The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter CD - The Avetts are back, produced again by Rick Rubin, with the much-anticipated follow-up to I and Love and You. The twelve songs on The Carpenter continue the band's exploration of the human condition. They will pull at your heart and make you stop and think. One moment filled with sunshine and happiness, the next sorrow and regret, they are always beautiful, always honest. Poetry from the soul. Fresh off the road and speaking from their hometown of Concord, North Carolina, Scott and Seth Avett agreed The Carpenter feels different to them, deeper, more meaningful, more starkly reflective of their own hopes and fears, than past efforts. They are wiser now, and more clear-eyed about the fragility and finiteness of life. The writing for The Carpenter reflects the brothers' journey toward growing older and the unavoidable realities that await.
"For me, in the process between I and Love and You and this album, there have really been three years of me trying to refine a series of steps of letting go of certain things I've held on to," Scott says. "This album feels much more like a whole of refined parts that work together -- sort of like a well-oiled motor -- than records in the past did. I feel it is much more a cohesive work."
Marco Benevento - TigerFace CD - Over three previous studio albums, pianist/sound-sculptor/songwriter Marco Benevento has set forth a vision for instrumental music that connects the dots between Explosions In The Sky and Tortoise on one side, Brian Eno and Brad Mehldau on the other.
On his fourth studio recording, 'Tigerface', the 34-year old artist takes the next step forward in this evolution. Benevento paints his songs in a myriad of sonic colors, shimmering in acoustic piano, synths and analog keyboards. The tunes themselves conceptualized from seemingly every wisp of melody, hook and cadence that's ever tickled his ear.
The album was recorded and mixed by Tom Biller (Silversun Pickups, Fiona Apple) and Bryce Goggin (Pavement, Akron/Family), while Benevento invited a stellar cast of musicians to help capture his ideas, including drummers Matt Chamberlain (Bill Frisell, Pearl Jam), John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea & The Cake) and Andrew Barr (The Barr Brothers), bassists Dave Dreiwitz (Ween), Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green) and Mike Gordon (Phish), violinist Ali Helnwein (Traction Avenue Chamber Orchestra) and saxophonist Stuart Bogie (Antibalas, Superhuman Happiness).
For the first time on record he uses vocals, inviting Kalmia Traver (Rubblebucket) to sing on the infectious dance rock rave-up 'Limbs Of A Pine' and the pastoral psych rock meditation 'This Is How It Goes'. Other standouts include the angelic Arcade Fire meets The Flaming Lips anthem 'Eagle Rock', the soaring garage psychedelia of 'Going West', the piano riff rock jaunt 'Escape Horse', and the happily lilting 'Fireworks', which bounces along like a long lost Italian folk song beamed down to him by ancestors from his father's homeland. As anybody who's seen Benevento perform live can attest, the pianist eyes closed, smile wide across his face, fingers free-flowing across the keys is a satellite to the muse. 'Tigerface', indeed, is the commitment to this idea; a record that rides the yes wave and in the process becomes a soundtrack for fellow travelers chasing the horizon ahead.
Grateful Dead - Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It (2CD) - features 20 live performances hand-picked from five shows by David Lemieux, the band's archivist and the collection's producer.
Similar to 2011's Europe '72, Vol. 2, the two-disc set is a showcase for the best of the 1990 tour. The original artwork, which was created by New York artist Wes Lang (a lifelong Dead Head), showcases his elaborate drawings throughout the liner notes as well as on the cover, which features an ornate Indian skull headdress. Lemieux penned the compilation's liner notes, which provide background about the selected performances.
For those familiar with the Grateful Dead's glorious live performance history, the spring 1990 tour represents an important zenith, one fully equal to the golden ages of Europe '72 and spring '77. During this truly epic three-week spring fling, the band played as good as it ever had, with energy, sophistication and joy.
Recorded during the Grateful Dead's 25-year anniversary, the band - Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland, and Bob Weir - played as though it was on a mission to prove something. The pieces just fell into place that spring - impassioned vocals, the Brent/Jerry mind-meld, the MIDI expansion of the band's sonic vocabulary, and a bunch of new tunes and choice revivals.
Despite the space limitations inherent in a two-disc set, SPRING '90: SO GLAD YOU MADE IT vividly reflects the diversity of songs played during this tour. It spotlights newer material ("West L.A. Fadeaway" and "Blow Away"), classics ("Beat It On Down The Line" and "Morning Dew"), rarities ("Easy To Love You" and "Attics Of My Life"), epic jams ("Scarlet Begonias" > "Estimated Prophet"), and choice covers with Sam Cooke's "Let The Good Times Roll" and the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time."
