the conversation that led to this article is among my favorite interview experiences.
Tonight, y’all. Lots going down. Too much to fit into one post.
First, a heads up about Jonathan Edwards. I wrote a thing for Richmond Navigator about how the writer of “Sunshine (Go Away Today)” and other hits will be stopping at the Tin Pan tonight. Click here to read it — it’s half preview and half review of his new album, Tomorrow’s Child. I really like Tomorrow’s Child, and one thing I’ll mention here that I didn’t sufficiently explore in that piece is how gracefully honest the lyrics are.