The powerful and revealing sound heard throughout the collection is the result of work done by the band's longtime audio engineer John Cutler, who originally recorded the shows, and Jeffrey Norman, who mastered each show to HDCD specs.
Medeski Martin & Wood - Free Magic CD - For its latest effort, MMW dip into their archives to present a collection of recordings documenting their first-ever acoustic tour in 2007. The set, stretching out over five expansive tracks, captures the three intrepid improvisers--keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Chris Wood and drummer Billy Martin--exploring the telepathic hookup and deep groove sensibility that has defined MMW since its inception in 1991.
"There's a rhythmic and sonic connection that we have," says Martin of his MMW colleagues. "Listening is the most important thing for us. We're having a conversation when we're playing. The dynamic range is much greater in the acoustic setting. When we play electric, everything is turned up to 11 and it's screaming. But with John on piano and Chris on upright, we can play with a much more nuanced touch. It's a very different world, but I love it."
Free Magic opens with "Doppler," a song from MMW's previous album 20 that was issued last year in celebration of the revered trio's two decades spent as a groundbreaking force in experimental modern jazz. The tune's droning, near-tribal introduction morphs into an earthy, undulating groove that recalls the vintage piano trios of Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis and Les McCann. Medeski's "Blues for Another Day" follows with a burst of jagged dissonance that has him channeling his inner Cecil Taylor. From that tumultuous free jazz intro, the performance settles into a slow, bluesy meditation in which the pianist digs deep, testifying with gospel-tinged intensity. Up next is the epic title track that swirls amid a zen-like collective improv by the three kindred spirits on tuned metal percussion, prepared upright piano and bowed harmonics on upright bass before segueing to Medeski's Chopin-influenced "Ballade in C Minor." The fourth track selected for inclusion takes things back almost 20 years with an acoustic version of "Where's Sly" from MMW's 1993 album It's a Jungle in Here. Over the course of 16-minutes, the three musicians take great liberties with the melody and extrapolate freely in typically daring MMW fashion. The closing performance on Free Magic is a savvy piano trio medley of Charles Mingus' "Nostalgia in Times Square" and Sun Ra's anthemic "Angel Race," which work together perfectly. Wood summons up the spirit of his hero Mingus with his forceful and resonant bass solo on the "Nostalgia" half of this potent medley.
"This stuff brings it back to when we used to hang out in this rented shack in Hawaii and make music together," says Martin of the music on Free Magic. "It was really just a little plywood cabin in the jungle with a tin roof. John had a prepared piano there that sounded like a gamelan instrument and I had these funky drums that had mold growing on them, or I might play the side of the shack or play the railing going up the stairs and make it sound like a xylophone. And we'd get into a lot of different stuff there, just having musical conversations in this intimate setting."
Missing Cats - Larry Brown Amen CD - On Missing Cats' confident first album, 'Larry Brown Amen,' John 'Jojo' Hermann and Sherman Ewing flex their songwriting muscles and deliver a dramatic Alt/Blues/Rock collection of original songs. This is a rich CD, conceived by a pair of road warriors & friends who share a decades-long collaborative relationship.
Hermann describes the album as 'New York City meets Mississippi meets Athens, GA meets Nashville', and he's right. An array of artists dropped by the studio to lend their support to various tracks. Visitors included North Mississippi All Stars' Luther and Cody Dickenson, R.E.M.'s Mike Mills, Sam Bush, Jon Randall Stewart, Anthony Krizan, Jesse Alexander and more. The renowned musicians joined in as Hermann and Ewing record their album live in Nashville over a four-day period with Grammy nominated producer Jon Randall Stewart (Emmy Lou Harris, Sam Bush, and Lyle Lovett,) capturing the energy and electricity that the songs deserved.
*Sept 14-16 - Jomeokee Music & Arts Festival - Pinnacle, NC
Sept 14-16 - Bristol Rhythm & Roots - Bristol, VA
Sept 14-16 - Wormtown Music Festival - Greenfield, MA
Sept 15-16 - Pink Moon Festival - Rock Camp, WV
Sept 22-23 - French Broad Fall Fest - Hot Springs, NC
Sept 28-29 - Sautee Jamboree - Sautee, GA
Oct 5-7 - Hardly Strictly Bluegrass - San Francisco, CA FREE!
Oct 5-7 - Jam-O-Rama Rage-O-Thona - Lakeland, FL
Oct 11-13 - YMSB's Harvest Music Festival - Ozark, AR
*Nov 10-13 - Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival - Live Oak, FL
*Look for the HGMN Booth at these events
Video of the Week:
Bear Creek Music Festival 2012 preview
Thanks for reading! Treat yourself to some good music this week.
- Lee Crumpton